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.

All that glitters is Ari Gold


Sir Ari Gold isn’t actually a knight, but the popular singer and LGBT rights activist can be seen in shining armor in photos on his website. His bold and scandalous style, outspoken nature, and catchy music blending dance and R&B sensibilities ensures no one could ever mistake him for Jeremy Piven’s conniving “Entourage” character of the same name.

“My concerts tend to be more about a fantasy,” Gold told the Journal during a phone interview from his home in New York City. “I try to bring an energy to the room in which it feels like there’s no discrimination, there’s no oppression. … I always like to bring this triumphant, positive feeling. It’s almost warrior-like.”

One of Gold’s newest projects is an autobiographical musical, “Pop Out,” which will debut in New York on July 23 at Dixon Place. It traces his journey from a child star singing on shows such as the cartoon “Jem,” to a yeshiva student struggling with his identity, to a proud and out pop star.

“It’s something I’ve been developing for a few years,” Gold said. “When it comes to LGBT people, it’s important to tell our stories because for so long, our stories were not heard.”

Gold recalled how, growing up Orthodox in New York City and attending yeshiva, he was forced to repress himself. Later, he said, “I became very politicized when I was able to leave the bubble of yeshiva and went to college and studied all these amazing ideas I never thought about … things like what you might call ‘pro-sex feminism and queer theory.’ ”

Unabashedly political in his views, Gold cites the second-wave feminist mantra that the “political is personal.” In fact, he may have been too political in early versions of “Pop Out.”

“That political impetus was always very at the forefront for me, but [the director] reminded me that at the end of the day, we’re talking about love and sex and the way we interact on a personal basis,” he said.

Gold was forced to confront tough moments from his own life while creating “Pop Out,” including the death of a former partner and past troubles with his parents. 

“The relationship is incredible these days,” Gold said of his mother and father. “But it was not always that way. There were at least a couple of years in which we were not on speaking terms.”

Gold’s older brother, Elon, a well-known Los Angeles comedian who last year wrote in the Journal about a hate crime he experienced with his family on Shabbat, has been supportive. “I think about the parallels between my work and my brother’s work, too … We both have this strong sense of wanting to be proud, and sort of insist on the specificity of our experiences,” Gold said.

Gold recalled a trauma of his own back in 2011. “I was sitting with a boyfriend at the time on the bus on the way to the Catskills to see my family, and we were sitting arm in arm. That was about the extent of our PDA, and the bus driver told us to sit at the back of the bus.” 

Gold was horrified and tweeted about the experience. The story was picked up by then-Village Voice columnist Michael Musto, sparking outrage that went viral.

But Gold’s story isn’t all lows. He’s enjoyed success on the Billboard charts with songs such as “Where the Music Takes You,” which won the USA Songwriting Competition, and “Love Wasn’t Built in a Day,” a collaboration with L.A.’s own Grammy-nominated Jewish saxophonist Dave Koz that won an Independent Music Award. Of course, the recent legalization of same-sex marriage also is a high point. 

“So many of us [in the LGBT community] do come from religious backgrounds … so to get the support from the priests and the rabbis, that makes a huge difference,” Gold said. “It absolutely is real change … these decisions have a real effect on people, on people who have gotten married in one state and they need their marriage to be recognized in another state, and that’s real.”

He added: “I’ve had the distinct honor of being able to sing at a number of gay weddings. I have this gay wedding song that’s called
‘Bashert,’ so it also incorporates my Jewish identity.”

Some people cautioned Gold that exploring both his Jewish and gay identities in one show might be too much for people to handle, an idea Gold calls laughable. “I always felt very connected to my Jewish identity,” he said, noting that all of us are complex and not made up of just one aspect.

Gold said he is excited to share his show and his story, and he hopes to eventually take “Pop Out” on tour, visiting cities such as Los Angeles.

Gold also is preparing to release his fifth studio album, “Soundtrack to Freedom,” a new collaboration with Dutch producer Subgroover. He’s releasing the album under the name Gold Nation, and it will be dropping later this year.

“I just wanted something that was a little more open,” Gold said of the name. “Anyone can be part of Gold Nation. We are all one Gold Nation Under God, I say.”

Israel intercepts flotilla vessel attempting to break blockade of Gaza


The Israeli Navy intercepted an activist ship in the waters off the coast of the Gaza Strip.

Commandos from the Shayetet 13 naval special forces unit boarded the Marianne of Gothenburg early Monday morning and began sailing the ship, which was trying to breach Israel’s maritime blockade of Gaza, to the Israeli port of Ashdod.

The takeover of the vessel and its approximately 20 passengers was short and there were no casualties, the Israel Defense Forces said in a statement.  The passengers are expected to be interviewed and then deported. Among the passengers is the Arab-Israeli lawmaker Basel Ghattas of the Joint Arab list.

The IDF said the seizure followed numerous requests for the ship to change course, in accordance with international law. Three other flotilla ships carrying about 30 passengers turned back before they were be boarded.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu commended the sailors and commanders of the Navy for their “determined and efficient action in detaining the passengers on the ship that tried to reach the Gaza coast in contravention of the law.”

“This flotilla is nothing but a demonstration of hypocrisy and lies that is only assisting the Hamas terrorist organization and ignores all of the horrors in our region,” Netanyahu said in a statement released after the takeover of the Marianne. “Preventing entry by sea was done in accordance with international law and even received backing from a committee of the UN Secretary General.”

In a letter to be distributed to flotilla passengers upon their arrival in Israel, Netanyahu said: “Welcome to Israel. You seem to have gotten lost. Perhaps you meant to sail to a place not far from here – Syria, where Assad’s army is slaughtering its people every day, and is supported by the murderous Iranian regime.

“Here in Israel we face a reality in which terrorist organizations like Hamas try to kill innocent civilians. We defend our citizens against these attempts in accordance with international law.”

“Despite this, Israel transports goods and humanitarian aid into the Gaza Strip – up to 800 trucks a day. In the past year we enabled the entry of over 1.6 million tons of products, an average of one ton per person in the Gaza Strip. By the way, these supplies are equivalent to 500,000 boats like the one you came in on today.”

In a statement issued Monday morning, Ship to Gaza Sweden called on Israel to return the Marianne, release the passengers and allow them to travel to Gaza.

“Ship to Gaza Sweden protests against this flagrant abuse of the freedom of navigation,” the statement said. “Israel’s repeated acts of piracy in international waters are worrying signs that the occupation and blockade policy extends to the entire eastern Mediterranean.”

In the past, Israel’s Navy has intercepted ships attempting to breach the blockade. The Foreign Ministry said aid groups may send supplies to Israel for inspection, after which permissible goods would be transferred to Gaza.

In 2010, an Israeli Navy commando takeover of the Turkish Mavi Marmara ship carrying activists armed with knives and clubs ended with nine Turkish nationals dead.

Leonard Fein, liberal activist and scholar, dies


Leonard Fein, a veteran Jewish activist and writer, has died at 80.

Fein died Thursday morning, announced the Forward newspaper, where he was a longtime columnist.

A prominent voice of Jewish liberalism and left-wing Zionism, Fein was the author of numerous books on Jewish issues and politics.

Fein was the founder of Mazon: A Jewish Response to Hunger and of the National Jewish Coalition for Literacy.

He also was a founder and board member of Americans for Peace Now, the American affiliate of Israel’s Peace Now movement.

In 1975, he co-founded Moment Magazine with Elie Wiesel. Fein was a former professor of political science and social policy and of Jewish studies at Brandeis University.

Leonard Fein, progressive activist and writer, dead at 80


Leonard Fein, a towering figure in Jewish progressive thought and action, died Aug. 14. He was 80.

 “Leibel” as he was universally addressed, was a prolific writer, a professor at Brandeis University and the creator of organizations and institutions that have left a lasting imprint on Jewish and general community life.

He and Rabbi Harold Schulweis of Valley Beth Shalom founded MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger in 1987, which is headquartered in Los Angeles, The two men were friends for 40 years, and Schulweis recalled “many happy moments” with the man he knew as “a genuine idealist, a man of prophetic vision and integrity, who never calculated whether any of his actions would benefit him personally.”

Abby Leibman, the present CEO and president of MAZON, characterized Fein as “a true visionary, who turned his visions into reality…His commitment to social justice extended to all, regardless of faith and nationality.”

In 1981, Fein was one of the founding members of Americans for Peace Now and continued as an active board member throughout his life. A statement released by APN lauded Fein as “a combination of philosopher and reformer, organizer and agitator, truth-teller and joke-teller, irrepressible idealist and hard-boiled realist and one of the finest men we have had the honor to know.”

Among his many other contributions and accomplishments, Fein, together with Elie Wiesel, founded Moment Magazine in 1975 and set up the National Jewish Coalition for Literacy in 1997.

A companion in many of these endeavors, particularly MAZON and Americans for Peace Now, was Prof. Gerald Bubis, a colleague of 50 years standing.

“Leibel was not afraid to speak up, challenge authority or confront the establishment, while relishing his role as a curmudgeon,” Bubis said. Despite personal family tragedies, Fein pursued his heavy schedule as speaker, writer and organizer, Bubis added.

Fein’s influence and impact on thought leaders was multiplied through his frequent columns in The Forward, New York Times, New Republic, Los Angeles Times and The Nation.

Palestinians erect outpost in E1 area


Palestinian residents erected an outpost in the E1 area east of Jerusalem.

According to Ynet, approximately 200 Palestinians erected about 50 tents in the area in response to plans announced by the Israeli government in November to build settlements along the E1 corridor which connects Jerusalem to Ma’aleh Adumim, a West Bank settlement.

Ynet reported that a small contingent of international organizations were also involved in the construction of the tent outpost, which the activists called Baab al Shams, meaning “sunny gateway” in Arabic.

The Palestinians claim that building in E1 would cut Jerusalem off from the rest of the West Bank, break up the territorial contiguity of a future Palestinian state and sound the death knell to a two-state solution.

Israel's government argues that bypass roads would maintain contiguity.

Peace activist settles lawsuit with pro-Israel activist


A peace activist and the man she accused of assault as she protested Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech before Congress reached a settlement on her lawsuit.

Attorneys for Rachel Abileah, an activist with Codepink, and her alleged assaulter, Stanley Shulster of Oregon, refused to comment on details of the settlement.

Shulster, 73, told JTA that “I didn’t pay her a penny,” but a news release from Codepink—a women-initiated grass-roots peace and social justice movement that according to its website is “working to end U.S.-funded wars and occupations”—said that Abileah will “donate a portion of the received funds to legal and medical aid for peaceful Palestinian protesters in the West Bank.”

Shulster was in Washington for an AIPAC conference when he went to hear Netanyahu speak before a joint session of Congress at the Capitol on May 24, 2011. Shortly into the address, Abileah stood and unfurled a banner that read “Occupying Land is Indefensible.” She also shouted slogans such as “No more occupation” and “Stop Israeli War Crimes.”

Abileah claimed that Shulster then grabbed her banner and physically assaulted her. She sued him for $1 million.

Following the settlement, Shulster and Abileah issued a joint statement that read in part that “Mr. Shulster apologizes for any physical or emotional harm caused by him to Ms. Abileah. He agrees that he should have let the Capitol Police handle the situation. Ms. Abileah accepts this apology.”

The statement added that their agreement “resolves Ms. Abileah’s claim that Mr. Shulster assaulted her” and “Mr. Shulster respects the right of Ms. Abileah to hold a different view on the Israel-Palestine conflict and believes that she holds this view in good faith.” In turn, “Ms. Abileah respects Mr. Shulster’s right to hold a different view on the Israel-Palestine conflict and believes that he holds this view in good faith.”

Shulster, who said he has volunteered on two separate occasions to assist in humanitarian efforts for the Israel Defense Forces, said that about 10 minutes into Netanyahu’s speech, “I heard this very loud screaming to my left” and then noticed a woman unfurling a banner.

“I just had this adrenaline rush,” Shulster said, adding that he immediately thought a weapon might have been hidden in the banner.

“Instinctively I grabbed for this cloth. I did grab the cloth, and I didn’t let go,” he told JTA.

Shulster says he recalls holding the woman’s wrist and then letting go when security personnel appeared and removed Abileah from the hall.

“If I hurt her, I certainly apologize, but I don’t believe I hurt her,” Shulster told JTA.

Ulpana activists begin march to Jerusalem


Hundreds of settlement activists began marching Monday from the Ulpana neighborhood on the outskirts of the Beit El settlement in the West Bank toward Jerusalem.

The protest march is against plans to raze five apartment buildings in Ulpana, which are on land claimed by Palestinian families.

Some 300 supporters of Ulpana waving flags and carrying signs set out from the neighborhood to march to a protest tent in Jerusalem located outside of the Supreme Court, where hunger strikers have been sitting. They plan to reach Jerusalem on Tuesday.

The marchers are supporting a bill to be voted on in Knesset on Wednesday that would that would override a Supreme Court decision to remove the Ulpana buildings. The legislation would retroactively legalize buildings built on contested land if the owner does not challenge the construction within four years.

Israel’s Supreme Court ruled in September that the neighborhood should be razed, siding with a lawsuit filed by Palestinians who said they owned the land.

On Sunday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu proposed a three-point plan to physically move the buildings to land that is not claimed by Palestinians, build new housing and vigorously defend the neighborhoods in future litigation.

The plan requires the approval of Israeli Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein, who spent Sunday in consultations about the possible move.

Young Jewish activist killed in Poland train crash


Maja Brand, a Jewish activist from Krakow, was among the 16 people killed when two trains collided in southern Poland.

Friends said Brand, who turned 30 on Feb. 22,  was active “in all things Jewish” in Krakow. The head-on collision occurred Saturday night.

Brand was working on her doctorate at the Center for the Study of the Holocaust at Krakow’s Jagiellonian University, writing her dissertation on the ban of shechitah, or kosher slaughter, in Poland in the 1930s. She reportedly was to have flown to Israel on Monday to carry out further research.

She was involved with the Krakow Jewish Community Center and also with the Association for Christian-Jewish Dialogue. Brand also worked with the annual Krakow Jewish Culture Festival and served as a translator for visiting musicians. In addition, she volunteered at an orphanage in Tbilisi, Georgia.

“I had gotten to know Maja over the past few years,” Poland’s chief rabbi, Michael Schudrich, wrote Monday in a Facebook post announcing her death. “Maja was full of energy and excitement. She was dedicated to what she was doing and had great integrity in whatever she did. May her memory be for a blessing.”

Activist grapples with aftermath of disfigurement


“I’m still a little bit broken, but it’s OK,” said Emily Henochowicz, giggling slightly.

Nearly a month after being struck in the face by a tear gas canister fired by Israeli border police during a demonstration in the West Bank, the 21-year-old sounds chipper as she recuperates in her Potomac, Md., home.

Between the nearly daily doctors’ appointments, Henochowicz continues to grapple with the repercussions of the violent episode—physical and political.

Henochowicz, who had been in Israel since February to study animation at Jerusalem’s Bezalel Academy, lost her left eye and suffered multiple fractures to her jaw and cheekbone in the incident. But despite the physical fallout from the demonstration, the art student remains proud to have taken to the streets in protest of Israel’s deadly confrontation with a Gaza-bound aid flotilla.

“I was standing there for something that I believe in … [and] I feel good about what I was doing,” Henochowicz said recently during an hourlong telephone interview.

She regrets nothing, but realizes her life is forever changed.

“This is something that is going to be with me for the rest of my life,” she said. “It’s not like I broke my arm. I don’t have a left eye. It’s personal now.”

However, Henochowicz claims to harbor no ill will toward the State of Israel or the police officer who fired the canister of tear gas. (The family, however, has retained a lawyer, and plans to file a suit over the incident.)

“This is not really an experience that makes me hate anyone—that is such a useless emotion in this kind of situation,” she said, explaining that her idealism remains intact. Henochowicz still believes that peace between the Israelis and Palestinians is within reach.

Across the globe, though, images of her bloodied face have served only to further embitter activists on both sides of the Green Line.

Palestinian supporters quickly turned Henochowicz into an international icon, creating several Facebook groups that have portrayed her as a champion of opposition to Israeli aggression.

Meanwhile, some American Jews have depicted her as yet another liberal, self-hating Jew. She has been subjected to rants posted on Internet forums and newspaper Web sites, Henochowicz said.

“It’s a little bit weird,” she said of her sudden notoriety. “It’s very strange for me.”

While scanning the comments section of one paper’s Web site, Henochowicz says she came across a reader who labeled her “a traitor” and said “that I should have lost both my eyes and [to] stay out of” Israel. (She noted, however, that “most” of the feedback has been sympathetic.)

Asked about the flurry of negativity surrounding his daughter’s actions, Henochowicz’s father, Stuart, said he’s “proud of her” for standing up to what she deemed as Israeli injustice—though he certainly would have “preferred that she had slept in that day.”

“I certainly don’t think Emily is a self-hating Jew,” said Stuart Henochowicz, a Tel Aviv native and the son of Holocaust survivors. “I think she is an ethical Jew of the highest order. I think she is what Jewish people should be about.”

But he is unhappy that his daughter has become a political pawn.

“I don’t think Emily should be a poster person for anyone,” he said. “Emily is her own person and comes at this as a Jewish person holding an Israeli passport.”

While the family was hesitant initially to be interviewed in the days following the ordeal, both father and daughter said they are now speaking out to help promote a difficult, yet necessary, conversation about Israeli society.

“The Palestinians have been living in a cage for 43 years, so my heart goes out to them. … This is what Emily saw,” said Stuart Henochowicz, admitting that when he first learned of his child’s activism several months ago, he was not pleased.

Numerous conversations with his daughter, though, helped to open his eyes, he said, to “an occupation of 43 years [that] is morally decaying, and that, in part, is responsible for what happened to Emily.”

On May 31, Emily Henochowicz—who attends Cooper Union College in New York and had been on a semester program at Bezalel—recalls waking up to reports of a deadly clash between Israeli Navy commandos and those aboard a Gaza-bound Turkish aid flotilla.

Though she already had attended many protests against the expansion of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, Henochowicz said the circumstances surrounding the flotilla gathering felt different. She expected the protest to be relatively calm, given that nine Turkish passengers died in the early-morning raid.

Events, however, took a violent turn when border police responded to several Palestinian youths who had begun throwing rocks. Authorities have said that Henochowicz was not intentionally targeted, according to news reports, but she questions that claim.

Witnesses at the protest have reported that the canister was shot directly at Henochowicz, who was holding a Turkish flag aloft at the time and was not standing near the rock throwers.

The family is calling on Israeli police to launch an “open and transparent investigation” into the day’s events and has hired Israeli human rights attorney Michael Sfard to exert pressure on officials to act.

Stuart Henochowicz confirmed that Israeli U.S. Ambassador Michael Oren recently paid the family a 30-minute “courtesy call” to express regret.

“It was a personal visit,” the father said. “He expressed sorrow for what had happened, and we again made it clear we would like Israel to give a public account of what happened” and “accept responsibility.”

An embassy spokesperson confirmed the visit took place but declined further comment.

For her part, Emily Henochowicz isn’t dwelling much on the details of that day. She is focused now on the bigger picture, hoping that her injuries compel Israeli security forces to re-evaluate the use of tear gas during protests—even when employed to combat violence.

“Tear gas shot from those guns does not even closely equal throwing stones,” she said. “I know maybe this is apologetic or something, but I think that usually when people throw stones it is more of a symbolic thing because [stones] are highly inaccurate” and usually are cast in frustration.

Even before Henochowicz arrived in Jerusalem, she says she had already begun to question the Jewish state’s policies regarding the Palestinians, as well as use of military force.

“In Hebrew school when you learn about Israel, you get this view that is so different than when you’re actually there,” explained Henochowicz, whose bat mitzvah ceremony was held at Congregation Har Shalom in Potomac. (The family now attends Conservative Congregation B’nai Tzedek in Potomac.)

American Jewish youths are taught that “Israel is surrounded by hostile Arabs who are just closing in on it,” but after arriving in the country, Henochowicz says she now believes that Israel is the true aggressor.

“The thing that scared me the most about going to the West Bank was the Israeli military,” she said. “I wasn’t going to get hurt by Palestinians there.”

A turning point in Henochowicz’s relationship with Israel came during the country’s monthlong war in Gaza during the winter of 2008-09.

“It made me reconsider how I felt about Israel, and that was a big thing for me,” she said. “I had never questioned Israel before.”

But “it wasn’t until I actually went to Israel before I started doing something about it.”

Henochowicz says she was motivated to act after witnessing a confrontation in Sheikh Jarrah, an Eastern Jerusalem neighborhood. A group of Chasidim had begun screaming prayers at Palestinian children, she recalled.

“For me it was really strange because … these prayers are a part of me, and it’s really hurtful” to see religion utilized as a weapon of hate, she said.

The incident led her to protest against West Bank settlement expansion and helped alter her views about the ideal route for peace. Henochowicz said she now believes that a one-state solution would be most tenable, as Israel already controls the territories through its vast military presence.

Asked if she intends to remain engaged with activist groups now that she’s back in the States, Henochowicz says she would—though finishing art school will take priority.

“Right now, I definitely am not done with this issue,” she said, adding that “right now”—despite all that has happened—“I really have an idea that things can change.”

Questions linger about SF death of pro-Israel activist


SAN FRANCISCO (JTA)—Police said this week that the mysterious death of an outspoken pro-Israel activist appeared to be accidental, but friends and family of Dr. Daniel Kliman insist he was the victim of foul play.

“We almost expected something would happen to him at some point, given his activism and trips to Israel,” said Kliman’s brother, Jonathan. “We didn’t expect what seemed to have happened to him. It seems really odd, and I’m glad the investigations are continuing.”

Kliman’s body was discovered Dec. 1 at the bottom of an elevator shaft in the historic Sharon Building at 55 New Montgomery St. Apparently it had been there for six days.

Kliman, a 38-year-old internist who lived alone in Oakland, was supposed to leave for Israel on Thanksgiving, giving friends and family no reason to question his whereabouts.

As of Dec. 3, a San Francisco Police Department spokesman was saying that Kliman’s death appeared to have been an accident, citing police Inspector Matt Krimsky’s suggestion that Kliman died Nov. 25 after climbing out of an elevator stuck between the sixth and seventh floors.

That day, a surveillance camera recorded Kliman waiting for an elevator in the lobby. Authorities continue to analyze that footage, plus other evidence they obtained from the scene. An autopsy report is pending.

Kliman was taking classes at Pacific Arabic Resources on the seventh floor of the Sharon Building. It is unclear why he was in the building, as classes during the week of Thanksgiving had been canceled.

“A number of us find the circumstances of his death rather suspicious,” said Michael Harris, a longtime friend who helped found the advocacy group San Francisco Voice for Israel with Kliman. “Given that he was a relatively well-known public figure for Israel advocacy in the Bay Area, he would have people who strongly disagreed with the causes he stood up for.

“Two days before he’s going to Israel and [on] a day when there were no classes, why would he have been in the building?”

Jonathan Bernstein, the director of the Central Pacific Region of the Anti-Defamation League, said Dec. 3 that he had had several conversations with the San Francisco Police Department concerning the possible cause of Kliman’s death.

“[The police] clearly understood Dan’s background and how he was a recognizable figure in the Jewish community and was often out there demonstrating against anti-Israel demonstrations,” Bernstein said. “They understand why they need to look at this a little differently.”

Word of Kliman’s death spread quickly throughout the Zionist community in the Bay Area and beyond.

Harris said he was stunned to hear the news about Kliman, whom he met in 2003 when the San Francisco-based Jewish Community Relations Council rallied pro-Israel individuals to combat local anti-Zionist and anti-Israel protests.

A year later Harris, Kliman and a number of local activists formed San Francisco Voice for Israel. The group, an affiliate of the StandWithUs national Israel advocacy organization, was dedicated to publicly denouncing anti-Israel sentiment.

The passionate and take-charge Kliman designed and disseminated pro-Israel fliers and documented protests with a series of clips on YouTube.

“Dan had a much larger-than-life personality,” Harris said. “He was passionately committed to Israel. Without any question, he was the real driving force of San Francisco Voice for Israel.”

He added, “We would joke that Dan seemed to be somewhat incident-prone. He wouldn’t start a confrontation, but he wouldn’t back down from one either.”

Adamant about never owning a car, and very much against even riding in one—his father was killed in an automobile accident four years ago—Kliman would arrive at rallies throughout the Bay Area on his bicycle.

Harris called him a “bicycle activist” who was reluctant to take car rides from anyone. Before moving to the Bay Area, Kliman founded St. Louis Critical Mass, a monthly protest ride that aimed to draw attention to how unfriendly the city was to bicyclists.

During Bike Summer 1999, a huge celebration of bicycle culture, Kliman organized a post-ride Shabbat service in Duboce Park with prayer books and candles.

“Jews and non-Jews stood in a circle and sang L’cha Dodi,” recalled Katherine Roberts, who met Kliman when he traveled from Chicago to San Francisco for the bike event. “It was this wonderfully inclusive event, and incredibly unique and brilliant. It was the only Shabbat service I can remember.”

Roberts, a fellow bicycle activist, said she didn’t always agree with her good friend Kliman or his feelings toward Israel, but their differences never interfered with the friendship.

“If you have radical or philosophical differences, it usually causes a friction,” Roberts said. “I never had that with Dr. Dan. He was a wonderful person—the only Orthodox gay vegetarian bicycling doctor I knew. I was so impressed with his uniqueness.”

An active member of Beth Jacob Congregation, an Orthodox synagogue near his home, Kliman attended Havdalah services regularly and always was involved when the temple had any pro-Israel programming.

A shaken Rabbi Judah Dardick said this week he still feels as if Kliman is going to walk through his synagogue’s doors.

“Dan was a very lively, alive and vibrant person,” Dardick said. “You really knew when he was in the room. To know he’s not going to be in the room anymore is a big shocker.”

On more than one occasion, Dardick asked Kliman to his home for Shabbat dinner. Dardick recalled that although Kliman found the meat on the table revolting, he still accepted the invitation.

“Dan said he never ate anything that ever had a mother,” Dardick said with a laugh. “He had a few causes that he fought for and cared about. He’s someone I learned a lot from.”

Funeral services will be held in Schenectady, N.Y., pending the arrival of Kliman’s body, according to Jonathan Kliman, who lives in Springfield, Mass.

Along with his brother, Kliman is survived by his mother, Edith, of Schenectady. Kliman was predeceased by his father, Gerald.

Briefs: Cancer helps Olmert poll numbers, Mrs. El Presidente in Argentina — still good for the Jews


Olmert’s Popularity Buoyed by Cancer

Ehud Olmert’s disclosure that he has prostate cancer edged up his approval ratings. A poll commissioned by Yediot Achronot after Olmert’s surprise announcement Monday found that 41 percent of Israelis “appreciate” his performance as prime minister, up from 35 percent last month.

Olmert, whose popularity plummeted after last year’s Lebanon war and amid ongoing corruption allegations, also got high marks in the survey for his “bravery” in coming forward, an act that 61 percent of respondents said they found moving. Eighty-seven percent of respondents agreed with Olmert’s decision to stay in office. But asked which among Olmert, Defense Minister Ehud Barak, and opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu is most fit to be prime minister, 14 percent said Olmert, 17 percent said Barak and 35 percent said Netanyahu. Yediot did not say how many people were polled. The margin of error was 4.3 percent.

Argentine Vote Means No Change for Jews

Argentina’s new president likely will not change government policies toward the Jewish community.

The victory by current first lady and senator Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner in national elections Sunday will be a continuation of official policies regarding Jewish interests, according to Aldo Donzis, president of the DAIA, Argentina’s Jewish umbrella organization. The government of her husband, Nestor Kirschner, was active in seeking justice for the terrorist attack on the Jewish community building in Buenos Aires in 1994, and initiated projects to fight anti-Semitism, discrimination and xenophobia.

The first lady and now president-elect was active in these efforts, according to Donzis. On Monday morning, with 97 percent of the election results calculated, Fernandez de Kirchner had garnered 45 percent of the vote. She needed at least 40 percent to avoid a runoff. In the capital city of Buenos Aires, where most of the Jewish community resides, she received 23 percent of the vote.

Alleged Syrian Reactor in 2003 Photo

A 2003 photo shows the alleged nuclear reactor Israel bombed in Syria last month under construction. The Sept. 16, 2003 photo, released by GeoEye, an aerial image archive in Dulles, Va., and published in Saturday’s New York Times, suggests that Syria’s nuclear weapons program long predates the Sept. 6 Israeli attack. Initial reports suggested that the reactor Israel allegedly targeted was in its nascent stage. Israel, Syria and the United States will not confirm the nature of the attack.

Rabin Killer Can’t Attend Brit

Yitzhak Rabin’s jailed assassin lost an appeal to be allowed to attend the circumcision of his first son. Israel’s High Court of Justice on Tuesday turned down a petition by Yigal Amir for a special furlough on Nov. 4, when his son is to be circumcised. Amir had argued that he should not be denied leave rights granted to other convicted murderers in Israel.

Amir’s wife, Larissa, became pregnant during a conjugal visit to the prison where Amir is serving a life sentence in isolation. She gave birth on Sunday. The fact that the circumcision will take place exactly 12 years after Amir gunned down Prime Minister Rabin at a Tel Aviv peace rally has stoked the ire of Israelis opposed to seeing the assassin enjoy any jailhouse leniency.

Terrorism Led Portman Into Activism

The anguish of a friend grieving over a terror victim in Israel led actress Natalie Portman to become an activist.

“When I was at Harvard, a very close friend lost someone to the violence in Israel,” the Israeli-born movie star says in a first-person essay that appeared this weekend in Parade magazine. “I felt so helpless watching her pain. I really wanted to do something, but I didn’t know where to begin. Coming from Israel, I know how polarized that part of the world scene can be.”

Portman called Jordanian Queen Rania, a Palestinian, who told Portman about the Foundation for International Community Assistance. The group, Portman says, “grants loans, mostly to women, to start small businesses. Rather than donate food, it helps people earn the money to buy their own food and gives women the opportunity to better their lives.”

Portman has since traveled to Central America and Africa for the foundation.

“It’s impossible to know the outcome of anything,” she writes. “You have no idea whether the life you impact will go on to bring peace to the Middle East or will go blow up a building. All you can do is act with the best intention and have faith.”

Israeli Film Takes Top Prize in Kiev

An Israeli film took the top prize at a Kiev film festival. “The Band’s Visit” received the Grand Prix and $10,000 at the 37th Molodist (“Youth”) International Film Festival on Sunday.

It was the first feature-length film by 34-year-old Israeli filmmaker Eran Kolirin. The whimsical tale, which has won other awards, follows the iconoclastic adventures of a band of Egyptian musicians who are lost in a small town in Israel’s Negev Desert. Ukrainian President Viktor Yuschenko participated in the festival’s opening.

‘The Tribe’ Hits No. 1 on iTunes

A documentary about Jewish identity is in the No. 1 spot of most downloaded short films on iTunes. Tiffany Shlain, director of “The Tribe,” a humorous look at American Jewish identity through the lens of Barbie, says she launched her film on iTunes Oct. 2, hoping to crack the top 10 list. It is now the first independent documentary to hit No. 1, Shlain notes.

“This says there’s an audience that wants to watch documentaries about American Jewish identity,” says Shlain, who lives in Mill Valley, Calif. “This opens the doors for other filmmakers and expands the options of what is available to download.” The other films in the top 10 are all by major studies such as Disney and Pixar, except for the indie “West Bank Story,” in the No. 7 spot, which won this year’s Academy Award for Best Short Film.

“The Tribe,” released in December 2005, was shown at 75 film festivals, including Sundance and Tribeca, and won nine awards. It is available at

Local Couple Secures Pope’s Personal Blessing of Crucifix for Ailing Catholic Friend


Local Couple Secures Pope’s Personal Blessing of Crucifix for Ailing Catholic Friend

Civic activists and philanthropists Faith and Jonathan Cookler recently returned from an Anti-Defamation League (ADL) National Leadership Mission led by Abraham Foxman, ADL national director, to meet with political, religious and community leaders in Rome, Paris (where Foxman was presented with the Legion of Honor by President Jacques Chirac) and Berlin.

Faith Cookler told an amazing story about the trip, beginning with a phone call from her brother, Ron Pepperman, an educator in Northern California: “A colleague of his, a 38-year-old mother and devout Catholic from the Philippines, is seriously ill with cancer. Since our delegation was scheduled to have a private audience with Pope Benedict, she asked if we could present a crucifix to him for a blessing.”

Cookler said when she arrived in Rome, they learned it is customary to bring religious artifacts for the pope’s group blessing at both public and private audiences. Cookler said on the morning of the audience, their 30-member delegation was seated facing an elevated thronelike chair.

“The religious artifacts were gathered and put on a silver platter for a group blessing,” she said. “We opted to hold on to our envelope containing the precious cross.”

Cookler said Pope Benedict entered the room clad in white robes, white skullcap and red Prada slippers.

“Mr. Foxman opened his remarks with a heartfelt and emotional request to bless the memory of the Catholic woman who took him in and raised him as a Catholic during the Holocaust, thereby saving his life,” she recounted.

According to Cookler, Pope Benedict unequivocally reaffirmed that the church deplores all forms of hatred or persecution directed against the Jews and all displays of anti-Semitism at any time and from any source.

“He also noted that we need to know each other better and build relationships not just of tolerance but of authentic respect,” Cookler said. “In a clear allusion to the reaction to his remarks regarding the Muslim community, he stated that Jews, Christians and Muslims share many common convictions, and there are numerous areas of humanitarian and social engagement in which we can and must co-operate.”

Cookler said when it was their turn to greet the pope, her husband showed him the crucifix from the sick woman and explained the situation. The pope smiled and blessed it on the spot.

“We FedExed the envelope to my brother, who delivered the contents to the woman’s home just as she was returning from the hospital after enduring another round of treatment,” Cookler said. “Ron told us she appeared weak and frail but rallied when he presented her with the envelope and the photos of the pope blessing her crucifix. We felt very blessed and honored to be the
intermediaries on both the world stage and a very intimate personal one.”

Black And White Ball

Nostalgia reigned supreme as the Beverly Hills Police Officers Association held its 18th annual “Black and White Ball” at the Beverly Hilton Nov. 6. Mayor Steve Webb acted as master of ceremonies at the event, one of the best attended in the city’s history, hosting 1,000 guests. More than $250,000 was raised, a portion of which goes to the association’s medical trust fund.

This year’s event coincided with the 100th anniversary celebration of law enforcement in Beverly Hills. The evening’s highlights included the police chief’s presentation of the department’s annual achievement winners and a stroll down memory lane with a performance by The Platters-Live. By the end of the evening, guests were dancing in the aisles a la “American Bandstand” days. Oy, wish I owned the Ben Gay concession the next morning.

Violence Fighters

It was an evening to remember when Mid-Wilshire Domestic Violence Prevention Collaborative honored nine individuals who have dedicated themselves tirelessly to raising awareness of domestic violence in Los Angeles, especially in underserved communities where information on the issue has been largely unavailable.

The collaborative, a joint venture led by Jewish Family Service’s Family Violence Project, presented the awards at a ceremony at the West Hollywood Community Center, where West Hollywood Councilwoman Abbe Land served as moderator. Among the honored guests were Los Angeles City Councilmen Eric Garcetti and Tom LaBonge and West Hollywood Mayor John Heilman.

According to Debi Biederman, community outreach and network coordinator for the Family Violence Project and co-chair of the collaborative, the goal of the awards is “to inspire other community members to get involved, follow the example set by those being honored and raise awareness of domestic violence within populations which have long lacked services and resources. In many of these communities, the subject is rarely discussed openly.”

Honored at the event were: Johanna Gomez, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community; Lynda Basile Stack, African immigrant community; Imelda Talamantes, Latino community; Joni Schact, Orthodox Jewish community; Rabeya Sen, Southeast Asian community; Nadia Babayi, Iranian community; Don Laffoon, Iranian community; Susan Millmann of Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles, social service award recipient; and Kimberly Wong, honored for outstanding service by a public agency/public employee to the underserved communities.

‘Catch A Fire’ ignites filmmaker’s memories of anti-apartheid dad


Shawn Slovo remembers how her Jewish parents, African National Congress activists, left home in the middle of the night to attend secret meetings. She recalls police regularly raiding their Johannesburg house and arresting her mother and father. All the while, she said, she resented “having to share my parents with a cause much greater than myself.”

Slovo grew up to become a screenwriter who honored her parents (and exorcised childhood demons) through her movies.

After her mother, Ruth First, was assassinated by a parcel bomb in the early 1980s, she wrote “A World Apart” (1988) about their volatile mother-daughter relationship.

When her father, Joe Slovo, who was chief of staff of the ANC’s military wing, described the black freedom fighter Patrick Chamusso, she penned “Catch a Fire,” which opens Oct. 27.

If “A World Apart” is a tribute to the writer’s mother, “Fire” salutes her father — albeit indirectly — who died in 1995.The thriller recounts how Chamusso, a foreman at South Africa’s Secunda oil refinery, remained apolitical until he was falsely accused of bombing a section of the refinery. After he and his wife were brutally interrogated and tortured, the African became politicized and left his home near the factory to offer his services to Joe Slovo’s guerilla unit in Mozambique. Using his inside knowledge, he told the guerillas he could raze the coal-to-oil refinery and keep it burning for days. With Slovo he created his plan to sneak back over the border, with mines strapped to his body, to furtively enter the factory on a coal conveyor belt. Chamusso only partially succeeded in his mission; he was arrested six days later and spent 10 years in prison on Robben Island. But his solo act raised morale among blacks struggling to overthrow the apartheid regime.

“It sums up the spirit of Joe,” Slovo’s younger sister, Robyn, the film’s producer, said in a telephone interview.

Although Joe Slovo was one of ANC’s top leaders and a close friend of Nelson Mandela, “he was a man who more than anything was interested in ordinary people,” the producer said. “And Patrick Chamusso was an ordinary working man who was completely uninterested in politics until he was terrorized into action.”

The producer denies that Chamusso was a terrorist, or that “Fire” glorifies terrorism.

“There’s nothing equivalent in Patrick’s actions and events taking place in the world today,” she said. “Our film is about the struggle of a man to achieve the right to vote, and democracy in a police state that ran on race lines. It’s much more like the American War of Independence than the suicide bombings in the Middle East.”

Shawn Slovo believes the movie, directed by Phillip Noyce (“Clear and Present Danger”), ties in to a filmmaking trend that would have pleased her father: The telling of an African story from the perspective of a black man rather than a white outsider (her father appears only briefly in the movie). Hollywood studios have released a number of such films this year, including Kevin MacDonald’s recent “The Last King of Scotland,” about Idi Amin. “Fire” has earned mostly good reviews, including one from the Canadian magazine Macleans, saying it “is certain to generate serious heat at the Oscars.”

For the screenwriter, the film is much more than an African espionage drama.

“The parallel for me is the way in which the political affects the personal, and how apartheid shattered and destroyed family life,” she said. “My engagement with the characters and the history has to do with my past, and my family’s past.”

In 1934, the 8-year-old Joe (born Yossel) Slovo immigrated to South Africa to escape pogroms in his native Lithuania. Four years later, he was forced to abandon school to help support his impoverished family, taking a factory job, which was where he first learned of the wage disparity between blacks and whites. He was further politicized while discussing Marxist politics with fellow Jewish immigrants who shared his ramshackle boarding house.

By age 16 he had joined the South African Communist Party and rejected Zionism in favor of his own country’s liberation movement. Even so, he considered himself “100 percent Jewish” and linked his work to the historical Jewish struggle for social justice, Robyn Slovo said.

At law school, he met First, daughter of Russian Jewish communists, and Nelson Mandela, with whom he helped found the ANC’s military wing in 1961. Slovo was abroad, two years later, when Mandela and others were arrested and sentenced to life in prison at Robben Island.Shawn was 13 that year, and she was desperate for her parents’ attention as her father vanished into exile; in retaliation for his disappearance, First was arrested and placed in solitary confinement, where she attempted suicide to avoid cracking under psychological torture. With her father labeled South Africa’s most wanted man and “Public Enemy No. 1,” Shawn was taunted at school, where even her Jewish best friend ostracized her. (Robyn and another sister were hounded as well.)

“A 13-year-old doesn’t understand politics; she just wants her parents,” the screenwriter said. “But I also felt guilty, because how could I complain about their absence when they were fighting for the liberation of 28 million blacks?”

After her mother’s suicide attempt, the family was allowed to immigrate to England, where Shawn Slovo insisted upon attending boarding school because she felt unsafe at home.

“It was also a rebellion, a reaction to the past turbulence,” she said. She entered the film business because “it was as far away from my parents’ work as I could get.”

During the rest of her childhood, Joe Slovo was mostly abroad in ANC training camps, reachable only through an intermediary or a fake name and address.

In the early 1980s, when she was in her 30s, she began to confront her parents about their devotion to politics over family. Joe declined to answer her questions, in his avuncular, matter-of-fact way: “His response was always, ‘This was in the past, let’s put it behind us and move forward,'” the screenwriter recalled.

The Trailblazer’s Toolbox: Programs That Grab


Here’s a brief rundown of the national synagogue revitalization programs that have arisen since the early 1990s.

  • Billed as the first such initiative, the Experiment in Congregational Education (ECE) was created in 1992. It strives to popularize Jewish learning among congregants while encouraging synagogues to embrace fundamental and long-lasting change.

    Fifty-five synagogues have participated in ECE, which has a yearly budget that generally ranges from $500,000 to $750,000. Chief funders have included The Nathan Cummings Foundation, the Mandel Associated Foundations, the Covenant Foundation and the UJA-Federation of New York. Contact Rob Weinberg at (847) 328-0032 or rweinberg@huc.edu.

  • Synagogue 2000, which began in 1995, developed a wide-ranging curriculum that more than 100 synagogues have used to rethink their overall approach and to deepen their congregants’ spiritual engagement.

    This influential program recently morphed into Synagogue 3000, whose mission is to train synagogue and academic leaders in order to better implement the goals of Synagogue 2000. Among those goals: Demonstrate that synagogues do not exist just to serve the needs of congregants, according to program co-founder Ron Wolfson at the University of Judaism, but rather to motivate them to “do tikkun olam, God’s work on earth.”

    Synagogue 2000, whose annual budget topped out at roughly $2 million, was funded by several major donors, including the Nathan Cummings Foundation, the Righteous Persons Foundation, the Whizin Foundation, the Rose Family Foundation and the UJA-Federation. Contact Ron Wolfson or Joshua Avedon at (310) 553-7930 or info411@synagogue3000.org.

  • Three years ago, in 2003, a Minneapolis-based initiative known as Star, or Synagogues: Transformation and Renewal, created Synaplex, which helps synagogues supplement regular Shabbat services with diverse programming, including films, music, meditation, lectures and arts and crafts.

    Synagogue
    One of three Star programs, Synaplex is based on the principle that some of today’s Jews need a variety of entry points into Jewish involvement, and that those portals — artistic, academic, activist and ritual — are equally valid vehicles for engaging Jewishly. More than 100 congregations have signed on.
    Synaplex has an annual budget of around $1 million, and its main funders include the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation, Jewish Life

    Network/Steinhardt Foundation and the Samuel Bronfman Foundation. In addition, the UJA-Federation of New York helps underwrite Synaplex at three participating synagogues.

    Contact Rabbi Hayim Herring at (952) 746-8181 or hherring@starsynagogue.org.

Letters


Very Funny

The funniest part of your recent Purim issue was the article on Rabbi Aron Tendler’s departure from Shaarey Zedek Congregation (“Tendler Resigns Under Cloud,” March 10). In lieu of any substance, it was filled with rumors and speculation — a hilarious send-up of real journalism!

Yacov Freedman
Valley Village

Razing the JCC

Thank you so much for Tom Tugend’s insightful bit of muckraking on the Soto-Michigan JCC demolition (“Federal Government Razes Eastside JCC,” March 17). Bravo!

Unfortunately, we are still left with many unanswered questions:

1 — Where are the assets of the nonprofit. If the land was sold for $1.5 million, who benefited from the sale? A nonprofit’s assets must be reinvested into another community nonprofit. They cannot go to a private entity.

2 — How do we address the lack of coordination between elected officials? [Rep. Lucille] Roybal-Allard’s [(D-Los Angeles)] office, the mayor’s office, [City Councilman Jose] Huizar’s office?

3 — Why did the Social Security Administration building need to move in the first place? What will replace the current Social Security building?

4 — Can the important role this site played in the history of the Chicano movement, in multicultural politics and in the history of the Jewish community be commemorated within the new structure? They owe the community at least something like that.

5 — Why isn’t there yet a citywide survey of historic structures? This has never been done for lack of funds, and critical links to the past are being lost each week because of this.

6 — Where’s the mayor’s office in all of this?

7 — Who is going to finally be accountable for this debacle?

Aaron Paley
Founder
Yiddishkayt Los Angeles

My earliest childhood memories include visits to the Soto-Michigan Center, where for several years I attended Camp Manayim, the day camp that JCA operated there. My older brother was in Boy Scout Troop 171 that met at the center, and Strauss AZA also held its meetings there. The building contained far more history than anyone realizes. One more example of the historical Jewish presence has now been erased.

Brooklyn Avenue as a symbol of the Jewish community is now named for a Mexican American labor organizer who never lived on Brooklyn Avenue.

Everyone seems to have been caught flat-footed by the bureaucratic move to tear down the old center. So much incompetence at so many levels of government officialdom should be awarded a medal for stupidity and shortsightedness.

One wonders which remembrance of the Jewish past in Los Angeles will be the next to go.

Abraham Hoffman
Canoga Park

Conservative Jews

My Orthodox background and my 20-plus year commitment to Conservative Judaism make me realize how shallow Rob Eshman’s column really is (“Carnival Time,” March 17).

Our problems in Conservative Judaism have nothing to do with needing more dunk tanks. Rather we need to figure out how to engage congregants in Jewish observance and ritual.

The number of families who keep kosher declines yearly, as does the degree of Shabbat observance. Synagogue-going in general is also in great decline.

Soccer has replaced shul on Shabbos morning for many families. The movement needs to figure out how to instill in Conservative Jews the passion and desire to become more observant.

My children played sports, took music lessons, etc. Yet we went to shul every Shabbos. My son has returned to his Orthodox roots, and my daughter is an observant Conservative Jew who reads Torah and participates actively in synagogue life.

Maybe the choices parents make have something to do with it. Maybe the loosening of some observances in the entire movement are at fault. Maybe both…. But the absence of more rabbis in the dunk tank is not at the heart of the matter.

Pearl Taylor
Sherman Oaks

Hancock Park

In your article, “An Ugly Day in the Neighborhood” (March 3), my quotes and misquotes did not truly express my sentiments. I ran for the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council hoping to get beyond the polarization characterizing relations between the local homeowners group and the Orthodox community, following the battle over Etz Chaim.

However, the election itself was bitterly and nastily contested, and I was one of only four Orthodox representatives elected. Still, after being contacted by an activist outside the Orthodox community seeking rapprochement, I remained guardedly optimistic.

Three meetings, six months into the process, my hopes have been dashed. The council did not meaningfully address or even discuss any issue other than a new set of by-laws that are clearly aimed at disenfranchising the Orthodox community.

The Orthodox have been labeled as “other” and are being effectively marginalized. This is true regardless of where one stood or whether one was involved with the Etz Chaim issue.

Ideally, the Neighborhood Council would follow its mandate of reaching out to the greater community and fostering tolerance and collegiality. Unfortunately, this council, elected by a mere 2 1/2 percent of the population, has no apparent interest in these ideals and is just another forum for heavy-handed political machinations and ongoing divisiveness.

Larry Eisenberg
Los Angeles

Bush’s Jewish Moment

It’s always interesting to get a glimpse of the inner workings of a left-leaning political scientist’s mind, especially when they try to analyze the reasons why many Jews are now Republicans. The amazing thing is that these political scientists almost always get it wrong.

In his essay on what he calls “The End of Bush’s ‘Jewish Moment'” (March 17), Raphael J. Sonenshein makes his whimsical use of the word “moment” to imply that those of us who are Republicans did so for a short period of time and are now re-evaluating our positions and are or will be soon returning to our womb in the Democratic fold.

The interesting thing is that many of us were Republicans long before Bush took office, even before the Reagan years, and we did so for a myriad of reasons, with clarity of purpose being one of the most important.

Finally, many of us have been impressed with the president’s actions in Afghanistan and Iraq. Sonenshein incorrectly calls them unilateral (ignoring the participation of Britain and others), but perhaps if another Democratic president would have taken similar action, the world would have been a much better place.

Just think if Roosevelt would have taken the same unilateral action (along with Britain and others) against Hitler before the Holocaust, but I forget. Roosevelt probably listened to political advisers like Sonenshein — progressive intellectuals.

Bill Bender
Granada Hills

Enough Europe Bashing

I am not sure as to whom I should write about my amazement as I visit Los Angeles during my spring break from Washington University and look at your paper.

The Jewish Journal, when I lived here, seemed to have more substance, but I feel that I am now reading a cheap, sensationalistic paper:

1 — I see an end of February cover with an African man (wow!) who could be Jewish, says the headline (“Is This Man a Jew,” Feb. 24). Imagine people of Los Angeles, an African Jew. Is that racism or what raising its big head? That outrageous story made it to be your cover.

2 — In “Just Joking Around” by Ed Rampell (March 17), another rant under the guise of humor: “I have so many reasons to dislike the French…. We bail this country out every 30 years…. The last war France won was led by a 12-year-old girl,” the words of Keith Barany.

3 — This kind of stand is echoed by Judea Pearl, with all my sympathy for his murdered son, who slips similarly down another dangerous generalization — now extended to all Europeans: “….What every child in Europe knew all along — who causes the troubles of the world and who can be bashed with impunity” (“For Ilan, a Eulogy,” March 17).

As a Jew, a U.S. citizen, a Frenchman and a European, I feel ashamed to read such statements being given prominence in your pages. I hope you will raise the level of your discourse soon.

Pier Marton
St. Louis, Mo.

Singled Out

Just read Amy Klein’s singles column and it tickles me how on the one hand, she dogs her well-intentioned suitor for his mid-’90s-era garb, and yet, hilariously, in the very same article, she repeatedly summons like a mantra (what else?) that well-worn, way-played out, mid-90s “Seinfeld” cliché “….Not that there’s anything wrong with that.” (“I Want You to Want Me,” March 10).

With rationale like that, there’s no need to read past the column headline to figure out why she’s so miserably and utterly unattached. Please re-title the Singles Column “Unintentional Humor.”

Name Withheld by Request

“Aryan Nation?”

Your cover photo and the caption that accompanied it on Volume 21 (Feb. 24) are chilling. Do American Jews plan to keep Israel white?

What if the photo was of an Eastern European Jew with caption: “Is this man an American and should American money be used to bring him home?”

Are we promoting a Jewish “Aryan nation?” When will it stop? Re-read “Animal Farm” by George Orwell.

Dr. Margaret England
Los Angeles

THE JEWISH JOURNAL welcomes letters from all readers. Letters should be no more than 200 words and must include a valid name, address and phone number. Letters sent via e-mail must not contain attachments. Pseudonyms and initials will not be used, but names will be withheld on request. We reserve the right to edit all letters. Mail: The Jewish Journal, Letters, 3580 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 1510, Los Angeles, CA 90010; e-mail: letters@jewishjournal.com; or fax: (213) 368-1684

 

Parent Wins School Pesticide Battle


A new law that bans that use of experimental pesticides in schools is the latest achievement of Robina Suwol, a Jewish anti-pesticide activist.

The law, which took effect last month, grew out of a presentation two years ago before an L.A. Unified School District (LAUSD) advisory committee of which Suwol was a part.

As Suwol recalled it, a researcher asked to use LAUSD school sites to test an experimental pesticide.

“The woman said, ‘We use less [pesticides] and they’re stronger [so] therefore they’re safer,'” Suwol said. “We all kind of laughed and politely declined.”

But in the back and forth, the researcher mentioned that a school site had already been secured in Ventura County for the experimental product.

“That haunted me, and I began to research it,” she said.

What Suwol said she found was an arena of murky practices and documentation. It wasn’t clear that experimental pesticides were being used at any schools, she said, but it also wasn’t clear that they weren’t or that they never had been — or that they wouldn’t be tried at school sites in the future. So she decided to do something about it.

Suwol soon met with various environmental and public health organizations to marshal opposition to experimental pesticides in schools: “Everyone was on board that this was a curious loophole.”

Assembly member Cindy Montanez (D-San Fernando) agreed to author the legislation, which became Assembly Bill 405. Assemblymember Lloyd Levine (D-Van Nuys) backed it, as did organizations including the California Medical Association, the state PTA, the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, and many others.

An early critic of the effort was the state’s own Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR), which has responsibility over these matters. At the time, officials there characterized the proposed restrictions as potentially redundant, confusing and over-reaching.

While permission to test can, in fact, be granted to experimental pesticides whose safety has not been determined, these permits “are time-limited, relatively few, and are closely controlled under very specific and restrictive conditions,” said Glenn Brank, director of communications for the Department of Pesticide Regulation.

He added that the department “has never allowed an experimental pesticide project at an active school facility, and we never would.”

Suwol said she had trouble obtaining data from the department about experimental test sites. Brank insisted, however, that such data is publicly available on request.

As it happens, even the researcher whose comment prompted Suwol’s quest contends there was a misunderstanding. This different version of events was reported by a pesticide industry news e-journal on Pesticide.net called Insider, which identified the researcher in question as UC Berkeley entomologist Gail Getty.

Getty told Insider that she did indeed give L.A. Unified a presentation on an anti-termite poison that she was researching called Noviflumuron. But as for the Ventura County school test site, Getty told Insider that it was an abandoned school building fenced off from the public due to extreme termite damage — though she acknowledged that she did not mention this fact during her Los Angeles presentation. She added that her aim was simply to make LAUSD aware that a potentially helpful product was in the works. In the end, Getty told Insider, her test in Ventura never happened anyway. Noviflumuron received EPA approval in 2004.

Whatever the case, as far as Suwol and the legislation’s backers are concerned, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Lawmakers passed AB405 in 2005 and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed the bill into law. The Department of Pesticide Regulation says it fully supports the new regulations in their present form. The bill was eventually amended to avoid the problem of creating potential legal hurdles if a school used a widely accepted product, such as bleach, in ways not specifically mentioned in regulations.

Suwol’s interest in the subject of pesticides dates to 1998, when a worker accidentally sprayed her 6-year-old son, Nicholas, with a weed killer as he walked up the steps of Sherman Oaks Elementary.

“I saw someone in white near the steps,” said Suwol, then “Nicholas yelled back at me, ‘Mommy, it tastes terrible!'”

Nicholas suffered a severe asthma attack afterward. Suwol started meeting with doctors and scientists, and she began raising concerns with L.A. Unified officials. At first she was treated like one more crazy mom, but she persisted, eventually getting the attention of the school board, where she got backing from board members Julie Korenstein and David Tokofsky.

In some cases, she made officials consider the obvious: Why should pesticides be sprayed when children are present?

Today, Suwol heads California Safe Schools, an L.A.-based nonprofit that advocates lower-risk pest control in schools, including barriers and natural predators, and keeping parents and school staff informed when poisons must be used. Its advisory board includes directors of various environmental organizations, including Dr. Joseph K. Lyou of the California Environmental Rights Alliance and William E. Currie of the International Pest Management Institute.

At L.A. Unified, her efforts bore fruit in the 1999 creation of the Integrated Pest Management (IPM) system, which recommends a more holistic approach to eliminating pests and weeds than simply dousing them with poisons. It was before the district’s IPM oversight committee, on which Suwol sits, that she first heard from the pesticide researcher and became convinced there was a problem that needed to be addressed.

The governor’s office and others, Suwol said, “recognized that this was a situation that, even if it happened in just a few instances, should be stopped.”

 

Calendars Remove Anti-Israel Day


A campaign by Berlin-based activists has resulted in the erasure of “Al Quds Day” from some interfaith calendars in the United States and United Kingdom.

As Iran’s president was calling for Israel to be wiped off the map, members of Together Against Political Islam and Anti-Semitism were busy calling for “Al Quds Day” to be wiped off calendars — and the campaign is paying off.

Institutions on both sides of the Atlantic, from Harvard University to Northumbria University in England, have announced that they are deleting Al Quds Day, or Jerusalem Day — a holiday that focuses on the destruction of Israel — from calendars where it had been listed as a religious holiday. Al Quds Day fell on Oct. 28 this year.

The point is not just to clean up calendars, said political scientist Arne Behrensen, a co-founder of the activist group, but “to engage the political left in confronting Islamism and Islamist anti-Semitism.”

Members of the pro-democracy group include people of Iranian, Kurdish and Turkish background. Many of the Iranian and Kurdish members are refugees from their homelands.

The annihilation of Israel is the raison d’etre of the “holiday” that the late Iranian leader Ayatollah Khomeini created after the 1979 Islamic Revolution. It is marked with anti-Israel demonstrations in some Islamic countries, as well as in cities with large Muslim populations outside the Islamic world.

Berlin police have taken increasing interest in defusing the event in recent years, since an incident in which an Al Quds Day demonstrator proudly displayed his small children wrapped in mock suicide bomb belts. All posters and banners at the event now must be submitted for approval, including those in Arabic, and statements calling for Israel’s destruction are banned.

That may be why Berlin’s Al Quds Day demonstrations have declined in numbers, Behrensen said. His group has held counter-demonstrations for three years running.

That trend held true this year as well. Only some 400 marchers attended this year’s event on Saturday, down from 1,500 in 2004 and 3,000 in 2003, said Anetta Kahane, a co-organizer of a counterdemonstration and a member of the Berlin Jewish community.

The group also succeeded in getting a German organization to remove Al Quds Day from its calendar in 2003. This year, Behrensen focused on British and American institutions that he found on the Internet.

One recipient of the campaign’s recent e-mail, Debra Dawson of Harvard United Ministries in Cambridge, Mass., said she had checked with her group’s Islamic chaplain “and he assured me that this day is not an Islamic holiday, so I am removing it from the site.”

Spike Ried, president of the Northumbria University Students’ Union in Newcastle, England, said his group had removed the event from its online calendar and issued a written apology. It reads in part, “We now understand that this day is considered offensive to Israeli and Jewish people worldwide.”

Students submit dates to the calendar, and Al Quds Day “was included on the understanding that it was a religious day,” Ried said. After discussions with both Islamic and Jewish student groups, he added, “we understand now that it is a political day, and have therefore removed it.”

The union also has “drawn up measures to ensure that this does not happen in future,” he said.

Del Krueger, creator of an online interfaith calendar (www.interfaithcalendar.org) that is a source for many others, said he also had removed Al Quds Day from future calendars.

However, the event remains on the calendar for 2006, where it is defined as a “somewhat controversial Islamic observance.”

George Fraser, a city council spokesman in Dundee, Scotland, said the “entire calendar is being removed” because of the issue. The University of North Carolina in Asheville said it had removed the Al Quds Day listing from its calendar of holy days.

Terry Allen, administrator at the Charnwood Arts Center in Leicestershire, England, said he added Al Quds Day after finding it on Krueger’s site, believing it “was a Muslim religious festival.” The activists’ letter pressed him to look deeper.

“I would like to apologize for any offense which has unintentionally been caused by this mistake,” he wrote to the group.

A spokesperson for the Boy Scouts of America said the issue was under discussion there as well.

Behrensen chose to focus on the calendars after reading a lecture by Mansoor Limba, an Iranian, in Malaysia in December 2004. Limba spoke with pride of how Al Quds Day was becoming accepted as an Islamic holiday around the world, recognized by a long list of organizations, including some Jewish ones.

“This is their strategy, to spread their propaganda worldwide,” Behrensen said. “We thought, if we want to counter them, let’s see what they’re doing, and we’ll try to prevent their success.”

 

Sher Cohen’s Law & Order: Justice Unit


Don’t call Nancy Sher Cohen at home after 8:30 p.m. “One of two things is usually true,” the 54-year-old-litigator said. “Either I am asleep, because I am exhausted [from all the work], or I am out because I am working.”

For other, less-energetic people, an 8:30 nightly collapse from exhaustion would be an indication to slow down. But the lively and assiduous Cohen, a classic rock lover and breast cancer survivor, who has made her professional name representing, among other things, Holocaust survivors cheated out of life insurance money, chemical manufacturers and even the mortgage lender on the Twin Towers after Sept. 11, is impervious to such signals.

“She never really gets overwhelmed,” said Robert Cohen, Nancy’s husband, and a work-from-home screenwriter. “She is the poster child for multitasking. She finds time for everything, and she is a master at getting a lot of things done in a little period of time.”

For Cohen, shareholding partner at Heller Ehrman — a law firm of more than 750 attorneys with offices in 13 cities — and a indefatigable community activist who sits of the board of Bet Tzedek Legal Services, Congregation Valley Beth Shalom and the California Women’s Law Center, practicing law is a vocational expression of her Judaism. She finds in the law a similar process of exegesis to Torah study. Further, using the law to help the less fortunate, and the “make-peace-first” approach that Cohen brings to all her cases, she attributes to her Jewish background.

“I grew up in a Modern Orthodox congregation, where the study of Torah was very important,” said Cohen, speaking to The Journal from her downtown office. “What you do in the study of Torah is that you take a story or a commentary on that story, and try to gather from that a rule of law. Then, if you play with the story a little bit, and tweak a few facts, it changes the way you think about the rule.”

“Civil law is the same, but the story is from a previous case,” she said. “You tweak the facts and you change the law that you follow, and that changes the rules that you would apply. It’s a chance to understand nuance.”

Cohen, who is being honored at the Four Seasons on Oct. 30 by the American Jewish Congress with its 2005 Louis D. Brandeis Award, sees litigation as a way to solve problems.

“Sometimes you have to use the court system to do it, but I never try a case without trying to settle it first,” she said. “It’s a very Jewish thing to do. It is not about the fight, it is about the solution.”

But sometimes, fighting is the only solution. Currently Cohen is representing a group of Holocaust survivors who are suing European insurance companies who failed to pay out life insurance policies that their relatives had purchased before the war. The case, a class-action suit which has been going on now for eight years and could potentially be worth hundreds of millions of dollars, is a thorny one.

“Developing the facts is a real challenge — how do you find out from insurers whether or not your client had an insurance policy?” Cohen said. “[The insurance companies] say things like, ‘But you don’t have a copy of the policy or the death certificate’ — well, people didn’t bring their insurance policies when they were going to Auschwitz.”

Some of Cohen’s other cases are less sensational. On several occasions, Cohen has represented chemical manufacturers against Erin Brockovich-type lawsuits, where certain illnesses are blamed on a town’s proximity to a chemical plant.

“It does not offend my sense of justice at all,” Cohen said. “Many times these cases involve tragic illnesses, but I don’t have a problem representing a company who says that illness was not caused by something they did. Some things are just wrong. It is wrong that a child will get sick and die, but it doesn’t mean that it was caused by something, and it doesn’t mean that someone has to pay for it.”

While trying such cases can be challenging, it is in her personal life that Cohen faced the biggest trial of all. In 1997, she was diagnosed with breast cancer, and spent nine months going through chemotherapy, radiation therapy and surgery. Throughout it all, she kept working. At the time she was managing partner at Heller Ehrman. She set up her office at home, and she also didn’t stop the community work she was doing as president of Bet Tzedek.

“People would see me in various states of hair,” she said, referring to the hair loss that is a side effect of the chemotherapy. “But I was never depressed. I always believed I would survive. I got tremendous support from home, and tremendous support from my law firm. The support I got from the community is something that I take with me every day.”

“She wouldn’t let anything interfere with the focus she had for Bet Tzedek, even though she was extremely engaged with many other important things in her life,” said David Lash, who was the executive director of the organization at the time Cohen was president.

“She was an incredible president,” Lash said. “We raised more money her year than we ever had in the past, we improved the staff and we took on new and exciting litigation [representing Holocaust survivors] that she prompted us into. She was a role model in that she tackled so many things successfully without regard for what normal people would consider to be serious restraints of time and effort.”

“She is a hero,” he continued. “That is the best way to describe it.”

 

Twenty-Nine Days to Make Mitzvot


Aryeh Green and Yosef Abramowitz were sipping tea in a Bedouin tent last year in Sde Boker, a kibbutz in Israel’s Negev desert, when they had an idea.

Participants at a conference of Kol Dor, an organization that seeks to revitalize Jewish activism and unity across the globe, the two were discussing how the group could promote Jewish identity and peoplehood.

“Most Jewish institutions and endeavors are out of touch with the next generation of Jews because of a lack of relevance,” Abramowitz, CEO of Jewish Family and Life (JFL), which publishes several Jewish Web sites and magazines, told JTA. “But we do know that the idealism and the desire to contribute to the world” are predominant.

It occurred to them that a month in the Jewish calendar formally dedicated to social action would be an ideal means of mobilizing and inspiring the Jewish community.

Their initiative received a major boost this week when the Knesset’s Committee on Immigration, Absorption and Diaspora Affairs proclaimed the Jewish month of Cheshvan, which falls in November this year, as Social Action Month.

According to Green, who serves as an adviser to former Israeli Cabinet minister Natan Sharansky, “We agreed that if we wanted Kol Dor to succeed, we would have to focus on practical, tangible contributions.”

“What makes this initiative interesting and unique is that it harnesses the power of different social action and Jewish organizations to get involved,” Green said.

The goal is not to spearhead specific projects, but to “pull together the existing frameworks of social action.”

The effort has garnered the support of various Jewish groups, including the Jewish Agency for Israel and Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life, the Israel Defense Forces’ education branch and the World Union of Jewish Students.

Abramowitz said Labor Party legislator Colette Avital, who chairs the Knesset’s Immigration Committee, has sent a letter to various Jewish organizations expressing support.

Jewish schools in Israel and the Diaspora will be a particular focus of the initiative. According to Abramowitz, Social Action Month will receive special attention in the BabagaNewz, a monthly magazine on Jewish values that JFL publishes for elementary school students. The magazine serves 1,400 Jewish schools and has a circulation of more than 40,000.

The JFL journal, Sh’ma, and magazine, JVibe, also intend to publish features on the subject, he said.

Abramowitz said Cheshvan was selected for the project because it immediately follows the High Holidays, which usually spur higher levels of Jewish observance.

The Knesset decision also represents a victory for Kol Dor, whose philosophy formed the ideological foundation for Social Action Month.

“The paradigm that we are advocating in Jewish life is that peoplehood is a central mobilizing force,” Abramowitz said, citing the success of the movement to rescue Soviet Jewry as one example.

The group seeks to use the Jewish concept of tikkun olam, or repairing the world, as a unifying theme.

Memoirs From the Orthodox ‘Minefield’


A quick surf on Amazon.com or a stroll through the local bookstore suggests that we are living in the era of the political memoir. Anyone with enough time to wade through at least a sampling of the abundant “I was there” autobiographies from Beltway vets will end up not only with a better understanding of how the American policy sausage is made, but also with a more intimate portrait of the public servants who do the actual grinding.

Unfortunately, at least from the perspective of an editor at a Jewish newspaper, our communal leaders traditionally don’t do memoirs. The result is an incomplete record of a community that operates a multibillion-dollar charity network, has helped frame the debate on domestic issues from civil rights to church-state separation and wields increasing power on the international stage.

The ideal choices to rectify this dearth of insider memoirs would be juicy tell-alls from Abraham Foxman and Malcolm Hoenlein. But for now, Dr. Mandell “Mendy” Ganchrow’s recent “Journey Through The Minefields: From Vietnam to Washington, an Orthodox Surgeon’s Odyssey” (Eshel Books) serves as a good first step.

A retired colon-rectal surgeon, Ganchrow arguably has done as much as anyone else to transform the Orthodox community into a growing political force in American and Jewish communal life. From his base in Monsey, N.Y., Ganchrow founded the pro-Israel Hudson Valley PAC, which, under his leadership, became for a time the country’s 100th-largest political action committee. He also helped open the door to significant Orthodox participation in the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the most influential pro-Israel lobbying group in Washington. During his six-year stint as president of the Orthodox Union (OU), from 1994 to 2000, he put the organization on the national political map by opening its Washington office and increasing its profile on a range of public-policy issues.

All this, of course, is fleshed out in Ganchrow’s book, as is his role as a leading American Orthodox opponent of efforts by Reform and Conservative rabbis to secure government recognition in Israel. (Of particular interest is his account of a top-secret meeting between representatives of all the denominations and the Israeli chief rabbis, apparently the only meeting in 20 years in which Ganchrow had nothing to say.)

The book’s most dramatic sections come at the beginning and end, with the opening pages recounting Ganchrow’s tour of duty in Vietnam and the second-to-last chapter outlining how he led the OU as it was engulfed by a sexual abuse scandal not of his making.

In Vietnam, in 1969, Ganchrow, then a U.S. Army surgeon stationed at the American base at Long Binh, found himself leading a Passover seder for 400 GIs. Suddenly, in the middle of the meal, enemy rocket fire hit just 500-1,000 yards away. It stopped just as quickly, but no one could be sure what would happen next.

After thinking for a few seconds, Maj. Ganchrow jumped up onto the table and shouted: “Men, I am the ranking officer in this room. I give you my solemn word that God will allow no harm to befall you if you now perform the mitzvah of sitting back down and finishing the seder.”

Ganchrow would execute a similar maneuver almost a quarter-century later, with the OU reeling from an article in the New York Jewish Week alleging that union officials had spent two decades ignoring credible sexual assault allegations against Rabbi Baruch Lanner, its top youth group leader. With some other prominent OU board members advocating a closing of the ranks, Ganchrow, who to this day insists he learned of the allegations against Lanner from the Jewish Week article, argued that such a step amounted to organizational suicide. Instead, he successfully pushed for the creation of an independent commission to investigate the scandal and to issue a report.

The ensuing investigation led to the resignation of the organization’s top professional, Rabbi Raphael Butler, and the commission’s scathing report appears to have gone a long way toward rehabilitating the OU’s public profile. Still, according to some unofficial estimates, the commission ended up costing $1 million; and some critics on the board still believe that the whole mess could have been settled had Ganchrow simply fallen on his sword and resigned (though this strikes me as a case of wishful thinking). Today, according to Ganchrow, he is essentially a persona non grata in OU circles (and the feeling is apparently mutual, judging from his critique of the direction taken by the organization since the end of his two-term stint as president).

Whether one looks at Ganchrow and sees an endearing streak of spunk or a grating case of stubbornness, he has often proved himself an effective Jewish activist and organizational leader. In addition, it is hard to dispute that the OU appears to be recovering from the Lanner scandal in large part because of Ganchrow’s decision to create the commission and appoint Richard Joel, now president of Yeshiva University, to be its chair.

Of course, this last point probably wouldn’t come as a surprise to any of the American boys sitting at the Passover table in Southeast Asia in 1969, when the Ganchrow gambit was attempted for the first time.

All the soldiers stayed till the end of the seder; no casualties were reported.

Article reprinted courtesy The Forward.

Ami Eden is national editor of The Forward.

Other People’s Problems


If it wasn’t for the fact that America can’t chew gum and hold an election at the same time, politicians and the media would have been buzzing about what happened this week in Israel. Well, what happened? Dov Weisglass, a senior aide to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, told the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz that Israel’s planned unilateral pullout from Gaza will put an end to new negotiations with the Palestinians.

“Effectively, this whole package called the Palestinian state, with all that it entails, has been removed indefinitely from our agenda,” he said.

In other words, that “road map” that President Bush has promoted as the singular initiative of his Israeli-Palestinian policy — forget about it.

“Dov Weisglass explained very nicely that Sharon is implementing the disengagement plan to ensure that a final, wider peace deal goes to hell,” opined Ha’aretz columnist Gideon Samet.

But did the diplomat mean exactly what he said? An American Jewish activist who opposes the prime minister’s Gaza pullout suggested to me that the Weisglass statement was a sop to the hard right. Lull your right wing into believing the withdrawal will concretize their dream of Greater Israel, suggested Mort Klein of the Zionist Organization of America, and perhaps they will go along with it.

Then again, Weisglass might have meant it. The Gaza withdrawal and the separation barrier on the West Bank would create a de facto Palestinian territory whose configurations would render viable statehood impossible.

This solution is brilliant except for one small fact: it won’t solve the problem.

This point was made abundantly clear in a presentation retired Israeli Adm. Ami Ayalon gave last month to members of the Pacific Council on International Policy here in Los Angeles.

The problem, Ayalon reminded the group, is that between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River, the Arab population will shortly outnumber the Jewish population. Sharon’s maneuvering doesn’t create a peaceful settlement between two viable states, but an imposed arrangement by one state on a hostile population. If that population demands one person, one vote — Israel is a democracy after all — the Jewish state is finished.

“Time is running out on the window of opportunity,” Ayalon said. “In a few short years, the two-state option will not exist anymore, because of demography, and violence will prevail. If we don’t withdraw, we will have to choose between Jewish apartheid and transfer.”

Ayalon is compact and muscular with a tough, impatient manner. That is to say, he is Israeli. He spent 34 years in the Israeli navy, rising to commander-in-chief, and four years as director of the Shin Bet, Israel’s internal security service. Last year he joined with the Palestinian intellectual Sari Nusseibeh to found the People’s Voice Initiative, a grass-roots campaign for an Israeli-Palestinian peace settlement.

The initiative, according to Ayalon, has gathered 150,000 Palestinian and 200,000 Israeli signatures on a simple six-point document that outlines a two-state solution (www.mifkad.org.il/en/).

“During the 12 months before the intifada broke out in 1999, we enjoyed security,” Ayalon said. “Only one Israeli was killed as a result of terror, whereas we have lost over 1,000 Israeli lives during the last three years. What was the reason for the collapse of security? It was not because the Shin Bet was better when I was in charge.”

Israel’s security is better now, in fact. What has changed became clear to Ayalon in a conversation with a Palestinian psychologist.

“He told me the Palestinians have won,” Ayalon said. “I asked him, how come? Are you crazy? You’ve lost so many people, you are losing your freedom, you are losing your dreams. He said, ‘Ami, you don’t understand us. Victory for us means seeing you suffer. And as long as we shall suffer, you will suffer. Finally, after 55 years, we are not the only ones who suffer in the Middle East, and this is victory for us.’ For me, this was something new that I had not previously understood. As long as the Palestinians don’t have hope, we shall not have security.”

Ayalon dismissed the idea that withdrawal and a fence alone could protect Israel — the very idea that Weisglass floated this week.

“In the long-run it will not give us the security we expect,” he told the Council. “They will dig tunnels, fire rockets and later missiles. It will only postpone conflict.”

The conflict has spawned a cottage industry in peace initiatives over the past years, from Geneva to Hollywood. Ayalon believes The People’s Voice to be the most realistic, simply because of its founders’ credentials, and the popular support the petition has garnered.

Still, several of the Council members around the table were skeptical that Yasser Arafat was any more a partner for peace now than he was during Oslo.

“Arafat is not a partner,” countered Ayalon, with refreshing non-peacenik bluntness. “But there are Palestinians who are pragmatic enough. If Palestinians on the street adopt it, this will give [leaders] permission to accept. Our leaders have become followers.”

Now Israel’s leader has begun to initiate what looked like thoughtful measures to reduce terror and increase the chances of a negotiated settlement. If these measures turn out to be the end of the road, not the beginning, Ayalon’s predictions may very well come true, and the present conflict will become the nightmare of yet another generation.

Monk Could Be Way to Mideast Peace


Next week, I am sponsoring a group of Israelis and Palestinians to spend a few weeks in a small village in southern France with a Buddhist monk named Thich Nhat Hanh. These two disparate groups of people do not know each other, but often feel hatred toward each other. Some of them have been hurt in the war.

But by the end of the two weeks, under the guidance of the monks, the Israelis and the Palestinians will learn to listen to, understand, forgive and maybe even like each other. They will be at peace.

Could this work on a larger scale for their respective countries? I think so.

There are only two ways to ever make peace in the Middle East, and both are extreme. One is for one side to obliterate the other in a military conquest. The other, far more favorable approach, is for an unrelated third party to broker peace. For this to succeed, this person must come with absolutely no agenda — not one of country, religion, politics or money. Just peace.

That’s the one we are going for, because we have found such a person.

Nhat Hanh is a world-renowned Vietnamese Buddhist monk, scholar, poet and peace activist who lives in Plum Village, France. Martin Luther King Jr. nominated him for a Nobel Peace prize. He has written almost 100 books. All over the world, he teaches what he calls mindfulness — peaceful, joyful living.

He is in a unique position to help the world now. We are trying to help him.

I met him because I read one of his books and it really helped my life as a movie producer. I learned to listen more, scream less, appreciate everything around me and focus. I even learned to "de-multitask." And now I get more done, and am happier and calmer about it.

I figured if it worked for me, it could work for my friends in the entertainment business, who could sure use his help. So I offhandedly suggested he do a seminar in Hollywood.

Three months later, he called and said, "How’s next Tuesday?" I had Nhat Hanh and 15 monks over to my house to meet about 50 agents, producers, directors, studio executives and actors. I love these people, but they would stab themselves in the back if they could.

In one night, he changed some of their lives. Nhat Hanh does not try to convert people to Buddhism or get them to shave their heads. He teaches them how to listen to others and appreciate life more.

I thought it amazing what he did in Hollywood, but there are people with a lot more to be angry about than their TV series getting cancelled. He has done this for senators, cops, prisoners, people battling AIDS, victims of prejudice and hate crimes. And for Palestinians and Israelis.

Every summer people come from all over the world to Nhat Hanh’s retreat center in France to learn from him and his spiritual sidekick, Sister Chan Khong. A few years ago, they invited some Israelis and Palestinians — a few severely wounded in their war with each other. They forgave.

That gave me the idea to try this on a larger scale, and to tell the world about it. If everyone sees what can happen next week in Plum Village, it could then be done on a much larger scale. I wasn’t sure if it was the right thing to do, so I asked friends, advisers and mentors — some of whom run charities. What really convinced me was their answer.

They all said, "No, don’t do it."

They said don’t bother. It will never happen. They hate each other too much. It’s too late. One person even argued that if it cost a Palestinian more to fly to France than an Israeli, it wasn’t fair. Everyone was so far into their anger they didn’t even want to try.

That convinced me that we have to.

Nhat Hanh has no agenda other than peace. He has a great expression: There is no way to peace; peace is the way.

Something extreme must be done and will be. I vote we try extreme peace before the other alternative.

I hope the world watches what happens at Nhat Hanh’s village next week. Who better to do this, who could be more agenda-less than a peaceful Buddhist monk with unique gift for teaching people to listen and be mindful, who has no country, no desire for wealth, no stake in politics?

This is not about who is right or wrong or who started it or who is hurt the most. It is about peace.

It can happen.

Watch.

Film producer Larry Kasanoff is chairman and CEO of Threshold Entertainment.

Community Briefs


Hollywood Welcomes Israel Foreign Minister

Israel Foreign Affairs Minister Silvan Shalom met with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and a bevy of high-powered Hollywood stars, an achievement granted few foreign dignitaries, during a three-day visit to Los Angeles.

During the 45-minute meeting in his Santa Monica office on Friday, Schwarzenegger spoke with Shalom about trade, the rising global tide of intolerance and the governor’s trip to Israel for the May 2 groundbreaking for the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Center for Human Dignity-Museum of Tolerance in Jerusalem.

On Saturday evening, producer Arnon Milchan hosted a private party at his home for Shalom, his wife, Judy, and some Hollywood friends.

Joining in the five-hour party, which lasted late into the night, were the likes of power couples Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston, Warren Beatty and Annette Benning and Danny DeVito and Rhea Pearlman, as well as Denzel Washington, Kevin Costner, Angelina Jolie and Naomi Campbell.

Sharon Stone was there, as was director Oliver Stone (no relation), who has not been known hitherto for his pro-Israel sympathies.

The press was not invited, but Moshe Debby, Shalom’s spokesman, reported that the dialogue between the Hollywood contingent and the foreign minister was lively and ranged across the spectrum of Middle East and Israeli-Palestinian problems.

Shalom also met with some 150 community leaders at the headquarters of The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles.

When Shalom mentioned that his office has only a very modest budget for hasbarah, or international information and public relations outreach, community activist Guilford Glazer rose and announced that he was giving $1 million in support of Israel’s hasbarah effort.

"I hope that other American Jews will join in this important cause," said Glazer, a retired commercial real estate developer.

During a Friday visit to the Wiesenthal Center’s Museum of Tolerance, Shalom warned of growing anti-Semitism, particularly in Europe and the Muslim countries.

"Like terrorism, anti-Semitism is not only threatening Jews, but the whole world," he said.

Shalom announced that he was convening a high-level international conference in June at a Jerusalem venue on anti-Semitism and the danger it represents. — Tom Tugend, Contributing Editor

AJC Takes L.A. Consulars on Whirlwind Tour

About 20 Los Angeles-based diplomats spent six hours on a bus March 16 to absorb Jewish Los Angeles in the first consular corps tour sponsored by the American Jewish Committee (AJC).

Southern California’s 600,000 Jews seem, "well-organized, very strong, very accommodating, interactive," said Ethiopian Consul General Taye Atske Selassie, who toured several Westside Jewish institutions with colleagues from Argentina, Austria, Belize, Croatia, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Hungary, Japan, Mexico, Peru, Romania, Sweden and Switzerland.

The AJC tour stopped at the Wilshire Boulevard offices of The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, which that same day was hosting Israeli Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom (see story above). The diplomats did not meet Shalom and instead toured The Federation’s Zimmer Children’s Museum and heard presentations from several Federation-funded agencies.

On the bus, tour guide lecturers included Young Israel of Century City Rabbi Elazar Muskin, Jewish Journal Editor-in-Chief Rob Eshman and Jewish Historical Society President Steve Sass. — David Finnigan, Contributing Writer

Open Debate Preferable to Blind Support


A recent report in The New York Times captured almost perfectly the thorny questions that stand at the center of relations between the American Jewish community and Israel. Should one be permitted to criticize the government of a foreign country with which one feels a deep affinity, or is it a moral and political imperative to support the policies of that government, right or wrong?

What was so striking about The Times article was that it raised these questions not about the American Jewish community and Israel, but rather about the African American community and Zimbabwe.

The parallels between the two cases couldn’t be more intriguing. Just as a number of American Jews, usually of the progressive persuasion, have asserted their right and responsibility to criticize Israeli government policy, so, too, a group of African American intellectuals and activists recently abandoned their posture of strong support and advocacy for Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe by issuing a stinging condemnation of his policies, including appropriation of white-owned farmland.

In a letter of June 3, 2003, they recalled their “strong historical ties to the liberation movements in Zimbabwe, which included material and political support, as well as opposition to U.S. government policies that supported white minority rule.” But they quickly moved on to denounce “the political repression under way in Zimbabwe as intolerable and in complete contradiction of the values and principles that were both the foundation of your liberation struggle and of our solidarity with that struggle.”

This public letter provoked a torrent of responses from African Americans, many of whom were critical of the signatories. According to The Times account, the letter writers have been cast as “politically naive, sellouts and misguided betrayers of liberation struggle.”

Among the more serious critics, professor Ronald Walters of the University of Maryland justified his opposition to the letter by stating that “I am on the side of the people who claim there’s a justice issue in terms of the land. You can’t escape the racial dynamic, and you can’t escape the political history.”

Another critic, Mark Fancher, questioned the legitimacy of the letter writers. “This is an African problem, a Zimbabwean problem” — beyond the ken of “people who are really disconnected from the day-to-day lives of people in Zimbabwe.”

It is hard not to hear in those words echoes of a refrain frequently uttered in the American Jewish community — the gist of which is that it is the responsibility of American Jews to express enthusiastic and unequivocal support for the government of Israel.

The underlying logic is that American Jews are themselves “disconnected from the day-to-day lives” of Israelis. It is not they who fight the wars or suffer from the scourge of terrorism; consequently, they have no standing to criticize. Indeed, to express criticism of Israeli policies is to abet the enemy — and thereby come dangerously close to treason.

I am familiar with these arguments, because I have often been on the wrong end of them. Those of us American Jews who have felt compelled to condemn the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip as immoral, self-destructive and a violation of Israel’s own best ideals have often faced the wrath of fellow community members. How could a Jew attack Israel in a time of need? Hadn’t the Palestinians surrendered any right to a state? Weren’t they better off now than before 1967?

A similar set of justifications now issues from the mouths of the opponents of Mugabe’s African American critics. How can one attack an African leader, a heroic figure, in time of need? After all, as Fancher asserts, “The one thing nobody disputes is that, whether he won or not, Mugabe got a lot of votes.” Such statements reveal the absurdity — and moral bankruptcy — of blind support.

Curiously, the tables have turned in the case of American Jews and Israel. Not too long ago, it was taboo to criticize Israel’s occupation. Israel’s government had to be supported, regardless of its policies.

But will the same people who insisted on these principles now be able to reverse course? After all, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, in a speech to his own party, used the “O” word — occupation — to refer to Israel’s hold on the West Bank and Gaza. All of the extraordinary Israeli and Jewish public relations efforts that went into claiming that the territories were “administered” rather than “occupied” went out the door after that speech.

Even more significantly, Sharon has adopted the “road map” for peace. The logic of blind support would dictate that American Jews line up in warm embrace of this Israeli government policy.

It is tempting to argue that those who demanded in an earlier period that American Jewish progressives hold their criticism do the same as Israel enters a new and more promising phase, even if they have reservations about the road map. Tempting perhaps, but not beneficial in the long run.

The recent case of African Americans and Zimbabwe reveals that the stifling of dissent not only reinforces a dangerous status quo but replicates the very policies of repression that one might want to criticize. Open debate, with all its messiness, is preferable to blind support.

This is an important principle to keep in mind — now and in the future — as Jews and African Americans debate the policies of, and demonstrate their bonds to, the countries of their dreams.


David N. Myers is professor of Jewish history and vice chair of the history department at UCLA.

IDF at Odds With Militant Activists


The bad blood between the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and a group of international pro-Palestinian activists continues to grow as more members of the group are injured in Israeli anti-terror operations.

A British activist was shot in the head last Friday as a group of foreign and Palestinian protesters approached a unit of Israeli tanks posted near the Rafah refugee camp in the Gaza Strip. The incident ignited a crossfire of words and accusations between the IDF and the International Solidarity Movement (ISM).

Thomas Hurndall, 21, from England, suffered a head injury that left him brain dead. He was the third casualty from the ISM in a month.

The ISM is a movement of international activists working for "Palestinian freedom and an end to Israeli occupation," according to its mission statement, sometimes through illegal protests and rallies.

Though members of the group call themselves peace activists, they work only to protect Palestinians from Israeli anti-terror actions, making no attempt to protect Israelis from Palestinian violence.

Hurndall was shot when a sniper on an IDF tank allegedly fired on a group of protesters marching toward them in an effort to thwart an IDF incursion into Rafah. This Palestinian city, which straddles the Gaza-Egyptian border, is one of the main zones for arms smuggling into Palestinian areas. The IDF said a tank fired only one round in the area that day. It had targeted and killed a Palestinian sniper who was hiding in the upper stories of a nearby apartment building, firing at a column of armored vehicles, military sources said.

Still, Hurndall’s shooting is a disturbing addition to a string of recent bloody confrontations between the IDF and the ISM.

Only a few hundred yards from where Friday’s incident took place, American activist Rachel Corrie, 23, was killed several weeks ago when she tried to prevent a bulldozer from demolishing a terrorist’s home. Witnesses said the bulldozer crushed Corrie, a student from Olympia, Wash., and immediately backed up. The army, which characterized the death as an accident, said the driver didn’t see Corrie.

Last week, Bryan Avery, 24, of Albuquerque, was shot in the face while walking with a fellow activist in the West Bank city of Jenin. The IDF said it was not aware that Israeli soldiers had shot Avery, but said soldiers had been targeting Palestinian gunmen in the area.

"This goes beyond the pale," ISM leader Tom Wallace said. "It was a sniper [that shot Hurndall], and we know from experience they don’t miss. The photograph clearly shows that he was wearing a bright orange vest, that he was clearly not a combatant. This man was going to pick up a child."

Wallace said he considers the shooting a criminal act.

According to ISM activists and an Associated Press photographer, Hurndall ran to scoop up a child out of harm’s way when he was shot in the back of the head.

While the IDF has expressed sorrow at the chain of injuries, it says ISM activists increasingly cross the line of neutrality. One example occurred on March 27, when IDF forces launched a manhunt for a top Islamic Jihad terrorist in Jenin.

Intelligence information led the IDF to believe that Shadi Sukia was being hidden in a Jenin compound that holds a bank, a Red Cross office and the ISM office. After combing the entire building and finding nothing, the soldiers asked two ISM activists if they could search their offices. ISM coordinator Susan Barcley refused. The soldiers insisted, forcing their way in. The intelligence information proved correct: Sukia had taken shelter with the ISM. Both he and Barcley were arrested.

"Many of the ISM activists are nothing short of provocateurs," an IDF source said. "They try to incite the Palestinians. They’re almost spoiling for a fight."

An infamous photograph of Corrie, for example, shows her with her head covered like a religious Muslim woman, burning a mock American flag in the Gaza Strip. The IDF source intimated that Corrie’s death, though regrettable, was preventable.

"That day they were running amok around the soldiers, not letting them do anything. Even when the armored units pulled back, they chased them," the source said.

Some of ISM’s tactics are daring, Wallace admitted. Others might call them downright foolish.

"ISM’ers often break curfew, just to show how ridiculous it is and because curfews are illegal according to international law," Wallace told JTA.

The IDF source said the army maintains close relations with many humanitarian organizations, such as the International Committee of the Red Cross, but has yet to find a modus vivendi with the ISM.

"If the ISM’ers in Jenin had nothing to hide, why prevent the soldiers from coming in [when they were looking for Sukia]?" the IDF source asked.

State Fund to Keep Israel Investments


The California Public Employees’ Retirement System
(CalPERS), the nation’s largest public pension fund, has decided to keep Israel
on its list of permissible foreign countries in which to invest, in spite of
campaigns spearheaded by groups on several University of California campuses
demanding that it divest itself of Israeli equity holdings.

At the Feb. 18 meeting of the CalPERS Board of
Administration, Israel was green-lighted for its 10th straight year as an
approved country for investment.

Reacting to calls for a CalPERS boycott of Israel, Byron
Tucker, a Los Angeles spokesman for Gov. Gray Davis, told The Journal this
week, “We will continue to stand side by side with our friends in Israel, both
in business and friendship. The people of Israel are going through tremendous
difficulties right now.”

“They live with daily unrest, violence and death,” Tucker
continued. “California will not abandon its friends in their time of need.”

Campus activist groups — led by Arabs in Students for
Justice in Palestine and Jews for a Free Palestine — had been gaining ground in
their campaign for divestment from Israel, to the point where the UCLA Daily
Bruin editorially endorsed divestment last July. This prompted a pro-Israel
backlash, headed up by the UC Justice Campaign (www.ucjustice.org).

The Legislature formally rejected divestment in a joint
Assembly-Senate resolution in September.

Until last month, Israel was the only Middle Eastern country
in which CalPERS was permitted to invest. Neighboring Jordan has now been added
to the list. Egypt was evaluated but did not make the cut.

In other action, the CalPERS board, which oversees a fund
with assets of approximately $131 billion, complied with its requirement to
report to the Legislature on equity holdings in companies that may have
benefited from slave labor during the Holocaust era.

“CalPERS is required to annually report to the Legislature,
under Chapter 216, Statute of 1999 (SB 1245, Hayden), on investment holdings in
companies that may owe compensation to victims of slave or forced labor during
World War II,” Mark Anson, chief investment officer, wrote in a Feb. 18 letter
to the secretary of the California Senate.

According to Anson, the CalPERS report contains “the latest
information on companies that includes precursor companies, subsidiaries and
affiliates identified as employing forced/slave labor during World War II. To
compile the report, CalPERS contracted with Investor Responsibility Research
Center (IRRC). The center provided research from multiple information sources
and supplied a list of companies with a potential Holocaust-era restitution
liability.

The majority of the companies on the IRRC list in which
CalPERS holds stock are headquartered in Germany, Japan, Austria and
Switzerland. However, a few major U.S. corporations appear on the list, too,
including Ford Motor Co., General Motors, Eastman Kodak, Honeywell, NCR and
Pitney Bowes.

Sacramento-based CalPERS spokesman Brad Pacheco told The
Journal that the pension fund, itself, had received no direct protests from
groups demanding that CalPERS divest itself from investments in Israel.

“Israel was evaluated as one of 27 emerging equity markets
and received a passing grade, along with 14 other countries,” Pacheco said.

The pension fund’s consultant, Santa Monica-based Wilshire
Associates, reviewed the emerging market countries against a variety of
financial factors, plus other considerations, such as transparency, political
stability and labor practices/standards. Israel was ranked in seventh place overall
on the list — a weighted result after combining its No. 1 ranking in market
analysis and No. 8 in “country factors.”

Israel could arguably make a case for being included in the
category of “developed country markets,” which comprises the similar economies
of Finland and Singapore and the recent entry of Greece.

“Israel certainly meets the criteria for a developed country,”
said Doron Abrahami, Israel’s economic attaché in Los Angeles. “In terms of GDP
per capita, Israel is ahead of Greece. On the other hand, there are certain
advantages to being defined as an emerging market.”

Israel was approved by CalPERS, while some of the world’s
largest economies were not — notably China, Russia and India. Not one country
in conflict with Israel — or even hostile to the Jewish State — qualified.
Among those receiving failing grades were Malaysia, Pakistan and Indonesia.

CalPERS has approximately $1.6 billion currently invested in
emerging markets, including $83.3 million in Israeli equities.

“After CalPERS sets the policy guidelines, we oversee but do
not make the actual investments,” Pacheco emphasized. “That is done by our
active managers: asset management companies and investment banks.”

Although Pacheco originally said that CalPERS invests only
in public equity markets outside of the United States, IVC-Online in Tel Aviv
told The Journal that CalPERS has invested in six of Israel’s leading venture
capital funds through East Coast-based private equity manager Grove Street
Partners.

Israel Trip Blossoms Into Philanthropy


For a self-described spoiled American — nails unerringly
polished, paprika curls without a misdirected loop, ensembles color coordinated — Blossom Siegel’s first visit to Israel
was a transformative experience. It also was a boon to Orange County’s Jewish
community by awakening a tireless activist and philanthropist.

“The first trip to Israel changed my life,” said Siegel, who
is the honoree at a scholarship fundraising dinner Jan. 25 for Irvine’s Tarbut
V’Torah Community Day School at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Irvine.

When Siegel saw the Israelis financial and emotional needs
on her 1985 visit, she came to the conclusion that vigorous American Jewish
communities ensured Israel’s lifeline.

Siegel was also seeking a new direction in life. Sobered by
her Israel experience, she returned to Newport Beach to immerse herself in the
local Jewish Federation, an umbrella fundraising vehicle that generated $1.9
million last year for the county’s Jewish agencies and schools.

“For me, Federation was synonymous with community. It makes
the most impact,” said Siegel, who served the organization for three years as
president, ending in 1995. She remains one of its most generous financial
supporters. Last year, she endowed a fund exceeding $500,000 to benefit the Federation’s
campaign in perpetuity, according to the annual report.

“She doesn’t say no to anyone,” said Irving Gelman, Tarbut’s
founder. “She helps knowingly and unknowingly,” he said, adding that Siegel
prefers anonymous philanthropy, because she is discomfited by the personal
scrutiny that accompanies public gifts.

“I’m trying to convince her to let us name something at the
school for her,” Gelman said of one of the school’s primary benefactors. Even
so, Siegel continues public financial support motivated by a desire to set an
example for others, he said.

Siegel is proud that during her presidency, local Jewish
agencies were for the first time geographically united with the remodeling of
the current Costa Mesa campus opened in 1996. The former auto museum was a gift
of the Feuerstein and Fainberg families. “That established the nucleus of a
real Jewish community,” she said.

With her passion and commitment to strengthen the county’s
Jewish bonds, Siegel also proved no slouch at face-to-face solicitations, a
principal job of presidents who lead nonprofit groups. Even before her first
trip to Israel, Judaism already strongly influenced Siegel’s life.

Growing up in Brooklyn, N.Y., synagogue was a mainstay
activity for her family. She graduated from a New York art institute and worked
in advertising as a commercial artist.

After marrying and moving to Germany’s Black Forest in 1967,
she arranged Hebrew lessons in her home for six children, including her own, by
hiring a traveling rabbi.

In helping the oldest child become a bar mitzvah, Siegel
said she set off a sensation among local Jewry. From outlying villages, more
than 100 people trekked to Frieburg to witness the event, the first since
before the war. “It was an awesome experience,” Siegel recalled.

On relocating to Newport Beach in 1971, Siegel turned to
leadership in her local Conservative synagogue, Tustin’s Congregation B’nai
Israel.

Despite the violence in Israel, the region has not lost its
allure for Siegel, who has, since 1985, returned 21 times, most recently last
month as part of the local Federation’s 16-person mission. Even so, she would
not consider relocating. Three adult children and grandchildren compel her to
stay in the United States.

But so does her feeling of fulfillment over her own impact.
“The work I’m doing here is very important,” she said.

Too Big to Ignore


It was the first cool night in the midst of a heat wave and Rosalie Zalis, executive director of Winnick Family Foundation and former liaison to the Jewish community for ex-Gov. Pete Wilson, was preaching to the masses.

“You should get involved with a political action committee,” the longtime activist told the group of mostly women gathered in the chapel at Adat Ari El June 6. “Even if it’s only sending a small amount of money to AIPAC [The American Israel Public Affairs Committee] — they will teach you how to lobby.

“You need to be aware of what everyone who you vote for thinks about Israel. Write letters to your congressperson and to your senators, thanking them when they do something for Israel. Make phone calls, send e-mails. You don’t know how important your voice is.”

Zalis’ speech was part of the kickoff event for a new nonprofit organization called Women in Solidarity. The group comprises a coalition of five of the most prominent women’s organization in Los Angeles: Americans for Israel and Torah, the National Council of Jewish Women/Los Angeles, Hadassah Southern California, NA’AMAT USA and Women’s American ORT.

“The idea is to educate women to advocate, to make women’s voices heard in the state of Israel and to educate unaffiliated women about what each of our groups is doing and involve them in our humanitarian work,” said Miriam Hearn, western area director for NA’AMAT USA.

Hearn said the group’s intention is not to raise money, although donations to any of the organizations are welcome.

“There are many needs throughout Israel where our organizations are involved,” she said. “For instance, NA’AMAT has day-care centers taking care of one-quarter of Israel’s preschool-age children, and these 350 centers need guards and security gates. But to belong to Women in Solidarity or any of our organizations doesn’t mean you have to have a significant amount of money to donate. “

According to Hearn, members of NA’AMAT came up with the idea for the coalition in early April and representatives of each organization met over the next few months to plan the June conference. The group is currently seeking input for its next event.

“There have been a good many rallies and Israel support events held locally, but nothing that talks about what is going on from a woman’s point of view,” said Hearn. “I see Women in Solidarity as a channel through which women’s voices can be heard.”

While Women in Solidarity is just embarking on its mission, the Women’s Alliance for Israel Political Action Committee is well-established in theirs. Founded in 1989, the Women’s Alliance is a single-issue political action committee with one concern: to seek out and provide funds for congressional and senatorial candidates who will or have fostered pro-Israel legislation. These donations differentiate the group from lobbying entities such as the AIPAC and The Jewish Federation, which are prohibited by law from making donations to candidates.

The organization, which lists between 500 and 600 people as members, raises approximately $500,000 each year for candidates, with disbursements ranging from $1,000 to $10,000. Co-President Nancy Klemens said the group has seen an increase in donations in recent months, due in part to the escalating conflict in the Middle East.

Membership in the Women’s Alliance begins at a minimum level of $150 a year and goes up several different levels to Founders, who donate $1,000 or more a year.

“Our members research candidates to find out how much they have raised and who is their opponent and how much they have raised, and then our members bring their reports to our meetings,” Klemens said. “All things being equal, we usually support the incumbent if they have been a friend of Israel.”

She said the group is bipartisan. “Republican or Democrat, it doesn’t matter. As long as [the candidates] are trying to meet our goal, we are happy to support them.”

The group, along with AIPAC and other Zionist organizations, does accomplish its goals — just ask lawmakers like Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez, who spoke before Women’s Alliance members June 9.

“I would say the strongest lobbying in Washington, D.C., is the Israel lobby,” Sanchez told The Jewish Journal. “First, because it is a bipartisan lobby, which is good for its credibility. Second, there are many groups that come to lobby that have differences in other ways — JACPAC [the Joint Action Committee for Political Affairs] vs. AIPAC — but they all make a concerted effort, even when there are no bills on the floor relating to Israel. They come in consistently to Washington, and that makes the lobby very strong.”

Sanchez said the contributions of female advocates for Israel on Capitol Hill could not be overstated.

“This is one of the few lobbies where the majority of people who come to see me on this issue tend to be women,” she said.

Zalis said, “We [Jews] are such a small community, and we cannot afford to write off half our population.” Zalis said.

Ethel Lozabnick: Community Leader


A community activist, whose commitment to the Jewish community and Zionist causes was locally and nationally recognized, passed away Aug. 17, 2001. Lozabnick had served as National Vice President of Hadassah the largest woman’s volunteer organization in the United States and the largest Zionist organization in the world and was a member of Hadassah’s National Board. For her zionist activities, she received the distinguished Women of Merit Award in 1965, and in 1999 was one of three outstanding veteran local zionists honored by the American Zionist Movement with a Lifetime Achievement Award. Her commitment, dedication and tireless efforts on behalf of Israel led her to that country more than 40 times, including travel to Egypt, Lebanon, Syria and Jordan as a woman’s representative to early peace discussions. Her travels in various instances were as a representative of Hadassah, the World Zionist Organization, The Jewish Agency Assembly and The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles.

Among her numerous local activities, she served as past president of the Southern Pacific Coast Region of Hadassah for three years, during which time 10 new chapters were formed. She served as a past president of the Beverly Hills Girl Scout Council, the Beverly Hills Community Chest, Los Angeles Mayor’s Community Youth Program and the, League of Women’s Voters as well as serving as chair of the Martyr’s Memorial and Museum of the Holocaust, The Soviet Jewry Commission and the Executive Committee of the American Jewish Committee and The Jewish Federation Council of Greater Los Angeles.&’9;

Born in Denver, Colo., and raised in Cheyenne, Wyo., she moved with her husband, Oscar, and three children to Beverly Hills in 1947. She leaves behind her son, Donald (Ann) Loze; her daughters, Bobbie (Leonard) Kolod and Jan (Douglas) Stein; seven grandchildren; and six great-grandchildren.