Moises Bentata and Moshe Castel Exhibition at Centro Sefarad Israel in Madrid

moises bentata cartel exposicionI had opportunity yesterday of visiting the opening of the Temporary exhibition of Moises Bentata and Moshe Castel at Centro Sefarad Israel in Madrid. It was not only an honour but a very special feeling to see how a friend of mine has converted into a well named artist.

The opening was attended by the directive staff of Centro Sefarad Israel of Madrid -Esther Bendahan- , many  friends of Moises and some other artists (as Daniel Quintero) who showed their support to this Exhibition.

All my best Wishes to Moises Bentata in his professional challenge of arts.

2018-01-31 20.04.02
Moises Bentata with Daniel Quintero and me during the opening
2018-01-31 19.37.52
A moment of the opening with Moises Bentata, Esther Bendahan -Casa Sefarad Isarel- and Mercedes Bentata -family of Moises-
2018-01-31 20.09.29
This one impacted me!

Top 5 “Jewish Films” for Oscar Season

steven-spielberg-jew-oscarThe Academy Awards are rapidly approaching, and many people are curious about the films on this year’s short lists. This Oscar season’s short lists are filled with films that feature a diverse crop of directors, actors and plotlines. Some of this season’s best, however, are films with Jewish themes. Here are the top five Jewish films to watch this Oscar season.


This gut-wrenching film deals with a variety of heavy topics including the grief of parents who lost their soldier son, the joys and challenges of marriage and the boredom of daily life in the army. Directed by Samuel Moaz, “Foxtrot” was named the second-best film at the Venice International Film Festival and is on the shortlist for Best Foreign Language Film at the Academy Awards. “Foxtrot” also won the award for Best Film at Israel’s Ophir Awards despite generating controversy in Israel over the film’s portrayal of Israeli control of the West Bank.

“Foxtrot” follows an affluent Tel Aviv couple who learn that their son has been killed in the line of duty. The film stars Lior Ashkenazi and Sarah Adler, and it opens in U.S. theaters on March 2, 2018.

“In the Fade”

Directed by Fatih Akin, this German film dramatizes the rise of neo-Nazism through the murder of Nuri and Rocco Sekerci, a Kurdish man and his small son. Katja Sekerci, the surviving widow, pursues revenge against the neo-Nazis who murdered her family. The film won Best Foreign Language Film at the Golden Globes and is shortlisted for Best Foreign Language Film at the Oscars.

“In the Land of Pomegranates”

This documentary follows a mix of young Israeli and Palestinian men and women who are brought together in a scenic German town. The Israelis and Palestinians live under the same roof, go on joint excursions in the countryside, take a riverboat cruise and argue for hours on end as part of a program called “Vacation from War.” This program began in 2002 and aims “not to make participants love each other [but if] only five people change their attitudes…that’s progress.”

“In the Land of Pomegranates” uses the arguments between the program participants to explore the chasm between young Israelis and Palestinians. Directed by Hava Kohav Beller, the young Israelis’ and Palestinians’ arguments are set against the backdrop of the contradictory meanings of the word “pomegranate” in Hebrew: “fruit” and “hand grenade.”

“The Number on Great-Grandpa’s Arm”

Few people have managed to find ways to teach young children about the Holocaust, but this short documentary attempts to tackle the issue. In “The Number on Great-Grandpa’s Arm,” 10 year old Elliot asks his great-grandfather, Jack Feldman, about the Holocaust. Feldman, a Holocaust survivor, opens up to his American-born great-grandson about his experiences. The goal of the film was to transmit Feldman’s experience “gently and with clarity.” The documentary will premier on HBO on January 27, 2018, International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

“116 Cameras”

This documentary is on the Oscar shortlist for Best Short Documentary and gives a behind-the-scenes look at filming a Holocaust survivor’s testimony. Specifically, it focuses on how filmmakers worked to preserve the memories of Anne Frank’s surviving stepsister, Eva Schloss, in the form of an interactive, holographic image.

Oscar season always brings new documentaries and foreign films into the American limelight. People spend days watching and discussing films on the short-list, and almost everyone has an opinion about which film should win the award. So, what do you think? Which of these Jewish films is your favorite?

How Two Small Flames Restored One Woman’s Secret Jewish Past

shabbat cadlesShabbat, as well as many Jewish holidays, begins with the lighting of candles. The candles are traditionally lit in the home at least 18 minutes before sunset. The lighting marks the beginning of a day of rest and refreshment.

It seems clear that this custom began at a time when our homes were not illuminated by electric lights but instead by candlelight. On this day when rabbinic Jewish law forbids the lighting of flames, we were forced to light the candles before Shabbat began so as to provide some light for the Shabbat dinner. Dinners illuminated by candlelight always provide an extra measure of ambience.

The lighting of Shabbat candles has became for many the central feature of the beginning of our Shabbat. We light candles. We cover our eyes. We say the blessing. We wish each other “Shabbat Shalom,” a peaceful Sabbath. Yet for many, the Shabbat candles and their lighting remain a mystery.

Over 500 years ago, the Jews of Spain experienced a golden age of Jewish culture. This soon came to an end when the Jews were persecuted by King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella during the Spanish Inquisition. The Jews were given a choice: Convert, or else. Some chose martyrdom. Finally, in 1492 (yes, the same year that Christopher Columbus sailed the ocean blue) they expelled the Jews.

In fact, the harbor was so crowded with ships filled with Jews fleeing Spain that Columbus’s departure was delayed by several days. It is also widely believed that Columbus’s navigator was Jewish. This exodus created the rich Sephardic diaspora in Turkey, Morocco and even Holland and then eventually New Amsterdam.

Still, some remained. They chose conversion. Outwardly, they practiced Catholicism. But secretly, in the quiet of their homes, they practiced Judaism. They were called Conversos. You may have heard them instead called Marranos, but Conversos is the more appropriate term. They often named their children after biblical heroes. In this way they preserved their ever so thin and tenuous connection to their Jewish heritage.

Years ago, I met a woman named Miriam. She did not know about her namesake’s many accomplishments. She did not know about the legends. As long as Moses’ sister Miriam journeyed with the Israelites, wells of water accompanied them. She did not know how Miriam picked up the timbrel and danced and sang when the Israelites rushed through the Sea of Reeds in that miraculous deliverance we still recall with the words of Mi Chamocha (Who is like you).

Miriam began asking questions. “Why did you choose to call me Miriam? Why is nearly every man in our family named David? How long have we lived in Spain?” She thought a lot about God and wondered about her faith. “How does one get close to God?” she would ask. Miriam traveled from her home in Spain to the greatest of all metropolises, New York City. She met an Israeli man (Of course. Where else would you meet an Israeli man?).

You might guess the rest of the story. They fell in love. They began dating. Ok, perhaps it was in the reverse order. One Friday evening Miriam invited Noam over for dinner. She cooked a beautiful meal. It was exactly as her mother had taught her and her grandmother before her had instructed. There was, of course, wine. Through the window they could see the sun setting. The windows of the adjacent buildings began to reflect the reds and oranges of sunset. Miriam jumped up from the table. She offered a hurried excuse. She ran to the back of the apartment and there she lit two candles held in old, worn candlesticks. She waved her hands in the air three times and covered her eyes. She quietly thought about all of her questions. She still sought answers.

She turned around to discover Noam standing behind her. He had tears in his eyes. “Why are you crying?” she asked. “You are Jewish.” “No, I’m not. I’m Catholic.” He stammered, “Then why are you lighting candles on Friday night?” “What in the world are you talking about? I don’t know why we light the candles. It’s what my family has always done. My mother does the same thing. My grandmother too. I was told that my great grandmother used to light the candles in a corner of her basement.”

In fact, the women of Miriam’s family have lit candles in hiding for the past 500 years. It seems clear that her family was once Conversos. Somewhere along the way they forgot the blessing. In another point in the journey of centuries they forgot why they were even lighting them. Now Miriam also knows why.

Now she also knows the blessing: “Baruch atah hashem, eloheiynu melech ha olam, asher kidshonu b’mitzvotzov vitzivanu l’hadlik ner shel Shabbat.” — Blessed are you our God, king of the universe, who has sanctified us with his commandments and instructed us to light the Shabbat candles.” It took some 500 years to recover the blessing. It took centuries to uncover the meaning.

The Shabbat candle’s flame continues to burn brightly. Whether we light on this Shabbat or the next, whether we light now, or even never, these candles’ flames can never be extinguished. The warmth and glow of Shabbat can never be diminished.

We look into the flames and say, “Shabbat Shalom.”

Rab Steven Moskowitz 


President Trump proclaims May ‘Jewish American Heritage Month’

trumpPresident Donald Trump declared May to be Jewish American Heritage Month in a press release Friday.

“During Jewish American Heritage Month, we celebrate our nation’s strong American Jewish heritage, rooted in the ancient faith and traditions of the Jewish people,” Trump said.

Trump mentioned that the Jewish people have left “an indelible mark on American culture” through an ethical code and tikkun olam, or repairing the world.

He also stated that Jews came to America to escape persecution and violence, and that American Jews have stood for “human freedom, equality and dignity.”

Trump said he plans to celebrate the connection between the Jewish people and the United States with his daughter, Ivanka, and his son-in law, Jared Kushner.

“Now, therefore, I, Donald J. Trump, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim May 2017 as Jewish American Heritage Month. I call upon all Americans to celebrate the heritage and contributions of American Jews and to observe this month with appropriate programs, activities and ceremonies,” Trump said in closing.

Last week, Israel observed Holocaust Remembrance Day, and Trump signed a proclamation to observe Holocaust remembrance for the week of April 23-28.

Ivanka was in Berlin at the time, as a panelist at the W20 Summit on women’s economic empowerment. She took some time to visit the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, the German capital’s Holocaust memorial. Ivanka posted about the visit on Instagram, saying, “I am deeply moved by the history of this memorial, honoring the six million European Jews whose lives were taken during the Holocaust.”

According to data released last Sunday, US campuses have seen a rise of 45% in antisemitism.

The Kantor Center for the Study of Contemporary European Jewry at Tel Aviv University, in collaboration with the European Jewish Congress, released its Annual Report on Antisemitism for 2016 during a press conference held at the university.

In the report, US campuses were reported to have become hotbeds for Jew-hatred, often under the guise of anti-Zionism and due to increased pro-Palestinian movements, such as BDS on campuses.