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December 14, 2012
 

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PAGE 8A HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, DECEMBER 14, 2012 By Maxine Dovere JNS.org NEW YORK--At a time when the secular world looms just beyond the boundaries of Tel Aviv's Haredi neighborhoods and the government of Israel considers ways to integrate young men of the ultra-Or- thodox communities into the general social fabric of the country, Rama Bursh- tein has "opened a window" into the day-to-day.life of the deeply religious, tradition-bound commu- nity-so often mysterious and shrouded behind the curtains of separation. Her film "Fill the Void"-- which took the top prize at this year's "Ophir Awards" (Israel's version of the Oscars), thereby earning an entry into the Best Foreign Language Film category at the 2013 Ameri- can Oscars--welcomes the viewer into this family- focused, Torah-centered world, viewed from the perspective of protagonist Shira, an 18-year-old young woman tasked with making the decision that will define her life. Burshtein provides an unprecedented entry into the Haredi community of Tel Aviv. In conversation following the film's recent screening at the 50th New York Film Festival at Lincoln Center, she said "Fill the Void" provides "a look inside the private world of Tel Aviv's Hasidic community." The film, she said, is "a movie taken from within.., a window to the Orthodox world." "The real location of the film is Shira's heart," said producerAsafAmir. "Detail is an integral part of the story. The need to be cre- ative lends to the magical quality." He noted that integrating the secular and religious cast was a challenge--few of the main characters had any experience with the Orthodox world. Yiphat Klein, who portrayed the widower Yochay, credited the film's success to the work of Burshtein, who "has the ability to take everything in hand. It is her influence...First of all, Rama's a storyteller." Before directing her first full-length feature for the secular market, Burshtein said she made films for Orthodox women "to help promote self-expression." "Fill the Void," is not a film for Orthodox people," she said. "The language would be different. Still, nothing is crossing the lines." Burshtein is more fa- miliar with such "lines" than many in the Haredi community: the ba'alat tshuvah filmmaker grew up as a secular Jew in New York, attended film school in Jerusalem, and became observant about 20 years ago. "I love my role as a woman," she said. "I feel it is true. I chose it. It doesn't stop me from doing films, but the way I see the home, between a man and a woman,it is more sexy." "I felt it was time to tell a story from within and say something that comes from really living the life," said Burshtein. "Fill the Void" tells its story from within the Orthodox world, avoid- ing all but the most cursory intrusions of the secular world. The film tells a story of transition: from heights of joy to depth of sadness, from death to life, from brother-in-law to widower to husband, from teenager to young woman to bride, from mourning to celebration." At a celebration in the family's apartment, Yochay calls his very pregnant wife outside. "You are my TorahV' he tells Ester, ex- pressing a depth of love the secular world might not ex- pect. Younger sister Shira is actively involved in the in- nocence of matchmaking, and is looking forward to engagement and marriage (albeit, arranged), in which "everything is new." The dynamics of every re- lationship change dramati- cally when tragedy strikes and the beloved Ester dies in childbirth. Left behind are her bereaved widower, her newborn son, and her distraught family. Months pass and Yochay is pressured to remarry. His disconsolate mother-in- law, Rivka, proposes a union between the wid- ower and Shira, her second daughter. Both are faced with the challenge of an unexpected life choice. Neither one of the proposed pair immediately accepts the "match." Eventually, however, both agree to fol- low the rituals of Haredi courtship, though neither believes the relationship can succeed. The unex- pected is yet to occur. When attempts at court- ship fail and both decide a marriage relationship can- not grow, the amount and intensity of time Shira and Yochay are allowed together is unique. As brother and sister-in-law, they are un- chaperoned. He sees her at a bus stop and drives her to her work. They are together at family events. Shira, caring for Mordechai, the child of her sister, has direct contact with Yochay, his father. They argue, alone together on a dark Tel Aviv terrace. The growing ten- sion between them--as man and woman--is pal- pable. They are angry, he breathes heavily, and they nearly touch. "You are too close," warns the young woman, as they argue about love and heartbreak. Burshtein, step by step, brings the film towards it inevitable conclusion. "Haredi couples," she said, "have their own playbook for expressing emotion." "Fill the Void" (Hebrew: "Lemale et Hachalal"), Rama Burshtein, 2012. He- brew with English subtitles; 90 minutes. North Ameri- can Distribution: Sony Pictures Classics. By Robert Gluck JNS.org To the average fan, The Three Stooges' shenanigans may obscure how their Jew- ish backgrounds shaped their lives and work. But not for Gary Lassin--president of The Three Stooges Fan Club, editor of The Three Stooges Journal and cura- tor of The Stoogeum (a museum of Three Stooges memorabilia). "As a Jewish fan of The Three Stooges, I've always been fascinated with the boys' use of Yiddish in their films," Lassin told JNS. org. "Non-Jewish fans are intrigued by this as well." The Stooges were back in the news in 2012 with the Farelly Brothers' "The Three Stooges: The Movie." That feature film is based on the Stooges' early to mid- 20th century short films. Regarding the Stooges' legendary shorts, Lassin's research has revealed that no fewer than 38 shorts utilized a Yiddish term or expression. The Stooges made 190 shorts during their careers, and forty percent of them included either Hebrew or Yiddish, according to Lassin. Moe, Larry, Curly and Shemp were born Jewish. Moses Horwitz was born on June 19, 1897, in Brooklyn to Solomon Horwitz and Jennie Gorovitz, the fourth of five brothers of Lithuanian Jew- ish ancestry. Although his parents were not involved in show business, Moe, his older brother Samuel (Sh- emp) and younger brother Jerome (Curly) all eventu- ally became world-famous as members of The Three Stooges. Larry was born to a Jewish family as Louis Feinberg in Philadelphia. His father, Joseph Feinberg, was a Russian Jew and his mother, Fanny Lieberman, owned a watch repair and jewelry shop. Lassin said, "There's little doubt that Yiddish was the language spoken in the Horwitz and Feinberg homes during Moe, Larry, eon aac Aep n Leon Isaac Sheplan, son of Ilona and Dr. Edward Sheplan of Altamonte Springs will be called to the Torah as a bar mitz- vah on Dec. 22, 2012 at Congregation Beth Am in Longwood. Leon is an A student in the seventh grade at Rock Lake Middle School. He enjoys exercising, bike riding and playing sports, especially basketball and football. His passion is Gators football. He also enjoys listening and hanging out with his friends and family, especially cousin Jake. Sharing in the family's simcha are siblings, Derek, Harrison and Heather; brother-in-law, Donovan; nieces, Juniper and Kylie; nephew, Logan; and family and friends from Florida and New York. Curly and Shemp's forma- tive years." For example, the map of "Jerkola" from the 1955 short "Stone Age Romeos" shows five locations that have their origins in Yiddish: Shmow Lake, The Schnozzle Mountains, Borscht Island, Mish Mosh and Ferblongent. Originally known as "Ted Healy and His Southern Gentlemen," The Three Stooges were an American vaudeville and comedy act of the early to mid-20th century best known for their numerous short subject films. Using physical farce and extreme slapstick, the Stooges were commonly known by their first names: "Moe, Larry, and Curly" or "Moe, Larry, and Shemp," among other lineups. The original trio did one fea- ture film entitled "Soup to Nuts," after which Shemp left the group to pursue a solo career andwas replaced by his brother Curly. This incarnation of the team was the first to be known on film as The Three Stooges. The 2012 movie--star- ring Chris Diamantopoulos, Sean Hayes and Will Sasso-- recreates the characters played by Moe, Larry and Curly. The film's story places the Stooges in a modern setting. Although most fans rank Curly as their favorite stooge--mostly because of his sound effects and child- like demeanor--the Farrel- lys enjoy Larry the most. "The Farrelly brothers have always categorized Larry as the great reactor and that's what made him their favorite," Larry Fine's grandson Eric Lamond told JNS.org. "He was also quite an accomplished violinist and an amateur boxer." Lamond is the market- ing director of C3 Enter- tainment, the company originally founded by The Three Stooges. Today, C3 is a diversified entertainment company involved in televi- Gary Lassin The Three Stooges are ubiquitous at "The Stoogeum" memorabilia museum in Ambler, Pa. sion and motion picture pro- ductions, retail and product development and sales, and the licensing, merchandis- ing and promotion of brands worldwide. In Ambler, Pa., Lassin runs the 10,000-square- foot, three-story Stooge- urn--which contains 100,000 artifacts dubbed "Stoogeabilia" from 1918 to the present. The museum includes several interactive displays, a research library, a 16mm film storage vault, and an 85-seat theater used for film screenings, lectures and special presentations. The Stoogeum is also the headquarters of The Three Stooges Fan Club, one of the nation's oldest and largest clubs with 2,000 members worldwide. An annual meet- ing of the fan club brings together Stooges relatives, supporting actors, imper- sonators and fans. So, what exactly makes the Stooges funny? "There are plenty of theo- ries," Lassin said. "They dealt with a lot of themes of the boss versus the worker and the lower class versus society folks. Those are universal themes." Lassin said the boys did a lot of fundraisers for syna- gogues and donated their time for the less fortunate. With the onset of World War II, the Stooges also released several entries that poked fun at the rising Axis powers. "You Nazty Spy!" and its sequel "I'll Never Heil Again" burlesqued Hitler and the Nazis at a time when America was still neutral and resolutely isolationist. Moe is cast as "Moe Hailstone," an Adolf Hitler-like character, with Curly playing a Hermann Goering character (replete with medals), and Larry a von Ribbentrop-type am- bassador. Though revered by Stoog- es fans, as well as the Stooges themselves (Moe, Larry and director Jules White considered "You Nazty Spy!" their best film), the efforts indulged in a deliberately formless, non-sequitur style of verbal humor that was not the Stooges' forte, according to Ted Okuda and Edward Watz, authors of The Co- lumbia Comedy Shorts. Lon Davis, author of Stooges Among Us, said the subject of Judaism never came up in conversations he had with Moe Howard and Larry Fine. "Still, I know that each man identified himself as being of the Jewish faith," Davis told JNS.org. "The impact of that faith on their lives was their style of humor. Yiddish com- edy was highly prevalent in vaudeville." Davis said Larry spoke Yiddish at times and sprin- kled various expressions into his observations. "Larry loved to tell jokes. One had to do with a mink that had died and was greet- ed at the gates of Heaven by St. Peter. 'For being such a fine mink, and for siring hundreds of offspring, the Almighty will grant you any- thing your heart desires,'" Davis said, recalling Fine's joke. "'Delighted,' the mink responded. 'Well, I've always wanted a full-length Jewish lady.'" With shopping season for Chanukah and Christ- mas gifts in full swing, the Stooges' still-high DVD sales trigger the question: Why has their comedy stood the test of time? "I've been asked this a lot," Lamond said. "People tend to overthink it. They " lasted because what they did was funny. They did it incredibly well, and they were able to do it incredibly well because they worked so hard at it."