Central Florida's Independent Jewish Voice

Articles written by Curt Schleier


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  • The formerly Orthodox character on 'The Good Doctor' is inspired by the creator's family

    Curt Schleier|Jan 15, 2021

    (JTA) - Writer and producer David Shore didn't have to look far when developing a key new character for his hit ABC-TV series "The Good Doctor." He went straight to his nieces and nephews, the children of his Orthodox rabbi brothers. The show, which returns with new episodes on Jan. 11, focuses on Shaun Murphy (played by Freddie Highmore), an autistic doctor who is able to diagnose complicated illnesses and come up with creative treatments. But its fourth season introduced some new faces. "We...

  • Chanukah photography exhibit offers a window into Hasidic Jewish life

    Curt Schleier|Dec 4, 2020

    When the Yiddish New York Festival kicks off on the first night of Chanukah, the coincidence of the weeklong celebration of Yiddish culture, food, music and dance with the Festival of Lights will be unmissable. Aside from the traditional Chanukah staples of latkes and jelly doughnuts that will be on hand, one highlight of the festival at the 14th Street Y in Manhattan will be the remarkable photography display called "Chanukah in Mea Shearim (Jerusalem)." The photos in the exhibit offer a...

  • 6 Jewish-themed films to watch through this year's online DOC NYC festival

    Curt Schleier|Nov 13, 2020

    (JTA) - DOC NYC is one of the world's foremost documentary film festivals, and this year it's all online, just like most other arts festivals in this pandemic moment. Among its 200-plus films are six gems with powerful Jewish themes - from a look inside the powerful AIPAC pro-Israel lobby to the chronicling of Black-Jewish friendship forged in the process of taking a racist case to the Supreme Court. All the movies will be accessible for $12 each, or in special packages of 5 or 10; there are all...

  • The coronavirus didn't just upend Broadway - it put indie projects in limbo

    Curt Schleier|Jun 5, 2020

    (JTA) - Emma Seligman is trying to stay optimistic. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the 25-year-old came extremely close to fulfilling every film student's fantasy: having her debut indie film played at coveted festivals and becoming an up-and-coming name to know in the industry. Her film "Shiva Baby" involves both of the terms invoked in its title: a sugar baby - or a young girl who receives money or other material gifts from a wealthy older man in exchange for company, and often sex - who...

  • Jerry Stiller was a mensch, he could act with the best of them, too

    Curt Schleier|May 22, 2020

    (JTA)-The first thing Jerry Stiller said to me when we met was a compliment. Several weeks earlier, I had interviewed him over the phone for an article tied to an appearance in an HBO miniseries. But Stiller's roots were always in the theater, so despite his successes, it wasn't surprising to find him in the smallish regional Westport Country Playhouse in Connecticut, where I had arranged to meet him. He was starring in "After-Play," a brilliant examination of life at midstage as seen through...

  • Mel Brooks gets serious in HBO special-but there's plenty of shtick, too

    Curt Schleier|Dec 27, 2019

    (JTA)-Mel Brooks' new HBO special is a departure from the comedian's typical belly-laugh fare. In place of the slapstick gallows humor-though there's plenty of that, too, in "Mel Brooks Unwrapped"-is a more introspective, documentary-style reminiscence of his nearly 60-year career. "You got it right on the nose," Brooks says in a phone interview from Hollywood. "It is kind of a walk through my life, a memoir. Some of it is funny, and some of it is moving and touching. It's a very different kind...

  • The king of farce's new play is inspired by his parents' love letters

    Curt Schleier|Dec 20, 2019

    (JTA)—You may not know who Ken Ludwig is, but you almost certainly know his work. Ludwig is the reigning king of theatrical farce. Among his 28 plays are six that made it to Broadway and seven to London’s West End, including “Lend Me a Tenor,” “Crazy for You,” “Moon Over Buffalo” and “20th Century.” They have earned him a passel of awards—multiple Tonys and Oliviers, among others—and have been performed around the world. A recent tally revealed there are approximately 1,000 productions of a Ludwig play in the U.S. alone every year. But his lat...

  • Netflix to air miniseries on trial of Nazi guard 'Ivan the Terrible'

    Curt Schleier|Nov 1, 2019

    (JTA)-John Demjanjuk was a retired Ukrainian-American autoworker living a comfortable life in the suburbs of Cleveland-until his past caught up with him. A group of Holocaust survivors identified him as the Treblinka death camp guard who earned the sobriquet "Ivan the Terrible" for torturing and killing a large number of Jews during World War II. What happened next is the subject of "The Devil Next Door," a five-episode documentary series that debuts on Netflix on Nov. 4. It requires that much...

  • 'Adolf Island,' a British isle that housed concentration camps

    Curt Schleier|Jun 28, 2019

    (JTA)-Many are familiar with the names of the larger Nazi concentration camps like Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen. But some estimate the Nazis had as many as 40,000 satellite camps around Europe. Several existed on the only British soil conquered by the Nazis: Alderney, one of the Channel Islands, where the Nazis imported thousands of slave laborers to build defenses in hopes of conquering more English land. Caroline Sturdy Colls, a British professor and forensic archaeologist perhaps best known...

  • In 'To Dust,' a Hasidic cantor and a biology teacher played by Matthew Broderick are quite the odd couple

    Curt Schleier|Feb 22, 2019

    (JTA)-A Hasidic cantor and a jaded community college biology teacher don't seem like two individuals who would be fast friends. In "To Dust," the debut film from director Shawn Snyder, they make a hilarious team. The odd couple plot is not all lighthearted though. For Snyder, 37, how to deal with the loss of a loved one is the core of the film. "I watched my mom lose her mom about five years before I lost my own mom," Snyder said in a telephone interview. He recalls seeing "the value she [his...

  • Sarah Silverman opens up on 'Finding Your Roots'

    Curt Schleier|Feb 22, 2019

    (JTA)—“I was the hairy Jewish monkey in a sea of blond kids.” That’s not Seth Rogen or Jonah Hill—it’s Sarah Silverman talking about her upbringing in Bedford, New Hampshire, on an upcoming episode of “Finding Your Roots,” the celebrity genealogy show on PBS. Bedford, the comedian explains, was not exactly a very Jewish community. “My feeling of being Jewish came from my being the only Jew,” Silverman tells host Henry Louis Gates Jr. “We [her family] had no religion, but because I had this kind of intuition, when I went to any friend’s house I...

  • George R.R. Martin discovers he's nearly a quarter Jewish

    Curt Schleier|Feb 8, 2019

    (JTA)—PBS’ celebrity genealogy show “Finding Your Roots” has had plenty of Jewish guests—Bernie Sanders, Larry David, Paul Rudd and Scarlett Johansson—and the occasional guest, like Paul Ryan, who learn they have a Jewish ancestor on their family tree. But the season five premiere, which airs Jan. 8, contains the most dramatic Jewish story the show has unearthed so far: “Game of Thrones” author George R.R. Martin discovers he’s nearly a quarter Jewish. Martin, 70, grew up in Bayonne, New Jersey. His mother was part Irish, and his father was ha...

  • 'Clueless' creator Amy Heckerling on her Jewish roots and how men have it much easier in the film industry

    Curt Schleier|Jan 11, 2019

    (JTA)-Officially and for the record, despite her Jewish-sounding name, Cher Horowitz is not a member of the tribe. In fact, the Valley Girl heroine of the iconic 1995 film "Clueless" was never intended to be Jewish, says her creator, Amy Heckerling. "I wasn't thinking in terms of this being a Jewish story," she said in a telephone interview. "I was taking the plot of Jane Austen's 'Emma' and translating it into that world." Wallace Shawn, the witty Jewish actor who played a teacher in the film,...

  • Felicity Jones on playing Ruth Bader Ginsburg before she was the 'Notorious RBG'

    Curt Schleier|Jan 4, 2019

    (JTA)-The young attorney seems unsure of herself. As a law professor, she is unaccustomed to appearing in court, so she hesitates at first, unable to begin her summation. But once she gets going, there is no stopping her. It is the climactic scene of "On the Basis of Sex" a biopic about Ruth Bader Ginsburg that debuted on Christmas. It focuses largely on Charles Moritz v. Internal Revenue Service, a major gender discrimination case that Ginsburg shepherded to trial years before she became a...

  • Michael Douglas and Alan Arkin mine aging for laughs in Chuck Lorre's latest, 'The Kominsky Method'

    Curt Schleier|Dec 14, 2018

    (JTA)-"The Kominsky Method" is the wisest and saddest new comedy on television. That might be its biggest problem. The protagonist of the eight-episode Netflix series that debuts Friday is Sandy Kominsky (played by Michael Douglas), a Jewish Tony Award-winning actor who landed with a thud in Hollywood. He no longer acts for a living but teaches the craft to students using the titular "method." Norman Newlander (Alan Arkin), whose wife, Eileen (Susan Sullivan), is dying from cancer, is Kominsky's...

  • 'Manchester by the Sea' director's latest Broadway play follows a Jewish family dealing with tragedy

    Curt Schleier|Dec 14, 2018

    (JTA)—On the phone last week, just before the revival of his play “The Waverly Gallery” opened on Broadway, Kenneth Lonergan sounded harried. There had been some set malfunctions earlier in the week, just as critics were getting ready to start their reviews. He acknowledged the play is hard to take—as much for him as for the viewer. “‘Cathartic’ seems to imply that writing it made me feel better,” Lonergan said. “It didn’t.” Perhaps the critics’ takes could lift his spirits. “The Waverly Gallery,” which runs through Jan. 27 at the John Golden...

  • Argentine film about a Holocaust survivor

    Curt Schleier|Sep 28, 2018

    (JTA)-When the Argentine-Jewish filmmaker Pablo Solarz was 5 or 6 years old, he asked his grandfather if he was Polish. On the phone recently, in heavily accented English, he described his grandfather's reaction. "He gave me a very dead face," Solarz recalled. "My father said that [Polish] is a very bad word, and I don't want to [talk about] it with my grandfather again. My grandfather never wanted to talk about his life in Poland." Solarz's grandfather didn't spend time in a Nazi concentration...

  • An all-female Orthodox ambulance corps gets a film of their own

    Curt Schleier|Aug 3, 2018

    (JTA)-Like many heavily Orthodox sections of Brooklyn, Borough Park has been served for decades by an all-male volunteer ambulance corps called Hatzalah. The corps caters to a religious Jewish community with particular needs and customs-including one custom that can increase the tension for patients in already stressful emergency situations. The strict boundaries between men and women are familiar to anyone who has attended an Orthodox synagogue or has read the stories of airplane flights being...

  • Rachel Bloom on Michelle Wolf, her first movie and post-'Crazy Ex-Girlfriend' plans

    Curt Schleier|May 11, 2018

    (JTA)-It should not be surprising that Rachel Bloom is on Team Michelle Wolf-supporting the comedian who may have singlehandedly killed the White House Correspondents' Dinner with her scathing public roast of the Trump administration. Bloom, 31, has excelled in the shock-comedy genre herself. She's now best known for creating and starring in the successful musical TV series "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend," but before that she turned heads and worked her way up the show-biz ladder thanks to a YouTube...

  • Jewish-American soldiers didn't just fight Nazis-they endured anti-Semitism

    Curt Schleier|Apr 13, 2018

    (JTA)-"GI Jews: Jewish Americans in World War II" begins as many Holocaust documentaries do, with a history of the rise of Hitler and Nazism in Germany mixed with what is now standard archival footage of Brownshirts and Kristallnacht. Throw in interviews with some Jewish celebrities-in this case, Carl Reiner and his friend Mel Brooks wearing his old Army jacket-and it has all the workings of a typical PBS documentary. But the film, which premiered April 11, on the eve of Holocaust Remembrance Da...

  • Zach Braff is happy to be back on TV

    Curt Schleier|Apr 13, 2018

    (JTA)-Lightning struck Zach Braff in 2001. The up-and-coming Jewish actor, who had appeared in a few films-perhaps most notably a small role in Woody Allen's "Manhattan Murder Mystery"-landed the lead role of John "J.D." Dorian in the hospital-based sitcom "Scrubs." Along the way to starring in 175 episodes of the show, which became one of the most beloved comedies of the 2000s, Braff wrote and directed "Garden State," released in 2004. The indie dramedy film, which also starred 23-year-old...

  • Arthur Miller's daughter made an intimate HBO documentary about her father

    Curt Schleier|Apr 13, 2018

    (JTA)-"Arthur Miller: Writer," a lovingly crafted documentary about the award-winning playwright set to air on HBO, doesn't reveal a lot of new information. A good portion of the film involves Miller himself speaking from the audio version of his 1987 memoir, "Timebends: A Life." And much has already been written elsewhere about the tumultuous life of the Jewish author who gave us classics such as "Death of a Salesman" and "The Crucible," and spent much of the 1950s in the public eye. But the fi...

  • Comedian Gilbert Gottfried isn't a cranky loudmouth, as documentary about him shows

    Curt Schleier|Nov 10, 2017

    (JTA)-"It was very peculiar," said Gilbert Gottfried, 62, about becoming the subject of the aptly named bio-documentary, "Gilbert." "The filmmaker, Neil Berkeley, came to me and said he'd always dreamed about making a Gilbert Gottfried documentary," the comedian told JTA in a telephone interview. "I told him you should set your dreams higher." When they first met in October 2014, Gottfried was not enthused at the prospect of the film. He was concerned about what he called the "'Wizard of Oz'...

  • Rob Reiner on Judaism, movies and his experience 'home shuling'

    Curt Schleier|Nov 10, 2017

    (JTA)-By his own admission, Rob Reiner was not the right person to direct "LBJ," a film biography of Lyndon Baines Johnson, the 36th president of the United States. "I had a lot of trepidation," he said in a telephone interview with JTA. In addition to a successful career as an actor, Reiner is one of the most bankable directors plying the trade today. His films run the gamut from lighthearted fare like "This is Spinal Tap," "The Princess Bride" and "When Harry Met Sally," to serious drama such...

  • Once New York's toughest cop, now a TV star

    Curt Schleier|Sep 29, 2017

    (JTA)-There are almost as many reality cop shows on television as there are Real Housewives. "Cops" is the granddaddy of them all, in its 30th season, plus there's "Night Watch" and "Live PD," to name just a few. The newest is "Street Justice: The Bronx," which premiered Sept. 19 on the Discovery Channel. The series' trailer features a heavily tattooed, muscular older gentleman, head shaven, wearing a 41st Precinct T-shirt. As dramatic music pulsates in the background, he describes how...

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