The loneliest Jew
Jacob Stein might be the loneliest Jew this Purim.
Tone deaf and gluten sensitive due to celiac disease, Stein said he feels shunned by the community from which he normally draws strength.
“Look, I knew I couldn’t sing but it’s one of my passions. In my bathroom I sound amazing,” Stein rued. “I never intended to land the role of Mordechai, but I thought I could be in the background. One time — that’s it, one time — was I included.”
Stein said the single time he was invited to participate in his synagogue’s Purim shpiel he did his best to blend in with the crowd. Unfortunately, he recalled, it didn’t take long before he noticed the pointing and snickers. After that, it seemed as if he was banned from joining the cast—any cast — of the local shpiels.
“OK, I get it. My congregation has a few singers that perform in various wedding bands, but I auditioned for the Conservative congregations down the road and they wouldn’t have me either. Even the local Chabad suggested I might be better off volunteering in other capacities. It’s just heartbreaking,” he said wiping away a tear.
If Stein’s ordeal ended there, he might have been able to make it through the holiday without utter despair. Unfortunately, two years ago he was diagnosed with celiac disease preventing him from even sampling the sweet hamantaschen.
Asked about the gluten-free options available, Stein said that many are either packaged in plants that also process peanuts, or have no dietary information included, so he can’t even even sample the dessert.
Rather than sit with happy families, watching their sons, daughters, wives and husbands dressed in outlandish costumes, Stein said he will stay home again this year.
“It makes me so mad. I want to twirl my grogger nonstop. Why should they get to hear communal voices while I’m shadow banned?” he asked.
If there is any consolation for Stein, it’s that knowing in a few weeks Passover begins. And while not all wheat-based food is chametz, he said, it’s enough.
“Watching all these tuneful, wheat-eating community members suffer for more than a week without their precious pastrami on rye brings me more joy than I can explain,” he said. “I get a lot of pleasure pointing out when corn syrup is in some delicious treat they’re about to pop in their mouth.”
Recent exhibit spurs return to Yiddish newspaper
Weeks after the University of Pittsburgh’s Hillman Library dedicated wall space to detailing the history of the Forward — a publication which began as “Forverts,” a Yiddish socialist daily — Pittsburghers are clamoring for more.
Since reporting on the Oakland-based exhibit, the Chronicle has received a deluge of letters signaling the wants and wishes of local readers.
“When the first note came in on yellowed paper and scrawled handwriting, we thought it was a joke,” Chronicle publisher Jim Busis said. “Then, in came a wagonful of correspondence.”
The letters, all written in Yiddish, tell of Pittsburghers’ deep desire for modern hyperlocal news in an old tongue.
During the past week, linguists, scholars and rabbis have helped Chronicle staffers translate thousands of missives.
“This is more than a bissel epistle,” one volunteer said. “The letters keep arriving. It’s clear what the people want.”
An emergency meeting convened by the Chronicle board acknowledged the demands.
After March 6, all Chronicle coverage will be conveyed in Yiddish, according to an unnamed source.
“Anyone who reads Ecclesiastes knows we should have seen this coming,” the source continued. “What has been will be again, and what has been done will be done again. There is nothing new under the sun.”
Spielberg announces first Israeli film
Amblin Partners, Steven Spielberg’s production company, announced today its first foray into Israeli filmmaking.
The project, whose working title is “Velvel,” is billed as a “mega-hit, guaranteed blockbuster.” And two popular Israeli actors have signed on for lead roles: Michael Aroni (“Shtisel”) and Lior Raz (“Fauda”).
In a triumph of casting — hailed by the American critic Leonard Maltin as “ingenious” — Aroni will reprise the character of the sweet and sexy haredi Akiva Shtisel, and Raz will play Doron Kabillio, the savvy and sexy Israeli commander of an elite counterterrorism unit of the Israel Defense Forces. The story has Akiva and Doron joining forces to outsmart a plot by an interstellar alien mastermind (Ben Stein as “Velvel”) to take over Earth by causing mass hysteria when he releases thousands of balloons in the airspace of world powers.
Through their adventures, the leads fall in and out of love, leaning on each other for advice in the ways of romance and combat.
“I want the audience to be moved by the bonding of these two men from very different parts of Israeli society,” Spielberg said. “And I’d be lying if I said this film isn’t a love letter to Jewish women everywhere.”
Filming is scheduled to begin this summer on location in the Jewish state. PJC