Tripping Over Memory Lane


When General Publishing Group assigned free-lance writer David Seidman to scribe their nostalgia compendium, “All Gone: Things That Aren’t There Anymore,” they found the perfect man for the job.

After all, Seidman, 40, was born at the Cedars of Lebanon Hospital in Hollywood — which is, in fact, all gone. In its place now stands the Church of Scientology (“They turned my hospital into a religious shrine,” says the author, “so I’m proud…”).

Seidman, the son of a small machine parts manufacturer and a bookkeeper, grew up in the Pico-Robertson neighborhood and Beverly Hills. Currently, Seidman is the marketing director for Claypool Comics and teaches an eight-week course in comic book writing for UCLA Extension, which will start up again this spring.

Excited about the just-released “All Gone,” Seidman recently spoke with Up Front from his West Hollywood residence.

The Wheel Deal: “One of the unexpected things I found out [while researching ‘All Gone’] was that gasoline rationing in the 1940s was not because the gas was scarce but because rubber was scarce. The government didn’t want people wearing out their tires.”

A Wonderful “Tail”: “Anything that’s eccentric or unusual delights me…I love [places like] Tail of the Pup. A wonderful critic, Charles Moore, calls it the “giant killer” because you can put it near the most imposing building in town, and people will still look at Tail of the Pup.”

An Observant Jew: “Being a Jew, you have a long history. So many of the holidays are historical, and I kind of like that. There’s the sense that [we’ve outlived many cultures], and yet…I find very little attachment with the culture here in L.A. Being a Jew in L.A. is a weird [juxtaposition] of historical awareness and no historical awareness. It’s very strange, but I enjoy it.

Will the American Jew Make the Next “All Gone” List? “Oh, no, no, no. We ain’t going anywhere.”

— Michael Aushenker, Community Editor

Science And Religion Can Mix

When Caltech decides a student is good enough, smart enough, promising enough for its standards, the elite university doesn’t expect something like a piece of chicken to get in the way.

But that’s just what was happening for students looking for a campus with a kosher meal plan — until now. This academic year, Caltech built a fully equipped kosher kitchen, serving lunch and dinner to about a dozen students.

The decision to build the kitchen came after Caty Konigsberg, who had just stepped down as Hillel director after seven years, alerted campus administrators that about 10 perspective students a year — a significant percentage for a campus with only 1,700 undergraduate and graduate students — called, inquiring about a kosher meal plan.

“I had one student who had earned a complete scholarship to Caltech, and the one thing holding him up was kosher food,” says Konigsberg.

When both Hillel and the admissions committee brought this to the attention of Tom Mannion, who is in charge of Caltech’s food, housing and other auxiliary services, he reacted immediately.

“We made a policy decision that we would never be the reason somebody does not come to Caltech,” says Mannion.

It took less than a year to go from the initial idea to a fully operational, Rabbinical Council of California-certified kitchen. The kosher students do not pay anything above the regular fees for the Caltech meal plan, and they dine in the main undergraduate dining room, using paper and plastic utensils.

The Pasadena university footed the $50,000 bill to outfit the new kitchen, plus the cost of hiring a chef.

David Tytell, the student liaison to dining services, who himself keeps kosher, helped push the plan through.

“One of the big concerns everybody had was that it was not economically sound,” says Tytell. “But the college really wanted to cater to the Jewish community.”

Having the kosher kitchen is a tremendous boost to all of the Jewish community, not just the kosher students, says Julia Postolov, director of programming for Caltech Hillel. Now, Hillel can host Shabbat and holiday meals at no extra cost to students — including Passover seders and High Holiday celebrations. The first dinner this year, on Sukkot, attracted more than 50 students and faculty members.

As an added bonus, the kitchen is awaiting halal certification for students who observe Moslem dietary laws.

So, how’s the food?

Well, says Tytell, it’s so good that it’s drawing some “friendly animosity” from other students, who say it might just be better than the standard fare. — Julie Gruenbaum Fax, Religion Editor

A Byte of Judaica

Ever since the demise of J. Roth Booksellers, L.A. residents have had a dismal selection of sources for Jewish books. Fortunately, the advent of on-line resources like Amazon.com has taken the search for even rare or unusual Judaica beyond geographic boundaries. No longer must Angelenos spend frustrated lunch hours perusing the limited shelves of their local Barnes & Noble — in cyberspace lies a vast and endless sea of reading material.

Following are a few of the better sources for Jewish books on the Internet:

* Artscroll (http://www.artscroll.com/) The respected publisher of the most beautiful siddurim and study guides have crafted an equally lovely and well laid out site. Great source for gifts.

* Jewish Lights Publishing (http://www.jewishlights.com) Publishers of classics like “How To Be A Perfect Stranger” and the works of Laurence Kushner, this site allows you to view the cover, synopsis and review of each book, just like at Amazon.com. Check out their excellent selection of books for children and teen-agers.

* The Source for Everything Jewish (http://www.jewishsource.com/books) They aren’t kidding; besides an impressive bibliography, their on-line catalog also features software, music, gifts and holiday items. A fun site.

* Amazon.com (http://www.amazon.com) Possessor of the most powerful book search system on the planet. Not to take credit away from the smaller publishers, but if there’s a book out there you haven’t been able to find, odds are good that Amazon can get it for you.

* Feldheim Publishers (http://www.worldplaza.com/aleph1/feldheim/feldheim.html) Limited graphics (good if you have a slow browser) and minimal search tools at this site. Feldheim publishes a wide array of books with a decidedly observant bent on topics from biblical commentary to parenting, as well as some interesting children’s books.

One final note regarding ordering books on-line: nearly all sites tout some sort of “secure” ordering procedure — meaning credit card numbers and other personal information will be encrypted so that only the company can read it. Still, no on-line security system is perfect, so most publishers also provide a way to order by phone or by “snail mail” (Federal Express or U.S. Postal Service). Either way, for security’s sake, be sure to check credit card bills carefully. — Wendy J. Madnick, Valley Editor

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