Bernie Sanders wins Alaska, Washington caucuses


Democratic presidential contender Bernie Sanders easily won nominating contests in Alaska and Washington on Saturday, chipping away at front-runner Hillary Clinton's commanding lead in the race to pick the party's candidate for the White House.

Sanders was aiming for a sweep of three Western states – Hawaii also was holding a contest – that would generate more momentum in his bid to overtake Clinton and help stave off calls from Democratic leaders that he should wrap up his bid in the name of party unity.

“We are making significant inroads in Secretary Clinton's lead and … we have a path to victory,” Sanders told cheering, chanting supporters in Madison, Wisconsin. “It is hard for anybody to deny that our campaign has the momentum.”

Clinton, the former secretary of state, has increasingly turned her attention toward a potential Nov. 8 general election showdown against Republican front-runner Donald Trump, claiming she is on the path to wrapping up the nomination.

Heading into Saturday's voting, she led Sanders by about 300 pledged delegates in the race for the 2,382 delegates needed to be nominated at the July convention. Adding in the support of superdelegates – party leaders who are free to back any candidate – she has 1,690 delegates to 946 for Sanders.

Sanders, a U.S. senator from Vermont, needs to win up to two-thirds of the remaining delegates to catch Clinton, who will keep piling up delegates even when she loses under a Democratic Party system that awards them proportionally in all states.

“These wins will help him raise more funds for the next few weeks but I don't think it changes the overall equation,” said Democratic strategist Jim Manley, a Clinton supporter. “Hillary Clinton has too big a lead. It's all over but the shouting.”

But Sanders has repeatedly said he is staying in the race until the convention, pointing to big crowds at his rallies and high voter turnout among young and first-time voters as proof of his viability. After raising $140 million, he has the money to fight on as long as he wants.

Sanders has energized the party's liberal base and young voters with his calls to rein in Wall Street and fight income inequality, a message that played well in liberal Washington and the other Western states. Sanders won in Utah and Idaho earlier this week.

All three contests on Saturday were caucuses, a format that has favored Sanders because it requires more commitment from voters, and were in states with fewer of the black and Hispanic voters who have helped fuel Clinton's lead.

“He was just more aligned with my values. I am young and I never knew there could be someone like him in politics,” said Samantha Burton of Seattle, who said Sanders was the first candidate who had inspired her to make a donation.

Jocelyn Alt, a birthing assistant at a Seattle hospital, said she backed Clinton because she believed the times called for someone who could get things done.

“She knows how to make things happen,” she said. “I think Hillary is more likely to win against a Republican.”

The Democratic race now moves to contests in Wisconsin on April 5 and in New York on April 19. There were no contests on Saturday in the Republican race featuring Trump and rivals U.S. Senator Ted Cruz of Texas and Ohio Governor John Kasich.

On Saturday, the New York Times published a lengthy foreign policy-focused interview with Trump. The New York billionaire told the newspaper he might stop oil purchases from Saudi Arabia unless they provide troops to fight the Islamic State.

Trump also told the Times he was willing to rethink traditional U.S. alliances should he become president.

From Grizzly Bears to Gaza Rockets: Alaskan olim head for Israel


Rebecca Scoggin lived in a lot of places growing up: Juneau, Nome, Fairbanks, Homer, Anchorage. But except for the two years she lived in Seattle after high school, she never lived outside Alaska.

At least she hadn’t until a few months ago. Inspired by a Birthright trip she took at age 19, Scoggin decided to pick up and move to Tel Aviv.

“It was kind of a random decision. There was no real reason for it,” Scoggin, 23, told JTA in a recent phone interview from Anchorage, where she was back visiting family. “I fell in love with Tel Aviv and sun. It’s become more home to me than any other place.”

Scoggin is not your typical immigrant to Israel, and not just because she hails from the 49th state. Scoggin has no family in the Holy Land, hasn’t had much Judaism in her life and has a Christian father. But something drew her to Israel.

“I’m not religious, I grew up celebrating Christmas my whole life, but I do feel that connection to my land,” she said. “I don’t know if it’s my Jewishness or if I just like the heat.”

Scoggin is one of several Jews from Alaska immigrating to Israel this year. Among the others making aliyah are a 51-year-old CT scan-MRI technician who wants to get away from the ice; a 51-year-old expert on refugee resettlement who is relocating with her son and Scottish husband; and a 58-year-old former corrections officer and deputy sheriff from Anchorage.

“It’s not every day that we are privileged to take care of new olim from Alaska,” said Erez Halfon, vice chairman of Nefesh B’Nefesh, the organization used by the Israeli government  to handle the logistics of U.S. immigration to Israel. “It’s astounding and inspiring to me that Jews living in a kind of paradise, with a comfortable and luxurious life, are deciding to leave home, work, community and friends to move to the other side of the world — especially these days when Israel is under fire.”

The technician, Donn Ungar, whose aliyah flight left from New York on Monday, says he’s not nervous about going to Israel despite the rocket fire from Gaza.

“It’s crazy over there now, but it doesn’t change my decision at all,” Ungar said. “It’s not a reason not to go there. I know they have wars. I’m going to be a part of Israel and a part of the community. You can’t pick and choose.”

Karen Ferguson, director of the refugee program at Catholic Social Services in Anchorage, where she works with refugees from Iraq, Somalia, Sudan, Bhutan and Burma, has a similar take. She will be moving to Haifa in August with her 13-year-old son, to be followed in December by her husband, Stewart.

“I don’t think you can pick a time and hope that will be a time of peaceful tranquility in Israel and say that’s when you’re going to move,” Ferguson said. “This is the reality of Israel. We’re going there to immigrate and be part of the country. You have to take the country for all it is — the good and the bad.”

Ferguson’s move will be the latest stop in a lifetime marked, she says, by “a desire for change and adventure.”

After meeting her Scottish, non-Jewish husband in Ohio and marrying in Nova Scotia, Canada, the couple soon moved to the Pacific island nation of Samoa, where their daughter was born. When they moved to Anchorage 17 years ago, they planned to stay just a year or two.

But with good jobs, young kids and a fondness for catching their own wild salmon, they decided to stay put for a while.

Every year the family catches up to 55 pounds of salmon (their legal limit) using dipnet fishing: Stewart affixes a large, circular net to the end of a long pole, then dips it into the ocean where the salmon swim into an inlet. Karen chops off the heads, guts the fish and takes the meat to a facility that turns it into lox and smoked salmon and filets. The family hasn’t had to buy salmon in 15 years, Ferguson says.

But now they’re ready to say “So long, and thanks for all the fish.” With their daughter off to college and their son about to start high school, they’re set for a new phase in their lives.

“We’re in this window of opportunity now,” Ferguson said. “We could continue doing what we’re doing or try and do something different. My husband and I decided we really wanted to take on new horizons.”

 

So why Israel?

“I haven’t quite figured out how to articulate it. It’s a place I would love to have lived in and been a part of,” said Ferguson, who has raised her children as Jews, though her husband has not converted.

“There’s just something about Israel that is both dynamic and magnetic. The intellectual and historical experiences when I’m there are very challenging. And for me, I grew up never being around very many Jews. We were a very secular Jewish family. I went to an Episcopalian boarding school. I work for Catholic Social Services. There’s something really appealing for once about being among my own and having the holidays be the Jewish holidays.”

Unlike many immigrants, Ferguson says she’s not necessarily thinking about Israel as a final destination. She will be starting a master’s program in peace and conflict management at Haifa University; her husband will telecommute to his job doing telemedicine for small, rural communities around Alaska.

“We’re going to Israel looking for a connection and a place to be our next home,” she said. “You really can’t predict well whether a place you stay for a while will become your home. Things unfold for you.”

That was how Ungar ended up spending 17 years in Alaska. He decided to move there after falling in love with it while on vacation from Florida, found work quickly and made good friends. But after a brutally cold winter three years ago that never seemed to end, Ungar, who is single, began thinking about an early retirement destination. He wanted someplace simple and inexpensive.

But Israel, where his family unsuccessfully tried living for a few months in 1971 and where Ungar now has a brother and other relatives, kept popping into his head. Ungar went there on a three-week vacation in February and was smitten.

“The energy just felt amazing,” he said. “That’s what brought me to Alaska in the first place — the feeling that this is where I should be at that point in my life. Now I was feeling that for Israel. I’ve learned to listen to that little voice in my head.”

So he contacted aliyah authorities, packed up and got rid of his most prized Alaska possession: a fur bomber jacket. It was the warmest thing he ever owned.

“People say to me, ‘Why are you going?’ ” he said. “I say, ‘I have no idea. It’s just where I’m supposed to be.’”

Palin on Israel visit to meet with Netanyahu


Potential 2012 presidential contender Sarah Palin is scheduled to have dinner with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on her second and last day in Israel.

Palin will dine with Netanyahu and his wife, Sara, on Monday before returning to the United States.

“As the world confronts sweeping changes and new realities, I look forward to meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu to discuss the key issues facing his country, our ally Israel,” Palin said in a statement on her official SarahPAC website.

The Republican nominee for vice president in 2008 and the former governor of Alaska landed Sunday in Israel for what is being called a private visit. She was returning to the United States from a speech she delivered to a business group in India.

Several possible Republican candidates for the 2012 U.S. presidential election have visited Israel in recent weeks, including former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour. All of them also met with Netanyahu and other Israeli officials.

On Sunday, Palin and her husband, Todd, took a tour of the Western Wall tunnels led by the rabbi of the Western Wall, Shmuel Rabinovitch. They were accompanied by Likud lawmaker Danny Danon.

Palin did not walk on the Western Wall plaza, so as not to disturb those reading from the Megillat Esther in observance of Purim in Jerusalem, Ynet reported.

For more on this story visit JewishJournal.com/keepingthefaith.

Palin heading to Israel


Sarah Palin, who is believed to be considering a presidential run in 2012, will visit Israel.

The former Alaska governor and Republican vice presidential nominee in 2008 will stop in Israel for two days next week on her way back to the United States from a speech she is giving a business group in India.

Palin will meet with the country’s leaders, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and visit its Christian holy sites.

“As the world confronts sweeping changes and new realities, I look forward to meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu to discuss the key issues facing his country, our ally Israel,” Palin told CNN.

Jewish figures close to Palin said last year that she was considering a designated trip to Israel, but then quietly quashed the reports.

The potential presidential contender would join other GOP hopefuls, including former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, who have made recent visits to Israel.

VIDEO: Palin Pastor: ‘Israelites’ run the economy




Yes, he says ‘Israelites’! (MSNBC)

A pastor who blessed Sarah Palin’s run for Alaska governor said Christians should emulate “Israelites” and run the economy.

The 2005 video of South African Pastor Thomas Muthee laying hands on Palin, the Republican vice-presidential pick, surfaced this week on the Internet.

Muthee precedes the blessing with a sermon calling for Christians to assume control in seven areas of society.

“The second area whereby God wants us, wants to penetrate in our society is in the economic area,” he said in the sermon. “The Bible says that the wealth of the wicked is stored up for the righteous. It’s high time that we have top Christian businessmen, businesswomen, bankers, you know, who are men and women of integrity running the economics of our nations. That’s what we are waiting for. That’s part and parcel of transformation. If you look at the — you know — if you look at the Israelites, that’s how they work. And that’s how they are, even today.”

The pastor also calls for Christian control of schools.

“We need God taking over our education system,” he said. “Otherwise we, if we have God in our schools, we will not have kids being taught, you know, how to worship Buddha, how to worship Mohammed, we will not have in the curriculum witchcraft and sorcery.”

VIDEO: Israeli documentary director Elan Frank shoots Sarah Palin



Jerusalem Online spoke with director Elan Frank about his documentary footage of Gov. Sarah Palin that Frank sold to Fox

David Suissa’s column about Frank has the back story.

Allies and foes scrape through Palin bio for Jewish material


ST. PAUL (JTA)—A small Israeli flag propped up on a window frame. A Pat Buchanan button sported briefly as a courtesy. A prospective son-in-law with a biblical name.

Little about the Frozen North is Jewish outside the realm of fiction (see Mordechai Richler, Michael Chabon, “Northern Exposure”), so when Republicans pitch Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, John McCain’s vice presidential pick, to the Jews and Democrats try to undermine her, both sides tend to reach.

Picking through the trivia and smears for substance, there’s this: Palin, 44, has genuinely warm relations with her Jewish constituents—6,000 or so—and appears to have a fondness for Israel. She also comes down on the strongly conservative side on social issues where Jews tend to trend liberal.

“Governor Palin has established a great relationship with the Jewish community over the years and has attended several of our Jewish cultural gala events,” Rabbi Yosef Greenberg, the director of Chabad-Lubavitch in Anchorage, wrote in an e-mail after McCain, the presumptive GOP nominee and longtime Arizona senator, announced that she was joining his ticket.

“Governor Palin also had plans to visit Israel with members of the Jewish community, however, for technical reasons, the visit has not occurred yet.”

Palin is likeable enough that she got props from Ethan Berkowitz, the Jewish former minority leader in the Alaska House of Representatives who appears poised to become the first Democrat to represent Alaska in the U.S. House of Representatives since Nick Begich disappeared in a snowstorm in 1972.

“I like her and this is an exciting day for Alaska,” Berkowitz told JTA.

Republicans have been scouring the archives to uncover evidence of Palin’s outreach to Jews and to Israel.

Her single substantive act is signing a resolution in June marking 60 years of Alaska-Israel relations, launched improbably in 1948 when Alaska Airlines helped shepherd thousands of Yemeni Jews to Israel. However, she did not initiate the legislation: Its major mover was John Harris, the speaker of the Alaska House.

The paucity of material led the Republican Jewish Coalition to tout the appearance of a small Israeli flag propped against a window of the state Capitol in an online video in which Palin touts the virtues of hiking Juneau.

In an e-mail blast, RJC executive director Matt Brooks offered the screengrab as an answer for “those of you who have had questions regarding Sarah Palin and her views on Israel.”

In a seemingly equal bit of stretching in the other direction, some Democrats played up an Associated Press report that Palin—then the mayor of the small Alaska town of Wasilla—had sported a Buchanan button in 1999 when the Reform Party candidate visited there.

“John McCain’s decision to select a vice presidential running mate that endorsed Pat Buchanan for President in 2000 is a direct affront to all Jewish Americans,” said an e-mail blast from the campaign of Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.), the Democratic nominee for president, quoting U.S. Rep. Robert Wexler (D-Fla.), Obama’s top Jewish surrogate. “Pat Buchanan is a Nazi sympathizer with a uniquely atrocious record on Israel, even going as far as to denounce bringing former Nazi soldiers to justice and praising Adolf Hitler for his ‘great courage.’ ”

The problem was that Palin had corrected the record as soon as the AP report appeared, noting in a letter to a local newspaper that had published the account that she wore the button as a courtesy. In fact, in the 2000 election, during the GOP primaries, she was an official of the Steve Forbes campaign.

The hunger for Palin-Jewish news extended beyond partisan politics. Pulses quickened among some in the Israeli media when the McCain campaign revealed Monday that Palin’s 17-year old unmarried daughter, Bristol, is pregnant and that her fiance’s name is Levi. (It was revealed later that his last name is Johnston, so no seders in the immediate Palin family future.)

The National Jewish Democratic Council focused on a more substantive difference between Palin and the U.S. Jewish community: her staunch social conservatism.

“For a party which claims it is trying to reach out to the Jewish community, McCain’s pick is particularly strange,” NJDC director Ira Forman said in a statement. “On a broad range of issues, most strikingly on the issue of women’s reproductive freedom, she is totally out of step with Jewish public opinion. The gulf between Palin’s public policy positions and the American Jewish community is best illustrated by the fact that the Christian Coalition of America was one of the strongest advocates of her selection.”

Palin backs abortion only in cases where a woman’s life is at risk, opposes stem cell research and believes creationism should be taught in schools alongside evolution.

Perhaps the most damning feature of her resume on Jewish issues is its thinness—her broader problem as well. Berkowitz, the Jewish congressional candidate, poked a little fun at the resume by citing Palin’s enthusiasm for guns and hunting.

“As far as Republican vice presidents go, she will be a much better shot than Dick Cheney,” he said. “But this is John McCain’s choice and an insight in terms of his judgment.”

Ben Chouake, who heads NORPAC, a New Jersey-based pro-Israel political action committee and one who is close to the McCain campaign, says he learned that McCain favored Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), the one-time Democrat and Al Gore’s vice-presidential pick in 2000, until the last minute but caved to arguments that Lieberman would alienate the Republican Party’s conservative base.

“I don’t know anything about her, but I’m not concerned because she is the governor, who is someone with executive experience,” Chouake told JTA.

Palin has served less than two years as governor and, as NJDC noted, has “zero foreign policy experience.”

Greenberg, the Chabad rabbi who has not endorsed a candidate, suggests that she makes up in soul what she lacks in experience, referring to her fifth child, Trig, a Down syndrome baby born just four months ago.

“I was personally impressed by Governor Palin’s remarks of hope and faith when she gave birth to a child with special needs,” he said. “We all feel that the Governor is a remarkable, energetic, and good person.”

(JTA staff writer Jacob Berkman contributed to this report from New   York.)

In Spring a reader’s fancy turns to thoughts of … books


Michael Chabon’s Alaskan Adventure

In Michael Chabon’s invented world, Yiddish is spoken in the Alaskan panhandle.

After World War II, the Federal District of Sitka in Alaska — not Israel — became the homeland for the Jews.

“The Yiddish Policemen’s Union” (HarperCollins, May, $26.95) is the much-anticipated novel by the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of “The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay.” While Chabon has published short stories, a novella and a novel for young adults, this is his first full-length work of fiction since 2000. Film rights have already been bought by Scott Rudin.

Sitka is “a compound of fog and the light of sodium-vapor street lamps. It has the translucence of onions cooked in chicken fat. The lamps of the Jews stretch from the slope of Mount Edgecumbe in the west, over the seventy-two infilled islands of the Sound, across Shvartsn-Yam, Halibut Point, South Sitka, and the Nachtasyl….”

The novel is set in the present, and Sitka is reverting to Alaskan control, after 60 years of prosperous times for the Jews. Homicide Det. Meyer Landsman of the District Police discovers the corpse of his neighbor, a former chess prodigy, but his investigation is mysteriously ordered closed. This is a hard-boiled detective story that’s an homage to 1940s noir, a love story, a meditation on identity and faith and a celebration of language, spiced with Chabon’s distinctive humor.

Chabon’s first novel, “The Mysteries of Pittsburgh,” was originally written for his master’s degree from the University of California, Irvine, and became a national bestseller. His other novels include “Wonder Boys” and “Model World”; his adventure novel, “Gentlemen of the Road,” is now running in serial form in The New York Times Magazine.

Born in 1963, Chabon grew up in Columbia, Md., a planned community with utopian aspirations, and has lived in California for the last 20 years. He now lives in Berkeley with his wife, novelist Ayelet Waldman, and their four children.
Chabon will embark on a 15-city author tour, making two unusual stops — in Anchorage and Juneau.

Chabon will speak in Los Angeles on May 9, 7 p.m., at the Los Angeles Public Library, 630 W. Fifth St., Los Angeles; and May 10, 7 p.m., at Book Soup, 8818 Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood. For more information, visit www.michaelchabon.com.

Einstein, Times Two



Two new biographies look closely at the life and work of the 20th century’s most celebrated mind, Albert Einstein, whose name — and shock of hair — has come to symbolize genius.

Veteran journalist Walter Isaacson, formerly managing editor of Time magazine and chairman and CEO of CNN, who now heads the Aspen Institute, has written “Einstein: His Life and Universe” (Simon & Schuster, April, $32), following his best-selling biography of Benjamin Franklin.

A journalist with a background in physics, Jurgen Neffe is the author of “Einstein: A Biography,” translated by Shelley Frisch (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, May, $30). His book was a bestseller in Germany when it was published in 2005, on the 100th anniversary of Einstein’s Special Theory of Relativity.

Isaacson’s book is based largely on newly released personal letters of Einstein. More than 3,500 pages of correspondence between Einstein and his two wives and children, along with photos, were released last year at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. The release was made in accordance with the will of Einstein’s stepdaughter, Margot.

Isaacson probes Einstein’s private side, as well as how his mind worked. He sees Einstein as a rebel from childhood, always questioning conventional wisdom; his character, curiosity, creativity and passion for freedom were interconnected, driving his life, science and politics.

As Isaacson writes, “His tale encompasses the vast sweep of modern science, from the infinitesimal to the infinite, from the emission of photons to the expansion of the cosmos. A century after his great triumphs, we are still living in Einstein’s universe….”

Isaacson is also the author of “Kissinger: A Biography” and co-author of “The Wise Men: Six Friends and the World They Made”; he lives in Washington, D.C.
Neffe looks at Einstein as a parent and physicist, as a citizen and a Jew and as an American. He writes of his complicated subject: “He could reconcile discrepant views of the world, but he was a walking contradiction. Einstein polarized his fellow man like no other. He was a friend to some, an enemy to others, narcissistic and slovenly, easygoing and rebellious, philanthropic and autistic, citizen of the world and hermit, a pacifist whose research was used for military ends.”

He adds, “Rarely has a single individual been so far-sighted and myopic at the same time.”

The English version was updated to include information from the recently published 10th volume of Einstein’s collected papers.

Isaacson will discuss and sign “Einstein: His Life & Universe” on April 27, 7 p.m., at All Saints Church, 132 N. Euclid Ave., Pasadena.

Memoirs from Harry Bernstein and Ruth Gruber, both 95

In this age of memoir, two new volumes are particularly notable for their wisdom and the age of their writers: Both Harry Bernstein and Ruth Gruber are 95. Bernstein is a first-time author, making his literary debut with “The Invisible Wall” (Ballantine, March, $22.95), and Gruber is a veteran author and journalist. “Witness” (Schocken, April, $27.50) is her 19th book.

The wall of Bernstein’s title is the figurative barrier running down the middle of the street in a northern English mill town on the eve of World War I. On opposite sides were Jewish families and Christian families; the two didn’t speak, although they had much in common in terms of poverty as well as prejudice. Written from the perspective of a young boy, the memoir details how the author’s sister crossed the line, falling in love with a brilliant young Christian man. Harry was the go-between, hiding their secret. He describes the atmosphere inside their home and outside in the fear-filled world.

Bernstein, who lives in Brick, N.J., began this book about four years ago after his wife died. At his age, he says, people have less of a present and no future, so the past becomes larger. When he started thinking about his childhood, the memories came easily.

Mud’s a dirty business but entrepreneur digs it


Rafting down the Copper River in August 2001, Lauren Padawer and her group neared the mouth where glacial waters flow into the Gulf of Alaska. They stopped, and stepped out onto the muddy bear-tracked delta. High water some weeks before had produced small clear pools, which had been warmed by the sun, creating a perfect natural mud bath.

Surrounded by such beauty, Padawer dipped in the pool and covered herself in the mineral-rich soil, as many visitors had done before her. She felt this moment deeply.

“I just thought, you can’t really pay money for this, at least this experience,” Padawer said.

The notion that “someone should bottle this stuff” was one that others had floated for many years. But as an environmentalist who had made Cordova, Alaska, her home, Padawer couldn’t shake the feeling that she ought to be the one to take on the project.

That the mud is a sustainable resource — the river deposits millions of tons per year — further compelled her.

In spring 2004, Padawer began dedicating time to research. By February 2006, she registered Alaska Glacial Mud Co. as a limited liability company located in Cordova. Her first product, the Glacial Facial Purifying Mineral Mud Masque, is set to hit local store shelves this month and will be available for purchase through the company’s Web site. She also plans to develop a larger product line incorporating glacial mud, which will roll out over the next two years.

Born and raised in St. Louis, 28-year-old Padawer grew up in a middle-class Jewish family. She became increasingly active in environmental issues during her college years at Washington University, where she studied biology and art.

Rooted in her activism were the values of tikkun olam, or healing the world, which after college carried Padawer into work on a political campaign in Anchorage, Alaska, followed by a yearlong fellowship program with the Jewish Organizing Initiative in Boston, living and working together with other Jewish fellows on social justice issues of all kinds. Padawer also became involved in the Jewish environmental organization, Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life (COEJL) and a group called the Tikkun Gathering.

“I was really making an effort to be part of a Jewish community that was dedicated to activism,” Padawer said.

But when the year was up, she followed a job opportunity back to Alaska, where she worked as a grant writer and program coordinator for a nonprofit dedicated to wilderness and native Eyak culture. It was around that time Padawer made the rafting trip down the Copper River. The sum of her experiences in Cordova and her passion for wilderness preservation inspired her to stay.

She immersed herself in the community “so that I could call it my experience,” she said. When her work with the Eyak Preservation Council ended, Padawer worked as a salmon biologist and also took jobs fishing for salmon, as well as hanging and fixing fishing nets.

“I spent the last five years integrating myself and cultivating relationships and developing a relationship with the land and the place,” she said.
All the while, her business concept was steeping.

Padawer said that mud became a way to create a sustainable business and add to the local economy. “It was something that was in line with all the experiences that added up for me to that point,” she said.

Early financing came directly from the businesswoman herself, as well as a family loan. But the real kick-start came from the community in which she had invested: Padawer won a competitive rural entrepreneurial grant from an organization called Alaska Marketplace.

Donations of time and resources also came from a variety of people. Major contributors include Padawer’s two sisters — one is a lawyer, the other works in public relations — as well as her best friend, a graphic designer who worked in cosmetic packaging design for five years at Estée Lauder. There’s also a friend who donates his truck, so the young entrepreneur can be more efficient in hauling the mud she harvests by hand from the Copper River.

Indeed, Padawer has been getting her hands dirty in all aspects of the business. As the company’s sole paid employee, she is involved in everything from collecting the mud and processing it to cleaning the shop, answering the phone and e-mails, developing the markets, packaging the mud and working with the formulator.

The final product features more than 50 percent glacial mud, which naturally contains more than 60 major and trace elements associated with skin-cell regeneration. It is also enriched with organic botanical extracts from the Pacific Northwest, including elderflower, yarrow and anti-oxidant-rich ingredients like cranberry and Vitamin E.

While there are companies in Canada, New Zealand and Iceland marketing similar glacial mud products, Padawer noted that hers is the first Alaskan company “to source it, process it in any quantity and manufacture a product with it.” That final product also claims to be the most mineral-rich and pure mud in the world.

And rather than being an afterthought, protecting the source of the mud — the Copper River — might better be described as the inspiration for Padawer’s business. Her company will donate 10 percent of profits to land preservation, habitat restoration and environmental education for youth.

“My goal is to be able to support the community I live in and support the organizations that are working to protect the Copper River…. It supports wildlife and a human food resource, and it’s something that I want to see preserved for generations into the future,” Padawer said.

And while global climate change might seem to be a business concern for Padawer, it is not. Accumulating from the drainage of numerous glaciers and the Bagley Icefield, the source is so plentiful that “regardless of warming, the supply is abundant,” Padawer said.

In various ways, Padawer recognizes she is bridging disparate worlds, namely “this remote wild place and this very urban cosmetic industry,” she said. That means traveling to Los Angeles for certain business resources that can’t be fulfilled in Alaska, like a cosmetic research lab, a packaging distributor and a contract manufacturer.

Trio of films offers eclectic choices: sea, spies, punk


“The Guardian”

Raised in a secular Jewish family in Chicago, “The Guardian” director Andrew Davis learned early the values and ethics he continues to believe in.

“My parents taught me war is not a good thing, so do everything you can to not go to war,” he says during a telephone interview. “And it’d be great if the armies of the world could help people and not hurt people.”

“The Guardian,” which opens on Sept. 29, is about the U.S. Coast Guard’s rescue swimmers, of whom there are only about 300 because of the rigorous training and the dangers of the job. Written by Ron L. Brinkerhoff, the film stars Kevin Costner as a heroic but aging swimmer based at Alaska’s Kodiak Island. Assigned to training school, he struggles to teach a brash, possibly reckless young recruit played by Ashton Kutcher.

“At this stage of my life or career, I didn’t want to make a film about how wonderful it is to kill somebody,” says Davis, primarily known for action films, including “Collateral Damage” (2002). “There are no bad people in this movie. Nature and the forces of weather motivate the heroism.

“I’ve done movies about cops and about soldiers, where violence is part of the tension and the entertainment. My most successful movie is ‘The Fugitive,’ which starts off with a woman being killed because her husband was not cooperating in drug protocol. That’s a very dark environment. So I was glad to make a movie where violence is not a part of it.”

Davis’ first work on a feature film was as assistant cameraman on Haskell Wexler’s groundbreaking “Medium Cool,” a political drama shot during Chicago’s 1968 Democratic Convention. His directorial debut was 1978’s “Stoney Island,” based on his brother’s experiences growing up white in Chicago’s racially changing South Side. Davis also directed “A Perfect Murder,” “Under Siege” and “Holes.”

Preparations were under way to shoot “The Guardian” in New Orleans, when Hurricane Katrina hit last year. The crew evacuated to Shreveport, La., amid the chaos.

“We were six weeks away from shooting,” Davis says. “When we arrived at Shreveport, there were 1,000 evacuees at the university gymnasium. So we were in the midst of an evacuation and trying to keep our movie alive. We hired about 200 people all told who had been affected by the storm — cast and crew.”

The Coast Guard, itself, which is part of the Department of Homeland Security, was called into action to help those stranded after Katrina. By all accounts, it performed outstandingly — the Coast Guard’s Leadership News cited 24,135 lives saved by its personnel.Katrina inspired Davis: “I thought it was more important than ever to make this film and really point out what these guys do.”

“We felt the best thing we could do was maybe try to bring more light on these guys, so hopefully the government will fund them better, and there’ll be more of them, and they’ll get better facilities to train in,” Davis says. “It’s an element of the military I do support.”

— Steven Rosen, Contributing Writer

“American Hardcore: A Tribal History”

What would you do if the frustration in your life manifested itself in worries about civil liberties and a lack of freedom of speech, and you felt a combination of repression and depression about the policies and practices of the current political administration? You might be upset enough to write your local government representative or you just might be angry enough to write a punk song.

Steven Blush, author, promoter and now scriptwriter compiled the quotations of around 60 of the most notable American-born hardcore bands in “American Hardcore: A Tribal History.” In the book, Blush documents the history of the more hard-edged, second-generation of punk rock.Following up on the book’s success, Blush has written and produced a documentary using the same format. The fragmented and frustrated feelings that inspired this music are all too familiar to Blush, from his beginnings as a nice Jewish boy to his sub-culturally-inspired adulthood.

Growing up in the Lower East Side of Manhattan, Blush is the son of a typical Jewish family. His parents made sure he was always cared for; he became bar mitzvah and on the cusp of adulthood, they sent him to George Washington University to get a law degree.

One night while in college, Blush went out to a club and became fascinated by something that would change his life — a band called Black Flag. The group was one of a handful of emerging sub-cultural bands made up of and being followed by a bunch of frustrated and wistful kids with backgrounds similar to Blush’s.

Blush remembers, “I had liked groups like the Sex Pistols; they were pure rock ‘n’ roll out of England, known for being rebellious. Although I loved the music, I had trouble identifying with the scene completely, because most of the people who followed them were either artists, bisexual or heavily into drugs. It really wasn’t me; I was just a suburban kid who played basketball.”

But after he witnessed the slam dancing — the raw and often violent tendencies of what was to become standard behavior at hardcore shows — Blush found his calling. He quickly made friends with everyone in the scene by being the first DJ on the East Coast to play the bands on college radio and by letting touring bands stay on his couch when in town. Blush’s life finally had a deeper meaning for him.

He recalls, “My mom tried to give me the best education and surroundings, whatever our resources were, but I never connected to it and never agreed to it. I didn’t feel part of the thing. The values in my high school were materialistic, they weren’t into the big picture, like politics and free speech. When American hardcore music happened, it was like a perfect storm, it took me over.”

Blush was certainly not the only frustrated kid willing to submit allegiance to the hardcore music scene. From 1980 to 1985, the American hardcore subculture rallied support for its cause against yuppies, conservatism, drugs and most especially, the Regan administration.Blush adds, “It turns out I have been shaped by two ethical codes, one from my Jewish heritage, which I learned from my family, and one from being a part of this music scene. Writing the book and doing the movie is studying my life’s path.”

Jewish Getaways


 

Looking for a getaway with a Jewish twist? With Passover approaching and summer down the road, there are many opportunities for such travel. Here are a few options:

Seders Far and Near

When it comes to celebrating Passover, you can truly be a wandering Jew, thanks to an abundance of tour packages:

Spend Passover in Hollywood — Florida that is — or in one of six other Sunshine State resorts, including the Ritz Carlton, Naples.

Lasko Family Kosher Tours’ Passover packages include daily services and Torah lectures, glatt kosher gourmet meals, entertainment, private or group seders and activities for adults and children. Phoenix, Arizona and Westchester, N.Y., programs also available.

For information, call (800) 532-9119 or go to www.laskotours.com.

Ciao bella! It’s off to Italy’s Venice Lido, where you can spend Passover gazing at the Mediterranean from your beachfront resort. With 47 years in the business, Leisure Time Tours is also offering glatt kosher Passover packages in Arizona, Florida or New York’s Catskill Mountains.

(800) 223-2624; www.leisuretimetours.com.

Tequila anyone? Le Voyage Travel offers packages at Club Med Ixtapa and the Hilton Los Cabos. Glatt kosher buffets, entertainment, children’s programs and, of course, seders are included in these waterfront excursions.

(877) 452-8744; www.levoyage.com.

Sun, sand and seders await at Club Kosher’s “Passover in Paradise” at the Hilton Cancun Beach and Golf Resort. Glatt kosher meals, including a special children’s menu; family and communal seders; daily Torah lectures; evening entertainment; and children’s programs are included.

(866) 567-4372; www.clubkosher.com.

You won’t have to jump into the Red Sea, but you can do a 135-foot bungee jump. Israeli tour operator Tal Tour is offering Pesach in Acapulco. It boasts sky-diving, water-skiing and speed-boating among its many activities. The package includes glatt kosher cuisine, youth programs and entertainment, as well as an onsite synagogue and mikvah.

(800) 825-9399; www.pesachinmexico.com.

It’s all in the details. Global Tours will help you make your travel arrangements for Passover and year-round. Check out its airfare specials.

(800) 881-9230; www.globaltours.com.

Sometimes paradise is as close as your own backyard. World Wide Kosher Tours offers packages at three Southern California luxury resorts: The Lodge at Rancho Mirage, Hilton San Diego Del Mar Resort Hotel, and Loews Coronado Bay Resort. Packages include a choice of group, private or even adult-only seders; lectures and shiurim, children’s programs, outdoor activities and Glatt Kosher meals. (323) 525-0015  www.mypassover.com

Chant and Plant

Jewish National Fund’s (JNF) Travel & Tours has developed a bar and bat mitzvah in Israel program that will start this summer. The tour includes a group ceremony at the southern Wall excavations and group dinner reception celebration.

“In the past, we’ve done private bar and bat mitzvah tours. And now, with the situation having calmed down in Israel, more families want to celebrate their simcha in Israel,” said Michelle Blacher, JNF director of Travel & Tours. “It’s more affordable for families if they join a tour, and it also gives them more activities for the children.”

The packed itinerary includes visits to Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Safed, Masada and the Dead Sea. Participants will also explore tunnels beneath the Western Wall, take part in an archeological dig, kayak on the Jordan River and, of course, plant trees in a JNF forest. A three-day optional extension in Eilat is also available.

The first summer excursion departs June 5, and a December trip is also scheduled. (877) 359-4262; www.jnf.org/travel.

North to Alaska

Admire scenic fjords and vast glaciers while kibitzing with new friends during an eight-day Alaska cruise organized by Jewish tour operator Amazing Journeys and the Jewish Community Center of Greater Pittsburgh.

The cruise, which departs Aug. 12, is open to singles, couples and families. Packages include accommodations, shipboard meals and entertainment, customized and discounted group tours and Shabbat services. Kosher meals can be arranged upon request.

Participants can extend their trip with an optional precruise land tour in Vancouver or a post-cruise visit to Alaska’s interior and Denali National Park.

Amazing Journeys associate Michele Fakiro promises that on every trip the company organizes “even if you don’t know anyone on the first day, we can guarantee that you will make new friends for life.”

www.amazingjourneys.net.

 

Two Women Rabbis Will Fill Pulpits


When Rabbi Johanna Hershenson set off from Orange County for Alaska’s sweeping vistas and majestic peaks, she was eager for a new congregational experience and professional challenges.

She discovered that most Alaskan Jews are exiles by choice who sought the wilderness of the nation’s largest state rather than institutional life.

Apart from the 175 member families she served at Anchorage’s Congregation Beth Sholom, Hershenson found little other Jewish life. As the only non-Orthodox rabbi in Alaska, she became a long-distance consultant to lay synagogue leaders in even more isolated areas, such as Homer and Fairbanks. A local Chabad rabbi and his wife were welcome colleagues, she said.

"It became clear there wasn’t a lot of room for me to grow professionally," said Hershenson, who left Alaska after three years and spent the last 12 months in Madison, Wis., for a self-imposed sabbatical. She considered pursuing a doctorate by researching the juncture of spirituality and psychology but ended up filling in for vacationing colleagues.

On July 1, Hershenson, 35, along with her family, will return to Aliso Viejo’s Temple Beth El, where she will serve as the assistant rabbi to Allen Krause for a second time. Then, like now, the senior rabbi is departing for a sabbatical, although this time Hershenson will not be on her own but helped by a temporary replacement rabbi.

"Jewish life is thriving there," Hershenson said, pointing out the congregation’s growth since 1998, the start of her first Beth El stint, from 425 families to 700. "It’s demography that changes; it’s not that the synagogue has magic pills."

Another female rabbi will also start work locally in July. Westminster’s Temple Beth David is Rabbi Nancy Myers’ first solo pulpit. She previously served for six years as associate rabbi of the 900-family Temple Chai of Long Grove, Ill. With a two-year contract at the smaller, 350-family Beth David congregation, Myers is the permanent replacement for Robert Klensin, who served a year as interim rabbi.

The opening arose because of the unexpected resignation of Beth David’s 13-year spiritual leader, Michael Mayershon, who stepped down in spring of 2002 (see story, page 9).

Myers, 34, impressed the Beth David search committee, which observed during a daylong trial as each finalist taught an adult education class, led a tot Shabbat service and offered pastoral counseling advice to a congregant struggling with teenagers, said Mark Sklan, the congregation’s past president.

"She was magnificent," he said.

Myers, along with her husband, Paul Prunty, and two toddlers, relocated last month to Cypress.

The Frozen Chosen


Although my rabbinic colleagues will always go the extra mile to serve their communities, I believe I actually cover the most miles in my commute: Every other month or so, I start my journey at 4:30 a.m. in the North Valley and end it some 10 hours later in a small airport in Juneau, Ala. Outside the gate, a member of the Juneau Jewish Community (JJC) smiles and waves to me — a weekend of serving the Frozen Chosen begins.

Through many years of rabbinic traveling and teaching, I’ve been blessed to serve congregations from Long Island to Maui and from Canada to Australia. I’ve prayed in shuls from Transylvania to Argentina, and I’ve discovered that in all the world Juneau’s community is unique. The fusion of Alaskan life and Jewish tradition never ceases to amaze me.

The JJC presently has about 40 core households and no permanent building. We often pray in local senior centers, churches or members’ homes.

I began learning about Alaskan customs during my first Shabbat morning service in spring of 2001. I sat in a cozy, rustic living room, and as I prepared to sing an opening nigun, I looked around the crowded room and realized I was surrounded by a circle of smiling faces and wiggling toes — I was the only one wearing shoes. I then noticed the mountain of rubber shoes and winter boots piled near the door.

"It’s always snowy, slushy or just plain muddy in Juneau," the president said. "We don’t wear shoes in our houses."

So I quickly added my black dress heels to the pile, and now know how to lead home-based services in stocking feet.

Jews initially arrived in Alaska in the mid-19th century as whalers and traders. Eventually, Jews began to settle in the territory, teaching their traditions and learning about native ways. Over time, Jews married natives and Jewish family names are not uncommon among native peoples. An unexpected name emerged among the natives of a Northwestern tribe, which resides in the area around Bethel. The tribe is known as the Yupiks, and numerous marriages have occurred between Yupiks and Jews. The offspring actually call themselves "Jew-piks," proud of each culture and welcome in Bethel’s small Jewish community.

Of course, Juneau is Alaska’s capital; this year, when the legislative session began, the Jewish population swelled, because four Jewish legislators and their families joined the JJC. Juneau is a very political little town, and many JJC members serve the government in some capacity. Before one of my last visits, one of the members unexpectedly arranged for me to open a session at the state House of Representatives. Although I was ambivalent at first, because of church-state issues, I realized that my participation was important to the Jewish community.

"A rabbi hasn’t opened a session in years," they told me, "and most legislators have never even heard of a female rabbi."

With some hesitation, I accepted the honor, viewing it as a unique opportunity to teach and to offer a context for making the decisions of governing. Careful to avoid explicit reference to God and phrases such as "let us pray," I offered these words to open the legislative session on Jan. 27:

"In ancient days, the sages of the Talmud — who compiled Jewish law and lore — taught that ‘every deliberation conducted for the sake of heaven will … have lasting value.’ As it is said in the ancient tongue: Kol machloket she’he l’shem shamayim, sofah l’hitkayem. (Pirke Avot 5:19)

"May your deliberations, in these honorable halls, truly be for the sake of heaven. May your discussions genuinely be for the sake of the men and women who depend on you, as well as the innocent children and the wild creatures whose care is entrusted to you. Through your debates, may you honestly pursue the best interests of those who dwell in the cities, towns, villages and untamed places of this great state. May you also fulfill your sacred obligation to protect this precious land itself.

"May you continue to be a privileged partner with the Eternal Holy Source of Life to protect and promote the well-being of those you serve — and may all your deliberations truly be of lasting value. Cain y’hi ratzon, so may it be."

While remarkable opportunities like addressing the House make serving in Juneau exciting, unexpected daily activities and conversations make it unforgettable. In the winter, it was amazing to sing "Shechecheyanu" as congregants and I stood beside an iceberg that had frozen in Mendenhall Lake in front of Mendenhall Glacier. An equally memorable moment occurred on an earlier visit, as I discussed a bar mitzvah project with a 12-year-old Alaskan student; he wanted to make a shofar.

"Great," I said, "what kind of horn will you use?"

He replied "Dahl sheep — they’re all over."

"And how will you get the horn?" I asked.

"Well," he said matter-of-factly, "Dad and I will go hunting."

Only in Alaska, I laughed to myself, feeling, again that the commute is always worthwhile.


Sheryl Nosan is rabbi of Temple Beth Torah of the San Fernando Valley in Granada Hills. She will be returning to Alaska on May 30.

Fuzz


A day before I left for a vacation cruise to Alaska, I looked in the mirror and spied, atop my clean, bald head — Hair! There wasn’t much of it, standing less than one-sixteenth of an inch tall. But when I ran my hand over my crown, I felt the delicious tickle of stubble.

"It’s back!" I cried to my friend Susan, who was lending me a gown for the cruise’s formal night. We jumped up and down the way we did in high school when the latest "he" called. I’ve been a cue ball since Day 12 of my first round of chemo. All my hair is gone, including eyebrows and lashes. The only really bad part, aside from looking like a Conehead, is the way drafts of cold air make my forehead feel glacial. In Alaska, I spent time looking for bald eagles, seeking to join their minyan.

Still, the stubble signified as nothing else could that Taxol and carboplatin were leaving my system, and four months of bravery before the IV drip were at an end.

And I had been brave — if by that you mean accepting the inevitable without flinching. Brave and grateful, for the many lucky breaks of getting cancer in the 21st century, where we at least have a fighting chance of extra time. Yet my happiness at the sight of these tiny fractions of colorless cilia revealed a sullen truth: I hate wearing my wigs. They’re beautiful, probably nicer than my real hair. But they itch. And they make me feel anxious and schizophrenic, like the Cameron Diaz character in "Shrek," conventionally lovely only until sundown.

And I’m not so happy being bald, however lovely people find the shape of my skull.

The last time I wrote about hair and the cancer patient, I quoted two Hebrew definitions of female beauty, "yofi" and "chayn."

"Yofi" was my wig, conventionally pretty, phony and safe. "Chayn," the more internal attractiveness meaning "finding favor," was my bare head, either bald or wearing the baseball cap, naked but true. As I entered the world of chemotherapy, I wondered which would it be: wig or bald. But life is not either/or; it’s more complex that that.

For now, I had turned a corner. After chemo, I wanted my self back, not just my old pre-cancer self, but the new self that had grown and changed by circumstance. How to reconstitute this self post-chemo was the spiritual dilemma.

Aviva Zornberg, writing in "The Beginning of Desire," says that the biblical Joseph’s problem in reuniting with his brothers was to "remember" himself. They had ripped up his coat of many colors and sold him into slavery, depriving him of his family and tradition. Now they had to "reassemble fragments of his repressed past."

If I am to live fully in the aftermath (and shadow) of cancer, this is my task too. I can’t deny that time and security have been ripped from me. But also, I must not let bitterness cast me into the pit of paralysis. I regarded this vacation as a test: Which of these selves — wig or bald or both — would I present on the ship?

Fast forward to the good ship Statendam on its first night heading north from Vancouver to Seward into the heart of fjord country.

I’m in the library room, wearing my wig and makeup and a new dress, before dinner. True, the wig is phony, but it has panache. Two good-looking guys are talking Israeli politics and immediately invite my opinion. Before you can say "Yasser Arafat is no friend of peace," we are all best buds.

Fast forward again, it’s after midnight. We’re walking around the Promenade deck, me and one of the two fast-talkers. By now, we’ve been talking for hours, like we’ve known each other forever. Beyond Israel, we have nothing in common except that we’re both bald. Except, of course, he doesn’t know that. And if I have my way, he never will.

It’s a big if. Post-chemo, I’m alive with sensations I haven’t known since before my diagnosis. One of them is fear: If he kisses me, will my wig fall off?

And just as I’m thinking this, bathed in starlight and the soothing hum of a ship under the moon, he makes his move.

I turn to him. I prop my elbows on his shoulders and hold onto my hair for dear life. He’s a strong guy, and now I increase my grip on my head.

He moves his hand over my cheek. He goes for my hair. My wig moves, a full half-inch.

He stops breathing. He moves my wig again, this time on purpose.

"Cancer?" he says.

What have I got to lose? I take off the wig. Will he see the mark of "chayn?"

"Very sexy," he says. "You know, your hair is growing back."