Posts Tagged ‘Los Angeles’

Iranian Jewish Scholar Breaks Stereotypes While Studying Them

February 4, 2014

This article was first published in The Times of Israel.

Saba Soomekh decided to study her own Iranian Jewish community. (courtesy)

Saba Soomekh decided to study her own Iranian Jewish community. (courtesy)

It’s hard to look away from the piercing gaze of the girl in the photograph on the cover of Saba Soomekh’s book, “From the Shahs to Los Angeles: Three Generations of Iranian Jewish Women Between Religion and Culture.” The photograph is of Soomekh’s great-grandmother as a 12-year-old bride in Iran, and it makes you wonder whether she is somehow looking into the future, amazed at just how different her great-granddaughter’s life is from her own.

Soomekh, the 37-year-old great-granddaughter of the child bride, is a theological studies professor at Los Angeles’ Loyola Marymount University and one of only a small number of researchers who focus on the Iranian Jewish community.

She has a BA from Berkeley, a Masters from Harvard Divinity School and a PhD from the University of California, Santa Barbara. She’s a member of the Iran Task Force for the American Jewish Committee and a member of Los Angeles’ Human Resource Commission. PBS employed her expertise in producing its 2012 “The Iranian Americans” program. The same year, the Fowler Museum at UCLA appointed her project coordinator for its “Light and Shadows” exhibition on Iranian Jews.

Click here to read more.

© 2014 Renee Ghert-Zand. All rights reserved.

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Rabbi Dives into ‘Church Rescue’ Reality Series

December 19, 2013

This article was first published in The Times of Israel.

Rabbi Eliyahu Fink (second from right) strolls on the Venice Beach boardwalk with Church Hoppers (from left) Anthony 'Gladamere' Lockart, Kevin 'Rev Kev' Annas, and Jerry 'Doc' Bentley. (photo credit: Courtesy of T Group Productions)

Rabbi Eliyahu Fink (second from right) strolls on the Venice Beach boardwalk with Church Hoppers (from left) Anthony ‘Gladamere’ Lockart, Kevin ‘Rev Kev’ Annas, and Jerry ‘Doc’ Bentley. (photo credit: Courtesy of T Group Productions)

One day, three Christian ministers showed up at the Pacific Jewish Center in Venice Beach, California and took Rabbi Eliyahu Fink surfing. The pastors had come to stage an intervention: It was finally time for the 32-year-old Orthodox rabbi, who had never been in the ocean, to take the plunge and immerse himself in the lifestyle of the eclectic seaside community where he has been working and living with his wife and two sons for more than five years.

Kevin “Rev Kev” Annas, Anthony “Gladamere “ Lockhart, and Jerry “Doc” Bentley, known collectively as The Church Hoppers, didn’t show up last May at “the shul on the beach” unannounced. The ocean-phobic Fink had invited them to film an episode of their new “Church Rescue” unscripted television series at his synagogue. The segment airs December 23 on the National Geographic Channel.

We’ve seen this kind of show before. What Gordon Ramsay does for failing restaurants in “Kitchen Nightmares,” the Church Hoppers do for struggling religious congregations. The business-savvy ministers travel the country helping churches and other faith-based institutions (hence, Fink’s shul) better establish themselves in the marketplace so they thrive instead of going under, as so many small congregations do. The promo material for the series promises the trio will “use the wisdom of Scripture and a little Southern ingenuity to pull off inspiring interventions.”

Click here to read more and watch a scene from the show.

© 2013 Renee Ghert-Zand. All rights reserved.

‘Music Man Murray’ Gershenz Dies at 91

September 10, 2013

This post first appeared on The Arty Semite blog of the Forward.

blog-murraygershenz-091013If you saw Richard Parks’ 2011 documentary short, “Music Man Murray,” then you’ll know that Murray Gershenz was looking for a long time to sell his famous used record business (also called Music Man Murray) and its collection of more than 300,000 records.

Gershenz, who opened his landmark store on Los Angeles’ Santa Monica Boulevard in 1962, did finally manage to find a buyer. This past June, four tractor-trailers showed up and hauled away the records to New York, where Gershenz was born in 1922.

Believing that his beloved collection was in good hands and would be kept together, Gershenz passed away just a couple of months later. The New York Times reported that he died at the age of 91 on August 28, leaving behind two sons, a daughter, two grandchildren and two great-grandchildren — and, of course, countless customers who appreciated his vast knowledge and extreme love of music of all genres. His wife Bobette Cohen Gershenz, who encouraged him to open the store and worked in it alongside her husband, died in 1999.

Those who did not turn to Gershenz in search of some rare vinyl might have instead seen him on television or in a movie. In addition to being a music maven, Gershenz was also a sought-after character actor. His credits included “Will & Grace,” “Parks and Recreation,” “The Sarah Silverman Show” and “The Hangover.”

Apparently, acting came as naturally to him as his lifelong love of music. “He was just saying the lines as if it was him. Murray was the character. He didn’t have to act,” said Corey Allen Kotler, his manager.

Just watch “Music Man Murray” to see for yourself:

Click here to watch the film.

© 2013 Renee Ghert-Zand. All rights reserved.