Rocky Horror Purim Show

Rocky Horror Purim Show

For the past several years, friends of ours have hosted a pre-Purim party featuring a screening of the cult classic “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.” The impetus was straightforward: they love the musical and enjoy the “group” viewing experience, which includes participatory dancing to the “Time Warp,” newspapers held overhead while someone squirts water at you (to illustrate a segment shot in the pouring rain), and yelling out various bawdy quips at specific moments in the film.

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Jody and I were in the audience (if you could call it that) this week. Everyone was encouraged to come in costume. Eschewing the de rigueur attempt at cross-dressing, we played protagonists Brad and Janet, dressed up in white lab coats during the scene when Dr. Frank-N-Furter’s creation Rocky Horror comes to life.

The evening was lots of fun, but I wondered, why Purim davka? You can have fun most any night of the year. And then, in the middle of Rocky’s big solo “The Sword of Damocles,” I saw it. The assembled Transylvanian groupies were spinning…groggers.

Yes, that’s right, the very samenoise makers that Purim revelers spin to drown out the name of the wicked Haman every time it’s spoken during the Megillah reading on Purim evening and morning.

I did a double take. Maybe these were just party favors. But there was no mistaking it – I’ve never seen anything like these particular types of groggers anytime except at Purim. Were either Jim Sharman, the director, or Richard O’Brien, who wrote the music, Jewish? Is the eerie castle where the soon-to-be-revealed aliens from the planet Transsexual reside really a metaphor for Ahasverus’s palace? The Internet isn’t saying.

Come next Purim, if you’re not too tipsy (or maybe better if you are), consider renting and watching The Rocky Horror Picture Show at your place.

Happy Purim!

Shimon Peres, superstar

Shimon Peres, superstar

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg with youngster Shimon Peres.

Sure there’s Betty White and Tony Bennett, but you could make a case for the most hip octogenarian out there being none other than Shimon Peres, Israel’s venerable president.

At age 88, Peres is a new media star and has spent this week, after holding a face to face with President Barack Obama and addressing the AIPAC conference, touring California hi-tech hotbeds as the toast of Silicon Valley, with heavyweights like Mark Zuckerberg and Serge Brin clamoring to pose next to him like he was a rock star.

Zuckerberg helped Peres launch his official Facebook page, which is aimed at creating a dialogue with Arab users. The president repeatedly praised the social networking site as a way for people to bypass failed efforts of governments to seek peace.

And if that’s not enough for you to press like, Peres’s people recruited celebrated Israeli DJ Noy Alooshe to put together a techno mash-up of a Peres speech to promote the page. Alooshe, a member of the techno group Chovevei Tzion, was propelled to international success after his parody last year of former Libyan despot Muammar Gaddafi, which included excerpts from one of his speeches during the early stages of the Libyan civil war.

Accompanied by a pulsing techno beat, the Peres clip features Peres rapping his way through a “be my friend, for peace” riff in his endearing Old World English acent. Visually, we see the presidentin various scenes, from scrolling through his page on a Tablet to meeting international leaders and celebrities like Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, comedian Jerry Seinfeld and the Pope.

The clip appears, of course, on Peres’s own YouTube channel. The man’s a modern marvel. Meanwhile I’m still trying to figure out what Twitter is all about.


Meeting whiz kid Ben Lang

Ben Lang

When I first met Ben Lang, I didn’t take much notice. Apparently I should have. The 18-year-old returning immigrant has taken Israel’s hi-tech scene by storm, in the process being written about by no less than 22 publications in Israel and the U.S. – including this one from Abby Leichman on our sister site Israel21c.

As Abby writes, Ben began his entrepreneurial career just a few years after his bar mitzvah. He created a site to help students find and share class notes; opened his own eBay business; and started a blog for budding young entrepreneurs. He was almost sued by The New York Times for making a website called, which explained how to read The Times for free after the paper erected a formidable pay wall.

His latest project is a co-venture with another young Israeli, Nir Kouris. The site, called Innovation Israel – similar to EpicLaunch, his previous blog for entrepreneurs – is a community for startups, entrepreneurs and investors, with of course an Israeli twist. One of their first ventures was a live coding event called Hackathon – which we wrote about here.

All of this will be coming to an end – perhaps more a temporary hiatus – when Lang joins the IDF later this month. In the meantime, he’s been working with the marketing team at Wibiya -here’s my story about them from two years back.

Ben is the son of Jennifer and Phillipe Lang (dad’s a hi-tech entrepreneur as well and we once met in my office to brainstorm ideas). Philippe’s brother Yvan is an accomplished architect and the father of one of my daughter’s kindergarten classmates (yes, we’ve kept in touch all these years). Mom Jennifer is my wife’s ex’s sister. Now that’s Jewish geography at its finest!

I can’t say I’m buddies with Ben – other than on Facebook – but I’m glad to have chatted with this up and coming superstar once at a family event. I expect to hear more about Ben Lang in the future – in three years time…or before.

Berkeley Institute for Jewish Law Faculty Director Ken Bamberger and Dan Senor flank ISRAEL21c President Amy Friedkin. Photo by Bruce Cook" title="Berkeley Institute for Jewish Law Faculty Director Ken Bamberger and Dan Senor flank ISRAEL21c President Amy Friedkin. Photo by Bruce Cook

ISRAEL21c and UC-Berkeley explore Israeli high-tech

A two-day conference on the California campus drew hundreds of business and law faculty and students. ISRAEL21c sponsored the keynote speaker.


ISRAEL21c was proud to sponsor the keynote address by Start-up Nation co-author Dan Senor at the University of California-Berkeley’s “Israel through the High-Tech Lens,” a two-day interdisciplinary conference in February.

Senor’s star-power helped attract some 350 Berkeley business and law faculty and students to the Berkeley Institute for Jewish Law, where they heard 35 Israeli and US business leaders, scholars and policy-makers discuss business, legal, economic and social aspects of Israeli high-tech. The event was co-hosted by the Berkeley Center for Law and Technology.

“This is just another example of the partnerships ISRAEL21c likes to form in communities to help show the ‘real’ Israel,” says ISRAEL21c president Amy Friedkin.

She worked with Kenneth Bamberger, the institute’s faculty director, to plan the conference around twin themes: “Challenges and Opportunities of Local and Global Dynamics in the Israeli Technology Sector” and “Past Experiences, Present Trends and Future Directions — Lessons from the Past and Challenges for the Israeli Technology World in the 21st Century.”

Speakers represented a broad spectrum — such as Intel executive vice president David (Dadi) Perlmutter; Zika Abzuk, Cisco’s head of corporate social responsibility for Europe, the Middle East and Africa; and Kheir Abdel Razek, deputy CEO of a nonprofit that promotes employment for Arab university graduates in the Israeli labor market.

Topics discussed included models of tech-sector investment, green-tech trends, legal challenges to US-Israel business collaboration, global corporations’ involvement in Israel, labor-market diversity, cross-border collaboration in the Middle East and high-tech entrepreneurship.

Bamberger told the assemblage: “By bringing students and faculty … together with local and Israeli business and legal leaders, we were able to address a critical issue for the Bay Area tech community — the future of Israel’s high-tech sector and its deep collaboration with Silicon Valley.”