Oy Bay!

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

The Chron: UC report on anti-Semitism draws ire

Posted by Oyster on August 9, 2012


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OMG-d Cast: Six Talmudic Films in Six Days?

Posted by Oyster on August 1, 2012

If the world was created in only six days, maybe we can do six films?

G-dcast Announces “Studio G-dcast” – A Residency at the Contemporary Jewish Museum for College/Graduate Student Animators and Storytellers

San Francisco, CA April 17, 2012 – The Jewish non-profit production company G-dcast has released applications for Studio G-dcast, a summer artists’ residency to take place at the Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco.

Over the week of August 12-17, 2012, six student animators and six storytellers will come together for an intensive residency that combines art and Jewish learning. Animator-storyteller chevrutas – the Hebrew word for study pairs – will transform six Talmudic tales into six animated shorts.

“We’re looking for students from all over the map – literally and spiritually. We hope to find them at art schools and technology programs, in MFAs and underground improv troupes,” said G-dcast’s Executive Director Sarah Lefton, who designed the program in response to widespread requests from educators for collaborative filmmaking opportunities for their students. “The goal is to give young artists a chance to practice their craft in a Jewish space, and to give us on the professional team a chance to share our process with new talent. It’s a two-way street.”

Admission to the program will be competitive. Applications are open and rolling until the end of May. Prospective participants will complete biographical and artistic statements as well as a creative assignment to be considered. A selection committee featuring Jewish educators, filmmakers, and arts programmers will make decisions about the cohort this spring.

Studio G-dcast is made possible in part by funds granted by the Covenant Foundation. G-dcast is the recipient of a 2012-13 Signature Grant supporting Studio G-dcast; the organization joins 10 other distinguished grantees doing innovative work in Jewish education.

About G-dcast
G-dcast is a non-profit production company dedicated to raising worldwide Jewish literacy. G-dcast is celebrated for using the tools and storytelling styles that speak to today’s youth. They produce animated shorts based on Jewish texts and offer companion curricula. G-dcast is celebrated as innovator the emergent field of Jewish learning and new media educational technology. All G-dcast videos are free and available online.

About the CJM
Since its founding in 1984, the Contemporary Jewish Museum of San Francisco has commissioned and curated contemporary perspectives on Jewish culture, history, art, and ideas. In step with their mission, the CJM will host Studio G-dcast. The museum will provide work space, creative educators, and logistical support. Additionally, the CJM will host a public presentation of works-in-progress at the residency’s end.

For more information
Visit the allie

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Remembering Marla Bennett: Ten years after the Hebrew University bombing

Posted by Oyster on August 1, 2012

Yesterday, July 31st marks 10 years since the terrorst attack on the Hebrew University cafeteria. Among the victims was Marla Bennett, a Cal student that I knew from the Berkeley Bayit. I wrote about my memories from that painful day on Oy Bay previously.

There are several important ways that people have chosen to honor Marla over the years. One of them is the Marla Bennett Jewish Learning Fellowship at UC Berkeley Hillel. Below please find a letter sent by the committee overseeing this fund (most of them close friends of Marla) via Berkeley Hillel, followed by a speech delivered by the Marla Bennett Jewish Learning Fellow, Teddy Ulansey. I encourage everyone to donate anything, even just $18, to perpetuate Marla’s memory.

As summer unfolds, our thoughts turn to Marla Bennett’s life and untimely death.  This July 31st will mark 10 years since Marla died, but we know you’ll agree that her memory lives on in each of us.  Marla was a special person who deeply touched the lives of everyone she came in contact with.   Knowing her helped shape who each of us is today.  For that, and so much more, we are forever grateful.

Marla was a gifted student as well as a natural teacher.  This special combination is what made her studies in Israel all the more compelling for her.  We are comforted to know that Marla’s desire to learn and to teach continues to be a light in the world through the Marla Bennett Memorial fund established in her honor at Berkeley Hillel.  Last year the fund raised more than $10,000 thanks to the incredible generosity of you and others like you.  These funds enabled Teddy Ulansey, last year’s Fellow to spend a life-changing summer at Pardes in Israel.  If you weren’t able to join us for Teddy’s Day of Learning at Hillel this past spring, we hope you’ll take the time to read her reflections of living in Israel and learning in Marla’s memory.

This summer Ben Brint, the 2012-2013 Marla Bennett Memorial Fund Award recipient, is learning at Pardes and continuing to honor Marla’s memory through study.  We are already looking forward to the insights and perspectives he will gain and bring back to us from his time at Pardes at his Day of Learning scheduled for spring ‘13.

Our goal into the future remains the same: each year we hope to send at least one new Marla Bennett Memorial fellow to Israel to study in her memory. We are once again asking for your help to make this dream a reality.   If each donor can make a 10% increase we will easily match and exceed the total raised last year, and secure the ability to send a fellow to Israel in the summer of 2013.

You can make a donation in the enclosed envelope, or online by visiting the Berkeley Hillel website at www.berkeleyhillel.org/donate/ and in the comment field write Marla Bennett Fellowship. Please give as generously as you can.

Thank you for your partnership in this meaningful endeavor.

Hila Abel

Alana (Hoffman) Rotter

Josh Miller

Lesley (Said) Matsa

Eileen Shelden

From Berkeley Hillel’s student leadership page:

The Marla Bennett Jewish Learning Fellowship honors Marla’s memory and legacy by bringing Jewish learning to campus. Each year, the Fellow spends a month in Israel studying at Pardes: Institute for Jewish Studies in Jerusalem. In the fall, they return to campus and spend the next year bringing as many opportunities of Pardes-style learning back to the Cal community.

Below is an essay written by Teddy Ulansey, our 2011-2012 Fellow.


This time last year, I was hearing Marla’s name for the first time.  I had no concept of the meaning that name would eventually come to hold.  Marla has become more than a name, more than the stories I’ve heard, more than the picture on the wall at Pardes.  And a year ago, I never would have guessed that she would become a part of my life as real and as meaningful as my friends and family.  In June of last summer I traveled to Jerusalem to begin my studies at the Pardes Institute for Jewish Studies.  I had no idea what to expect, and I still can’t quite put into words the effect the experience had on me.

On my first day, I settled into my apartment in the mixed Arab-Jewish neighborhood of Abu Tor in south-east Jerusalem, a block away from the old Jordanian border and a 30 minute walk to Pardes.  I never took the bus during my time there; I loved walking every inch of the city.  Walking to school on my first day was nerve-wracking.  I had no idea what to expect, and the entire time I kept wondering how Marla felt on her first day.  I knew Marla was bright and fun; she was outgoing and talkative.  I knew she would have walked through the door and embraced every part of her experience, so I tried to do the same.  And when I walked through the door, I immediately saw the pictures of Marla and Ben on the wall.  At that moment I was struck by the fact that this was Marla’s place.  She had walked up and down those hallways day after day, she had studied for hours in the classrooms, and she probably had a favorite seat in the Beit Midrash.  The days went by quicker than I thought was possible, considering we were studying from 8:30-5 every day.  And as much as I like to think I’m a decent college student, I have never studied more intensely than during my month at Pardes.  I filled notebook after notebook with half thought out revelations and completely nonsensical ideas about Rashi and the Rambam, Torah and Talmud.  I went from knowing no one to arguing with my chevrutot like we were family.  Pardes fully embraces the Jewish idea that learning is best done while yelling, so I learned how to yell.  It was unlike anything I’d experienced before or since, and I miss it every day.  Pardes is populated with people from across the world, political spectrums, observance levels, and from ages 18-80, and somehow they all became a family.  Marla was and is an inseparable part of that family, and now I’m lucky enough to be a part of it too.  I thought about her every day in the Beit Midrash.  What would she think of this parsha or that?  What advice would she give me about living in Jerusalem?

One of the rabbis sent me an essay Marla had written about her life in Israel and I had to laugh at how some experiences in Israel are shared by everyone.  I’d like to share a part of the essay that resonated with me.

“I’ve been living in Israel for over a year and a half now, and my favorite thing to do here is go to the grocery store.  I know, not the most exciting response from someone living in Jerusalem these days.  But going grocery shopping here – deciphering the Hebrew labels and delighting in all of the kosher products – as well as picking up my dry cleaning, standing in long lines at the bank, and waiting in the hungry mob at the bakery – means that I live here.  I am not a tourist; I deal with Israel and all of its complexities, confusion, joy and pain every single day.  And I love it.”

My experience with Israeli grocery stores was not quite so rosy.  Like Marla, I loved wandering up and down the aisles trying to figure out the labels and, failing that, throwing it in my basket anyway.  Leaving the store, however, is what I dreaded more than anything.  My Hebrew is less than perfect, and my accent is just embarrassing.  After working myself up to brave the checkout line I tried, never successfully, to not make a fool out of myself.  My first grocery trip ended in the charming old checkout lady getting so frustrated with my lack of comprehension of heavily Russian-accented Hebrew that she actually snatched my wallet out of my hands and counted my money out for me on the counter.  Turns out she just wanted to know if I had any smaller change, but that obviously went straight over my head.

Day by day, I settled into my routine in Jerusalem and at Pardes, and like all things, it came to an end much too soon.  I understand now why Marla loved even the tiniest aspects of life in Israel because I do too.  It was so hard to say goodbye to my tiny apartment, to my new family at Pardes, and to everything I had come to love about my life there.  Fortunately, I was lucky enough to be able to come back and share all of those things with my friends and family here, and especially to share about Marla.  Until last year, I didn’t know what an impact she had on the Jewish community here; I didn’t even know that she lived in the same house I live in now.  Until today, I didn’t know we lived in the same room.  Marla was the foundation of my Pardes family, and after finding out that she was a Bayitnik, she became a part of my Berkeley family too.  Marla gave me a gift that I can’t even begin to describe.  She inspired me at Pardes to approach everything with the whole-hearted enthusiasm I knew she would have.  She inspires me here to help build a more caring Jewish community.  This Day of Learning is all I can do to give part of that gift back to Marla, so I’d like to thank you all for coming and for taking part in the legacy Marla left us.  It means a lot to me, and I know it would mean the world to her as well.

May Marla’s memory always be as a blessing. May we blog again in happier times.

Other websites discussing Marla or the bombing:

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Ha’aretz: Ten years since the Hebrew U. bombing that claimed Marla Bennett, others

Posted by Oyster on July 31, 2012


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Blog of the Living: The rest of Poland

Posted by Oyster on July 29, 2012

Here are the remaining photos from my trip to Poland as part of the March of the Living in 2006. See the following for the first and second days of the trip. My apologies, but I did not have time to put in captions for the photos.

Posted in Antisemitism, Baruch Dayan Emet | 1 Comment »

Yom HaShoah at UC Berkeley Hillel, year 2000

Posted by Oyster on July 29, 2012

[This is a recollection of something that transpired over ten years ago. Why am I writing this now? Just seemed apropos for Tisha B’Av.]

I ate my last meal before the fast took hold. After sundown, I took off my shoes and socks, and slipped out of Bowles Hall to walk down Gayley Road to the Reutlinger Center. The Berkeley Hillel had organized a 25-hour schedule of activities commemorating the Holocaust, starting with a memorial service. Students gathered and began to kindle tealights near the auditorium.

Josh Miller, then the JCSC fellow, helped lead the service and introduced everyone to a niggun that he learned on a trip to Poland. I recall that he said that when his trip was taught that song, and they began to sing the niggun and dance in a former Jewish neighborhood, an old Polish woman came up to them and said that she had not heard that song since her early childhood. [Please listen to this niggun and propagate its memory:  M4A format]

I went back to my dorm for a short rest, then arose at 3 AM to head to the corner of Telegraph Avenue and Bancroft. The sky was red, reflecting the urban light pollution off of the underside of the fog bank hovering over the city. I could see snatches of the Campanile as it faded in and out of the fog. I found a group of four students standing in a tight huddle around a memorial candle, clutching reams of paper. A close inspection showed that the pages held, in dense, fixed-width font the names of thousands of victims of the Holocaust. The students took turns reciting the name of a victim, perhaps with their age and their country. Sadly, sometimes entire families were listed together, and one could envision the tragedy that the terse computer print-out did not explicitly recount. This solemn vigil was kept for 25 hours throughout Yom HaShoah, and I joined in for an hour in the dead of night, barefoot.

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ZF Minute for Munich 1972 – Friday 27.07, – 11 am London time

Posted by Oyster on July 25, 2012


As you may be are aware, there have been a number of campaigns urging the IOC to hold a minutes’ silence during the Opening Ceremony of the London Olympics. Unfortunately the IOC has decided against this commemoration. So, the Zionist Federation UK is inviting you to join us in remembering the 11 murdered Israeli Athletes.

On the morning of the Opening Ceremony, 27th July, we are asking people all over the world to stop for one minute and stand in silence as a personal tribute to those who lost their lives in the 1972 Munich Massacre. Wherever you may be and whatever you may be doing, please join us and stand in silence for one minute in silence as we remember.

We will also be holding a short memorial service that will be streamed live via a webcast from 10.45am. You will be able to view this at www.minuteformunich.org.

This is a truly worldwide event- wherever you are in the world at 11am on July 27th, we are inviting you to take part in a minute of silence.

We are writing to ask if you can publicise this to your community by sharing the following links:

Minute for Munich Facebook event page: http://www.facebook.com/events/265885086858201

Minute for Munich information Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Minute-for-Munich/499464570079851

If you are part of an organisation, email minutesilence to see how you can get involved.

For more information: www.minuteformunich.org

Thank you very much

Kind regards

Melissa Harris
Zionist Federation
020 8202 0202

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The San Francisco Jewish Film Festival is here!

Posted by Oyster on July 20, 2012

Oyster and Bri-Bri of the Hub.

Just attended the opening night of the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival due to the mad hook-ups from Bri-Bri of the Hub. They selected a very funny, entertaining, and enlightening film about the history of the song & dance Hava Nagila. Check it out!

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Chaya’leh Ash, z”l

Posted by Oyster on May 30, 2012

I’m saddened to hear that Chaya’leh Ash, z”l, my onetime Yiddish teacher, has passed away. She was born into a famous Yiddish acting troupe, and survived the Holocaust to become a leading exponent of Yiddish language and culture.

I read the bad news first in the JValley May issue:


… but evidently she passed away in March. My condolences to her family. May her memory be for a blessing.

The JValley article mentions that you can donate to Jewish Family Services in her memory.

The Forvertz also has an article about Chaya’leh:


Oyf simkhes… 😦

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Computer Legend and Gaming Pioneer Jack Tramiel Dies at Age 83 – Forbes

Posted by Oyster on April 10, 2012


Barukh Dayan Emet…

I met Jack as a teenager a few times. A very inspiring person. My condolences to his family.

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