The Facebook logo at an innovation hub in Berlin, Germany. Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Facebook listed ‘Jew-hater’ as category for advertisers


A news site was able to target ads at Facebook users who expressed interest in “Jew hater” and “how to burn Jews.”

ProPublica, an investigative site, reported Thursday that Facebook’s advertisement algorithms generated categories including “Jew hater,” “How to burn jews,” and “History of ‘why jews ruin the world.’”

Facebook removed the categories after being alerted to their existence and said it would seek to prevent such categories from popping up for potential advertisers.

The categories on their own were too small to justify an ad buy, according to the Facebook system, so ProPublica added as targets the SS and the Nazi Party, available on Facebook’s generated list as “employers,” and the National Democratic Party of Germany, a current far right political party in Germany.

ProPublica paid $30 for three targeted posts, which reached 5,897 people.

In advising ProPublica on whom to add in order to reach enough users to justify an ad, Facebook’s automated system recommended “Second Amendment,” apparently correlating gun rights advocates with anti-Semites.

Warning: Political ads make you stupid


This is the disclaimer that Britain’s Public Interest Research Centre recently ” target=”_hplink”>$3 billion of campaign commercials will have run on TV.  It’d be a new day for democracy if political ads were required to include a disclaimer: “The scary music, PhotoShopped pictures and misleading sound bites in this ad are tricks intended to manipulate you in ways of which you are not consciously aware. Voting for this candidate is unlikely to improve how awful things are; hope can heartbreak.”

Maybe on some other planet that will happen, but not this one.  In the absence of consumer warnings on political ads, we have five things to pin our hopes on.

  • Education:  Critical thinking and media literacy – understanding the history and methods of propaganda – are part of the school curriculum.  An educated citizen can’t be fooled by meretricious bull.
  • Freedom of speech:  The best cure for bad speech is more speech.  If ads lie, they can be countered by other ads that correct them.  The robust free market of ideas will ensure that truth prevails.
  • Transparency:  Candidates must appear in their ads and say, “I approved this message.”  The sources of funding for ads to elect or defeat candidates are required to be disclosed. 
  • Freedom of the press:  The fourth estate is part of our system of checks and balances.  ” target=”_hplink”>ad watches, ” target=”_hplink”>“keeping them honest” segments: the sunlight of journalism acts a disinfectant. 
  • Social media:  Citizens have been empowered by the Internet.  Everyone with a laptop can now be a publisher and broadcaster.  You don’t need a paycheck from a news organization to investigate claims and report abuses.

So how’s all that working out?

I’m not betting on media literacy to protect voters from disinformation.  Only ” target=”_hplink”>seven in 10 say scientists have falsified climate change research data.  Despite what they hear in school, ” target=”_hplink”>Rick Perry and ” target=”_hplink”>failed to label them as liars; instead of holding them accountable, the media instead reported how nimble those campaigns were at evading accountability.

It’s true that the Internet has democratized the watchdog role; the crowd online is buzzing about the accuracy of political ads and the sources of their funding.  But the disposition of people to segregate into like-minded polarized tribes – to speak and listen only to themselves – makes it easy to inhabit an information bubble where everything reinforces what they already believe.

The origin of the Occupy movement is a Vancouver-based anti-consumerism magazine called ” target=”_hplink”>Marty Kaplan is the Norman Lear professor of entertainment, media and society at the martyk@jewishjournal.com

Don’t be fooled!


Evangelical missionary David Herzog stooped to a new low deceiving the Jewish community with ads which intentionally avoided any mention of their Christian evangelical agenda.

The half-page ads ran for several weeks in the Los Angeles Jewish Journal. They promoted a Beverly Hills event offering “supernatural healings” based on what the ad termed Jewish mysticism.

The ads were devoid of any phone number or website that would have facilitated an easy investigation into the true nature of the program.

It turns out Herzog’s duplicity was intentional. He writes on the “In Jesus” website that “due to the highly sensitive nature of these 100% evangelistic meetings dubbed as lectures to the Jewish community we cannot give out the location or details.”

A number of Jewish students attended the recent event, only to discover they had been duped by the Herzog ads.

As the founder and director of Jews for Judaism, I know this is not the first time a community newspaper has been the target of such duplicity. A number of years ago we alerted the community that ads for the missionary movie “The Rabbi” were surreptitiously placed in dozens of Jewish newspapers across North American.

Once the Jewish Journal realized Herzog’s true intentions, it refused to accept any more of his ads.

Herzog has appeared on many of the growing number of messianic television shows. He is part of a long line of Christian faith healers running revival meetings. However, in his case, Herzog has a Jewish name and he gloats at his success at conducting major “Jewish Outreach” on the East Coast, West Coast and Israel.

“Even the Jewish newspapers are begging us to put our ads in their next Health Issue,” he wrote online.

In a pitch to solicit donations, Herzog claims his historic outreach meetings will be, “packed with unsaved Jewish people wide open to the gospel presented with healings and miracles.”

Speaking of past meetings Herzog claims, “miracles broke out, many were healed, and American and Israeli Jews received salvation after God powerfully healed them.”

Although missionaries are less visible on street corners, the Herzog episode demonstrates that attempts to convert Jews have not diminished.  They have simply implemented new tactics and taken advantage of the Internet to reach unsuspecting students and young adults often within the comfort of their homes and dormitory rooms.

As a community we must remain vigilant and increase our positive educational and spiritual promotion of Judaism. Additionally, missionary claims must be continuously refuted and individuals must be taught to think critically to avoid being fooled and taken advantage of.

Jews for Judaism is already planning a campaign to prepare the community for a Chosen People Ministries crusade scheduled to target the Los Angeles Jewish community in 2012.  This time we have enough notice to plan in advance, and it is imperative that the entire community rally together and join us in presenting a strong front.

Rabbi Bentzion Kravitz is the founder and director of Jews for Judaism. He can be reached at la@JewsForJudaism.org.

Marty Kaplan: The Naked Nielsens


The metrics are wearing no clothes.

How would you react if you found out that the basis of your business model was bogus?  That’s the nightmare that the television industry is finally waking up to, and I bet that online media won’t be far behind.

The TV business is built on advertising.  Except for premium cable, the money that networks get for selling audiences’ eyeballs to advertisers is the mother’s milk of the industry.  Networks set the price of ads on their shows using demographic information about the age and sex of those shows’ viewers.  And the company that pretty much has a monopoly on furnishing those metrics is Nielsen.

So a few weeks ago, at the Marriott Marquis in New York, it must have felt like pitchfork time when a respected TV network figure in charge of analyzing ratings, CBS Corp. Chief Research Officer David Poltrack, ” target=”_hplink”>Ad Age, Nielsen executives at the convention reported that “ratings demographics by age and sex had a… 0.12 correlation with actual sales produced by exposure to TV ads, where 1.0 is complete correlation and 0 signals no relationship whatsoever.”  Zero-point-one-two! You’d do better using a Ouija board than Nielsen demos. 

It’s particularly ironic that this paradigm-popping confession came from CBS.  From 1955 to 1976, before any network thought in terms of age cohorts, CBS “was the undisputed king of the ratings hill,” writes Neal Gabler in ” target=”_hplink”>Wall Street Journal, “which made them without value to the networks.”  The numbers tell the story: A 30-second ad on Fox’s young-skewing Glee costs $47 per thousand viewers, while a spot on CBS’s The Good Wife, 60 percent of whose audience is 55-plus, costs about half that. 

But now the jig is up.  “Reliance on the 18 to 49 demographic,” Ad Age reports Poltrack saying, “is hazardous to all media and marketers.”  It may be just a coincidence that CBS, which these days runs about even with Fox in overall prime-time viewership, is now being killed by Fox in 18 to 49.  But it’s no coincidence that 80 million baby boomers are aging out of the desirable demo.  To sell air time to reach the fastest-growing part of its audience, the industry needs a new metric. 

So exit demographics, and, just in time, enter psychographics.  That audience-segmentation tool, which collects people into taste and behavior clusters, has been around for a while; if you want to try an online-era version, check out hunch.com. CBS and Nielsen, in what Poltrack calls a “historic move,” have now come up with six audience segments to sell to advertisers instead of age and sex cohorts:  TV companions; media trendsetters; sports enthusiasts; program passionates; surfers and streamers; TV moderators.  The developers of those segments claim that when ad agencies start buying spots on TV shows using these metrics instead of the ones that were fabulous until five minutes ago, there’ll actually be a relationship between seeing ads and buying products.

It can’t be any worse than what they’ve been using until now.  If you talk to network executives privately, and to account managers at ad agencies, doubt about the utility of Nielsens is a poorly-kept secret.  I’m not talking about weaknesses like undercounting racial and ethnic groups, and missing out-of-home viewing in airports and bars, and being clueless about online TV viewing, both legal and not.  I mean the conspiracy of silence about the whole premise of demographics.

Why hasn’t anyone blown the whistle?  Because the whole network-advertising-marketing-research village is in on it, and they’ve been afraid to burn the house down without some new roof to put over their heads.  Poltrack’s salvo suggests that CBS and Nielsen are confident enough about what they’re touting now to admit that their old model was built of straw. 

I suspect that this new metric won’t be nearly as useful as the “taste community” analytics still waiting to be born – a transnational audience analysis that mines all the rich new data available about socially-networked online entertainment consumption.  But for that to happen, the Web analytics that currently pass for measuring engagement – hits, clicks, visits, visitors, pageviews, uniques, repeats and the rest—may also have to bite the dust. 

Marty Kaplan holds the ” target=”_hplink”>USC Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism.  Reach him at martyk@jewishjournal.com

Let the games begin: GOP plays ‘Iran card’ against Democrats Obama and Biden


DENVER (JTA)—A year ago, the push for a congressional amendment that urged the declaration of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps as a terrorist group was signature legislation for much of the pro-Israel lobby. Only two dozen U.S. senators out of 100 opposed it.

Two of those opposed—Barack Obama (D-Ill.) and Joe Biden (D-Del.)—make up the Democratic Party ticket for president.

Republicans are hoping to score points on the issue, building on their criticisms of Obama for saying he would be willing to meet with the head of Iran without preconditions.

In a bit of political jujitsu, however, the Democrats are trying to turn the candidates’ opposition to the amendment into an asset.

Jewish Democrats rolled out the strategy this week on the first day of the Democratic convention here, saying the amendment sponsored by U.S. Sens. John Kyl (R-Ariz.) and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) wasn’t serious. Obama and Biden, the Democrats say, have a better plan to secure Israel from attack.

U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) told a roomful of Colorado Jews on Sunday that Obama’s sponsorship of legislation that would facilitate sanctions against Iran until it proves it is not developing nuclear weapons was the substantive way to go.

“This is not some fluffy sense of Congress resolution,” Wasserman Schultz said in an apparent allusion to the Kyl-Lieberman amendment, which was nonbinding. “This is a resolution with real teeth.”

Wasserman Schultz—whose preference in the Democratic primaries, U.S. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, was criticized by Obama supporters for backing the Kyl-Lieberman amendment—elaborated later in an interview with JTA.

“Barack Obama backs up his words with action,” she said, adding that nonbinding resolutions “are great, but they don’t empower.”

Democrats are vying to maintain the traditional 3-to-1 Jewish split in favor of Democrats, particularly in swing states such as Colorado and Florida.
The theme, repeated throughout the day at Jewish events: Obama’s coupling of tough sanctions with diplomacy and building alliances is likelier to face down the Iranians.

“We need allies in that war,” U.S. Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) said Sunday evening at a National Jewish Democratic Council gathering outside the modest brick Denver home that housed former Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir when she was a teenager. “This administration has pushed off the people we need. We’re going to reach out to those people and pull in allies.”

Republicans made an issue of the vote within hours of Obama’s announcement of Biden as his running mate on Saturday.

“Biden has failed to recognize the serious threat that Iran poses to Israel and the U.S. and its allies in the Middle East,” the Republican Jewish Coalition said in a statement. “In 1998, Sen. Biden was one of only four senators to vote against the Iran Missile Proliferation Sanctions Act, a bill that punished foreign companies or other entities that sent Iran sensitive missile technology or expertise. Biden was one of the few senators to oppose the bipartisan 2007 Kyl-Lieberman Amendment labeling the Iranian Revolutionary Guard a terrorist organization.”

Lieberman, the one-time Democrat turned Independent who is backing U.S. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), the presumptive Republican nominee, already has made an issue of the votes in pitches to pro-Israel arguments.

The attacks already were discomfiting Democrats.

“It will be an issue only to an extent that the Republicans try to misrepresent and distort the nature of that vote,” said Alan Solomont, the Boston philanthropist who was one of Obama’s earliest backers and is one of his leading fund-raisers.

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee strongly backed the Iran measures opposed by Biden. But any disagreement over the issue appeared to be history for AIPAC when it came to weighing in on the selection of the veteran senator for vice president.

“Sen. Biden is a strong supporter of the U.S.-Israel relationship and he has longstanding ties to AIPAC and the pro-Israel community,” spokesman Josh Block said in a statement, echoing similar praise it has lavished on Obama and McCain. “Throughout his career in the Senate, Joe Biden has been to Israel numerous times and has gotten to know many of Israel’s most important leaders.”

Biden cast one of the four “no” votes in 1998 against the sanctions bill, which was vetoed by President Clinton, arguing that it could undermine U.S. progress in convincing Russia to curb arms sales to Iran.

“The administration had made significant progress over the six months with the threat of this bill in place,” said Biden, according to a report from the time in The New York Times. “I’m trying to approach this from a practical point of view: How do we insure this doesn’t continue?”

As for opposing the Kyl-Lieberman amendment, Obama, Biden and U.S. Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.)—all candidates competing in the Democratic primaries at the time – have said they did not oppose the step of labeling the Revolutionary Guards Corps a terrorist group. They had backed similar language in separate legislation, and an executive order by President Bush designating the corps as terrorist within weeks of the amendment’s passage caused barely a murmur.

Instead, according to the candidates, they objected to language tying efforts to contain Iran to American actions in Iraq. That, they said, would be handing Bush an excuse to intensify American involvement in an unpopular war.

Dodd, Biden and Obama used Clinton’s vote for the amendment as a cudgel to batter their rival among the party base—a turn of events leading some critics to accuse them of putting politics ahead of the effort to pressure Iran.

Water under the bridge, said Steve Grossman, a former AIPAC president and a leading Clinton backer.

“If there’s one area where Barack Obama has taken a leadership role, it’s on legislation on Iran,” Grossman said, citing the sanctions-enabling act the Democratic candidate is pushing.

The act is stuck in the Senate; an anonymous Republican senator has placed a hold on it.

Grossman didn’t think the Kyl-Lieberman votes would have an effect.

“Will it ultimately determine Jewish votes? I don’t think so,” he said.

In its criticisms of Obama’s choice of running mate, the Republican Jewish Coalition noted that during a debate last December, Biden said “Iran is not a nuclear threat to the United States of America” and told MSNBC that he “never believed” Iran had a weapon system under production.

Biden, who has said that a nuclear Iran is an “unacceptable” danger, made the comments following the release of a U.S. intelligence report concluding that Iran has likely halted its nuclear weapons program. The senator used the news to paint the Bush administration as having further damaged America’s credibility and hurt its efforts to isolate Iran.

“It was like watching a rerun of his statements on Iraq five years earlier,” Biden said during the 2007 debate, sponsored in Des Moines by National Public Radio. “Iran is not a nuclear threat to the United States of America. Iran should be dealt with directly, with the rest of the world at our side. But we’ve made it more difficult now because who is going to trust us?”

A birthday gift


Here we are, Jews in every corner of the world, awash in a frenzy of celebrations for Israel — all because of a birthday. And not just any birthday, mind you, but one that ends in a zero.

In a marketing-obsessed world, milestones give us an easy way to promote our brands. For lovers of Israel, promoting the brand of Israel is important business, especially since the country has taken a real beating over the years. So naturally, when a chance comes up to give that brand a little shine — like a 60th birthday — we run with it.

That’s why this year, Israel@60 has become the hot Jewish brand.

Every Jewish newspaper in the world has devoted a special section. Every Jewish community is doing multiple celebrations. Israeli embassies and consul offices are busy squeezing every ounce of Israel@60 good will from their local communities. World leaders are sending messages of congratulations. Elites from everywhere are gathering in Jerusalem at the invitation of President Shimon Peres. And, of course, every Jewish writer of note is weighing in with their personal reflections on the state of the Zionist project. (My favorite is Yossi Klein Halevi’s piece in this week’s issue.)

There’s something intoxicating about all this activity. I feel like I’m getting drunk on Israel. The Jewish world is rising up and giving my cherished Israel a celebration for the ages.

So why, then, do I also feel a certain emptiness?

Is it because I’m too aware of the growing dangers that Israel faces? Or that I know most of the world will go right back to hating us once the party’s over, or that these kind of big-bang celebrations just leave us with one big hangover?

Maybe, but I think there’s more. I see a missed opportunity. I love the sense of pride that the celebrations have fired up, but I wish someone had launched the Israel@60 campaign with this theme: “What will you give Israel for her birthday?”

That’s right: What will you give Israel for her birthday? What I think is missing from all the hoopla is a birthday gift from each of us to the Israel we love.

And I don’t mean money. Money is the gift for normal times. A 60th anniversary is not a normal time. It’s a time to celebrate, yes, but also to reflect, take stock, look deep inside of ourselves — and offer a special gift.

Imagine going to celebrate your parents’ 60th wedding anniversary. What kind of gift would you bring? Would it be personal? Would it have special meaning?

Now imagine going to celebrate Israel’s 60th anniversary. What’s the most personal and meaningful gift you can make? What is your unique passion or talent? What can you bring to the party to show your love for the honoree?

Whatever your thing is, it’s worth bringing. If you’re a musician, organizer, writer, artist, environmentalist, cook, teacher, activist, comedian, doctor, architect, rabbi, Web designer, business tycoon or filmmaker, whatever your passion, it can become your personal gift to Israel.

Make a film. Write a poem. Start a Web site. Help at a soup kitchen. Organize a trip to Israel. Find a cause dear to your heart. In short, look at what Israel needs, and see how your talents match up.

So, what about me, what’s my “thing” for Israel?

These days, the advertising guy in me would love to promote a side of Israel the world rarely sees — the good side. God knows the anti-Israel propaganda machine has done a remarkable job of turning Israel into a globally reviled country. And God knows Israel has more than enough critics who expose her many mistakes and weaknesses. But who is balancing the picture? Who is showing the other side? Who is spreading the word on Israel’s many contributions to the world?

Of the $1 billion a year in Jewish philanthropy, how much do you think goes to advertise in the mainstream media the numerous contributions Israel makes to humanity? Virtually zero.

So this is my birthday gift to Israel: Ads4Israel.com.

It’s a new organization whose mission will be to create and run ads worldwide that show Israel’s incredible gifts to the world, in such areas as combating disease, developing alternative fuels, fighting world hunger, creating life-changing technologies, revolutionizing agriculture and much more. There are literally hundreds of areas where Israel has helped make the world a better place, and Ads4Israel will do its share to let the world know. The Web site will offer a variety of ads that donors will be able to support and help run.

Why ads? They’re dramatic, quick and efficient. You can reach 100 million people with a powerful message in a few seconds. Grass-roots efforts, conferences, articles, books, Web sites, etc., are all valuable, but when 99 percent of the planet has been poisoned by three-second visual sound-bites about Israel, the best way to fight back is with equally powerful sound-bites.

Will this solve Israel’s image problem overnight? Nothing can. But we can at least raise immediate awareness of Israel’s value to the world, and that’s a gift.

We each have a gift. What will be your birthday gift?

David Suissa, an advertising executive, is founder of OLAM magazine and Meals4Israel.com. He can be reached at dsuissa@olam.org.

Kosher water makes a splash in the market


Whether you're drinking filtered, spring or mineral water, purity has long been considered a desired element in bottled water. But when it comes to purity, only one word can truly capture it all — kosher.

And with a certification from the Orthodox Union, Mizmor Kosher Water is capitalizing on the importance of purity and kashrut in the marketplace.

“In order to be sold on the kosher shelf in the supermarket, you must have a kosher certification,” said Shoshana Teri, Mizmor CEO and president, adding that an OU mashgiach (inspector) ensures that the bottling facilities are kept clean and void of any nonkosher elements.

Though Mizmor, which is spring water, is marketed to a specifically Jewish consumer, having kosher certification is nothing new to the bottled water industry. Most bottled water is kosher, including such popular labels as Crystal Geyser, Arrowhead and Fiji.


VideoJew Jay Firestone tests the water


So what makes Mizmor specifically tailored for Jews?

The company advertises its halachic mindset by donating 10 percent of its net operating profit to underprivileged children.

“You get to quench your thirsty soul with Mizmor Kosher Water, and at the same time, you are an instant participant in raising money for children in need,” Teri said.

Mizmor donates to several organizations, including Mamash Yeshiva in Israel and the Mizmor Family Foundation in B'nai Berak, while also being heavily involved with the Jewish National Fund. Mizmor has recently filed an application to help support St. Jude's Hospital.

In the coming weeks, Mizmor will continue to donate truckloads of water to various events and organizations, among them the May 18 Israel@60 festival at Woodley Park in Van Nuys.

Teri was inspired to work with water when her father was ill in 2000. During a lunch outing, Teri's father asked for a bottle of water, and as he turned to her, he said, “My daughter, do water.”

Originally, Teri wanted to call her product “Kosher Water,” but her lawyer advised that it was too generic. Turning to God for divine inspiration, she opened up a siddur and chose the first word she found — Mizmor — which in Hebrew translates to “psalm.”

Since the company's launch in April 2007, Mizmor has sold close to 50,000 bottles and has set up its headquarters on Robertson Boulevard, just a few doors north of the Kabbalah Centre.

The water is bottled by Niagara in Irvine, Nature's Way in Pennsylvania, Silver Springs in Florida and Nirvana in upstate New York. The bottled water is distributed to Jewish communities throughout the United States. Locally, Mizmor can be found at many kosher markets, plus several Ralphs locations.

“The word 'kosher' is purity, [and] our educational project is about underprivileged children who are so pure,” said Teri, adding that “nothing would make us happier than to give more of Mizmor.” The company slogan, “The More the Mizmor,” is a trademark for that generosity.

Is Don Draper Jewish?


When they say Jews control Hollywood, I always think to myself: Thank God.

What if Hollywood were founded by the same people who brought you Detroit or, say, agribusiness? Would our movies and television shows be so much better?

Understanding the people who shape America’s culture is hardly just an exercise in Jewish pride. Because even as America’s political and industrial influence has waned, culture has remained one of its most popular exports.

So it’s an interesting intellectual exercise, to imagine a Hollywood with a vast overrepresentation of Koreans or Latinos or WASPs.

On the one hand, you could argue that even if the stories would necessarily be different — about 90 percent fewer Holocaust dramas, I suspect — the storytelling itself probably wouldn’t change much. Wouldn’t the elements that make a compelling drama, a funny comedy, an involving cast of characters remain the same?

On the other hand, it’s useful to consider what Jews and only Jews bring to the writing table. Not because it’s better or worse (my sense is it may be the former, but the laws of political correctness mandate I throw in that phrase), but because it is Jews whose style and whose themes have dominated the entertainment media for much of the past century.

The problem in getting at an answer is that when it comes to discussing their Jewishness and its influence, entire generations of Hollywood writers can be frustratingly inarticulate and unperceptive.

But I knew Matthew Weiner would be different.

Weiner is the creator and writer of a show on AMC called “Mad Men.”

Those of us who self-righteously claim we never watch TV always have to list the one or two or 20 shows we make an exception for, and the newest show on my list is “Mad Men.”

It has maybe 1 million viewers — 20 million less than “Dancing With the Stars” — it’s on an obscure basic cable channel, but, lucky for me, it’s just been renewed for a second season.

On its surface, the show is about the world of advertising in 1960s Manhattan. It recreates that world with fealty and style, but only in service to a larger story about American culture and human nature. In other words, “Mad Men” is about what really happened when Ozzie went to work, or when Darrin and Samantha from “Bewitched” went into the bedroom.

At the center of the series is Don Draper, a creative exec at a mid-level firm. Don is played by actor Jon Hamm, whose talent and darkly handsome features provide an answer to one of the most pressing questions of our time: Who will be the next George Clooney?

Don has a blonde homemaker wife named Betty (January Jones), a couple of mistresses, and a secret past. After watching a few episodes, I was certain Don Draper’s dark secret would be his Jewishness. After all, though he cleverly navigates his way through a perfectly recreated WASP world of Manhattan advertising, he never quite fits in. In the pilot episode, he meets Rachel Menken (Maggie Siff), a beautiful, strong-willed Jewish woman who runs her family’s department store. She tries to crack the Draper wall.

“I know what it’s like to feel disconnected,” she says. Then they sleep together.

So when I met Weiner at his production office near downtown, one of my first questions was, “Is Don Draper a Jew?”

“Everybody asks me that,” he said, “I had to go back and check — did I put anything in the show that said Don’s not Jewish? Don’s a Jew in the sense that he is a white person who is an outsider, and that’s what he gets from Rachel. That’s what they like about each other.”

And the accuracy of their relationship — which is just a subplot — in its emotional, social and historical details is why fans like me love the show.

“I am telling a story about people, and there is a nostalgia in it for people our age,” Weiner explained. “When you know the end of the story, every detail on the way there is rich with irony and filled with insight. You watch ‘Titanic,’ and you know the end of the story. But what’s amazing about it is, well, how did you get there?”

Weiner is on the fit side of 5-foot-9, hyper-articulate, funny and self-aware. His office features a threadbare couch, a paper-covered desk, liquor bottles, set props, a poster of his beautiful lead actress, and one of those ’60s-era toys, the Whee-Lo. Is it at all surprising that most Hollywood writers’ offices could double as a 12-year-old boy’s fantasy of an office?

Weiner is 42, too young to have absorbed firsthand the scotch-and-cigarette world he writes about with such accuracy. He was born in Baltimore, but came of age in Hancock Park, attending Harvard Prep School then Wesleyan University. His father wasn’t an ad man — he was chairman of the department of neurology at USC.

What led him to write about 1960’s Manhattan? “I have an answer, but its not a good answer,” he said. “All I can say is ‘Catcher in the Rye’ was the first book I ever finished, and the whole time it made me obsessed with New York. I identified with this person about phonies and crummy people, but there were also Lunt and Fontanne and meeting someone at the clock at Grand Central.”

Weiner’s maternal grandfather was in the fur business in Manhattan.

“At some level he started my fascination with this period,” Weiner said. “I wore his sharkskin suits and skinny ties even when I was in high school.”

When the actor who plays Rachel Menken’s father appeared on set in costume, he looked and sounded so much like his grandfather that Weiner choked up.

Almost eight years ago, Weiner was writing for the TV show “Becker” when he finished the spec script for “Mad Men.”

VIDEO: Israel tries to sex up its image


Britains’ Sky News reports from Tel Aviv on an Israeli advertising campaign to sex up its image.

‘Gary Wexler Is Miserable’


t was one of my favorite ads. At the time, my upstart ad agency was competing with a hot shop called Wexler & Shalek. They had a reputation for always winning creative awards. But one year, for some reason, they struck out. So what did their creative head, Gary Wexler, do? He took out a full-page ad in the local trade publication, Adweek, put a picture of himself in the middle of the ad, and did something rarely seen in the business.

He spoke the naked truth.

The boldfaced headline read: “Gary Wexler Is Miserable.” The rest of the ad explained why.

If you’ve ever seen the fragile egos of the ad business – and the fake posing that covers up one’s insecurities – you’d understand why that was a brilliant ad. It reached the soul of the reader. It spoke to our deepest fears and desires. It held a message that couldn’t be ignored.

Sweep wipe 20 years later to a corner table at Shilo’s, and there’s Gary, complaining about the same old stuff. “There’s not enough soul in marketing today,” he likes to say.

It’s just that today Gary’s not talking about diapers, laundry detergents or breakfast cereals. He’s talking about the Jewish community and the hundreds of Jewish organizations that struggle every day to market themselves to get people to support their cause.

You see, when Gary left his ad agency, he switched from the world of award shows, black Armani suits and martinis at the Four Seasons to fried eggs at Nate ‘n Al’s, tiny ad budgets and the kind of awards you only get from High Above for the mitzvah of helping your people. For more than a decade now, Gary’s Passion Marketing outfit has been one of the premier names in anything having to do with marketing Jewish causes.

But still, Gary kvetches.

He is one of the Jewish world’s great kvetchers. How do I know? We’ve been kvetching together for 20 years. We would kvetch at Chinois on Main during the 1980s about how shallow our advertising business was, while reassuring ourselves that – thanks to our Judaism – we had so much more substance than our materialistic colleagues. That was baloney, of course. We were just as materialistic as they were – we just felt guilty about it.

When I was relatively new in town and told him I’d love to spend a Sephardic Yom Kippur, he invited me to stay at his house in the San Fernando Valley so I could walk over to a Sephardic synagogue. The breaking of the fast at his house marked me with an image I’ll never forget: 100 Ashkenazic Jews of all ages all speaking at exactly the same time.

The years passed, and still we kvetched.

We kvetched about politics, our employees, clients, rabbis, family, therapists and life in general. One night, I took him to a midnight meditation and dance session on a beach in Malibu with a group of Chassidic mystics. If I recall, we found time to kvetch.

In the 1990s, his kvetching took on a decidedly Jewish tone. Gary was now a fledgling marketing macher in the Jewish world, and this seemed to take the kvetching to new heights.

For business meetings, that was an adjustment. I’m sorry to say, but non-Jewish clients who want you to increase their sales for, let’s say, a cat litter product (“Our edge is clump integrity!”) just don’t appreciate a good kvetching session. It’s all business with them.

With the Jews, schmaltz at meetings is allowed, even encouraged. Every Jewish nonprofit feels that the future of the Jewish people rests on their cause – which it does – and they will kvetch that it’s simply not fair that they are not as well known as, say, the Wiesenthal Center.

In Gary, they had found a kindred kvetcher. The problem is that Gary’s kvetching was often directed right back at his clients. He wanted to instill in them a greater marketing discipline. With the limited budgets of non-profits, it wasn’t enough to aim for nebulous goals like “branding.” Their marketing needed to get results. Gary was giving them tough love.

So when we caught up with each other the other day at Shilo’s, Gary’s brand of endearing kvetching was still on display.

But this time, after his fourth or fifth iced tea, Gary came up with an idea.

“Suissa,” he said, “you and I are both marketing experts. Why don’t we do something special for Rosh Hashanah for the Jewish community? Let’s book a conference room in a hotel during the Days of Awe and spend one day giving free marketing advice to any Jewish organization that needs it!”

I paid the bill and asked the waiter what he put in the iced tea.

Ah, but lest you forget, Gary’s in the persuasion business, so after a couple of weeks of back and forth and noble talk of mitzvahs and obligations, somehow the “are you kidding mes?” became “why nots?” And before you know it, guess what happened?

We booked the hotel.

No, I’m not kidding. If you have a Jewish organization and you think free marketing ideas from Wexler and Suissa are worth something, we’ll be there for you on Tuesday, Sept. 18 at the Crown Plaza Hotel on Pico and Beverly boulevards.

Conditions? You must be a Jewish nonprofit and attendees must include a senior manager. Just send us your key marketing objective and any marketing materials. We’ll review what you send us and give you our ideas. To register, go to Freeonthe18th.com. There are 10 slots available, so it’s first come, first served.

Oh, one more thing. These are the Days of Awe, so the incomparable Rabbi Shlomo “Schwartzie” from the Chai Center will be on hand with blessings to help you and your organization be inscribed for a good year.

And for those of you we’ll see on the 18th, remember to tell Gary how much you love his ideas. You wouldn’t want him to get all miserable.

David Suissa, an advertising executive, is founder of OLAM magazine and Meals4Israel.com. He can be reached at dsuissa@olam.org.

Billboard mystery ends with interfaith twist


The mysterious billboards went up across the Los Angeles area just after the High Holidays. Each used a variation on the same theme, juxtaposing illustrations: Latkes or fries? Bagels and lox or sushi? Yarmulke or cap?

They carried no other information, and from the beginning it had the Jewish community guessing.

Was it a new kosher deli appealing to ba’alei teshuvah? A catering outfit hoping to penetrate the interfaith market?

Try Mount Sinai Memorial Parks and Mortuaries.

Yes, the big reveal last week that stretched from Westwood to Westlake Village featured the name of the Sinai Temple-founded cemetery, which has locations in the Hollywood Hills and Simi Valley. And the edgy twist is that Mount Sinai is reaching out to interfaith couples.

While many Jewish cemeteries with consecrated land bury Jews only, non-Orthodox cemeteries are increasingly making arrangements to include interfaith couples and families.

Given that 47 percent of all newlywed Jews and one-third of all married Jews are intermarried, according to the 2000-01 National Jewish Population Survey, Jewish cemeteries like Mount Sinai are marketing to interfaith couples who would otherwise turn to secular or non-Jewish burial sites.

“In my travels around this community, there were tremendous misconceptions as to what most Jewish cemeteries in Southern California, and especially Mount Sinai, would or would not do. And I felt very strongly, as does my board, that we need to set the record straight,” said Len Lawrence, Mount Sinai’s general manager. “This was an opportunity that we took to tell the community that the rules are different for Mount Sinai.”

According to Rabbi Paul J. Citrin, an L.A. native and pulpit rabbi at Reform Congregation Beth Israel in San Diego, it is acceptable to bury a non-Jewish spouse in a Jewish cemetery. When Jewish cemeteries disallow burial of non-Jews, they are citing custom, not Jewish law.

The Talmud states that for the sake of peaceful relations, non-Jews can be buried in Jewish cemeteries (Gittin 61a). However, non-Jewish clergy are not allowed to officiate in a Jewish cemetery.

The Mount Sinai advertising campaign was developed six months ago by GSS Communiqations, and the revealed billboards will remain up until mid-December.
Mount Sinai’s Lawrence is satisfied with the buzz generated by the campaign, and he expects to see a bump in traffic on the cemetery’s Web site in the next month.

Before the reveal last week, Lawrence said he heard speculation from colleagues and his own college-age sons that the billboards likely had something to do with interfaith couples.

“We think it did what it needed to do,” he said.


A Surprise Might Attract More To Shuls


In many synagogues across the country today, the $64,000 question is the same: How can we get more people to come more often?

Unlike the old days of quaint ghettos and neighborhoods, Judaism has become a choice. Synagogues today compete against Starbucks and other distractions, as much as they compete against themselves.

So how can we better compete?

Everyone seems to agree, whatever the denomination, that we should make the synagogue experience more enjoyable, more engaging, even more spiritual. You want to feel like you got something more than the fulfillment of an obligation.

As someone who’s been immersed in consumer marketing for 20 years, I want to throw one little insight into the mix, and invite anyone who’s interested to build on it.

If there’s one thing in marketing that piques interest, it’s the element of surprise. For synagogues, however, this is easier said than done, because so much of a prayer service is based on repetition. And repetition itself has an emotional benefit: It makes us feel safe and comfortable.

But still, wouldn’t it be interesting if we could add a dash of anticipation — a sense of pleasant unpredictability — to the synagogue experience?

One way would be to not get stuck on the same prayer melodies. Why not have our chazans constantly mix it up?

I was invited to an ultraliberal Ashkenazi Friday night service recently, and out of the blue came this hard-core Sephardic melody that my grandfather used to sing in Morocco. It blew me away, because I hadn’t heard it in years. It was totally against type.

It’s hard to overstate the delight of discovering a new melody or rediscovering an old one. I have a friend who would sometimes sing “Lecha Dodi” to the tune of “Michelle, Ma Belle.”

You don’t have to go that far. You could have a repertoire of three or four melodies for each prayer, and decide on the spot which one to sing. I don’t know about you, but when I hear the standard melody of “Ein Keloheinu,” it’s like a double shot of Valium. I once heard a Chasidic version of that prayer that really brought the words to life.

You get the picture. Mix it up, add, delete, go as far as you can without creating a shul mutiny.

Melodies can surprise and delight the heart, but what can surprise the mind? Most synagogue sermons connect with the calendar, either with the Torah portion of that week or with a specific holiday. It would be silly of me to challenge that imperative, but I do think there is an opportunity to break with the calendar, not just to surprise but to inspire.

We make a big deal about keeping the lessons of our holidays in our hearts at all times. So why couldn’t we pull the holidays out of their time zones and make them more visible throughout the year? In the same way that we can mingle our timeless melodies, why couldn’t we mingle our timeless holidays?

For example, any given Shabbat could honor a different holiday, and weave it into the discussion of the weekly Torah portion. I can envision a very powerful sermon on the subject of Yom Kippur — one month after Yom Kippur — that would play up the continuing relevance of the Day of Atonement.

At the beginning of an actual holiday, why not create a miniceremony that would honor the previous holiday?

When we’re so used to going forward, it really gets people’s attention to go backward, especially when it makes sense. We all have a tendency to go through our holidays and then put them away in storage. Wouldn’t it make sense to keep bringing them back, to follow up and make sure that we are still living their message?

We have such creative minds in our spiritual leadership that I can see a constant flow of holiday ideas at odd times of the year. If Rosh Hashanah is about personal renewal, why not surprise people by celebrating that holiday idea in the middle of the year? When it’s not Shavuot, why not celebrate the spirit of Shavuot with a Torah learning day? During the summer, why not do a spirit of Chanukah event for tikkun olam?

In other words, keep people on their toes and challenge their expectations. Bring back not just the biblical past, but the experiential past that we can personally relate to — our holiday treasures.

Ultimately, whether it’s through changing melodies or going back on holidays, people would get the comfort of the familiar, but they would also look forward to a touch of the unexpected. And who knows, they might even hold off on Starbucks for a few hours. What’s another boring latte?

David Suissa, an advertising executive, is the founder of OLAM magazine and Meals4Israel.com. He can be reached at dsuissa@olam.org.

 

Frum Frenzy


Visitors trolling for casual sex on Craigslist.org last week were left scratching their heads over an unfamiliar reference that has surfaced in a flurry of recent postings.

"I keep seeing this term ‘Frum.’ Can somebody please clue me into what the hell that is?" wrote Jeff, a 30-year-old regular on the site.

"OK, I give up … what does ‘frum’ mean?" huffed another.

To the posters’ disappointment, frum (pronounced "froom") is not shorthand for a kinky new posture or adventurous attitude. It’s a Yiddish word that technically means "religiously observant," but for all intents and purposes is used by men and women who identify themselves as Orthodox Jews.

Jeff, an events planner who grew up Catholic in the Midwest, said he kept seeing requests from frum men and women seeking frum sexual partners.

"The only thing that was in my mind was ‘fru-strated, m-arried?’ I had no clue what it was," he said. "I didn’t realize it was an Orthodox Jewish person. From what I understand, they’re supposed to put a sheet between them when they have sex."

It turns out that the deeply religious have sexual tastes as mundane as the rest of us:

"Single frum guy for single frum girl for fun!" one 24-year-old wrote. "Married, frum guy looking for a frum girl (married or unmarried) for some NSA [no strings attached] fun. We can have good time ‘learning’ together," a 31-year-old posted.

"Frum married guy looking for frum guy to explore," wrote another, continuing: "I am a frum married 28-year-old guy … during the summer my wife will be upstate and I am looking to explore having sex with a man … please be frum."

That’s not to say that this frum frenzy hasn’t ushered in a whole range of heretofore unimaginable caveats such as "We could do as little as you want," written by a gentle soul seeking a frum woman, and "No Chasidish," written by a 24-year-old married Manhattanite, referring to the ultra-Orthodox denomination whose members wear black hats and suits and sport long sidelocks.

Or, less chastely, a poster seeking "Frum girls gone wild" for an orgy in Brooklyn, or another one advertising a Yahoo group for married frumsters seeking "extracurricular fun."

Though the posters are seeking members of their observant sects to romp in the sack with, none seem to be under the illusion that this is, well, kosher.

"Frum guy seeks frum girl for not such frum fun!" a 32-year-old wrote. And one might question whether picking someone from the notoriously tight-knit community would be a discreet move.

In case there were any doubts, Orthodox Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld, of the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale, confirmed that Jewish law prohibits such shenanigans — either in the form of extramarital affairs or premarital sexual contact.

"Rabbis have taught that there is a prohibition of all contact of a sexual nature between male and female prior to marriage," he said, referring to Maimonides’ encyclopedic code of Jewish law. "But we’re not talking here about a man and a woman who are emotionally bonded and have difficulty with a specific Jewish law. We’re talking about people who are completely disconnected and lonely. It’s sad; it reflects the reality of our time."

Rabbi Tsvi Blanchard, director of organizational development for the National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership, added that while traditional Judaism discourages sexual relations outside of marriage, "Historically some were permitted if the relationship was ongoing and committed" in the case of concubines.

"I assure you, they know very well that society doesn’t approve it — that’s why they’re going to the Net," he added. "If they belong to parts of a classically frum society, they can’t exactly go to a party and say, ‘Do you want to come back to my place?’"

"That’s so funny," said Jessica Ressler, 26, a Modern Orthodox divorce lawyer. "I just posted an ad on there for a nanny. I didn’t know they went on there for that."

Of course, it was only a matter of time before a class of frum frauds emerged on Craigslist. But if the missives from Orthodox neighborhoods are to be believed, where there are frum, there is desire.

"Are there any frum men here that want to meet for real?" one single gal wrote. "I am sick and tired of all the fakes here."

Article reprinted courtesy The New York Observer.


Anna Schneider-Mayerson is a writer living in New York City.

Vanity Body Plates


A few weeks ago, I was shopping at the Beverly Center when a girl who was maybe 12 years old held up a garment and yelled across the store, “Hey, Mom, what about this?”

“This” was a skimpy red T-shirt with the words “porn star” emblazoned across the chest. I was shocked by the shirt, but even more shocked when her mother breezily brought it up to the register. That’s when I noticed that this mom was wearing her own micro-mini T-shirt with the word “bouncy” written in big, bold letters across her chest.

Walking around Los Angeles, I realized I was practically the only woman who didn’t have a slogan on her boobs. There were suggestive ones like “Tasty” and disturbing ones like “Fight Hunger: Anorexia Chic.” Then I started seeing them on women’s sweatpants — across their behinds, to be exact — things like: “Princess,” “Slut,” “Whore,” “Daddy’s Little Girl,” “Eat Me,” “Lick Me,” “Bite Me,” “Boy-Beater” and “Airhead.” While my breasts had no signage and my butt sported the low-key “Levi’s,” everyone from preteens to the premenopausal set seemed to personalize their body parts with tag lines like “Juicy,” “Curvy” and “Slippery When Wet.” It used to be that women worried about panty lines — now they worry about what line to post on the back of their pants.

I didn’t get the point. Were these sexual invitations? Were they crib sheets for illiterate gawkers? My friend, Kevin, said they’re more like “vanity body plates.”

Maybe, but where’s the vanity?

I asked a young woman in a T-shirt that read, “Psycho Bitch” why she’d want to wear that.

“It’s empowering!” she replied, in a tone that left the “I mean, like, duh” hanging in the air.

I guess the others I’ve seen recently are also “empowering” — things like “Easy” “Pop My Cherry,” “Schwing,” “Hormonal” and “Buy Me a Diamond Ring.” Recently, Time magazine reported on Jewish pride T-shirts and panties with pithy power-grams like “Jew Lo,” “Jewcy,” “JAP,” “Meshuggenah,” “Yenta,” and “A Great Miracle Happened Here.”

In a show of sisterhood, I tried to give these slogans the benefit of the doubt — to find some sort of, I don’t know, “ironic hipsterness” to them like, “My Other Butt Is a Porsche” or “If You Can Read This, You’re Too Gross.”

A friend suggested that this phenomenon might be a Richard Pryor-esque political statement — you know, taking back the words of the oppressor. Another mentioned the fact that I’d posted a naked picture of myself on the Web for a magazine assignment, and that, while I ultimately found the whole thing silly, I did experience a sense of, well, empowerment. So why was I so outraged that other generally sensible young women would plaster these messages on their own bodies and feel proud? Why did I care that I couldn’t go five blocks without seeing a woman who advertised herself as promiscuous, spoiled, abusive, ditzy, gossipy, or emotionally unstable — all in the name of “empowerment”?

Maybe because it hit too close to home. These were women like me: mothers and daughters who rail against degrading ads, then plaster them instead on their own bodies. I knew I hit rock bottom when a friend wore a glittery “anal” logo over her butt and for a split-second I thought it was funny, a clever reference to her uptight personality. Would a man ever stoop so low? Not a chance. They know how to advertise their gender: “Buff,” “Brawny,” “Six-Million-Dollar Man.” But can anyone imagine a guy walking around town with the word “anal” plastered across his behind?

Recently, while I was jogging in my plain, baggy sweats, I saw a teenager up ahead whose behind boasted, “Messed Up!” Another girl jogged toward me in a T-shirt with bright purple lettering: “Confused!”

Finally, I thought, truth in advertising.


Lori Gottlieb, a commentator for NPR, is author of the
memoir “Stick Figure: A Diary of My Former Self” (Simon and Schuster, 2000) and
“Inside the Cult of Kibu: And Other Tales of the Millennial Gold Rush” (Perseus
Books, 2002). Her Web site is www.lorigottlieb.com.

Fill ‘Er Up With Guilt


What do you think you’re doing when you pump gallons of gas into your SUV?If you think that you are simply doing a necessary weekly chore of no great consequence, then Laurie David, a trustee of the Natural Resources Defense Council and wife of comedian Larry David, wants you to think again.

On Dec. 19 at a forum on energy independence hosted by the American Jewish Congress, David revealed a new anti-oil television advertising campaign designed to make the suburban soccer-mom set shudder with shame every time they pull into a gas station. The ads are a parody of President Bush’s war on drugs ads, and they feature talking heads saying, "Today I helped hijack a plane" and "Today I helped our enemies develop weapons of mass destruction." They end with the tag line: "What is your SUV doing to national security?"

David produced the ads along with Arianna Huffington, film producer Lawrence Bender and Ariel Emanuel, a partner at Endeavor Talent Agency. These four call their efforts The Detroit Project, and the aim of the ads is to encourage American car manufacturers to produce hybrid cars such as the Toyota Prius, which use much less fuel than SUVs and get more miles to the gallon. If Americans can use less gas, then America can decrease its dependence on Saudi Arabian oil. The Thinking goes: If Saudi Arabia loses a large chunk of the American oil market, then it will have less money to support terrorism and radical Islamists, and the world just might be a safer place.

The Detroit Project plans to air the ads in select markets a week before President Bush’s State of the Union address. Their goal is to make you feel uncomfortable about taking the SUV out for a spin. "The time has come," David said. "Drastic times call for drastic measures"

From Ordinary Faces, Extraordinary Ads


Howard Zieff still remembers how he found the people to photograph in 1967 for his most famous advertisement, which had the tag line, “You don’t have to be Jewish to love Levy’s.”

“We wanted normal-looking people, not blond, perfectly proportioned models,” Zieff recalled. The advertisements, for Levy’s rye bread, featured an American Indian, a Chinese man and a black child.

“I saw the Indian on the street; he was an engineer for the New York Central,” Zieff said. “The Chinese guy worked in a restaurant near my Midtown Manhattan office. And the kid we found in Harlem. They all had great faces, interesting faces, expressive faces.”

Those three images and numerous other examples of his advertising photography are in “The Genius and Wit of Howard Zieff,” an unusual exhibition at the G. Ray Hawkins Gallery in the West Hollywood-Fairfax area. Zieff (pronounced zeef), now 74, went on to direct television commercials and then moved to Los Angeles to forge a successful career directing feature films in the 1970s through the early ’90s, including “Private Benjamin,” “Hearts of the West” and “My Girl.” The increasingly debilitating effects of Parkinson’s disease led him to retire in the ’90s.

Surprisingly, many in Hollywood are unaware that the reticent and modest Zieff was perhaps the most significant advertising photographer in New York in the 1960s. His work still resonates today.

“Howard was a truly special talent,” said Roy Grace, a former chairman of the advertising agency Doyle Dane Bernbach, now part of DDB Worldwide. “There was Howard Zieff and everyone else.” Grace was the agency’s art director in the 1960s, when he began working with Zieff.

“Howard was the primary force in a certain kind of advertising,” Grace said. “His photographs were a dialogue with humor, a dialogue with what we call real people, which is now commonplace.”

“Then everybody in advertisements was white,” he added. “Every kid was tow-haired and freckled with perfect little buck teeth. Myself and my compatriots were a bunch of guys from the Bronx and Brooklyn. That was not our background. And neither was it Howard’s.”

The show of Zieff’s work, on view through April 17 at Hawkins, one of the oldest photography galleries in Los Angeles, is dominated by some of his famous and humorous advertising campaigns for The Daily News in New York and Polaroid, as well as Levy’s. The works on display are a small part of his career, which included print and television campaigns for brands like Revlon, American Motors, Mobil, Volkswagen, Benson & Hedges and Alka-Seltzer.

The Alka-Seltzer “Mamma Mia, that’s a spicy meatball” television commercial is one of Zieff’s best-known. In it, a man is eating a meatball for a television spot and keeps flubbing his lines, which means he has to continue eating meatballs. The result? He needs Alka-Seltzer. At the time, Time magazine called Zieff “Master of the Mini Ha Ha.”

G. Ray Hawkins, the owner of the gallery, said Zieff’s work went beyond selling products. “They’re witty, there’s a perfect pitch to his humor, they tell a story, and they’re right on target,” he said. “His photographs are 100 percent American innocence. We’re laughing at ourselves at the same time that we’re feeling good about ourselves.”

Zieff’s work for The Daily News was highly stylized and funny. The advertisements in the campaign all had the same point: people were so engrossed in reading the newspaper that they did not realize what they were doing. In one scene a gas station attendant was reading the front page, so absorbed that he had put the gasoline hose into his customer’s pocket instead of the car.

Zieff’s earliest advertisements for magazines and for television were almost defined by their use of people with ordinary faces. He chose actors who were young and unknown at the time, among them Robert De Niro, Dustin Hoffman and Richard Dreyfuss. Those three were hardly considered traditional-looking actors, much less potential stars.

Charlie Moss, former vice chairman of Wells Rich Greene and now chairman of the advertising agency Moss/Dragoti, said Zieff’s well-known print ads and television commercials for companies like Braniff International Airways and T.W.A. helped define the current business. “He brought the little guy to print and television ads,” Moss said. “Here were these strange people. Real New Yorkers. His vision was to show real people.”

Grace recalled that those choices did not always please the advertisers. “We had a battle with clients, selling some of these people,” he said. “They wanted more traditional-looking types. Howard led the charge. He had the talent to pull it off.”

Zieff grew up in the Boyle Heights section of East Los Angeles, where his father ran a club where neighborhood men played cards. He studied art for a year at Los Angeles City College, then dropped out in 1946 to join the Navy, which eventually sent him to the Naval Photography School in Pensacola, Fla.

After his discharge, Zieff attended the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena. By the 1950s he had moved to New York in a vain effort to find work as a director of television dramas. Running out of money, he got a job as a photographer’s assistant and soon began taking photographs for advertising campaigns created by agencies like Cunningham & Walsh and Doyle Dane Bernbach.

By the time he was 25, he had emerged as one of advertising’s top photographers. Soon he was employing 15 people in a New York studio.

“Howard knew exactly what he wanted,” said Herb Sidel, a former assistant to Zieff who now represents him and other photographers at his company, Independent Artists. “There was a humor to his pictures but also a poignancy. You could look at them for hours.”

The recent opening of Zieff’s show brought out a number of Hollywood heavyweights, including the manager Michael Ovitz and several directors, actors and agents. Zieff himself is married to an agent, Ronda Gomez-Quinones, who represents writers and directors at the Broder Kurland Webb Uffner agency. Although married only five years, they have been together for nearly 30.

At their home in the hills above Sunset Boulevard, Zieff said advertisements today impressed him enormously. “Some of them are smart, some are funny,” he said. “The images are much stronger.”

He played down his own importance: “I don’t like to blow my own horn. Was it considered daring? Maybe. Everyone was blond and perfectly proportioned. I didn’t want that.”

Zieff said it was not especially easy to find the right faces. “Look, for the Levy’s ad, I shot many photos that failed,” he said. “They weren’t the kinds of faces that gathered you up when you went on the subway.

“That’s what I wanted, faces that gathered you up.”

Reprinted with permission from The New York Times.

Remembering Not to Forget


There are two different ways of reminding us that Purim is around the corner. One is the PR method, involving newspaper ads, thousands of fliers and large street banners, usually advertising the upcoming Purim carnivals. The other involves no media or marketing but has existed for more than 2000 years. It’s called Shabbat Zachor (the Sabbath of Remembering).

Shabbat Zachor is the special title for the Shabbat immediately preceding Purim. Although the observance of this Shabbat is not as glitzy as the colored fliers and banners seen on the street, its message touches the core of Purim more than any carnival.

Shabbat Zachor is so called because on this Shabbat, in addition to the weekly Torah portion, we read, from an additional Torah scroll, three verses of the Book of Deuteronomy (25:17-19) beginning with the word zachor (remember).

These three verses command us to "remember what the Amalekites did to us after the Exodus from Egypt." Having attacked us and promoted a war, the Amalekites became the prototypical archenemy of the Jewish nation. They are the ultimate representative of anti-Semitism as it is recognized today.

As a prelude to Purim, we read the story of Haman, the descendant of Amalek. We read the Zachor verses on Shabbat to connect Haman to his own Amalekite past, thus providing deeper historical insight as to the motives behind Haman’s plot to destroy the Jews. He is an Amalekite, thus it is in his genes to hate and seek to annihilate the Jews.

In addition to all of this history, Shabbat Zachor draws contemporary meaning and relevance to Amalek and the Purim holiday. Through the word zachor we learn the importance of knowing our past. Two additional Hebrew words, lo tishkach (do not forget), serve as a reinforcement to zachor, pointing to the unfortunate reality that we should "remember not to forget" that Amalek is not only about the past, but its hateful ideology is prevalent wherever Jews reside in the world.

I certainly do not need to review the history of anti-Semitism to demonstrate the continued presence of Amalek. My rebbe in high school taught us that the zachor verses command us to "erase the memory of Amalek." In his words, "combat anti-Semitism, learn from the lessons of the past and teach tolerance rather than hate."

If nothing else, I hope Shabbat Zachor is a reminder that there is more to Purim than just a carnival. Shabbat Shalom.


Daniel Bouskila is the rabbi of Sephardic Temple Tifereth Israel.

The Power of Advertising


About 1,000 people crammed into Jerusalem’s Kol Haneshama Reform synagogue for Yom Kippur services, while another 500 or so listened in the courtyard outside.

“My own father couldn’t get in,” said Rabbi David Ariel-Joel, assistant director of Israel’s Reform movement. “Neither could Yossi Cohen, who designed the advertising campaign.”

The advertising campaign, in which the Reform and Conservative movements pitched nonobservant Israeli families to come to their High Holiday services, appears to have succeeded beyond anyone’s expectations. The joint campaign, whose $360,000 tab was financed by San Francisco’s Goldman Fund, featured a multicolored Star of David in its newspaper ads and the slogan “There is more than one way to be Jewish.” More than 350 radio spots ran on state-run Israel Radio — but only after the station canceled the contract out of fear of upsetting Orthodox sensitivities, and then relented out of fear of Supreme Court suits from the Reform and Conservative. The ads got the go-ahead once the two movements agreed to delete the “offensive” slogan from the radio spots.

Tel Aviv’s Beit Daniel Reform synagogue had about the same massive-size turnout as did Kol Haneshama, noted Ariel-Joel. “Most of our 27 synagogues were overflowing with people. Altogether, I’d say the number of people we had was at least double from last year,” he said, putting this season’s attendance figure at above 20,000.

In addition, more than 7,000 phone inquiries have come into the Reform offices and synagogues over the High Holidays from Israelis wanting to have Reform weddings or bar/bat mitzvahs, or interested in starting new Reform congregations in virgin territory outside Israel’s major cities and wealthier suburbs, said Ariel-Joel.

Conservative Rabbi Einat Ramon, head of the movement’s Religious Services Bureau, made a rough estimate that High Holiday attendance at the 46 Conservative synagogues went up by some 25 percent over last year. Some thousands of inquiries came into the movement, she added.

At Ramon’s Havurat Tel Aviv, which held its services in a hall at the city’s Gymnasia Herzliya high school, there was a full house of 500 or so for evening services, just like last year. “What was different this time was that people were staying for services all day on Yom Kippur, not just for Kol Nidre and Ne’ila [evening services],” she said. “And I saw a lot more young people, Israelis in their 20s.”

Nadav Shashar, a Hebrew University marine biologist who lives in Eilat, was drawn to Eilat’s Shirat Hayam Conservative synagogue for High Holiday services after he saw one of the ads in the newspaper. He had been raised “traditional” — his parents made Sabbath kiddush and attended High Holiday services in an Orthodox synagogue, and a few of his uncles are even Orthodox rabbis.

“But I just can’t accept the Orthodox way anymore, and I was looking for a synagogue where I could feel comfortable,” he said. Shashar, 38, had just returned from eight months studying and working in the United States. “I had attended a number of Conservative and Reform synagogues there, and I saw that Orthodoxy wasn’t the only way, that Judaism was much more dynamic than that.”

Shirat Hayam is the first Israeli non-Orthodox synagogue he’s attended. About 50 people showed up for High Holiday services, most of them either immigrants from English-speaking countries or, like himself, native Israelis who had lived in an English-speaking country for an extended period. “Most of the members are well-educated, and they care very much about the congregation,” he said. “I feel it’s a place where my wife and I can be involved, and where we can bring our daughter.”

This was one of the key points the ad campaign made — the egalitarianism of Conservative and Reform services, that “the whole family can pray together,” noted Ariel-Joel. Another key message of the campaign was that the services were understandable to all — even those who had little or no familiarity with the siddur.

This was the target audience of the ads — the Israeli secular public, those who were alienated from Orthodoxy, those whose real choice for the High Holidays was not between an Orthodox or non-Orthodox synagogue, but between a non-Orthodox synagogue or none at all.

The audience was also native Israeli, not “Anglo,” the Israeli term for English-speaking immigrants. Both the Reform and Conservative movements have sizable Anglo minorities in their congregations, but the newcomers over the High Holidays were nearly all sabras, said Ariel-Joel and Ramon.

The reservoir of Anglos for the movements is basically dried up, said Ramon, explaining that they’ve known about the Conservative and Reform movements all their lives, and those who haven’t joined in Israel by now aren’t likely to in the future. But for veteran Israelis, the movements have always been rather alien, a newfangled American import, not truly Jewish, so they constitute a new clientele.

The ad campaign was the first major inroad into the native ranks made by the Reform and Conservative movements. The upsurge in attendance at Reform and Conservative synagogues and the flood of inquires from previously nonobservant Israelis attest to the effectiveness of the ads, but are also part of larger socioreligious trends in Israel. One is the trend among secular Israelis to familiarize themselves with Judaism, which grew after the Rabin assassination, when many Israelis decided they could not surrender Judaism to Yigal Amir and his constituency.

Another explanation for the High Holiday turnout is that it was an expression of defiance against the fervently Orthodox, and an act of solidarity with those who are fighting the Orthodox establishment.

A woman who called the Reform movement to find out more about it said she got interested after hearing one of the radio ads, and was moved by her frustration at how “the [Orthodox] have taken over Judaism so that now my children don’t know anything about their Jewish identity and don’t want to know. There has to be another way.” The woman, who lives in a small rural community, would not give her name, the name of her community or any other personal details, for fear that “my neighbors are going to think that I’m bringing in another kind of synagogue here.”

To Ramon, there is yet another reason behind the turnaway crowds at Conservative and Reform synagogues over these High Holidays: “At the end of the 20th century, people all over the world are looking for spiritual meaning. In Israel, some Jews are turning to [the Sephardic fervently Orthodox movement] Shas, while others are looking in the other direction — for a spiritual Judaism that is not fundamentalist.”

Invisible People


This past summer I saw an old friend of mine in New York, a woman I had met shortly after arriving in the city years ago. On several occasions Nancy and I had worked together. Our conversation was warm, affectionate, biographical. Catching up on one another, as it were, and then onto the turns and curves in our friends’ lives.

There was a brief pause. And then suddenly, shifting direction, in a low, angry voice, she said to me: You know what I hate about growing old in New York? It’s how I have suddenly become invisible. At parties; in restaurants; walking through the streets. It’s infuriating and I can’t seem to do anything about it.

I was surprised at the intensity; but also at the statement itself. My friend Nancy is in her mid 60s; she is a successful documentary film-maker, with awards, accomplishments, friends. She had started out as a film editor, moved to camerawoman and director, and now had her own film company. She seemed always engaged in a project, always at work. Someone I would describe as an intelligent, active, attractive woman.

Then she laughed. You know, people my age are even invisible on television. Nowhere to be seen on “Friends” or “Sex and the City”; we’re visible only in nursing homes (“The Sopranos”) or dying in hospitals (“E.R.”). Do you think they’re trying to tell us something?

“Look, don’t blame me,” my TV writer friend Hilary said, when I confronted her on the subject the following week in L.A. “I write what the market wants. It doesn’t want sit- coms or dramas involving people over 60 because the advertisers won’t buy such programs. And they won’t buy them because they believe, rightly or wrongly, that older people have already settled on their consumer choices, whether they be cars, hair shampoo or breakfast cereal.”

In short, she concluded, ads are seen as not likely to alter their purchases. It doesn’t matter how many millions are out there. On TV, they’re mostly invisible. It is our hi-tech way of setting the elderly afloat on an ice raft.

Given the numbers, and the prediction that life expectancy will only increase, the tendency to set aside the over-60 or 65 part of the population strikes me as outrageous. And, not incidentally, a bit like shooting ourselves in the foot. In 1960, for example, there were approximately 16.7 million people in the United States over 65. In those days, the focus seemed to be on retirement — at least for those in the middle class who had planned and saved enough.

But much has changed these past 40 years. Life expectancy has jumped to 76 in America (In 1900 we were supposed to live out our lives by age 47). There are also now 34.5 million Americans over 65, with the anticipation that number will double within the next 30 years. What are we going to do with all these marginalized people? All these “invisible” men and women, a good number of whom are the wealthiest in our society?

Some of course will be “less than wealthy” and will require medical care and housing. They are likely to be a major fiscal burden on their children and the body public as well. That of course is one reason we do not want to see them, either on TV or in the flesh.

But the others, those in reasonable good health, are both consumers and potential contributors to our society. Today more of them are looking for ways to function productively — as teachers, volunteers, students, or beginners in a new career. They are also asking to be included, they want to become visible.

Obviously part of the responsibility rests with the “retirees” themselves, the post-65s. Some have already taken steps to become fully engaged participants. In our own community, Richard Gunther, 74, and a member of the Jewish Journal Board of Directors, has created a Legacy Award Program that the American Association of Retired People (AARP) has adopted. Under that program, grants along with recognition are made to senior volunteers around the country who are making significant contributions to their local community. In essence they serve as statewide models. Gunther reviews all the nominees and helps makes the final selection.

He is involved as well in several endeavors aimed at the 65-plus population and has pointed out (to, among others, Presidential candidate Albert Gore’s task force) programs that are presently underway. These include: Foster Grandparents, Retired Senior Volunteer Program, Habitat for Humanity and Experience Corps.

All of these are directed at retirees viewed somewhat as a separate group. The broader, more structural aim, I hope, will include the rest of society as we try to utilize the mind and energy of our seniors. Here some of the control falls to those of us who are the gatekeepers, who control access to worlds both professional and social.

Years ago I owned a summer home in Stonington, Conn. It was a small (fewer than a 1,000 people) New England village perched on the water’s edge about five miles from Rhode Island. I was in my early 30s. And what I loved about my village life during those summers was that my friendships were filled with people who were contemporaries, but also who ranged in age from 21 to 80. During those years I attended weddings and funerals, listened to descriptions of Scott Fitzgerald from a classmate of his at Princeton, and to a narrative about Nathaniel West in Bucks County from one of my dearest friends, who began by telling me, “Pep West, I knew him well. He was my wife’s lover.”

My life was richer in large measure because the elderly were an integral, vivid part of it. As all of our lives can be. — Gene Lichtenstein

The Young Leaders


Israel is on its way to becoming a back-burner issue in much of the American Jewish community. Studies show that the younger the Jew, the less connection he or she feels to what is, let’s try to remember, the Jewish homeland. The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, which used to give Israel 50 percent of the funds it raised, has cut that figure by nearly half. One of the Federation’s “old leaders” pointed out to me that Israel isn’t even mentioned any more in Federation advertising — it’s bad for business. Israel has become a wormy apple for many American Jews — all this unpleasantness with the Palestinians and, on top of that, a hot, fuming plateful of disrespect for Conservative and Reform rabbis and the Judaism they practice.

Meanwhile, Israel no longer needs the money of American Jews, and American Jewry is noticing its own needs, especially addressing the ignorance and apathy of its native constituency. So priorities are shifting. That the Federation, despite all this, cares enough to mount projects in Israel and to maintain an Israel liaison office, directed by the indefatigable Marty Karp — well, it makes a person happy.

And, now, here come Los Angeles’ young leaders — aged 25 to 40, the next generation of Jewish Federation movers and shakers, currently still in training. As part of the “twinning” of Tel Aviv with the Los Angeles Jewish community, 14 of them came to Israel to see what has already been accomplished by the partnership, to meet their counterparts in Tel Aviv, and to think up new joint projects.

These young leaders too know all the bad news back home — the great sea of the intermarried; their uneducated children, high and dry out there in America; the great masses of the unreachable unaffiliated; and a dwindling of any sense of connection to Israel or to other Jews. Even anti-Semitism is way down, as if the rats are abandoning the sinking ship. Certainly these are profound issues for their generation to face, but, as one of them asked rhetorically, “How can anyone be a Jewish leader without a connection to Israel?”

Nonetheless, they came with a lot of inaccurate preconceptions — that, for example, your typical Yossi on the street, since he speaks Hebrew, knows all about Judaism. In fact, a surprising number of Yossies don’t know nuthin’, just like in America. Then there’s the surprise that the denominational labels and divisions that are the fabric of American Jewish life mean little in a country that knows only “religious” and “secular.” More confusing still, many “secular” Israeli Jews turn out to be quite religious by American standards.

For this generation of American Jews, Judaism has become, as one of the young leaders put it, “fully optional.” These people have chosen yes, and many of them have set themselves the project, not just of learning about the Jewish community they hope to lead but of investigating Jewish spirituality and Judaism’s classical texts, drawn to texts and observance because that is Judaism’s irreducible core. What one of the group called “mere ethnicity” will not long sustain Judaism in America; in the end, only religion will. That much has become clear.

So what do the young leaders want? One stated ambition is to “change the corporate culture” of the Federation. Another is to get “our generation’s agenda” recognized. They were light on specifics, though — none could name a “cultural” change more far-reaching than not scheduling meetings during workday hours or an agenda item more revolutionary than outreach to the unaffiliated, which the Federation has been trying to do for years, with limited success.

But their tone and style is new, and so is their focus. Maybe it takes fully acculturated American Jews, born in the second half of the century, to draw in others like themselves. “We’re role models,” said one woman, pointing out that Dor Shalom, the Israeli “peace group” founded after the Rabin assassination (whose young leaders our young leaders met with), has been successful in involving apathetic Israeli twentysomethings in a social movement.

But it’s not really so surprising. There’s an old story about a student who asked his rabbi what a person could learn from a modern invention such as the locomotive. The locomotive, his teacher replied, shows us that one hot one can pull along a hundred cold ones. I hope these young Los Angeles leaders can do the same. It seemed to me they were definitely going to try.


David Margolis writes from Israel.

Learning ‘Romance’ Language


Learning ‘Romance’ Language

Berlitz won’t help. You can’t listen to tapes in the car. And the Foreign Service programs ignore it completely.

It’s a “romance” language, but the subjunctive is the least of your problems.

We can call it “Personal-ese.” When you achieve fluency, you’ll be “personally speaking.”

“Personally speaking” can be tricky because personal ads combine the two areas where human beings are most likely to lie: dating and advertising.

It’s easy to learn the basic vocabulary, such as “SJM,” meaning “Single, Jewish Male.” The real obstacles to fluency are the subtle nuances and hidden meanings of words and phrases.

As with other romance languages, gender requires special attention. Take, for example, ad writers who say that they are “seeking adventure.” When a man says this, he’s dreaming of a ski weekend at Tahoe, a hiking trip to the Grand Canyon, and a week on the beaches of Maui, not all necessarily with the same woman.

In a woman’s ad, on the other hand, the meaning of “seeking adventure” is closer to “seeking a long-term relationship, preferably with a guy who likes to ski and hike.”

Another example of a gender-specific term, and one that can cause misunderstanding, is “sensual.” It appears exclusively in women’s ads as a self-description. According to my trusty Funk & Wagnalls dictionary, “sensual” means “unduly indulging the appetites or sexual pleasure; lewd.” I’m pretty sure that this is not what most women have in mind when they put the word in their ads. Men aren’t really sure what the word means either, but they have the vague impression it could involve Swedish massage.

Women who use “sensual” probably are thinking of “sensuous,” which means “keenly appreciative of beauty, refinement or luxury.” Rather than exotic massage, these women are picturing cocktail hour at a fine-art exhibit.

As in most languages, men and women commonly interpret Personal-ese quite differently.

An important word form distinctive to Personal-ese is the “defensive adjective.” Among the most common are “attractive,” “fit” and “professional.” These terms do not carry much specific meaning but, rather, are intended only to rule out their opposites.

For example, in their ads, many men describe themselves as “attractive.” In conversation, men almost never use the word “attractive,” unless they’re referring to fishing bait or good colors for a car. Ad inflation, however, takes its toll. Lots of personals include the word, so men are afraid that leaving it out will suggest they have a face that terrifies small children.

Similarly, ad writers seeking someone who is “fit,” are not really interested in their date’s time in the triathlon. It’s just that it could sound shallow to say you’d like your date to be “thin.” “Active” and “athletic” are common stand-in’s for “fit.” People figure that these terms are more polite than saying, “Please do not weigh more than a piano.”

“Professional” is a fuzzy term. People who write that they want to meet a “professional,” may have particular types of jobs in mind. But any folks who show up for work and give it their best, probably consider themselves professionals. And why not? The only people who clearly aren’t “professionals” are the unemployed, and they’re “free-lancers.”

Just as the Eskimos have innumerable ways to say “snow,” Personal-ese is chock full of words for “money.” Ad writers may say, for example, that they seek a mate who is “successful,” “ambitious” or “accomplished,” or that they want to enjoy “the finer things in life.” Slightly less subtle is the popular “financially secure” requirement. Sometimes, you’ll even see the much less subtle “wealthy” or “rich.” Hey, you’ve got to give credit for getting right to the point.

The definition of broad terms, such as “successful,” may depend on the context. But other phrases are more specific. For example, any reference to wanting to be “pampered,” has a precise meaning: “Place your wallet on the table, put your hands over your head, and no one has to get hurt.”

Of course, it’s not possible to learn any language overnight. Eventually, perhaps we can get high schools and colleges to accept course work in Personal-ese, in lieu of more “traditional” courses such as Latin and French. Until then, we’re on our own.

As with other languages, the most effective approach is immersion. Place an ad, respond to ads, and read, read, read. Follow that program, and you’re guaranteed to be “personally speaking” in no time.


Stephen A. Simon writes for Washington Jewish Week.

Shabbat Across Los Angeles


It’s finally happened. Marketing gurus have gottentheir hands on Shabbat, taking it off dining-room tables and throwingit up onto billboards across the nation — in the hopes of bringingit back down to more tables.

With dozens of red-and-blue signs around town,radio jingles, and ads in national publications such as Newsweek andSports Illustrated, Shabbat Across America is leaving its mark on LosAngeles — even before the event takes place on March 20.

Marsha Rothpan, assistant director of theCouncil on Jewish Life, and Rabbi Yosef Kanefsky, chair of ShabbatAcross Los Angeles, expect 6,000 local participants.

Organizers are expecting 65,000 under-affiliatedJews to attend Shabbat services and dinner at about 630 synagoguesnationwide — more than double last year’s participation.

“We have shown American congregations that if theyreached out and did something nontraditional like marketing Shabbat,people would heed the call and would come,” says Melanie Notkin,marketing director for the National Jewish Outreach Program, theorganization that is sponsoring the event for the second year.

In Los Angeles, 6,000 people are expected at 60synagogues of all denominations, thanks to a strong local push by theJewish Federation’s Council on Jewish Life.

“My hope is that people who go will be introducedto a friendly, nonthreatening Jewish environment so that they canbegin to get a grasp of what Shabbat could be in their lives,” saysMarsha Rothpan, assistant director of the Council on JewishLife.

According to Notkin, Los Angeles was the onlycommunity where the local federation joined in on thecampaign.

“We are a midsize organization based in New York,trying to reach synagogues across America and Canada. We’re not inL.A., we don’t have staff there, so it’s wonderful when we haveregional organizations helping us,” says Notkin, who hopes that otherfederations will get involved next year.

Rothpan points out that there was also a deeperreason for the Council on Jewish Life getting involved: Jewish unity,a demonstration that, despite differences, the concept of Shabbatunites all Jews.

At an organizational meeting, Rothpan says, “itwas amazing to see a Chabad rabbi talking to a female Reform rabbiabout how they would get people to come, and what they were going todo there,” Rothpan says.

Rabbi Yosef Kanefsky of B’nai David-Judea, who ischairing the Council on Jewish Life’s Shabbat Across Los AngelesCommittee, says that the message going out to community leaders andaffiliated members is just as important as attracting theunaffiliated.

“Over the last year, so much has been writtenabout the division and the rifts within the Jewish community,”Kanefsky says. “Some of us — not enough of us — were saying thatarea of common concern overshadows the areas concerning which wedisagree. Shabbat Across America popped up as the perfect opportunityto actually demonstrate that we share a great deal, not just insocial-action projects but in religious areas.”

Shabbat Across America works so well, he pointsout, because while everyone is participating in the same program,each venue can design a service that best fits its philosophy andtarget audience.

And synagogues across the Los Angeles area aretaking advantage of that opportunity for diversity, offering upeverything from traditional services followed by chicken soup andkugel, to dairy potluck followed by creative spirituality.

At the Jewish Home for the Aging, Rabbi WilliamGordon is hoping to see family members who are usually apart onShabbat come celebrate together. The oldest residents at the twocampuses — a 111-year-old and a 107-year-old — will lightcandles.

Temple Israel of Hollywood is hosting RabbiSheldon Zimmerman, president of the Reform movement’s seminary,who’ll talk about “The Spiritual Life of the Reform Jew: Can We BeBoth Traditional and Modern?”

The West Valley Jewish Community Center is usingShabbat Across America as an opportunity to reach out to the manyRussian families in the area, according to Stacey Barrett,educational director for the Jewish Community Centers Association ofGreater Los Angeles.

Other JCCs are conducting lay-led services, someof them with creative touches such as poetry and storytelling.

“The centers are offering an alternative to thesynagogue for those who are unaffiliated or under-affiliated who wantto try things in smaller steps,” Barrett said.

Of course, for those who want the full-blowntraditional Shabbat, there is Chabad, which offers beginner-friendlyservices.

“The best way to experience Shabbos is whileenjoying delicious food, talking, laughing, singing,” says RabbiMoishe Gutnick, Chabad of Northridge. “It’s not just an academicexercise. It’s experiencing it and enjoying it.”

And it might not matter where or how.

“It says that if all Jews keep just one Shabbos,Messiah will come,” Gutnick says. “This is a good start.”

For more information, call (888) SHABBAT or (213)761-8325.

L.A. 5758 Briefs

What Women Need to Know

Take the long-held image of a typical sisterhoodevent — bagels and book review, a shmatte sale — and toss it outthe window. Temple Beth Am’ssisterhood has something for everyone inDiscovery ’98, “What Every Jewish WomanReally Needs to Know.”

The all-day program, on Wednesday, March 18, willfeature a choice of morning workshops on everything from Judaism andpsychoanalysis to a history of Jewish music, from women and the lawto balancing family and work.

“Jewish women have different interests, differentneeds. And they certainly don’t all think the same way,” says FriedaOrner, who is chairing the event for the sisterhood.

Laurie Levenson, dean of academic affairs atLoyola Law School, will offer opening remarks, and Rabbi Laura Gellerof Temple Emanuel will speak on “Looking Forward to the 21st Centuryand Beyond.”

Wednesday, March 18, 8:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m., $25admission, $45 sponsorship, Temple Beth Am, 1039 S. La Cienega Blvd.(310) 652-7353.

JTS Scholar at Adat Ari El

Rabbi Neil Gillman isn’t interested in fancytopics. He just wants to talk about whatever people want to hear whenhe comes to Adat Ari El as scholar-in-residence this weekend.

Gillman, chairman of the department of philosophyat the Jewish Theological Seminary, is a prominent religious thinkerand author. He will spend the weekend leading discussions on God, thedilemmas of Conservative Judaism and the afterlife.

“The things he speaks about are exactly whatpeople need to be hearing in the Conservative movement,” says RabbiJonathan Bernhard, a former student of Gillman’s and assistant rabbiat the North Hollywood congregation. “He is willing to articulate hispoint of view and challenge people to formulate their own thoughts onissues of the day.”

Friday, March 13, through Sunday, March 15,Adat Ari El, 12020 Burbank Blvd., North Hollywood. Call for times andprices: (818) 766-9426.

It Happens Here Too

Orthodox rabbis across the city are beingencouraged to speak on domestic violence next Shabbat, in an effortto make congregants more aware about — and more comfortable indiscussing — this topic. The Shalom Bayis Shabbos (literally, peacein the home) is coordinated by Nishma, an Orthodox hot line forabused women sponsored by Jewish Family Service.

The Nishma hot line number is (818) 623-0300.For more information, call (310) 285-0909.— J.G.F.


+