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July 3, 2009

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HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, JULY 3, 2009 PAGE 17A Jewish Darfur activists see White House moving in right direction Mia Farrow American Jewish World Service President Ruth Messinger, shown on a visit to Chad, says the administration's policy objectives on Darfur are the right ones. By Eric Fingerhut WASHINGTON (JTA)-- While some activists have been disgruntled in recent weeks by the Obama admin- istration's Darfur policy, two top Jewish leaders on the issue believe the White House is moving in the right direction. The president of the Ameri- can Jewish World Service, Ruth Messinger, and the di- rector of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, Rabbi David Saperstein, say the administration has the correct goals in its sights, even if there appears to be some disagreement on how exactly to reach them. Messinger did release a statement lastweek criticizing the administration's "contra- dictory signals" on Darfur after the Obama administration's Sudan envoy, Scott Gration, told reporters that the Su- danese government was no longer engaged in a "coordi- nated" campaign of genocide and saying that "what we see is the remnants of genocide." lvo days earlier the U.S. am- bassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, had said that Sudan was committing genocide. The State Department has since reaffirmed that it believes a genocide is still tak- ing place. But Messinger says the mixed signals concern her because they draw attention from the humanitarian situ- ation in the region. "It was not helpful," she said, and the kind of thing that Sudanese President Omar al- Bashir"loves" because "he can say the Americans don't even agree. From our point of view, that's not where we want to keep the focus." Messinger says Darfur activ- ists want to see the administra- tion "more focused on speaking with one voice. We don't want them to downplaythe urgency." Bashir expelled 13 interna- tional aid groups inMarch, and activists say that has left more than I million people without access to food aid and 1.5 mil- lion without medical care. Amid reports that Gra- tion has suggested relaxing sanctions as a carrot to win Sudanese government coop- eration, some Darfur activists have worried recently that the administration has not moved quickly enough to put a clear policy in place. Messinger says she would like to see exactly what the United States might offer to Sudan before judging the plan, but says she is encouraged that the administration is focusing not just on the humanitar- ian situation but on ensuring that the comprehensive peace agreement achieved earlier this decade between the north and south regions of the country remains intact. "They recognize that the future of Darfur is wrapped up in the future of Sudan," she said. "If we let that agreement fall apart, itwill be three times worse than it is now." The agreement, signed in 2005, ended a more than two-decade civil war but set up an interim period, due to expire in 18 months, that cul- minates in avote on secession by the southern region. Key territorial issues and other disputes thatwouid factor into any secession have not been addressed. Saperstein echoes Mess- inger, noting that while there does appear to be a disagreement within the ad- ministration on "tactics," he is reassured that everyone is on the same page on objec- tives-particularly stressing the importance of the north- south agreement. He says that even if, as Gration said, there has been a decline in killing, "We've been down this road before." "Whether it's a lull or a permanent shift remains to be seen," he said. Aussie bowler continuing legacy of his late father By Dan Goldberg SYDNEY, Australia (JTA)-- WhenAustralian tenpin bowl- er Josh Small marches into the Ramat Gan stadium for the July 13 opening ceremony of the 18th World Maccabiah Games in Israel, he will be completing a journey his father started at the ill-fated Games in 1997. Small, now 19, was just 7 when his father, Greg, died after the makeshift bridge collapsed as the Australian team was walking toward the opening ceremony of the 15th Maccabiah on July 14, 1997. Scores of Aussies were sent plunging into the polluted waters of the Yarkon River. Greg Small, 37, and Yetty Bennett, 50, died at the site; Warren Zines, 54, and Eliza- beth Sawicki, 47, died weeks later. Josh and his younger sister, Rebecca, were staying at their aunt's house in Queensland while their parents were at- tending their first Maccabiah. "I was watching TV at the time, and all of a sudden it popped onto the news [of the disaster] and it was too late for my auntie to prevent us from seeing it," Josh recalls. "The next thing I know I was on a plane to Sydney. The rest is a blur." His mother, Suzanne, who suffered a dislocated shoul- der, five breaks in her ankle, swelling around her heart and emotional trauma that continues to this day, told JTA, "I rang my sister-in-law in Queensland from the hos- pital and I asked them not to tell the kids. "She said, 'It's too late, they've seen it on TV.' My daughter was only 5. She asked, 'Does that mean my daddy is not coming home?' "Josh said Kaddish for 12 months when he was 7. He said, 'It's my daddy, and Iwill say it.'" Now, a dozen years later, Josh is continuing the legacy of his father, the Australian team's No. 1 bowler in '97. "It inspired me to bowl," he said of the Maccabiah tragedy. "I want to continue what my father did. I'd like to go there, compete and finish what he started." Josh will join Australia's team of more than 400 ath- letes, ranging from a 12-year- old gymnast to an 82-year-old squash player. The team also includes golfer Roy Vander- sluis, 62, who is competing at his ninth consecutive Mac- cabiah Games--a record the Maccabi World Union believes has never been surpassed since the so-called Jewish Olympics began in 1932. Itwasn't until Josh received a phone call from the team manager that his position was confirmed. "Through my performanc- es I thought to myself I had a good chance, but until I got the phone call I was unsure," he said. "I'm feeling pretty excited. It'll be sad but a good thing to do." It will be Josh's first time competing at a Maccabiah, al- though he joined his mother, sister and survivors of the other victims at the emotional memorial service in Israel at the 2005 Games. He has been asked to speak at the official memorial service at the site of the disaster on July 10. While he says he was virtu- ally "born in a bowling alley," it was only after the'97 Games that he started taking tenpin more seriously. In tourna- ments he wears his dad's red pants and his shirt from those Games, with the name"Greg" on the front and the surname "Small" on the back. Although many of the survi- vors have moved on, some still harbor ill will toward the World Maccabi Union because of its ongoing employment of Yoram Eyal, who was chairman of the organizing committee of the Games and the man who commissioned the bridge. Eyal served six months community service for his part in the disaster, and he remains the general manager of the Kfar Maccabiah village and on the World Maccabi Union executive. "He will be never be for- given as long as I have breath in me," Suzanne said. "The man can rot in hell." Four other officials con- victed of criminal negligence receivedjailsentences in 2000. But Suzanne says Eyal "liter- ally got away with murder." Eyal, for his part, told Ma'ariv recently that"I received an easy punishment because I was the one who ordered the work and not the engineer. I've come to accept it, but it's still very hard for me to get used to the anger of the families." Suzanne says the "flash- backs and nightmares still come and go." "I'm in constant pain in my back and shoulder. I still have the Occasional panic attack; I have medication with me all the time," she said. "You just don't know when something is going to happen." But Suzanne says her heart will be"poundingwith excite- ment" when she sees her son march into the stadium on July 13. "I wouldn't miss that open- ing ceremony for anything," Henry Benjamin Josh Small, wearing the Australia green and gold, says winning a Maccabiah medal "would be a bonus" beyond just competing. she said. "It would have been absolutely beautiful to have father and son together. It's always emotional to go back to the site. It's like I'm visiting my husband's grave because that's where it happened. I think of my husband every day every single day. "But this is Josh's time to shine. I'm very proud and very anxious. Josh always had a goal to follow in his dad's footsteps. He's a natural in bowling; he had no privileges. His dreams have finally come true." Josh says hejustwants to go to Israel and compete. "Winning a medal," he said, "would be a bonus." Film tackles tough themes with smart drama, IJ,;rformances By Michael Nassberg The (Binghamton, N.Y.) Reporter John Irvin's recent, little- known drama "The Moon and the Stars" was painted using the whole palette, blending history, romance, come@ and war into a poignant story of devotion to one's raison d'etre, as well as one's very identity. Set in Rome in 1939, it centers on the cast and crew of a film production of the opera "To- sca," particularly that of its producer, Davide Rieti (Alfred Molina, "The Hoax" and "The Da Vinci Code") and its two stars, England's James Clavel (Jonathan Pryce, "Pirates of the Caribbean" and "The New World") and Germany's-Kris- tina Baumgarten (Catherine McCormack,"28Weeks Later" and "The Weight of Water"). With a war looming on the horizon, Davide goes to great lengths to hide being not just an anti-fascist and a Jew, but a closeted homosexual. He trades pieces of his extensive art col- lection to various financiers to keep "Tosca" funded; he pays offa high-ranking local fascist, Annibale (Ivano Marescotti), and continues to sacrifice as the situation grows more dire. At the same time, Clavel and Baumgarten clash at their initial meeting, only to grow closer as co-starring in the picture--combined with hap- penings on-set--gives them time to understand each other. The always likable Pryce convinces as a weary, cynical actor, an edgier variation on Bill Murray's role in "Lost in Translation." Kristina hurts him when she says, "Frankly, meeting you has been a great disappointment," which may have made him realize his troubled-but-brilliant routine has lost its mystique. As Kris- tina, McCormack is similarly impressive: Her character faces a series of challenges, from coping with the romantic advances of the mentally un- stable Marcantonio (Niccolo Senni) to staying out of politics, despite pressure from German and Italian representatives, to handling with good humor a potentially-scandalous request of her as an actress. The script by Peter Barnes and Fabio Carpi manages to incorporate numerous side characters without derailing the main narrative of the story. Some viewers might complain that the complexities of the relationship between Davide and his presumed lover, Renzo (Rupert Friend), does not receive enough attention, nor does it give enough time to Laszlo (Andras Balint), the endearing Hungarian direc- tor who commits to the film as wholeheartedly as Davide. When seeking to sway an investor, he promises the unthinkable for 1939: a love scene with nudity. The mat- ter of convincing Kristina is deftly left for later, like a $20 bill deposited in one's winter jacket pocket, until the scene could provide a much-needed moment of comic relief. A second movie could have been made about the second- ary and tertiary characters, but "The Moon and the Stars" stuck its landing by not getting pulled on too many tangents. However, the aspect the pic- ture does not delve into fully is Davide's struggle with secrecy. Many of the artistic pieces in his collection have explicit content, particularly nudes. Although this is not referenced directly on-screen, Davide's character is one who would own these as aformofmisdirection, keeping acquaintances and business partners in the dark about his homosexuality. His Judaism is easier to hide in terms of external ap- pearance, yet he maintains ties to his roots through his opposition toward fascism and Germany. Additionally, even if he does not outwardly make himself known as a Jew, those who would persecute him are aware of his heritage and, for them, that is enough. By the end of the picture, history catches up with the characters and fate has a fit- ting hand for each. Air raid sirens and spotlights put a punctuation mark on all that has led up to that point, chilling in their implication of not imminent danger, but of a more insidious threat poised to strike. "The Moon and the Stars" does not over-sentimentalize or fall to melodrama as the theme of accepting consequences runs throughout and, as a result, the picture succeeds in making the audience as com- fortable with the story's end as the characters themselves.