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March 27, 2009     Heritage Florida Jewish News
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March 27, 2009
 

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HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, MARCH 27, 2009 PAGE 13A By Jasmina Kelemen CARACAS (JTA)--The qui- et on a residential street in this eastern Venezuelan city is shattered by construction crews as workers perched on a scaffolding place panels of marble on the external wall of a two-story synagogue. The construction occurs under thewatchfuleyeoflocal police, who monitor the street - around the clock. From their post on the corner, the ponce van has kept surveillance over the site since late January, when an older synagogue in the rundown Mariperez dis- trict of Caracas was attacked and desecrated. Committed to their future here, the city's Jews are build- ing a new synagogue to replace the 50-year-old Sephardic synagogue that was attacked. They must do so under police protection, On Jan. 30, more than a dozen assailants invaded Tife- ret Israel, overpowering two security guards and disabling the surveillance system. They desecrated holy objects, stole a computer database with the congregation's personal information and put this city's Jews on edge. "It's something that is really shocking and that has never been seen before in Venezuela. Never ever," Said Federica Palomero, who curates a small museum at Tiferet Israel. "In Venezuela there's a tradition of coexis- tence, tolerance, respect and mutual admiration." Synagogue members say that anti-Semitic-graffiti be- gan to appear on the temple's exteriorwails in January, after President Hugo Chavez ex- pelled the Israeli ambassador from the country to protest the Israeli military operation in the Gaza Strip. As Chavez ratcheted up his rhetoric against Israel, call- ing it a genocidal state, the official media followed suit, calling for a boycott on local Jewish businesses unless they publicly denounced Israel. Venezuelan Jews, who first arrived here in the 1700s, say an unprecedented wave of anti-Semitism has followed. ~"People are being taught to hate," said Venezuelan Chief Rabbi Pynchas Brener. "Venezuela has never seen anything like this before." "We've never.had any kind of political or social problems in Venezuela," he went on. "Venezuelans are extremely tolerant; they accept differ- ences." Other attacks and out- bursts of hostility followed the Tiferet Israel attack. In February, unknown assail- - ants lobbed a small explosive into a Caracas Jewish com- munity .center. A local production of"Fid- i ! ! il Jasmina Kelemen A new synagogue is being built in Caracas to replace a 50-year-old Sephardic synagogue that was attacked in January 2009. Michael Green, creator of the new NE~C adds touche of sci-fi and fantasy in fiis biblical drama. All Goldstein/NBC series "Kings,' contemporary By Tom Tugend LOS ANGELES (JTA) Michael Green was walking down a street in Jerusalem in late 2006 when the concept of the new television series "Kings" came into focus. "The idea had been roiling my brain for awhile." he said. Green sat down to write the pilot for "Kings" while work- ing as writer and co- executive producer for "Heroes." "Kings," which launched March 15 on NBC with a special two-hour premiere. takes the biblical drama of young David. Goliath, King Saul and the prophet Samuel and transports them to a contemporary city that looks a lot like a gleaming New York "after a thorough scrubbing. Don't look for a 2Ist cen- tury swords-and-sandals epic in the series. The political intrigue and corporate power plays have a distinctly Wash- ingtonian ring, and part of the fun is looking for parallels to the last year of President George W. Bush's administra- tion, the Cold War, Vietnam, Iraq, Middle East conflicts and even the kidnapping of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. Green, 36, who attended a yeshiva in New York and whose mother is Israeli, is a bit coy about drawing direct biblical-contemporary com- parisons. "It's not for me to say what the parallels are," he said. "That's up to each viewer." However, the Jewish or Christian viewer whostayed awake in religious school should have notrouble iden- tifying the TV protagonists with their biblical counter- parts. We meet King Silas Benja- min (King Saul of the tribe of Benjamin, first king of Israel), David Shepherd (David, the shepherd), the king's son Jack (Jonathan), the king's daugh- ter Michelle (Michal) and the Rev. Ephraim Samuels (the Prophet Samuel). Actors in the two key roles are Ian McShane ("Heroes") as the king and Australian actor Chris Egan as David. In the premiere episode, we find the king, in an expensive power suit, ruling over the prosperous Kingdom of Gil- boa and ensconced with his queen in a mansion in the capital of Shiloh. He is also atwar with neighboring Gath and when his son is kid napped during a military skirmish. it is David. a fellow soldier. who frees Jack and earns the gratitude of the king. To free the hostage, David has to db battle with G01i- ath. who appears in a rather unexpected form. At home, David becomes an instant media favorite. Peace is made but soon broken, followed by new negotiations with prickly Gath officers, who look suspi- ciously like Russian generals, with square faces and jackets full of medals. On a softer touch, David and Michelle (the beautiful Alligori Miller) begin to fall in love. Green, as creator and ecutive producer of "Kings," makes it even tougher to define the precise genre of -the series by introducing touches of sci-fi and fantasy. For instance, the emblem of Gilboa is the orange monarch butterfly, and when a succes- sor to the king is anointed, a swarm of butterflies form a crown around the chosen one's head. The show's crew shot a season's worth of 14 epi- sodes-the premiere con- tains two in and around New York, studios in Brook- lyn's Greenpoint and in a mansion on Long Island. With a large cast. opulent palace scenes and shooting in NewYork, it's an expensive production. Green wouldn't provide an exact budget figure, but he put the cost of an aver- age prime-time TV episode between $2 million and $4.5 million, with "Kings" defi- nitely on the high end. Green, a native New York- er. has close ties to Israel. His Tel Aviv-born mother came to the United States after finishing her army service, met Green's father, and "has visited ever since," Green said. adding, "Most of my e~ctended family lives in Israel." He is optimistic that "Kings" will be seen eventu- ally on Israeli and British television, which usually happens after the second or third season of a series in the dler on the Roof" was even caught in the maelstrom after the orchestra chairman pulled out of the musical, possibly because of the play's Jewish content. The play's producer, Michel Hausmann, said Manuel Torres, who had performed in "Fiddler" in the past, felt that to do so this year would be politically offensiv and threaten his financial support from the state. Torres refused to comment about the case when reached by JTA via telephone. But in an interview several days earlier with a local daily, the chairman denied being pres- sured and said the orchestra was concentrating on other events. For its part, the govern- ment has been erratic in its response to the attacks on the Jewish community. At first, Chavez and other members of his government denounced the attack on Tiferet. promising the as-- sailants would be quickly apprehended. But Chavez also blamed government op- ponents for the raid and told the Jewish community not "to allow themselves to be manipulated." Then the Interior Ministry arrested 11 people, saying rob- bery was their real motive and thatit simply was disguised as a bias crime. While local Jewish lead- ers have publicly expressed their gratitude toward the government for prioritiz- ing the investigation, many in the community quietly express doubt that the real perpetrators of the attack will be brought to light. AsTiferet's Palomero guides a visitor through a small exhibit of pieture howing the destruction caused by the attack, she says the attack does Herzfeld, who was part of a four-person delegation from North America, said he is pressing U.S. Rep. Eliot Engel (D:N.Y.), chairman of the House or Representatives ForeignAffairs Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere, to assemble a congressional commission on religious freedoms in Venezuela. Igra01 also is u ing its diplomatic mhscle to keep .the spotlight on Venezuela's not reflect the attitudes of treatment of the Jewish corn- Venezuelans toward Jews "but rather those of a small group" that is "small, but active, dan- gerous and supported." Like many Jews here, Pal- omero declined to say who she believes is behind the attacks. But Jewish leaders from over- seas have made clearwho they believe is to blame. "Now that I've been here and seen this with my own eyes, I have no doubt that direct responsibility for the attack on the Tiferet Israel synagogue goes directly to the door of Hugo Chavez," said Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld of Congregation Ohev Sholom munity. Its Foreign Ministry has asked 15 countries with ties to Venezuela to bring up the issue with Chavez, accord- ing to the Israeli daily Ha'aretz. "There has been a signifi- cant outbreak of anti-Semi- tism there, and we wanted to send messages to Venezuela's president through several different channels in order to clarify the gravity with which we view the situation," a senior government source told the paper. Locally, the Jewish com- munity has not been directly outspoken against Chavez. Its members say they need in Washington after a recent to continue with their lives visit to Caracas. "The attack couldn't have happened without the per- tnission of Chavez," he said. noting the technical sophis- tication used to break into the synagogue and crack safes inside. as before. "Life goes on and one has to keepworking," Palomero said. "The Jews are Venezuelans just like the Muslims. the PrOtestants andthe Catholics. 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