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No BDS Here: Chris Rock Really, Really Loves Israel

“Tel Aviv! Shalom, motherf*****s!” Chris Rock shouted last week, looking out over the crowd of 10,000 who had gathered in Tel Aviv’s Menorah Mivtachim Arena to watch the comedian’s first ever show in Israel.

Nine years after the brash comedian’s last world tour, Rock has returned with 70 minutes of what is, by all accounts, blistering honesty about his infidelities and subsequent divorce, finances, failings and feelings.. With the darkest of comedy and the bleakest of outlooks, it’s no wonder that Rock made his way to the homeland of the Jewish people. Or, as Rock put it in his show, thanks to divorce proceedings “I lost so much money, I’m doing shows in Israel.”

Rock’s “Total Blackout” tour brought him to the Holy Land for a second time (the first was to publicize his role in “Madagascar:2”) and he happily let the spirit overwhelm him, like a first-time shuk visitor caught between aggressive halva salesmen. “I guess I am trying to find God before he finds me,” he reflected suddenly to the audience during what was supposed to be, remember, a comedy show. “I’m loving this country,” he shouted in another moment, as the audience applauded. “Israel! Yeah!” The fact that Rock did not, at this point, upend a bottle of Goldstar on his head is surprising. Next time.

Rock also brought a Jewish comedians along with him — the venerable “Roast Master” Jeff Ross, who did a surprisingly funny bit on potential Jewish porn titles (“Get That Thing Out Of My Face!”) and “Daily Show” anchor Michelle Wolf, who likened Tel Aviv to “Miami’s much older sister.”

The cost of being present at Rock’s Sinai and receiving Rock-style revelation was not cheap — tickets ran $75-164, but the fee included a type of tzedakah. Some profits will go “toward helping little black girls attend private school,” Rock told the crowd. “If anyone asks what you did tonight, you can say, ‘I made a difference,’” he added.


Me, finding out Chris Rock didn’t boycott Israel

Jenny Singer is a writer for the Forward. You can reach her at Singer@forward.com or on Twitter @jeanvaljenny

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These ‘Inconvenient MLK’ Quotes Remind You (Yes, You) Not To Whitewash Martin Luther King’s Legacy

It can be tempting to remember the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King Jr. as a quiet dreamer whose vision of racial equality involved nothing more than prayers for peace and hopes for an end to racial tension. It’s easy to rework the civil rights leader’s tremendous achievements and writings as a plea for tolerance that could never offend anyone. In fact, King’s work can be more realistically seen as a radical call for justice that in turn condemned racist police brutality, criticized “the white moderate” and, yes, approved of breaking unethical laws and protesting even when it inconvenienced others.

As Jews today and the rest of the week reflect on Dr. King’s work, and especially the remarkable relationship he shared with Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel and the myriad ways King’s Jewish contemporaries turned their own prayers into “inconvenient” action, we would do well to remember the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. who challenged us as well as inspired us.

Designer Daniel Rarela’s series of pieces, “Inconvenient MLK,” excerpts quotes by Dr. King that are less known and less “convenient” than the visionary’s most popular sayings. The series echoes the disruptive, iconic labels of Barbara Kruger’s art. Rarela told me that he was inspired to create these memes, which show quotations superimposed either on a picture of King or on recent pictures of peaceful black protest, last year when he noticed that some social media users were taking King quotes out of context as a way to condemn black protesters rather than racism. He calls it “selective compassion.”

“In 2016, there was a peaceful Black Lives Matter protest in Dallas which eventually turned violent as a gunman opened fire and killed several police officers,” Rarela recalls. “That’s when I started seeing posts on social media - the typical Martin Luther King Jr. quotes about love, peace, ‘hate cannot drive out hate,’ etc.” Rarela says that during the time of the Dallas protests he read Dr. King’s “Letter From A Birmingham Jail” and was shocked by its modern resonance. “Dr. King, in his time, had to deal with white people who wanted peace, but didn’t realize that the kind of peace they were asking for was, as King put it, ‘the absence of tension’ rather than ‘the presence of justice,’” Rarela says. “It would seem as if there are many white people today who don’t yet realize how much they have in common with the “white moderates” with whom Dr. King expressed disappointment in 1963.”

Rarela’s posts have gone viral, using the hashtag “#InconvenientMLK.” The designer says the people he most hopes will view them are “those who believe Martin Luther King Jr. would’ve condemned Black Lives Matter, Colin Kaepernick, or race-related protests today. My hope is that reading these lesser-known words from Dr. King will change the perspective of those who would use Dr. King to silence those who are continuing to fight for what he fought for.”

The notion that Dr. King was “universally popular and made no one uncomfortable [or] angry enough to want to kill him” is a false one, says Rarela. But becoming acquainted with King’s expansive body of writing can help. “If [the project] encourages people to go beyond his ‘I Have A Dream’ speech to read “Letter From A Birmingham Jail” and do the hard work that comes with making Dr. King’s dream a reality, so much the better,” says Rarela.

Jenny Singer is a writer for the Forward. You can reach her at Singer@forward.com or on Twitter @jeanvaljenny. You can follow Daniel Rarela @DJRarela

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Rejoice! Men Like Mark Wahlberg Are Being Shamed Into Giving Tzedakah

A glorious Monday to one and all! We are happy, and frankly humbled, to be here today to report that the humiliation and moral reckoning currently facing powerful men everywhere is being turned into a financial gain for under-served women. Is a queer, Jewish star of the seminal Broadway musical “Rent” named Anthony Rapp at the heart of all this? YES, BARUCH HASHEM, YES!

The story goes a little something like this…

You may remember that in October, Jewish actor Anthony Rapp alleged in a BuzzFeed report that actor Kevin Spacey made inappropriate sexual advances towards him when he was 14 and Spacey was 26. Spacey, who had been dogged by rumors of inappropriate conduct throughout his illustrious career but had never suffered any clear repercussions, was abruptly finished. As Hollywood scrambled to demonstrably distance itself from Spacey, director Ridley Scott took extreme measures, cutting Spacey out of his film “All The Money In The World” and re-shooting each moment with Christopher Plummer as Spacey’s replacement, scant months before the movie was to premiere.

Many found Scott’s decision gratifying, whether because it suggested an altrustic motivation, or because it proved that the #MeToo movement had gained such power that ignoring it could have major financial consequences. Sadly, this glorious feminist re-shoot gambit involved gender discrimination on a massive scale.

Just last week it was revealed that while actress Michelle Williams donated her time, re-shooting her role for a per diem fee of just $80, co-star Mark Wahlberg was paid $1.5 million for his part in the re-shoot. That means that for a similarly-sized role and as an actors of more or less equal stature, Wahlberg received over 1,500-times his female co-star’s salary. The kicker? Williams and Wahlberg are represented by the same agency. The exact same people negotiated 1,500-times more pay for their male client.

“They could have my salary, they could have my holiday, whatever they wanted,” Williams said of her willingness to re-shoot a movie for under $1,000. “Because I appreciated so much that they were making this massive effort.” When the studio approached Wahlberg with the proposal to re-shoot the film, his rep told them, “I don’t work for free.”

After a righteous outcry from every person with a beating heart and an internet connection, Wahlberg just announced that he will donate his salary for the “All The Money In The World” re-shoots to the Time’s Up legal defense fund in Williams’ name. Wahlberg and Williams’ talent agency, WME, announced that it will be adding $500,000 as well. “I 100% support the fight for equal pay,” said Wahlberg, who as Forbes’ highest paid actor in Hollywood in 2017 cleared $42 million more than the year’s highest paid actress, Emma Stone.

The public’s memory is short for things like Mark Wahlberg beating a stranger unconscious with a stick while screaming racial epithets, but long for things like Britney Spears shaving her head. Why? Because the world is a place of perpetual disappointment? Yes, probably. But the lesson here is clear and must be made memorable — no matter the behavior, whether assault, sexual misconduct or sexist prejudice, actors and agents will get away with it unless one brave person speaks out and the public believes. It took a massive social movement and public shaming for Mark Wahlberg and WME to do the decent thing. Good for them for doing it. Faster next time, please.

Directors with millions of dollars at stake won’t fear box office repercussions unless the whole world decides to stop making exceptions for accused sex criminals who happen to be talented. Men will not work to close the gender pay gap until public outcry gives them no other choice. And the best people to move this painful machinery of anger and indignation forward are women, queer men, assault-survivors and people of color. “If we truly envision an equal world, it takes equal effort and sacrifice,” Williams said in response to Wahlberg’s donation. “Anthony Rapp, for all the shoulders you stood on, now we stand on yours,” she told The Hollywood Reporter.

Welcome to 2018 — let the shame-induced financial reparations from male criminals roll in like a river, and righteousness like a mighty stream.

Jenny Singer is a writer for the Forward. You can reach her at Singer@forward.com or on Twitter @jeanvaljenny

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‘I Will Never Be Silenced’: Let This Gal Gadot Speech Change Your Day

Dressed like a sexy, lavender disco ball, Gall Gadot tossed her pre-prepared speech to the floor to applause from the crowd of A-listers. In a now-viral speech on Thursday night, the newly minted Hollywood superstar accepted the #SeeHer honor at the Critics’ Choice Awards, which recognizes a person who has demonstrated “the importance of accurately portraying women across the entertainment landscape.”

Calling “Wonder Woman” director Patty Jenkins “my friend, my sister,” Gadot delivered a characteristically genuine speech about the power of female role models in media, while the camera panned to the likes of Angelina Jolie and Reese Witherspoon, nodding in rapturous approval.

At the event, at which “The Disaster Artist” star and creator James Franco was notably absent, “Wonder Woman” also received the award for “Best Action Movie” while “The Big Sick,” written by power couple Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon, which has been largely passed over, won for “Best Comedy.” Gadot’s speech was a highlight of the redemptive-feeling evening.

“Now,” Gadot said, in her trademark aliyah-encouraging-Israeli-accent, “when I started acting there were very few female-led movies, and even fewer female directors. This year, three of the top grossing films were female-led, and one of them was directed by my wonderful Patty Jenkins.” Gadot drew attention to the still-miserable ratio of female directors to male directors (only eight of the top 100 grossing films of the year were directed by women) and said, “in the past weeks and months we’ve been witnessing a movie in our industry and society, and I want to share this award with all the women and men who stand for what’s right.”

She added, with the conviction of Diana herself, “My promise to you all is that I will never be silenced.” The camera panned to the audience, where men smiled politely and women glowed.

Let Gadot’s words on equality inspire you to have a meaningful Martin Luther King Day:

Jenny Singer is a writer for the Forward. You can reach her at Singer@forward.com or on Twitter @jeanvaljenny

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‘The Post,’ National Jewish Book Award Winners And More To Read, Watch And Do This Weekend

Monday is Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Whether or not you have the holiday off, take some time this weekend to honor King’s legacy. Here’s a list of Jewish ways to celebrate the holiday — it’s from 2016, but still relevant! — but the best way to continue King’s work is to help address continuing inequality and injustice. Seek out a volunteering opportunity in your own community.

1) Read

Haven’t yet sampled the books that won and were finalists for this year’s National Jewish Book Awards? Check out the honorees, here, as well as the Forward’s coverage of them, here. If you’ve caught André Aciman fever after seeing “Call Me By Your Name,” pick up “Enigma Variations,” his latest work of fiction. Newly released this week, and also worth a read, is Chloe Benjamin’s “The Immortalists.”

2) Watch

The Steven Spielberg-directed “The Post” is out in wide release this weekend; if you’re a New Yorker in the mood for something less of a blockbuster, Ziad Doueiri’s Oscar-shortlisted “The Insult” is now open in the city. (Read Sheerly Avni’s exclusive interview with Doueiri for the Forward here.) On Sunday, Sarah Jessica Parker’s HBO series “Divorce” returns for a second season.

3) New York City

Check out one of the many excellent films at this year’s New York Jewish Film Festival, including the Forward’s recommended picks. Also worth attending is the Zlatne Uste Golden Festival, which occupies Brooklyn’s Grand Prospect Hall this weekend: Over 60 bands will present music from the Balkans and Eastern Europe at large. Highlights will include the Sephardic stylings of Sophie Salonika and several klezmer bands, including KVETCH and the Alicia Svigals/Lauren Brody Klezmer Mash. Lastly, on Sunday Iván Fischer conducts the Budapest Festival Orchestra playing Bach, Beethoven and Rachmaninoff at Lincoln Center.

4) Washington D.C.

Saturday, head to the Newseum for “DC in D.C.” a daylong takeover by DC Comics. The free, family-friendly event will include panel discussions and a preview screening of the upcoming CW series “Black Lightning.” Theater J’s production of a theatrical adaptation of Jonathan Safran Foer’s “Everything is Illuminated” looks promising, and a National Symphony Orchestra program featuring Leonard Bernstein’s “Age of Anxiety” is a sure bet.

5) Chicago

Fancy a laugh? Go for Stage 773’s Chicago Sketch Comedy Festival, which runs through January 21. Black Ensemble Theater’s “Sammy: A Tribute to Sammy Davis Jr.” is worth attending, as is Lookingglass Theatre’s adaptation of Charles Dickens’s “Hard Times,” which closes this weekend.

6) Los Angeles

This weekend, the Los Angeles Art Show takes over a number of area galleries. At the Skirball Center, attend a screening of “Challah Rising in the Desert: The Jews of New Mexico.” And head to Disney Hall on Saturday to hear Itzhak Perlman play with and conduct the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

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