Briefs: 100th birthday for Workmen’s Circle; ‘Kosher’ is numero uno

A Century of the Workmen’s Circle

Under the banner of “For a more beautiful and better world,” the Workmen’s Circle in California will mark its centennial with Yiddish songs, historical anecdotes and tributes to noted community members.

Actor and social activist Ed Asner will keynote the event on Sunday, Jan. 6, starting at 1 p.m. at the Skirball Cultural Center.

“For 100 years, our members have stood at the forefront of the movement for social justice,” said Eric A. Gordon, Southern California director of the Workmen’s Circle/Arbeter Ring.

“We founded the City of Hope to provide health care to the indigent, fought alongside farm and grocery workers for fair contracts, and today advocate for immigration, housing, and other social and political reforms that reflect our Jewish heritage of struggle for a better world.”

Gordon, who is also an author and singer, will receive the group’s Yidishkayt Award.

Entertainers will include klezmer artists Yale Strom and Elizabeth Schwartz, Uncle Ruthie Buell of KPFK-FM, troubadour Ross Altman, comedian Lou Charloff, storyteller Archie Barkan, M.C. Kolya Borodulin, and the Voices of Conscience and Mit Gezang Yiddish choruses.

Hosts Henry Slucki, Jolie Mason and Shawn Casey O’Brien of Access Unlimited, a KPFK-FM program that has advocated for the rights of people with disabilities for 20 years, will be honored with the Sands Memorial Award for Human Rights.

Other honorees include Ruth Judkowitz, chairmentsh of the regional Workmen’s Circle, who will receive the Ben Froman Member of the Year Award. Judkowitz is a professional music therapist, who founded Voices of Conscience, the organization’s social justice chorus.

For ticket information and reservations, phone (310) 552-2007, or e-mail

— Tom Tugend, Contributing Editor

USY Builds Yeshiva for Ugandan Jews

The Conservative movement will build an adult yeshiva for the Abayudaya, a community of Jewish converts in Uganda. The $15,000 gift, announced Wednesday in Anaheim at the national convention of United Synagogue Youth, the youth arm of the Conservative movement, was presented to Gershom Sizomu, the first member of the Abayudaya community to enter rabbinical school.

A research fellow at the Institute for Jewish and Community Research in San Francisco, Sizomu will receive his ordination from the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies at American Jewish University in Los Angeles in May.

The 800 members of the Abayudaya, who had been living as Jews for years, were formally converted to Judaism in 2002 by a visiting delegation of Conservative rabbis.

Rabbi Jerome Epstein, executive vice president of the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, said the gift of the yeshiva sustains the youth movement’s support of the Abayudaya Jews begun last year with a donation for a Jewish library. The library will be housed in the new yeshiva, which is expected to be completed by summer.

Four or five students will begin studying next fall, Epstein said. Other students are expected to follow, some from “lost” African Jewish communities elsewhere in Uganda, Ghana, Nigeria and southern Africa.

Billionaire Leviev Leaving Israel

Israeli billionaire Lev Leviev, the Uzbek-born diamond magnate and Orthodox philanthropist, is leaving Israel for London with his family, Ha’aretz and other media reported Thursday. According to the reports, Leviev, 51, expects to find better tax terms and new business opportunities in Britain. But he will maintain a home in the Jewish state, where one of his daughters will continue running his international consortium, Africa-Israel. Leviev’s personal fortune is said to be worth as much as $8 billion, making him Israel’s richest citizen.

Kosher Most Popular Claim

The kosher label beat out all claims found on food products in the United States in 2007, such as “All Natural,” the second-most frequent claim and “No Additives or Preservatives,” according to a report from Mintel’s Global New Products Database, a consumer products monitor. In 2007, companies launched 3,984 new kosher food products and 728 kosher beverages. Mintel polls have shown that Jewish and non-Jewish consumers believe a product marked kosher is healthier and safer than non-kosher products. Muslims on a Halal diet also eat kosher food, and people on lactose-free and meat-free diets tend to look for kosher certification to ensure products do not contain the things they can not eat.

Israeli Airport Profiling Reviewed

Israel is reviewing the security practice of profiling Arab passengers at its international airport. Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz said Tuesday he was working to abolish the Shin Bet security service’s practice of singling out Israeli Arabs for more intensive screening than Jews at Ben-Gurion Airport. The announcement came in response to a petition filed with Israel’s High Court of Justice by minority rights groups arguing that all air passengers should be subject to the same level of scrutiny. Mofaz proposed that new criteria be created for vetting potentially dangerous passengers, such as age, profession and military service records. The plan will be submitted to Attorney-General Menachem Mazuz and the Shin Bet for their assessment.

Nazi HQ to be Learning Center

The Brown House in Munich, which was home to the Nazi Party beginning in 1933, will serve as a documentation center and a place of learning, according to Germany’s Deutsche Welle news service. The center was first proposed in 1989, and in 2001 the city of Munich approved a plan for the center. The project will be funded by the state of Bavaria and with $50.4 million from the German federal government. Construction will begin at the end of 2008, which is also the 850th anniversary of the city of Munich, according to Deutsche Welle. Nothing is left of the original headquarters building, which was torn down and removed by the temporary U.S. military government at the end of World War II.