Lone soldier from New Jersey one of 2 soldiers killed in grenade incident

Two Israeli soldiers, including a lone soldier from New Jersey, were killed Sunday morning when a grenade one was carrying exploded.

Three other soldiers were injured in the explosion near Majdal Shams, a Druze village located near Mount Hermon in southern Israel.

Sgt. Shlomo Rindenow, 20, was the American killed, according to the Israel Defense Forces. Rindenow, who moved to Israel two years ago from Passaic, lived in Sde Yoav, a kibbutz in south-central Israel.

Sgt. 1st Class Husam Tafish, 24, a reservist from the Druze village of Beit Jann in northern Israel, also was killed. Tafish reportedly was the soldier holding the grenade.

The army said it was investigating the incident and that it was not clear why the soldier was holding a grenade. The soldiers were part of a combat engineering corps battalion.

Rindenow is one of five brothers who moved from Passaic, a New Jersey city with a large Orthodox Jewish population, to volunteer in the IDF, according to The Times of Israel. He spent a year volunteering with a search and rescue organization in Israel, his brother, Jeffrey Tower, told the newspaper. Another brother reportedly is serving in a paratroopers unit.


Bianca Jagger apologizes for tweeting link to neo-Nazi website

Bianca Jagger, a human rights activist and ex-wife of Rolling Stones lead singer Mick Jagger, apologized for tweeting a link to a neo-Nazi website and later said she was “mortified.”

Jagger tweeted the link, which includes a list of British lawmakers who voted for the Iraq War, early Tuesday to her 54,000 followers. The tweet said “List of UK #MPs who voted for #IraqWar – Please read it carefully, understand why they want @jeremycorbyn out.”

The list was on the Metapedia website, which was founded by a Swedish neo-Nazi in 2006 and describes itself as an “alternative encyclopaedia.”


In addition to saying how each lawmaker voted, the list includes a notes section in which they are each identified by descriptions such as “Jewess,” “Connected to Labour Friends of Israel,” “married to Jew,” “openly homosexual,” “Negro” or “Negress.”

Jagger tweeted an apology two hours later after her first post, which had been set to automatically retweet.

“I’m terribly sorry for posting a despicable tweet by mistake, I posted it at 4.15 in the morning and didn’t properly read its content,” the tweet said.

Jagger, 71, runs the Bianca Jagger Human Rights Foundation and also serves as a Council of Europe goodwill ambassador.

She followed that tweet with one saying “I’m mortified, I thought it was a list of members of Parliament who voted against the war in Iraq. You all know I am against racism, bigotry.”

Despite the apologies and deletion of the original tweet, followers continued to berate Jagger.

Six Israelis dead, dozens injured in holiday car accidents

Six Israelis died and dozens were injured in car accidents during the Passover holiday.

Israel Police recorded 160 car accidents from Tuesday to Thursday. Magen David Adom emergency services treated nine people with serious injuries, as well as 13 with medium injuries and 146 people who were lightly hurt.

One accident in southern Israel claimed the lives of two mothers.

Outside Dalyat al Carmel in the Haifa area, a 19-year-old man was killed when his car slammed into an electricity pole.

Near Tel Aviv, a young man was killed after his car collided with a tractor.

Another man was killed in a fatal collision near Beit Zarzir east of Haifa and another woman died in an accident near the south-central city of Kiryat Gat.

Among the critically injured was a 13-year-old boy who was riding an all-terrain vehicle in Yavne, a city situated south of Rishon Lezion near Tel Aviv. The boy was being filmed for a video clip ahead of his bar mitzvah celebration, Army Radio reported.

Mayim Bialik’s pain-coping techniques

Mayim Bialik, who nearly lost her right hand thumb in a car accident two weeks ago, told “Access Hollywood” in an interview that immediately following the accident, her first instinct was to get out of the car, fearing it would explode. “Many Denzel Washington films” ran through her head, she said. Bialik also thought about her family, saying to herself, “I’m a mom, this is not happening. I have kids waiting for me. It’s my son’s birthday—and it was. That was my first thought.”

The Emmy-nominated “Big Bang Theory” star declined to use pain killers, instead opting for methods she used while giving birth that ”really reaffirmed my faith in pain with a purpose and the meditative properties, the ability to lower your blood pressure, which women do in labor. It absolutely is what I used to get me through all stages of this.”

The accident did not affect the filming of the sixth season of “Big Bang Theory,” as Bialik’s hand is being hidden from the camera during the shooting.

Mayim Bialik nearly loses thumb in car accident

Actress Mayim Bialik seriously injured her hand in a car accident in Los Angeles.

A car filled with tourists crashed into Bialik’s car on Wednesday in Los Angeles on Hollywood Boulevard, TMZ reported.

Bialik, 36, who stars in the “Big Bang Theory” and was a child star in “Blossom,” nearly lost her left thumb in the accident, according to TMZ, which reported that the digit was almost completely severed.

Hours after the accident, Bialik tweeted that she was “In pain but will keep all my fingers.” She added, however, that her husband was typing for her.

In addition to being an actress, Bialik is a neuroscientist and writes about Jewish parenting.

Micol Cohen, community member, dies at 34

Micol Cohen, a 34-year-old international marketing professional, was fatally injured in an ATV (all-terrain vehicle) accident on June 24. Cohen, a native Italian who lived in Beverly Hills, was a passenger when the vehicle veered off a private road in Malibu and, according to the California Highway Patrol, hit an exposed tree root. Cohen died from blunt-force trauma.

On June 27, friends and family filled Young Israel of Century City to honor and remember Cohen, who was buried in Milan.

David Sacks, a friend whose home Cohen often visited for Shabbat meals, traveled to Milan for the funeral on behalf of Cohen’s extensive community of friends in Los Angeles.

“There were hundreds of people at her funeral,” Sacks said. “It was amazing to see how many connections she had across the globe. She had a lot of legitimate best friends.”

After her passing, some of Cohen’s friends discovered in her apartment a handwritten note that she had placed on the wall next to her bed, which she had titled “God Is Everywhere” (see sidebar). In it, Cohen explained her philosophy toward spirituality and religion. 

“Faith is the base of everything,” she wrote. “Faith in Hashem, Torah, tradition and yourself! Without faith, nothing is complete!”

Sacks says the note provided insight into Cohen’s personal beliefs.

“There are a lot of great people who leave this world but don’t leave behind the same sort of manifesto on how to serve God that Micol did,” he said. “This was something that she had for her own private use, and it’s a sign of how much Hashem loved Micol.”

Cohen moved to Beverly Hills in 2004 for her work. She was a congregant at the Happy Minyan on Pico Boulevard, and friends describe her as “really excited to do mitzvot.” She was observant of Jewish traditions and kept a few of her own traditions as well. For example, Cohen refused to speak audibly on Yom Kippur.

“It’s a practice called a ‘Speech Fast’ or tanis dibor,” Judy Sacks, David’s wife, said. “She wanted to make sure she would not say anything inappropriate on such a holy day.”

Cohen spoke five languages and often traveled to Paris. She was loved by children and adults alike and, according to her friend Miriam Teller, “never let the hard times in her life get her down or allow for self-pity.”

“She was always living — always another activity and another friend to see,” Abby Symonds, another one of Cohen’s close friends ,said. “She really lived and had fun doing a lot of activities, and she passed away doing one of those things.”

A campaign on Facebook encouraging people to perform good deeds in Cohen’s memory, called “Mitzvot for Micol,” has already solicited more than 500 members. Donations in Cohen’s memory can be made to the Happy Minyan on its Web site, happyminyan.org.

God is Everywhere: My guide to appreciating God’s gift of life

by Micol Cohen

Purpose        Without meaning, our lives are empty.

Truth          Stay true. Commit to honesty and truth about yourself and the world around you.

Faith       Faith is the base of everything. Faith in Hashem, Torah, tradition and yourself! Without faith, nothing is complete!

Renewal        Today I’ve lived as I’ve never, ever lived until now! Every day marks a new start.

Hope       Never despair! Never give up! There is ALWAYS hope!  If you can spoil it – you can repair it!

Joy           Simcha Tamid! Is a mitzvah to be joyous!

Overcoming In life we have to cross every narrow bridge.
    Anxiety & The most important thing is NOT TO BE AFRAID.

Patience       Never insist that everything will go just the way we want.

Thoughts       Wherever our thoughts are, that is where we are!

Hitbodedut Keep talking to God.

Daily Path YOU HAVE TODAY. Yesterday and tomorrow pull us back.

Adversity Look for God and have faith. “GAM ZU LETOVA!”  (All is for the best.)


Israeli soldier killed in Mount Herzl stage collapse

One woman was killed and several people were injured after a stage collapsed on Mount Herzl in Jerusalem.

The collapse came Wednesday afternoon during a rehearsal for the national Memorial Day ceremony to be held next week, according to reports.

A bank of heavy lights crashed to the stage, according to reports. The accident occured shortly after a large group of soliers participating in the ceremony left the scene. One of the injured is reported to be in moderate condition.

Police and rescue workers searched the scene for more injured, according to The Jerusalem Post.

Palestinian children killed in West Bank bus accident

At least eight Palestinian schoolchildren on a field trip were killed when a truck collided with their bus on a rain-soaked road in the West Bank.

Dozens of elementary school age children on the bus headed from eastern Jerusalem for Ramallah were also injured. The students were taken to Palestinian hospitals in Ramallah and Israeli hospitals, including Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem and Beilinson Hospital in Petah Tikvah. A teacher was also reportedly killed.

The Israeli-Arab truck driver reportedly lost control of his vehicle in the bad weather. The impact caused the bus to flip over and burst into flames.

Israel and Palestinian emergency services cooperated at the scene, while Israeli and Palestinian security police are cooperating in investigating the accident, according to reports.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas declared three days of mourning following the tragedy. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressed his sorrow at the tragedy and offered the Palestinian Authority any assistance needed.

2 Israelis killed in incident in West Bank

Israeli police said a West Bank car overturning that left an Israeli man and his baby dead was an accident.

In a Twitter post, David Ha’Ivri, a settler leader who lives in the nearby West Bank settlement of Kiryat Arba, said the car was overturned after Palestinians threw rocks at it. The IDF and the police later said they were classifying the incident as an accident.

The Jerusalem Post reported that the car overturned occurred not long after an Israeli struck and seriously injured a Palestinian child nearby. Police already have concluded that case was also an accident.

Palestinians have rioted in the past after accidents have been reported in their communities as deliberate attacks; the first intifada erupted in 1987 after a lethal road accident in the Gaza Strip.

Israeli troops are out in the West Bank in force this weekend out of concerns that Palestinian Authority plans to apply for statehood recognition on Friday will spark violent protests.

Beauty can arise from tragedy

In mid-July, our 26-year-old son, Micah, lost a lifelong friend, whom he had gone all through school with at Adat Ari El and Milken. On that day, Micah went to a birthday party for his friends Arash Khorsandi and Daniel Levian, two Persian Jews in his intimate circle of about 20 friends from his high school class. The bonds among these kids have only grown stronger since they all returned from college.

Micah left the party early because there was a reunion at Camp Alonim that evening that he did not want to miss. We spoke to him and asked about the party, “Lots of drinking, but I got to spend some good time with Daniel Levian, who kept kidding me, ‘Micah, I knew you’d be one of the white boys to show up.'”

Since the seventh grade, the Milken friends have always joked with one another about their Persian and Ashkenazic backgrounds. My son and all his Ashkenazic friends used to refer to the Persians as the Persian Posse. No one could have predicted the lifelong friendship that would flourish among all of them.

Late the next afternoon, Micah called sobbing: “Daniel Levian was killed in a car accident leaving the party last night. His brother is in critical condition.”

As the events unfolded, it was a story that could only be measured against the biblical account of Job. It was everyone’s worst nightmare. Daniel and his brother were passengers. They had taken a taxi to the party and intended to take one home. But as they were leaving, they accepted a ride home with another friend, who survived the accident with minor injuries. Daniel’s brother initially was given a 2 percent chance of survival; he has since come home and is expected to make a full recovery.

Arash and Daniel had been inseparable best friends since the seventh grade. I remember Daniel as an outgoing, engaging roly-poly kid and Arash as a talkative little guy with big, expressive eyes. They grew up to be two swarthy, handsome, successful young professionals with slick black hair raised to stylish points above their scalps — Daniel a real estate investor and Arash a lawyer.

Following Daniel’s death, Arash immediately began working through his sorrow. Just days after the accident, he gathered his friends to meet as a group with a psychotherapist. He followed up with a Friday night Shabbat dinner attended by those who had been at the party, because they all recognized that they needed to be together.

The conversations that ensued began with memories of Daniel, but then transitioned into why Daniel had died; what vulnerabilities they all could encounter; and for which actions could they take responsibility. Faced with Daniel’s death, they were forced to admit that the out-of-control consumption of alcohol among their generation was the fatal mistake. As they spoke further, they realized that many of their generation of young Jewish professionals, including themselves, were living in excess, not only with alcohol, but also through materialism. They spoke about their value system, which ultimately returned them to their Jewish roots.

Since July, about 30 young people, Persians and Ashkenazim, have begun to meet regularly to create the LEV Foundation, inspired by their love and their loss of Daniel Levian. Lev, which means “heart” in Hebrew, is what they often called Daniel.

Recently I sat in as Arash and another close friend, David Chasin, came to The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles to present the LEV Foundation to Federation President John Fishel and ask for guidance and infrastructure support. David is a participant in The Federation’s Geller Leadership Project. The two described Daniel’s personality and values, and through pictures and stories, they brought him right into the room with them. They proudly told Fishel they were not looking for money; the group, their friends and families would be the funders.

The LEV Foundation envisions itself as built upon multiple pillars. One of them would be social service projects designed to protect young Jews from driving drunk by offering free taxi service to pick them up and take them home. The group even worked out ways that kids’ cars could be driven home so no one would feel they had to drive in order to hide their behavior from their parents.

Another pillar would be advocacy, tackling the issues of excess so apparent in this generation.

Another would be about values, offering Shabbat dinners alternating between Ashkenazic and Persian traditions, Torah study, Israel travel and funding. During this phase of The Federation presentation, Arash and David commented that every one of the 40 young people involved in the creation of this foundation are either day school graduates or Birthright Israel alumni.

I thought about the millions of dollars the Jewish world has invested in day schools and Birthright. If there has ever been a return on the community’s dollars, this effort is the best demonstration. When the critical need arose to face this tragedy, these kids had the knowledge, the values, the tools and the path on which to place their sorrow, so that from it they could work to create a better world. These are our community’s children, of whom we can be very proud.

I thought about all the comments I had heard over the years in the kids’ day schools about the Persian, Israeli and Russian populations.

“Oh, the school is becoming so Persian! The school is becoming so Israeli!” Together, these kids prove that their parents were wrong. As they are showing us, the schools have turned out Jewish kids who can bridge the gaps between them themselves by celebrating one another’s cultures, knowing they are all deeply connected as Jews and friends who share many common experiences.

As Arash and David walked out, I could see Daniel Levian being carried on their shoulders: He wasn’t the tall, thin young man with slick black hair. He was the roly-poly, engaging kid I remembered, and I realized he belongs to all of us.

Gary Wexler, a former advertising agency creative director, owns Passion Marketing, a consulting firm to nonprofit organizations worldwide, including major Jewish organizations in the United States, Canada and Israel.


Our thoughts go to the families of the men and women who were killed in the Metrolink Train 111 crash in Chatsworth on Friday, Sept. 12.

We also send our prayers to the families of the men, women and children who were killed when a passenger jet, en route from Moscow to Perm in central Russia, crashed Sunday, Sept. 14, during its descent. All 88 passengers, including members of the local Jewish community, were killed: Yevgeny and Lyudmila Sankin, 50 and 53; Anna Spivak and Yakov Spivak, both 32; Sergei Yudin and Valeriya Yudin, 41 and 3, and Ifraim Nakhumov and Golda Nakhumova, 36 and 24, with their children, Ilya Nakhumov, 7, and Eva Nakhumov, 5.

Rea Altman died Aug. 12 at the age of 102. She is survived by her daughter, Phyllis Gelb. Sholom Chapels

Bernardo Azernitzky died Sept. 10 at 82. He is survived by his son, Richard. Sholom Chapels

Sylvia Braun died Aug. 24 at 83. She is survived by her son, Jay; and grandchildren. Sholom Chapels

Victor Clafin died Sept. 10 at 86. He is survived by his wife, Paulette; son, Jacques; and granddaughters, Alison August and Ashley. Mount Sinai

Ruth Epstein died Sept. 4 at 95. She is survived by her son, Earl (Helen); grandson, Eric; and granddaughter, Danielle Gebhardt. Hillside

Elias Eshagian died Aug. 8 at 77. He is survived by his wife, Parvin; sons, George, Gilber, Joubin and Roger; 14 grandchildren; brothers, Ezatollah, Mehdi, Benjamin and Maurice; and sisters, Shokat Mishkanian and Farideh Bamshad. Chevra Kadisha

Marvin Freeman died Sept. 7 at 81. He is survived by his wife, Natasha; daughters, Linda Rauch, Traci (Roy) Salter and Karen (Jeffrey) Shapiro; and seven grandchildren. Mount Sinai

Elizabeth Grossinger died Aug. 25 at 86. She is survived by her daughter, Susan (Zev) Bogan. Sholom Chapels

Semo Filbert died Aug. 18 at 81. He is survived by his wife, Helen; daughter, Billie (Jack); and two grandchildren. Sholom Chapels

Edwin Otto Guthman died Aug. 31 at 89. He is survived by his sons, Gary, Les and Edwin; and daughter, Diane Jo Cincino. Hillside

Evelyn Halpern died Sept. 8 at 90. She is survived by her children, Robert (Anneta Posner) and Deena (Jerry Epstein); eight grandchildren; nephew; and nieces. Groman

Eli Barry Hirsh died Sept. 4 at 41. He is survived by his wife, Irit; mother, Toni; and friends, Adina and Moshe Melnick. Hillside

Celia Lillian Kahlenberg died Aug. 27 at 91. She is survived by her sons, Edward (Deana), Robert (Janice) and Sherwood (Rita); daughter, Ruth (Jacob) Bloom; and sister, Rose Lewis. Hillside

Mildred Golick Kauffman died Aug. 27 at 94. She is survived by her son, Ken Golick; and daughter, Gale Gould. Hillside

George Klasser died Aug. 28 at 73. He is survived by his wife, Lorraine; son, Kenneth; daughter, Sandra (Steven) Greenough, and brothers, Alan and Edwin. Hillside

Florence Kaminsky died Sept. 3 at 84. She is survived by her daughters, Karen (Nate) Hoffman and Linda (Michael) Johnson; and brother, Herbert Kapsky. Hillside

Hugo Kren died Sept. 6 at 94. He is survived by his wife, Rosa; daughter, Jeanette (Gary) Lachman; and granddaughters, Heather and Stephnie Lachman. Mount Sinai

Shirley Lane died Sept. 8 at 84. She is survived by her son, Rod; daughters, Laura and Barbara; and three grandchildren. Groman

David Langer died Aug. 30 at 86. He is survived by his wife, Florence; daughter, Andrea; son, Barry; daughter-in-law, Janet; and grandchildren, Robert and Bethany. Hillside

Mira Langer died Sept. 4 at 78. She is survived by her husband, Nathan; sons, Dennis (Susan), David (Melissa) and Bruce (Stefani); seven grandchildren; and sister, Rachel Jaskowitz. Malinow and Silverman

Stuart Levin died Aug. 29 at 88. He is survived by his wife, Jane; sons, Peter (Ruth) and Michael (Lisa); and brother, Maurice LeCove. Hillside

Marion Norma Levinson died Sept. 2 at 79. She is survived by her husband, Bill; and daughters Dharma Khalsa and Nancy Retinoff. Hillside

Robert “Bobby” Mallon died Sept. 10, at the age of 89. He is survived by his daughter, Judith Rojas. Mount Sinai

Joanne Marcus died Aug. 26 at 58. She is survived by her husband, Robert; daughters, Ariane and Alexander; and son, Harry. Hillside

Marvin Marmelstein died Sept. 4 at 81. He is survived by his wife, Roberta; daughter, Wendy Rose; grandson, Bryan Raber; and his partner Jordan Katnik. Hillside

Al Mishkin died Sept. 7 at 95. He is survived by his son, Robert; and daughter, Joyce Saltz. Hillside

Elizabeth Anne Morgan died Sept. 2 at 40. She is survived by her husband, Jack; daughter, Tabitha; and father, Jack Morgan. Hillside

Aaron Peck died Sept. 13 at 69. He is survived by his wife, Linda; son, Anthony (Gayle); daughters, Dena (Shane) Gertsch and Jessica; and three grandchildren. Mount Sinai

Gerald Peck died Sept. 1 at 82. He survived by his wife, Elaine; sons, Bennett and Lawrence; brothers, Robert (Ann) and Burton (Rona); sister, Beverly (Leo); nieces; and nephews. Mount Sinai

Matilda Frances Penny died Sept. 2 at 84. She is survived by her son, Theodore; daughters, Jeanne and Helen; sister, Joyce; and seven grandchildren. Groman

Fanny Pomeranc died Sept. 11 at 86. She is survived by her son, Dennis. Mount Sinai

Bernard Reder died Sept. 6 at 82. He is survived by his wife, Serena; sons, Martin (Susan), Glen (Orly) and Paul (Sherri); daughter, Marina (Spencer) Misraje; seven grandchildren; sister, Gloria (Rudy) Diamond; and half-sister, Kathy (Ed) Stacy. Mount Sinai

Julio Roberts died Aug. 6 at 90. He is survived by his wife, Helen; daughter, Paula (Larry); and three grandchildren. Sholom Chapels

Shirley Rocklin died Sept. 3 at age 98. She is survived by her sons, Ted and Milton; three grandchildren; and five great-grandchildren. Groman

Michael Alan Rosenaur died Aug. 30 at 30. He is survived by his father, Leonard (Martine) Rosenaur; mother Hope (Richard) Shaw; sisters, Lara (Kyle) Polvy and Chanel Rosenaur; aunt, Sybil Bergman, and cousins, Jayand Lance Bergman. Hillside

David Schwartz died Sept. 2 at 86. He is survived by his daughter, Lisa Leffton; and son, Howard. Malinow and Silverman

Ruth Simon died Aug. 29 at 86. She is survived by her sons, Andy, Peter, Michael and Howard. Hillside

David Slobin died on Aug. 9 at 93. He is survived by his wife, Evelene; children, Myron (Mary Ann), Ellen (Gershon) and Barry (Carol); and 14 grandchildren. Chevra Kadisha

Adolf Joseph Snyder died Sept. 9 at 89. He is survived by his wife, Marian; son, Larry (Bobbie); daughter, Michelle (Henry) Wisch; and grandchildren, David and Robin. Mount Sinai

Esther Terry died Aug. 31 at 89. She is survived by her daughters, Elaine Dreyfuss, Shane Cronenweth and Lori Erlendsson; two grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren. Malinow and Silverman

Joseph Weiner died Aug. 1 at 92. He is survived by his son, Jerry (Patti); daughter, Miriam (Steve) Kosberg; seven grandchidlren; and 10 great-grandchildren. Sholom Chapels

Sarah Weinstein died Sept. 7 at 95. She is survived by her daughters, Lois (Rabbi Moshe) Rothblum and Marilyn (Alex) Ehrlich; and three grandchildren. Mount Sinai

Thelma Yaffe died Sept. 11 at 90. She is survived by her daughters, Lois Bloch, Arlene (Marvin) Garfield, Roberta (Barry) Zwick and Martha (David) Uslaner; seven grandchildren; and six great-grandchildren. Mount Sinai

Survivor, rabbi recall horror of Metrolink train crash

Richard Slavett normally takes the 4:36 p.m. Metrolink train from Glendale to his home in Thousand Oaks, but last Friday his daughter-in-law was flying in from the East Coast and he decided to go home early.

Slavett, 69, owner of the Glendale Tire Co. of Glendale, caught the 3:45 p.m. train instead, took an aisle seat at the rear of the train, and fell fast asleep.

The next thing he knew he was lying face down at the front of the compartment following a horrific crash between his Metrolink train and a freight train, which killed 26 people and injured 138.

Next to him were two bodies, one bleeding profusely. Slavett painfully crawled to retrieve his briefcase, and a lunchbox holding the day’s cash receipts.

“It was like a scene from a disaster movie,” he said.

Agonizingly, Slavett crawled to the exit, until two men carried him to a nearby boulder. An hour later he was taken to the triage area and there LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and County Sheriff Lee Baca, who both know Slavett, came over to comfort him.

Three hours later he was transferred to Kaiser Permanente Hospital in Woodland Hills. Miraculously, he had no broken bones, but suffered an excruciatingly painful torn groin.

Despite the pain, Slavett managed to attend a dinner Monday evening, marking his installation as lieutenant governor of the California Kiwanis.

Now slowly recovering, the father of three and grandfather of six said, in a voice chocked with emotion, “I got to get well fast so I can go back to singing in the choir at Or Ami [in Calabasas].”

Rabbi Leonard Muroff was driving to his home in Agoura Hills after conducting services at Temple Ner Tamid in Downey, when he heard that families of those thought to have been on the train were told to assemble at Chatsworth High School and wait for news.

As a full-time chaplain with Vitas Innovative Hospice Care, he immediately changed course and headed for the high school.

The place was jammed with families and friends, some standing in stunned silence, others close to hysteria, alongside aid workers from the fire department, sheriff’s office, Red Cross, and the mayor’s crisis team, headed by Jeff Zimmerman.

Working alongside a Protestant and Buddhist chaplain, Muroff worked to pinpoint the locations of the injured, scattered throughout some 20 hospitals, from Simi Valley to the USC-County Hospital.

Muroff encountered some Jewish families, although the faith of the affected families made no difference to the three chaplains.

Around midnight, officials of the Coroner’s office received a list of those who had died in the crash and began to notify the waiting relatives.

What do you say to the bereaved in such a moment, Muroff was asked.

“There are no magic words,” he answered, “no easy phrases like ‘he has gone to a better place’ or ‘God will embrace her’.”

“All you can do is let them cry it out, say that you are with them, that they are not alone.”

Muroff pulled a 17-hour shift, interrupted only by morning prayers at Temple Aliyah in Woodland Hills. He returned to the high school bearing 13 bagles with cream cheese, supplied by the temple.

Muroff, 48, is a native of Toronto and has been a hospice chaplain for two years, previously with the Jewish Homes for the Aging.

There have been many emotional and agonizing moments during that time, he said, but nothing had been as intensive as the 17 hours at Chatsworth High.

q 4 u re metrolink

Man drowns in Lake Piru while rescuing daughter

Close to 400 people packed the second-floor Moshe Ganz Hall on La Brea Blvd. Tuesday morning to pay respects for Naftoli Smolyanksy, who died in a boating accident Aug. 25.

To accommodate the overflowing crowds, speaker systems were set up in adjacent rooms and outside. This enabled an additional 300 community members to commemorate the Russian immigrant. Smolyansky, 39, drowned after saving his 5-year-old daughter who had fallen in Lake Piru in Ventura County.

Family members, friends and rabbis were brought to tears at the levaya (vigil), where speakers included Rabbi Aharon Dov Freidman, Rabbi Gershon Bess, Paul Greenberg, Rabbi Chaim Fasman, and Rabbi Baruch Grabon.

They described Smolyansky’s struggles as a young immigrant, his study in Israel, his dedication to his wife and five children and his generosity and commitment to helping those in need.

“[Smolyansky] represented living Torah,” Rabbi Aharon Dov Freidman said.

Smolyansky had taken his 9-year-old son and 5- and 7-year-old daughters out on the lake Monday afternoon when the youngest daughter fell off the boat. All of the children were wearing life vests. Smolyansky immediately leapt into the water to rescue the girl. As she clung to him, his two other children, who witnessed the tragic event, could see their father quickly losing strength. In a final bout of strength, Smolyansky was able to get his daughter onto the boat as it drifted away. Smolyanksy was unable to swim to the boat and did not resurface. Several reports say that his children heard him say he would not make it.

A massive search was conducted by the community as people threw their support to the family. Ventura County Sheriff’s Department responded instantly with helicopters, a dive team and a rescue swimmer. Partnered with the Sheriff’s Department, Hatzolah of Los Angeles — the Volunteer Emergency Medical Rescue Team that serves much of the Orthodox community — quickly reacted in addition to services of L.A. County Board of Supervisor Zev Yaroslovsky, the Ventura County Board of Supervisors, five Ventura County Fire Department units (including a swift water team) and Lake Piru park rangers.

The search continued until the body was found on Monday, a week after the disappearance, with an official recess each evening, though many continued to search, according to Hatzolah Coordinator, Rabbi Michoel Bloom. By the second day of the efforts, Hatzolah had rented all available boats. Bloom estimated that at least 150 people helped each day to look for Smolyansky, many of whom did not have any relation to him. Many of them were simply heartbroken by the events, Bloom said.

Sources say that on Monday, Sept. 1, a group of 10 rabbis gathered on a boat in the lake and recited prayers in hopes of finding the body. A lit candle mounted on a flat piece of bread was set afloat as the group waited for it to stop moving. The rabbis then dropped a stone into the water, and within a few hours, reports say, the body allegedly rose to the surface.

Smolyansky was a member of Congregation Kehilas Yaakov and the Los Angeles Kollel, both on Beverly Boulevard. Fellow congregants remember him for his generosity, welcoming smile and modesty. Since immigrating to the United States, Smolyansky had become a successful businessman, owning several adult day-care facilities. He also was known as a major donor throughout the community.

One story from the vigil described how Smolyansky once paid for all the funeral preparations for a family who could not afford them. Another story told how he once helped a financially struggling man cope with his misfortune.

The final speaker, Rabbi Grabon, after thanking volunteers and rangers for their immeasurable support, said his final words to Smolyansky’s 9-year old son: “Your father loved you, and we loved your father.”

The funeral and burial followed the levaya at Mt. Carmel Cemetery.

Hyler begins to heal

Talent Manager and producer Joan Hyler is on the slow road to recovery. After a devastating accident that nearly killed her last Friday Aug. 15, Hyler has undergone multiple surgeries to assess and repair damage to her organs, arms and legs. After being struck by a car on the Pacific Coast Highway, Hyler sustained severe injuries, which reportedly included a collapsed lung, internal bleeding and broken legs. There was initial concern that Hyler might not survive the weekend.

But doctors became optimistic on Tuesday, after a CAT scan revealed that brain swelling was minimal. When Hyler responded positively to a reduction in her sedation level, it was determined she could undergo surgeries to repair her legs.

Following a successful surgery last Friday morning, doctors are increasingly optimistic that Hyler is responding well to treatment.

Yesterday morning, Hyler underwent a six-hour surgery during which doctors attempted to repair a badly broken right leg by inserting a pin in her tibia bone. During that same surgery, they also inserted a screw in her left ankle. Doctors had planned to repair damage to her right upper-arm, but decided to delay further procedures and allow Hyler to rest. Hyler has since been taken off of sedation, but continues to receive a morphine drip for pain.

Her progress will be closely monitored throughout the weekend.

Hyler is a prominent player in both Hollywood and the Jewish community. A former vice president of William Morris Agency, she once represented clients Bob Dylan, Madonna and Andy Warhol. Today, Hyler is a prominent talent manager and producer, representing A-list actors, including Oscar-winner Diane Lane.

Hyler has also exhibited a steadfast commitment to the Jewish community and its causes. As president of Women in Film, Hyler created the Morning Star Commission, an organization founded by Hadassah to promote more diverse portrayals of women in media and entertainment. She also co-created the Jewish Image Awards, which celebrates outstanding portrayals of Jewish heritage in film and television.

After it was reported that Hyler went through 40 units of blood last weekend following her accident, friends and colleagues in both the Entertainment and Jewish communities began organizing blood drives on her behalf. Endeavor Talent Agency held an in-house blood drive last Wednesday, where 82 people contributed 61 units of blood. IKAR, a spiritual community in which Hyler is involved, is also encouraging people to donate blood tomorrow, Aug. 24 (see details below).

The latest report on UCLA’s carepages:

Last Friday night was the lowest of all low points. Since that point we have measured time in 12 hour and 24 hour increments. This is going to be a long difficult struggle. Still, at this point, one week later, we have made only progress, with no emergencies and no setbacks.

Joan rested comfortably during the night. She tolerated the surgery well. The swelling in her face has greatly decreased. At various times she has appeared to recognize familiar voices and has started to fleetingly open her eyes in response. They had suspended feeding her [intravenously] while she was waiting for the surgery; that feeding is now resumed.

The third part of yesterday’s surgery—the part that was not completed—the insertion of a plate and screws to repair the humerus—is now scheduled for this coming Friday.

The action for today is for Joan to undergo an MRI and a C-T scan. The ICU is prepping her for these even as this is being written. Joan had been in a support collar from the beginning and they are now thinking of removing it, hence the MRI, to see if they can proceed. Relative to the C-T scan, Joan had suffered a substantial impact to the head, and while there was no fracture, there had been an internal bleed. The C-T scan will give us an up to date picture of where we are on this front.


IKAR blood drive:

Sunday August 24

9 a.m.-Noon

Children’s Hospital

4650 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles

Donate anytime:

UCLA Medical Center

757 Westwood Plaza, Los Angeles

(310) 825-9111

Defy Gravity

Dan Brodsky-Chenfeld and I shook hands 20 minutes before we were to jump out of an airplane together at 12,500 feet. It would be my first solo jump. Dan has made some 23,000 — he’s stopped counting except by the thousands.

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Brodsky-Chenfeld smiling as the author falls to earth.


I came to the Perris Skydiving Center, at the eastern end of Riverside County, for two reasons. A publicist for the center had contacted me to promote the National Skydiving Championships, to be held there over Labor Day.

“What,” I asked, “does that have to do with The Jewish Journal?”

“Dan Brodsky-Chenfeld,” the publicist said.

The other reason I came to the skydiving center was to do something I’d always wanted to do: jump.

The chance to make my first jump under the guidance of Brodsky-Chenfeld, who happens to be Jewish, was worth challenging my wife’s strict no-skydiving-while-still-a-father rule. Brodsky-Chenfeld has won 16 national and eight international championships. In a sport that demands athleticism and death-defying cool, Brodsky-Chenfeld is world-renowned. In the skydiving world, he’s known as Dan B.C.

“He draws the best competitors from all over the world,” said Larry Bagley, who oversees competition for the United States Parachutist Association. “You think: Dan B.C. is the person I want to be when I grow up, if I ever grow up.”

That Dan B.C. is Jewish has to be counterintuitive. Take away the short, illustrious history of Israeli combat paratroopers, and you won’t find many Jews jumping out of airplanes. History has taught us that danger will find us soon enough without our having to chase it.

“My parents,” he told me as we walked toward the small, waiting airplane, “yeah, they probably prefer I did something else.”

Family lore has it that Brodsky-Chenfeld, who is 43, was jumping off his bunk bed as a 5-year-old growing up in Columbus, Ohio, using his pillowcase as a parachute. He got his first real opportunity at 18, at Ohio State University, and he was hooked. Soon he was running a nearby drop zone, working his way up the ranks of divers in the nascent sport of skydiving.

Competitive skydiving looks like daredevilry, but Brodsky-Chenfeld and others are out to prove it is a demanding competition, as deserving of Olympic status as skiing or gymnastics.

“All people usually see are the stunts,” Brodsky-Chenfeld said. “They never see the sport.”

Divers exit the plane going 90-100 m.p.h. at 12,000 feet. As their bodies reach terminal velocity, 120 m.p.h., they begin a series of timed maneuvers, building human formations of four to 16 divers in a required sequence. Plummeting toward the ground at 200 feet per second, they guide their bodies into place with tremendous delicacy and discipline. They must do all this in 35-50 seconds — then separate, pull their ripcords and land.

A photographer, who is part of the jump team, records the formation for the judges, who determine winners on a point system. At the Labor Day weekend competition at Perris Valley Skydiving, visitors can watch 750 skydivers compete in 26 events — the largest national event in history.

“You can fly up there,” Brodsky-Chenfeld said. “You can go forward, backward, spin around. You surf the air like you surf water.”

The sport involves rigorous physical conditioning combined with meditation. Since divers get very little actual airtime to practice, they rehearse on the ground and push themselves to visualize linking sequences in their minds. Brodsky-Chenfeld, who is general manager of the skydiving center, also trains teams from around the world, including Israel.

He’s proud of that, and of the Star of David configuration he organized at the Los Angeles Jewish Festival in 1996 — 48 skydivers jumping from three planes. Until last year, he also held the record for organizing the world’s largest link-up: 300 divers from 14 planes.

But the challenge of the sport itself is his primary passion, and Brodsky-Chenfeld combines an athlete’s well-muscled frame with a calm, confident Zen-master demeanor.

As he walks me toward the waiting airplane, I look down and notice he is wearing sandals.

My skydiving instruction — which the skydiving center paid for — began in front of a video monitor in a small room. On screen, a lawyer with no discernable personality –“I represent the skydiving school. I am not your lawyer” — informed me that skydiving can lead to serious injury or death. By signing the eight-page waiver, he said, I cannot sue, and if I do sue, I most likely will not recover damages, and that, if I am able to win damages, I must understand the school is not insured.

“Now that I’ve covered all the grim legal aspects,” the lawyer concludes, “why don’t you go and have some fun and be safe.”

You can do a tandem dive harnessed to an instructor, or you can take a four-hour course, then jump accompanied by, but not attached to, two jumpmasters. I chose the latter, and paid very, very careful attention.

“The ground can come up on you very fast,” instructor Josh Hall said. “Skydivers think a lot about the ground.”

Landings, though, are soft, thanks to a new generation of glider-like parachutes. Those old mushroom shaped ones, Hall explained, created nothing but “human lawn darts.”

Brodsky-Chenfeld and my other jumpmaster, Kai Wolf, told me the key is to breathe and relax. They smiled a lot and took deep, exaggerated breaths. Other than the fact that I was wearing a jumpsuit and a parachute pack in an airplane whose side door slid wide open at 8,000 feet, it was just like a Pilates class.

I’d done my research and knew, rationally, that skydiving was somewhat safer than general aviation, but certainly less safe than not skydiving.

“Think about it,” Larry Bagley said later. “There’s a slim chance that it’s his turn and your turn to go at the same time.”

On April 22, 1992, Brodsky-Chenfeld and 22 other skydivers climbed into a de Havilland Twin Otter at Perris Valley, ready for another round of practice. At 700 feet, water in the fuel supply stalled the engine and the plane plummeted nose first into the ground. The pilot and 15 skydivers died — one of the worst aircraft accidents in skydiving history.

Brodsky-Chenfeld was pulled from the wreckage. He suffered a broken neck, a collapsed lung, numerous broken bones and internal injuries. His close friend James Layne, sitting across from him in the airplane, died instantly.

Brodsky-Chenfeld spent six weeks in a coma, and has no recollection of the crash.

In the hospital he’d lost 40 pounds, and wore a halo screwed into his skull to limit his movements while his broken back tried to heal. A wrong move or a fall could have paralyzed him for life, let alone jumping again out of an airplane.

“There was never any doubt in my mind that if I could physically do it, I would,” he said. “It’s the job I love.”

Just months later, Brodsky-Chenfeld, still in a neck brace, began competing. His team, Arizona Airspeed, took the bronze in the November 1992 Nationals. In 1995, Airspeed beat its trans-Atlantic archrivals, the French Excaliburs, to win an international gold medal.

If it sounds like the movie “Rocky,” it reads like it, too — a screenplay of Brodsky-Chenfeld’s ordeal has begun circulating through town.

Brodsky-Chenfeld said the accident didn’t change his view of skydiving, but of living.

“I understood how fragile it all is,” he said. “I woke up in a different world than the one I passed out in. There were people gone whom I was close to. So you learn to make sure you get the most out of each moment, and make sure the people who mean the most to you know they do.”

Brodsky-Chenfeld met his wife, Kristi, when she came to him for skydiving lessons She went on to make more than 300 jumps, but left the sport when she became pregnant with their first child. He carts around his two children, ages 10 and 6, in a white Volvo station wagon.

“It’s a safe car,” he explained.

I have two children, too, and they’re the last images in my mind before I leap out between Brodsky-Chenfeld and Wolf, into the air.

The feeling is indescribable — a sensation of flying, not falling. My mind frizzes between sensory overload, sheer terror, and wonder.

A videographer, Mike Kindsvater, is circling me with a camera. When I watch later, I’ll see my lips frozen in fear, and Brodsky-Chenfeld, smiling broadly.

At 5,000 feet I wave the instructors away, pull my cord and swing upward, suspended by my thankfully perfect chute. I spend the five-minute float down uttering prayers of thanksgiving, curses and exultations.

When I land, I want to take the next plane up and do it again.

I told this to Dan B.C.

“Yeah,” he said. “You have to get up there to understand.”

The USPA National Skydiving Championships will be held Aug. 23-Sept. 11. For more information, visit www.skydiveperris.com or call (800) 759-3483.


Remembering Tibor

As Shavuot approaches, I can’t help but remember the afternoon of the first day of Shavuot two years ago when my neighborsand I stood outside our homes and wondered whether terrorists had struck again, as the sound of sirens permeated the air and an army of helicopters circled the smoke-filled sky above the Fairfax area. We soon learned that a small airplane had crashed into an apartment building, killing the four people on board, as well as one apartment resident, 78-year-old Holocaust survivor, Tibor Reis.

Since that day, I have thought a lot about Tibor and learned much about this kind and humble man. Tibor had been studying at his beloved shul, Young Israel of Los Angeles, until 2 a.m. on the first night of Shavuot. Before attending services early the next morning, he changed his regular routine and went to the mikvah, the ritual bath. (This act would take on a much greater significance after his death because his body was too charred to perform taharah — the ritual pre-burial washing.)

Tibor had been a member of Young Israel for more than 30 years. During that time, he had never recited the haftorah. He always deferred, saying they should give the honor to someone more worthy. At the synagogue that morning, the gabbai told him that no one was more deserving and so, on the last day of his life, Tibor had the last aliyah and chanted the haftorah for the first time. The haftorah described an esoteric view of Heaven with such verses as: “The heavens were opened and I saw visions of God.”

After shul, he had planned to go to a friend’s house for lunch, however he made the fateful decision to go home and get some much-needed rest. At 4 p.m., as he slept, the plane plummeted into the building. Everything in his apartment was destroyed by the fire — with the exception of his tallit and his kittel. He was buried in Israel, wearing those garments.

Tibor was born in Czechoslovakia and grew up in the city of Komoren, on the Hungarian-Czechoslovakian border. He was liberated from Mauthausen concentration camp, where he helped his father survive. His mother and two brothers perished, while two other brothers, one now living in New York, the other in Israel, survived.

After the war, while living in Komoren under a very oppressive regime, Tibor was caught helping Jews escape to Austria, and was put into a Russian prison for three years. Although he was tortured, he never revealed the names of those working with him.

He was finally freed after brilliantly pleading his case before a judge. After his acquittal, a kind non-Jewish stranger helped him escape to West Berlin. He eventually made his way to America, and lived in Los Angeles for more than 30 years. He lived alone and had never married; his shul was the center of his life.

Young Israel’s Rabbi Shalom Rubanowitz found special significance in Tibor’s Hebrew name, Moshe Yehuda. He said King David, who was a member of the Yehuda Tribe, also died on Shavuot; and that Moshe, who gave us the Torah on Shavuot, was considered our most humble Jew. Tibor was a serious scholar who studied every day; he spoke six languages. Young Israel is in the process of creating a library in Tibor’s memory.

Tibor took the bus downtown every day, where he repaired watches in the jewelry district. He had modest means but always gave tzedakah and tried to help others. He visited homebound people in the neighborhood on a regular basis and often sent money to his brothers and their families.

Tibor enjoyed cooking for himself and told everyone at the shul what he prepared for Shabbat, or about a great soup he made. He frequently shopped on Fairfax Avenue, and was somewhat of an institution to everyone. He walked all over and loved to schmooze along the way. People often helped carry his packages or gave him a ride home.

Those familiar with Tibor’s death ask the same question: Why did this good and decent man, who survived concentration camps and a Russian prison, die in such a horrible, violent manner? Unfortunately, we will never know the answer to this cruelest of ironies.

However, we can honor Tibor’s memory by making a special effort to reach out to those who are alone; and during Yizkor this Shavuot, we can take an extra moment to think of Tibor, as well as those who died who have no one to remember them.

Despite innumerable hardships, Tibor maintained a positive outlook and accomplished many things during his lifetime. Nothing exemplifies this more profoundly than the touching scene that took place after his memorial service at Young Israel before his body was sent to Israel for burial.

As the casket was carried down the street to his apartment building and the awaiting hearse, the sidewalks on both sides of the street were lined with an eclectic mix of Fairfax area residents. Many people cried as they stood quietly and respectfully, honoring Tibor one last time.

Rest in peace Tibor.

To contribute to the library, make checks payable to: Young Israel of L.A.-Tibor Reis Library Fund, 660 N. Spaulding Ave., L.A., CA 90036.

Gloria Baran develops social action and community service programs for children, including a variety of tzedakah projects for Camp Ramah.


Power of Prayer?

In the wee small hours of Dec. 7, 2003, my husband and I got the phone call that every parent dreads. A matter-of-fact voice said, "This is UCLA Medical Center. Your son, Jeffrey, has been hit by a car. He’s got at least a couple of broken bones, but he’s alert and he’s asking for you."

As I gasped, unable to take it all in, the voice added, "Your son was very lucky."

Five minutes later, Bernie and I rushed to the emergency room. I consciously held my fears at arm’s length. There was so much I didn’t know. What was our 21-year-old son, a senior at Occidental College in Eagle Rock, doing in Santa Monica the weekend before his final exams? Who hit him? And, above all, how was this accident going to change his life?

When, after an hour of waiting, we finally saw Jeffrey, we felt a certain relief. Yes, he was bruised and bloody — doctors had literally stapled together a nasty gash in his scalp. His left shoulder, broken and dislocated, was in a sling and he wore a precautionary collar keeping his neck immobilized. But although he’d bounced off the hood of an oncoming car, flown through the air and landed face down in a pool of his own blood, his legs were remarkably unscathed. Equally important, his spirit remained unbroken. As we waited endlessly for test results, he sang us all the verses of the old Groucho Marx ditty, "Lydia, the Tattooed Lady."

The really tough time came the following day, when we learned that a faint shadow on an X-ray signaled a broken neck. Suddenly, a major operation loomed. A surgeon we had never met would hold our son’s life in his hands. It was then that we placed the first of many calls to our rabbi, Michael Gotlieb of Kehillat Ma’arav. I’m grateful that Rabbi Gotlieb views hospitals as holy places, where healing takes many forms. His visits were invaluable, as we all grappled with questions about luck, fate, and the will of God.

Hospitals house people of every race, creed and condition. Jeffrey’s roommate, with whom he shared confidences late into the night, was a young Mexican with a brand-new kidney. Our son’s doctors and nurses came from all corners of the globe: the spine surgeon from Iran, his assistant from India, the shoulder expert from Brooklyn, a favorite nurse from Romania. Still, it is the Jewish moments at the hospital that I most vividly remember.

First, there were the calls and visits from members of our congregation. They gave us not only their good wishes but also their expertise. Several with professional ties to UCLA helped us cut through the red tape so endemic to large institutions. Others who had survived medical trauma shared the lessons they had learned. We also gained strength from the hospital’s Jewish chaplain, Rabbi Kalman Winnick, who years before had suffered a grave neck injury too. He was uniquely able to understand our son’s hopes and fears.

Friday, Dec. 12, was the day set for Jeffrey’s 1 p.m. surgery, when the spine team would remove his crushed sixth vertebra, replace it with a cadaver bone, and insert a strip of space-age titanium anchoring it to the intact vertebrae above and below. The goal was to stabilize his neck, protecting the spinal column from a future jolt that could cause paralysis. Of course we were both impatient and terrified. The day dragged on. Jeffrey was finally wheeled off at 4 p.m., for what was billed as a three- or four-hour operation.

While waiting, we attended a short but very sweet Shabbat service, led by a rabbinic intern named Micah Hyman in the hospital’s tiny chapel. Choosing passages that focused on healing, he gave our spirits a lift. But as the operation entered its fifth hour, I could no longer fight off my fears. I walked out into the darkness of the medical plaza, envying my Orthodox friends who always have the Psalms at their fingertips. Praying was all I could do for my son, but I lacked the words I needed. At last I dredged up Psalm 121: "I will lift up mine eyes to the hills, from whence cometh my help."

When I re-entered the waiting area at 9 p.m., I spotted Jeffrey’s surgeon talking to my husband. Both were smiling.

Today, Jeffrey is back to his old routine. He’s driving, attending classes and making up those finals he missed in December. The neck brace he wore night and day for six weeks is now a thing of the past. I don’t credit my prayers with bringing him to this point. I know that medical skill and extraordinary luck were also involved. But I’m convinced that these were words I needed to say, at a moment when words were all I had. To the end of my days, I’ll be thankful. Hallelujah.

Beverly Gray is The Journal’s former education editor and author of “Ron Howard: From Mayberry to the Moon…and Beyond” (Rutledge Hill Press, 2003) and a biography of Roger Corman.

Clarinetist Finds His Klezmer Voice

"I came to klezmer quite by accident," said virtuoso clarinetist David Krakauer.

He was a noted classical musician around 1987 when a chance encounter on a Manhattan bus changed the direction of his career.

Seated nearby was the accordionist from a klezmer band that played in front of Zabar’s, across the street from Krakauer’s 10th-floor apartment on the Upper West Side.

"The music used to waft up through my windows," he said. "Suddenly, I realized it had made an impression."

The son of a psychiatrist and a violinist, Krakauer had known little about Jewish music or culture growing up in an assimilated home in Manhattan. Yiddish was the language his grandparents had used when they did not want younger relatives to understand their conversation. At Juilliard, Krakauer assumed he would embark on a career of playing Brahms and Mahler with perhaps some jazz on the side. He did so while making a name for himself as a member of the Aspen Wind Quintet, by performing with new music groups such as Continuum and teaching at Vassar and the Manhattan School.

But Jewish music crept up on Krakauer, 42, who’ll perform his unique brand of nouveau klezmer at the Skirball Cultural Center March 21. Around 1978, he said, he attended a concert by the then-elderly clarinetist, David Tarras, who had merged klezmer and swing in the 1920s.

"He didn’t play so well anymore … but there was just something about his sound that gave me the shivers," Krakauer said. "[It] was the rhythm, the cadence, the way the sounds went up and down. It reminded me of my Belorussian grandmother’s voice, when she said things like ‘David, so nu?’"

Krakauer’s own gravely voice crackled with excitement as he recalled meeting that klezmer accordionist on the 104 bus headed uptown in the late 1980s.

"She asked me to recommend a clarinetist who could play with her band, and I think she assumed I’d name a student," he said. "Instead, the words spontaneously flew out of my mouth: ‘I’ll do it.’ It was as if I instinctively realized, ‘I know nothing about being Jewish, but I want to connect.’ I felt like klezmer could be my connection, through sounds, notes and music."

So Krakauer began studying old recordings, learning the proper ornaments and the lilting or frenetic technique required to perform traditional dances such as the doina or freylach. He played weddings and bar mitzvahs, assuming the endeavor would become a musical hobby, not a career.

But then he was invited to play with The Klezmatics, an American band spurring the exuberant klezmer revival of the 1980s. When he traveled to Germany with that group around 1989, he performed in front of thousands of dancing, cheering non-Jews. The same thing happened throughout Eastern Europe and especially in Poland, where Krakauer returned more than seven times to teach and perform. While coaching a group of young musicians in a ramshackle barn off a dirt road in Sejny, he recalled, even a dour farmer paused to tap his feet in the adjacent field.

Of the continuing non-Jewish obsession with klezmer, Krakauer said, "I think enough time has passed, since the Holocaust, for Europeans to wonder, ‘What Jewish culture have we been missing?’ We klezmorim are viewed as representatives of that part of the Eastern European soul that was destroyed in the Shoah."

But Krakauer, like The Klezmatics, wasn’t content just to perform traditional pieces in a straightforward style. In the mid-1990s, he formed his own band, Klezmer Madness!, which weds classic Jewish music with contemporary forms such as jazz, rock and hip-hop. Today, he is part of a wave of musicians who are continuing to push the klezmer envelope, according to Yale Strom, author of 2003’s "The Book of Klezmer." Such bands include the world fusion-infused Flying Bulgars and Strom’s Afro-Cuban Klazzj.

Krakauer’s latest forward-thinking CD is "Live in Krakow," which he recorded last year in the city that bears his name. The energetic album features samples and beatbox by DJ Socalled; it also includes Krakauer’s original composition, "Klezmer a la Bechet," based on an imaginary 1920s meeting between black New Orleans jazz clarinetist Sidney Bechet and the Ukrainian Jewish clarinetist Naftule Brandwein. Another track, "Love Song for Lemberg/Lvov," combines a waltzy melody with atonal sounds mimicking "screams of the Jewish dead," said Krakauer, who is still prominent in classical music circles.

But even as he stretches the genre, he still wants klezmer to sound like klezmer. It has to remind Krakauer of the music he heard wafting in through his windows back in 1987: "It has to suggest my grandmother’s voice," he said.

For information about the Skirball concert, call (310) 440-4500. For tickets, call (323) 655-8587.

Sean’s Last Ride

On Aug. 21, my dear friend Sean Nova, a beloved member of the Pico-Robertson and greater Los Angeles Jewish communities, passed away in a freak accident while repairing electronic equipment in his studio. Sean was only 30 years old.

I first met Sean in 1996, several years after he moved here from Israel. Born Chen Novakovitch, he finally changed his name to Sean because people thought "Chen" sounded Chinese, and "Hen" sounded too much like poultry. Sean was one of the first people to attend my Friday night program, Aaron’s Tent, and was well known to many in the young Israeli Community as well as Sinai Temple’s Friday Night Live.

Sean had black hair and striking green eyes. He worked briefly as a model in Israel and was often mistaken for actor Peter Gallagher. He was a prodigy who won scholarships for his musical achievements. At a very young age, his success in conducting, composing, trumpet performance and sound engineering led him to brief careers as both a session player and a sound engineer in Israel. He worked with some of the country’s top producers, including one of Bruce Springsteen’s early engineers, Louis Lahav. While he was in Israel, he quickly ascended to top post-production positions on television shows and motion pictures for the Walt Disney Company, Fox Studios and Saban Entertainment.

Sean’s love of music and recording brought him first to New York, where he worked in various studios, and ultimately to Los Angeles, where he worked for several record companies. Within his first year in California, he founded Sonic Mastering Studios, which eventually became one of the leading mastering facilities in its bracket. Sean’s clients included some of the biggest acts and labels in the industry, including Elton John, Madonna, Paul Simon, Sony Music, RCA and Warner Bros.

Sean was also an inventor, creating a technology called Equalizer Harmonics (Weiss Engineering Ltd.) and co-developing another called Sonic CD Protection. He had most recently fulfilled a personal dream by founding his own record label, America Records. I believe that the name sprang from his love of America and all of the promise that it held for him.

Despite his success, Sean never lost touch with his friends, and would often take time out from his lucrative studio work to help people do menial things like install software or repair computers. He was incredibly kind and generous. At Jewish events, he’d volunteer to drive a stranger home, no matter how far out of his way the trip would take him.

Although Sean was religious as a young boy, on the road to music he left the path of observance. He would always tell me how "one day" he hoped to become observant again.

In the last six months of his life, at the height of his commercial success, Sean began doing teshuvah and returning to his religious roots, at a very fast pace. I would regularly see him davening at Aish HaTorah, an Orthodox shul in the Pico-Robertson area. He became fastidious in his observance of Shabbat, walking home four miles every Friday night from shul, and then walking back another four the next morning. At the end of the Saturday night services, he would always be the last person to leave the shul, remaining to daven with a focus and intensity that implied: "I have so much more to say."

I saw him less than a month ago at shul as Shabbat ended. He had one of the firmest handshakes I had ever felt in my life; it came from his study of Krav Maga.

"Do you need a ride home?" he asked me. Those were the last words he spoke to me. I can still feel the grip of his handshake, and his voice still rattles around in my head.

Sadly, now his voice can exist only in my head. His parents have returned his body to Israel for burial and I know now that ironically, he has gone on his final "ride home."

May his memory be a blessing to all of those who knew him.

Sean Nova is survived by his father, Elan Novakovitch; mother, Yaara Wein; and sisters, Sella and Hilla Novakovitch. A memorial service will be held Sunday, Sept. 21 at 5 p.m. at the Aish HaTorah Center, 9100 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles.

Aaron Shohet Kemp is a theatrical representative for SAG and founder of Aaron’s Tent Jewish Singles Program.

Right Place, Right Time

It was Sunday afternoon, July 6, 2003, and I was approaching the end of a successful three-week mission to Israel dedicated to responding to a new wave of missionary activity. In addition to lectures, news interviews and meetings with government officials, my colleagues and I distributed thousands of copies of a new Hebrew version of Jews for Judaism’s counter-missionary handbook “The Jewish Response To Missionaries.” That day I was traveling by car, with my wife, Dvora, and our son, from the northern town of Tsfat to Tel Aviv.

Around 4 p.m. we decided to take a rest stop. Just before the Zikhron Ya’akov interchange, we exited Highway 70 and pulled up to a small restaurant located about 50 feet from the highway. As we exited our vehicle we heard the sound of screeching tires and turned toward the highway to witness a horrific accident. A white taxi traveling at high speed ran straight into a pedestrian who was walking along the side of the highway. I saw and heard the impact, and watched as the pedestrian was thrown into the air and did a complete somersault over the car, landing on the pavement headfirst.

I’ve been police chaplain for more than 10 years with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, the Los Angeles Airport Police and the LAPD and have responded to numerous crisis situations. I’m also trained in first aid, CPR, crisis counseling and advanced critical incident stress management. Within seconds, my years of training kicked in and I helped take control of the situation.

People around me were staring in shock and disbelief. I yelled to them to call for help. My command shook them out their stupor and some immediately ran inside the restaurant and called for emergency services.

I turned my attention back to the highway and ran the 50 feet, jumped the guardrail and kneeled next to the victim. The 14-year-old girl was lying motionless on her side with blood pouring from the back of her head and mouth. I was joined by Danny Eitan, a retired paratrooper and officer of the Israeli army, who had been driving in the opposite direction when he witnessed the accident. Together, we checked for breathing and a pulse. Once we realized both breathing and circulation were absent, we started CPR. Danny opened the airway and handled the breathing and I started chest compressions.

Each time I finished the chest compressions I shouted “od paam” (“again”) to Danny, indicating that he should give her two breaths. This continued for about four repetitions until we revived her.

I did a physical assessment for additional body damage and did not notice any other major external bleeding. A doctor visiting the country arrived on scene. I then turned my attention to the victim’s three friends who were standing by the side of the highway, shaking uncontrollably and crying. I removed them from the accident scene and took them inside the restaurant, had them sit down, supplied them with cold water and offered words of hope. After finding out the victim’s first name, “Hadas,” I offered a brief prayer and left her friends under the supervision of my wife — a licensed therapist.

Since it was extremely warm outside, we wanted to shield the victim from the sun. I requested that some form of material be brought to the side of the victim and a makeshift canopy was erected out of a large cardboard box.

Returning to the victim’s side, I held her head in my hands to prevent further trauma. She kept trying to pull my hand away, but with the help of several individuals who held her arms I stabilized her head and neck. Using her first name we spoke reassuring words of encouragement until the ambulance arrived.

Hadas was taken to a hospital in Hadera where they treated her internal injuries. She was then transferred to a Tel Aviv trauma center for her head injuries. After four days of treatment, she was listed as “out of danger” and is expected to make a full recovery.

Thanks to my training I was able to react professionally, but it was more than training that saved her life.

After the ambulance took Hadas to the hospital, Danny turned to me and said, “I wasn’t supposed to be in this spot at this time.”

I told him that in a million years I wouldn’t have expected to be here either — the “shortcut” given to me that morning took me on nine different highways until I reached the accident site.

I shared with Danny – who is not religious – the words of the Baal Shem Tov,
concerning divine providence and how “the footsteps of men are established
by God.” As we embraced in the middle of the road, we cried knowing that God
had directed us to this spot to save a young life.

I helped Danny put on tefillin in the merit of Hadas’ complete and speedy recovery and we pledged a bond of brotherly friendship for the rest of our lives.

Divine providence put us in the right place at the right time. I thought I
was going to Israel to save Jewish souls, but little did I know that I was
sent to help save Hadas’ life.

Rabbi Ben-Tzion Kravitz is the founder of Jews for Judaism International. He can be reached at la@jewsforjudaism.org.

Death Stalks Family

A local American Israeli family, which lost a daughter in an airport shooting rampage last July 4, is in renewed mourning for a son who died Nov. 26 following a car accident.

Nimrod Hen, the 18-year-old victim, was the brother of Victoria "Vicky" Hen, 25. She was one of two people shot and killed by an Egyptian-born gunman while working at the El Al ticket counter at Los Angeles International Airport.

Avinoam and Rachel Hen, the parents of Vicky and Nimrod, and a surviving third child, Udi, were reported in deep mourning and unwilling to speak publicly.

"What can I tell you except that it’s a terrible tragedy?" Joseph Knoller, a family spokesman, told the Los Angeles Times.

Nimrod Hen died of injuries sustained in a Nov. 16 accident, in which he apparently swerved to avoid a car coming out of a Chatsworth mall parking lot and crashed into two parked cars and a fire hydrant.

He resided with his parents and graduated in June from Chatsworth High School. He was described by school officials as a popular and outgoing student.

Vicky Hen, the oldest of the three children, had been working at the El Al ticket counter for less than two months when she was slain by Hesham Mohammed Hadayet, who in turn was killed immediately by El Al security guards.

The FBI has not issued a final report in the case, to the frustration of Hen’s family and Israeli officials, who view the shooting as an act of terrorism.

The Hen family, whose roots in the historical Israeli city of Safed go back 700 years, immigrated in 1990 to California, where the father built up a automobile parts supply business in Canoga Park.

A Siberian-Jewish Tragedy

The crash of the Air Siberia jet over the Black Sea last week was an Israeli tragedy, but more specifically and acutely, it was a tragedy for Siberian Jewry. Fifty of the 76 people killed were Siberian Jewish immigrants to Israel, mainly from the metropolis of Novosibirsk.

"I would never feel as close to someone from the big cities, like Moscow, as I do to someone from Siberia," said Nataly Liss, 19, who lost two close friends in the crash, Irina Starikovsky and Nataly Simanina. "The people who live in the big cities are much colder, more closed; they build walls around themselves, they don’t open up to you. Not so with the people from Siberia," Liss said.

Nearly 75,000 Jews immigrated to Israel from the region of Novosibirsk, a city of nearly 2 million. An estimated 10,000 to 15,000 Jews remain.

Vladimir Kruglykov, who lost his aunt, Yelena Komayev, 77, in the crash, says his parents got to Siberia the same way a lot of Siberians did, including the first waves of Jewish arrivals. "My mother’s family came here after fleeing the famine in Ukraine in 1930 and 1931, and my father’s family got here after escaping from Minsk, in Belarus, in 1941, when the Nazis invaded," he said.

More Jews came to Siberia in the 1950s with the emptying out of Soviet work camps following Stalin’s death, and, more happily, as Novosibirsk, with its numerous universities, technical institutes and cultural centers, began attracting Jewish intellectuals. "Their standard of living was good, compared to that of most other Soviet citizens," said Dr. Stefani Hoffman, director of Hebrew University’s Mayrock Center for Russian studies.

With the exception of a flare-up of Russian ultranationalism around the Soviet Union, Novosibirsk was essentially free of anti-Semitism at the time of the Soviet Union’s fall. "It wasn’t an issue," Kruglykov said. "Maybe somebody, sometime, may have said a word in passing [about his being Jewish], but no more."

The Novosibirsk authorities treated the plane crash as its own tragedy — something that had happened to Siberians, not foreigners, said Victor Ben-Canaan, head of the Jewish Agency office in Novosibirsk.

"The city dispatched 15 ambulances with doctors, nurses and psychologists to treat the people who were waiting at the [Novosibirsk] airport for their loved ones to arrive," said Ben-Canaan. Mayor Vladimir Gorodesky came to the airport to help comfort them. Air Siberia flew relatives and friends of the victims to Sochi, the city where the remains of the victims were brought, to identify them, Ben-Canaan said.

"Siberia is in the east, where anti-Semitism isn’t so pronounced," he said. "You find it as you move further west in the former Soviet Union — to Ukraine, Russia, the Baltics."

The world of Siberian Jewry began to deteriorate with the fall of the Soviet Union — first with the new scent of anti-Semitism, which has since faded, then with the end of the socialist economy. A very large proportion of Jews in Novosibirsk were academics, and the Soviet Union gave them relatively good housing, salaries and benefits. But the turn to anarchic capitalism left them without a decent standard of living or security, as their salaries and pensions withered in value, said Dr. Ludmilla Tsigelman, a Russian immigrant academic who lived in Novosibirsk for a number of years. The Jews of Novosibirsk were mainstays of the Soviet academic elite, and they went down with it.

They began emmigrating to Israel in the mid-1990s — a few years later than many other Jewish communities in the former Soviet Union. Asher Ostrin, head of the Jewish Agency’s FSU desk, explains: "The Jewish community of Siberia was transplanted; it didn’t have deep roots. So when the gates of immigration opened, the challenge in Siberia wasn’t to revive a dormant Jewish identity, but essentially to create one from scratch."

In the last year, immigration from Siberia to Israel has slowed considerably, Ben-Canaan said. "Siberia can now offer Jews some promise of stability, while the events of the last year in Israel don’t encourage them to make aliyah — and this, of course, is an understatement."

Life in Israel has been hard for many Siberian Jews, as it has for many of the 1 million-plus former Soviet Jews who have arrived since 1989. With so many academically trained professionals among the immigrants, many, if not most, have had to take jobs far below their abilities. A foreign language and foreign work culture have also been professional barriers.

"You hear a lot of Siberian Jews rave about Israel when they’re just here visiting, but you won’t hear it from the ones who live here," Kruglykov said. His aunt came here in her 70s, alone, leaving her children and grandchildren in Siberia, and lived in the town of Pardess Hanna, either in an apartment by herself, or, for a time, with her sister. "Of course, it was extremely difficult for her," her nephew said.

Another victim, Ina Michelson, had difficulties with Israel’s immigration laws because she wasn’t Jewish; she received Israeli citizenship by being married to a Jew, whom she later divorced. She was flying to Novosibirsk to bring over her mother, also not Jewish, who was lying in a hospital after suffering a heart attack. "Now we have to go through the procedures to bring the mother over here, because she’s all the family that Ina’s 13-year-old daughter has to take care of her," said a friend of Michelson’s.

Irina Starikovsky was an opera singer studying at Tel Aviv University and working at a supermarket to support herself. Nataly Simanina worked as a chambermaid at Kibbutz Tzuba’s guesthouse while studying to be an accountant. Both in their early 20s, their families still in Siberia, they had it hard, too, said their friend, Nataly Liss.

Liss, who also makes up rooms at the kibbutz guesthouse and has begun college studies, was Simanina’s roommate. "I love it here; the people are like my family, but I can’t stay here anymore. The walls are pressing in on me."

With 51 deaths in a close-knit community like Israel’s Siberian Jews, a lot of people are having it hard these days.

Special Night of Music

At the end of August 1992, a young man, who had gone out to a bar because he was “bored,” struck our car. The drunken driver injured my family and killed Liana, my 18-year-old daughter, as we were returning home from Friday night services. Liana was going to fly out the next day to attend college at Brandeis University.

She studied Torah, played the piano beautifully and painted. She helped her family and friends, even reaching out to those she didn’t know well.

After we healed from our physical injuries, we asked ourselves what we could do to continue Liana’s unfinished dreams. My family, with the help of the Bureau of Jewish Education, a beneficiary agency of The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, started one project in 1997 that is the dearest to us: the Liana Cohen Music Festival.

The festival, which attracts fourth- to 12th-graders, starts with a competition and ends with a concert. Judges offer young musicians their time and advice to help them perform better.

The annual event — always on March 25, unless it falls on the night of Shabbat — is a celebration of Liana’s birthday, a sweet and special night that my family has decided to share with talented performers and participants. Every year we’re happy to see the number of students grow.

Unlike the Academy Awards, which will take place the same night, you can’t tape our concert and its wonderful spirit. Bring your children and grandchildren, and maybe they will be inspired to play an instrument and compete in future festivals.

Liana will be always present in our hearts, and we are happy that all these talented students continue to play. We are happy to share her memory and her dreams with so many people and know that her spirit will continue making a difference for a better future.

Liana Cohen Music Festival, Sun., March 25, 8 p.m. Free. Skirball Cultural Center, 2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles.

Dr. RoseMary Cohen is the founder and director of the Liana Cohen Music Festival and author of “Korban: The Sacrifice of Liana.”

Community Briefs

An Israeli court has convicted five people in the collapse of a bridge at the Maccabiah Games in 1997 that left four Australian athletes dead and scores of others injured.

Following a trial that lasted more than two years, at which more than 80 witnesses testified about the disaster at the opening ceremonies of the “Jewish Olympics,” a three-judge panel found the five guilty of negligence.

The offense can carry up to a four-year jail term, according to a prosecutor. Sentences will be handed out at a later date.

The five who were convicted Monday were Baruch Karagula and Yehoshua Ben-Ezra, the contractors; Micha Bar-Ilan, the bridge’s engineer; Adam Mishori, the head of Irgunit, the firm that subcontracted to Baruch and Karagula; and Yoram Eyal, the head of the organizing committee for the international games.

Two Australian athletes were immediately killed July 14, 1997, and hundreds of other participants at the games were injured when the pedestrian bridge in the city of Ramat Gan collapsed, plunging scores of people into the Yarkon River.

Two more Australians died weeks later as a result of complications linked to contaminants in the river, and dozens of athletes who were injured in the bridge collapse later suffered illnesses.

A week after the collapse, an Israeli commission found that the accident was caused by a chain of failures involving the bridge’s planning and construction.

In October 1997, an Australian newspaper that had tests conducted on the river’s water concluded that the athletes “fell into a deadly cocktail of chemicals and pollutants” resembling “diluted sewage.”

Many of the Australian athletes have filed lawsuits against the games’ organizers, the Maccabi World Union and the builders of the bridge, demanding damages for injuries, mental anguish and loss of income.

Ehud Stein, a lawyer representing the athletes, said Monday’s ruling could prove decisive in the civil lawsuits.

Announcing Monday’s decision, the panel said that there had been a complete lack of coordination between the parties responsible for building the bridge.

Eyal, the head of the organizing committee, sounded a repentant note after the verdict was read.

“The regret and pain of the incident will certainly accompany me and my colleagues in Maccabi until the end of our lives,” he said. “We just hope the lessons will be learned and compensation arranged quickly, because the suffering of the families is awful.”

He also described the Games as a “great Zionist enterprise” that he hopes will “continue to exist in the future.”