Home October 2013 Matisyahu & More

Matisyahu & More

From start to finish, the third annual OC Jewish Arts Festival 2013 has something enticing for all ages.  The festival, which runs from October 24 to November 16, celebrates Jewish theatre, art, film, literature and music with a lineup of outstanding events.

Two esteemed authors will speak in October, and then the official opening event – an intimate evening with renowned Jewish reggae superstar Matisyahu – takes place on Saturday, November 2. The festival will showcase three international, award-winning Jewish films, five notable authors, a lecture on the Jewish American story through cinema and a traditional book store offering an extensive list of titles before closing with the Keshet Chaim Dance Ensemble presenting “Colors of Israel.”

Matisyahu Up Close
At 33 Matisyahu, aka Matthew Miller, makes it clear that he wants to keep evolving and not feel locked in – by musical style, religious practice or anything else.  Without his beard and Hasidic clothing, he is still exploring his roots, hopefully, he said, in a less judgmental way.
Matisyahu, who will appear at the Merage JCC on November 2, grew up as a Reconstructionist.  While he had a connection to his Jewish culture, he did not appreciate it fully until he went to Israel at the age of 16.  “I saw groups of Hasidic men praying in the Old City, and it caught my fascination and my interest,” he said.
“A combination of things led me toward music,” he added.  “It came from within.  I listened to Biblical symbology, and the words of the Bible came alive for me.”
When he was 21, Matisyahu wanted to learn how to pray.  He was “looking for a way to expand and connect,” so he started praying and going to the synagogue, eventually discovering kabbalah and Chabad.
Matisyahu moved to Crown Heights, in Brooklyn, New York, where the international headquarters of Chabad is located.  He attended the yeshiva and got married. He liked the “existential set of ideas” and the canon of books that the rebbes have written that “give depth to mitzvahs and understanding of Torah.”
At around the same time he got an offer to record an album in what he described as “roots reggae, from the perspective of Chabad hasidus, never before done by a Jewish person.”  An Israeli friend’s loft became a studio, and Matisyahu started working Jewish teaching into his records.  He recorded stories from a farbrengen, a Hasidic gathering, and decided that he would blend his learning with his music to offer something unique.
After a decade with “a van, an agent, kids and tours,” as well as “journeying through music and the Jewish world,” Matisyahu kept exploring.  He “stripped back the rules and approached Judaism not from what I was supposed to do but out of love,” he said.  “I shaved my beard but was going deeper into my Hasidic roots in a more authentic way.”
Matisyahu’s musical style began to evolve too with a “shiny hip hop recording.”   He tries to make his music fit with his personal growth and to never do exactly the same thing.
“I’ve been listening to different kinds of music, moving into figuring out what I like and not being locked in,” he said.  “I listen to music and hear what feels right and is inspiring.”
Matisyahu’s latest release is what he described as his “next evolution,” “very different stylistically,” juxtaposing rules and freedom and combining digital sounds with analog tape.  It is “a lot more spacious” and “has a very personal, emotional quality,” he said.
Today Matisyahu, who lives in Los Angeles, “davens at a Hasidische Kollel,” where he “feels good energy.”  He is also “close with the rabbi and cantor from the synagogue where I grew up.”
He added, “It’s nice to believe that there’s one truth, but everybody has his own life.  I’m glad I can share music that affects people in a real way.  It’s not my job to tell people what’s right.”

But Before That
Even before Matisyahu takes the stage, two very different kinds of authors will talk about their books.  One is a first-time novelist, while the other is familiar to everyone.
Chicago trial attorney Ronald H. Balson offers his first novel, Once We Were Brothers, a contemporary legal thriller and a poignant look back into the lives of people in small-town Poland during World War II.  Balson, whose legal practice has taken him to several international venues, including villages in Poland that have inspired this novel, will speak about it on Thursday, October 24.
According to amazon.com, the book is about effecting justice for war crimes.  It is the compelling story of two boys, raised in the same house, who find themselves on opposite sides of the Nazi occupation.  Two lives, two worlds and sixty years are all on course to collide in this fast-paced legal thriller.
The book begins when Elliot Rosenzweig, a wealthy Chicago philanthropist, is attending opening night at the opera.  Ben Solomon, a retired Polish immigrant, makes his way through the crowd and shoves a gun in Rosenzweig’s face, denouncing him as former SS officer, Otto Piatek.  Solomon is blind-sided, knocked to the floor and taken away.
Rosenzweig uses his enormous influence to get Solomon released from jail, but Solomon commences a relentless pursuit to bring Rosenzweig before the courts to answer for war crimes.  Solomon finds a young attorney, Catherine Lockhart, to whom he recounts his family’s struggles and heroisms during the war, revealing to her that he and Piatek grew up as brothers in the same household.
Naomi Ragen, an American-born novelist, playwright and journalist, has lived in Jerusalem since 1971 and writes regularly in the Jerusalem Post and to her mailing list about Israel and Jewish issues.  She has published nine internationally best selling novels, and is the author of a hit play, Women’s Minyan.  With her newest novel, The Sisters Weiss, Ragen continues her ground-breaking exploration of women in the ultra-Orthodox Jewish world she began in 1989 with Jephte’s Daughter, followed by Sotah and The Sacrifice of Tamar.
In 1950s Brooklyn, sisters Rose and Pearl Weiss grow up in a loving but strict ultra-Orthodox family, never dreaming of defying their parents or their community’s unbending and intrusive strictures.  Then, a chance meeting with a young French immigrant turns Rose’s world upside down, its once bearable demands suddenly tightening like a noose around her neck.  Defiantly, she begins to live a secret life that shocks her family when it is discovered.
Out of guilt and an overwhelming desire to be reconciled with those she loves, she agrees to an arranged marriage.  But the night before the wedding, she commits an act so unforgivable it will exile her forever from her innocent young sister, her family and all she has ever known.
Forty years later, pious Pearl’s sheltered young daughter Rivka suddenly discovers the truth about the family outcast, her Aunt Rose, now a successful photographer.  Inspired, but naïve and reckless, she sets off on a dangerous adventure that will stir up the ghosts of the past and alter the future in unimaginable ways for all involved.

And Just After That
On Sunday, November 3, viewers will be intrigued by Disobedience – The Sousa Mendes Story.  The French film tells an unbelievable true story.  In June 1940, when Nazi troops invaded France, an amazing rescue operation sprang into being.  One man, on his own, defying the direct orders of his government and risking his future, chose to grant visas out of Occupied France to an estimated 30,000 refugees, including around 10,000 Jews.
This remarkable true story has been described by historians as “the largest rescue action by a single individual during the Holocaust.”  The man was Aristides de Sousa Mendes, the Portuguese Consul in Bordeaux.

OC Jewish Arts Festival 2013 Events

An Evening with Matisyahu
OC Jewish
Arts Festival
Opening Event!
Saturday, November 2,
7 p.m.
$45 JCC members, $60 non members $250 VIP tickets (includes VIP seating and a meet and greet with Matisyahu after the concert- limited availability!)

Film Event:
Disobedience –
The Sousa Mendes Story
France 2012, 104 minutes
Sunday, November 3,
4 p.m.
$10 JCC members,
$12 non members.

Film Event:
Dorfman in Love
USA, 2012 Award-winning Comedy/Romance
Thursday, November 14,
7 p.m.
$10 JCC members,
$12 non members

Film Event:
Kaddish for a Friend
Germany, 2011, Feature,
94 min.
Tuesday, November 12,
7 p.m.
$10 JCC members, $12 non members

Great Jewish Americans 101: Jewish American Story Through Cinema
Sunday, November 10, 4-5:30pm
Presented by Eric Goldman, adjunct associate professor of cinema at Yeshiva University
JCC Members $10,
Public $12,
$14 at the door
Priority Seating $50 includes reception at 3 p.m.

Keshet Chaim
Dance Ensemble
Festival Closing Event
Saturday, November 16,
7 p.m.
$25 JCC members,
$30 non members

Meet the Author:
Kristine Kidd
Wednesday, November 13,
12-2 p.m.
Cookbook Luncheon with
Kristine Kidd, author of Weeknight Gluten Free
$25 JCC Members, $30 Public. Includes lunch.

Meet the Author:
Marcia Clark
Wednesday, November 6, 7 p.m.
Marcia Clark,
Killer Ambition
$15 JCC members, $18 non members. Includes light refreshments.

Meet the Author:
Mark Cohen
Tuesday, November 5,
7 P.M.
Mark Cohen, Overweight Sensation: The Life and Comedy of Allan Sherman
$12 JCC members, $15 non members. Includes light refreshments.

Meet the Author:
Naomi Ragen
Wednesday, October 30,
12 p.m.
Meet the Author, Naomi Ragen, Sisters Weiss
Luncheon Event
$25 JCC members, $30 non members – includes lunch.

Meet the Author:
Ron Balson
Thursday, October 24,
7 p.m.
Ron Balson, Once We Were Brothers
Selected for book club reviews all over the nation!
$12 JCC members, $15 non members. Includes light refreshments.
For more information, contact the Merage Jewish Community Center of Orange County, 1 Federation Way, Suite 200, Irvine; phone:
(949) 435-3400.

Previous articleWhere the Boys Are
Next articleDifferent, Not Divine


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

The Comic Connection

Rosh Hashanah

Lessons Learned