Rabbis on film; Blues’ Jewish heritage night

One of the most important evenings on the secular calendar is fast approaching and inquiring minds want to know: Who’s going home with Oscar?

That’s Oscar as in the 82nd Academy Awards.


For the answers, I went straight to local Jewish spiritual leaders, as well as some cinema scholars in the community. You know what? Local rabbis as a rule (and I am grossly generalizing here) don’t see many movies and when they do, they tend to go for the reasons most of us go, escapism. Which is why the several I spoke to feel pretty confident “Avatar” will win the Academy Award for best picture.

“Even though it’s corny and predictably scripted, the way most blockbusters are, it was very entertaining and I liked its environmental message,” says Rabbi Brad “Roger Ebert” Horwitz, who also enjoyed Oscar-nominated best pictures “A Serious Man” and “Up.” Horwitz is the director of the Helene Mirowitz Department of Jewish Community Life at the JCC.

Rabbi Mark Fasman of Shaare Zedek also gives two thumbs up to “Avatar,” and offers the following observation: “It was certainly entertaining and presented a thoughtful take on spirituality. I don’t think it was particularly deep, but it was an interesting movie and worth the money spent. The special effects and photography were certainly wonderful.” Seems Fasman has a future as a movie critic should the rabbi gig go south.

Dan Reich, educational director of the St. Louis Holocaust Museum, is a true film buff, having worked in a previous incarnation as director of the film programs at the Saint Louis Art Museum. He, too, picks “Avatar” to win best picture and admits while it isn’t a movie he would have typically sought out, he enjoyed it very much.

“It changed the face of the medium,” says Reich. “It was fine as a film but it’s incredible as a technical achievement and offers genre-busting special effects. Any other film would have to be very strong to beat ‘Avatar,’ though ‘Hurt Locker,’ which I haven’t seen but heard was terrific, is the dark horse.”

Lastly, Zelda Sparks, who produces the St. Louis Jewish Film Festival, admits that she has been delinquent in getting to this year’s Oscar-nominated films but she did see “A’jami,” the Israeli film nominated in the best foreign language film category. “It is a very dark movie both in subject matter and the way it is lighted,” says Sparks, “but it is an important film that people should see. I would be surprised if it won, but that would be terrific.”

So there you have it. For what it’s worth, here are my picks: “The Hurt Locker” for best movie, Jeff Bridges for best actor (“Crazy Heart”); Sandra Bullock for best actress (“The Blind Side,” though Meryl Streep should win for “Julie and Julia”); Mo’nique for best supporting actress (“Precious”) and Christoph Waltz for best supporting actor (“Inglourious Basterds”).

The Academy Awards air at 7 p.m. Sunday on ABC (Channel 30).

Blues announce Jewish Heritage night

Just got off the phone with Jeff Lesser, a recent Washington University graduate who is now working for the St. Louis Blues as a sales representative. Lesser explained that he proposed –and the Blues accepted — a Jewish Heritage Night. Lesser’s hope is that the St. Louis Jewish community will come out for a night of entertainment and professional hockey as the Blues take on the Edmonton Oilers in St. Louis’ attempt to reach the Western Conference playoffs for the second straight year. Tickets will be discounted for the event, which is set for 5 p.m. Sunday, March 28.

“Jewish Heritage Night is catered to the entire Jewish community of St. Louis, Blues fans and non-Blues fans alike,” says Lesser. “It is conveniently scheduled towards the end of the season yet before the start of Passover in order to allow the entire community to come out, whether it is for the excitement of our playoff run or just to experience Blues hockey for the first time.

Synagogues, youth groups, and families throughout the St. Louis area are encouraged to take advantage of the discounted tickets that the Blues have made available for the game. “Hopefully we can get a strong showing from the community and be able to make Jewish Heritage Night a St. Louis Blues’ tradition,” Lesser says. “Maybe next year we can even invite a cantor to sing the National Anthem.”

Tickets to the game range from $22 to $75. The biggest discounts occur in the club corner sections, which are equipped with all-inclusive food and drink and in-seat wait service. While the price for these seats is typically $138, it is discounted to $75 for this one-night offer. Also in the lower bowl, plaza corner seats are discounted from $83 to $50 and plaza end lows are marked down from $53 to $35. The “cheap seats,” which are normally $34, are $22.

For more information on Jewish Heritage Night or to purchase tickets, please contact Lesser at 314.589.5962, or email him at [email protected]

Honored hamantashen

Congrats to Pratzel’s Bakery in Clayton, which came in fourth in a nationwide search for best hamantashen.

According to Tablet magazine, “These hamantashen most resembled the home-baked kind, which charmed some of our judges and repulsed others, and the apple-pie filling flavor was a nice, creative touch. Still, all those around the tasting table agreed that ‘the strange smell’ and the ‘undercooked texture’ made Pratzel’s cookie less than perfect.

“If these are Haman’s ears,” quipped one judge, “I’d like to see his nose.” The pastry scored a 2.3 on a scale of 5.0.

Judges scored in five categories: appearance, filling-to-dough ratio, overall taste, texture and consistency, and how badly they wanted another. The top winner, Russ & Daughters of New York, scored a 3.9.

Tablet, by the way, is a daily online magazine of Jewish news, ideas and culture. Launched in June 2009, it’s a project of the not-for-profit Nextbook Inc. and the sister organization of Nextbook Press, which publishes a line of Jewish-themed books.