Jeremy Piven’s ‘entourage’ gifts him with an ambucycle in Israel


Actor Jeremy Piven, who won three consecutive Emmys for his portrayal of the character Ari Gold  on HBO’S “Entourage,” received an ambucycle last week from his buddies, recently retired NBA all-star Amare Stoudemire and current NBA star Omri Casspi. The ambucycle immediately became part of Israel’s national emergency medical services (EMS) organization, United Hatzalah’s, response team.

“Just the idea that we can use what we do with this life for good is a gift,” said Piven, in a release. “And I thank you for this gift. Use it well.”

Stoudemire, a personal friend of Piven, is no stranger to United Hatzalah. The former Miami Heat player and New York Knicks all-star was introduced to the organization during a previous trip to Israel. In 2014 Stoudemire launched a campaign entitled “Amar’e Saves,” to raise money for United Hatzalah. His efforts helped to raise close to half a million dollars in just one season. Now, Stoudemire is continuing to pay it forward and save lives by gifting Piven with an ambucycle in honor of Jeremy’s bar mitzvah. Casspi together with CharityBids CEO Israel Schachter and actor-promoter Dave Osokow partnered in dedicating the ambucycle in honor of Piven.

Piven, who won a Golden Globe and three consecutive Emmys for his portrayal of the character Ari Gold on HBO’s “Entourage”, celebrated his second bar mitzvah on the rooftop of the Aish HaTorah building a few hours before the beginning of the Sabbath. Following the closed ceremony, Piven’s entourage, including Casspi, Stoudemire and others, made their way to the entrance of the Western Wall Plaza where the ambucycle dedication ceremony took place.

Dovi Maisel, United Hatzalah’s Director of International Operations, presented Piven with the ambucycle. “When top-tier athletes and Hollywood celebrities use their personal achievements to make a positive impact, they become inspirational role models. Our role models at United Hatzalah come from all segments of the population and save lives everyday with ambucycles just like this one. This ambucycle that is being dedicated in your honor will go on to save more than 800 people a year,” said Maisel.

Stoudemire and Casspi unveiled the ambucycle, after which, Piven donned a United Hatzalah vest, sat on the motorcycle, and discussed his feelings upon the joyous occasion of his bar mitzvah and receiving this meaningful gift from his friends. “This is a hell of a surprise for me, and I am incredibly honored and thankful that you guys (referring to Stoudemire, Casspi, Schachter and Osokow) initiated this. So thank you for this gift.”

When asked to cut the ceremonial ribbon on the ambucycle, Piven quipped, “I’m not a mohel, but I played one on TV.” Becoming more serious, Piven added, “I feel totally honored, and the fact that these people are donating their time (to save lives) is incredible. Saving people, no matter who they are, is what life is all about. So thank you and Mazal Tov.”

The Omri Casspi Foundation, which helped organize the trip and the bar mitzvah celebration, is dedicated to bringing people, many of whom are celebrities, from the US to Israel in order to raise awareness of the beauty of the country. Traci Szymanski has, for the past two years, been working with the foundation and was involved in coordinating many of the aspects to ensure the current mission’s success. Also travelling with the group is welterweight champion Georges St.-Pierre, female poker pro Maria Ho, WNBA players Alysha Clark and Mistie Bass and NBA players Shaun Marion, Rudy Gay and Chris Copeland.


Jeremy Piven sits atop his United Hatzalah Ambucycle accompanied by Amare Stoudemire, Omri Casspi, friends and staff members of United Hatzalah. Photo courtesy of United Hatzalah




Casting call for boy for new Spielberg film

The makers of a new Steven Spielberg film are looking to cast a boy able to portray a Jewish Italian 6 year old. No acting experience is necessary – they’re looking for a “very special, real kid.”

Here are the details:

ROLE “EDGARDO”: BOY age 6-9 to play 6 years old. This is a unique and very challenging part for a truly special boy. The story deals with the complexity of an extremely intelligent and gifted child’s situation – his desire to return to his family and the faith of his ancestors, pitted against his ability to learn the Catechism and engage with the Pope on a level far beyond his years. He should appear to be a Jewish Italian child. We are not looking for any kind of Italian accent.

STORY LINE: “The Kidnapping of Edgardo Mortara”— Steven Spielberg is making a film about the true story of EDGARDO MORTARA – a 6-year-old Jewish boy from Bologna who was reported to have been secretly baptized by a maid, and was deemed by the Catholic church therefore to be Christian. Pope Pius IX (to be played by Mark Rylance) decreed that the boy could not remain with his Jewish family. He was seized by the Papal State and taken to the Vatican where his indoctrination into Catholicism began. This was a cause célèbre of mid-nineteenth century European politics and the domestic and international outrage against the pontifical state’s actions may have contributed to its downfall amid the unification of Italy. This is an incredible story of real historical relevance.

Please note several CD’s are covering this project, per overall CD Ellen Lewis: We (Debbie DeLisi/DeLisi Creative) are covering people that live in all regions in the US/Canada, EXCEPT if LA, CA (CD Tannis Vallely) & NYC based (Rori Bergman). If you’re based in LA or NYC, submit to Tannis or Rori. If you are based in any other area — please submit to us at

To submit: Email Subject line: EDGARDO SUBMISSION / Name of boy, city/state. Body of email: Parents/Guardians contact info (names/phone), boys name/age/d.o.b, city/state of residence, along w/current non retouched photos. If you’d like to include a brief introduction, bio or resume, please do! Please note any related, special, or fun facts so we get to know him!

Valley rabbi inspired ‘Joy’

David O. Russell, the writer and director of the film “Joy” recently called Rabbi John Linder of Temple Solel “one of the inspiring voices of the film.”


In an interview with Tara Hitchcock of AZ Family, Russell said that Linder surprised many people by  declaring mid-life that he was going to become a rabbi. “I knew him as a hockey player,” Russell said. (Read more about Rabbi Linder’s hockey playing here.)

When Russell attended Linder’s installation, he said that the rabbi presiding at the ceremony asked Linder, “Are you prepared to be the unanxious presence in the room?”

That phrase stuck with Russell and he had Linder in mind when he used it in the film, which is currently in theaters.

Watch the clip here.





A theater lover and a mensch

Although Paula Segal Shulak moved permanently to Arizona in 2006, she left an indelible mark on the Southeast Valley’s theater community and on Jewish communities there and in Prescott, before her death on Dec. 22, 2014, at age 78.

I was privileged to work with her on two major theatrical productions: a couple of Purim spiels at Temple Emanuel of Tempe. OK, maybe they weren’t so major, but she approached the job of putting on those little productions with the same vitality and dedication that she brought to bear on much more serious work. She directed the premiere of the late Irv Fellner’s “The Eighth Stage” at Emanuel in 2007. That work focused on a man reflecting on life and attempting to reconcile with his estranged daughter as he approached his 70th birthday, a far cry from the broad parody of the Purim productions.

More recently, she played a key role in the development of “Say Yes to Life,” a play about two Holocaust survivors who search for meaning and a new life in the United States. Shulak brought together the playwright, Virginia Fleishans, with survivor Kurt Bronner, and Fleishans wrote the play loosely based on Bronner’s story. Shulak directed the first staged reading of the play at the first official social event of Generations After, a group for children and grandchildren of Holocaust survivors, last January, and subsequent performances at the Prescott Library and Temple B’rith Shalom last April in Prescott.

She also directed plays locally for community theater groups such as Mesa Encore Theatre and Temple Little Theatre.

She and her husband, Carl (who acted in many of her productions), discovered the Valley in retirement, becoming snowbirds in 2003 and moving here for good in 2006, when she was diagnosed with multiple myeloma. She wanted to live near the Mayo Clinic, which treated her for the deadly disease. They were active members of Temple Emanuel for years and moved to Dewey, up near Prescott, permanently in 2013.

As Rabbi Susan Schanerman said in a eulogy she delivered at a memorial service on Friday: “Paula was an actor, a director, a mentor. No stage was too large or too small for her theatrical interests. … On top of her directing and acting, Paula served on temple boards, and on theater boards. She taught religious school, she reviewed local plays, she just had so much energy and drive.”

For some of us, she embodied the answer to the question, “What do I want to be when I grow up?” Someone with her energy, of course. She will be missed. May her memory be a blessing.

Hockey Schtick Night’s big stars – besides the Coyotes, that is

Consider the Arizona Coyotes and gefilte fish, could there be two more incongruous images? One is a wild animal that can inflict pain and the other a Jewish culinary tradition that satisfies Passover appetites.

Well, they’re teaming up, sort of, for Hockey Schtick night, the Coyotes’ annual outreach to the Jewish community. It’s taking place this Thursday, Dec. 11, at the newly renamed Gila River Arena in Glendale. The highlight, of course, is the game between the ‘Yotes and the Nashville Predators, which starts at 7 p.m. The game will be preceded indoors by the singing of “The Star-Spangled Banner” by Cantor Melissa Berman of Congregation Or Tzion.

But for Yehudie and the Gefilte Fish, the highlight of their musical career might well be their appearance outside the arena playing Jewish music for passers-by and avid Coyotes fans before the game.

“We’re thrilled,” says Michael Alexander, the band’s “de facto leader.” “We got connected up to Hockey Schtick Night through our member Jason Kaller  who does some business together with Dan Berman (who helped set up the special discount tickets for the Hockey Schtick game, see details below). We’re thrilled that Dan reached out to us and asked if we could participate.”

The band’s Thursday gig will run from about 5:30 p.m. to 6:50 or so, Alexander says, to give people time to get into the arena for the game.

So we had to ask first thing, we know there’s Yehuda brand gefilte fish, but isn’t the band name a reference to a once-hotter-than-a-comet rock band known as Hootie and the Blowfish?

“Yes,” says “de facto leader” Michael Alexander, chuckling. “There are people that don’t get that reference. We thought it was catchy, so I hope it is catchy and not confusing. We thought about spelling it Yehootie, but it didn’t quite make it, and the Yehudie business card is printed now.”

The group started when Alexander and two other congregants at Temple Kol Ami starting playing with the congregational rock band that plays monthly at Cafe Kol Ami events. The group’s current lineup started in 2013 and played its first gig at the Valley of the Sun Jewish Community Center’s open house that August.

The current lineup and their affiliations are:  Alexander on keyboards and vocals, Jason Kaller on drums and David Manley on guitar and vocals, all from Kol Ami;  Josh Ornstein on bass and Keyle Kosowsky on vocals (the band’s first female member recently joined), both from Temple Solel; and David “DR” Rosenfeld on lead guitar, from Congregation Or Tzion. So this is like a major tour to schlep from the Northeast Valley to the wilds of Glendale.

“The material that we play is really from decidedly Jewish songwriters, contemporary Jewish songwriters and recording artists, Rick Recht, Josh Nelson, Todd Herzog, Rabbi Joe Black,” Alexander says. “I’ve had my non-Jewish friends say, ‘Jewish rock? I don’t get it.’ I say, ‘Well, do you know what Christian rock is?'” That helps them sort-of get it, Alexander says.

“Easily half of our songs are sung in Hebrew,” he adds. “It’s a rock band format, though. It’s not klezmer, it’s not chamber music, it’s decidedly rock – Jewish rock.”

Their Shabbat appearances at Temple Kol Ami are all about Shabbat liturgies and melodies, Alexander says. “We were doing that for about a year, and we were like, ‘Let’s take it to the next level and see what we can do with this thing.'”

They do it for the love of Jewish music and the camaraderie of playing with people of a common background, he adds. “A lot of our gigs are done as a service. We provide that as members of the community.” (In fact, after the Hockey Schtick gig, Yehudie and the Gefilte Fish’s next appearance is to head a Thursday, Dec. 18, jam session as part of the Hanukkah in the Hallway activities being held by the Valley of the Sun Jewish Community Center, Dec. 17-24.)

–Details: Discounted tickets from the game are $21 for the upper level ends, Row H and higher; $36 for the upper level center straights; and $44 for the lower level ends, Row T and higher. To access the discounts, visit and use the code: schtick – or contact Dan Berman at 602-680-5550, ext. 1 or


Here’s what’s happening this weekend

Jewish News is launching two additional editions of our JN Now newsletter: One on Monday that focuses on news that occurred over the weekend and looks forward to the new week and one on Friday – which starts on Feb. 21 –  featuring weekend events.

Here’s a look at some things happening this weekend:

“State of Deception: The Power of Nazi Propaganda,” a free traveling exhibit from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum is now on display at the Burton Barr Central Library in Phoenix.

Chabad of Arizona celebrates its 37th birthday this weekend. Congratulations to honorees Allyn and Bonnie Kluger, Dr. Stuart and Susan Turnansky and Mindy Wolfe.
The organization recently opened its 19th Chabad center in Arizona.

Tickets are available for the Phoenix Coyotes Jewish Heritage Night on March 2. Earlier this month, Jewish News spoke to Coyotes center Jeff Halpern, who grew up in a Conservative Jewish home.

There’s still time to catch a film at the Greater Phoenix Jewish Film Festival; the festival concludes this weekend.

Sign up here to receive the newsletters.

Shabbat Shalom!

Eight arts resolutions for 2014

I have a confession: Despite my love for all things arts and cultural, I don’t get out and experience enough of it. Not enough time, too expensive, no one to go with—there’s always an excuse, right? Well, it stops now. Mid-December is prime New Year’s resolution-making time, so here are my eight arts and culture resolutions for 2014:

1. Walk the street: There are art walks all over town, from First Friday in downtown Phoenix and the Scottsdale Artwalk every Thursday to monthly events in Mesa and Chandler. These events always provide interesting art, great people-watching and — if you get there early enough — drinks and snacks. What’s not to like?

2. Meet the author: We’re very fortunate to have two top-tier independent bookstores in town: Changing Hands in Tempe (and soon, Phoenix), and The Poisoned Pen in Scottsdale. Both stores draw fantastic authors to the Valley on a regular basis. Special events like the Brandeis National Committee Book & Author Luncheon also offer readers a chance to interact with their favorite authors. This year, instead of just reading books, I’m going to go hear the people who write them.

3. Get out of town: There are interesting things to see all over Arizona, from the prestigious Center for Creative Photography at the University of Arizona in Tucson and the Desert Caballeros Western Museum in Wickenburg to the monthly art walk in historic Jerome and the Tlaquepaque Arts & Crafts Village in Sedona. The summer is the perfect time to head out for a higher altitude and a new experience.

4. Sit in the dark: I’m a huge movie buff, and Valley film festivals are a great way to see independent, foreign and hard-to-find pictures. Our own Greater Phoenix Jewish Film Festival is celebrating its 18th year in February and has a great lineup planned. Other festivals that always have fantastic selections are the Phoenix Film Festival, held in April, and the Scottsdale International Film Festival in October.

5. Try something new: I’ve lived in the Valley for more than 20 years and there are still museums I’ve never visited and theater companies I’ve never patronized. This year, I’m going to broaden my horizons a bit and try out some new places.

6. Save when I can: All this culture has the potential to get expensive, but there are a number of ways to have fun on the cheap. The Act One Culture Pass program is still available at local libraries; check out a pass for one of 15 Valley cultural attractions, and you get free admission for two or four people for a week. Institutions like Phoenix Art Museum and Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art offer free admission on certain days, while others, like the ASU Art Museum, are always free. There’s a lot to see for very little money if you know how to do it.

7. Splurge when necessary: Some cultural experiences are expensive, and there’s no way around it, but I need to remember that a ticket price doesn’t just buy a few hours of entertainment — it buys a memory and an experience that has the potential to stay with me forever. Some 2014 performances I have my eye on are “The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess” at ASU Gammage, and the APS Pops series at Phoenix Symphony, which includes tributes to Marvin Hamlisch, the Academy Awards and the music of James Bond.

8. Take advantage: There is so much to do and see in town, and very little of it stays around for very long — movies close, plays leave, exhibitions end. In the coming year, I’ll be devoting myself to taking advantage of all the Valley has to offer.

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

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.)

Happy new (arts) year!

I look forward to the end of summer for so many reasons (most of which have to do with my aversion to living in a oven approximately five months a year), but the halfway mark in September is also a typical starting point to the arts and culture season.

The 2013-14 season has a number of events of Jewish interest, starting with Scottsdale Desert Stages Theatre’s production of “The Diary of Anne Frank,” which opens tomorrow in their intimate Actors Café performance space. Desert Stages will also do “Fiddler on the Roof” in January 2014. Visit

Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts is bringing the man behind George Costanza to Phoenix for one night only: “An Evening with Jason Alexander and His Hair” comes to town on Oct. 26. Also at SCPA, Dec. 3 marks the season premiere of “Keyboard Conversations” with Jeffrey Siegel; the piano-and-commentary series will take on Beethoven and Schubert this season, among other topics. Visit

If comedy is more your thing, you can catch a number of Jewish comics at local clubs in the coming months: Pauly Shore (yes, he’s Jewish) will be at the Tempe Improv Oct. 17-20, as will Comedy Central roaster extraordinaire Jeff Ross (Nov. 8-10). Visit “30 Rock” alum Judah Friedlander will be at StandUp Live! in Phoenix Nov. 14-16. Visit

Finally, for movie buffs with deep pockets, there are still a limited number of tickets available for what will undoubtedly one of the coolest events in recent memory: composer John Williams’ benefit concert with the Phoenix Symphony. Williams will take the stage to conduct the orchestra in some of his famous film scores — “Star Wars,” the Indiana Jones movies, “Jaws” and “Schindler’s List” are a just a few of them — while scenes from the films play in the background. The other special guest of the evening is Steven Spielberg, nice Jewish boy, former Valley resident and Williams’ constant collaborator. The $500 price tag is a small price to pay to watch two Hollywood legends work their magic, right? Visit
And for the trivia-minded among you, here’s a question: Williams has scored every Spielberg film since 1974 except for one — which one?