Facebook acquires Israeli Face.com


Facebook acquired an Israeli company that specializes in facial recognition software.

The terms of the deal between Facebook and Face.com were not disclosed by either company, according to the New York Times, which reported the deal on Monday. 

Face.com has been used by Facebook in the past two years for its “tag” feature in order to identify individuals across Facebook.

The facial recognition technology used by Face.com is designed to identify individuals by their gender and age.

With the Republican base on the ropes, all eyes are on Florida — again


Most Jews live in three states, two of which, New York and California, are already in the bank for Sen. Barack Obama.

It’s the third one, Florida, that has the presidential campaigns in a frenzy. There are roughly 650,000 Jews in Florida, out of 18 million residents. Concentrated in South Florida in three counties (Broward, Palm Beach and Miami-Dade), they are older, high-turnout voters with whom the Democrats have a big edge.

This is familiar territory. Unless tens of thousands of Jews had a sudden epiphany in 2000 that revealed Pat Buchanan to be a friend of the Jews, Al Gore won the election with a groundswell of Jewish votes that were interpreted incorrectly because of the butterfly ballot in Palm Beach County.

In 2000 we didn’t know how important Florida Jews were until it was too late. In 2008, elderly Florida Jews are political rock stars. Sarah Silverman has a ” target=”_blank”>Jackie Mason has recorded an online countervideo to make the Republican case. Jon Stewart’s “The Daily Show” has had two segments featuring a ” target=”_blank”>making calls to Jewish voters that in all innocence ask if it would bother the voter to “know” that Obama has supported the PLO. That this stuff works is testimony to the challenge of a young black candidate, not yet well-known in the Jewish community, and to the complex undertow of recent black-Jewish tensions. Remember that many Florida Jews moved there from New York City, with its long and difficult history of black-Jewish conflict.

Indeed Florida itself seemed out of reach for Obama until a few weeks ago. But as in all the battleground states, the Wall Street crash and bailout transformed the campaign and a raft of new polls give Obama a small but significant lead in Florida.

If Obama wins Florida’s 27 electoral votes, it’s over. If Sen. John McCain holds Florida, he still has a chance. So it looks as if Florida and its Jewish bloc are back in play.

The surrogates are all over the place, with Sen. Joe Lieberman plugging McCain and Obama pulling in former New York City Mayor Ed Koch, Florida Rep. Robert Wexler and Middle East expert Dennis Ross. Joe Biden is very popular with Florida Jews, and he is pulling his weight. With the advantage of the Republican brand, and McCain’s own familiarity, he does not need as many surrogates as Obama.

So why did McCain’s economic adviser, Douglas Holtz-Eakin, pick this moment to tell the Wall Street Journal that McCain plans to pay for his health care plan by taking blocks of money from Medicare and Medicaid? Politically, this makes no sense in Florida, where an attack on Medicare, joined to McCain’s support for private accounts in Social Security, could shake loose thousands of older voters.

McCain is on a precipice with those voters, many of whom are trying to decide whether to take a risk on the unfamiliar and cast a vote for the young black guy instead of the older white guy everybody knows. The older the voter, the more difficult the decision. Why then would McCain make it an easy choice?

I imagine that while Holtz-Eakin spoke accurately, his timing reflects the chaos within the McCain campaign, especially in regards to economic policy. But the substantive explanation might lie in the pressure on McCain to explain his health care plan, under which he proposed to provide tax credits for Americans to buy private insurance while removing the tax deduction for employer-based health care.

This approach leaves the taxpayer paying more in payroll taxes for the pleasure of navigating the private market (with its well-known aversion to insuring anybody who might someday get sick or is sick now). So the McCain people said that there would be no payroll tax increase. But how to pay for the new tax credit? Thus the decision to take it from Medicare and Medicaid. From their standpoint, they get to further the privatization of health care and still avoid the charge (fatal with the Republican base) of raising taxes.

Put more simply, it seemed safer to risk losing older voters in Florida than to risk the Republican brand of no new taxes, hoping that those Floridians won’t have heard about the interview or will believe when told that Holtz-Eakin was talking out of turn, or will just be confused because the whole thing comes across as such a complex muddle.

Because, if the McCain camp doesn’t find a way around this, how can it continue to attack Obama for raising taxes?

The problem for any Republican nominee is that what pleases the base (e.g. Sarah Palin, privatization, lower taxes) may end up turning off everybody else. If McCain loses Florida, that may be the lesson for his party. The base can never be fed enough.

McCain would have probably been better off with no health care plan rather than one that eviscerates employer-based insurance and cuts Medicare and Medicaid. But it’s too late now.

Now, the question is whether the Obama campaign can boil down for Florida voters the peril to Social Security and Medicare from a McCain-Palin administration. This is a job for Bill Clinton, the one Democrat who can reduce complex policy issues to a story about a frog sitting on a fence post. Clinton really hurt Paul Tsongas on the Social Security issue in the 1992 Florida Democratic primary.

The Republicans meanwhile plan to push farther and deeper into the attacks on Obama as a “friend of terrorists,” as a “different kind of American” and more. It is already ugly out on the campaign trail, and reporters in the field are feeling the heat of the rising anger of a Republican base on the ropes.

This is Florida 2008. Fasten your seat belts.

Raphael J. Sonenshein, a political scientist at Cal State Fullerton, is spending the semester in Paris as the Fulbright-Tocqueville Chair at the University of Paris VIII.

Happy birthday to me


Not long ago, a guy I know, a good guy who to all outward appearances seems happy and successful, replied to a birthday e-mail I sent him at work — “go
home and blow out some candles” — with this:

“I’m 40-f—ing-8, give me a break. They tell me that’s close to 50, but I refuse to believe it.” (Only he didn’t leave any letters out of “f—ing.”)

I wrote back: “you’ve got your hair, a flat stomach, and a wife. I’d say life is good.”

To which he replied: “At 20 you won’t settle for less than several million, two best-sellers and a house in Majorca. At 48, what you said sounds really good.”

Expectations are strange things. When we’re kids, and when we’re parents of kids, we have no compunction about shooting for the stars. Every child is encouraged to believe that becoming a Michael Phelps or a Golda Meir, or however your tribe fills in the blank, is within the realm of possibility. B’nai mitzvah speeches and commencement addresses are universally about holding fast to your dreams.

But nevertheless, somewhere along the line we’re supposed to learn that the secret to happiness is adjusting our expectations to reality. Maturity means accepting that failing to get the gold or the Golda isn’t the same thing as failure. The good life is to be found in wanting what you have.

To be sure, the self-help sections of bookstores are filled with inspirational messages and 10-point-plans to the contrary. If only we visualize what we want, if only we believe in ourselves, if only we buy this book, then love and riches, fame and health, six-packs and serenity will be ours, no matter how far along in the life cycle we are.

But by and large, despite those enticing pitches, adulthood turns out to mean acceptance — of how you played the hand you were dealt, of mortality, of beshert — even if it sometimes includes flashes of 40-f—ing-8-like fury at the way the world turns out to work.

I wonder whether that rage would be mitigated if, instead of everyone being brought up to think we could be president, we were raised to believe, as Buddhists are, that desire is the source of suffering. I wonder if the gross domestic product would really shrivel, or the upward mobility of classes would stall, or the amount of art and justice in the world would decline, if we grew up already knowing how things more often than not turn out to be — if we understood early on the unreliability of the meritocracy, and the odds against our dreams, and the huge role in life of dumb luck — if the rough passage signaled in the cry of “40-f—ing-8” were not something kept hidden from children, like the true identity of the tooth fairy, the mutability of beauty, the lifelong wrestling with the meaning of existence that lies ahead of them.

In “The Uses of Enchantment,” child psychiatrist Bruno Bettelheim explains that the purpose of fairy tales is to give children an arena — a proxy world — in which to come to grips with evil, to come to terms with loss, to train their emotions for the inevitable struggles and disappointments of life. Anyone who has read the cruel original fairy tales of the Brothers Grimm will recognize the sense of this. But anyone who knows these stories only from their Disney versions will recognize how diligently we now go out of our way to insulate kids from the disturbing stuff that Bettelheim says is good for them.

Yes, I know that Bambi’s mother is killed, and plenty of other modern classics include scary separations from parents. The murder of Harry Potter’s parents by Lord Voldemort is of course the setup for the series. But (spoiler alert) no one in those seven volumes is forced to reconcile with the whole panoply of less lethal but no-less-soul-crushing disappointments — being downsized, pink-slipped, passed over, left — of which many, maybe most, lives are constructed. We are all broken vessels.

Recently I found myself reading the ” target=”_blank”>jewishjournal.com/sowhatsnew. He can be reached at martyk@jewishjournal.com.

LimmudLA — by the numbers


Participants:* 634
Sponsors: 14
Presenters 133
Sessions: 262
Films: 21
Artists: 23
On-site volunteers: 227
Steering committee: 14
Chairs: 2
Executive director: 1
*Participants for the entire conference. An additional 16 joined for Sunday only and an additional 32 participated as vendors in the Shuk on Sunday.

Cost of LimmudLA: Still being calculated. The fee of $450 per adult covered only part of the actual cost, while Limmud subsidized the rest. Significant scholarships were awarded. The Jewish Community Foundation provided the largest grant at $250,000 (paid out over three years.)


Breakdown by denomination:
Conservadox 56
Conservative 144
Chasidic 11
Humanist 4
Just Jewish 32
Modern Orthodox 150
Orthodox 30
Post-Denominational 27
Reconstructionist 5
Reform 68
Renewal 4
Secular 9
Traditional 14
Unaffiliated 14
Prefer not to answer 21

Breakdown by age (range, 0-87):
0-2 28
3-12 68
13-17 9
18-34 163
35-50 163
51-64 135
65+ 25

Breakdown by geography:
Within CA

Conejo Valley 5
Los Angeles Area 412
San Gabriel Valley Area 14
San Fernando Valley 79
Ventura County 7
Northern California 8
Orange County 20
Long Beach 7
South Bay 6
San Diego 8
Santa Barbara 1

Other states:
Colorado 1
Florida 3
Georgia 1
Illinois 3
Massachusetts 4
North Carolina 1
New Jersey 4
New York 22
Ohio 1
Pennsylvania 4
Texas 1
Virginia 1
Washington 1

Other countries:
Canada 6
Israel 7
United Kingdom 9

Veggie lovers could fare better in cancer fight


If you’re a middle-aged man (or already past it) here’s what should be on your menu today: tomato sauce, watermelon, stir-fried tofu and veggies, selenium and vitamin E. Wash it all down with a swig of green tea or pomegranate juice and you may be able to ward off prostate cancer.

New and better information is coming to light every day about ways to prevent this common disease. Since doctors are getting better at catching it early, fewer men are dying of prostate cancer. But one in six men will still develop the disease in their lifetime.

Eat your Veggies, Drink Tea

Luckily, if you are at risk, there are things you can do. Prevention may be as simple as eating better, exercising more and taking a few key supplements. Many of these remedies, which cut inflammation, may also help men struggling with a benign enlarged prostate.

For example, eating a lot of red meat, processed foods, alcohol, sugar and high-fat dairy products can lead to inflammation in the prostate gland (and other parts of the body).

“It’s best to have an overall healthy lifestyle,” said dietician Dee Sandquist, a spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association (ADA). “You need to eat a balance of foods in moderate amounts.”

Processed meats and high-fat dairy have more chemical residues, which also may be related to cancer risk. Instead, Sandquist suggests, eat lower on the food chain. Add more grains and legumes. Go vegetarian a couple of times per week.

One of the most promising natural compounds for prostate cancer prevention is lycopene, Sandquist suggested. You can find it in cooked tomatoes, watermelon and pink grapefruit. Sandquist recommends shooting for two to four servings of lycopene-rich foods per week. Since the body needs a little fat to absorb lycopene, have some olive oil with your pizza or spaghetti sauce.

Green tea can help, too. It’s full of antioxidants that appear to fight cancer. In particular, studies show, it has a lot of promise for preventing prostate cancer cells from growing into a threat.

“Green tea leads damaged cells or cancer cells to commit suicide,” said University of Wisconsin Cancer Center researcher Dr. Hasan Mukhtar.

He points to several epidemiological studies that show people who drink two to four cups of green tea per day have a lower incidence of prostate cancer (men in Asian countries, for example).

A 2005 study by Mukhtar showed pomegranate juice (the equivalent of two fruits per day) has anti-inflammatory effects that may also help with benign swelling of the prostate and cancer prevention.

Cruciferous vegetables — such as broccoli, cauliflower, radish, turnip, cabbage and brussels sprouts — also have cancer-busting qualities, studies show. Soy may help, but since it contains natural plant estrogens — and prostate cancer is tied to hormones — more study needs to be done. All of these foods should be part of a varied diet, Sandquist said. “We get the most health benefits from the overall variety,” she said. “There’s a synergy when these foods work together in the body. No one food has all the nutrients we need.”

Does Selenium + Vitamin E = Prevention?

Meanwhile, a Phase III clinical trial of 35,000 men sponsored by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) is underway. Scientists want to know if a mix of selenium and vitamin E prevents prostate cancer. Doses used in the study include 400 milligrams per day of vitamin E and 200 micrograms per day of selenium (selenomethionine, not the yeast kind). Some of the subjects will take a placebo. Results for this longterm study, known as SELECT, will be released in 2012.

Researchers started the SELECT trial after previous smaller studies revealed benefits — almost by accident. One study (which was actually looking at lung cancer) found men who took vitamin E had 30 percent lower incidence of prostate cancer. Another study (originally aimed at skin cancer) showed a 50 percent decrease in prostate cancer in men who took selenium.

“These are interesting agents that deserve study,” said Dr. Howard L. Parnes, chief of the cancer prevention division of NCI’s Prostate and Urologic Cancer Research Group. “They’re both antioxidants, but that may not be how they work. They might interrupt the process in other ways.”

Zyflamend Shows Promise

Another promising supplement is Zyflamend, a cluster of anti-inflammatory herbs such as tumeric and ginger, for sale by New Chapter (www.new-chapter.com) in most health food stores. Dr. Aaron Katz, director of Columbia University’s Center for Holistic Urology, discovered Zyflamend when many of his patients said they were trying it for prostate problems. His initial research showed the mix of herbs in Zyflamend could stop cancer cells from growing.

“To date, 91 percent of the patients have not converted to cancer,” Katz said.

He estimates 40 percent would have developed prostate cancer if they did not take Zyflamend. The men in the study took the compound three times a day, Katz said.

Mixed Results for Proscar

The only scientifically proven way to reduce the odds of prostate cancer is the conventional drug finasteride (Proscar). It’s currently approved by the FDA to treat benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), or enlarged prostate and male-pattern baldness.

A recent NCI clinical trial showed finasteride reduced the relative risk of prostate cancer by 25 percent. But research also showed the men who took finasteride had a 1.3 percent higher risk of having high-grade prostate cancer — the kind that is more deadly. More studies are underway that may explain the high-grade cancer risk, Parnes said. Studies of a similar drug, dutasteride, may offer additional hope.

Back to Basics

For now, making lifestyle changes and maintaining a healthy diet may be the most effective ways to prevent prostate cancer, experts say. “Obesity is actually an inflammatory state, so being physically active is incredibly important,” Parnes said. “It’s all about the balance between how much we eat and how much exercise we get.”

In other words, get off the couch. And eat your vegetables. Especially the broccoli and tomatoes.

Melissa Knopper is a freelance writer specializing in health and science issues.

Remembering Zvika


“I have the worst possible news,” said our friend Avram Bar-Shai, calling from LAX. “Zvika has been killed in a helicopter crash and we are on the way to his funeral.”

Age Apparent


Of all the May-to-December romances that were not meant to be, mine must top the list.

For starters, I met Rick in a hot tub — a cliché I was sure we could never get over. We found ourselves at the same party, where he was being accosted by a woman who kept sidling close to him and saying, “When I was at Harvard…” and “At Harvard, my friends and I would blah-blah-blah…”

Finally, I went in for the rescue: “When I was at Florida International University, we took classes in trailers,” I said, trying to mimic her smug tone and referring to a school so new that it barely had walls, much less Ivy-covered ones.

He was so grateful that, as we climbed out of the water, he thanked me and began to make conversation. Somehow, it came up that the following week was my birthday. “How old will you be?” he asked.

“Thirty-two,” I answered.

“Wow, you look way too young to be in your 30s,” he said.

“And you?” I inquired.

“Twenty-three,” he said.

Rick was visiting South Florida because he and his fiancé had recently called it quits. A mutual friend of ours had sent him a plane ticket to break the cycle of self-pity and draft ale that had been taking place in a bar in Pittsburgh, the city where he lived and worked.

In the days that followed, Rick and I spent quite a bit of time together. I worked nights as a reporter, so our friend asked if I’d entertain him during the day while she was stuck in the office. We had lunch, went for walks, visited museums.

He was charming but not the kind of guy I usually went for, with his Coke-bottle glasses and geeky clothes.

And yet before Rick’s weeklong visit was over, we found ourselves in the midst of a flirtation — even if it was one I wasn’t taking seriously. After all, Rick was on the rebound. He lived 1,200 miles away. And, most frightening of all, he was nine years younger than me.

At the time, I knew no one involved with a man that much younger. I had heard, of course, of some celebrity pairings: Cher was famous for dating men half her age, and Susan Sarandon had been with Tim Robbins, 12 years her junior, for quite a while.

But in my mind a match between an older woman and a younger man conjured up little more than “The Graduate.” I wanted none of it.

In fact, I indulged in the flirtation in large part because I believed it wouldn’t go anywhere. It was a mild distraction, safe and fun.

But Rick had other plans. After heading back to Pittsburgh, he began a long-distance courtship. He called. He wrote beautiful letters. And he kept his local florist incredibly busy.

One day, I walked into my office to find a dozen red roses sitting on my desk. The card read, “When you’re 109 and I’m 100, it won’t matter.”

Slowly, the unthinkable began to happen: I was falling for Rick. But I was also nervous — very nervous.

Were we moving too quickly? What about the geographic distance between us? And then there was the toughest hurdle of all, at least for me: our ages.

It wasn’t the inevitable cradle-robbing jokes that bothered me. I was more worried about the day-to-day realities of such a match. If this were the real thing, what would we do about having children? I was ready. Was he?

Then there was my vanity. Sure, a nine-year spread was no problem while I still looked youthful. But what about later, when my age would begin to show?

And that’s when my mother — a perfect mix of pragmatist and romantic — reminded me of something: Men have forever been leaving women for younger women.

“Dating a man your own age is no guarantee that it will work out,” she said. “He’s either a mensch or he’s not.”

While I couldn’t yet fully attest to Rick’s character, I knew deep down that he was nothing if not a mensch.

In a matter of months, Rick and I decided to start a life together in Los Angeles. Before we left for Los Angeles, we visited his parents in Baltimore. It had not been long since his former fiancé had vanished with the string of pearls they had given her to mark her engagement to their son. And now here I was at her heels — and nine years older. What could they be thinking?

“Are you kidding me?” an old friend of Rick’s said. “They won’t care if you’re the same age as his Aunt Lil. They’ll be so happy that he finally found a woman who is Jewish, they’ll be dancing ‘Hava Nagila’ on the dining room table.”

I’m not sure about “Hava Nagila” on the dining room table. But 18 months later, they danced the hora at our wedding. And now, 15 years and two children after that, I am sure Rick was right: When you’ve found the right person, age is beside the point — whether you’re 109 or 32, or somewhere in between.

Randye Hoder is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer. Her work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles magazine, The Wall Street Journal and other publications.

 

Jack and Katy Seror: Help Knows No Age


At first glance, 87-year-old Jack seror and his wife, Katy, are a kind, yet unassuming elderly couple, members of Sephardic Temple Tifereth Israel and loving grandparents. However, they are also leaders of the Greek Jewish community that resisted and survived the Nazis to build flourishing new families in America.

Founders of the Sephardic Holocaust Committee, which still holds annual events that draw up to 350 people, Jack seror has also served as chairman of the synagogue’s fundraising unit, the Living Memorial Committee and the senior citizen group for more than 20 years. His wife has served as president of the sisterhood and oversaw the Activities Committee.

The serors cite their war experiences as a major motivation for their intensive commitment to community service. Jack seror’s work in the Greek resistance molded his desire to continue to help those in need. He and Katy met while working for the British government in Greece after the war. Later, Katy seror used her knowledge of English to accompany Greek refugees in the United States to hospitals and banks as a translator.

Although she suffered a stroke a few years ago and her husband does most of the talking, it is clear that his words speak for them both. He describes their reception in Boston by the Jewish Family Service as “so impressive … it brought tears to our eyes.”

Their first landlady thought that the serors were non-Jews, because they spoke Greek, Ladino and English but no Yiddish.

“So,” seror said, “I cried out, ‘Shema Yisroel Hashem Elokeinu Hashem echad,’ and then she believed that we were Jews.”

The landlady helped the serors adjust to America, but the harsh winters and sweltering summers were oppressive, and the serors moved to Los Angeles in 1951. They set off with a firm goal in mind: to take their turn helping others, as the families in Boston had helped them.

Two and a half decades ago, the serors sold their successful grocery business and devoted their time to becoming involved in community service. They spearheaded daily senior citizen events for survivors from Salonica and Rhodes.

The annual Holocaust memorial services take an immense amount of planning and have become one of the largest Sephardic gatherings for remembering the Holocaust’s effects on Mediterranean Jewry. Speakers, such as Israeli officials and Danish resistance members, fly in from around the globe. The serors are no longer at the forefront of the organizing.

“We are too old now,” he said with a laugh. “I do not even drive. But we still have a havurah meeting once a month to discuss the parasha or have dinner. And we get together with our friends. We are happy to see the synagogue grow to 800 families. This is very special to us, who saw 96 percent of the Greek community perish in the Holocaust.”

When complimented upon their inspirational story and actions, seror brushes off personal recognition.

“You should try to help Israel as much as you can, be dedicated to your temple and try to help people … not for a reward but just to make a difference.”

MORE MENSCHES

Saul Kroll: Healing Hand at Cedars-Sinai


 

“Our rabbis speak of yetzer hara and yetzer hatov, man’s dual inclination toward evil and toward good, and what you make of your life depends on which you follow,” Saul Kroll observes.

Kroll is a firm believer in yetzer hatov, and the 87-year-old Westside resident translates it into practice six days a week as an emergency room volunteer at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.

Although “retired” for almost 20 years, Kroll puts in a full workweek doing whatever needs to be done.

“People come into the treatment area and I greet them, help them fill out forms, check what rooms are available and help them undress,” he said in a phone interview.

“I always try to encourage them, to tell them that they are in the best of hands, to lift their spirits,” he said. “That’s the greatest mitzvah.”

Sometimes the work is physically difficult for an octogenarian, as when “you push a 250-pound woman going into labor up a ramp in a wheelchair,” he said.

But Kroll believes in putting his aches and pains, including spinal injuries, aside.

“Either you let your medical problems control you, or you control them,” he philosophizes.

To Dr. Joel Geiderman, co-chair of the hospital’s emergency department, Kroll’s dedication “is unbelievable. He never asks anything for himself. He is selfless, truly one of the righteous.”

While the typical Cedars-Sinai volunteer puts in four to eight hours per week, Kroll’s norm is between 35 to 40 hours. Barbara Colner, director of the medical center’s almost 2,000 volunteers, has calculated that Kroll has worked 24,400 hours since starting his stint in 1987. She isn’t sure whether or not this represents an all-time record.

When Kroll does miss work, it’s often to drive a 90-year-old neighbor with breast cancer to her medical appointments.

He is just as conscientious in his religious observances. “I’ve gone to shul three times a day since my bar mitzvah,” he said, and during High Holiday services at the hospital he is the unofficial greeter, kippot and tallit dispenser, and also chants the memorial prayer.

“Saul is amazing, he conducts his life with the energy of a 20-year old,” noted Rabbi Levi Meir, the hospital’s chaplain.

Kroll also unfailingly shows up at the daily morning minyan at nearby Temple Beth Am.

“He is one of our stalwarts and we take great pride in him,” commented the temple’s Rabbi Joel Rembaum.

The one period during which Kroll missed his minyans was World War II, when he served with a B-29 bomber squadron in the Pacific. But even there, he organized High Holiday and Passover services for Jewish servicemen on Guam.

Kroll was born on the day following the World War I armistice, Nov. 12, 1918, grew up in a small town near Pittsburgh, and started managing a sporting goods store at age 17.

After the war, Kroll went to work rebuilding auto engines and, in the 1950s, he and a partner opened an automotive and body shop.

His wife, Selma, died in 1994. Kroll proudly cites the professional careers of his two children and four grandchildren.

His parting advice: “Don’t tell someone, ‘OK, call me if you need any help.’ Just go on over and help.”

Saul Kroll

MORE MENSCHES

Avi Leibovic: Guardian Angel of the Streets

Jack and Katy Saror: Help Knows No Age

Joyce Rabinowitz: A Type Like No Other

Jennifer Chadorchi: The Hunger to Help

Karen Gilman: What Makes Her Run?

Steven Firestein: Making Magic for Children

Yaelle and Nouriel Cohen: Kindness Starts at Home

Moshe Salem: Giving a Voice to Israelis

David Karp: A Guide for Unity in Scouting

Obituaries


Ellen Bartel died July 10 at 89. She is survived by her husband, Nathan; and sons Marvin (Maria) and Alan (Lisa). Malinow and Silverman

Emma Bernhard died July 12 at 86. She is survived by her son, Joe (Mary); daughters, Nona (Barry) Fein and Liz; grandsons, David and Nicholas Fein; and granddaughters, Juli and Heidi. Mount Sinai

Reuben Bernstein died July 10 at 99. He is survived by his son, Burt (Judith); daughter, Gloria (Bill) Lederhandler; four grandchildren; four great-grandchildren; and brother, Julius (Belle). Mount Sinai

VIVIAN BERNSTEIN died July 12 at 96. She is survived by her husband, Jack; sons, Bill (Marcia) and Harry; sister, Dorothy Kallman; and many nieces and nephews. Hillside

Edward Isadore Buzin died June 27 at 95. He is survived by his children, Roberta (Bruce) Richardson, Sharon Lerner and Larry Buzin; grandchildren, Scott and Sarah; brother, Bill; and sister, Lillian Soland. Mount Sinai

GEORGE COHN died July 11 at 97. He is survied by his daughters, Gerry Mitchell and Teddy (Bruce) Schwab; five grandchildren; and six great-grandchildren. Hillside

Lois Donnelly died July 12 at 61. She is survived by her sons, David and Kevin (Amy); sister, Annette Bouyer; niece, Heather Arnson; and nephew, Andrew Arnson. Mount Sinai

Harry Edelstein died in July. He is survived by his daughter, Arlene (Thomas) Krausz; and grandchildren, Evan and Stefanie. Groman

John Friedmann died July 12 at 91. He is survived by his daughter, Joyce (Jay) Maskell. Oak Hill

Beatrice Fellman died July 12 at 91. She is survived by her sons, Daniel and Steven; daughter, Mona Neter; eight grandchildren; and nine great-grandchildren. Groman

Jack Gutkind died July 10 at 79. He is survived by his wife, Ida; son, Robert (Dion); daughter, Linda; grandchildren, Hannah and Benjamin; and brother, Fred. Chevra Kadisha

PhILIP HEIFETZ died July 9 at 90. He is survived by his sisters, Adele Zepezauer and Betty Fisher; and 13 nieces and nephews. Hillside

LEONARD JULES died July 12 at 82. He is survived by his daughter, Sheri. Hillside

Sarah Kasen died July 10 at age 91. She is survived by her friends. Chevra Kadisha

MARSHALL KASS died July 8 at 76. He is is survived by his wife, Deanne Fier; sons, Michael (Coco) and Jonathan (Miriam); daughter, Susan; and five grandchildren. Hillside

Joseph William Mark died July 11 at 66. He is survived by his wife, Helene; son, Randall; daughters, Shannon, Sheleen and Alicia Pam; 10 grandchildren; and brother, Gary. Groman

HOWARD DAVID MARSHALL died July 11 at 74. He is survived by his wife, Elaine; daughter, Ailcson Kocz; three grandchildren; and brother-in-law, Burton Schwartz. Hillside

Sima Navi died July 9 at 46. She is survived by her husband, Robert; son, Jonathan; daughters, Jaunty and Katheryn Barkhordarian; and brother, Alan Shadgoo. Groman

Kenneth Michael Nibur died July 11 at 62. He is survived by his sister, Analee (Tony) Pasette. Mount Sinai

Anna Poyourow died July 11 at 95. She is survived by her sons, Howard, Douglas and Marvin; and six grandchildren. Groman

Joy Louise Remer died July 8 at 82. She is survived by her son, Rory (Pamela); and daughters, Heidi and Teena Hahn. Malinow and Silverman

Margaret Rosenbaum died July 10 at 97. She is survived by son, Martin; six grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren. Groman

NADHIM SARRAF died July 8 at 82. He is survived by his wife, Odette; son, Eddy (Sandra); daughters, Sandra (David) Daniel and Anita (Jack) Yousfan; and nine grandchildren. Hillside

Fannie Ruth Klein Seiman died July 11 at 94. She is survived by her son, Ralph Klein; daughter, Toby Sorowitz; and three grandchildren. Groman

Donald Norman Siegel died July 10 at 58. He is survived by his sons, Andrew and Annon; daughters, Mischel Peterson and Nurit; brother, Howard; and sister, Janet. Groman

Philip Skall died July 8 at 80. He is survived by his sons, Michael (Karen) Wayne; three grandchildren; and sisters-in-law, Eleanor Weisbond and Ann. Mount Sinai

William Samuel Spoliansky died July 10 at 68. He is survived by his wife, Heather; sons, Freddie and Gustavo; daughter, Marisa Solomon; 10 grandchildren; mother, Sara; and sisters, Deborah Ackerman and Susana Gurtman. Groman

Ida Weinstock died July 8 at 90. She is survived by her son, Dr. Robert; daughter, Diana; and sister, Selma. Sholom Chapels

Irving Zahler died July 9 at 86. He is survived by his daughters, Carole (Dr. Larry) Schneider and Alice (Mayer) Asher; three grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren. Malinow and Silverman

Margalit Zaray died July 8 at 90. She is survived by her son, Mordehai Zaray-Mizrahi. Chevra Kadisha

 

Happy Birthday, Me!


In a few weeks I’ll turn 33 and, sadly, I realize I’m long past being anything “for my age.” I’m no longer cute for my age, talented for my age, a good reader for my age. All qualifications and special considerations have long passed. There’s nothing I can get away with now because, “After all, your honor, he’s only 33.”

I should know better by now. I’m mature, experienced, a grown-up.

You’d think that being so mature and grown up, I’d have a healthy attitude toward my birthday and the presents I may receive. You obviously don’t know me well.

So let’s talk about presents.

Turning 33 reminds me that I’m no closer to being married than I was when I was turning 32 (or 22 — or 12, for that matter). In lieu of working on myself and what I’m lacking personally, I’m focusing instead on what I’m lacking materially. It’s a great system.

My father asked me for a list of what I’d like from my family for my birthday this year. Though this isn’t as fun as letting them figure something out, I’ve learned my lesson from past birthdays: Gift-giving is not their forte.

One year, my father gave me a box of 500 very nice, custom-printed, raised-lettered business cards, printed on heavy ivory stock with my name, address and phone number. It would have been a lovely, lovely gift — had I not been 7 years old at the time. I don’t know what he thought I would do with them. (“Yes, please announce me to the queen. And fetch me a snifter of your finest chocolate milk.”) I did give some of them out to kids at school, which actually proved very helpful. Now the children knew where to come to beat me up before school started, in case they wanted to get an early jump on their day.

Most of the remaining cards went into plastic bins or fish bowls, trying to win a free lunch, dance lesson or Hawaiian vacation from a local merchant. None was ever randomly drawn. It wasn’t a total loss though; in fact the cards proved quite prophetic. I still have no job title or work address. Thanks, dad.

My sister wasn’t much better. One year, in a grab bag of other little gifts, she gave me a very nicely wrapped condom.

I’m going to give you, Dear Reader, a moment to let that sink in: Sister … condom. Greek tragedies have been written about less. If Freud were alive today, I believe he would say, “Eewwww!”

It’s customary, of course, to write a thank-you note when receiving such a personal gift, but telling my sister, “Thanks, I’ll think of you when I’m using it,” didn’t seem quite appropriate.

My therapy is ongoing and intensive, thanks for asking.

Of course, there’s a substantial likelihood that, as with most things, I’m overreacting.

I’m not a heartless idiot. I realize that nobody has to give me a gift. I get it: Material things don’t matter. I should be grateful that anybody thinks enough of me to buy me anything at all. It’s a blessing to have a family, to have such tiny problems, and besides, there are starving children in Africa who would love to have a condom or business cards.

Though misguided in their execution, I do try to remember that there had to be a loving intention behind these gifts. They weren’t thoughtless. Maybe my sister wanted me to be protected and safe and to know that she cares about my health and recognizes that I’m not a kid anymore. Maybe my father wanted to connect with me, see a glimpse of the junior businessman who might one day take over the company that he took over from his father. Those business cards, though impractical on one level, were the most practical on another: wallet-sized evidence that I am my father’s son, that I have an identity, his last name and a home.

And my grandmother, whom I love dearly, must have had good intentions when she gave me a Valentine’s gift one year. Blissfully unaware of what people who are not severely medicated actually wear in public, she gave me a T-shirt she had had custom-made at the mall. Decorated with red felt hearts ironed on all over, and in the middle, big felt block letters spelled, “I Love Keith!” Even if I had any self-love, I don’t think I’d announce it like this.

She tried to convince me that people would see it and think, “There’s a boy whose grandmother loves him.” I took a random survey of imaginary people and the overwhelming response actually was, “There’s a boy who lost a bet. Let’s go to the address on this business card and beat him up.”

J. Keith van Straaten is a writer and performer who currently hosts “What’s My Line? — Live on Stage” every Wednesday in Los Angeles. For more information, visit

The Good, the Bad and the Confusing


 

I am a senior citizen. I’m 82, look 65 and feel like 40. It is a very confusing time of life. People assume that you are over the hill. You know that you are still vital and have the ability to contribute to society.

At the age of 50, I classified myself as lower-middle age. As the years rushed by, I accepted middle, middle-age and then upper-middle age.

At 82, I can no longer fool myself with artificial classifications. I am old. I am a senior citizen. So what?

Senior citizenship is not necessarily bad. Nice people rise to give you their seats on buses and in public places. I always refuse the seat but will accept it for my more fragile wife.

Theaters offer me a discount on tickets. Financially, I don’t need a discount, but I gladly accept it. There are some small feelings of guilt as I observe younger, and perhaps poorer, couples paying full price.

Guilt also appears for me in restaurants as I timidly display my two-for-one coupon. The guilt is not deeply seated.

My family loves to chide me about my preference for restaurants that offer these coupons. I just can’t escape my memories of childhood poverty. Who ate at restaurants in Chicago’s West Side ghetto?

Joining other seniors at a restaurant can be a harrowing experience. There are always a few seniors who lag way behind the cute gal leading us to our seats. Some seniors reject seats that face a wall. Others in the same party demand a window seat. Of course, the restaurant temperature is too cold or too hot.

Some seniors have as much difficulty deciding what to eat as Eisenhower had deciding when to land at Normandy. We always have food left over to take home. We mark the cartons to be sure we take home our own leftovers.

You do not want to be present when the owner comes around at the end of the meal to declare our coupons invalid. We seniors are confident. We have seen too much of life to give up without a fight. Meek and mild we are not.

There is a sad aspect to dining with a senior who has lost a spouse. You want to pay their bill as a gesture of love. They insist on paying their fair share. You have to accept that pride demands that they pay for what they ate. Sometimes you adjust their share so they pay less than normal. They rarely know what you have done.

Dining brings up cruising. On a recent cruise, they asked what couple had been married the longest. The winning couple was to get a bottle of champagne.

The wife and I won with our 58 years. The champagne we gave away. But winning brought up many wistful memories.

I am very happily married. Yet I can’t explain where the years went. What happened to the skinny kid who was discharged from the Army on March 1 of 1946 and married two days later on March 3? Was it 58 years since we had that fabulous wedding attended by 10 people? How could it be that we have a daughter who is 55 years old?

You cannot spend time and energy wondering where the years went. They are finished.

Seniors must concentrate on now. Enjoy life now. Do what you can within your abilities. Life is precious and good. Tomorrow will come at its own speed.

 

When Parents Get Preschool Jitters


It was the first day of preschool and 2-year-old Jessica didn’t know any of other children in her new class at B’nai Tikvah Congregation Nursery School. But the child’s anxiety paled in comparison that of her mother.

“I worried that Jessica would get her feelings hurt or that she would physically get hurt and I would not be there to comfort her,” said Sherri Cadmus. “I am used to protecting her. Now I need to give up some of that control and hope that she will be comfortable enough with her teachers to be comforted by them.”

As many preschool teachers know all too well, school separation anxiety is often harder for parents than children. Adjustments to preschool are always difficult, and for children — and parents — in Jewish days schools, the interruptions of the holiday often make it harder.

“Sometimes parents worry that they are abandoning their child even though intellectually they know the children needs to be in an environment with [his or her] peers,” said veteran preschool director Marla Osband of B’nai Tikvah in Westchester.

To ease the transition easier, Osband encourages parents to visit the school with their child before the child’s first official day. When the child starts, Osband’s “open-door policy” allows parents to either drop by or call in as often as needed. The staff often helps children write letters to their parents to bring home. Teachers take pictures to show that the child had a successful day. Parents can also leave a “transitional object,” like an article of the parent’s clothing or a picture, to remind the child that the parent will return.

According to Wendy Mogel, a Los Angeles clinical psychologist, parent educator and school consultant, the length of a child’s distress holds important information.

“The key question for the parents to ask is how many minutes does it take the child to recover after the huge show of anguish and agony when parent leaves,” Mogel said. “That’s always the key indicator for me.”

If the child cries for just a few minutes and is soon able to calm down and play or socialize, he or she is probably OK. However, if they child dreads going to school and constantly complains of headaches and stomachaches, he or she might be too young.

Mogel advises parents to be cautious about projecting their own fears.

“Children are wonderful at reading cues and playing a part at full theatrical flourish,” warned the therapist.

Since children tend to be more emotional with their mothers, sometimes having the father take the child to school can make for an easier experience.

At some Jewish preschools like Valley Beth Shalom (VBS) Early Childhood Program in Encino, life without mom and dad is introduced at age 2 in the toddler-transition program. Since most VBS preschoolers come from this program, which is specifically geared toward separation, starting preschool is usually an easier adjustment.

VBS transition classes are offered two days a week, adding a third day in the middle of the school year. Parents attend the class for a portion of the day with the child and leave together as a group at a certain point. Parents often stay on site to monitor their children’s progress until they feel comfortable departing for a brief period of time — leaving a cell phone number, of course.

“Some children separate easily and some need a longer time,” said Michelle Warner, who runs the VBS toddler transition program. “The same goes for the parents.”

The school brings in speakers who discuss parenting issues while the parents congregate in another room on site.

According to Mogel “interviewing a child for pain” is a common mistake parents make when a child starts preschool.

“The child comes home at end of day and the parent says, ‘How was it this morning — a little better than yesterday?'” Mogel explained. “If you want to talk, tell them about your day. Be quiet and then they’ll tell you about their day.”

By Jessica’s third day at B’nai Tikvah, she no longer needed her mother to stay with her in the morning. While there were a few small setbacks and meltdowns — particularly with the interruption of the holidays — Jessica is now a well-adjusted preschool — a concept that Cadmus is still getting used to.

“On the first day she stayed alone in the class I gave her a sticker for being so brave,” Cadmus said. “Now when she wakes up, she says ‘Sticker, no mommy day’ and sometimes ‘Sticker, no daddy day.’ This makes us think of all the experiences she will be having on her own that we will only learn about secondhand.”

20-Somethings


Do you remember what it’s like to be in your 20s?

You’ve just finished college, or maybe you’ve had an entry-level job or two, or maybe you’ve put off entering "the real world" for another couple of years by going into grad school and into unbearable debt. You’re wondering what it all means and how exactly you fit in the picture. You’re unsure about almost every single thing and yet you are interested in all of it just the same.

As I sat on a small stage at the Universal Studios Hilton Hotel on Tuesday looking at the anxious, inquisitive faces of a few dozen 20-somethings who were here at this particular hour to find out about career options in the Jewish community, all the heady uncertainty of that decade came back to me in a rush. The panel was part of a three-day conference called Professional Leadership Project: 20-Something Think Tank and CareerBreak, which brought together 145 21-29 year olds from around the country to figure out the needs of the future Jewish community. Although the participants were brought here to be studied, their concerns for their own career paths were so palpable I could recall that time quite clearly.

OK, maybe it wasn’t so long ago that I left my 20s, but it certainly seems like a quite some time has passed since I was fresh out of college, facing a world spread out frighteningly in front of me, with a million opportunities and only one possible direction that I alone could decide to take.

"I’m listening to all of you talk about the paths you’ve taken to become Jewish professionals, and I’m wondering right now if I’m doing the right thing, if I’m in the right job," a participant from the audience said to the panel: Matthew Grossman (B’nai B’rith Youth Organization executive director), Michelle Kleinert (Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s deputy director of community affairs), Craig Taubman (musician, composer, producer) and me. We, along with four others on a concurrent panel in another room, were meant to serve as young(ish) examples of Jewish professionals — people who have chosen to make their careers serving the Jewish community in one way or another. Sponsored by William M. Davidson, the Charles and Lynn Shusterman Family Foundation, Michael Steinhardt/Jewish Life Network, Eugene and Marcia Applebaum and Robert Aronson, the Aug. 22-24 conference may sound like many other well-funded, well-intended and well-attended ho-hum Jewish "renewal" programs, but in reality there was something different in the air, something that I would call the "winds of change" if I weren’t afraid of sounding like… an eager 20-something or an aging hippie.

Here’s the thing: As I sat on stage answering questions and giving advice about what it’s like to work in the Jewish community, based on having been in it for more than 10 years, I thought, when I was their age, I never had something like this.

When I was coming of age who was interested in what I thought? Who, besides my parents and friends, cared about my ideas? And I — like most whippersnappers — had puh-lenty of ideas. But who wanted to listen? Who was interested in how I could contribute meaningfully to the world, to the Jewish community, to anything at all? More importantly, who cared about what I wanted to change about the world, society and the Jewish community?

No one.

When I graduated college and tried to find myself, all I got — after hundreds of thousands of dollars spent on Jewish education, summer camp, seminars, leadership programs etc. — was to be told what was expected of me. To be told how I should fit in to the world around me, to be told what there was, take it or leave it. I went to lectures, programs, seminars, you name it, and there were plenty of people who were willing to tell me the way to lead my life, but it seemed like no one was really interested in anything I had to say. And why should they be? The world wasn’t created for me, it wasn’t stopping or changing just because I was about to participate in it and, sadly, it felt like the only way that there would be room for me is if I’d play by whatever and whosever rules were there. That’s life, right?

Ah, but maybe — and I don’t know, it’s just a thought sparked by this conference — maybe it doesn’t have to be that way.

PLP gathered 146 people — only about a third are already working in the Jewish community — in order to ask them what they think, to find out what they need in order to be involved in Jewish life, what they want to get from being Jewishly involved and how existing Jewish life could change (change!) in order to accommodate them. To attract them. To keep them. To retain them. To get these bright, talented, creative, young people who are just beginning their lives, to begin them in the Jewish community. Not at a computer start-up or law firm or theater company or secular nonprofit, but here in the Jewish community.

Here, in the Jewish community — you know, the one that always complains about "Brain Drain," about losing its best and its brightest, about the "graying" of Jewish community organizations, the Jewish community in which all institutions try and try and try to make themselves "relevant" and "meaningful" so that they can attract the next generation.

This generation, the one sitting right in front of me.

This "think tank" has gathered a few of that next generation here in order to survey them, and analyze them so that PLP can come up with the answers from the grass-roots. It’s the Howard Dean of Jewish programming: instead of established institutions providing top-down stop-gap solutions to the core issues facing the Jewish community, the think tank plans to glean information from the very focus group it is trying to attract. Results will be compiled, studied and published. The question is, of course, what will they find? And will anybody listen?

"Maybe it’s not fair of me to abandon [Jewish community work] because I was having a hard time," Rachel Hochheiser told me privately after our group discussion. Hochheiser, 26, had left her job at Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life after three years because she felt "frustrated and burnt out," in her words, although they’re words I hear all the time from Jewish professionals. Hochheiser is currently getting her MBA in St. Louis, and now, after the emotional highs of the conference — of discussing Jewish issues pertaining to spirituality, history, current events, leadership and contribution — she was troubled: Should she work in the business world that she was being trained for, or go back to the Jewish world she loved but ultimately left?

"There is no career path in the Jewish community; there is no next step," she explained. When Jewish organizations worry about attracting the next generation, they lament the fact that their even within their own ranks, the primary color is gray. Hochheiser talks about it from the other end of the spectrum, from working inside Jewish organizations. "There is something for 25-year-olds, maybe 27-year-olds, and also for 45-year-olds," she said about jobs within Jewish organizations. She worried "what was going to happen when I turn 30? There’s just no middle ground."

The interesting thing about Hochheiser — and many other participants — was that money plays little part in deciding whether to become a Jewish professional.

"Money doesn’t matter, it’s just a certain threshold," Seattle resident Josh Miller said.

Many participants said they were willing to start at low salaries as long as there was promise for growth, because they believed the trade-off would be doing something they loved and believed in.

"I realize how much I care, how much I hope to continue working in the Jewish community," Hochheiser said.

Still, she and others have other concerns: Is there a level of professionalism in Jewish life that you can find in the outside world? Are there people who are open to new ideas?

At 30, Miller is at the end of the decade under examination, and he is confident in his career: post-MBA, he is now the director of Jconnect in Seattle (www.jconnectseattle.org), what he described as a nonprofit for social, religious and cultural activities for — guess who? — 20-somethings.

Why 20? What is it that is so important about this newly defined target group? (Most marketing groups are 18-24 and 25-34, and here, some of the 27- and 28-year-olds felt like they were in a different category than 21- and 22-year-olds.)

"I think we need some sort of 20-something successor to teen youth groups and Hillel," said Jason Brzoska, a 24-year-old from Albany who works at MyJewishLearning.com.

"There is no obvious path for someone who wants to remain involved Jewishly," he said, pointing out that men’s clubs, sisterhoods, all those things were for people who are older and/or in a more settled phase of life.

Times are a changin’. It used to be that after high school and college people got married — especially in the family-oriented Jewish community. Then they joined synagogues, had babies, sent them to Jewish schools, Jewish camps and even conferences. Today, as anyone who’s ever seen one episode of "Seinfeld" or "Friends" can attest, most people get married later. And while people in the Jewish community tend to get married at a somewhat younger age than the general population, it’s unusual to get married at 22. Or 23. Or 24 or even 25.

One way that the organized community has dealt with the changing times is to try push Jewish singles events: Get young Jews married to other Jews, the thinking goes, and then they’ll start having babies and families and be ready for the organized life of the Jewish community — in other words, for the men’s clubs, the sisterhoods, the federations and everything that already exists. That philosophy works, to an extent. New innovations like JDate and SpeedDating have been successful.

But successful at what? Preventing intermarriage, creating new Jewish families, finding someone’s soul mate, for sure. But is it a solution for creating Jewish leaders? For involving passionate post-college students who aren’t ready for marriage, but seem to be yearning for something else?

"Some sort of youth group for 20-somethings is what we need to remain connected to the Jewish world," Brzoska said. "Too many people get lost."

Most of the participants were far from lost, though. They were more like lit matches looking for the right hearth to light their fires. I met Yotam Hod, a 26-year-old public school teacher who had already worked for two years in the Peace Corps, and was just searching for any way to gain entry into working for his own community — maybe with Palestinian and Israeli kids, maybe first going back to graduate school in Jewish studies (alumni from various grad schools with Jewish programming also led a session).

There was Tamar Auber, who runs a nonprofit soup kitchen/food pantry/intervention center in Brooklyn that services 5,000 people. She’s only 26 and already feeling overwhelmed, but here, at the conference, found so many participants who want to volunteer. The conference also pushed volunteerism and philanthropy as ways to get involved Jewishly if you weren’t going to make it your career.

There was Rachel Cohen, who works for an ambassador at the United Nations and wants to improve the image of the Jewish people and Israel there.

And then there were a few people unsatisfied with their experience.

"I felt I missed out on the entire purpose I was coming for — I was trying to figure out how to get [other] 20-somethings involved that aren’t involved," said a 23-year-old Chicagoan, who preferred not to give his name.

"This think tank is not for blank slates," Rhoda Weisman, the executive director of PLP, said at the closing session of the conference, an open-mike evaluation session. "This is specifically for people who have strong Jewish passions, to be involved in something like this."

Questionnaires were filled out, the microphone was passed around, people said what they loved, what they didn’t love, what they’re going to do, what they hope to do.

Weisman previously worked for 10 years as chief creative officer for Hillel and much of this project is borne out of her experience in working closely with college students and within the Jewish organizational world. At 46, She is one of those "middle ground" professionals, and perhaps it is in this place that she can bring the fire of the youth to the hearth that is the staid Jewish organizational life.

"Initially our thoughts are that this could be the forerunner of an institution that will attract first-class people to the Jewish communal world and will incentivize them through fellowships, will mentor them, will keep them together throughout their careers, through various approaches," Michael Steinhardt told me from a lounge chair in the hotel lobby, where we were interrupted by dozens of conference participants who wanted to hang out with him. Steinhardt is one of the other impetuses behind this unprecedented project. As the founder of Birthright, the program that has sent thousands of 20-somethings on free trips to Israel, Steinhardt is used to defying the norm. Back then, he said, "they" said Birthright couldn’t be done, and now "it’s a transformative milestone of Jewish identity."

Will PLP be the next Birthright? Both Weisman and Steinhardt insist that the think tank part of the project is a one-time deal intended to produce an actionable study. But PLP as an organization is now incorporating into non-profit status to continue working with 20-somethings, providing fellowships and career guidance. PLP leaders are hoping what will turn into a continuing national program is CareerBreak — a mentoring program. After the three day conference, 25 participants will "shadow" Los Angeles Jewish professionals to get a taste of working life. Mentors include Jewish Federation President John Fishel, Progressive Jewish Alliance Executive Director Daniel Sokatch, Zimmer Museum Director Esther Netter and Pressman Academy Education Director Rabbi Mitchel Malkus.

"We don’t realize how difficult it is to get in [to Jewish life,] said Rabbi Ron Wolfson, University of Judaism’s vice president and dean of its Fingerhut School of Education, who is also serving as a CareerBreak mentor.

All mentors are being paid for their time, "because people need to know that Jewish professionals’ time and expertise is valuable too," Weisman said.

Full disclosure: the payment part came as news to me, as I had volunteered long ago to become a mentor. My mentee’s name is Lauren Leonardi, a writer who has spent the last five years in Savannah, Ga., and has recently moved back to N.Y. She feels deeply connected to Judaism, but is not sure how to incorporate it into her work.

"Why should I work at a Jewish newspaper?" she asked me. "Why should I work in Jewish life at all?" she said — and this was at the end of PLP on Tuesday night, before CareerBreak began. I’ll have been with her on Wednesday and Thursday, taking her with me to put together this newspaper. I don’t know how I’ll answer the questions — if I can even answer the questions — or if I’ll be a good mentor. Twenty-somethings aren’t the only ones with questions.

Donor Pool Swim


Few days have haunted me like April 15, 2002. It was the day Time magazine screamed out from its cover that women cannot have it all.

Like a slap to the face, the writer reported that the biological odds are against getting pregnant after 35 and that stories of women conceiving into their 40s are anomalies, and nothing more.

I was approaching 33 and panicked. My biggest fear was becoming one of those women who troll the Bay Area’s Jewish singles scene, frantically searching for a husband. So I visited my doctor.

Dr. Silvia Yuen strode into her Sutter Street examination room.

"How are you today?" she asked.

"OK," I began, "but I read that Time magazine article."

"Uh-oh."

"Yeah, so what I’d like to do is freeze some of my eggs."

I wanted insurance that my biological clock wouldn’t blur my dating judgment. Putting eggs on layaway would take off the pressure, I told her.

She offered me a fertility clinic brochure, but cautioned that while the freezing and thawing out of sperm had been perfected, the science wasn’t yet there for women and their eggs. Frozen embryos were the best bet, she said, but they’d require committing to a sperm — a step I wasn’t ready to take.

But the discussion got me thinking. How is a woman supposed to choose the right man when he’s reduced to a Petri dish?

My good friend, I’ll call her Beth, had to find out. After trying to get pregnant for more than a year, she and her husband learned that he’s shooting blanks. They mulled over their options and turned to California Cryobank (CCB), the mothership of sperm banks. Around for more than 25 years, CCB is spreading its seeds in all 50 states and at least 30 countries worldwide.

Agreeing on a donor was trying, Beth admitted: "We thought we’d found the perfect one, but when we pulled up his baby photo, he looked like a frog!"

Then there were those her husband rejected.

"I found one who was great, but he said he was too tall," she said. "I’m thinking about the best donor to help us have a child, and he views the sperm as competition."

Beth waved me over to her computer, selected a file named "Little Swimmers," and introduced me to their chosen sperm: Donor 5378.

I asked how she honed in on 5378, and she navigated to the donor catalog. Up top it read, "Click here to view our list of donors with at least one Jewish ancestor."

There were only 13 choices, and 5378 was off the menu, sold out.

Later, I called CCB. I wanted to know about the demand for Jewish sperm, why there’d been such a run on 5378.

"People choose on all different criteria," said Marla Eby, vice president of marketing. "It’s almost the same as what they encounter when looking for a mate."

High demand for Jewish donors, she said, prompted CCB to create the special search field Beth had used.

But how Jewish can a sperm be? I appreciate wanting a compatible gene pool, but it’s not like the little swimmer comes equipped with Torah knowledge or understanding of Jewish mothers and good deli. If halacha says a baby born to a Jewish woman is Jewish, does the donor’s background matter?

For Beth and her husband, it did.

"The spirituality and values of the Jewish culture is so much of who I am and who [he] is," she said. "Knowing that the sperm was Jewish … made us feel like we were connected."

This approach is common for Reform Jews like Beth, said Rabbi Elliot Dorff, chair of bioethics at the University of Judaism. But in the Orthodox community, he said, the opposite is true.

Based on a 1950s decision by Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, non-Jewish donors are recommended to prevent incest and to protect against Jewish genetic diseases.

Beth felt safe knowing sperm at CCB is genetically screened.

I caught up with Dr. Cappy Rothmann, the co-founder and medical director of CCB, to see what he made of my sperm-shopping query.

"I don’t understand. I just try to help the best I can."

He asked about my interest in this topic, and I admitted my age. Before saying goodbye, he offered, "Next time you’re in L.A., come see me."

I hung up the phone, hoping I’d never have to.

Jessica Ravitz is working on her master’s degree in journalism at UC
Berkeley. Her e-mail address is jessica_ravitz@yahoo.com.

Centenarian Recalls Steps of Survival


When she was in her 30s, Hansi Goetter developed a mysterious illness. Although her doctors couldn’t determine the cause, they told her she had only a few months to live.

That was 70 years ago. Last month, Goetter celebrated her 104th birthday in the company of her daughter, Erica Korody, and her many friends and admirers at Westwood Horizons retirement residence in Westwood.

Smartly dressed in a blue pants suit and brightly colored striped blouse, Goetter smiled as residents paid tribute and a pianist played music from past eras. She even danced a few steps.

"You’re my inspiration," one resident — about 90 years old — told Goetter, "You’re in better shape than I am."

Goetter not only defied the odds of those long-ago doctors and today’s actuaries, but also beat the odds by eluding the Nazis during World War II.

Born in 1900 in the German town of Manheim, Goetter remembers a happy, uneventful childhood. Her family was neither wealthy nor poor, but she had opportunities to ice skate regularly in the winter and play tennis in the summer.

She married Richard Goetter, a young man from the same town, in 1921. Richard started a business, and the couple had a daughter, Erica. Before long, however, things began to change. They decided to leave Germany because of the growing anti-Semitism, especially alarming at school.

"I wouldn’t want a child educated in a country like that," she said.

The family moved to Belgium in 1936. And for a while, things were pleasant again. "I liked it there," Goetter remembered. But the Nazis invaded Belgium in 1941 and soon after came for all the Jewish men in town. Richard and others were incarcerated, and most of the Goetter’s property was confiscated.

A few days later, Richard appeared at the door at midnight. An hour later, with only three small suitcases, the family fled to the south of France. From France they traveled to Spain and Portugal, always wondering if they could outrun the Nazis. At last, the Goetters received their papers for the United States.

"We were lucky," said Goetter, noting that her family had all the necessary documents and had managed to spirit out some money as well. "There were times when we had nothing to eat. But it was no different than what others had to go through. Those were terrible times for Jews."

The Goetters arrived in New York in July 1941, where friends greeted them at the boat and helped them get acclimated to their new homeland. Richard, who had been educated in Switzerland, soon found work. In time, he became the manager of an import-export business.

Erica eventually married, moved to California and had three sons, while the senior Goetters remained in New York. After Richard died in 1989, Hansi came to Los Angeles to be closer to her daughter.

She moved into Westwood Horizons in 1990, where she developed a group of friends who were inseparable. She is the last of the group’s original members.

Nevertheless, Goetter stays active. Each day, she exercises, reads the newspaper and attends the various lectures, performances and other programs offered at the retirement home.

"The main thing is, don’t sit around" says Goetter, adding that it is a little more difficult now that she uses a walker. "I was always doing something and moving, not sitting."

Recounting her life story in her pleasant one-bedroom suite filled with birthday bouquets and family photographs, Goetter could easily pass for 20 years younger. While the retirement hotel provides her meals and linen service, Goetter manages all her bathing, dressing and grooming independently. She attributes her longevity to genes, remembering a great-grandfather who lived to the age of 93 in a time when such advanced age was extremely rare.

"I don’t feel like 104," Goetter told The Journal. "More like between 60 and 70." Her approach, she says, is "I take what comes. I don’t think about what I did or didn’t do — it doesn’t help anyway."

Goetter insists she’s no different than anyone else, just a little older. And as if to prove she’s just like any other Jewish grandmother she sighs, "My grandsons don’t call me enough."

Missing: My Mojo


I can’t explain it any better than this. I think I’ve lost my mojo. That phrase has been going through my head for months now. Lost my mojo.

How do you know you’ve lost your mojo? You get a couple clues.

I’m eating dinner alone at a restaurant when an attractive older man approaches. He puts down his crossword puzzle. We chat. I discern that he’s a divorcé with a teenager, not much my type, but since I’m feeling the mojo slip away, I’m less discerning.

He asks for my e-mail. Never writes me.

What’s a four-letter word for that thing you used to have, that charm, that magic that makes guys ask you out? Mojo.

My friend’s brother, an actor you’ve seen in many movies from the 1980s, asks me out. He brings me gloves because I mention in a column that I gave mine away. We see a play. He insists on taking me to dinner afterward.

Never heard from him again. So, thinking — in a moment of delusion — that my phone may actually not be receiving incoming calls (for a week, despite several calls from people with the last name Strasser) I called him. He didn’t call back. I tried again. I relate a condensed version of that conversational carnage here:

"Hi, this is Teresa. I haven’t heard from you and I just wanted to see how you were doing."

"Yeah, been busy."

"So, I was surprised I didn’t hear from you. I don’t know many people here in New York and I was hoping we could be friends."

"Yeah, what can I say? I thought by not calling you back I was communicating something."

"What?"

"That I’m not interested in pursuing … anything … with you," he said, with all the dynamism of a sleep-deprived substitute teacher.

"You don’t even want to be friends?"

"No. I’m trying to be clear about this. Sorry. See you around campus."

See you around campus? What school are we going to? The University of No Mojo, or U NoMo, as we call it on campus?

Ouch.

A comedian I interviewed for the morning show I work on comes up to me after the show.

"I’m a guy, you’re a girl, we should go out."

It wasn’t the best line, but he gave me his card and as I slipped it in my pocket I thought, I’m back.

I left him a message. A week went by before he returned the call. I called back. He returned my call another week later. You see, when the mojo is working, that call comes the next day, or maybe two days later. Mojo eliminates phone tag. Phone tag is for suckers.

I’ve started to wonder if I’ve reached some sort of expiration date that I can’t find printed on my person. Is it over? My best male friend says I’m crazy. My mom tells me that I’ve just become intimidating to ask out because I’m on TV now, a statement I’m sure is right out of the mom handbook. She has to say that. A Jewish mother is a highly unreliable source.

What if I’m not intimidating but in fact simply unappealing and unattractive? What if this self-deprecating thing I’ve been working for years has grown tired? What if I was such a mess in my 20s that I seemed like a good time to save and a blazing, sloppy fire to put out, and now that I’m slightly more together, there’s no allure?

I pay a sweet woman with smart blazers, sensible shoes and a very calming hairdo to solve these problems for me once a week in 50-minute intervals. She insists that the high drama I provided in my 20s might have been useful in getting into relationships, but it was also pivotal in ending them.

In the interest of full disclosure, I have to tell you that from age 16 to 28, I never went more than a week without a boyfriend. I listened to my friends drone on about their loneliness, their Internet dating, their desperation and felt the secret smug comfort of knowing that though I was never the prettiest in the room and rarely the smartest, I always had mojo.

Now that I’ve matured, I’m far less likely to, for example, throw a plate at you, hang up on you, toss your stuff out the window or storm out of a restaurant as if you’ve just shot my cat when all you’ve done is infer that your ex-girlfriend was pretty. Just when I’m becoming someone it might not be a nightmare to date, I’m being asked out solely by people who are at least 20 years my senior or 10 years my junior. Worst of all, I’ve become the girl you don’t call back.

Mojo, come back to me. I don’t know where you went, but if you return, I promise not to throw any plates your way.

Teresa Strasser writes from Manhattan where she is a feature reporter for
Fox’s “Good Day New York.” She’s on the Web at teresastrasser.com.

Age-Old Dilemma


My friend Lindsay’s friend, Michelle, hosted a 30th birthday bash for her friend, Beth, last Saturday night. So of course I was there.

And so was birthday girl Beth’s friend Michael’s friend, Rob. And Rob was hot.

Six-foot-two before breakfast, with broad shoulders and blue eyes, Rob had the kind of sarcastic bite that kept me entertained. He worked for a music label, traveled often and liked my smile. And for the first hour and a half of the party, he liked me — until I mentioned that I was a junior at UCLA when the Bruins won the national championship.

"So wait, you graduated college in ’96? I didn’t even graduate high school until ’97."

Insert awkward pause here.

Still awkward….

And after what seemed like an excruciatingly long time for Rob to do the math, he said, "I can’t believe you’re 28. You don’t look old."

And the round goes to Rob with the K.O. punch. I don’t think of myself as old. I get carded often, I still wear pigtails and I have the same energy I had when I was a high school cheerleader (not to mention the uniform — which comes out on occasion).

But none of that mattered to Rob once he discovered our age difference. I’ve heard younger men are supposed to find older women alluring, because we’re experienced vixens who can teach them a thing or two. But Rob wasn’t interested in a private lesson with me. He mumbled something about me being old enough to have seen "Star Wars" in the theater and him being born in the ’80s. Then he grabbed his full beer cup, said he needed a refill and sprinted toward the nearest minor in a miniskirt. I was going to run after him, but who can run with my arthritis? Oy. An alter-kacker like myself doesn’t need to go shlepping after some shmendrick she just met at a party.

Now, Rob’s reaction to my Mrs. Robinson status would have hurt less had it been unique. But the truth is that not only do younger men prefer younger women — older men prefer younger women. The guys who should be in my dating pool are splashing around in the kiddie pool. They, too, are looking to meet a barely legal girl. How low do they go?

Most men follow the Seven principle. To find their lowest dating denominator, guys divide their age by two then add seven. Any girl of that age is considered fair game. According to the formula, guys at 28 dip as young as 21. 40-year-old men are snogging with 27-year-old chicks. Even Abraham went 10 years younger with Sarah. And since that worked out pretty well, Jewish men feel free to follow in their patriarch’s footsteps and date the younger babes.

So where does this leave me? Do I follow some predetermined dating age rule, too? Of course. All women do. The female formula for age and dating goes something like this:

Never discuss your age. Flirt at will.

Single gals are well aware that exposing our age to a suitor too soon has costly consequences. If our number’s too high, men’ll toss us in the ineligible pile faster than you can say early-bird special. Which is why we women reveal our cleavage, but not our age.

But why does age even matter? Why are men so determined to date younger women? It’s a physical thing. Men are attracted to women who can still pull off knee socks and a little plaid skirt. And they prefer if you pull them off slowly. It’s a Peter Pan thing. Men don’t want to grow up, and they think dating a girl who is younger will keep them younger. And it’s a commitment thing. Men are convinced that women past their mid-20s have just one thing on their minds. And it’s five letters longer than what men have on their minds.

Well men, stop being so ageist. A 22-year-old with a Britney bod can be looking for kids, a picket fence, and a man on a short leash while a 35-year-old woman with a doctorate might be looking to play the field.

Young Rob was too quick to judge. He said himself that I didn’t look old. And trust me, he was looking. And while I may be 28, I’m not some psycho husband hunter who’s looking to lasso in any unmarried cowboy who happens to ride my way.

The point is, men should consider a woman’s social age, not her actual age, when making a dating decision. But I’ll be the Blanche Deveraux of Leisure World before men start thinking that logically.

Sure, fairy tales can come true, it can happen to you, if you’re young at heart. But in the L.A. singles scene, it’ll happen a lot faster if you’re young and hot.


Carin Davis, a freelance writer, can be reached at sports@jewishjournal.com.

Findings Reveal Demographic Shift


This is the American Jewish world, by the numbers, as revealed in the just-released National Jewish Population Survey 2000-2001 (NJPS)

The Jewish population now stands at 5.2 million, down
5.45 percent from 5.5 million in 1990.

Jews represent 2 percent of the general U.S.
population, which stands at 288 million, an increase of 33 million from 1990.

The Jewish population resides in 2.9 million Jewish
households, with a total of 6.7 million people in all those households.

This means that 1.5 million of those people — one out of every five people living in a Jewish household on average — are not Jewish.

The United Jewish Communities, the umbrella organization of local Jewish federations and sponsor of the study, released only the demographic findings this week.

Other parts of the study, which will address issues of Jewish identity and affiliation, will be released at the group’s annual gathering in Philadelphia at the end of November.

Among the key findings released on Tuesday:

Age:

The median age of U.S. Jews is 41, up from 37 in 1990,
and in contrast to the median age of 35 in the general U.S. population.

19 percent are age 65 and older, up from 15 percent in
1990, compared with 12 percent in the general population.

19 percent are age 17 and younger, down from 21 percent
in 1990, compared with 26 percent in the general population.

Gender and Marriage

51 percent of U.S. Jews are female, 49 percent are
male. The gender distribution is the same as the general population and is
unchanged from 1990.

54 percent of U.S. Jews aged 18 and older are married,
compared with 57 percent in the general U.S. population.

26 percent aged 18 and older are single and never
married, compared with 24 percent in the general population.

30 percent of Jewish men are single compared with 22
percent of Jewish women.

9 percent of Jewish adults are divorced, 4 percent are
separated and 7 percent are widowed. All of these figures parallel those in the
U.S. adult population as a whole. The NJPS numbers regarding Jews who live with
their boyfriend or girlfriend have not been released.

59 percent of Jewish adults have married once, 13
percent twice and 2 percent three times or more.

Fertility:

Jewish women approaching the end of their childbearing
years, aged 40-44, have an average of 1.8 children, which is below the
replacement level of 2.1.

52 percent of Jewish women aged 30-34 have no children,
compared with 42 percent in 1990 and 27 percent among the general population in
2000.

National Origin:

85 percent of Jewish adults were born in United States.

Of the 15 percent of foreign-born Jews, 44 percent come
from the former Soviet Union ( 20 percent from the Ukraine, 13 percent from
Russia, the rest from other parts of the former USSR) and 10 percent each from
Israel and Germany.

Population by Region

There has been little change in the regional distribution of Jews since 1990:

43 percent of Jews live in the Northeast, compared with
19 percent of the total population.

22 percent of Jews live in the West, compared with 23
percent of non- Jews.

22 percent of Jews live in the South, compared with 35
percent of non-Jews.

13 percent of Jews live in the Midwest, compared with
23 percent of non-Jews.

38 percent of Jews live in a different region of the
country from where they were born.

Households:

The average number of people per Jewish household is
2.3, down from 2.5 percent in 1990, and compared with 2.6 percent in non-Jewish
households.

30 percent of Jewish households have one person,
compared with 26 percent of non-Jewish households, up from 24 percent in 1990.

38 percent have two people, 13 percent have three, 12
percent have four and 8 percent have five or more (compared with the general
population, where 14 percent have four people and 11 percent have five or more).

Education:

24 percent of adult Jews have a graduate degree, and 55
percent have earned at least a bachelor’s degree, as compared with 5 percent and
28 percent, respectively, in the general population.

Employment:

62 percent of Jews are employed full-time or part-time,
just 1 percent higher than in 1990; broken down by gender, 68 percent of Jewish
men are employed, 56 percent of women are.

21 percent of Jews are retired, up from 16 percent in
1990 and compared with 16 percent of non-Jews.

59 percent of Jews work in management, business and
professional/technical positions, compared with 46 percent of non-Jews who work
in those areas.

Of the 59 percent, 41 percent work in professional or
technical positions.

Income:

$50,000 is the median income among Jews, compared with
$42,000 among non-Jews.

19 percent of U.S. Jews are defined as low income,
earning $25,000 annually or less, compared with 29 percent of non-Jews.

Age of Restoration


I’m two hours late for a noon invitation, my eyes itching from the unfamiliar weight of mascara so early in the day, and as I drive through town I’m rehearsing the many excuses I think I’ll have to offer my host. It’s a Sunday in June, and I’m about to celebrate a cousin’s high school graduation.

I arrive at the house alongside an elderly Iranian couple who examine me with undisguised curiosity (Who are you and how come I’ve never heard of you, or at least known your parents from back home?) but who won’t say a word or ask a question. I say hello and hold the door for them, and the wife seems to like this because she pats me on the back and whispers a blessing that, roughly translated, would be: "May you become young again."

I didn’t realize I was old, I think, but the woman has already forgotten me and is making her way into the house.

I follow her into a living room full of flowers, food and all the little trinkets that cost too much and serve no purpose, walk through wide-open French doors overlooking a red brick terrace, and then I’m outside again, in a yard as vast and beautiful as any I’ve seen in this city of trophy homes. I look at dozens of young people in flowery dresses and crisp white shirts under a light so vivid it pours onto their faces like gold and lines the edges of their eyelids and the tips of their lashes.

No need to explain why I’m late, I realize. It’s an Iranian party. You’re not expected to be on time — just to stay late and socialize.

I see a bright green lawn dotted with white umbrellas and round tables, the pool at the far end an unreal shade of blue, the trees around it only just starting to cast shadows. I recognize people I’ve known all my life — family and friends and those others you run into everywhere without knowing who they are and what their relationship to you may be. I nod at strangers who nod politely back, embrace little girls in pale pink dresses and tiny white shoes. I walk past tables occupied by men in dark suits and women who wear too many pearls and never smile, past young girls of marrying age who carry themselves like Sheba without a horse and smile only if their mothers tell them to. I avoid the people who are busy surveying the yard with razor-like precision and speaking without diplomacy about everything that doesn’t please them, and then I’m safe again, among people like myself — ones who know they’re imperfect and aren’t ashamed to say it — and suddenly delighted to be here.

All afternoon I drink hot tea brewed with cardamom brought to me by an Armenian waitress in a black-and-white uniform; Diet Coke with lime; something green and icy served by an American man in a Tahitian get-up, complete with the leather armband that I imagine would signal his readiness to die at war. I eat kosher sushi and Iranian shish kebab, beef stroganoff served with saffron rice, Arabian dates and French marzipan and yellow cherries so sweet they leave a trace on my lips I cannot erase.

I’m thinking of the time I sat at an Iranian wedding with columnist Bob Scheer and his wife, Narda, how he had looked with fascination at the scene that by now had become so familiar to me and had wondered aloud about the mysteries, the drama and banalities of the lives surrounding him. "Does anyone in this crowd ever step out of line?" he had asked.

I hope so.

I’ve been here two hours when I finally look across the yard and see the guest of honor — my cousin — sitting at a table with her friends from Harvard-Westlake. She’s got long curly hair and the sweetest dimples you’ve ever seen, long lashes and mischievous eyes and a smile that reassures and disarms you at once. I remember the day she was born, this girl, remember when she was 3 years old and tormented her mother with her fashion sense and savvy. I remember how she lisped through the gaps in her teeth when she was 5, how she moved across the room the night of her bat mitzvah as if nothing and no one could ever faze her. I should feel old, I think. I should count the years since she was born and feel I’ve lost a chunk of time. But I don’t.

Instead, I look at her, at her blond friends and the black-haired ones as well, and I think how well she and others like her have taken to life in America, how in the process they’ve also managed to infuse a bit of the old culture into this place. They’re the first generation of kids born outside Iran — the ones who are now 18 and 22, graduating high school or college. They were raised by parents who lived out of suitcases in cramped apartments all around this city, by fathers who were tense and angry over the uncertainties of life after the revolution, mothers who cried quietly into the phone as they spoke to their relatives back home. Some of them were born to wealth. Some of them have watched their parents struggle all their lives. Every last one, I suspect, has been scarred by their parents’ losses.

Years ago, a young Iranian woman told me about her own experience coming to America as a teenage girl — how she had been 10 years old and so tall for her age, but the minute she was forced into exile she had stopped growing, "shriveled up like a fruit that falls from the tree before it’s ripe."

And yet they’ve turned out OK — my cousin with the long black lashes who had to memorize terms like "vernal equinox" in her very white and exclusive elementary school; the others who’ve had to fight their way through tough public schools, work part-time jobs to supplement the family income, sustain their parents through culture shock and alienation and a sense, for many, that nothing will ever be right again. Even the little boys who used to vex the librarians at the city’s public libraries by running through the halls instead of walking on tiptoes, the boys who, to this day, some see as examples of everything that is wrong with immigration — even they have turned out OK.

It’s true some of them put too much gel in their hair, pierce their ears, refuse to go into the family business. It’s true some of the girls date gentiles, go away to college, demand to experience life on their own. And yes, it’s also true that some of them have erred in greater, more serious ways than this, but, by and large, the children of Iranian immigrants are among the brightest, hardest-working, most promising youth this country has to boast.

They’ve taken their parents’ pain and their own sense of confusion, and built with it an identity all their own — a sense of belonging to a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts: not Iranian, to be sure, and not quite American either, but some of what’s best in both cultures. They know about friendship and loyalty, about family and duty. But they also have a sense of possibility, a horizon that is much wider, much more open than anything their parents ever knew.

And so being here today, in this yard, now full of shade with only bits of sunlight falling like coins through the leaves in the trees, being here alongside four generations of people, connected to them through blood and friendship, maybe, but also through memories, being here in this city where I once swore I would not last and which I can no longer imagine leaving, I think of what the old lady at the door had wished for me and realize what she meant — that we live, all of us, in circles that have no beginning or end, fine traces of longing and experience that merge not in death, but in the lives of others; that time passes, it is true, but is not lost; that we get old, turn around and see our youth on the faces of children, and we know they’ll put that youth to better use.

I know they’ll err sometime. I know they’ll step out of line. But in the end, I think, these children will make us all young again.