Moving and shaking


Temple Beth Am congregants Louis and Judith Miller have bequeathed $1 million to the Schechter Institutes’ TALI Education Fund in Israel. 

The Jerusalem-based Schechter Institutes provide pluralistic Jewish education to individuals young and old, Israeli and otherwise. The donation is the latest by the Millers. According to a press release, “Their generosity has helped to provide the engine for growth of the TALI School Network, which has more than doubled in size from 20,000 pupils in 2003 to 45,000 pupils in 2013.” The couple has previously provided an endowment to American Jewish University’s Introduction to Judaism program.

Louis Miller serves as a member of the board of trustees at the Schechter Institute of Jewish Studies, a graduate school. 

Ameinu (Our People) honored Raphael J. Sonenshein with the Tzedek Award on Jan. 22. The award calls attention to those who have contributed significantly to the community and pursued social justice in the United States and Israel.

Sonenshein is executive director at the Edmund G. “Pat” Brown Institute of Public Affairs at California State University, Los Angeles. He is also a columnist for the Journal. 

An organization with progressive Jewish values, Ameinu runs campaigns, projects and events supporting social and economic justice in Israel and North America. Established in 2004, Ameinu describes itself as North America’s “leading grass-roots progressive Zionist organization.”

The ceremony, which was part of the decade-old group’s gala dinner, was held at Sephardic Temple Tifereth Israel on Wilshire Boulevard.

“Pressman’s Got Talent,” a Jan. 25 gala dinner for Pressman Academy of Temple Beth Am, a Conservative Jewish day school, honored Beth Am supporters Wanda and Avi Peretz and Marshall Temkin. 

They are “dedicated lay leaders who have not stopped supporting our school in everything that they do,” Pressman day school administrator Deborah Kollin told the Journal.

Temkin and the Peretzes received the Etz Chaim Award. 

From left: Rabbi Joel Rembaum and honoree Marshall Temkin. Photo by Lee Salem

The evening also honored Pressman faculty members Bella Kapp, Rachel Klein and Noa Schechter. Kapp, a general studies teacher in the elementary school; Klein, head teacher in the early childhood center; and Schechter, a Hebrew specialist in the Hebrew school, received the Teacher Recognition Award. 

Mallory Lee, Pamela Levine and Yana Temkin served as event chairs.

Moving and Shaking acknowledges accomplishments by members of the local Jewish community, including people who start new jobs, leave jobs, win awards and more, as well as local events that featured leaders from the Jewish and Israeli communities. Got a tip? E-mail it to ryant@jewishjournal.com. 

A new left view on Israel


A symptom of our dysfunctional times is that political opponents — whether Republicans versus Democrats in Congress or Zionists versus Israel bashers on campuses — not only disagree on fundamental issues, but they also do not even share the same language and terminology.    

So posits Gideon Aronoff, CEO of Ameinu (Our People), whose organization has published a kind of lexicon for “progressives” in an attempt to counter the verbal attacks by the “far left” on the latter’s own grounds.

Titled “The Third Narrative,” the 25-page pamphlet takes on such blood-pressure-raising discussion points as “Is Israel an ‘apartheid state’?” “Is pro-Israel and progressive an oxymoron?” and “Does the pro-Israel lobby have a stranglehold on the U.S. government?”

“In the Near East conflict, there is an Israeli narrative, and there is a Palestinian narrative,” Aronoff said during a recent visit to Los Angeles. “There won’t be any settlement until both opponents understand that there is some good and some bad on each side’s position.”

The booklet, written in clear and concise language by Dan Fleshler, an Ameinu board member, summarizes its viewpoint in an introductory statement: “We think the American left — Jewish and non-Jewish — could use a third narrative, one that neither reflexively attacks, nor reflexively justifies, Israel’s policies and actions.”

Ameinu seeks to draw a clear line between criticism of Israel and delegitimization of the state, and perhaps a more difficult line between the far left and progressives.

Aronoff defines the former as “activists who are committed to a particular strict political orthodoxy, with the Palestinian narrative as one of its core beliefs. Progressive activists are inclined toward liberal or left positions, but are open to a broader array of facts and interpretations, so are likely to be open to a Third Narrative approach on the Middle East.”

The Third Narrative campaign is one sign of a new level of energy and activity at Ameinu, which describes itself as “the leading grass-roots progressive Zionist organization in North America.”

It was established in 2004 as the successor organization to the venerable Labor Zionist Alliance, which for decades reflected and supported the policies of Israel’s founders, such as David Ben-Gurion and Golda Meir.

Another and complementary indicator is the hiring of Aronoff, who represents the third generation of Habonim (Labor Zionist youth movement) alumni in his family. For the preceding 12 years, he was the president and CEO of HIAS, the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, active in a dozen countries, including Israel.

In parallel, Ameinu has beefed up its national board of directors by adding six well-known Jewish community activists and has started a drive to expand its membership and add new chapters to its existing ones in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Detroit, St. Louis, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C.

In line with its pro-labor tradition, Ameinu plans to reinvigorate its role “as a passionate advocate for economic and social justice in America and the world,” according to Kenneth Bob, Ameinu’s president.

Currently, Ameinu lists some 2,000 to 3,000 supporters in the United States and Canada, and it has established beachheads in Australia and South Africa. It runs — with a small staff — on an annual budget of close to
$1 million, Aronoff said.

He is casting a wide net to boost membership among “mainstream Jews who speak in the language of the left, progressive American Christians, especially among Presbyterians and Methodists,” and liberal Arab Americans.

As one step, he plans to reach out to the kind of progressives who read such magazines as Mother Jones, The American Prospect and the English edition of the Israeli daily Haaretz.

Most recently, Ameinu’s statements have strongly condemned a tough Israeli law to crack down on “asylum seekers,” or illegal immigrants from Africa, and government plans, later halted, to relocate thousands of Bedouin from their villages.

Locally, Ameinu leadership includes such veterans of liberal causes as Martin Taft and Alisa Belinkoff Katz, both of Los Angeles, and Sharon Bershtel of Long Beach. As members of Ameinu’s national board of directors, all three have been involved in launching the Third Narrative campaign.

At present, this effort is only in its beginning stage on the local scene, said Taft, a mechanical engineer and management consultant, and Katz, who has served as Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky’s chief deputy for 25 years.

One recent achievement of the local group was to finalize the purchase of the Habonim camp in Big Bear, while on Jan. 22 the group will confer its Tzedek award on Raphael J. Sonenshein, executive director of the Pat Brown Institute for Public Affairs at California State University, Los Angeles, and a columnist for the Journal.

To download the contents of “The Third Narrative” or request a printed copy, visit this story at jewishjournal.com.

Ameinu head to lead L.A. seminar


Though Labor Zionism, at one time Israel’s dominant political force under David Ben-Gurion and a major voice in the American Jewish community, no longer wields its once-muscular power, it is not dead and is even showing signs of revival and rejuvenation.

So says Kenneth Bob, national president of Ameinu (Hebrew for “our people”), the American successor organization for the Labor Zionist Alliance, who will lead an all-day seminar in Los Angeles on March 27.

Ameinu’s national membership stands at a modest 5,000, but during the past few years, it has seen an infusion of younger men and women among its members and leaders, Bob noted in a phone call from his New Jersey home.

In addition, new chapters have recently been established in St. Louis, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C.

Bob, and through him Ameinu, also wields considerable influence by sitting on the boards of such major organizations as the Jewish Agency for Israel, World Zionist Organization, Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, AIPAC and Jewish National Fund.

He is also on the advisory board of J Street, a natural connection for Ameinu, which describes itself as the leading progressive Zionist organization in the United States.

Bob will speak at the Jewish Federation Building on “An American Progressive Activist Views the Effects of Arab Unrest on Israel and the U.S.” and “Progressive Zionism in 2011.”

In his professional life, Bob, 58, is a software and solar energy entrepreneur and previously worked on an Israeli kibbutz for 14 years.

Although it is common for American liberal Zionists to view the current political situation in Israel with considerable concern and pessimism, Bob sees some hopeful signs.

In recent years, such “center-right” stalwarts as former and current prime ministers Ariel Sharon, Ehud Olmert and Benjamin Netanyahu have embraced the once-liberal position of a two-state solution.

“This would have been impossible not so very long ago, Bob said.

Currently, the most urgent domestic problem facing Israel is how to address the integration of its Arab minority into mainstream society, Bob believes.

He is encouraged that veteran conservative leader Moshe Arens has strongly endorsed this view, Bob said.

On the American Jewish scene, Bob also sees some changes. “In general, and in Ameinu specifically, American Jews are now less concerned with ideological differences and more focused on concrete issues and positions, he said.

Early reservations for the March 27 seminar are advised; call (323) 655-2842 or e-mail {encode=”LZinLA@aol.com” title=”LZinLA@aol.com”}. Attendance at the morning and afternoon seminar sessions, including kosher lunch, is $25 for Ameinu and Na’amat members, and $35 for nonmembers.