Tag: Just for Fun

This Rabbi’s Hollywood TV Shoot

I always expected that Hollywood sets were peopled with entitled stars and prima dona producers. That is, until I spent two days for my star turn as the marrying/burying Rabbi on ABC’s Body of Proof. There on location at the hotel, I witnessed one of the nicest and most welcoming workplace environments and approachable cast and crew ever.

Let me step back. As I was elbow deep in preparations for the Jewish High Holy Days, my congregant Matthew Gross approached me about an idea he had for his TV series Body of Proof.

Body of Proof follows the life and career of Medical Examiner Megan Hunt, once a high-flying neurosurgeon, who works in Philadelphia’s Medical Examiner’s Office. As a Medical Examiner Megan applies her vast medical knowledge, keen instincts and variously charming and scalpel-like personality to the task of solving the medical mysteries of the dead and bringing the people responsible for their deaths to justice.

What did I think, Matt asked, about a wedding where moments before it starts, the bride jumps off the seventh story balcony and falls through the chuppah (marriage canopy)? I told him that I thought he was a sick man if as Executive Producer and Writer, he spent his days dreaming up innovative ways to kill people. Then he made an offer I couldn’t refuse…

Would I like to officiate at the wedding and funeral for the show?

Thus I found myself two days after Yom Kippur, dressed in my tallit and “wedding officiation suit,” preparing to be filmed at the pre-wedding cocktail reception. After being introduced around to a few of the crew members, I was walked through my role in the scene (no lines but lots of fun nonetheless).

It was during the downtime that my wife Michelle (who was background as a mourner at a funeral) noticed that how wonderfully approachable and kind the people were. They exhibited what we Jews call the middah (or Jewish virtue) of nedivut lev, a generous heart.

The stunt coordinators proudly and patiently explained how they would have a woman fall from seven stories up and “die”. The make up guy showed me how they planned to push a leg bone “through the skin.” The props and crew showed their faux gravestones, while the lighting crew demonstrated how huge lighting shields brightened a darkening sky. And the on location caterers piled our plates with delicious desserts, that rivaled my parents’ baking. Everybody was gracious, inviting, and welcoming.

You’d expect the Hollywood types to be, well, unapproachable. But it wasn’t so.

Each actor approached us during our days of filming, to say hi, introduce themselves, and see how we were enjoying being on the set. Over the course of two days, we met most all of them – including Dana Delany (Dr. Megan Hunt), Jeri Ryan (Dr. Kate Murphy), Peter Dunlap (Nicholas Bishop), Sonja Sohn (Det. Samantha Baker), John Carroll Lynch (Det. Bud Morris), Geoffrey Arend (Dr. Ethan Gross), and Windell Middlebrooks (Dr. Curtis Brumfield).  And like the episode’s director, AD’s and the whole crew, they were wonderfully kind.

Knowing that the kindness must emanate from the top, we complimented our host Matt on the kind staff he brought together. Matt indicated that like our Congregation Or Ami – where warmth, kindness and compassion define the community – he and his staff work diligently to surround themselves with like-minded people for whom creating a caring community is a priority.

There is a lesson in there somewhere. That if you want to live a life of kindness and compassion – if you want to be embraced by nedivut lev, by kindness of heart – then surround yourself with people whose personalities bring forth the same. It is easier to be caring when surrounded by caring people.

I have been told that our episode will air over the next few months. Catch up previous episodes of  Body of Proof so you will be prepared to understand our episode. Body of Proof airs on ABC-TV Tuesdays at 10 pm/9 Central time. Find out about it on Facebook, Twitter or ABC-TV.

[Full disclosure: (1) I get no kickbacks or residuals if you watch the show or not.  But do watch, because it is great. (2) This is not the first show on which I had a walk-on part. Back in the 1990’s, when then Executive Producer Ira Steven Behr was a member of my then pulpit Temple Beth Hillel, my wife arranged for me to play a Lieutenant Jr. Grade Starfleet officer in Quark’s Bar during a scene on my beloved Star Trek: Deep Space 9 (final season, episode: Strange Bedfellows).  It was one of the best birthday presents ever.  (3) When not tending to his nascent/non-existent TV career, I am rabbi at Congregation Or Ami and an avid blogger. ] 

Rapture: Some Ridicule and A Jewish Response (Thanks to Ty Templeton)

I was enchanted with the Rapture that didn’t happen on May 21st. My Rapture tweets have made me giggle at myself. While we Jews have had a whole host of off-the-wall messianic pretenders, except for the ridiculous notion that the former Lubavitcher Chabad Rebbe Schneerson is the messiah, it has been a while since we Jews have faced a false messiah.

Thus, I am thrilled that the Rapture dude announced that there is still hope (and opportunity for theological ridicule).  You see, he said that the invisible (or spiritual) Rapture already happened, but we will enjoy physical Rapture or destruction on October 21, 2011.  How do Jews respond?  Check out Ty Templeton’s take

Snarky Post #36: Jewki Leaks: Top 10 CCAR Convention Fundraising Ideas that Surely will be Suppressed

Serving on the Revenue Enhancement Committee of the Central Conference of American Rabbis provides me with an opportunity to shnorr the schnorrers.  While at our CCAR Rabbinical Convention in New Orleans, I did a little brainstorming and came up with some brilliant fundraising ideas.  Sadly, I’m sure they all will be suppressed:

1. Have conference in city that serves mainly treif food so that no one eats. With extra money and no where to spend it, rabbis will donate more to CCAR Annual Campaign.
2. Use small group discussions in more conventions sessions/plenaries, thus saving money on speakers budgets.
3. [self censored]
4. Auction off the control of the thermostat. How much would you pay to be able to have sole control on determining when to make the room warmer or cooler?
5. Extend convention privileges (though require full payment of tuition) to rabbis who received their ordination over the Internet.
6. Sell CCAR tshirts and sweatshirts. Make sure the designs don’t suck.
7.  During the convention service – our CCAR “high holy day” convention service – pause after president’s sermon for a holy day appeal. We could raise 1000′s of dollars in tzedakah that way. (Note to program committee: make sure convention service doesn’t suck, just saying). (Ed. Note: services in this and past years definitely did NOT suck.)
8. Hire photographers to case out high treif restaurants and, after 10pm, on Bourbon Street. Print picture at One Hour Photoshop. Offer colleagues appearing in pictures the opportunity to keep pictures private in exchange for a significant, tax-deductible donation to the CCAR.
9.  Just saying, next time we hold a convention in New Orleans (or Las Vegas or Atlantic City of old), schedule an MMC dinner opposite the WRN. Think of the entertainment possibilities!  For added income, try a variation on idea #8. (MMC = Men’s Minority Caucus).
10.  Keep planning conventions with the same high level of involvement, musicality, collegiality, intellectual engagement, practical rabbinic innovation, accessibility, technologicality – and the CCAR will assuredly continue to rise up in our collective esteem… thus influencing people to  donate more to CCAR, or put CCAR in their wills, or refer people with means to the CCAR for naming opportunities on our convention programs or conference projects. (Note to Program Committee: there’s a big compliment in there for you somewhere.)
[cross posted at: nola.ccarnet.org]

Snarky Post #43: Top 10 Kvetches at the CCAR Convention

I recently attended the CCAR Rabbinical Convention in New Orleans. I love learning and connecting with colleagues; I love making fun of my kvetching colleagues.  Here’s my top ten list.  Incidentally, when it comes to kvetching, there should be no limits (thus 10 morphed into 17):
  1. No buttons inside the elevators. This hi-tech system requires us to push in the number on a keypad outside the elevator banks; it then tells you which elevator to take. Main kvetch: what if I don’t want to take Car B? This is so deterministic.
  2. Being forced to choose between looking at the speaker vs. looking at the screen. More problematic when the speaker is not good to look at and his/her words are boring.
  3. Having to choose between listening to what the speaker is saying vs. reading the tweets about what the speaker is saying.
  4. Some of the pretzels were moist/wet and I don’t like chocolate on my nuts.
  5. Our colleagues don’t seem to know the difference between kvelling and kvetching. Kvelling is when one finds something to say that is nice or will help make the program better. Kvetching is what the rest of you do.
  6. The room is too warm.
  7. Green is a foolish color for the siddur (translation: prayerbook); it makes me want to recycle it.  Especially since with Visual T’filah, we don’t need them anymore.
  8. Rick Jacobs being chosen as URJ president-nominee evidences the ascendency of a previously sidelined, but tireless and powerful shadow interest-group within our movement: men with full heads of hair. We all thought (hoped) that Steve Fox was an anomaly.
  9. All those numbered PowerPoint lists. Very discriminatory against those of us who can count on our own.
  10. The room was too cold.
  11. Because there are so many rabbis in this city now, many of whom know each other, means that we can’t hang out on Bourbon Street and do what we really want.
  12. 7:00 am breakfasts. Talk about East Coast-centric programming!
  13. Sheraton mints are chalky and bland. Ayelet mints were way better and they put out other candy.
  14. The water dispenser on the 5th floor, near the elevators, was out of water.
  15. There are so many younger colleagues here that it forces me to acknowledge being one of the middle aged rabbis. As it says in the Talmud, “That sucks!”. I liked the olden days when i was young enough to be making fun of the AKs.
  16. The room is too warm.
  17. The CCAR program committee chairs don’t seem to care about the fact that the room was too hot/cold/humid/warm.

Enough said?

If Cee-Lo Green Were Jewish, He Would Sing…

Michelle and I were treated to seats at the Grammys this year, courtesy of some dear congregants in the business. We had fun dressing up, and hearing a wide range of music from Bob Dylan to Ladies Gaga and Antebellum. Barbra (Streisand) and Mick (Jagger) sang as did Justin (Bieber) and Jaden (Smith).

We rocked out to Cee-Lo Green‘s Forget You, sung by Cee-Lo and Gwyneth (Paltrow).

The tune is all the more enjoyable, when re-jew-venated (or jewified) as Bar’chu (I’m A Jew) by Jew Man Group.

15 Things I Did on Vacation

We spent a week away in Scottsdale, AZ with my folks and our family. 15 things we did on vacation:

  1. Celebrated my birthday with my family and my parents.
  2. Had breakfast of homemade cookies with Ben & Jerry’s Chocolate Fudge Brownie Ice Cream
  3. Drove to Sedona, Arizona and marveled at the gorgeous red earth and fabulous mountains
  4. Made a snowman and had snowball fights with my kids just north of Sedona
  5. Had delicious burgers at multiple sports bars
  6. Slept later than I have in years (11 am one morning)
  7. Played baseball with my boys
  8. Bought a new tire for our minvan
  9. Fought food poisoning
  10. Saw Baby Fockers (could’ve skipped it)
  11. Didn’t read email
  12. Hiked in a great state park
  13. Drove home in time to surprise one son by picking up camp friends and the other with tickets to the Lakers-Heat game
  14. Had a great time with my folks
  15. Enjoyed relaxation and time with my wife and kids

Everything I Needed to Know, I Learned from Noah’s Ark

This week’s parasha, Noach, offers a flood of wisdom.

  1. Don’t miss the boat.
  2. Remember that we are all in the same boat.
  3. Plan ahead. It wasn’t raining when Noah built the Ark.
  4. Stay fit. When you’re 600 years old, someone may ask you to do something really big.
  5. Don’t listen to critics; just get on with the job that needs to be done.
  6. Build your future on high ground.
  7. For safety’s sake, travel in pairs.
  8. Speed isn’t always an advantage. The snails were on board with the cheetahs.
  9. When you’re stressed, float a while.
  10. Remember, the Ark was built by amateurs; the Titanic by professionals.
  11. No matter the storm, when you are with God, there’s always a rainbow waiting.

Loving Israel is in the Details

Ah-yup… Loving Israel is in the details. I love this piece by Joel Chasnoff

NEW YORK (JTA) — In honor of Israel’s 62nd birthday, I’ll forgo the expected Op-Ed about Israeli government corruption, the Bibi-Obama drama, or the Israeli Rabbinate’s stranglehold on marriage and divorce.

Instead, I offer this love letter to Israel: “Top 10 tiny details about Israel that make it the most wonderful country on earth.”

10. Egged Bus #394: The midnight ride from Tel Aviv to Eilat. The trip begins in the gray-stucco slums of south Tel Aviv. Two hours later, you’re rolling through the desert beneath a blanket of stars. You crack open the window. The desert smells dry and ancient, like an attic. At dawn, you pull into Eilat as the city comes to life.

9. The way Israelis refuse to cross the street on a red light. Drivers blare their horns the instant the light turns green. Yet pedestrians refuse to cross the street until the sign turns green. I’ve witnessed this phenomenon at 3:00 a.m., the streets bare and not a car in sight.

8. The Jewish soul of even the most secular Israelis. I served in the Israeli Army with kibbutz kids who were so anti-religious that they never even had a bar-mitzvah. But on Friday nights, as the brigade sung the Sabbath Kiddush en masse, I could see my secular comrades mouthing the words.

7. Flush handles on Israeli toilets. Almost all Israeli toilets, both public and in homes, have two flush handles — one for “light” loads, and one for heavy ones. This saves Israel’s most precious natural resource: water. And it’s genius.

6. Drop-dead gorgeous Israeli soldiers. The men are hunky, the women beautiful. Try not to drool as you watch them strut down Ben Yehudah Street in their olive-green uniforms, M-16s slung across their backs. It’s not so much their physical beauty that charms us as what they embody: Jewish power.

5. Shuk Ha-Carmel on Friday afternoons. So many things about Israel drive me mad. The bureaucracy is crippling. Government offices operate when they want, for as long (or short) as they want, usually something like 8 a.m. until noon Mondays, Wednesdays and every other Thursday. Each week, another group goes on strike — schoolteachers, garbage men, postal workers, phone operators, cable guys, bus drivers, doctors, nurses, paramedics, airport baggage guys, and the old men in blue jumpsuits who walk the streets of Tel Aviv stabbing pieces of trash with meter-long spears have all struck in the past year — so the country never runs at full power.

The Knesset, Israel’s 15-party parliament, is trapped in a state of perpetual gridlock. And yet, when I step into the Carmel Market and hear the shopkeepers barking their wares, smell the mixture of frying lamb, goat cheese, and human sweat, and watch the people line up to buy flowers for Shabbat, I remember why I love Israel so much. It’s the excitement of the place, but also the Middle Easterness of it — the barking, the bargaining, the haggling that’s at once friendly and brutal. At pushcarts and stalls, middle-aged men with gold chains and raspy cigarette voices sell mangoes, lemons, whole and quarter chickens, cow lungs, cow tongues, cow testicles, sheep brains, 50-plus varieties of fish, calculators, knockoff Nikes, carnations, sponges, girdles, batteries, and men’s and ladies’ underwear.

Friday afternoons, with only a couple of hours until sundown, the peddlers shout their last-minute pre-Sabbath bargains: “Tangerines, 1 shekel, 1 shekel!” “Pita, hummus, chickpeas– yallah! Shabbat, Shabbat!” Whenever I walk through the souk, I think about all those American diplomats who call Israel the America of the Middle East. If those diplomats really want to understand Israel, they should leave their fancy Jerusalem hotels and take a stroll through the Carmel Market.

4. Chocolate milk in a sack. Half a liter of Kibbutz Yotvateh chocolate milk sealed in a palm-sized plastic bag that you rip open with your teeth and then squeeze, causing the milk to shoot into your mouth in a way that makes you feel like you’re drinking straight from the udder of a chocolate cow. Need I say more?

3. The incredible bond between Israelis. Maybe it’s a remnant of shtetl life in Europe, or perhaps it has something to do with living so close to your enemy. Whatever the reason, Israelis act as if everyone is everyone else’s next-door neighbor. The first time I experienced this unique bond was the week I arrived in Israel to begin my army service. I was driving to Tel Aviv in a rental car when a guy pulled up next to me at a stoplight and beeped his horn. “Hey, achi!” he called. “My girlfriend’s thirsty. You got water?” Beside me, on the passenger seat, was a bottle of water. But it was half empty.

I held up the bottle. “It’s already open,” I said.

“No problem,” he replied, and stuck out his hand.

A week later, I was at my girlfriend, Dorit’s, family’s apartment with her parents. It was dinnertime and we had ordered pizza. Finally, after two hours, the pizza guy showed up on his motor scooter. He was disheveled and sopped with sweat. “I got lost,” he whimpered.

“So come inside! Sit!” said Dorit’s mother, Tzionah. “Coffee or tea?”

“Coffee,” said the pizza guy. “Milk and two sugars.”

While Tzionah made the coffee, Dorit’s father, Menashe, opened the pizza box. “Please take.” He offered a slice. The pizza guy waved him off. “Nu! You’re offending me!” said Menashe. “What’s your name?”

“Oren,” said the delivery guy.

“Oren. I insist. Eat.”

And I’ll be damned if Oren the pizza guy didn’t sit down at the kitchen table and eat the pizza he’d just delivered. As we ate, I thought about all those porno movies where the lonely housewife invites the pizza boy inside and seduces him on the kitchen table. In the Israeli version of the story, the pizza boy doesn’t make love to the housewife. Instead, he sits down with the family and eats pizza.

2. Dropping off a passenger at Ben-Gurion Airport. You pull up to the Departure door, hug your loved ones goodbye, and watch them walk into the terminal. Then you inhale a breath of sweet Israeli air, look up at the cloudless Tel Aviv sky, and think, “They have to leave…but I get to stay in Israel.”

1. ____________________________________________ . I leave this one up to you. What do you love most about Israel? E-mail me [email protected] and I’ll post your responses on the blog page of my Web site.

(Joel Chasnoff is a stand-up comedian and the author of “The 188th Crybaby Brigade: A Skinny Kid From Chicago Fights Hezbollah,” about his year as a combat soldier in the Israeli army. View photographs from his army service and meet the characters from Joel’s book at www.joelchasnoff.com.)