Report: Zygier may have told Australian intelligence about Mossad ops

Suspected Israeli spy Ben Zygier may have given detailed information about his work to Australian intelligence, leading to his arrest and imprisonment in Israel, according to an Australian news program.

The Australian Broadcasting Corp.'s “Foreign Correspondent” reported Monday that Zygier met with Australia's domestic intelligence agency, the Australian Security Intelligence Organization, or ASIO, and provided details about Israel's Mossad secret service operations, including a top-secret mission in Italy that had taken years to plan.

Zygier, a Melbourne native, visited Australia often with his wife and children, and enrolled in a master's in business administration program at Montash University in that city. It was during one of those visits that he had contact with Australian intelligence, “Foreign Correspondent” reported, and also applied for a visa to Italy.

Zygier, who was known as Prisoner X as well as Ben Alon, was the subject of an expose by “Foreign Correspondent” that reported Feb. 12 that he was jailed in early 2010 and apparently committed suicide in the high-security Ayalon Prison near Tel Aviv. The report suggested that he worked with the Mossad.

Following the report, internal investigations on his case were initiated in Israel and Australia.

Zygier was one of three Australian Jews who changed their names several times, receiving new passports for travel in the Middle East and Europe allegedly for their work for the Mossad, according to the news program. He was buried in Melbourne, where he attended day school.

‘NCIS’ Mossad agent’s cover gets blown — she’s Chilean

Two days before her first appearance in the cast of the top-ranked TV show, “NCIS,” actress Cote de Pablo was given the script of a lengthy phone conversation — in Hebrew.

“I got a Hebrew teacher and didn’t rest or sleep for 48 hours,” recalled the tall, slim, dark-haired actress. “I wanted to do the language justice. I want to apologize to all Israelis if I didn’t succeed, but boy, did I try.”

De Pablo, born in Chile’s capital of Santiago, plays Mossad agent Ziva David, lending an exotic touch to the all-American ensemble of the CBS “JAG” spin-off series, now in its fourth season.

The job of the show’s six-person elite team from the U.S. Naval Criminal Investigative Service is to crack all crimes involving, in any way, a member of the Navy or Marine Corps.

Consistently rated among the top 15 prime-time shows on American television — and in half a dozen other countries — in a recent week NCIS reached the No. 1 spot. It stands out in the well-worn genre for compelling story lines, intense pace and frequent leavenings of humor.

At the beginning of a nearly two-hour interview at a Hollywood restaurant, the 29-year-old actress greeted a reporter in South American style, with kisses on both cheeks (it’s a rough job, but someone has to do it).

How had she managed the transition from a nice Chilean girl, educated in a private Catholic school, to the role of an Israeli agent, customarily wearing a pistol on her hip and a golden Star of David around her neck?

“Ziva David was a new character, introduced at the beginning of the third season last year, and our executive producer, Don Bellisario, conducted a worldwide search for the part,” De Pablo said.

“I was one of the last to audition, and I don’t think they had a clear idea of what they wanted. So I interpreted Ziva as a cool, competent woman, not the usual Hollywood sex symbol with big boobs, but [someone] who was comfortable in her own sexuality and used to working with men on an equal footing,” she explained. “It helped that by my looks, I could be taken for almost any nationality.”

In her very first episode, De Pablo established Ziva David’s background and crammed in enough action to fill a full season. The character’s father, the deputy director of Mossad, had sent her to the United States to rescue her half-brother, Ari Haswari, who had killed a veteran NCIS female agent.

Ari and Ziva have the same father, but his mother is Arab (all right, some creative plotting here), and she discovers that he has gone psycho and turned into a Hamas terrorist.

Ziva ends up killing Ari, thus saving the life of NCIS team leader Leroy Jethro Gibbs (Mark Harmon), who quickly figures that he can use someone of Ziva’s talents.

Starting on this dramatic note, David/De Pablo has since proven her value as a straight-shooting agent and as an actress, though she considers that her character “is still under construction.”

David’s Jewish identity rarely comes up in the series, although in one episode, a redneck character, noting her Star of David pendant, observes, “We don’t deal with your kind here.”

A running ploy plays off David’s foreign origin, and De Pablo — who speaks like a native-born American — has to feign a slight accent for her role. She is also the occasional butt of good-natured kidding when she draws a blank at an American slang expression.

De Pablo does get quite a few letters from Jewish men, who wonder whether she is an actual Member of the Tribe. Other Jewish admirers pay her the ultimate accolade, “You rock.”

The actress spent the first 10 years of her life in Santiago, the eldest daughter of an upper-class, right-wing family and, given the social stratification of Chilean society, never met a Jewish child or, for that matter, any poor people.

That sheltered environment changed when her mother, a television personality in Chile, was offered a job at a Spanish-language network in Miami. In an unusual gesture for a macho Latino, her father agreed to give up his business and the entire family moved to Florida.

At age 13, De Pablo started taking acting, singing and dancing lessons in Miami, and in her late teens, struck out on her own to study music and theater at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh.

While there, she took a psychology class and took her teacher’s advice as her personal motto: “Never say yes, if you want to say no.”

“Those words gave me the strength to be honest and to speak my mind, which, I think, is a very Israeli trait,” De Pablo mused.

She graduated in 2000, and the same year moved to New York, where she discovered a Jewish environment and the harsh realities of show business for an aspiring actress. The once-cocooned upper-class girl moved into a tiny apartment, made the endless auditioning rounds and worked as a waitress in an Indian restaurant in Manhattan and an Italian eatery in Brooklyn.

Gradually, she started getting small parts with the New York City Public Theater; in the TV soap opera, “All My Children”; and in a brief but memorable Volkswagen commercial as a hip-swinging charmer.

By 2005, she was ready for her Broadway debut as one of the female leads in “The Mambo Kings.”

Along the way, De Pablo had an extended relationship with a Jewish boyfriend, whose family had emigrated from Europe.

“I was really impressed by the women in the family,” she recalled. “They were such incredibly passionate, opinionated and independent women.”

She also immersed herself in the history of World War II, the Holocaust, the capture of Adolf Eichmann and “became fascinated by the Jews’ struggle for survival,” she said. “I identified with them.”

Now, De Pablo works frequent 14-hour days, five days a week, on the set of “NCIS” and has adopted the cast as her “family.” She has little time for hiking, her favorite recreation, or visiting unspoiled, nontouristy places, and is surprisingly frank about her lack of social life.

Too Jewish to Play Myself

People see me as your “typical Jewish woman,” and maybe it’s true: I’ve got curly hair, opinions on every subject and I do not go camping. Plus, even after years of speech classes, I still have an identifiable New York nasality in my voice. When I walk into a room, someone always greets me in a Yiddish accent: “Velkom, dollink hev a seat, enjoy!”

(The last person who did that was a Chinese friend, who ought to know better!)

This Jewishness has often been an obstacle in my professional life. My agent submits me for a movie, but the director — Harold Shlomansky — won’t see me because he feels I’m too Jewish. I hear that all the time, but this is for the part of a rabbi. Shlomansky is only seeing non-Jewish actresses because — as he puts it — he wants to be sure that the character is likeable!

A while back, I read for a commercial, which I knew I would book. I had worked with the director, Stu Lefkowitz, before and my agent told me he was looking for an “Annie Korzen type!” Wow! Talk about a sure thing! Well guess what? I do not get the job. Stu Lefkowitz hires a perky little blonde. I am too Jewish to play myself!

So I guess I am a living stereotype, and the worst thing about it is having to suffer through the never-ending barrage of jokes about me and my kind. Some of them are funny, and relatively benign: Why do Jewish women watch porno films until the very end? Because they want to see if the couple gets married.

The jokes I object to are not so kind: “A guy has a heart attack. His doctor tells him to avoid any excitement, so he marries a Jewish woman.

The jokes are lies. And lies hurt.

And who is it that tells these lies? Who is it that has such loathing for Jewish women? Who is that writes the jokes? It’s those nice Jewish boys I grew up with, that’s who. They are the guys, like Philip Roth’s Portnoy, who dream of a blonde goddess who will help them enter mainstream America, who will help them seem less “ethnic.” It doesn’t work. They still are who they are.

It’s like the old joke about about Hymie Greenblatt, who changes his name to Standish Merriweather III to get into the country club, but on the application, when asked his religion, he fills in “Goy.”

The great film director Sidney Lumet, who started out in Yiddish theater, proudly describes his wife as “WASP heaven … whose people literally came over on the Mayflower.” I’ve never understood what’s so special about the Mayflower. My people also came over on a boat. But the Sidneys don’t see it that way.

Last year I interrupted a comedy act because the Jewish comic was doing a bit about Anne Frank — describing her as an “ugly little JAP.” She was writing letters home from camp, complaining about the bad food and unflattering uniforms. The big joke was that the camp was called Auschwitz. Get it?

In the midst of all this hilarity I lost my cool and told the comic to get off the stage. I called him an “abomination,” which is weird, because I didn’t even know I knew that word. It sounds so biblical. The crowd shushed me, and someone told me not to be so rude. The comic finished his act to rousing applause and I crawled home, depressed and humiliated.

I got many hate mails the next day from the comic and his friends. One of them said, “You are the living personification of why Jewish men have contempt for Jewish women.” Oh, great! So now it’s all my fault!

There’s only one thing that consoles me when I ponder how unfairly women like me are maligned by our own men. There was one piece of good news for Jewish women in the last century, and his name was William Jefferson Clinton. He risked his marriage, his career and the stability of the United States government: all for a sexual obsession with a dark-haired, zaftig, Jewish girl. For this reason alone, he got my vote!

Annie Korzen is a comedy writer-actress who is best known for her recurring role of Doris Klompus on “Seinfeld,” and her humorous essays on NPR’s “Morning Edition.”

Deep Throat: Not a Jew

President Nixon was wrong on Deep Throat’s Jewishness.

A former FBI agent who outed himself as the “Deep Throat” of the Watergate scandal is not Jewish, though Nixon and his aides believed he was. Mark Felt, 91, revealed himself to Vanity Fair this week as the best-known anonymous source of the last century. Nixon, who had clashed with Felt over the FBI’s refusal to use questionable means to track down leaks, came to suspect Felt — J. Edgar Hoover’s right-hand man — of leaking information.

In a 1972 conversation recorded on the Nixon tapes, top aide H.R. Haldeman tells the president that Felt is Jewish. Nixon expresses shock that a Jew could have reached such a senior post, and speculates that Felt might be leaking information because he is Jewish. In fact, Felt, born in Idaho, is of Irish ancestry and claims no religious affiliation.


Sol Bojarsky

Sol Bojarsky passed away peacefully at home on June 27. A native of Los Angeles, born in Boyle Heights, Oct. 1, 1919, bar mitzvah at the Breed Street Shul, Bojarsky was a graduate of Hollywood High School and UCLA. From a pioneer L.A. Zionist family, Sol was a prominent insurance agent in the L.A. Jewish community for over 50 years, having taken over the business started by his mother Rose. He was an early and dedicated Jewish community leader, honored by the Jewish Centers Association and Jewish National Fund, as well as The Jewish Federation Insurance Division.

He served on the board of Brandeis-Bardin Institute for over four decades, as well as a leader of Temple of Israel of Hollywood for an equal amount of time. He was a proud community leader, a gentleman known for his big smile, love of life and warm heart. He will be profoundly missed.

He is survived by his wife, Celina; daughter, Donna (Jonathan); grandson, Joshua; and brother, Eli Boyer.

Joan Hyler’s Class Acts

Joan Hyler sees her life in five acts. A bit like Shakespeare.

It’s a dramatic arc that’s taken her from working as a top agent in Hollywood to setting up shop as a high-powered manager and producer with three offices around town. Smack in the middle of Act III, the woman who’s represented everyone from Meryl Streep to Brendan Fraser has turned her laser-like focus on a new group of “clients”: Jewish women. Hyler is the chair of Hadassah’s Morning Star Commission, dedicated to overturning stereotypes and encouraging diverse, positive portrayals of Jewish women in the media.

Wearing black and electric blue during a recent interview, Hyler said she wasn’t surprised by the results of the commission’s recent focus group research. When Jewish women characters appear onscreen, which isn’t often, they are mostly yentas and nagging mothers, the report found. The only “positive” image cited by Jewish men was leggy, blond Dharma Finkelstein of “Dharma & Greg”-because she doesn’t look Jewish.

“I find that so sad and disappointing,” says Hyler, who’s using her considerable clout to make a difference. She’s already brought Hollywood top brass to the commission’s advisory council, such as CBS President Leslie Moonves, Paramount Chair Sherry Lansing and Producer Lili Fini Zanuck. She’s working on involving Roseanne. Her best friend, Bruce Vilanch, who writes the Oscars, is writing the commission’s annual comedy show and awards ceremony June 29 (see sidebar). And Hyler is making plans for the commission to reach out to young women at university Hillels.

The idea came to her when six UCLA students fervently asked the former agent whether looking Jewish impedes a woman in Hollywood. “These young Jewish women need role models,” Hyler concluded. “Unless they can speak to others who have made it, it feels so hopeless for them.”

If anyone can convince Roseanne to speak at Hillel, it is Hyler. “Joan is an enormous presence in Hollywood, and everyone in town knows her,” says Ellen Sandler, a commission member and co-executive producer of the CBS sitcom, “Everybody Loves Raymond.” “If Joan approaches you, you return her telephone calls.”

The Prologue

Growing up in Dayton, Ohio, Hyler recalls, images of Jewish women were largely invisible in the popular culture. There was only Golda Meir, Bess Myerson and the ugly stereotypes. “It broke my heart that Jewish women weren’t considered attractive,” Hyler, now 50, recalls. “It made me feel different, and that I had something to prove…. I wanted to be an object of desire, a femme fatale. But I didn’t want to have blond hair and blue eyes. I wanted to be me.”

The emergence of Barbra Streisand delighted the teenager, a cheerleader who dreamed of starring in “Gypsy” on Broadway. Instead, Hyler dropped out of the theater doctoral program at Ohio State, hopped a bus for Manhattan and began working as a secretary at William Morris in 1971.

Act I

When it became clear that William Morris had no job track for women, Hyler went to work for the legendary Audrey Wood, Tennessee Williams’ agent, at what is now International Creative Management. On a snowy Washington’s birthday, the day before her first official day on the job, Hyler entered the agency’s closed offices on the 29th floor of the J.C. Penney building. There, she was surprised to see the elderly Wood arrive schlepping shopping bags overflowing with scripts. “I got her coffee, and learned a lesson,” Hyler once told the L.A. Times. “Being an agent means…you read the scripts…and care as much about the spear carrier in Act III as you do about Lord Olivier.”

Within the year, Hyler had become Meryl Streep’s first movie agent, securing the actress her first bit part and eventually her Oscar-winning role in “Kramer vs. Kramer.” For her work with Julian Barry, author of the play and film versions of “Lenny,” Hyler herself ended up at the Oscars in 1975, whirling around the dance floor with Fred Astaire.

Faye Dunaway was a client, and so was Andy Warhol, with whom Hyler lunched at the Russian Tea Room. Warhol, whose book, “The Andy Warhol Diaries,” describes Hyler as “a real champ,” asked the agent to arrange for him to appear on “The Love Boat.” The show, Hyler explains, was the TV equivalent of the artist’s lowbrow, pop-culture renditions of Campbell’s soup cans. Warhol had a delightful time playing himself. “I had to turn away all the other TV offers,” Hyler recalls. “Love Boat” was the only TV he ever wanted to do.”

Act II

In the 1980s, when William Morris made Hyler the first female senior vice president to rise through the ranks in its 100-year history, Hyler put Candice Bergen in “Murphy Brown” and represented Bob Dylan during his “Rebbe” period.

All the while, she was rediscovering her own Jewish roots, finding the ruach (spirit) that had been missing in her childhood shul. Richard Dreyfuss introduced her to Rabbi Shlomo Schwartz of The CHAI Center, and Hyler studied Torah with Rabbis Laura Geller and Chaim Seidler-Feller in the class Barbra Streisand had created to prepare for “Yentl.” Hyler took classes at the (Orthodox) Yeshiva of Los Angeles, joined Rabbi Mordecai Finley’s congregation, Ohr HaTorah, became bat mitzvah and started a Torah fund in honor of her family. She met David Hartman and Adin Steinsalz in Israel and met her husband and business partner, Larry Scissors, around a Shabbos table in L.A.


On a day Hyler will always remember in 1990, Hyler sat beside Omar Sharif and eccentric client Peter O’Toole during a screening of the reissue of “Lawrence of Arabia.” In the middle of the film, O’Toole suddenly shouted, at the top of his lungs, “God, we were beautiful, weren’t we, Omar?” The entire audience burst into applause.

It was a thrilling moment for Hyler, who in the early ’90s also spoke out against ageism and sexism in Hollywood as the president of Women in Film. Empowering other women helped her empower herself, she says. In 1995, Hyler left William Morris when she perceived that the agency would not break tradition and appoint a woman to the board. She founded Hyler Management and a production company, MHS, which stands for the initials of the partners and also for Emes (“truth” in Hebrew).

Today, Hyler seamlessly merges the agenda of the Morning Star Commission with her professional life. At MHS, where Rabbi Deborah Orenstein leads a Torah class each Tuesday, Hyler is developing a film about a Holocaust survivor who encounters the McCarthy blacklist. She hopes to persuade a Jewish actress like Debra Winger to star in the movie. Also in the works is a documentary and a feature film about Edith Stein, the controversial German Jew who became a nun and was murdered at Auschwitz.

As Hyler’s Act III segweys into Act IV, no doubt, she will continuing recruiting powerful Jews to the Morning Star Commission. “I really believe we can change things,” she says. “There is victory in numbers.”


The Saddest Story

By Ruth Stroud, Staff Writer

Mourning a Russian-born border guard, killed in the line of duty

Ido Aharoni, the local Israeli consul for communications and public affairs, is preparing to

U.S. Border Patrol Agent Alex Kirpnick  was killed in June; right, a young Alex with his family,         immigrants from the former Soviet Union.

U.S. Border Patrol Agent Alexander Kirpnick, 27, died in the line of duty on June 3, 1998, at the Arizona-Mexico border. Returned to Los Angeles and buried with full military honors next to his grandfather, he was a hero who died doing what he wanted to do, his mother said.

Eta Kirpnick still can’t accept his death. “He was a wonderful son,” she said, brokenly. “He used to visit us very often, never forgot our birthdays, never forgot about Mother’s Day, Father’s Day. It’s a terrible loss.”

Kirpnick, who immigrated with his family to Los Angeles from the former Soviet Union 10 years ago, was patrolling the border near Nogales, Ariz., with his partner at around midnight on June 2 when sensors went off, indicating that someone had crossed the border illegally. The two agents split up to try to intercept the five trespassers, who appeared to be drug smugglers. When Kirpnick called for two of them to halt, one bolted. As Kirpnick turned to pursue him, the other man shot him in the head and fled. The wounded agent was airlifted to the University of Arizona hospital, where he died a few hours later.

Even in uniform, with a gun strapped to his waist, her son was “a big, tough guy, a soldier…with a soft heart,” Eta Kirpnick said during an interview in the family’s West Hollywood apartment. Condolence letters from U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno, FBI Director Louis Freeh, INS Commissioner Doris Meissner, and several U.S. senators and representatives were piled on the dining room table, where yahrtzeit candles still burned. “That Alex himself was an immigrant who came to this country with a dedication to help uphold the laws of the United States makes his death that much more tragic,” Reno wrote. “Your son’s service to his adopted country stands as the true meaning of dedication.”

When she talks of her son’s death, Eta remembers another tragedy that overtook her family during World War II. Her parents lost almost their entire families in Auschwitz, as did the majority of Jews in her homeland in the Carpathian Mountains. Her father’s first wife and five children died there. Only about 10,000 of a population that once numbered more than 100,000 survived.

Eta was among the first children born after the war, in 1946; almost all the town’s children were killed in Auschwitz, she said. Her family’s land, part of Hungary before the war, was claimed by the Soviets afterward. The family spoke no Russian, just Yiddish and Hungarian. Once traditional Jews, they were forced to practice their religion in secret and couldn’t get kosher food. Eta and her husband, Boris, were married under a chupah behind closed doors, and, when Alex was born, his circumcision was also a secret. Eta’s father left with his wife and son for Israel in the mid-1970s. The Kirpnicks — then called Kirpichnikov — weren’t permitted to emigrate, nor, after Eta’s father died later, was she able to attend the funeral.

In late 1987, the family decided to emigrate to the States. They were worried that Alex, then 17, might be drafted into the Soviet army. So they traveled via Austria and Italy to Los Angeles, where Boris’ brother and father had moved. Coming to America was a dream come true for the family. “It’s a country from a fairy tale,” Boris used to say.

They were poor refugees, but they wanted work, not welfare. Alex, who spoke little English at the time, walked from business to business near their apartment in the San Fernando Valley. Eventually, he got a job unloading trucks for $5 an hour at May Co. Boris, an engineer in Russia, became a plumber’s helper. He later drove a taxi. Eta, trained as an English teacher, was soon hired by Jewish Family Service of Los Angeles to work with Russian émigrés. JFS had helped resettle the Kirpnicks. As Eta proved herself, she was promoted to resettlement worker, helping others as she had been helped.

Alex studied psychology at Valley College and continued to work at May Co., eventually becoming a supervisor. But he wanted to do something else with his life. After the family became naturalized, he decided to go into law enforcement. His linguistic ability — he spoke Russian, Ukrainian, Hungarian, Yiddish and English and soon became so proficient in Spanish that he was mistaken for a native — made him a natural for the border patrol. Immediately after passing his written and oral exams, he was accepted to the border patrol academy, turning down an executive post at Robinson’s May to following his heart. “He said, ‘No way,'” recounted his sister, Zhanna, now 20 and a third-year student in molecular genetics at UCLA. “This was his dream.”

Seven years apart in age, Zhanna and her brother had become close during their time in Italy, when they had only each other. She often visited him in Tucson, Ariz., where he was stationed, and got to know his friends. “Alex was one of a kind,” she said. “He could do imitations of anything. He would start cracking a joke, and people would be on the ground laughing.”

Zhanna talked about her brother’s death calmly, without tears. “I’m handling it in my own way,” she said quietly. “I don’t have the luxury of just breaking down.”

The funeral was held at the Russian Chabad Synagogue. So large was the procession to Eden Memorial Park that the San Diego and Santa Monica freeways were closed off. A few days later, Zhanna and her father flew to Arizona to attend the border patrol memorial to her brother. It was held in a baseball stadium, and more than 500 agents attended. Reno, Meissner, Freeh and several congressmen spoke. Alex received the full military honors of his adopted country — a 21-gun salute, riderless horse and planes flying overhead in the famous “missing man” formation. Later, Zhanna sat around with Alex’s colleagues talking about her brother. “It was so touching to see all these grown men in uniforms with guns, just sobbing,” she said. “It was obvious that they just adored him.”

A month later, the family is still shattered, but tries to keep going. Eta Kirpnick goes to her job and sees clients, but she can’t eat and needs pills to sleep. She praises her supervisors and co-workers at JFS and others at Jewish Vocational Service for helping her through the ordeal. While her husband and daughter were in Arizona, 10 to 15 people came to her house every day to comfort her.

Boris is still too grief-stricken to go back to driving a cab. He would be a danger to his passengers, his wife said. Zhanna, who was in the middle of finals at UCLA when her brother was killed, is trying to make up the work and hold down a part-time job.

“This wound will be forever,” Eta said sadly, leafing through photos of her smiling son. I still can’t believe he’s gone. When I wake up in the morning, and the sun is shining, I say, ‘Why isn’t the sky black?'”