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The story of Judah Maccabee, one of the greatest warrior heroes in Jewish history, could make a great movie.  He led the first revolt against religious oppression in 167 BCE.  His victory is celebrated by Jews around the world each year at Hannukah.

One of the most successful directors in Hollywood is behind the project, someone whose previous film about a rebellion was an Oscar-winner.  But that director is Mel Gibson, whose anti-Semitic tirade when he was arrested for drunk driving and portrayal of the ancient Jews in his controversial “The Passion of the Christ” suggests that he may not be the person to tell this story.  Gibson has said repeatedly that this is a movie he wants to make.  But his choice of screenwriter is also sure to raise concerns.  It is Joe Eszterhas of “Basic Instinct,” “Flashdance,” and “Showgirls.”

Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, released a statement: “We would have hoped that Warner Bros. could have found someone better than Mel Gibson to direct or perhaps even star in a film on the life of the Jewish historical icon Judah Maccabee. As a hero of the Jewish people and a universal hero in the struggle for religious liberty, Judah Maccabee deserves better.”  They have asked Warner Brothers to “reconsider” Gibson’s involvement.

I am skeptical about Gibson’s ability to tell this story, not because I think he will promote stereotypes or bigotry but because I think his increasing fascination with anger and violence will give the story the wrong focus.  I hope I’m wrong.

 

Today nearly 100 cartoonists in the Sunday comics observe the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.  Every family should take some time to read through them to appreciate the many ways the comic artists and writers have found to tell the story of that day of terrible losses and extraordinary heroism.

The New York Times and YouTube have created a site for people to share their memories of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 and how it has affected our families and the world.

The PBS NewsHour is also collecting stories and will be tweeting the names of those who died all weekend.

Oscar-winner Cliff Robertson died today at age 88.  He is best remembered for his portrayal of a young John F. Kennedy in PT-109 and for the role that won him the industry’s top acting prize, Charly, a mentally disabled man who, through a medical experiment, briefly becomes a genius.  He was Peter Parker’s Uncle Ben in “Spider-Man” and also appeared as an ambitious political candidate in “The Best Man” and the guy who loses Kim Novak to William Holden in “Picnic.”

Robertson was also a man of great courage and integrity.  In 1977, he discovered that a studio executive was embezzling from him.  While many in Hollywood did not want to speak up about what turned out to be a systemic theft, Robertson insisted on going public.  The executive was given a small fine and a short jail term; Robertson was essentially banned from working in film.  He established the Sentinel Award to recognize annually the selfless act of coming forward for the sole purpose of righting a wrong. The award carries the inscription, “For Choosing Truth Over Self.” His example will be as enduring as his performances.

May his memory be a blessing.