Opening Night at the AJFF Gala

Opening Night at the AJFF Gala


The Oscars have nothing on Atlanta; our red carpet was just as swell, our food divine.

We had a rough snow-week and suffered from “cabin fever,” and it was a grateful and grand crowd who come out to the Cobb Energy Center as Atlanta Jewish Film Festival sponsors ($300 per person ticket reduced to $150 for the younger set, or included in a patron pass) of the rescheduled gala on Jan. 30.

Ok, so it’s shallow to brag about clothes and labels, but we had a “tongue-in-cheek” look at some men and women who spiffed themselves up to walk the red carpet at the Gala.

After all, we needed some levity after seeing Atlanta cursed, criticized, and derided on national news for Snow Jam.

Fashion is not all about money and designers. Many sported colorful, stylish, comfortable outfits. It was paramount to have ample waist room to consume huge amounts of unlimited gourmet food and an open bar.

My biggest challenge was not just balancing three plates at a time, plus a drink, but also gluttonously mixing the small plates in jumbled order from the vendor tables.

As a strategy, I went from smoked trout to baklava, ceviche back to a different baklava. Then to AJA’s sushi combo (maybe six times), baklava, water chestnut soup, humus, baklava.

The art was to
zero-in on the top
items for your taste
and not waste “limited stretch stomach space” to gouge on common things like chips or fillers.

Walking the Red Carpet

Greeter, ticket administrator, and newly engaged Ali Spizman dazzled in metallic dress and matching big bang necklace – all from Foxes.

Ali’s fire engine red lipstick added the ‘wow’ contrast to her silver sparkling ensemble. Movie wise, Ali said she was most looking forward to seeing “Quality Balls,” the documentary about David Steinberg.

Brenda Benamy Lewis’ hour glass tomato-red silhouetted dress was for NUE by SHANE, which she bought in NYC.

Brenda said she was most looking forward to seeing that night’s feature, “Run Boy Run” which was a spectacularly photographed movie about a young boy’s survival during the Holocaust.

I did have to close my eyes at certain scenes; but definitely worth experiencing the ending.

Ray Rothman walked the red carpet in a white shoulder boa. Ray said, “I love attending the AJFF and have been coming for a number of years. All types of movies, especially dramas, documentaries, ones about Israel and the Holocaust; and ones with humor and something uplifting are always a plus.”

This year she was wearing two special pieces of jewelry from Kenneth Gordon Private Jewelers. The necklace was luminous South Sea pearls; and the splurge earrings were platinum and diamond made in New York City.

Ray’s “look forward to” movie was “Kidon” which imagines the puzzle behind the real-life assassination of a Hamas leader.

Marcia Goldman, in a chocolate- piped tan set from Cache, was looking most forward to “The Prime Ministers,” a documentary told through the eyes of Yehuda Avner, an adviser to five Israeli prime ministers.

Marcia added some eclecticism with her embroidered elephant purse from Chang Mei, Thailand. I defer to my memory from last November of spending six hours atop a huge swaying elephant in the woods of Chang Mei sans an embroidered purse.

A mother/ daughter combo was also fashion forward. Belinda and Lydia Morris shone in Cache (white/black block dress) and Mom’s Alnoral (decades old) harlequin top.

Their “must see” movie list was “Bethlehem” (a cliff hanger centered on the tragic relationship between an Israeli intelligence officer and his Palestinian informant) and “The Zigzag Kid,” a family friendly action packed tale about a 13-year-old Dutch “boy detective.”

Debra Segal’s Philosophy black and white wrap dress was “a find” from Loehamnns, well accessorized with Coach shoes, and a mink trimmed St. Tropez alligator bag.

The biggest fashion fuss was over svelte standout beauty Stephanie Karpas (“Yes,” she said “just like Pass- over.”) Her escort teasingly said she was a “professional model;” and we could believe it.

Her tri-colored horizontal striped knit was from Neiman’s (Ronny KOBO) with black leggings and low heel boots.

The Guys Have It Going On Too

One of Atlanta’s male fashion favorites is Joey Reiman. Reiman, author of “The Story of Purpose” and CEO of BrightHouse and BrightHouse Pictures, produced the AJFF Introductory film as a gift.

Reiman was there at the Festival’s inception, having created the now very familiar chair logo. BrightHouse also authored the Festival’s new theme line, “Feast on Film.”

Known for his innovative flair for style, Joey was wearing a hand- painted colorful pair of jeans by the late artist Paul Chelko with whom he had a long-time friendship.

The pants were sent to him as a gift after Paul passed away; and Joey wore them to demonstrate his mission (like Paul’s) which is focused on helping causes. I’ll never forget when Reiman addressed the staff at the conservative Atlanta Journal Constitution in blue velvet slippers.

Another local “stand-out-hunk” was Matthew Bernstein, Professor and Chair of Emory’s Department of Film and Media Studies.

Actually I didn’t know who he was initially; just was complimenting his pink shirt and fabulous aquamarine cufflinks. Bernstein’s suit was Armani, his shirt and cufflinks won sentimental honors for being left to him by his late father 10 years ago.

Bernstein, our real expert, lists his favorite AJFF films as: “Bethlehem,” “Ida,” “Kidon,” “Omar,” “The Prime Ministers: The Pioneers,” “Run Boy Run,” “The Wonders,” and “The Zigzag Kid.”

In fact, Bernstein has six pages in the AJFF booklet dedicated to his “Professor’s Picks – Not To Be Missed.”

Finally, Mark Kopkin and Renee Evans made quite the dashing couple. Mark was in a custom Dario Perla suit (adore his pocket tri fold). Renee needed no fuss as her Lion of Judah pin was the most telling and meaningful statement in itself.

Renee, in head to toe Chanel, said, “I have a ton of black.” Their go-to movie was “Bethlehem.”

A Note on Retail Therapy

Foxes has only one location in Atlanta. I first discovered them in South Florida. They know what Jewish women like: things you don’t see in the department stores, plus pre-selected(limited choices that don’t overwhelm) au currant shoes, purses and costume jewelry at discount prices.

Sometimes their fashions are too trendy or youthful; but it’s still inspiring.

Foxes make me nervous because of their restrictive three-day return policy, but it’s worth it. And the nerve not to accept credit cards. Who does that?

But they do have live human sales people who help match up outfits and tell you if your derriere looks too wide in the wrong kind of pattern.

A “good bye” word about Loehmann’s and Syms – may they rest in peace. I bought my wedding dress at Loehmann’s back room in 1980, and sought out Loehmann’s for decades in Beverly (Hills) Center, 17th Street in Manhattan, Aventura Mall and even Pompano, Fla.

I also reveled over “hit or miss finds” at Syms – “where we educated consumers were their best customers.”

Both mega discounters understood Jewish fashion, but they got off track in the past few years with new owners, or by trying to be something other than their original business model. Jewish women with any memory feel this loss.

My black and lemon diamond patterned dress for the gala was Just Taylor, a steal from TJMaxx at $39.99, as were the leather-like leggings. This time they didn’t rip out the label.

I had a wide three lion-head belt from the Festival Flea Market in Pompano, Florida. $10. What fun!

The Main Feature “Run Boy Run”

Mark Kopkin said, “‘Run Boy Run’ touched me, as it hit so many emotions from the sadness in the way this young boy was treated, to respect for his persistence and perseverance, to anger for the way the woman was treated that sheltered this innocent child. I thought it was a great film; and the gala pre- ceding was fantastic!”

Matt Bernstein, our movie guru said, “Opening night was the second time I saw “Run Boy Run.” I admired it very highly from the first. A powerful, moving, stunning film beautifully made”

That being said, although these movies must and should be made, and their stories told, I couldn’t help hearing comments such as: “I am taking a break from the gut-wrenching, despair, ‘tearing my insides’ out type of movies” or “I am passing on the Holocaust and Palestinian conflict movies this year” or “The child’s arm being mangled on the farm or the dog being shot in his arms made me cover my eyes.”

The festival offers something for everyone; and in the past few days, I saw “Marvin Hamlisch – What He Did For Love” and the “American Jerusalem: Jews and the Making of San Francis- co.”

The 1915 World’s Fair, Levi Strauss, the Gold Rush, the earth- quake, America’s first Jewish major, all lend a different look at easy assimilation.

Both were A+ and worth the drive to Merchants Walk at 9:30 p.m. in 33 degree weather.

Note in the Hamlisch movie, the ag- ing women Angie Dickinson and Carol Bayer Sager looked terrific; and the men like Christopher Walken looked like the “walking dead” with spiked hair.

Those Who Fed Us

One of the more lively booths was Margot Alfie’s “Cooking with Margot” of Mexican-Syrian heritage. She caters intimate gatherings from tapas to high tea; luckily that night she had her cascading dessert display: butter sugar cookies, almond apricot pistachio paste pin wheels, chocolate and traditional baklava.

Margot was on the AJFF movie se- lection committee and viewed over 250 movies. Hope she microwaved her own popcorn.

Fuego Mundo was a first time exhibitor this year. Co-owner Masha Herskovitz said, “I loved being a major sponsor and working with such a great cause and group of people. We wanted to promote the films and festival, and at the same time, expose more people to our authentic South American, healthy, dairy-free and certified kosher cuisine.

“We provided a 100 percent sponsorship that night including feeding 800 people, decor, staffing, a silent auction prize for a three-course meal for six people, and a commitment to feed 45 AJFF volunteers ‘gratis.’ It was our first time participating in the gala. This is the first year that AJFF has offered its patrons our kosher option, so there were a lot of ‘firsts’.”

My personal “fav” of AJA started with a Tuna Tataki, Spicy Tuna Roll, and Vegetable Roll combo. Here To Serve has been involved with AJFF for five years. In addition to the booth, they also had a silent auction item.

General Manager David Abes said, “We love giving back to the community hat has supported us for so long. It’s impossible to measure the wealth of that kind of return!”

Noting that they avoided meat (and non-kosher seafood), Abes said, “We really love to introduce festival attendees to our 11 concepts, but we also like to be considerate about people’s preferences – so it’s no coincidence!”

Israeli Animal Magnetism

Another fun touch was the Israeli partner in “Magnificent,” who took the red carpet pictures and transformed them into magnets to distribute as favors during the evening.

“We really have a unique story. Both my partner and I are Jewish; we met at summer camp; and when I moved here from Israel, we started the company together,” said Roey Shoshan.

It costs $299 an hour with a minimum of three hours on weekends (less during the week). They boast such clients as Audi, The Atlanta Hawks, Four Seasons, Dominos, and Star 94.

Adora Israeli food booth said they came over from Tel Aviv just for this event. To my taste, the humus was pasty and “blah,” not even as good as Sabra. (Luscious Lemon is the best). They were hospitable, upbeat and did a better job with their creamy chestnut soup.

It’s Not Too Late

As of the gala night, 152 screenings were already sold out. Sometimes new tickets go on sale, and some viewers have been known to show up at the box office and get in.

But it’s not too late to participate in the second largest Jewish film festival in the U.S. (San Fran being number one).

And remember to arrive early to claim a seat. Some have begrudgingly had to sit on the front row since others arrived an hour early with extra scarves, purses, and coats to save rows for their entire neighborhood who then saunter in at the last minute.

After 35 years with the Atlanta newspapers, Marcia currently serves as Retail VP for the Buckhead Business Association where she delivers news and trends (laced with a little gossip). On the side, Marcia is Captain of the Senior Cheerleaders for the WNBA at Philips Arena.














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