Oy Bay!

"My heart is in the east, and I in the uttermost west." — Yehudah Ha-Levi

Jewlicious Festival Preview/Review: Video & ‘Jewish Writers Holding Court’

Posted by Oyster on March 8, 2007

Perhaps I should have posted this earlier, oh well. Here’s a video of last year’s Jewlicious Festival. After watching it, you’ll understand why I’ve been so eager to get back this year! It was such an amazing Jewish experience. I hadn’t had that much Jewy fun since high school!

Also, here’s a write-up of a program that I went to at the festival. It was the first time I met in real life ck, laya, and esther from Jewlicious.com . What a trip! I wrote this for Esther to use in some wrap-up articles on the festival, but I think I took too long so it never saw the light of day. Until now! 🙂 Read on, gentle Oy-Bay’sters, for hereon lies the seeds that blossomed into the colossal blog known humbly as ‘Oy-Bay.org’. :-p



Jewlicious @ the Beach, 2.0: “Jewish Writers Holding Court”

By [T.] Altman

[T.] Altman (who blogs at http://www.zionist.org [now at Oy-Bay.org, Ed.]) is a 24-year-old Jewish blogger living in San Jose, CA who is a long-time commenter at Jewlicious. But until he participated in the Jewlicious@the Beach2 conference over President’s Day Weekend [2007, Ed.], he had never met any of the people behind the blog.


I drove down to Long Beach from my native San Jose to attend JTB2 without knowing a single soul at the event. All that I had—beside my chutzpah–was a tenuous connection from reading the blog namesake of the conference and consistently commenting on posts of interest. I felt a degree of familiarity with the writers behind Jewlicious, but I was nervous…what, if anything, could I expect from them?

On Friday night at JTB2, we experienced the ecstatic Carlebach-style services, the medieval feast (no Jews were harmed, it wasn’t that medieval!), and the Wine Guys from Baron Herzog Winery, who had introduced us to many wines during the post-dinner tasting. With ample adrenaline (and Chenin Blanc, Late Harvest, my wine favorite) still flowing through me, I wasn’t aware of the passage of time.

But then Rabbi Yonah Bookstein made an announcement regarding the imminent 11 pm session, entitled, “Jewish Writers Holding Court.” Could this be it? The moment that I had waited all evening for? With the exciting prospects of meeting in-person the authors behind my daily reading regimen, and with my uncertainty about what to expect as far as interacting with them, I hustled into the cafe to grab a prime seat.

When I walked in, I saw Esther Kustanowitz, David Abitbol, Laya Millman, Joel Haber, and Ruth Andrew Ellenson behind a table in front of a phalanx of arranged chairs (where just an hour before, the Wine Guys were holding court). I treated myself to a front-row seat in front of panel moderator Esther, who kicked things off with introductions. David “CK” and Laya co-founded Jewlicious, which has become one of the most popular Jewish blogs online. Ruthie Ellenson, a professional writer, was best known for editing the new book, “The Modern Jewish Girl’s Guide to Guilt”, which had recently won the prestigious National Jewish Book Award; Ruthie was no stranger to Beach Hillel, having previously spoken before an enthusiastic Beach Hillel crowd. Joel “Fun Joel” Haber (http://funjoel.blogspot.com/) is a screenwriter and editor living in Los Angeles. And Esther, a full-time freelance writer who is best known for her NY Jewish Week singles column, also blogs for Jewlicious, in addition to her two blogs, My Urban Kvetch and JDaters Anonymous.

Post-introductions, one of the first questions, on the creative process and writing style that the writers employed, revealed quite a spectrum of responses from the panelist. David admitted that his writing style is very impulsive and extemporaneous, which befits the blogosphere. On the other hand, professional writers like Ruthie and Joel describe the more typical creative process of just writing and re-writing. Joel favored more complete re-writes of his works, while Ruthie was more incremental in her approach. In terms of the creative process, Joel emphasized that a writer must be constantly writing to improve his or her skills. And straddling both styles you had Esther, who writes in both traditional and new media.

Finally, I mustered up my courage, and raised my hand to ask a question of my own. I was curious about the origins and organizing idea behind Jewlicious, and wanted to know what kind of changes or developments might be brewing behind the scenes. I prefaced my question by singing the praises of my favorite blog:

[T.]: “First off, I just wanted to say thank you to the Jewlicious bloggers for creating such a great site. I’m an avid reader and I comment every-so-often…”

David: “What’s your name?”

[T.]: “[T.] Altman.”

David and Esther: “Ooooh! ‘taltman’!”

My blog-heroes actually recalled my comment handle (“taltman”)! What a feeling!

Dave answered my question by retelling the story of how he decided to use his web-design talents to create a complimentary blog to
‘jewschool.com‘, which would provide a forum for young Jews who were more observant or more pro-Israel to have a space on-line. He downplayed any particular theme or over-arching vision for ‘jewlicious.com‘, focusing more on the vibrant combination of contrasting view-points as represented by the friendly group of bloggers he and Laya have attracted to their project. And he said that more of the same high-quality and lively posts were in store for Jewlicious, with no foreseen changes in-store in the short-run.

Esther mentioned that one of the stories she was chasing down in Los Angeles was the mystery of which Jewishly themed projects stand a chance in the entertainment industry, mentioning the emergence of Jewishness as ‘cool’, as in VH1’s series “So Jewtastic!”. Joel said he was pessimistic about the appeal value for Jewish-themes in Hollywood productions, pointing out that feature films require a huge amount of capital, which would seem to dictate that movies should be palatable to as wide an audience as possible. As a counter-point, he noted the success of “My Big Fat Greek Wedding”, and the recent popularity of moral/’faith-based’ films (”The Passion of the Christ,” and “The Chronicles of Narnia”). He marveled that the movie “The Frisco Kid” featuring Gene Wilder as a rabbi and Harrison Ford as a cowboy—was ever produced. Some discussion of this ensued, with contributions from panelists and audience members, as the assembled agreed on the need for Jewishly committed writers to produce projects of quality and substance, independent of whether those projects are likely to be received by the mainstream entertainment industry.

SoCalled (aka Josh Dolgin) http://www.socalledmusic.com/] asked frankly, provoked by what he saw as “Jewishy” mainstream media content, but few quality genuinely-Jewish works, “Why aren’t Jews making more good sh*t?” Hilarity ensued. 🙂

Overall, the panel was very encouraging of aspiring Jewish writers in all media, and I left with a sense that young Jewish authors who had something to say could effectively find ways for their words to be published and make their voices heard.


2 Responses to “Jewlicious Festival Preview/Review: Video & ‘Jewish Writers Holding Court’”

  1. […] talented Yiddish-speaking, magic-performing, Jewish music mixer / DJ wowed us at JTB2, and he now has a new record out, Ghettoblaster (SFStation’s review), on the J-Dub Records […]

  2. […] and under-reports, on the positive aspect of the J-blogosphere. In my own personal life, I had a transformative experience when I met other Jewish bloggers in real life at the Jewlicious Festival in LA. Meeting David […]

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