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!


Celebrating International Yoga Day

Tuesday, June 21 is International Yoga Day and in recognition of this, the Valley of the Sun Jewish Community Center is hosting four free yoga classes tomorrow.

“Yoga has so many benefits for both the mind and body that we wanted to take this opportunity to invite the community to experience it at no cost,” said Denise Krater, fitness director, in a release. “Regular yoga practice improves strength, balance and flexibility while releasing tension and stress.”

The J’s yoga offerings on June 21 include:

9:30 a.m.:  Yoga Flow, which uses flowing movements paired with breath to release mind and body;

11 a.m.:  Restorative Yoga, which aims to rejuvenate the body;

Noon: Gentle Yoga, which uses gentle postures to strengthen core and increase flexibility and is great for beginners; and

6 p.m.  Power Yoga, which provides challenging poses to increase strength and stamina.

The classes are free and open to the community. Participants should wear comfortable clothes and bring water.

The Valley of the Sun JCC is an inclusive community center open to all ages, faiths, backgrounds and abilities. It is located at 12701 N. Scottsdale Road, just south of Sweetwater.

In a statement issued from Nevada last week, Hindu statesman Rajan Zed commended the VOSJCC for offering these free classes, as well as offering regular yoga training.

Yoga, referred to as “a living fossil,” was a mental and physical discipline for everybody to share and benefit from, which can be traced back to around 2,000 BCE to Indus Valley civilization, noted Zed, president of Universal Society of Hinduism, in the statement.

He further said that yoga, although introduced and nourished by Hinduism, was a world heritage and liberation powerhouse to be utilized by all. According to Patanjali who codified it in Yoga Sutra, yoga was a methodical effort to attain perfection, through the control of the different elements of human nature, physical and psychical.

The statement also included information from the U.S. National Institutes of Health, which said that yoga may help one to feel more relaxed, be more flexible, improve posture, breathe deeply and get rid of stress. According to a recently released “2016 Yoga in America Study,” about 37 million Americans (which included many celebrities) now practice yoga; and yoga is strongly correlated with having a positive self-image.  Yoga was the repository of something basic in the human soul and psyche, Zed added.

Human mosaic of Israel

In celebration of Israel’s 68th Independence Day tonight, Nefesh B’Nefesh launches an emotionally charged video to accompany the joyous occasion and showcase the human mosaic of Israel. Watch it here.

From war hero to farmer, teacher to midwife, the video tells the stories of the everyday heroes who epitomize what makes Israeli society unique – the strength of its immigrants. Israel’s human mosaic illustrates both the diversity of olim (immigrants) and those who have dedicated their lives to securing and building the State of Israel.

The video pulls its title, “With these Hands,” from the Naomi Shemer song written for Yehoram Gaon, “Od Lo Ahavti Dai”, and emphasizes the building of the state, a project which began over 68 years ago and continues today.

Those featured in the video are:

• Capt. Ziv Shilon, who was seriously injured by an explosion on the Gaza border in 2012 and lost his hand. The story of his recovery has made Shilon into a household name in Israel as an icon of resilience, leadership and Zionism.

• Rena Rapps, a newlywed who made Aliyah from the US in 2014, on her 20th birthday with the dream of starting and raising a family in the Jewish State.

• Marta Weiss, a Holocaust survivor who at a young age survived Auschwitz-Birkenau camp among other horrific encounters. Last January, on International Holocaust Remembrance Day, Weiss represented the State of Israel at the United Nations in an emotionally charged appeal never to forget.

•  Shmuel Jambrina, a 25-year-old soldier from Spain who served in the Nahal Brigade. He is now a reservist who is planning a career in education and starting a family of his own in Israel.

• Chana Deevon, who recently retired after 53 years of working as a midwife at Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem. She delivered nearly 40,000 babies over the course of her career, including her granddaughter and great-granddaughter.  Four generations of the Deevon family appear in the video.

• Rabbi David Twersky, who immigrated to Israel in 2013 and now lives in Jerusalem. He made Aliyah in order to live out the aspirations and dreams of his parents and grandparents in the Jewish homeland, closer to the Jewish people.

• Shachar Nitzan, a third-generation farmer from Ein Vered.  He studied agriculture in Rehovot and is farming the same land that his father and grandfather worked before him.

Source: Nefesh B’Nefesh

Museum archives keep history alive


Photo by Richard Ehrlich for the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum

Katrina Shawver of Phoenix was working on a manuscript of her friend Henryk Zguda’s biography and was looking for information about what happened to him during the Holocaust. After contacting the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, she was shocked at the 130 documents she received with Zguda’s name on them.

The records included prisoner transport lists, registration paperwork, infirmary dates, work statistics and block transfers.

“I never knew this cache of documents existed,” says Shawver. “I think Henry would have been equally shocked.”

Shawver had only met Zguda for a year before he passed away in 2003, but his widow granted permission  for Shawver to write his life story. Through the documents, she corroborated many facts about Zguda’s nearly three-year imprisonment in Nazi concentration camps as a Polish political prisoner during World War II.

“When I met Henry, I became fascinated that he had been through hell and back, a firsthand witness to  Nazi crimes,” she says. “He had no children to leave this story to, and it would have been lost forever had I not captured it.”

Shawver is just one of more than 20,000 people who have successfully turned to the museum for help in their search for documentation about the fates of their loved ones and other Holocaust survivors — victims of the Nazis and their allies.

With more Holocaust survivors getting older and dying, getting accurate and complete information from  the museum’s massive archives to requesters as soon as possible is more crucial than ever.

Since an important archive called the International  Tracing Service was opened in 2007, the museum has provided a free service that has united  generations of families and tracked long-lost family members, helping Holocaust survivors, their children and grandchildren, to fill in the blanks in their family history.

“What is the greatest fear of survivors today? That when they are no longer here, what happened to them  would be swept under the rug,” says Paul Shapiro,
head of the museum’s Office of International Affairs who was instrumental in pushing to open the ITS archives. “These millions of original documents are an insurance policy against forgetting.”

With more than 150 million pages of documents relating to 17 million people, the ITS collection contains  a wealth of information about survivors and victims of the Holocaust and Nazi persecution and about displaced persons.

Facilitating research questions like Shawver’s is the job of the museum’s top-notch team of ITS researchers.  Holocaust survivors and their family members contact the museum on a nearly daily basis with queries about relatives, and sometimes using nothing more than a first or last name, the ITS researchers try to find documents that will shed light on the experiences of these Holocaust victims.

Much of the museum’s information comes from the ITS archive, established by the Allies after World War  II to help reunite families and trace missing people. The archive, located in Bad Arolsen, Germany, includes millions of pages of documentation from World War II. It was kept closed until 2007, when, with help from the museum, it was opened to the international community. Now, 11 nations have access to copies of the archive, and the museum holds the U.S. copy.

The museum has received requests, both online and in person, from across the U.S. and from 75 countries  around the world. Free of charge, the museum’s researchers scour their own collections as well as the ITS archive in search of relevant documents.

The museum receives, on average, more than 250 requests per month. To date, the Museum has provided information in response to more than 23,000 requests, and researchers have assisted about 400 visitors onsite at the museum.

For more information, visit

 Source: U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum

PJ Library partners with Yehuda Matzos


This Passover, PJ Library is partnering with Yehuda Matzos to engage families in Jewish life.

Yehuda Matzo, a company in Israel – with its U.S. distributor, Kayco/Kedem Food Products – is providing in-kind advertising to create awareness and further Jewish identity, a first for the company. This is also the first time PJ Library is partnering with a company to co-brand a product on a national level, according to a release.

This year, the PJ Library logo will appear on the matzah packaging and a unique URL will direct families to the PJ Library enrollment/sign-up form.

In addition to co-branding on Yehuda Matzo boxes nationwide, the PJ Library national team is providing resources to professionals across the country to create programs for families around the matzah boxes and Passover themes.

“What a better way to get more Jews further involved into Jewish tradition than by teaming up with PJ Library and the great work they do reaching out to both affiliated and unaffiliated Jews,” said Mordy Dicker, executive vice president of marketing and business development for Kayco/Kedem-Kedem Food Products, in the release. “Through the outreach that PJ Library does, we hope that the next generation of young Jewish people will have a deeper sense and understanding of being Jewish.”


PJ Library is an international program of the Harold Grinspoon Foundation, which partners with Jewish philanthropists and communities to distribute high-quality Jewish children’s books and music to families with children ages 6 months to 8 years. The free books are delivered each month to families’ homes.

In Arizona, there are PJ Library communities in Flagstaff, the Greater Phoenix area, Prescott and Southern Arizona. Sign up here.

This month, PJ Library Phoenix launched the PJ Our Way program, which expands the program to children ages 9-11; children can sign up at

To learn more about upcoming PJ Library events in the Valley, visit PJ Library, Phoenix on Facebook.


A full moon early at Latino-Jewish Seder

latino-jewish seder

Our table at the Latino-Jewish Seder shared stories of how our families came to the United States in a lively conversation prompted by the story of the Exodus.

Purim starts tonight, on the full moon, as Jewish holidays of freedom do. So last night (March 22), being nearly the full moon, seemed an appropriate time for the annual Latino-Jewish Seder hosted by the American Jewish Committee and Valle del Sol – even though Passover won’t come till the next full moon.

The organizers seek to find common ground between the Jewish and Latino communities in Arizona by emphasizing Passover’s story of liberation in a way that leads many participants to examine their ethnic identity, that which comes to them through the stories handed down from their parents and grandparents.

This marked the fourth year that the event was held at the Cutler-Plotkin Jewish Heritage Center in Phoenix, and the 12th year that the two organizations have provided this “opportunity to engage in a cross-cultural experience” to those in Valle del Sol’s Hispanic Leadership Institute, AJC board members and invited guests. About 80 people attended.

In welcoming remarks, Lawrence Bell, the executive director of the Arizona Jewish Historical Society that owns the Cutler-Plotkin, stressed the history of the building, which was Phoenix’s first synagogue and later home to Chinese and Spanish Baptist churches, and observing there could be no better place for Hispanic and Jewish Americans to get together. He said that the seder is one of his favorite events at the center: “I attend every time, just because I like it so much.”

Carlos Galindo-Elvira, chief development officer of Valle del Sol, said that it was an accident that the seder fell this year on the same day as Arizona’s Presidential Preference Election (the proper name of what people know as our state’s presidential primary). “But what is not by accident is the theme … and that’s freedom,” he said. “The fact that there’s so many people standing in lines to vote, to exercise their right, affirms freedom.”

“We are gathered tonight to have a seder, which is the festive meal that celebrates Passover. Passover is the Jewish festival of liberation, based on, drawn from the story of the Exodus in the Torah, the Bible,” said Rabbi Dean Shapiro of Temple Emanuel, who led the seder again this year. His fluency with Spanish and Hebrew provided an important link for a group in which the lingua franca was English, accented or not.

Because this was not a Passover seder in the sense of celebrating the Jewish holiday religiously, but rather a social event with a purposeful overlay of producing dialogue and good will between people of different backgrounds, there was a liberating sense that rather than engaging in a ritual, we were engaging in a dialogue. In addition to listening to the story of the escape from Egypt, we were freed to listen to others’ stories of  departure and arrival, often of departing a dark circumstance such as poverty or oppression to seek the freedom of America’s shores.

The rabbi prodded this dialogue, pausing our recitation of the Haggadah every so often to ask questions that people answered and discussed at length at their tables.

My wife and I have come to look forward to this celebration each year, precisely because it’s informal and creates unexpectedly deep conversations. At our table, we had a young lady whose parents came from Mexico, a woman whose forebears were from Ukraine, another woman from Guatemala, a man whose father’s family came from Germany and whose mother’s family came from Mexico and a couple whose roots were in Mexico and the American Southwest.

In explaining the central theme of the evening, the rabbi stressed that the events of the Exodus would have occurred about 3,500 years ago, so the experience of Egyptian slavery is something that no living Jew has had. “And yet, nonetheless, to this day, we tell this story, we eat these foods so that we will experience this story because we want to own a share of slavery, not so that we can be downtrodden but so that we can sympathize and empathize with those who are downtrodden … so that the story of oppression will never be someone else’s story, but our own, as well. So that our lot will always side with those who are hurting, enslaved, whose lives have been made bitter. We never want to forget this story. Its fingerprints are always on the Jewish soul.”

Sharing that story in this distinctly American context gives participants a vision of our country as it should be – one where unique individuals and communities don’t assimilate to become American but instead become American by adding the richness of their identity and heritage to a bountiful banquet of possibility and freedom.

– Salvatore Caputo

A Valley connection to ELI talks

Two Valley residents – Rabbi Dr. Shmuly Yanklowitz and Marcia Fine – recently presented ELI talks, highly produced 12-minute presentations that “explore central themes of Jewish literacy, religious engagement and identity, presented in light of their presenter’s own work, personal experiences or Jewish or secular texts,” according to They presented their talks in Chicago in November 2015 and their videos recently became available online.

In “How Far Will You Go to Give? Judaism and Organ Donation,” Yanklowitz, president and dean of Valley Beit Midrash, talks about how his experience volunteering in a small village in Ghana almost 15 years ago led to his recent decision to donate one of his kidneys to a complete stranger.

Author Fine,  of Scottsdale, discusses the connections among trauma, Torah and the science of genetics in her ELI talk, “Against the Traumatic Tide: Epigenetics and Positive Jewish Identity.”

Finding ‘truth’ at LimmudAZ

In preparation for last weekend’s LimmudAZ, I looked over the schedule a few days before to map out my day. With one exception, I chose to select whatever session called to me most, rather than ones that I thought I should attend for work purposes.

Because of the variety of offerings, both of topics and speakers, each of the approximately 400 participants had an opportunity to weave their own unique experience during their time on the second floor of Arizona State University’s Memorial Union on Jan. 31.


Ready for a day of learning at LimmudAZ. Photo by Joel Zolondek

In retrospect, most of the sessions I chose seemed to reflect the same theme.

The first session I attended was “Resetting the Balance Between Work/Family Responsibility: A New Point of View” with Dr. Ada Anbar. I had hoped for some guidance on juggling work and family life – because that issue is definitely something in the forefront of my life – but it was more of a look at the views professionals have about working mothers of young children. The speaker’s point of view was that since people have approximately 60 years in their adult life, from age 20 to 80, a parent should devote 10 years to “intense parenting” (meaning one parent should be at home with the child so that the child isn’t in preschool).

My youngest child is 5 and all three of my kids attended preschool so my first reaction was to feel defensive, but ultimately what she was saying was that children, their parents and society at large would benefit if children received intense parenting for at least the first three years of their life. And that society should make it easier for parents to devote more time to their children by providing support for families who want to have a stay-at-home parent with young children and that it should be easier for women to re-enter the workforce after staying home with their children. And who can argue with that?

There was no question about the next session I wanted to attend – “The Power of Sharing Our Stories in Song” – with Marieke Slovin, a performing musician, yogi, writer and songwriter in Prescott who leads song-writing workshops and composes original music from spoken stories. Since song-writing is one of my passions, I was interested in learning about her Story-to-Song method. It was a small group, which was great, and the theme of our song organically developed into one about our grandparents. We each shared a few words about a grandparent or grandparents and throughout the course of the hour, we wrote the chorus and she’s going to finish the song. A quote in her course description reads, “The great gift you can give the world is to tell your truth,” which created a lovely segue into my next session, “What Does it All Mean?” with Bruce Eric Kaplan, a television writer/producer who has worked on such shows as “Seinfeld,” “Six Feet Under” and “Girls” and a cartoonist for The New Yorker. He recently wrote a memoir called, “I Was a Child.”

The session was an entertaining therapy session, where he shared the process of writing the memoir – which dealt with the death of his father, and his feelings that he never really knew his parents because they never really shared anything about themselves with their children. Some of the Jewish mothers in the room offered their advice and analysis about his experience. Kaplan referenced the “truth” quote from the song-writing session – he had wanted to attend that one, but didn’t make it – and his message to the group was that while we are here in the world, we should all strive to be our most authentic self and share that authentic self with others.

Next was lunch, where everyone gathered together for the official welcome from Sandy Adler and Suzanne Swift – two of the volunteers that coordinated LimmudAZ both this year and last – and I was happy to run into some people I hadn’t seen in a while.

After lunch, I attended one session that I felt obligated to attend – “Israel in the News: How to Get Your Point Across” – because I’m a fan of the Honest Reporting website and thought it might be useful. Maybe it was because of the timing being right after lunch, but I had difficulty focusing during this one. But one point that did get across was that negative stories about Israel are outweighing the positive and that truth becomes irrelevant if the untruths are repeated often enough.

By late afternoon, the next session – “Four Senses Yoga,” taught by Cindy Rogers, a blind yoga instructor – was very welcome. I don’t often do yoga because I’m not very coordinated when it comes to all the different poses, so I liked the description, which read, “Experience yoga as you never have before. Blindfolded! Remove the sense of sight to fully embrace your other senses. This gentle practice allows you to connect to your true inner self.”

I was a few minutes late because I was chatting with someone in the hallway between courses so when I got there, the room was already dark. I received my blindfold, found my space then followed the instructions to breathe and move into different positions. I wasn’t sure if I was doing it right, as I couldn’t see anyone to follow, but it was OK because nobody could see me either.

My final session was a packed room with Rabbi Pinchas Allouche of Congregation Beth Tefillah, who spoke about living a purposeful life.

He shared his POPP (Personality, Opportunities, People, Places) theory with the group, asking: Are you using the skills you were born with? Do you use the opportunities you are given to use those skills? And reminding us that people come into our lives for a reason, as do the places we find ourselves.

So, with that in mind, I felt my day’s journey – as well as everyone else’s there – was the way that it should have been.

And I’d like to thank all of the volunteers who made it their purpose to bring LimmudAZ to life in our community.

Leisah Woldoff is managing editor of Jewish News.

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.





Program gives iPads to every special education teacher in Israel


Uri Ben-Ari, left, founder and president of the Athena Fund, gives an iPad to a special education teacher in the city of Lod. Photo courtesy of the Athena Fund

Israel’s Athena Fund has announced a new program: iPad for Every Special Education Teacher in Israel.

Through the new program, about 10,000 special education teachers in Israel will receive iPad computers with specialized software and applications for students with special needs and various disabilities. Each teacher also will receive 120 hours of training. The program will enable students with special needs to communicate with their teachers, while training them to integrate into society, according to a press release from the Athena Fund.

The new program was launched in two cities in central Israel with a mixed population of Jews and Arabs – Ramla (72,000 residents) and Lod (74,000 residents) – and in the Circassian town of Kfar Kama (3,142 residents), located in the north.

This is Athena’s fourth program. The first – Laptop Computer for Every Teacher in Israel – was launched in 2006, the second – Laptop for Every Kindergarten Teacher in Israel – was launched in 2012, and the third – Tablet for Every Teacher of Science and Technology in Israel – was launched in 2014.

The decision to launch the iPad for Every Special Education Teacher in Israel program was made after the positive results of an iPad usage study were reported by special education teachers and students in two schools in the city of Rishon Letzion, near Tel Aviv. The  iPad enabled special education teachers and students to engage in meaningful learning. Access to the iPad was immediate, intuitive and led to enjoyment and motivation. The use of iPads resulted in challenging and rewarding learning and strengthened students’ motivation. In addition, the iPad improved interpersonal communication, and students with high-level thinking and comprehension skills were discovered. The iPad opened a window to the inner world of students with special needs, and helped improve student performance and quality of life.

In addition, the use of the iPad in the two schools in Rishon LeTzion substantially changed students’ lives. Interpersonal communication at home was also enhanced. Children who previously found it difficult to communicate with family and teachers expressed their feelings and desires by writing on the iPad. Significant improvement occurred also in motor skills and hand-eye coordination of children with special needs. Students fully completed tasks that they could not complete before. The iPad and the special applications also allow students with physical disabilities to cope better with their difficulties.

“Improving the teaching of students with special needs and their inclusion in society is a valuable contribution to the students, their families and the country,” said Uri Ben Ari, president and founder of the Athena Fund, in the release. “The contribution of iPads to special education teachers will enable them to help students fulfill their potential. Leveraging advanced technology will help reduce educational gaps, make various teaching materials more accessible and strengthen the social skills of students with special needs.”

The Athena Fund is a nonprofit organization established in 2006 in order to promote the empowerment of teachers in Israel by providing them with tools for self-fulfillment and professional advancement. The fund was founded by several prominent business leaders under the direction of  Ben-Ari (CEO of UBA Ventures and former executive vice president of Ness Technologies). The fund’s flagship initiative is the innovative Laptop Computer for Every Teacher in Israel program. This program has so far distributed laptops to over 11,000 teachers in 939 schools and kindergartens in 430 towns, cities and small communities in regional councils, together with professional training courses. The program’s goal is to provide a laptop computer and 120 hours of professional training to every teacher in Israel by 2018.