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August 29, 2014

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PAGE 8A HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, AUGUST 29, 2014 Showbiz meets shtetl: Helping Hollywood get Hasidim right By Miriam Moster NEW YORK (JTA)--When it comes to Hasidic char- acters in movies, film con- sultant Elli Meyer believes that the real deal trumps a random actor in costume. But that approach isn't without its challenges. Meyer, a New York-based Lubavitcher Hasid, recount- ed one occasion when he was hired to cast extras for a film but refused upon learning that shooting would take place on Yom Kippur. "Who told you to hire Jews?" one of the producers said, according to Meyer, though ultimately the shoot- ing was postponed. Meyer is among a hand- ful of Jews from haredi Orthodox backgrounds who have carved out an unusual niche in show business as occasional consultants on films and TV shows aim- ing to authentically depict Hasidic life. These consultants often find themselves having to dispel misconceptions about Hasidim as they ad- vise on language, costum- ing and plot, sometimes even stepping into rabbinic roles as explainers of Jew- ish law. Meyer, 59, has been doing this kind of work for a decade. In 2014 alone he has acted in, consulted on or done casting Custom Print Marketing lnvfcations - Announcements Die,ca]  Off3et Printm Brochures - Booklets Direct: Mail Services Forms C-- Leerheads Envelopes 407-767-7110 205 Nol Stl*eet - , FL 327,0 ,vvv.v. elealtnt rlet 1',4enuonThis Ad and Receive 18% Discount work for more than half a dozen TV shows or movies. He said he was motivated to get into the consulting business because he was appalled by the sloppiness of many depictions of Hasidic Jews. "They think they can slap on an Amish hat and a long black robe, and they've created a Hasid," he said of directors and producers in general. Isaac Schonfeld, a gradu- ate of Yeshiva Shaar Hatorah high school in Queens and an Orthodox Jew, has consulted on several independent films. Most recently, Schonfeld consulted for the 2013 com- edy "Fading Gigolo" directed by John Turturro, who stars as a novice prostitute being pimped out to female clients by a friend played by Woody Allen. One of the major plot lines focuses on a budding romance that develops be- tween Turturro's character and a lonely Hasidic widow who hires him as a masseur. Schonfeld brought Tur- turro and several crew members to a regular social PAY MORE TO PRINT? up to 40% SAVINGS 100% GUARANTEE FREE DELIVERY Cartridge Wortd-A|tamonte Springs 801 W SR 436, Ste 1025 407-767-0680 lle Ilal 35 OFF Buy I cartridge at regular price, % od receive 35 off 2 one of equal or lesser value, IS50 max value), Good on ..Cartridge World ca.. rtrid .gc_.s only. Valid.only with coupon. Limit one per cuszomer, flousenold or Duslne6s. Valid at perticipetingstore. Not valid with any other offer. Offer expires 9/4/2014. Julie Landreville Luzer Twersky, right, consulted on and plays a Hasidic character in the forthcoming film "Felix and Meira." s5 OFF Hasidic but would still accommodate Turturro's attachments and artistic considerations. In the end Avital was named Avigal. But the naming of char- acters was a minor chal- lenge compared to another conundrum: finding a word for "pimp" in Yiddish to be used in a scene before a rabbinic court where Al- len's character is accused of providing a male prostitute for a Hasidicwoman. Finding the one word, "alfons," rarely if ever used in contemporary Hasidic parlance, required a significant amount of re- search on Schonfeld's part. When it comes to meticu- lousness, "Fading Gigolo" Even though it was not shot on the actual Sab- bath, the scene seemed so authentic that Weisz, who acted in the scene, said that on a visceral level it felt wrong to be engaging in un-Shabbat-like activity like filmmaking. Afterward, when conver- sation turned to the movie, "I got mad," Weisz recalled, "because they shouldn't be talking about that on Shabbos." But film consultants do not always agree with one another on what makes for the most authentic depiction of Hasidim. On Twitter, Twersky had criticized the 2010 movie 567241389 289736514 134895726 456123978 391687452 872954631 718369245 625478193 943512867 .We're in your corner. Information 866.74z.6655 ,,# f, nerstenespice, o rg Corne00tone l ] /.|r.,,e, ss.o:j/co'rnet,o'n,e 5019096 l since 1984. y other offer, of s30 " or more, resulted from his advice. He said that Turturro had planned to name the Ha- sidic widow after a friend's wife named Avital, wrongly believing it to be an authen- tic-sounding Hasidic name. Schonfeld noted that some people have a tendency to be- lieve that Israeli and haredi names are interchangeable. Schonfeld recommended similar alternatives that would be more plausibly gathering he runs in New York called Chulent that is popular among many former Hasidim and others on the margins of the haredi world. Other acquaintances of Schonfeld also helped with the film. One, Malky Lip- shitz, contributed religious artwork and consulted with Vanessa Paradis, the French actress who played the Ha- sidic woman in the film. Others submitted voice recordings for actor Liev Schreiber to use to practice his inflection in his role as a member of a Hasidic com- munity patrol vying for the widow's affections. Schonfeld pointed to one significant change that does not stand alone. "Felix and Meira," a forthcoming independent Canadian film that follows a Hasidic woman from Montreal who engages in an extramarital affair with a non-Jewish man, also re- quired significant research, consultation and visits to the haredi community. Several former Hasidim consulted for the film in varying capacities. Rivka Katz, formerly a Lubavitcher Hasid, consulted on the script, while Luzer Twersky and Melissa Weisz, who attended Satmar Hasidic schools growing up, both acted and consulted. Twer- sky plays the protagonist's husband and Weisz has the part of a Hasidic woman, a minor character in the film. They pointed to the verisi- militude of a scene set during a Shabbat meal. "The shtreimel [fur Ha- sidic hat] was real, the bekeshe [frock coat] was real, the chicken soup was real," Twersky said of the scene. "Holy Rollers," starring Jesse Eisenberg as a drug-running yeshiva student, for its cos- tuming choices and other issues. He tweeted: "guys with peyos don't wear short suits and fedora hats." Meyer, who worked on the film, says he advises a "mish-mosh look," piecing together the hat from one Hasidic sect and the side curls of another, unless the director has a particular sect in mind. To Twersky, that was one of several of the film's failings. But he acknowledges that departures from authentic portrayals of l-tasidic life are not always such a bad thing. "We need to get over the fact that we don't own the story of Hasidic Jews," Twersky said. He noted that artistic considerations often result in departures from reality. "Nobody wants to see regular people doing regu- lar things," Twersky said. "That's not a movie."