Community Briefs

Hier: Gibson Is Insensitive

Rabbi Marvin Hier, dean and founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, has asked Mel Gibson to “speak out forcefully against anti-Semitism” and to “condemn the false charges of deicide leveled against the Jewish people.”

In a letter sent to the director of “The Passion of the Christ” on Monday, Hier criticized Gibson’s remarks reported in an upcoming issue of Reader’s Digest.

“Rather than showing understanding for what historians regard as the most telling example of man’s inhumanity to man in the history of civilization, you diminish the uniqueness of the Holocaust by marginalizing it and placing it along the horrors and of people caught up in conflict and famine,” Hier wrote.

Pointing to the influence of Christian theology in forming the Nazi mentality, Hier noted that during a 1958 war crimes trial in Germany, the Protestant pastor of an SS Einsatzkommando murder squad was asked how he could justify the extermination of the Jews.

The pastor replied that “These acts were the fulfillment of the self-condemnation which the Jews had brought upon themselves before the tribunal of Pontius Pilate,” Hier wrote. — Tom Tugend, Contributing Editor

Elmo Teaches Tolerance

Elmo was the face of anti-hate education at the Anti-Defamation League’s (ADL) launch of the Miller Early Childhood Initiative at Los Angelitos Early Education Center on Jan. 13. Making his guest appearance, the red and furry Sesame Streeter greeted members of the ADL, Sesame Workshop, PRANA Foundation and children at the center.

The initiative, part of A World of Difference Institute, targets the youngest demographic in anti-bias training — preschoolers.

Amanda Susskind, ADL’s Pacific Southwest Regional director, explained that children as young as 3 are susceptible to hateful messages. “To unlearn it [prejudice] is much more difficult. The anti-bias program will give them the tools to critically analyze when they are confronted with an opportunity to learn hatred,” she said. The initiative involves 10 and a half hours of training, three and a half of which are follow-up, where teachers and parents learn through different scenarios how to combat hate in the classroom. Sesame Workshop was instrumental in tailoring the training to the preschool level.

ADL’s workshop is now available all over the United State through either fee for service or a grant. Due to the generosity of the PRANA Foundation, 300 educators and 150 family members in Los Angeles County benefited from the workshops.

Josemie Jackson, an educator for 18 years and the principal at Los Angelitos Early Education Center, said that preschoolers are curious about racial differences and an anti-bias training program is needed. “These workshops — we’ll be able to use them at teachable moments…it will give us techniques and strategies that we can use whenever it [prejudice] comes up,” she said. — Leora Alhadeff, Contributing Writer

Feds Pressure Krugel on Killing

Federal prosecutors are putting pressure on an imprisoned Jewish Defense League (JDL) activist in hope of solving the 19-year-old killing of an Arab American official.

The case involves Earl Krugel, the JDL’s former West Coast coordinator, and Alex Odeh, the former Western regional director of the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee.

Odeh was killed in 1985 by a bomb that detonated when he opened the front door to his Santa Ana office.

In a separate case, Krugel pleaded guilty nearly a year ago to conspiring with JDL National Chair Irv Rubin to bomb an L.A. mosque and the field office of U.S. Rep. Darrell Issue (R-Vista), who is of Lebanese descent. Krugel and Rubin were arrested before the alleged plan could be carried out.

Over the years, the FBI has investigated several JDL members in connection with the Odeh murder, which has become a cause celebre in the Arab American community. No charges have ever been filed and the JDL has steadfastly denied involvement.

Under the terms on his plea agreement in the alleged mosque bombing conspiracy, Krugel promised to cooperate fully with federal investigators. However, the U.S. Attorney’s office now believes that Krugel is still withholding information in the Odeh killing and has asked U.S. District Judge Ronald S. Lew to rule that Krugel has violated the terms of his agreement, the Los Angeles Times reported Saturday.

The difference for Krugel, 61, could be a possible 45-year prison sentence, instead of the anticipated 13- to 16-year sentence under the plea agreement.

Krugel’s co-counsel, Peter Morris, told The Times that his client “has met all the obligations to the government under the plea agreement.” Morris accused the prosecution of “overreaching.”

Krugel’s sentencing and hearing on the plea agreement are scheduled for March 29.

Rubin, the dominant and most publicized JDL figure since founder Rabbi Meir Kahane emigrated to Israel, and its chairman since 1985, died in November 2002 in a Los Angeles federal prison, where he was being held on the alleged mosque bombing conspiracy.

Prison authorities and the FBI ruled that Rubin committed suicide by slashing his throat and jumping over a prison railing, but his family has contested the findings. — TT