Community Briefs

Liberal Pundit Predicts Davis

If the California slugfest between the two major political parties were a concert, the Republicans, who yearn for the days when buffaloes roamed the plains, would be playing the “Ghost Dance,” while the Democratic tune would be the “Hesitation Waltz.”

Those, at least, are the musical choices of liberal political analyst Harold Meyerson, former editor of the L.A. Weekly and now editor-at-large of the American Prospect and a regular Washington Post columnist.

Meyerson addressed an overflow meeting of the Progressive Jewish Alliance last week and provided only modest cheer for the partisan audience.

In the upcoming recall election, he predicted, no more than 45 percent of the voters will back Gov. Gray Davis’ retention in office. “Don’t bet large money that Davis won’t be recalled,” he advised.

The situation is slightly better in Los Angeles County, from Meyerson’s perspective, which since the 1980s has been transformed from a largely centrist county to one of the most liberal in the United States. He said the political transformation is being propelled by a Latino-labor alliance, which now controls seven of the 15 Los Angeles City Council districts.

Other Meyerson observations:

Recall Election: Prudence dictates that there be a strong Democratic candidate among those vying to become governor, should Davis be recalled. But the various Democratic power players will only back a candidate promising not to run for reelection in 2006, a condition that Sen. Dianne Feinstein has apparently refused to accept.

California Progress: “The California political system has a bias for chaos.” The initiative and recall provisions were adopted to prevent control of the Legislature by big money. Today, both processes are dominated by big money.

Crossing the Bridge: The Republicans are going one bridge too far. The Democrats are afraid to go on any bridge.

National Picture: Sept. 11 put us back on a Cold War footing. The Democrats will have to field a candidate with strong national security credentials.

Although Meyerson expressed little enthusiasm for any of the current Democratic presidential contenders, least of all for Sen. Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut, he pointed to retired Gen. Wesley Clark, former NATO supreme commander and Rhodes scholar, and Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts as likely strong candidates. Besides, both claim Jewish grandfathers. — Tom Tugend, Contributing Editor

Rites Mark Bombing Deaths at Hebrew U.

On July 31, American Friends of Hebrew University held a memorial service at UCLA Hillel House in yartzheit of the 2002 victims of the terrorist attack in Hebrew University’s cafeteria, which claimed nine lives — including five Americans — and injured more than 80.

About 100 people, mostly a young crowd of Hebrew University-Rothberg International School alumni, attended the intimate, hourlong service held at the Hillel House’s Ziman Hall.

“It gave people a chance to publicly mourn,” said Ian Murray, program development director of American Friends.

The service began with opening remarks by Jeff Rouss, American Friends associate vice president, and Zvi Vapni, deputy consul general of the Israeli consulate in Los Angeles, and featured Temple Shalom for the Arts Cantor Aylsia Pierce, who sang “The Star Spangled Banner” and “Hatikva.”

Among the victims remembered were American students Marla Bennett, 24, Benjamin Blutstein, 25, Dina Carter, 37, and David Gritz, 24; David Diego Landowski, 29, of Argentina; Janis Coulter, 36, who ran Hebrew University’s foreign students department in New York; and Levina Shapira, 53, head of the student services department at Hebrew University.

San Diego victim Bennett was the focus of much attention at the event. Among those in attendance at the vigil were some of the dozen students Bennet convinced to spend a semester in Israel and friends she made while attending UC Berkeley.

Ari Moss, a friend of Bennett, who met her 15 years ago at Camp Shalom, shared some memories, as did Emma Lefkowitz, a Rothberg International School alumnus.

Children’s entertainer Rob “Robbo” Zelonky sang a moving rendition of Kenny Loggins’ “House at Pooh Corner,” Bennett’s favorite song.

“She was the best Jewish role model; everything she did was centered around a positive Jewish experience for kids,” Murray said of his friend, Bennett. “She looked at you, and you knew she was your friend. You knew she loved you.” — Michael Aushenker, Staff Writer

Persians Protest Iranian Regime

An annual protest rally that marks the deaths of five demonstrators in Tehran in 1999 and seeks the overthrow of the Iranian regime was staged early last month at the West Los Angeles Federal Building by Los Angeles-area Persians, among whom were many Jews.

Groups opposed to the Iranian government organize demonstrations worldwide on July 8, a date that honors a student protest outside Tehran University over the closure of a daily newspaper, during which five people were killed and dozens injured.

Persian Jews United, an online event announcement service, was one of the organizations in Los Angeles that asked Persian Jews to participate in the protest against Iran’s policies.

Crowd estimates ranged widely, from 700 to 4,000. Observers said that while most of the protesters showed no backing for specific individuals or organizations, some at the noisy demonstration did voice support for the Shah of Iran’s son. — Mojdeh Sionit, Contributing Writer