Former Heeb 100-er Opens photo show in D.C. Synagogue: Jews say it’s Jewy Enough — Posted to Heeb Magazine on 11/15/10

Who goes to shul on a Wednesday night?

Well a bunch of people did this week to see Joshua Cogan’s new photography exhibition at the Sixth and I Historic Synagogue in D.C.

Joshua Cogan’s exhibition, “Time Given,” records his journeys through life. Cogan uses his photographs, most of them portraits, to simultaneously talk about the subject and his own story. “Time Given” tracks Cogan’s travels through D.C., New Orleans, Jamaica and Southeast Asia.

This ramblin’ aspect of his photography is what attracted many people to the show.

Loren Streit, who works in public policy, explained that she came because some of her friends know Josh and the topic interested her.

“I love travel photography,” Streit said, “and I knew that he’d traveled pretty extensively.”

Melissa Weiner also loved the international qualities of his photographs. Melissa (I’m deliberately not referring to her by her last name) met Josh when he had his first exhibition at Sixth and I a few years ago. For the past two years Melissa has been backpacking through Africa, East Asia, India and Hawaii, just getting back to Washington a few months ago.

“I see his photos and it makes me want to… go,” Melissa said, “It gives me wanderlust.”.

She loves his photos because they bring out in the subject an “I may be poor, but it’s beautiful” feeling, she explained to me.

Joe Levinson, who lives with Cogan, also loves the travel aspect of his work. “You can’t ask for a better roommate,” he joked.

But this wasn’t the draw for everyone.

“The ones from Singapore and Thailand mean less because they have no context for me,” Merav Fine explained.

Her favorite was a portrait of John Waters who is shoplifting meat by putting it in a purse while a disappointed Santa Claus looks on. I wonder why she liked it so much.

Fine works at the nearby University of Maryland and said her initial attraction was the location—she goes to the synagogue for services and speakers frequently—and the fact that Cogan is Jewish.

“It’s kind of a support your people kind of thing,” Fine said. Fine explained that she does not normally come out to exhibition openings, but thought that his sounded cool.

Even though, Fine reflected, there are no overtly Jewish pictures that does not mean that they are not representative of the religion. “I think there’s something inherently Jewish about telling your personal story,” Fine said.

Annie Lumerman frequently sees the Jewish side of Cogan. Lumerman works at the Sixth and I synagogue as the director of Jewish programming and helped set up the exhibition.

His studio space is across the street so “he’s always in and out of the building,” she said. His photos are also always present. Several shots from a series he did on Ethiopian Jews that were a part of is last exhibition at the synagogue is always on display in the building

Lumerman remembers this past Purim when Cogan showed up for services in full shepherd attire. “You don’t think Josh Cogan will show up in a costume,” she said, “but Joshua Cogan shows up in costume.”

She added, “He just gets everyone going.”

Cogan’s exhibition will be on display through January 31, 2010.

CBS Journalist Sells Weed to Make a Living — Posted to Heeb Magazine on 10/08/10

Police arrested a Jewish husband and wife, Howard Arenstein and Orly Azoulay, after finding 11 marijuana plants and six 2-ounce bags of weed in their Georgetown home, the Washington Jewish Week reports.

Arenstein is a radio bureau manager for CBS News, Washington and Azoulay is a Washington correspondent for the popular Israeli newspaper Yediot Achronot.

The police responded to a complaint that pot was being grown on the couple’s property. When the police entered the home they found 8-foot-tall marijuana plants in the yard, according to D.C. police spokesman Lt. Nicholas Breul.

The couple was subsequently arrested early Saturday morning but was released on their own recognizance later that day. Azoulay released a statement to the Israeli press, saying, “The whole issue was blown out of proportion and the facts will be made clear in the future.” How being arrested for possessing almost a dozen 8-foot-tall pot plants and about a pound of marijuana is a situation that is “blown out of proportion,” is not clear.

But what’s really fucked up about all of this is that two highly respected journalists working for internationally renowned news outlets have to sell drugs to make a living. If they can’t support themselves by working at CBS and Yediot Achronot, what the hell am I going to do?

The Genital Mutilation So Nice, You Have to Get it Twice — Posted to Heeb Magazine on 10/06/10

Jewish babies’ worst fears were realized Sunday. Israel’s Chief Rabbinate announced that a Mohel from Haifa botched thousands of circumcisions and the babies might have to go under the knife, round two styles.

The mohel, who was well-known and performed hundreds of circumcisions a year, is not allowed—surprise, surprise—to perform circumcisions any longer, Ynet reports.

This situation came to light when several rabbis attended a bris and concluded that either all their penises were deformed or someone was deforming the baby’s. The rabbis presented their suspicions to the rabbinate, which found that in fact it was the child’s penis that was improperly circumcised.

In order for a brit milah to follow halacha the whole foreskin has to be taken off. What was happening in this case was, to quote Babs and Dustin Hoffman in Meet the Fockers, “A cross between an ant eater and—“ “A German army helmet!”

Despite the fact that the son’s penis will look “weird,” Rabbi Moshe Weisberg, a member of the inter-ministerial committee of the Health Ministry and Religious Affairs ministry for oversight and training of mohels ruled that the bris can be ruled retroactively kosher.  But with incredulity Weisberg adds, “If it were my son, I wouldn’t think twice,” he said.

And many parents have in fact already taken their child to undergo corrective surgery.

My guess is that this whole “botched” circumcision thing was just the mohel giving an enormous “fuck you” to Greg Callender by saying, “You don’t want them to have one circumcision, well I will make them have two!”

ADL Continues Its Campaign Against Dollar Signs, Foxman Cashes in — Posted to Heeb Magazine on 09/30/10

In their continuing campaign against any proximity between Stars of David and dollar signs, the Anti-Defamation League is now rallying against Pink Floyd bass player, Roger Waters.

During Waters’s “The Wall Live” concert, Waters displayed videos of airplanes dropping bombs in the shape of crosses, crescents, Jewish stars and dollar signs, the JTA reports.

The last two next to each other, something ADL’s Abraham Foxman thinks is “outrageous.”

Waters insists that his videos are only meant to criticize Israel’s security fence and not Jews in general.

The ADL responded, saying, “Of course Waters has every right to express his political views about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through his music and stagecraft. However, the images he has chosen, when put together in the same sequence, cross a line into anti-Semitism.”

For leading this campaign– and I am sure doing other work as well– Foxman makes over $300,000 a year. Though we are sure he takes his money in shekels as to avoid coming in contact with all those anti-semitic dollar signs.

Chosen Books: Drinking at the Movies — Posted to Heeb Magazine on 09/22/10

Drinking at the Movies is Julia Wertz’s graphic memoir that tracks the year she moved from her beloved San Francisco to the mean streets of New York City.

Drinking offers no surprises when it comes to describing  the qualms of New York city living.  We’ve heard it all before: substandard housing, loneliness, poverty and—spoiler alert— the necessity of ‘drinking.’

While the subject matter is pretty commonplace, Wertz’s storytelling method is refreshingly brazen and told in a gruff, yet girly, take no prisoners voice. Everyday, ahem, functions, from pooping (“Oof, I’m so full, I’m gonna give birth to a burrito through my asshole.”) to getting mugged (“Listen motherfucker if you even try to mug me I’ll rip off your face and ride into the sunset on a unicorn made of your skin!”) are described in the kind of humorous, “brush that dirt of your shoulder” toughness that could only belong to a real New Yorker…even though she actually isn’t one.

Speaking of which, another thing Wertz ‘isn’t’ is sober.

With the rare ability to step outside “reality,” through her drawings, Wertz capably describes her brother’s drug addiction, her alcoholic proclivities and her stepfather’s cancer, without getting into too much self pity.

Still, Drinking is occasionally lacking in depth or subtlety. And while you might not expect the author of The Fart Party to be the source of overly mature intellectual stimulation, even readers with the most immature senses of humor will think, “I get it, you drink whiskey, dress like a shlub, poop, and have accidents.”

Drinking at the Movies, blunt and immature as it may be, like soft core, has its moments of mild pleasure.

Random House

192 p.

$15

Chosen Comedy: Asie Mohtarez — Posted to Heeb Magazine on 09/01/10

Despite the growing hatred between Israel and Iran, there is still one Persian issue that we can all agree on: Asie Mohtarez is funny.

Mohtarez came to the U.S. following the Iranian Revolution in 1979 and she is now blowing up New York comedy clubs with jokes about her family, her religion and her New Jersey upbringing. The Brooklynite sat down with Heeb to talk about her formative years, her introduction to corrupt politics and the importance of “bro-ing out.”

So what’s your story? How did you end up a comedian?

Oof. This is like online dating profiles, where you go to fill it out but then you’re like, “I have no idea what I am about at all.”

I was born in Iran during the revolution, or like a little bit after the revolution. My parents moved to that States when I was about 5 or 6. I won a certificate for learning English in one month.

Very well done.

Thank you, thank you very much I hope somebody still has it. So then they moved to New Jersey of all places.

How was growing up in Jersey?

I excelled in math and science like a good Persian kid. I had a really big nose and like really big hair ad a really big mouth–

So people thought you were Jewish?

Yeah, let’s say I fit in with the Italians and the Jews really well.

As soon as I was in honors and AP classes and stuff, all my best friends were last named Horowitz, and I just found my home. We played Dave Matthews, smoked Marlboro lights and used a lot of LA Looks in our hair. We were cut from the same cloth. I got on really well with my friends because we had in common dysfunctional families.

So what was your foray into politics like?

I graduated college with a socio-political philosophy degree. So after school I worked on Capitol Hill and it was amazing. I met like the Dalai Lama and Sandra Day O’Connor and Colin Powell, which blew my mind. I wore a lot of suits. I worked for a great member of congress. I worked really hard to get that job and I worked really hard at that job. But then my boss went to jail for accepting bribery.

Nice.

Yeah, but before that time I had started taking improv classes at the DC improv. I would just say inappropriate things; some people would find it funny some people would be like, “Oh my G-d.” My mom was always pulling me into conversations. My mom would be like do that accent, or do that accent or do that dance for us. I was like a monkey. So after my boss got indicted I moved to New York.

I realized I don’t envy female screenwriters or whatever what I envied was comics and that’s what I would watch on TV and on the computer and read about. So I took a stand up comedy class. Comedy was probably the first thing that I was interested in enough to keep doing.

So what were you doing in Scranton last week?

I pay my bills by being a professional makeup artist. So I was there doing hair and makeup and some wardrobe for a movie that a bunch of my comic friends shot. And it was really a great experience.

In New York if you want to hang out with people you have to go to a bar or some fuckin’ rooftop party. And it was really nice to just hang out together around a table on a patio or in a backyard, and just bullshit. It’s nice, as a woman, to have some male energy. It’s good to balance being around your girlfriends the whole time and go shopping and talking and ra-ra-ra with hanging out with dudes and just… oh, bro-ing out. Yes, bro-ing out. Maybe next time they’ll actually cast me.

Asie Mohtarez blogs at http://asie.tumblr.com and will be appearing at Al and Mia’s wedding on Long Island this Sunday, September 5.

Cow Attacks Northern Israel, No Known Terrorist Link — Posted to Heeb Magazine on 08/29/10

A cow rampaged through a northern Israeli shopping center Wednesday, injuring one woman and damaging several cars, Ynet reports.

The cow broke off from a herd grazing near the “Big Shopping Center” in Nesher. According to Magen David Adom paramedic Kobi Ben-Haim, It took over an hour to remove the bovine from the center. In that hour the cow hit a woman on her back, injuring her lightly, and struck several cars that got in the way.

“The incident could have ended in disaster,” Ben-Haim said, “‘People saw death flash before their eyes.”

As of now the cow does not appear to be personally tied to any terrorist cells but its owner is being questioned.