SNEAK PEEK: Seinfeld’s apartment gets an open house in West Hollywood

It’s a Festivus miracle: a West Hollywood storefront on Melrose Avenue has been transformed into an exact replica of Jerry Seinfeld’s New York apartment from the sitcom “Seinfeld,” opening to the public Dec. 16.

“Seinfeld: The Apartment” is hard to miss – look for the mural of George Costanza posing in his tighty whities – a shrine to all things “Seinfeld” that recreates the comedian’s kitchen and living room. The online television company Hulu organized this touring show after it acquired exclusive streaming rights to all of the “Seinfeld” episodes.

Visitors are greeted by Jerry’s booth in Monk’s Restaurant from the show’s set, flanked by other memorabilia, such as the leather couch from George’s undies shoot. Around a corner is the corridor to apartment 5A, which guests are invited to enter Kramer style – suddenly and out of breath.

The apartment itself is furnished down to the details, with cereal boxes stocked above the kitchen sink and a green bicycle hanging from the wall through the doorway.

Just outside, a concrete patio serves as a Festivus pole lot (think Christmas tree lot, but for Festivus). The first 50 fans at the exhibit each day will each get a desktop Festivus pole to honor a holiday invented by George Costanza’s cheapskate father as a rebellion against the commercialization of Christmas – don’t forget to notify your boss that you’ll be out celebrating on Dec. 23.

Behind the apartment, a canvas styled as a brick wall bears dozens of signatures from guest stars, who scrawled their farewell messages during the taping of the show’s finale.

On Dec. 15, the day before the exhibition opened to the public, Larry Thomas, better known as the Soup Nazi (“The Soup Nazi,” Season 7, Episode 6), pointed to his mark on television history: a poorly drawn heart on the canvas sheet with the words, “No Soup For You!” scrawled in capitals inside.

“I don’t know how many actors can tell you they were on their favorite TV show,” said Thomas, who described himself as a religious watcher of the show during its original NBC run.

Sporting a mustache and a long white apron, Thomas described how he rocketed into unexpected stardom as perhaps the show’s most famous guest star.

Barely a day has gone by since he taped the Soup Nazi episode when Thomas is not asked to repeat the famous line from his six-minute appearance on the 180-episode show, he said.

“Starting the next day, I was no longer the same guy – I was now the Soup Nazi,” he said.

The show’s cultural influence has exhibited remarkable staying power, despite the fact that the final episode first aired in 1998. Thomas has sold nearly 19,000 autographed pictures of himself in Soup Nazi garb to fans all over the world, and this year published a book titled, “Confessions of a Soup Nazi: An Adventure in Acting and Cooking.”

“Now that Hulu is streaming the whole series, it’s going to reach a whole new generation of young people that don’t actually watch [regular] television,” Thomas said.

Like Seinfeld’s character, the exhibit is native to New York. After a successful run there, Hulu decided to bring it to Los Angeles to promote its service.

“It was such a great hit in New York that we had to bring it to the fans in Los Angeles,” said Hulu publicist Mitchell Squires. “Perfect timing for Festivus.”

“Seinfeld: The Apartment” is located at 8445 Melrose Ave. Open to the public from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Dec. 16-Dec. 20.

Five killed, at least eight injured in Berkeley balcony collapse

Five young Irish citizens were killed and at least eight other people were injured when an apartment balcony collapsed early on Tuesday in the Californian city of Berkeley, Ireland's foreign minister said.

Earlier, Berkeley Police Department spokeswoman Jennifer Coats said the survivors' injuries were “very serious and potentially life-threatening”. She confirmed the death toll but did not give the nationality of those involved.

Irish Foreign Minister Charlie Flanagan said police had indicated they did not believe any other nationalities were among the dead.

“My understanding is that four people were declared dead at the scene, one later died in hospital. Up to eight or nine others have been taken to hospitals. Those involved are believed to be Irish students for the most part,” Flanagan told national broadcaster RTE.

“My heart goes out to the families and loved ones of the deceased and those who have been injured.”

Thousands of Irish students travel to the United States on temporary working visas every summer.

Coats said callers had first reported the collapse at the multi-story block in the downtown area of the college city near San Francisco at around 12:45 a.m. local time.

Californian police are working with the fire department and city officials to work out what caused the collapse, Coats said.

Flanagan said the balcony collapse seemed to be an accident.

New Yorker told to remove mezuzah sues landlord

An Orthodox Jewish man from suburban New York City sued his landlord for demanding that he remove the mezuzah from his apartment’s doorpost.

Arye Sachs of North Babylon on Long Island filed a lawsuit this week in Brooklyn federal court, the New York Post reported.

In the lawsuit, Sachs said his landlord ordered him to remove the mezuzah several times and then evicted him, saying “This is a Christian residence.” The mezuzah was missing after he returned home from a trip last month, according to the Post.

The lawsuit calls the mezuzah, a family heirloom that came from his Holocaust-survivor grandfather, a “priceless, irreplaceable protector.”

Sachs in the lawsuit credits the mezuzah with his successful recovery from three strokes and an amicable divorce.

Teriton tenants win battle to stay in historic apartment complex

After a three-year battle with alleged religious nonprofit Or Khaim Hashalom, tenants of the historic 28-unit Teriton Apartments in Santa Monica have won the right to remain in or return to their apartments for up to seven years under their former rent-controlled leases, according to a settlement made public Dec. 4. Jurisdiction will be returned to the Santa Monica Rent Control Board.

Tenants have also received monetary restitution from Or Khaim Hashalom, negotiated individually and confidentially. Additionally, the nonprofit must adopt a comprehensive, written fair-housing policy and provide training for property managers. In addition, its IRS status, donations and applications and rental agreements must be monitored for three years by the Santa Monica City Attorney’s Office.

“This is really a wonderful outcome,” said Dan Zaidman, whose mother, Nathalie, 93, has lived in the complex for 40 years and has become both physically and mentally impaired. “To move her right now would have been very traumatic.”

Approximately 10 of the tenants affected by the ruling, including Zaidman, are currently living at the Teriton. Another, Kaveh Zal, has returned to the building.

The controversy began in November 2005, when owners Rouhollah Esmailzadeh and others, who had purchased the building in April 2005 for an estimated $10.5 million, obtained a demolition permit. The action triggered a routine review by the Santa Monica Landmarks Commission of the three-story garden apartment building designed by architect Sanford Kent in 1949, which sits on almost an acre at 130-142 San Vicente Blvd.

The following April, in a scheme Santa Monica Deputy City Attorney Gary Rhoades described as “odd, complicated and, hopefully, one of a kind,” tenants received notice that religious nonprofit Or Khaim Hashalom, which had incorporated only three months earlier, had purchased the building.

The organization, under spiritual head Rabbi Hertzl Illulian, sought to evict the tenants, demolish the building and build up to 40 luxury condominiums, as well as provide housing for Jewish refugees from the Middle East.

Multiple hearings and lawsuits ensued, with the tenants claiming that the mission of the nonprofit violated their civil rights according to 42:405 of the Fair Housing Act. They were represented by attorney Christopher Brainard.

The Santa Monica city attorney’s consumer protection unit concurrently filed a lawsuit against Or Khaim Hashalom; its legal representative, attorney Rosario Perry; and others for alleged discriminatory practices, including “terminating their tenancies because of their race, religion and national origin.”

Meanwhile, the Teriton was unanimously declared a historic landmark by the Landmarks Commission on Nov. 13, 2006. That decision was upheld by the Santa Monica City Council on June 12, 2007, when the council rejected an appeal by Or Khaim Hashalom, claiming it was exempt from landmarking under California Government Code Section 3736(c), which allows an organization to alter or destroy historical buildings under certain conditions, including economic hardship or hindrance of religious mission.

Eventually, after Or Khaim Hashalom failed to have the discrimination lawsuits dismissed, a series of negotiations with parties from both cases followed, with retired Judge Robert Altman mediating.

Separately, Or Khaim Hashalom filed suit against the city of Santa Monica, challenging the City Council’s designation of the Teriton Apartments as a historic landmark. On Oct. 15, 2008, Judge James C. Chalfont denied that claim.

Or Khaim Hashalom has appealed the judgment, with a ruling expected in about a year, according to the group’s legal representative, Perry, who also serves as secretary of its board of directors. Tenants’ attorney Brainard believes the designation will not be overturned.

The building was put up for sale on Nov. 15, 2008, at an undisclosed price. Any potential buyer would be obligated to honor the terms of the settlement, according to Brainard.

Or Khaim Hashalom’s Rabbi Illulian remains optimistic. “We lost a lot of money, a lot of time, energy and hopes, but we don’t give up,” he said.

For previous stories on the Teriton:

Teriton ‘landmark’ status upheld but residents still face eviction

Santa Monica apartment building at center of battle receives ‘landmark’ status

Fate of Santa Monica apartment building embroils rabbi and residents in legal battle

AUDIO: Iranian American Jews — Death and violence in the community (taboo?)

Local Iranian Jewish community leaders on recent incidents of violence in the community and the traditional taboo on discussing the topic.

From Karmel Melamed’s Iranian American Jews blog.

Teriton ‘landmark’ status upheld but residents still face eviction

A contested Santa Monica apartment complex owned by a Jewish nonprofit, which had hoped to raze the property in favor of a synagogue and condos for Middle East refugees, has had its landmark status upheld.

But Teriton residents are still facing eviction.

The Santa Monica City Council voted 6-0 to back the 2006 decision by the Santa Monica Landmarks Commission to designate the contested Teriton apartment building at 130-142 San Vicente Boulevard as a city landmark, rejecting an appeal by owner Or Khaim Hashalom, or Living Light of Peace.

The June 12 City Council meeting, with councilmember and Teriton resident Ken Genser recusing himself, marked a defeat for the religious nonprofit, headed by Rabbi Hertzl Illulian, and its controversial plan to demolish the three-story, 28-unit, post-World War II garden apartment building and replace it with a private synagogue and 22 condominiums, including two low-income units.

While the building was rescued, the tenants, many of whom have lived there for decades, face a less certain future.

In April, they received eviction notices informing them that they must vacate their apartments within 120 days or by Aug. 8, or for those 62 and older, within a year or by April 8, 2008.

The evictions are legal under the Ellis Act, a state law giving landlords the right to evict tenants and withdraw from the rental business for at least five years. The tenants are regrouping and deciding their next move.

According to Or Khaim Hashalom attorney Rosario Perry, the nonprofit intends to file suit against the City of Santa Monica on the grounds that the landmarking is illegal under California Government Code Section 3736(c), which allows organizations to alter or destroy historical buildings under certain circumstances, such as economic hardship or hindrance of religious mission.

“We’re going to move forward,” Perry said after the meeting, noting that they can’t use the building as it is. “We’re not dead yet.”

Meditate on Shabbat in the Old City


Minutes from the Western Wall, brilliant bougainvillea grace the courtyard of an Old City apartment encased in Jerusalem’s signature stone. This is where participants in Sarah Yehudit Schneider’s women-only meditation retreats symbolically leave the rest of the week behind to embrace the healing, nurturing powers of Shabbat.

One powerful way to harness these transformative qualities of Shabbat is through stillness.

“Stillness resonates with stillness,” Schneider said. “Hashem ‘rested’ on Shabbat and ceased from creating form and vibration. When we ‘rest’ in silent retreat and meditation, we create a vessel for receiving the precious flow of Divine peace that is uniquely available on this holy day.”

Schneider is the founding director of A Still Small Voice, a correspondence school that provides weekly teachings in classic Jewish wisdom to subscribers around the world. The program has earned the endorsement of many respected leaders, including Rabbi Levi Y. Horowitz, the Bostoner rebbe; Rabbi Noah Weinberg, dean of Yeshivat Aish HaTorah; Rabbi David Refson, rosh yeshiva of Yeshivat Neve Yerushalayim; and Rabbi Meir Schuster of Heritage House.

Schneider, who says she “has pursued the study and practice of religion, meditation and comparative mysticism since the early 1970s,” moved to Jerusalem in 1981. She has studied at Neve Yerushalayim and with Rabbi Yitzchak Ginsburgh, a noted teacher of chasidut and kabbalah.

She teaches privately to individuals or small groups and is the author of “Eating as Tikkun,” “Purim Bursts ” and “Kabbalistic Writings on the Nature of Masculine and Feminine.”

Observing traditional halachic guidelines for Shabbat, Schneider said, usually fosters an atmosphere in which to access the “healing, guiding and enlightening potential inherent on Shabbat.”

Taking this experience to a heightened level is the goal of her meditation retreats, which are also halachic.

“There is a whole other wealth of ‘light’ and bountiful resource that … remains untapped. Shabbat is a healer. Shabbat is a counselor. Shabbat is a teacher. Shabbat is a loyal and beloved companion,” Schneider said. “It is a taste of the world to come — a taste of perfect clarity, health, knowledge and ecstatic satisfaction.”

The typical retreat takes place monthly before Rosh Chodesh. It begins two hours before Shabbat candlelighting and continues two hours after to allow for journal writing. Sitting and walking meditations complement traditional Shabbat davening. Save for meditation instruction and meals, when conversation focuses on the weekly Torah portion, the group maintains an otherwise silent environment.

Schneider leads participants through specific meditation exercises focusing on the Shem Havaya — the Ineffable Name — based on traditional Jewish sources. She also encourages participants to label thoughts that arise in meditation and, in a subsequent exercise, to respond to these thoughts with short affirmations or prayers, including the following examples:

All-encompassing prayer for those who come into one’s thoughts during meditation, whether for good or bad: Please Hashem, bring light and love, trust and healing into this place [or into that person].

A potentially helpful prayer for thinking or planning: Hashem, please engrave this thought into my memory so that when I sit down to plan it will be there.

Remembering (positive): Thank you for all the sweet experiences of my life but help me stay in the present.

Remembering (negative): Hashem, help me find a way of healing this memory, perhaps by just letting it go. In the meantime, help me to stay in the present.

These small retreats accommodate four or five guests. Advance registration is required. Fees include vegetarian/dairy meals and modest accommodations. It also requires shared responsibility for clean-up and other tasks. For more information, contact A Still Small Voice, Correspondence Teachings in Classic Jewish Wisdom, at POB 14503, Jerusalem, 91141; phone (02) 628-2988; fax (02) 628-8302, or visit

Immigrant Dreams

On a recent trip to Manhattan, I traveled to the Lower East Side Tenement Museum, which I’d heard about from friends in Los Angeles.

The core of the museum is a restored 19th- century tenement house, which was a second point of landing, after Ellis Island, for a mixture of Italians, Germans and Eastern European and Sephardic Jews who made the hard crossing to America in search of better lives.

Built in 1863, the five-story tenement at 97 Orchard Street contained 20 three-room apartments, each encompassing about 325 square feet. These tiny apartments typically housed six or more people. It is hard today to imagine how they lived. The apartments had no showers, toilets or baths — those facilities were outside in the backyard. The hallways and most of the rooms were dark and dank. It must have been a challenging situation, to say the least. But thousands of families survived in these hovels until they could afford better.

During my visit I learned about the Rogarshevskys, a Jewish family from Lithuania that immigrated to the United States in 1901. All eight members of the family lived in one of those three-room apartments. The girls slept in the kitchen; the boys on a couch in the front room. The family’s breadwinner — Abraham — worked as a presser in a garment shop; it was physically punishing work. These conditions contributed to Abraham contracting tuberculosis and he eventually died from the disease in 1918. As his beloved wife, Fannie, sat shiva in the family’s tiny apartment, she worried over how she would survive without Abraham.

Fortunately for Fannie, one of the building’s landlords was also from Lithuania, and he offered her the job of tenement janitor in exchange for free rent. For the next 20 years, Fannie did all of the dirty, disagreeable jobs associated with keeping 97 Orchard Street maintained — including cleaning the outdoor toilets and showers.

The Rogarshevskys, finding that their family name was a bit difficult for the American tongue, changed it to Rosenthal before the family moved out and spread across the East Coast. Today, the Rosenthals hold a variety of professional jobs — one is a rabbi, another is a doctor.

The Rogarshevsky story struck a responsive chord with me.

In 1919, my grandfather and grandmother, Jose and Mariana, immigrated separately to the United States from Mexico. Jose was in his early 20s and Mariana was still a teenager. Both had heard about a place called Detroit, where thousands of people were finding jobs assembling automobiles. Like Abraham Rogarshevsky and his family, Jose and Mariana each believed that America held the promise of a better life. As it turned out, neither Jose nor Mariana got farther than Arizona, where they met and married in 1925. My grandfather went to work for the railroad, which provided housing for the newlyweds and countless other Mexican immigrant workers. They were assigned to a 500-square-foot tenement apartment in a concrete block of such apartments known as a "section." The toilet facilities were outside and each apartment was overcrowded.

My grandparents eventually traveled with the railroad to Los Angeles. But inside the walls of a tiny tenement apartment, the first generation of the Delgadillo family in America — much like the Rogarshevsky family a continent away — began to give life and shape to their American dream. Today, the Delgadillos who followed Jose and Mariana — my parents, siblings, uncles, aunts and cousins — have taken the dream beyond what my grandparents might have imagined. We have joined the ranks of teachers, computer engineers, firefighters, bankers, police officers, entrepreneurs and elected public officials. We are no longer guests or new arrivals — we are a part of America in every sense of the word.

Many Americans, and many American leaders, own stories like these. When I consider the similar roads that have brought us all to this wonderful country — the physical and emotional experiences that we share — I find myself more optimistic about the possibility of finding ways to bring us together.

Rocky Delgadillo is city attorney for the city of Los Angeles.


Explaining Hitler: An Interview with Ron Rosenbaum

By Rob Eshman, Managing Editor

If you were alive in 1918 and bumped into an undistinguished German army corporal named Adolf Hitler, wouldn’t you have been duty-bound to murder him? Just more than 10 years ago, a Jewish militant stopped journalist Ron Rosenbaum short with that question. Rosenbaum answered no, that even without Hitler, the Nazi Party would have eventually come to power and the Jews would have been persecuted. But then, Rosenbaum said, “as I said it, I realized the answer wasn’t very clear to me.” Perhaps the Holocaust wouldn’t have happened without that one man. Perhaps Hitler’s evil was unique, extraordinary. “At what point, I wondered, did Hitler become Hitler, the absolute icon of evil?” Rosenbaum, media critic for the New York Observer, began an exhaustive journey of reportage, research and writing that led to “Explaining Hitler” (Random House, $30).

Ron Rosenbaum

The book takes readers on a trek through five decades of Hitler analysis, advancing and usually dismantling theories, ranging from the legendary (a Jewish grandparent) to the ludicrous (a goat bite on his penis) to the pernicious (an inept Jewish doctor) to the dim-witted (his dad beat him) to the most incisive (see below).

The power of this book — and it works a powerful spell on the reader — is Rosenbaum’s ability to at once immerse himself in the search for the historical Hitler while exposing the prejudices that predetermined most conclusions on the nature of Hitler.

Along the way, Rosenbaum runs down what are probably the last warm leads on Hitler’s mysterious past, and uncovers a most original and poignant find: an archive of muckraking anti-Hitler German journalism, whose writers and editors told the truth to a deaf world, and paid with their lives.

The Jewish Journal met Rosenbaum for a breakfast interview — excerpted below — during the Los Angeles leg of his book tour. Imagine the anthropologist Jacob Bronowski at fortysomething — rumpled clothes, a quick mind, constantly turning over ideas and reluctant to espouse an absolutist stance — perhaps the byproduct of 10 years spent researching the cost humanity pays for the delusion of absolute truth. Rosenbaum will