Continuing on the ‘Road to Eden’

The Sept. 21 Scottsdale premiere of the documentary “Road to Eden” wasn’t the end of the journey for director Doug Passon — it was only the beginning.

The day after the sold-out screening at the Valley of the Sun Jewish Community Center, Passon went to St. Louis to show the film to the congregations who were featured in it.

A few weeks after that, he headed to Dothan, Ala., another town included in the movie, for another screening.

Showing the movie to the people featured in it is “particularly nerve-wracking,” Passon says, “because it was so very important for us to ‘get it right’ and honor the people and their stories.” However, “the reaction has been beyond my wildest expectations, both with the general audiences and with the specific towns featured.”

Passon’s ambitions for the film include more than screenings at synagogues and Jewish community centers — he’s submitted “Road to Eden” to more than 25 Jewish film festivals around the country and already been accepted to two of them. In March 2014, “Road to Eden” will be the closing night film of the Seattle Jewish Film Festival; a concert by Dan Nichols & 18 (the band featured in the film) will be held after the screening.

The other film festival screening is a little closer to home, at our very own Greater Phoenix Jewish Film Festival. “Road to Eden” will be shown at 3 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 23, 2014, at Harkins Camelview 5 Theatres. Visit for tickets.

The next big event for “Road to Eden” is at a place close to Passon’s heart: URJ Goldman Union Camp Institute in Zionsville, Ind., a location featured in the film and the place where Passon met his friend and collaborator Dan Nichols decades ago.

The camp “is the place where our Jewish identities were forged,” Passon says.

The Dec. 7 event is called “Road to Ethan,” as the screening will serve as a fundraiser for the family of Ethan Kadish and the HelpHOPELive Great Lakes Catastrophic Injury Fund. Ethan is one of three campers who were struck by lightning last summer at the camp; he is the only one that has not fully recovered and requires ongoing medical care.

“It’s going to be an amazingly special and emotionally charged night,” Passon says.

For more information on Ethan or to donate, visit For more information about “Road to Eden,” visit

On a journey ‘from frazzled to focused’

Caroline_CVR-2As one who often feels more frazzled than focused, I jumped at the chance to attend a recent lecture featuring Rivka Caroline, author of “From Frazzled to Focused: The Ultimate Guide for Moms Who Want to Reclaim Their Time, Their Sanity and Their Lives.”

As the mom of three young boys – ages 3, 5 and 7 – with the oldest just starting the weekly homework phase, which introduces a whole new time management challenge – I knew I could use some of Rivka’s time management tips.

As I skimmed through her book before the lecture, which was hosted at Kitchen 18 by Chabad of Scottsdale’s Jewish Women’s Circle, I noticed that it seemed to offer solutions to some of the challenges that I’m facing today: “practical solutions for outsmarting clutter,” “Time management tips for working smarter” and “hitting that delete button.”

One message that Rivka delivered – in a calm, humorous way – was that being organized isn’t about having your spices organized, but your priorities. You need to decide what your priorities are and then schedule your time to make sure you’re focusing on those priorities. For example, do you really need to have your cell phone on to receive emails at all hours?

Last weekend, my youngest son threw my smartphone on the floor, rendering it useless. Gone was the chance to, no matter where I am, check email throughout the day, refer to my calendar, visit Facebook to check on the status of people I otherwise have no contact with and have access to my list of contacts.

My husband set up an old Blackberry phone for temporary use until I get a new phone and so far I’ve gone through one week with it. If somebody texts or calls me, I save their information to the phone, but otherwise I haven’t set up anything else. After a few days of being disoriented, I got used to not checking my phone every few minutes. And you know what? It was actually kind of nice.

“’From Frazzled to Focused’ was written with the overwhelmed, stretched-too-thin, sleep-deprived mom in mind,” according to the book’s introduction. If that’s you, you may want to check it out!


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Police advisory board in relaunch mode

The Jewish Citizen Advisory Board may have been the first such advisory board launched by the Phoenix Police Department, “but it kind of petered out,” says Joe Miller, executive director of Temple Chai and current chairman of the Jewish community’s police advisory board. So an effort to relaunch the board started about a year and a half ago, and Miller is seeking to raise awareness of the board and to encourage more local Jewish leaders to take part.

So is Detective Rick Tamburo, the department’s liaison to the Jewish community: “We’re tying to rejuvenate [the board] and get a nice open partnership with the community. We want to have everything in place in case, God forbid, we need to interact with each other.”

The Jewish board is one of nine such panels organized to keep in touch with distinct minority communities, including the African American, Arab, Asian, Hispanic, LGBT, Muslim, Native American and Sikh communities.

The police website says the advisory boards are meant to generate unity between the respective communities and the police, create a climate of trust between the communities and police, provide a forum where the department can listen aggressively to community concerns and create win-win solutions to social problems, and improve the quality of life to all members of our community.

A Nov. 5 gathering at Temple Chai drew a group of about 20, including representatives of the Jewish community, three assistant police chiefs and and representatives such as Tamburo and Gerald Richard, who directs community relations for the department.

“All the chiefs got up and spoke, about 35 to 45 minutes, and there was a small presentation by our bias crimes sergeant on the school resource program and school safety,” Tamburo says.

More importantly, says Miller, such meetings build bonds between community leaders and the police: “When the time comes and you need the police, you already know each other, you’ve got them on your speed dial and that’s nothing but good.”

Miller recalls and appreciates the help that the department provided when Temple Chai faced what he calls “our lovely visit” from a confrontational church some time ago, which is clearly part of the reason he’s serving on the board.

The advisory panel helps the police to understand Jewish concerns and to know, for instance, when large crowds may gather, such as during the funerals of prominent community members and the High Holidays.

“When the High Holidays were going, I sent a memo departmentwide that said this time of year this is what’s going on,” Tamburo says. “I know the areas that have a lot of synagogues and we do special watches on these.”

The meetings feature presentations from various divisions of the department. While the Nov. 5 meeting’s presentation was on school safety, the next meeting is expected to include a presentation from the bias crimes unit.

Miller mentions a previous eye-opening presentation from a vice squad officer “who deals daily with prostitution and child sex trafficking.”

“It was a pretty powerful presentation,” he says, and it’s spurring some action. The temple’s tzedakah and social action group is engaged in trying to help get child victims off the street. Thus, being involved with the board helps not only helps the community protect itself but also helps with the pursuit of tikkun olam, he says.

So Miller is putting out the call to the leadership of synagogues and Jewish communal agencies alike to contact him (602-971-1234) to join the panel. “Having that relationship with law enforcement is good business.”

Walking with Lou a last time

In another life, I was a major daily newspaper’s rock critic, for want of a better term, and Lou Reed was one of the icons of Big Apple bohemian rock, a phrase I just made up for want of a better term.

As part of the Velvet Underground (whose original run was from 1964 to 1973), Reed became incredibly influential. To paraphrase another rock critic:  Velvet Underground was not a tremendous commercial success, but everybody who bought a Velvet Underground album went out and started a band. This means that the band’s raw, dark sound and edgy lyrical concerns are today as much a part of the standard vocabulary of rock bands as the blues was in the Velvet Underground’s day. (A side note, it also means that Andy Warhol, who was the band’s Svengali, is part of that influence and vocabulary.)

Ironically, Reed enjoyed more commercial success on his own. The single “Walk on the Wild Side” from his “Transformer” album allowed Reed to capitalize on David Bowie-inspired glam rock and its defiantly androgynous image. It was a circular moment in rock history as Bowie, who had been influenced by Velvet Underground, produced (sat at the control board and made suggestions) Reed’s most commercially successful recording.

The first time I heard the single, standing in the student lounge at my college, I didn’t understand half the references to transvestite characters from Andy Warhol’s Factory. The thing that got me, besides its bass line and lyric hook “take a walk on the wild side,” was the audacity of him saying, “and the colored girls sing …” to introduce what amounts to a nigun (a wordless vocal).

I don’t know how much Reed as a singer, songwriter, guitarist or musician thought or obsessed about his Jewishness, but it’s interesting to think that the  “soul chorus” on that song may have been influenced by a singing tradition half-remembered from his youth.

Thanks for the interesting work, Lou. (Reed died Oct. 27, 2013.)