Community Briefs

Lidded Elijah’s Cup by Robert Lipnick

Chanukah Shopping

It’s almost here. As Chanukah approaches, thoughts turn to giftbuying. And we’ve found, over the years, that one of the best placesto do this is at Temple Isaiah’s Festival of Jewish Artisans. Thisyear’s festival kicks off on Saturday, Nov. 22, at 8 p.m., with anevening concert, “Israel Sings at 50,” featuring Israeli recordingartists Ahuva Zadok and Yoel Dan. That same evening, there’ll be anartist preview sale and reception.

The following day, Nov. 23, from 12 to 5 p.m., you can see and buythe wares of more than 30 Jewish artisans — masters of everythingfrom weaving to sculpture, from jewelry to painting. There will alsobe a children’s area, with arts and crafts.

Admission for the concert is $12. Festival admission is $3. Formore information, call (310) 277-2772. — Staff Report

A Positive ‘Response’

Valley Beth Shalom’s program provides support

for gays, lesbians and their families

By Shlomit Levy

When Laura Cannon told her mother, Sara, that she was gay, themother’s first reactions were disbelief and shock. Sara now says witha chuckle: “I told her, ‘Laura, couldn’t you have told me that youwere robbing a bank, or that you were running away with a Palestinianterrorist?”

Laura, 23, came out to her parents less than two months ago. Sinceher initial feelings of shock, however, Sara has been coming to termswith her daughter’s revelation by reading, talking and becominginvolved in Response, Valley Beth Shalom’s support organization forJewish lesbians, gays and their families.

On Sunday, Nov. 16, VBS Response hosted a daylong conference ongay and lesbian issues, “At the Crossroads to Equality.” The programincluded numerous seminars and featured prominent speakers, includingRabbi Harold Schulweis, activist Chastity Bono and City CouncilwomanJackie Goldberg. Representatives of several gay activistorganizations, such as GLIDE (Gays and Lesbians Initiating Dialoguefor Equality), PFLAG (Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians andGays) and Am Echad, the Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual division of the JewishFederation, were on hand to speak and distribute information.

Most of the 200 attendees were not VBS congregants, and a sizableamount were parents of gay or lesbian children. About half of theattendees were members of Response. VBS Rabbi Jerry Danzig co-foundedthe group in 1992 after learning his son was gay. Response is open toall members of the Jewish community, and its goals are to support,give dignity to and unite gays, lesbians and their families, and “tomake them feel comfortable in their Judaism,” said Danzig.

In a seminar entitled “From the Bible and Beyond,” Schulweisargued that the exclusion of gays and lesbians from mainstreamJudaism is not the fault of Jewish texts but, rather, the fault ofthose who interpret them.

“What homosexuals seek is what heterosexuals seek: an end to theirloneliness, the delight of friendship, of companionship and of love,”Schulweis said, in a speech originally intended only for rabbis. Assuch, he argued, it is immoral to use halacha or the Bible to preventhomosexuals from developing relationships.

Citing examples of laws that have changed over time, he assertedthat conscience overrides Jewish law. “Whenever there is a conflictbetween conscience and the law,” Schulweis said, “the law has to bereinterpreted, re-examined, and sometimes has to be abolished. What’sat stake is the character of Judaism.”

When asked if he would be willing to officiate a gay marriage,however, Schulweis retreated. Although, on a personal level, he wouldlike to sanctify a gay wedding, he would be marginalizing himselfwithin the Conservative movement as well as alienating hiscongregation, many of whom, he admits, may not be as accepting.

Indeed, early in the day, police were called to disperse severalJewish protesters who, according to Danzig, were harassing conferenceattendees as they entered or exited the synagogue.

Although much of the program dealt with the obstacles that gaysand lesbians face, many speakers pointed out the advances that havebeen made in the gay rights movement, especially within the lastdecade. The media’s portrayal of gays and lesbians is much moreaccurate today then it was even five years ago, and corporateadvertisers such as American Express and Budweiser are beginning topay attention to the homosexual market, according to Judy Weider,editor-in-chief of The Advocate, a gay and lesbian newsmagazine.

Several speakers throughout the day stressed the importance of gayrights activism, and an overriding message was that being openly gayis in itself a strong statement, especially in light of the recentascension of the religious right.

“The way that public opinion changes on personal and moral issuesis for religious institutions to change, for the media to change, andfor people to know people who are gay and lesbian. It’s not justabout personal liberation,” said author and activist Torie Osborn.”When people personally know someone who is gay or lesbian, that’swhen they begin to change their opinion on homosexuality.”

Laura Cannon, as one of the youngest attendees, is stillstruggling with “liberation.” In a discussion group about homophobia,she described her pride in being “out” to her friends and family, buther ambivalence about coming out at work: She is a middle-schoolteacher and fears a backlash both from parents and from the schooladministration.

Sara Cannon, Laura’s mother, is even more concerned about thepotential repercussions in the school. She knows that Laura will facemany challenges because of her sexual orientation, and hopes thatothers will become more accepting, as she has.

“It’s her life, and I want her to be happy,” said Sara Cannon. “Iwant her to settle down with a nice Jewish girl. All I ever want forher is to be fulfilled and happy in her life.”

Beth Olam Cemetery Faces Closure

Beth Olam Cemetery in Hollywood, one of the most venerable andhistorical Jewish cemeteries in Southern California, is in danger ofbeing abandoned and padlocked.

Beth Olam is the Jewish section of Hollywood Memorial Park atSanta Monica Blvd. and Gower St. It is in bankruptcy and repeatedattempts to find a new owner have so far failed, according to DavidIsenberg, attorney for the bankruptcy trustees.

A motion by the trustees to abandon the property will be heard at9:30 a.m., Dec. 10, in the U.S. Bankruptcy Courtroom, 1345, locatedon the 13th floor of the Roybal Federal Building, 255 E. Temple downtown Los Angeles.

Anyone wishing to speak at the Dec. 10 hearing must file writtencomments with the court no later than Nov. 28. A copy of thetrustees’ motion is available to the public in the office of theClerk of the Bankruptcy Court, located at 300 N. Los Angeles St.,first floor, in downtown Los Angeles.

City Council member Jackie Goldberg is among those trying to savethe cemetery. For information, call her field office at (213)913-4693. — Tom Tugend, Contributing Editor


Teaching Caring

At some point in all our lives, we’re all going to have to carefor the very ill: an aging friend, a parent, a spouse, a relative.That’s life.

Five Los Angeles-area synagogues, along with the Jewish HealingCenter at Metivta, have formed a unique consortium whose aim is toorganize and educate people about caring for the sick.

The synagogues in the consortium — Temple Emanuel in BeverlyHills, Temple Israel of Hollywood, Sinai Temple, Valley Beth Shalomand Kehillat Israel — will develop a community program for visitingthe sick, with the Healing Center providing ongoing assistance.Metivta established its own bikkur holim (the Hebrew term forvisiting the sick) program two years ago.

The consortium will also educate volunteers from these synagogueson how to care for loved ones, and it will provide ongoing monthlysupport groups for volunteers. “We believe that caring is a skillthat can be taught,” said Healing Cente
r Director Ellen Winer, aregistered nurse.

The first workshop, called “Menschcraft 101,” will take place onSunday, Nov. 23, from 12:30 to 5:30 p.m. at Metivta (2001 S.Barrington Ave.). The five-hour course will combine traditionalJewish texts, discussion and simple exercises to develop whatorganizers call “our innate abilities to give support.”

“Menschcraft 101,” will take place

on Sunday,

Nov. 23, from

12:30 to 5:30 p.m.

at Metivta

For more information, call Metivta at (310) 477-5370. — StaffReport

USC law Professor Erwin Chemerinsky

Chemerinsky Awarded Chair

A generation apart, two Los Angeles lawyers shared a common desireto help those less fortunate. Now they share a legacy. USC lawProfessor Erwin Chemerinsky was recently awarded the Sidney M. IrmasChair in Public Interest and Legal Ethics at the school. The chairwas established with a $1.5 million donation from the Audrey andSidney Irmas Foundation. Sidney Irmas, a 1955 graduate of USC, was atrial attorney and philanthropist associated with numerous Jewishcauses.

Chemerinsky is a nationally recognized expert in constitutionaland civil rights law. (You probably saw him doing on-air commentaryduring the Simpson trial.) He serves on the board of directors of theAmerican Civil Liberties Union of Southern California and does probono work for the ACLU, the National Association for the Advancementof Colored People, People for the American Way, Fund for the FeministMajority, and the Senior Citizens Law Center. He won USC’sOutstanding Teacher Award in 1984 and 1994. — Staff Report

Rabbi Saul J. Berman


At first glance, Edah’s vision statement doesn’t seem to beanything that unusual — an Orthodox educational institutionaffirming serious and joyful devotion to Torah, mitzvot, Godand Israel. But a closer examination reveals that Edah, a year-oldorganization headed by Rabbi Saul J. Berman, speaks specifically ofModern Orthodoxy and dedicates itself to an intellectual honesty thatincludes an appreciation for the secular world. It holds dear thewholeness of the Jewish people and the interaction of all Jews –regardless of affiliation.

And smack in the middle of the vision statement, Edah envisions anOrthodox community “in which we take seriously the historic changesin the role and educational achievements of women in this century andsearch for halachically appropriate opportunities for theirparticipation in Jewish ritual and communal roles.”

All of these philosophies will be explored in depth when RabbiBerman arrives in Los Angeles, on Nov. 21-22, for ascholar-in-residence Shabbaton at B’nai David-Judea, a 250-familyModern Orthodox shul in the Pico-Robertson area.

“We are particularly excited about having Rabbi Berman with usbecause he has come to embody the intellectual and religiousenterprise that defines our shul,” says Rabbi Yosef Kanefsky, leaderof B’nai David-Judea. “The magic of B’nai David is in its joyousgrappling with the issues of Modern Orthodoxy — precisely those thatRabbi Berman addresses so powerfully.”

The weekend will include a Friday-night discussion on “The JewishEthic as a Response to Modern Paganism,” a Shabbat morning drashexploring the state of halachic philosophy today, and Shabbatafternoon talk on interaction with non-Jews, followed by Havadalahand a Melave Malka with live music and food.

Rabbi Saul J. Berman will participate in the scholar-inresidence

Shabbaton at B’nai David-Judea

on Nov. 21-22

For more information on Rabbi Berman’s appearance, call B’naiDavid-Judea at (310) 276-9269, or e-mail — StaffReport

Rabbi David Lapin

A Drama of Biblical Proportions

Intimacy and infertility. Destiny and desire. Passion and power.These are among the gripping issues that lie at the center of…thelatest daytime soap opera? Nope. Try the Book of Samuel, one of thelesser-known but fascinating biblical texts that constitute one ofthe five volumes of the Prophets.

Rabbi David Lapin, newly arrived with his family fromJohannesburg, South Africa, to become scholar-in-residence at thePacific Jewish Center in Venice, is packing in students to hear hisoriginal and erudite take on this classic yet underread text. RabbiLapin, an international business consultant and highly acclaimedTorah scholar, regularly attracted hundreds to the classes he taughtin Johannesburg. If the past few weeks are any indication, he maywell repeat that success in Southern California.

“Royalty: The Power and the Passion” is the name of the ongoingMonday-night series that is revealing insights into the Book ofSamuel. Rabbi Lapin’s goal is to “make classical Torah principlesaccessible to all Jews, irrespective of their background or previouslevel of knowledge.”

Working from the Hebrew text, Rabbi Lapin has, so far, coveredless than a few dozen lines in the saga that traces the lineage ofthe prophet Samuel. But in those few lines, he has captivated hisstudents by revealing timeless and profound principles about suchdisparate topics as creating true intimacy in marriage, transcendingthe gap between vision and accomplishment, and the key to effectivechild rearing.

The classes, which begin at 8:30 p.m., are held at the DoubletreeSuites Hotel in Santa Monica. There is no set fee, but donations aregratefully accepted. For more information, call the Pacific JewishCenter at (310) 392-8749. — Judy Gruen