Thursday, March 26, 2015

First Wonder Woman, and now Gadot's a Gucci girl

While we're still months away from seeing Israeli model and actress Gal Gadot's portrayal of DC comics amazon princess Wonder Woman in Zac Snyder's Batman v Superman:Dawn of Justice, earlier this week, Gadot took to her Facebook page to announce that she'd been chosen as the new face of Gucci fragrances, a prestigious role previously held by contemporaries Blake Lively and James Franco.

Gadot's star power appears to be rocketing to great heights, with contracts to take the great DC warrior princess from Batman v Superman to DC's Justice League and then on to her own solo Wonder Woman feature film.

Gadot's 30th birthday, which she celebrates in April, comes a few weeks after her return to the big screen next Friday, reprising her role as Gisele in the seventh instalment of the Fast and Furious franchise.

Over the past few months, Gadot also joined an incredible cast list of Hollywood veterans in two movies that recently finished filming: Triple 9 alongside Aaron Paul, Kate Winslet and Woody Harrelson, as well as the new thriller Criminal with Kevin Costner, Gary Oldman, Tommy Lee Jones and Ryan Reynolds, and directed by Israeli-American Ariel Vromen.

Look to the sky: it's not Superman but Gal Gadot taking the world by storm.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Baking a sweet treat before Passover

It was a Monday unlike many others as 30 young professionals (ages 22 to 35) came together earlier this week at The House for a unique, dynamic and creative program, one not yet held anywhere else in the city.

Emily Goldstein, program co-ordinator for the organization, wanted to go beyond the popular baking event Challah for Chesed with an offering of a different sort.

The Rugelach Bake-Off was a smash success to an equal extent.

While the dough was left to set, the lead baker of the evening, Estee Kafra, led the event's attendees in a brief discussion on Jewish values and traditions that highlighted the importance of the miracle we'll read about in the Passover Haggadah. It was not just that we were freed from the yoke of slavery, she said, but it also marked the first reference to Klal Yisrael as being God's people.

Everyone then returned to their baking stations to finish preparing the delectable treats. The recipe everyone was following offered two filling options. The traditional route was the classic chocolate with added chocolate chips. For those bold enough to try something new, the alternative was to roll them up with a spicy apricot preserve, with raisins thrown in for good measure.

If anyone was suffering from any residual feelings of depression from the frigid winter temperatures we faced this year, the sense of accomplishment that seasoned bakers and first timers alike derived from Monday's event changed all that indeed.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Mayim Bialik comes to her alma mater's defence

Mayim Bialik wants you to know that UCLA is not anti-Semitic.

A graduate of the University California Los Angeles (UCLA) and a product of Hillel's leadership education and programming, the Big Bang Theory star is also a regular contributor to, a Jewish parenting website, where she penned a defence of the West Coast school earlier this week after a member of UCLA’s student government was asked in a hearing last month whether her Jewish identity presents a conflict of interest.

Bialik wants parents to know that it was four members of the student government who raised objections to her candidacy because of her affiliations with Jewish causes, but that this is not in any way a viewpoint shared by the majority of UCLA's faculty nor the university's administration.

Jump here to Bialik's detailed defence of her alma mater.

Rest on Shabbat or play in March Madness?

It's long been a conundrum for many Jewish pro and high-level amateur athletes who have been brought up in observant homes and have attended Jewish schools.

Unlike Tamir Goodman  – the so-called "Jewish Jordan," who played NCAA basketball at Towson University in the early 2000s and decided to be true to his upbringing by not playing on Shabbat – Zach Yoshor, a freshman guard for the Harvard Crimson has chosen to play on the day of rest, but the decision has not been an easy one.

And now that his team has made the NCAA's year-end tournament by winning the Ivy League title, more Saturday games are a distinct possibility.

Raised in an observant home in Houston, Yoshor also attended a modern Orthodox high school, the Robert Beren Academy, that doesn't schedule games on the Sabbath.

For Harvard basketball games that do occur on Shabbat, Yosher keeps religious violations to the bare minimum by refraining from using his cellphone or writing. Twice this season, he has flown separately to games to avoid taking team flights on Shabbat.

On team bus rides on the day of rest, he reads books to pass the time.

For more on the story, see Hillel Kutler's post to JTA .

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Sarah Silverman tweets support for Meretz

In The Canadian Jewish News this week, experts weigh in on whom they believe Israelis will choose as their next prime minister March 17.

American comedian Sarah Silverman, meanwhile, took to her Twitter account yesterday and tweeted to her followers that if any of them are Meretz supporters, Israel's left-wing social democratic party, they must get out to their local voting station next week to keep the party afloat in the Knesset.

Founded in 1992, Meretz won 12 seats in the election that year to establish itself as the third-largest party in the country, joining the coalition led by then-prime minister Yitzhak Rabin. In the years since, the party has struggled to hold on to its presence in Israel's Parliament, winning only three seats in 2008, but doubling its representation to six two years ago.

Silverman's tweet reads as follows "ISRAEL! If you are a Meretz supporter you NEED to VOTE MARCH 17. Every vote counts. If you don’t vote, you can’t complain.”

Though Silverman is known for her liberal politics, another reason behind her social media outcry may be the fact her sister, Rabbi Susan Silverman, is a Meretz candidate, albeit a bit of a long shot, as she's No. 20 on the party list, and with Meretz's electoral track record, it seems rather unlikely she'll be voted in.

The party needs a minimum of 3.25 per cent of the vote (or approximately four seats) to gain representation in the next Knesset, making its future uncertain.

Drake track showcases our heritage

If you grew up watching TV or movies in the 1990s and early 2000s, you've likely been exposed to Heritage Minutes.

A bilingual Canadian legacy project and the brainchild of philanthropist Charles Bronfman, the 60-second short films honoured significant Canadian figures, events or stories that have shaped the country's history, and they became an iconic part of Canadian TV and cinema. While the dramatizations may not necessarily be completely factual, they have broadened our collective understanding of Canada's culture and identity.

In past years, the Heritage Minutes have been parodied on CBC programs such as This Hour Has 22 Minutes, Royal Canadian Air Farce, and the Rick Mercer Report.

But until now, there has never been an internet meme on this side of the border quite like this.

Appropriately titled A Part OVO Heritage this 60-second video fuses the track Started from the Bottom by Drake – a.k.a. Aubrey Graham, Canada's hottest selling hip hop & R&B rapper – to some of the most memorable clips from the most popular Heritage Minutes.

While Drake has not yet commented on the tribute, we believe it would be something along the lines of "O Canada..." :-)

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Leonard Nimoy's lasting legacy: "Remember!"

American actor, film director, poet, singer-songwriter and photographer Leonard Nimoy was beloved by many for his role as Spock, the Vulcan and Starfleet science officer on the U.S.S. Enterprise.

Many believe Spock was the moral compass that steered the starship, first under the command of Capt. Christopher Pike in the original Star Trek pilot The Cage in 1965 and then, of course, serving with Capt. James T. Kirk, portrayed by Nimoy's good friend William Shatner, from 1966 to 1969 on TV, followed by six feature films that featured the 1960s cast.

Last week, as we all know, the world lost perhaps the most influential "alien" in pop culture. Nimoy succumbed to complications from chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD) at the age of 83.

To honour his legacy, we're looking back at two of the most humorous commercials we could find in which he parodied aspects of his character.

In the first clip, which coincided with J.J. Abrams franchise reboot in 2009, Nimoy prepares to take to the stage at a convention and can't seem to form his his famous Vulcan hand gesture, which accompanies his signature line, "Live long and prosper," so he's advised to take the pain medication Aleve.

In the second clip, Nimoy and actor Zachary Quinto, who assumed the mantle of the green-blooded Vulcan in the rebooted film franchise, get together in The Challenge, an Audi campaign commercial just two short years ago. The older, wiser Nimoy and the younger actor play a round of golf and go on a "friendly" lunch outing. Their chemistry together, both in and out of character, was truly outstanding.

While Shatner could not attend the funeral of his dear friend in person as Nimoy was laid to rest last Sunday, his dedication stands the test of time, from the end of Star Trek The Wrath of Khan to when he first learned the news of Nimoy's real-life passing, "Of my friend, I can only say this: Of all the souls I have encountered in my travels, his was the most… human."

 Leonard Simon Nimoy – R.I.P.