Performers Go It Alone and Like It That Way
7 Days in the Arts
Saturday, July 8
The Hollywood Palladium’s got the beat tonight. Head there for ’80s retro fun wrapped up in a good cause. Bet Tzedek — The House of Justice presents its annual Justice Ball benefit with headliners The Go-Go’s.
8:30 p.m. $75-$150. Hollywood Palladium, 6215 Sunset Blvd. (323) 656-9069. ” width=”15″ height=”1″ alt=””>
Sunday, July 9
A midsummer night’s edutainment comes courtesy of the Los Angeles Jewish Symphony. Tonight, they perform “Ahava: From Israel with Love” at the Ford Amphitheatre, with Chen Zimbalista on marimba and Alon Reuven on French horn. Explanatory introductions of each piece will be given by conductor Noreen Green.
7:30 p.m. $12-$36. 2850 Cahuenga Blvd., East, Hollywood. (323) 461-3673.
Monday, July 10
TV gets some artistic recognition, thanks to Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising (FIDM). Today FIDM opens its new exhibition, “The Outstanding Art of Television Costume Design,” which continues through Sept. 9. On display are highlights from 40 years of television costuming, including clothes worn by Sonny and Cher, Barry Manilow and Carol Burnett, on their shows and specials.
10 a.m.-4 p.m. (daily, except Sundays). Free. FIDM Museum and Galleries on the Park, 919 S. Grand Ave., Los Angeles. (213) 624-1200, ext. 2224.
Tuesday, July 11
The sound of music drifts through the air, mixing with that signature zoo scent, this evening. The Greater Los Angeles Zoo Association kicks off the first of two “Music in the Zoo” nights. Tonight, hear the Masanga Marimba Ensemble of Zimbabwe, the Scottish Wicked Tinkers, the Mediterranean music of Shaya and Rafi and the Irish Mrs. Murphy’s Chowder. Plus, the animals get a later bedtime of 8 p.m. and “Club Med Circus Performers” monkey around.
Tues., July 11 and 25, 6-9 p.m. Free (children 5 and under), $7-$16. Los Angeles Zoo, Griffith Park. (323) 644-6042. ” width=”15″ height=”1″ alt=””>
Wednesday, July 12
Invisible friends get revenge in “Bunbury: A Serious Play for Trivial People.” The play by Tom Jacobson features the never-seen characters of Bunbury (of Oscar Wilde’s “The Importance of Being Earnest”) and Rosaline (of “Romeo and Juliet”), teaming up to sabotage classic literary works. It is performed at the Skirball Cultural Center, and recorded to air on L.A. Theatre Works’ radio theater series, The Play’s the Thing, which broadcasts weekly on public and satellite radio, including 89.3 KPCC.
8 p.m. (July 12-14), 3 pm. (July 15), 4 p.m. (July 16). $25-$45. 2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles. R.S.V.P.,
Thursday, July 13
July gets a little hotter with Stephen Cohen Gallery’s “Summer Skin” exhibition. The group show features nude works, some naughty, some nice, by artists like Diane Arbus, Anthony Friedkin and Horace Bristo. The raciest stuff, by guys like David Levinthal, Larry Clark and Robert Mapplethorpe, can be seen in a separate viewing room.
July 7-Aug. 26. Free. 7358 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles. (323) 937-5525.
Friday, July 14
Literature takes center stage with The New Short Fiction Series, a host of evenings in which actors read from a published work of fiction. This year’s first featured writer is author and poet Carol Schwalberg, whose “The Midnight Lover and Other Stories” will be performed, tonight.
8 p.m. $10. Beverly Hills Public Library Auditorium, 444 N. Rexford Drive, Beverly Hills. (310) 288-2220.
Jewish Music Fills Big Easy
Think of New Orleans music and you don’t usually think of Hebrew or Yiddish song.
But Hebrew, Yiddish and English tunes filled the ears of nearly 1,000 music lovers last weekend as a variety of acts — ranging from New York pop singer Gershon Veroba to Moldovan crooner Efim Chorny — converged on New Orleans for a two-day benefit concert.
Organizers said the New Orleans International Jewish Music Festival was expected to raise at least $75,000 for local Jewish institutions shattered by Hurricane Katrina last year. That includes $50,000 in donations already collected from private individuals and institutions, and another $25,000 from the sale of tickets, CDs, T-shirts and other souvenirs.
But this was more than just a fundraiser. The gathering also brought badly needed joy to a city that has seen mostly suffering in the seven months since Katrina’s deadly visit.
“Music is a very powerful thing,” singer Neshama Carlebach said. “Being in New Orleans has been heavy for me; it’s very difficult seeing all this destruction first-hand. So I hope I can bring some healing.”
A city famous for jazz, blues, Bourbon Street and Mardi Gras certainly could use a little of Carlebach’s healing.
Fewer than 200,000 of New Orleans’ approximately 500,000 residents have returned since the storm. The Jewish community has fared a little better: About 70 percent of the Big Easy’s pre-hurricane Jewish population of 9,500 has returned.
“The idea was to bring Jewish music back to New Orleans,” sculptor Gary Rosenthal said. “You can talk about how important it is to get jobs and rebuild bricks and mortar. But I’m an artist, and I focus on spirit and on making Jewish children happy.”
Billed as a sort of Jewish Woodstock, the event kicked off Saturday night at the Howlin’ Wolf, a club in New Orleans’ Warehouse district, then continued Sunday afternoon at a half-filled auditorium on the Tulane University campus.
Organizers had hoped to attract more people, but they were forced to compete with the NCAA basketball Final Four, in which nearby Louisiana State University was a semi-finalist, as well as other Jewish and secular events taking place around town.
Still, those who showed up weren’t disappointed.
“My grandfather saw an ad in Moment magazine and told me about this,” said Tulane student Zack Rothbart, 19. “I think it’s great all these musicians were able to put on such a concert.”
Faye and Chip Merritt drove four hours from Pensacola, Fla., to attend the Sunday show.
“All the entertainers performed very well,” Faye Merritt said. “The diversity of the Jewish music was great. I really enjoyed the Yiddish stuff, because my mother was from Poland.”
Some of the most popular acts included West Coast musicians Fran Avni, Sam Glaser and RebbeSoul, as well as Nashville singer Stacy Beyer and New York’s Voices for Israel and Blue Fringe.
Also well-received was Veroba, whose adapts Jewish lyrics to such 1970s standards as Earth Wind & Fire’s “September” and Chicago’s “Saturday in the Park.”
“Most of us Jewish musicians are just getting by,” Veroba said, “so it’s amazing that so many of them gave up gigs to come here and play for free.”
The event was put together in just three months by Rosenthal, of Kensington, Md., and his friend Michael Monheit, the Washington-based publisher of Moment.
Rosenthal said he came up with the idea after one of his New Orleans clients, French Quarter gallery owner Dashka Roth, lost her home in Katrina.
According to Monheit, the event was produced for $50,000, but only because the artists donated their time. He hopes to make it an annual event.
While local bands such as the New Orleans All-Star Klezmer Band were paid for their time, out-of-town performers were not. The idea was to help local musicians, many of whom also have lost their homes and possessions.
That’s also why admissions were kept artificially low; Saturday night’s show was only $15 and Sunday afternoon’s performance $10. Students were given $5 discounts.
Avni, who’s been singing in Hebrew and English for close to 30 years, said she didn’t have to think twice about performing for free in New Orleans.
“Having a music festival with people who aren’t getting paid, but donating their efforts, is very special,” she said. “We rarely get a chance to do something like this.”
Cleaning Up With Care
Long time L.A. drycleaner Barry Gershenson was named one of four national spokespersons for the FabriCare Foundation.
Gershenson, a third-generation dry cleaning veteran has more than 40 years experience as owner of Sterling Fine Cleaning in Los Angeles. As a spokesperson for the FabriCare Foundation, Gershenson’s role will be to educate consumers on the definition of a “professional” drycleaner, as well as the overall benefits of dry cleaning.
Gershenson lives in Los Angeles with his wife of 32 years, Sandy; and children, Lauren and David.
For more information, visit ” target=”_blank”>www.acsz.org.
Women’s Lib Rises in Wake of Disaster
A Developing Reputation
Special Report – A Jewish Appeal to Remember and Rebuild
This Time They’re Ready for the Wave
The two young, sari-clad women, one in blue and one in orange, stand in the thatched-roof meeting hall, take hold of the microphone and join their voices.
“We don’t need any fancy materials,” they croon by heart. “What we need is just some food to live. We don’t ask for a refrigerator, a TV or a car. We just need some small capital to start a business.”
The audience of women in the village of Alamarai Kuppam applaud with enthusiasm. The few men, seated or hovering around the edges, are more circumspect, but they, too, nod approvingly.
Call it women’s lib, post-tsunami-India style.
The outpouring of financial support that followed the 2004 tsunami has accelerated efforts to improve the lives of rural women — an initiative that goes well beyond helping families recover from the tsunami.
“This disaster has given us a space to create gender equality,” says Attapan, the director of Rural Organization for Society Education (ROSE). ROSE is among the Indian nonprofits supported by the American Jewish World Service (AJWS), which focuses on international development based on the Jewish value of tikkun olam, or repairing the world.
Before, says Attapan, many fishing villages functioned almost as closed societies, distrustful of outsiders, with women locked into traditional, subservient roles. It’s still a country of arranged marriages, and, in places, instances of girl infanticide and widow burning.
But in this region, when the tidal wave took everything, these villagers had to look outside for help. The women, it turned out, were eager for expanded roles. And many men quickly realized that not only could they benefit from the outsiders, who brought resources and new ideas, but also from the resourcefulness of their own spouses, daughters and mothers.
Attapan’s organization has worked with women from fishing villages to help them develop business skills, such as tailoring and growing and selling herbs.
The two singing women are performing the homemade anthem of an informal women’s “congress” from 14 villages that has gathered in Alamarai Kuppam under the auspices of the Ghandian Unit for Integrated Development (GUIDE). GUIDE is trying to make women politically powerful and to break down traditional Hindu class divisions.
The caste system, although officially abolished in 1949, remains a potent and denigrating social force. The mixture of castes among the women gathered in Alamarai Kuppam is striking: It includes Dalit participants, the group once known as untouchables; they still suffer pervasive discrimination.
At the meeting, women rise group by group to proclaim their successes.
“We stopped the men from making alcohol in our village,” one women says.
Another exclaims: “We made demands for tsunami relief and got it.”
“We got schools to reduce their fees,” a third says.
This activism is true and courageous feminism, says R. Vasantha, development consultant for GUIDE. “In traditional society, if a woman speaks out about a problem, especially a problem with an abusive husband, she is an immoral woman. These women will now go to a police station and file a case.”
A delegation of women from four villages recently demanded that a man reserve some property and inheritance for a second wife he had taken, as well as for the woman’s baby. And in Alamarai Kuppam, women and GUIDE workers went to the police to halt an arranged marriage between an unwilling 13-year-old and an older man who wanted a second wife.
The 13-year-old’s parents had made the deal for money. Villagers later raised money to help the family.
And, when it comes to the business theme of the homemade anthem, these women aren’t waiting for opportunity to come looking for them. They’ve opened fish stalls in nearby towns to sell the village catch. And they’re going to start an ice factory to keep their fish fresh and to sell ice to others.
Working with women, particularly educating them, is probably the “best single investment” that can be made in international development, said Michael Cohen, director of the New School for Social Research’s graduate program in international affairs in New York. “It helps on the income side and reduces the family size.”
Both elements, he added, are key to reducing rural poverty.
Some Places To Give
A partial listing of organizations involved in tsunami relief
American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee
Web site: http://www.jdc.org/
American Jewish World Service
Web site: http://www.ajws.org/
45 West 36th Street, 10th Floor
New York, NY 10018-7904
Tel: (212) 736-2597
Regional: (415) 296-2533
Toll free: (800) 889-7146
Church World Service
Web site: http://www.churchworldservice.org/
Regional office: http://cwscrop.org/californiasouthwest/
2235 N. Lake Ave Suite 112
Altadena, CA 91001
Tel: (626) 296-3195
Toll Free: (888) CWS-CROP or (888) 297-2767
Doctors Without Borders
Web site: http://www.doctorswithoutborders.org/
333 7th Avenue, 2nd Floor
New York, NY 10001-5004
Tel: (212) 679-6800
Local: (310) 399-0049
Global Fund for Children
Web site: http://www.globalfundforchildren.org/
1101 Fourteenth Street, NW Ste. 420
Washington, DC 20005
Tel: (202) 331-9003
Global Greengrants Fund
2840 Wilderness Place Ste.
A Boulder, CO 80301
Tel: (303) 939-9866
International Medical Corps
Web site: http://www.imcworldwide.org/
919 Santa Monica Blvd. Ste. 300
Santa Monica, CA 90404
Tel: (310) 826-7800
International Rescue Committee
Web site: http://www.theirc.org/
122 East 42nd Street
New York, NY 10168-1289
Tel: (212) 551-3000
Web site: http://www.mercycorps.org/
3015 SW 1st Ave.
Portland, OR 97201 USA
Tel: (800) 292-3355
Web site: http://www.oxfamamerica.org/
26 West Street
Boston, MA 02111
Tel: (800) 77-OXFAM or (800) 776-9326
Chabad Menorahs Gain Acceptance
78 and 79: A Matter of Life and Death
Like many California voters this week, Rabbi Hershy Ten, president of the Bikur Cholim Jewish Healthcare Foundation, is grappling with how to vote on the Nov. 8 ballot. Either Proposition 78 or Proposition 79 could directly affect his L.A.-based foundation’s efforts to provide health-related services and referrals to needy and uninsured. Either proposition could help by lowering prescription drug prices. But even for Ten, it’s hard to peer through the electioneering and rhetoric.
One thing’s certain: Ten realizes a lot is at stake.
“I know of a man within the last three months who suffered irreversible liver disease because he could not afford his medication,” Ten said. “We were called after he went into liver failure to assist him in receiving a transplant.”
The question before voters is whether the drug companies should regulate themselves, as laid out in Proposition 78, or whether the state should be granted authority to pressure drug companies into providing discounts, as specified in Proposition 79. If both initiatives pass, whichever receives the most votes becomes law.
In the contest of marketing, at least, the outcome isn’t a close call. The pharmaceutical industry has spent more than $80 million backing Proposition 78 (compared to $1.8 million from Proposition 79’s backers, most of it from consumer, senior and health groups).
Putting the hype aside, here’s what Proposition 78 would offer: Most Californians earning up to 300 percent of the Federal Poverty Level would be eligible for discounted drugs, including individuals earning up to $29,000 a year and families of four living on as much as $58,000.
But the salient feature of Proposition 78 is that it includes no state enforcement mechanism. In the case of Ten’s liver patient, it would be solely up to the pharmaceutical industry to select the relevant drug for a discount, determine the discount price (if any), and choose the length of time to maintain it.
There are no state-imposed consequences if a company chooses to keep prices high.
So if the process is voluntary, what’s to stop drug companies from lowering prices right now? Conversely, if drug companies aren’t lowering prices now, why would they under a voluntary plan?
The industry’s response is that Proposition 78 is needed if corporations are to lower prices as a group while also avoiding anti-trust violations.
“We feel we have an obligation to make our drugs affordable,” said Jan Faiks, vice president for governmental affairs and law with the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), the powerful industry trade group. Faiks added that voluntary (and legislatively sanctioned) drug-discount programs in 26 states demonstrate the good faith of drug manufacturers.
These voluntary programs in other states typically have stricter eligibility requirements, and critics say few meaningful discounts are being offered. California’s version, Proposition 78, is identical to the defunct Senate Bill 19, an Arnold Schwarzenegger-backed bill that was defeated by Democrats in the state Senate in early 2005. At the time, the governor estimated that SB-19 would provide prescription drug savings of up to 40 percent off retail, close to the price that HMOs pay for drugs. Proposition 78 proponents have adopted those figures as their own.
This isn’t the first time that this Republican governor’s public health policy has mirrored PhRMA’s interests. In October 2004, Gov. Schwarzenegger vetoed four bills that would have provided information for Californians on obtaining cheaper drugs through Canadian pharmacies. A few weeks later, PhRMA donated several-hundred-thousand dollars to Californian Republican legislative candidates.
Consumer advocates don’t like much about Proposition 78, including the anti-trust justification for why the industry argues that it is necessary. After all, there would never be a legal prohibition barring an individual drug company from lowering its prices. Nor is there any reason why drug companies would have to engage in illegal collusion to lower prices, said Doug Mirell, board member of the Progressive Jewish Alliance (PJA), which is supporting Proposition 79.
Added Anthony Wright, executive director of the Pro-79 group Health Access: “No attorney general or judge would rule against them if they came together to lower prices. There’s no [anti-trust] precedent for it.”
Proposition 79 supporters contend that PhRMA’s real aim is simply to block Proposition 79 from taking effect.
Faiks of PhRMA’s doesn’t deny her group’s desire to thwart Proposition 79, but she insists that Proposition 78 is worthy in its own right.
Proposition 79, backed by consumer groups, unions and the American Association of Retired Persons, sets the discount rate for drugs lower than Proposition 78 (approaching the price Medi-Cal pays for drugs). It also includes patients earning 400 percent of the Federal Poverty Level rather than 300 percent. And it forbids drug companies from charging “unconscionable” prices for medication.
“There are 8 million to 10 million more people who will be benefited by Proposition 79 than Proposition 78,” Mirell said.
Perhaps most worrisome to PhRMA, however, Proposition 79 punishes companies who refuse to cooperate.
If negotiations with the state over discounts break down, the state could curtail that company’s business with Medi-Cal, California’s $4 billion drug discount program for the poor. Medi-Cal patients would have to receive so-called “prior authorization” by the state to use any drug manufactured by that uncooperative corporation. Under this system, the state would first try to find a substitute drug from a cooperative company.
In other words, under Proposition 79 the poorest segment of the population (on whose behalf the state bargains) would be used as leverage to lower drug prices for the next-poorest segment (who today have no bargaining clout).
Even under Proposition 79, Rabbi Ten’s liver patient would not have been guaranteed a different fate. There’s no mechanism, for example, forcing the state to drive a hard bargain for any particular medication. But if it did, the drug’s manufacturer would not easily be able to say no.
Each camp has its own collection of horror stories and feel-good episodes supporting its proposition. Proposition 78 is modeled closely on a voluntary program in Ohio. Consumer advocates modeled Proposition 79 on a program in Maine, one that PhRMA claims is not working well.
Faiks provided The Journal with a report, written by an independent Maine legislative committee, detailing patient frustration with various other systems of prior authorization. PhRMA also points to legal and administrative barriers, most prominently the likely opposition from the Federal Department of Health and Human Services.
“[The Proposition 79] program will never be approved,” said Faiks, who is well positioned to understand the leanings of the Bush administration, which has regularly sided with drug companies.
PhRMA provided The Journal with several letters from federal health officials to various state Medicaid administrators who, over the past several years, have attempted to expand Medicaid coverage to new groups (such as people with specific diseases or those who earn slightly-above-poverty wages). The letters suggest that President Bush’s administration is loathe to extend Medicaid funds or leverage Medicaid patients to benefit new groups unless a state has hard evidence that the expansion prevents these new clients from entering poverty and becoming eligible for Medicaid regardless.
Mirell, of PJA, asserts that technicalities will not cripple Proposition 79, at least not permanently.
“The Bush Administration will not be in power forever,” Mirell said. “Policies do change from administration to administration.”
Mirell also pointed to the “severability” provision of Proposition 79, which allows other provisions to survive even if some can’t be enacted.
“The fact that it may take some months of litigation to implement Proposition 79 shouldn’t scare people away from voting for it, when the benefits that could accrue are so much greater than Proposition 78,” Mirell said.
And the presence and influence of the industry Goliath shouldn’t dissuade the Davids of reform. “It doesn’t mean we should give up, saying they’re too powerful,” said Wright of Heath Access.
A late August Field Poll indicated that Californians largely support both measures: 49 percent voting yes and 31 percent no on Proposition 78; 42 percent yes and 34 percent no on Proposition 79. When the participants learned, however, that the drug industry is backing Proposition 78, opposition to that measure rose sharply.
“People need to ask themselves, ‘Do you trust the drug companies to voluntarily discount their own prescription drug rates?'” Mirell said.
That’s a question that voters are less likely to hear posed exactly that way, given the imbalance in campaign spending.
When he spoke with The Journal, Rabbi Ten was still trying to sort out the pluses and minuses.
“This requires further analysis,” he said. “It requires more information than is readily available through typical media outlets.”
Mental Workouts Keep Your Brain Fit
I work out regularly — power walking, aerobics, weight lifting, yoga. But none of these have exhausted me as thoroughly as my first year sitting in a college classroom as a “nontraditional” (a.k.a. “old”) student. By the end of each day of classes, I felt like I’d run a 10K carrying two toddlers and a week’s worth of groceries.
That’s not surprising, said Duke University neurobiologist Lawrence Katz, explaining, “The brain uses an enormous amount of the body’s energy. Even under normal circumstances, it uses about 20 percent of your body’s entire energy production.
“When you work your brain harder, you use more. The blood flow goes to the brain, and it’s really like working out.”
The good news is that by my sophomore year, exhaustion was replaced by exhilaration — comparable, perhaps, to an athlete’s being “in the zone.”
Going to college is on the power-lifting level of brain exercise, but the more researchers learn about the brain — and this is “the century of the brain” said Sandra Chapman, executive director of the Center for BrainHealth and a professor of behavior and brain science at the University of Texas at Dallas — the more they stress the power we each hold to keep our brains fit throughout our lives.
One myth brain researchers want badly to debunk is the idea that the brain is “an untouchable black box,” Chapman said. Rather, she pointed out, “the brain is highly modifiable by everything we do.”
Katz said that the adage that after age 30 we lose 100,000 brain cells daily is just another depressing myth.
“Basically, the human brain remains intact until very late in life,” he said. “What does happen is that the richness of the connections between cells begins to decline.”
Granted, as with a lot of things, we lose speed as we age.
“As people get older, they learn more slowly,” said Guy McKhann, professor of neurology at Johns Hopkins University and co-author of “Keep Your Brain Young: The Complete Guide to Physical and Emotional Health and Longevity” (Wiley, 2002) “But once they get it, they keep it as well as younger people.”
Teaching your brain new tricks is like a workout for the mind. It’s never too early to start, and you don’t have to ante up tuition to start your brain fitness program.
Warm ups: In his book, “Keep Your Brain Alive” (Workman, 1998) Katz suggested simple ways to stimulate new neural connections within the brain, including brushing your teeth with your nondominant hand and taking a new route to work.
“Do routine things in a nonroutine way to use new pathways in the brain,” he said. “This can lead to greater flexibility and agility in the brain. Rearrange your desk. Put your telephone or wastebasket in a different place. You will be amazed, if you move your wastebasket, how long you’ll throw paper on the floor.”
Social interactions also appear to benefit the brain. When you have time, skip the self-service gas pump or bank ATM and conduct your transaction with a person instead.
“These interactions are unpredictable,” Katz said. “Because so many parts of our brains are evolved to respond to other human beings, social interaction stimulates large parts of the brain.”
Travel, too, provides new experiences that create new neural pathways, especially if you step out of your chain hotel.
Katz conceded that these theories work backward from the observation that strong social connections and active lives correlate with better cognitive functioning in older people, and even novice researchers can tell you that correlation does not mean causation.
However, Katz is convinced that the connection works two ways: Better brain function causes more active lives and richer social networks, and people with active lives and rich social networks maintain better brain function.
Aerobics: You may have heard that working crossword puzzles is good exercise for the brain and that’s true — for the crossword-puzzle-working parts of the brain. If you enjoy crossword puzzles, have at it. Indulging in activities that work the brain is always great exercise, and choosing activities you love will keep you engaged, be it crossword puzzles, playing the piano or writing poetry.
“Whatever you spend time doing is what part of your brain is going to strengthen,” Chapman said. “Don’t do random things. Ask yourself if that’s the part of your brain you want to build.”
In her work with stroke patients, Chapman noted, “We see people who lose a lot of their ability, but the first thing to come back is the thing that they did the most.”
To keep building brain strength, you must keep reaching for new skill levels. Brain imaging reveals that learning uses large portions of the brain.
“Once you’ve gained expertise in that skill, less of the brain lights up [when you do it],” Chapman said.
Power lifting: Going to college, learning a language, taking up Japanese calligraphy — these sorts of things are the power lifting of brain exercise.
However, just as you don’t want to try hoisting 200 pounds your first day in the gym, you must allow yourself time to master a new challenge, Chapman said.
“You can get better at anything,” she noted, “but it’s important to give your brain time and practice.”
Exercising higher-level, big-picture thinking is another form of power-lifting.
“Read a paragraph and in one sentence give me the higher-level meaning,” Chapman suggested. “Abstract it. That requires a lot of brain power, using world knowledge, using text information. It’s pulling in all your resources.”
Stretching and cool down: Jeffrey Schwartz, a research professor of psychiatry at UCLA’s Neuropsychiatric Institute advocates mindful breathing for controlling out-of-control worrying, as well as for relaxation.
“The key really is the refocusing,” said Schwartz, whose specialty is the research and treatment of people with obsessive-compulsive disorder. “When you refocus, you activate alternative brain machinery.”
Sitting quietly and focusing your attention on the in and out of your breathing “really is like going to the gym; you’re strengthening your brain,” Schwartz said. “When you stop doing it, you have a stronger brain.”
Schwartz described mindful breathing techniques in his book, “Dear Patrick: Life Is Tough — Here’s Some Good Advice” (Regan, 2003) but cautioned that it takes more strength than it appears to require. He recommended 20 minutes of the meditation technique, but said “not everyone gets up this point.”
For a cool down from the day that benefits the brain, turn off the TV and relax with a book instead. Reading is far better for keeping the brain on its toes.
“Reading is a very complex process when you stop to think about it,” McKhann said. “You have to recognize the letters and the words they make, you have sentence structure, you have to take this input information — which is all being brought in visually — and relate it to what your brain already knows. It’s an awful lot of cross-talk in the brain.”
If you must turn on the TV set, feed your brain “thinking TV,” such as history documentaries, in which you must incorporate new information, instead of just empty entertainment.
And remember, these researchers stressed, you’re never too young to start a fitness program for the mind. Developing good brain habits early can keep your brain in shape well into your later years — and vice versa when it comes to bad brain habits.
“Habits are increasingly hard to break as you get older,” Katz said.
So use it before you lose it.
Sophia Dembling is the author of “The Making of Dr. Phil” (Wiley & Sons, 2003).
Prop. 73: The Devil’s in the Details
Refuge From Cancer
Four years ago, my wife told me not to build a sukkah. She had a good reason. In early September of 2001, Marsha was diagnosed with bilateral breast cancer — a tumor in each breast.
Cancer was pretty much running our lives. We were visiting doctors every other day for more opinions as Marsha tried to settle on a team of physicians and appropriate treatments. And did I mention we were planning our younger daughter’s bat mitzvah?
So Marsha was absolutely right. How could I find a couple of hours to gather up the two-by-fours that sit in our garage all year and turn them into a prefab sukkah?
But I didn’t listen. Years earlier, Marsha was the one who had wanted us to become a family of sukkah builders. It meant a great deal to her to erect the fragile shelter, where our family would fend off yellow jackets and enjoy a few meals. With no experience at sukkah building, I was reluctant at first. It seemed like a lot of work for one week of dinners al fresco. But I came around. It was great having our own, intimate backyard booth, harking back to the days of the Bible.
Building a sukkah had become a family tradition, and I didn’t want cancer to take it away from us. With the help of my two daughters, Maya and Daniela, I put up the structure. As we sat in the semirickety sukkah, peering up at the stars through boughs of green overhead, we felt as if we’d found temporary refuge from the breast cancer ordeal.
There were other times I didn’t listen to my wife during her battle with breast cancer. And in those cases, not listening was a big mistake. Like the day Marsha called me at work to tell me that a blunt radiologist had eyeballed her mammogram and said, “Sure looks like cancer to me.” I ignored the anguish in Marsha’s voice. I pretended everything was fine. I stayed at work until quitting time. And when I did come home, I still wasn’t sure how to listen. My instinct was to try and cheer Marsha up instead of paying attention to how she was really feeling.
As the weeks went by, I honed my listening skills. In the doctor’s office, I took notes and would later read them back to Marsha, who wasn’t able to absorb all of the awful information. Having a second pair of ears at an appointment is a benefit for any patient.
Listening, I found, can be complicated. What if your wife says, “You don’t have to come to the doctor with me”? Maybe she wants to spare you from the inconvenience of taking off from work. Then again, maybe you’re not good when it comes to medical matters, and she’d rather have her sister the nurse with her. You can take your wife at her word. Or you can follow the advice of Anne O’Connor, a nurse care coordinator at Georgetown University’s Lombard Cancer Center: If your wife claims she doesn’t need you by her side, she suggests saying, “I love you and I need to know what’s going on. We’re in this together.”
Listening also means letting your wife speak, and not cutting her off if she wants to talk about how scared she is. Many people think optimism is a cure for cancer. Alas, it is not. But studies have shown that breast cancer patients who let out all their emotions cope better with the stress of treatment. Sometimes, Marsha just felt lousy, and all she wanted to do was talk about it. And who better to listen than me?
Maybe that’s why cancer experts told me that the breast cancer husband’s motto should be “shut up and listen.” By following that credo, I was able to help my wife as she endured a lumpectomy in each breast, chemotherapy and radiation treatment. Today, she is in good health.
To my surprise, I could have learned some of the same listening lessons by turning to the Torah.
In the story of Sarah and Abraham, Abraham is distressed about Sarah’s wish to “cast out” Hagar and her son. And what did the Lord advise Abraham? In His infinite wisdom, He said, “Whatever Sarah tells you, do as she says.”
So there you have it: biblical advice for the breast cancer husband. And the only time you don’t have to listen is if she tells you that you don’t have to build a sukkah.
Marc Silver, an editor at U.S.News & World Report, is the author of “Breast Cancer Husband: How to Help Your Wife (and Yourself) Through Diagnosis, Treatment and Beyond” (Rodale, 2004).
A Critical Question
Fundraiser to Benefit Storm Victims
This Sunday, September 18th!
LALA & MOE’S
Jewish Experience & The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles Present:
LA Jewish Katrina Benefit
All Proceeds To Benefit Jewish Federation’s Hurricane Relief Fund
The Moshav Band
Comic Relief by:
Plus Special Guests
Silent Auction, Special Prize Drawing, Kosher Food, And More!
Sunday September 18th 2005
3:00 – 7:00 PM
Westside Jewish Community Center
5870 W Olympic Blvd.
Los Angeles Ca, 90036
$15 Students & Families
Space is Limited
For More information Contact:
Community Sponsors Include:
Congregation Beth Jacob
Congregation B’nei David Judea
Congregation Mogen David
Jewish big brothers
Los Angeles Hillel Council
The Chai Center
The Westwood Kehilla
Young Israel of Century City
And Many More
A Race Against Time and Floodwaters
7 Days In Arts
Billy Joel goes uptown again, but this time it’s Twyla, not Christie, he’s crooning for. Pop and high culture fuse the backbone of “Movin’ Out,” the musical that merges Joel’s music with Twyla Tharp’s modern dance choreography, and word on the New York streets is this marriage might last. It arrives this week at the Pantages.Through Oct. 31. 8 p.m. (Tues.-Sat.), 2 p.m. (Sat.), 1 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. (Sun.). $55.50-$80.50. 6233 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood. (213) 365-3500.
From “Movin’ Out” to “Take Me Out,” L.A. theater continues to impress today at the Geffen Playhouse’s Brentwood Theatre. The Richard Greenberg Tony Award-winner examines the repercussions of a celebrity baseball player’s decision to out himself publicly, and in the process, the larger cultural context of what it means to be a gay athlete in America.Through Oct. 24. $28-$46. 11301 Wilshire Blvd., Bldg. 211, Los Angeles.(310) 208-5454.
And speaking of coming out, you can now own the CD “Willand Grace: Let the Music Out.” The compilation includes old favorites by pastguest stars including Cher and Jennifer Lopez, as well as two duets: Carly Simonand Megan Mullally sing Simon’s “The Right Thing To Do,” and Barry Manilow andEric McCormack sing a song they wrote together especially for the album, “LivingWith Grace.” Fans of the show will also appreciate the homage to Kevin Bacon.Continuing where his guest-starring episode, “Bacon and Eggs” left off, includedamong the 15 tracks is a new rendition of the song “Footloose” sung by the BaconBrothers. $13.99. www.amazon.com.
Going once, going twice and gone by next week are themore than 100 telephones enjoying second incarnations as works of art. TheZimmer Children’s Museum and GOTTA HAVE IT! Auctions have united to create anonline auction of telephones decorated by celebrities, community leaders,students and everyday heroes to benefit youTHink, the museum’s art educationoutreach program. Bid on sculptures by Mischa Barton, Elizabeth Taylor and DianeSawyer for the worthy cause. www.gottahavit.com.
‘Tis the season for deep thinking and introspection, andPBS encourages just such behavior tonight. “The Question of God: C.S. Lewis andSigmund Freud With Dr. Armand Nicholi” presents Nicholi and a panel gettingphilosophical and placing Freud’s and Lewis’ opposing theories of God underscrutiny. 9-11 p.m. www.kcet.org.
Youth programs and art converge again today. The Anti-Defamation League’s “Dream Dialogue” brings together high school students of different backgrounds to connect across ethnic lines. On display is the fruit of their recent efforts: the “Faces of L.A.” photographic exhibition, which depicts the diversity of the Los Angeles community through the eyes of its teenagers. It’s on display at the Pico Rivera Centre for the Arts through Oct. 16.1-5 p.m. (Tuesdays and Thursdays), 10 a.m.-8:30 p.m. (Wednesdays), 10 a.m.-4 p.m. (Saturdays). Free. 9200 Mines Ave., Pico Rivera. (310) 446-8000, ext. 232.
Your o.c.d. tendencies work to your advantage this morning, and you’ve actually got time to kill before warming up the pre-Kol Nidre dinner. Why not head to the University of Judaism for some quiet time with a good book — or a few? The Platt and Borstein Galleries presents “Transformations: Artists’ Books and Collages.” The exhibition by seven artist bookmakers stretches the boundaries of size, shape and material, reimagining and pushing the envelope on the very concept of what makes a book a book.Through Nov. 24. Open today from 10 a.m.-1:30 p.m. 15600 Mulholland Drive, Bel Air. (310) 476-9777, ext. 201.
Look no further, you’ve found a Republican who drives a Prius, as well as a Democrat (“The Hardliner,” Aug. 6). In fact, there are four Priuses in our family with two more hybrids on order for 2005. We are making a statement, and more to the point, it is an apolitical statement.
Our friends of all political stripes talk with agonizing concern over the dangers we face as Americans, Jews and supporters of Israel. They then talk excitedly of their new gas-guzzling SUV as if there is no connection. The thought of sacrificing their creature comforts or any aspect of their lifestyles in contribution to America’s energy independence is either so foreign or frightening to them that the discussion quickly goes nowhere.
Republicans, Democrats, liberals, conservatives — put your political hats aside. Each of us is responsible for the situation, as it exists today.
Contrary to what you might think, you can do something about it!
Ozzie Goren (Republican), Bruce Goren (Democrat) Los Angeles
I was very offended by the cartoon by Steve Greenberg in the Aug. 27 issue. The way he stereotyped the people that participate at and are influenced by the Kabbalah Centre seemed very superficial and more than a little mean-spirited. If he had experienced the classes and services at the center the way that I have in the last two years he would have realized that they are very challenging, sincere, holy and certainly not at all for “dummies.” I suggest that he start by reading “The Secret” by Michael Berg, “Dialing God” edited by Yehuda Berg or any of the dozens of scholarly works written their father, Rav Berg.
Israel Scott Kotzen, Mar Vista
I was disappointed by the consumer mentality of your articles about paying for synagogue membership (“Synagogue Perks Entice Unaffiliated” and “When You Can’t Go Home Again,” Aug. 27). I would hope that people looking to join a congregation base their decision on which community offers the best fit rather than the best benefit package. Ideally, one would decide to join a community, then the connections they form would lead to greater participation in any number of ways. Perhaps too many congregations have strayed from this crucial underlying theme of community.
Mike Werbow, Shtibl Coordinator Los Angeles
In your article on “Synagogue Perks Entice Unaffiliated” you identified a number of “privileges” that synagogue membership brings to the unaffiliated.
The “Model” attributed to our congregation, Temple Beth Am, was “Come join … so you can enroll in our day school.” New this year to demonstrate our commitment to education, we are offering free synagogue membership for new families enrolling a child in our Sunday morning religious school kindergarten/first-grade program.
We hope our program will speak for itself and this experience will lead to long-term affiliation. In addition, our regular dues structure has always included complimentary first-year membership for Jews-by-Choice, and significantly reduced fees for students, young adults and all who require assistance.
Sheryl Goldman, Executive Director Temple Beth Am Los Angeles
Thank God Dr. Irving Moskowitz got the permanent license at last, letting him run his casino in Hawaiian Gardens without harassment by those nasty “stopmoskowitz.com” antagonists (“Casino Wins License,” Aug. 27). Their entire campaign to block Moskowitz was based on his notion that formerly Jewish land in Israel should be redeemed and remain Jewish. It was against his politics that these post-Zionists waged their irrelevant campaign.
Cannot a casino owner buy property with his money whenever and/or wherever it is offered to him? Of course he can. But what has this got to do with Hawaiian Gardens?
One question remains, however. Why did we not hear one word from these self-righteous, political ideologues (including some rabbis) of opposition to the granting of a license to Larry Flynt, the self-proclaimed “porno king” casino owner in Gardena, who received his license in a matter of minutes, not years? Ah, yes, that was a moral, not a political, issue.
Rabbi Julian M. White, Los Angeles
In “Hatzolah Expands Emergency Service” (Aug. 6), the nonemergency phone number for Hatzolah of Los Angeles is (310) 841-2382.
In “Midlife Calling” (Aug. 20), Rabbi Yocheved Mintz was a rabbinic intern and is a member at Temple Beth Sholom in Las Vegas. She currently works independently with the Jewish community there.
Jewish Vote Polls Miss Big Picture
Reading the article, “Federation Faces Underfunded Pension,” in your July 30 issue, I found it to be needlessly alarmist and selective in providing facts on a highly complex subject. Most disturbing is the inaccurate lead. The Federation is absolutely not directing funds away from social services to fund its pension.
Pension policy within The Federation system is guided by professional actuarial opinions. The Jewish Federation is fortunate to have a lay retirement committee made up of experienced volunteers, including those who are well-versed in investments, actuarial science and pension plan management.
The article presents a misleading picture by comparing the L.A. experience to the plans at other selected federations. Comparing the financing of defined-benefit plans to defined-contribution plans is like comparing apples to oranges
For example, the Atlanta plan covers 60 employees. Boston has not had a defined-benefit plan since 1992. Even those federations with defined-benefit plans represented in the article and charts cover only direct federation employees and in smaller Jewish communities. On the other hand, the L.A. plan covers almost 1,000 current members, of which less than 20 percent are Federation employees. Many of the non-Federation employees’ salaries are funded by third-party sources, including public funding, not through the United Jewish Fund.
Federation and its affiliated agencies are well aware of the need for cost control. This is reflected in our annual balanced budget. By the same token, we all offer human services. High-quality human service programs are a function of recruiting and maintaining quality personnel. Personnel costs normally reflect 80 percent of the costs at human service agencies.
Using limited community resources allowed the community to avoid further reductions in program staff and to ensure that the best and brightest staff remained during the horrible recession of 1992-1993. No organization was ever forced to close services or avoid expansion of their programs to their participation in The Federation pension plan. It is a major distortion to suggest this.
Obviously, no one disagrees that it is urgent to examine the future philosophy and benefit structure of the pension plan. That is why Federation, on behalf of itself and its agencies, has put a proposal on the table in negotiations with the union to move to a defined-contribution plan for new employees.
I wonder if The Journal did more to confuse the public on a tremendously complex issue through its selective reporting and innuendo in the article.
John Fishel, President The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles
Faith and Folly
I am a physician and a clinical professor of pediatrics at Loma Linda University who, like Rob Eshman, maintains a firm belief in the merits of stem cell research (“Faith and Folly,” July 30).
Stem cell research will continue regardless of President Bush’s current position, since the companies involved are multinational and research will be conducted abroad until the issue is sorted out in the United States. Some will move their labs to locations where they can carry out this most-needed research.
The United States is not the only country involved in this area. Validated discoveries, which translate into new cures, will be available to the world.
The research will get done. But even if that was not the case, is this the most pressing issue before us today?
I was also an elected delegate to the 2000 Democratic National Convention, but since Sept. 11, I am relieved that my opinion was not persuasive.
I believe the war on terror is the most important issue facing our country today.
I disagree with Eshman’s statement that, with regard to Israel, “most Jews would be hard-pressed to find a lot of light between the president’s position and John Kerry’s.”
Bush has a proven record of action, denying the so-called “right of return,” supporting the isolation of Yasser Arafat, supporting Israel’s right of self-defense, etc.
Politicians can say anything and not be held accountable for broken promises. Kerry — who feels so strongly about appeasing France, the European Union and the United Nations, who refuse to support Israel and sanction only Israel in a world full of corruption and inhumanity — cannot be relied upon to defend Israel to the degree that the Bush administration has demonstrated.
There was no mention of Israel in Kerry’s speech at the Democratic Convention.
Dr. Charles J. Hyman, Redlands
Contrary to Rob Eshman’s argument, stem cell research will not be the key deciding factor for the Jewish vote in the upcoming election. It would serve the readers well to be informed that stem cell research is still in its infancy.
President Bush is the first president to provide the federal funds for it, while at the same time limiting such funding, pending review of the relevant issues involved.
Dr. Ron Saldra, Founding Member Beverly Hills Jewish Republicans
Our cover story “Rebirth in Russia”(Aug. 6), neglected to state that the writer’s trip was sponsored by Chabad, whose activities were largely the subject of the story as well. The Journal’s policy is to always disclose such relationships. We regret the omission.
Bang the Press Slowly
A Concert of Conscience
In choreographer Roni Kosmal-Wernik’s piece about the aftermath of a suicide bombing, a dancer prowls the stage as if searching for a lost loved one. Her movements become heavy, brooding, as if she is burdened by an invisible weight.
Inspired by a family friend’s death in a 2001 attack, Kosmal-Wernik’s work will help kick off a June 20 event at Temple Emanuel to support other victims of terror. Performers such as pianist Sha-Rone Kushnir will appear to benefit ATZUM, a Jerusalem-based charity that provides necessities for families not covered by Israel’s overburdened welfare system.
“Artists for ATZUM,” is the latest Los Angeles response to Israel-based violence. While synagogues have supported programs such as Adopt-a-Family, and musicians have played for Rock for Israel concerts, Kosmal-Wernik contemplated what she could do to help several months ago. Although she had previously donated funds to ATZUM, founded by her friend, Rabbi Levi Lauer, “It always bothered me that I couldn’t give more,” the 27-year-old choreographer said. “So I began thinking, ‘What can I do,’ and I decided, ‘I can give my art, and I can get others to do the same.'”
As Kosmal-Wernik enlisted performers such as choreographer Ben Levy, she kept costs minimal to match ATZUM’s practice of rigorously limiting overhead.
“Every cent raised will go toward families in need,” said Lauer, who will speak at the event.
The concert will include two works Kosmal-Wernik choreographed in response to her own experience of living in Jerusalem from 2001 to 2003. The alternately agitated and hopeful movements of “Two Years in a Land” reflect the conflicting emotions she felt about remaining in Israel after a car bomb exploded near her apartment.
When a 19-year-old family friend was blown up at the Naharia train station, she interviewed his mother to create a dance memorial; the piece features seven performers, symbolizing the seven days of shiva, who protectively surround the mourner.
Kosmal-Wernik hopes the upcoming concert will convey similar sentiments. “Especially now, when people are afraid to visit Israel, it’s crucial to let [Israelis] know there are Jews in another part of the world who care,” she said.
For information about the June 20, 7 p.m. performancecall (310) 274-6388, ext. 560 or contact firstname.lastname@example.org. For informationabout ATZUM, visit www.atzum.org .
Psychic Channels Her Gift Into Novel
Art Auction Hits B’nai Tzedek
Karen Sturm purchased most of the artwork in her home at art auctions, where sale prices generally are lower than for work offered in retail galleries.
Sturm is hoping for frenzied bidding May 15 at a 7 p.m. art auction and dessert buffet that will benefit her Fountain Valley synagogue, Congregation B’nai Tzedek.
Lithographs and prints by a variety of artists, including a few from Israel, some Judaica and about 50 higher-priced signed works will come under the gavel. Two works, including a Chagall print valued at $400, will be also be raffled for buyers of $5 tickets, Sturm said.
The 300 items, framed and matted with care, are to be displayed around the sanctuary, lobby and social hall. Participants will receive a numbered, magazine-sized catalog that briefly describes each and also serves as a bidding paddle. To whip up competition, an auctioneer starts the process with a reverse bid, allowing someone to win a work for $1, said Jill A. Selin, auction coordinator for State of the Art, a Cleveland, Tenn., company that helps nonprofits raise funds by sharing auction proceeds.
Sturm is hoping for 100 art lovers, which will earn the synagogue a minimum of $1,000 even if no one buys anything. Serin said the average group earns $5,000.
Art sold at auctions is often by artists whose popularity is waning or are unsold, old remainders from publishers or galleries, said a local gallery owner, who asked not to be identified. "It’s a fun event, but not a great deal," the owner said.
The synagogue is located at 9669 Talbert Ave., Fountain Valley. For more information, call (714) 963-4611. Artist requests can be made to Selin at (800) 242-7682.
Peace, Love and Tikkun Olam
Back in the social-action heyday of the 1960s, tikkun olam was everyone’s favorite mitzvah. Repairing the world was hip, and folk anthems such as "Times They Are a Changin’" were as de rigueur around Jewish campfires as that ditty about animals boarding Noah’s ark two by two.
Now those times have changed, and justice-tinged pop seems charmingly old-fashioned in an era of Britney and Christina (or spoof-worthy, as in the 2003 Christopher Guest mockumentary, "A Mighty Wind").
But just as you’re wondering, "Where have all the folkies gone?" comes Peter Yarrow of the earnest folk trio, Peter, Paul & Mary. At 65, he’s portlier and more teddy bearish than when the group debuted in Greenwich Village in 1961, helping to spur a musical and social revolution. Yet he’s still crisscrossing the country with his guitar, fighting the good fight through music, playing his gently urgent tunes all across the land.
In September 2002, he trekked to San Diego to show solidarity for a synagogue that lost a congregant in the Hebrew University cafeteria bombing.
On a January day in Iowa, he boarded a campaign bus to support presidential candidate John Kerry, his old friend from the Vietnam War protest movement.
On May 1, he performs a solo benefit concert for Temple Beth Tikvah at Plummer Auditorium in Fullerton, his only Southern California stop on a tour to promote his current projects. Between songs such as "Leaving on a Jet Plane," he will tout his anti-bullying program, Operation Respect, which has reached more than 10,000 schools, and two new Peter, Paul & Mary releases, "In These Times" and the boxed set, "Carry It On."
Then he rushes off to his next destination: "Peter always works too hard," as the group’s Mary Travers recently told Parade. "He’s always flying somewhere."
In an interview from his New York home just before he was scheduled to leave on another jet plane, Yarrow’s famously mellifluous voice was hoarse from too much air travel. Nevertheless, he waxed on about why he remains passionately committed to folk music and to his favorite mitzvah of tikkun olam.
"As a Jew and a human being, I believe I have a moral imperative to fight injustice, and I’ve seen how folk music can help do that," he said. "Its power is that it allows people to realize that we should care about one another and that we should all do our part."
If folk’s message is tikkun olam, the music itself feels Jewish to Yarrow.
"It’s as if there’s always a reminder of sadness, loss, hope and yearning for a better world," he said. He demonstrated by chanting a mournful "Ai chitty chitty bim bam bam," which was heartfelt but slightly jarring coming from the guy who immortalized "Puff the Magic Dragon."
Yarrow first discovered folk’s power at Cornell University in the 1950s. With his Pete Seeger records and hand-me-down clothes, this son of a progressive Jewish schoolteacher felt acutely out of place amid his conservative, sometimes anti-Semitic classmates.
"In the freshman dorm, someone called me a dirty Jew and punched me hard in the face," he recalled.
As a professor’s assistant his senior year, he said he taught a folk music course to "Cornell ‘men’ who were preoccupied with dressing in the right tweed jacket. But when they started singing along, their voices opened and so did their hearts." In an instant, the fiercely idealistic Yarrow knew what he wanted to do with his life: change the world through song.
After graduation in 1959, he made a beeline for the country’s folk capital, Greenwich Village, where he hooked up with Travers and Noel "Paul" Stookey. Before long, their folk songs were among the first to air on AM radio stations, paving the way for artists such as Bob Dylan and proving that popular music could convey serious, sociopolitical messages.
Over the years, it was Yarrow who became known as the group’s most tireless activist, organizing "no nukes" rallies and demonstrating for peaceniks in Israel, among other endeavors.
He brought his guitar everywhere, but in the late 1990s he began worrying that his work had been based on a faulty premise. For decades, he’d been preaching to adults, yet war and racism remained rampant.
"I thought, ‘We should start with children, because they are still malleable,’" said Yarrow, who founded Operation Respect in 1999. "All the movements I’ve been involved with are about disrespect in one form or another, so this targets the problem early on."
It’s all part of his favorite mitzvah, he told The Journal, before catching that jet plane to his next tikkun olam gig.
For concert tickets, $35-$150, and information, call (714) 871-3687.
The New Color of Rock
Plan Seeks to Cure High Cost of Drugs
In this presidential campaign year, the figure is ubiquitous: One out of four Americans, about 70 million people, do not have health insurance. At the same time, Americans are spending about $100 billion on prescription drugs annually, more than double what was spent in 1990.
For the uninsured, that money comes from either government assistance programs or their own pockets. Los Angeles residents, however, may soon be the beneficiaries of a plan to help close the gap.
Councilman Antonio Villaraigosa has unveiled a proposal called, LA-Rx, that would enable the city to make medications cheaper for residents. The plan calls for a city contractor to purchase drugs at bulk rates from pharmaceutical companies and, in turn, sell them to residents at below retail cost.
Although estimates vary about the exact rate of rise in drug costs, anecdotal evidence suggests that there is a serious problem.
"There is no question that prescription drug costs which consumers are paying are escalating and continue to escalate," said Rabbi Hershy Ten, president of Bikur Cholim, a nonprofit organization dedicated to expanding access to health care for the residents of greater Los Angeles.
Concerned with the implications of prescription drug costs for both the Jewish community and the city at large, Ten met with Villaraigosa and his staff to discuss LA-Rx.
The root causes of the issue are economic. Pharmaceutical manufacturers, who have fought court battles with several state governments over health-care costs, claim that they are simply seeking equitable compensation for their risks: Only a very small percentage of drug research ever culminates in a product reaching the market.
The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), an organization that represents more than 100 major U.S. drug companies, also claims that the vast majority of the increase in public spending on prescription drugs is due to the increasing popularity and effectiveness of those drugs, rather than rising costs.
"Some look at the increasing use of medicines and the shift to newer medicines as problems to be solved, not solutions for patients and contributions to affordable health care," said Alan F. Holmer, PhRMA president, in a speech to his colleagues last year.
However, many local governments, health-care providers and ordinary citizens are contesting PhRMA’s position, especially since drug manufacturers expend large sums to advertise their medications.
"In health-care literature, there’s speculation about the dollars spent on marketing vs. true research and development," said Rita Shane, director of pharmacy services at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. "I monitor [in-patient expenses] on an ongoing basis and deal with the exceedingly high cost of new breakthrough therapies for treatment of patients with severe chronic diseases."
It’s also widely recognized that the pharmaceutical industry enjoys large profit margins, recorded as five and a half times the median of all the industries represented in the Fortune 500 in 2002.
Villaraigosa’s proposal could possibly be the next step in the ongoing battle to reduce drug costs. Several states, including California, Maine and Oregon have already taken advantage of their existing buying power in a variety of ways to coax lower prices from drug makers.
"Many states are responsible for actual delivery of health care to their employees, retirees and Medicaid recipients, [and] they have been pooling their buying power together to negotiate better prices," said Joe Ramallo, Villaraigosa’s communications director.
"No one has yet taken it to the next level, which is what Councilmember Villaraigosa is proposing to do, and use that ability to bulk purchase on behalf of residents as a whole," Ramallo said. "This has been a growing issue of concern to seniors and those who are uninsured."
LA-Rx emerged from a series of town hall meetings on health-care policy sponsored by the Foundation for Consumer and Taxpayer Rights.
The system would work by first enrolling interested Los Angeles residents and establishing the size of the medication buyers pool. Next, the city would contract with an organization called a pharmacy benefit manager (PBM), which would do the negotiating with drug manufacturers.
An open enrollment period would give residents an opportunity to join LA-Rx annually. LA-Rx members would pay an annual fee for administration of the program.
Drug companies, however, would not be forced or coerced to negotiate with the city’s PBM.
"It’s just using market forces, and our understanding is that there are no legal barriers to doing this," Ramallo said. "Drug manufacturers would be foolish not to negotiate if [there is] a pool of 100,000 purchasers, 200,000 purchasers or more. Those are business decisions, and if you don’t do it, your competitor will."
The Jewish community, especially the often-ignored segment of poor, near-poor and elderly Jews in Los Angeles, would stand to benefit from a proposal to cut their drug costs.
The Freda Mohr Center, part of Jewish Family Service, is a nonprofit organization dedicated to aiding a mostly elderly population with health-care issues.
"We see people who [are taking] upwards of 15 to 20 medications," said Nikki Cavalier, center director. "We get a lot of requests for various types of financial assistance … and some of it we can help them with and some of it we can’t."
Cavalier estimated that approximately 80 percent of the center’s clients are Jewish.
Speaking of the prevalence of individuals who cannot afford their medications, Elaine Kau, a center case manager, reported, "I see it on a day-to-day basis. Especially with certain HMOs raising their co-payments and not covering brand-name medications and only covering generics."
"When someone does not take medication that is prescribed by the physician, they are compromising their health," said Ten of Bikur Cholim. "Part of the fiber of the Jewish community is that every life is worth living. That is paramount."
Raising the issue of possible LA-Rx problems, Shane of Cedars-Sinai said, "My concern [is whether] the people administering this benefit [would] end up profiting. Yes, maybe there would be some savings, but it would be hard to know how much of the savings will actually be passed on to the patients."
She added that a local organization might find its work exceedingly difficult "because on a national basis, it is challenging to get [wholesale] pricing on brand-name drugs."
Without accurate nonretail pricing, it would be impossible to know how much money a PBM is saving consumers.
"So my question is," Shane said, "how much additional dollars would be left to the third-party administrator? The purchasing structure of LA-Rx would have to be transparent."
Villaraigosa’s office, however, focused on LA-Rx’s propriety.
"There have been suggestions to regulate PBMs to ensure that they are negotiating on behalf of the pool that they are representing, rather than keeping an unacceptably high level of profit" Ramallo said. "We would go to great lengths to ensure that [PBMs are held accountable]."
One way to do that, according to Ramallo, is to form a nonprofit PBM. "That way there’s no advantage whatsoever for the PBM not to negotiate the best rates for its clients," he said. Under Villaraigosa’s plan, a PBM would be selected through a competitive process that would weigh the benefits of for-profit vs. nonprofit administration.
And although it could conceivably help Los Angeles residents, LA-Rx would inevitably face comparison with the Medicare prescription drug benefit approved by Congress for elderly Americans. Beginning in June, Medicare beneficiaries will have access to Medicare-endorsed drug discount cards and in 2006 full benefits become available.
On the surface, LA-Rx appears simpler and more straightforward than the Medicare drug benefit plan.
"There is a doughnut hole in terms of what people are going to get…. People who are on multiple medications are going to exhaust the benefit very easily, and there is a deductible and monthly premium," Shane said of the Medicare drug plan.
She also pointed out the difficulty seniors will have in understanding their complicated, tiered system of benefits under Medicare.
Cavalier echoed Shane’s concerns about both the Medicare plan and LA-Rx when it comes to the elderly.
"I’d be concerned about the complexity, how people are going to find out about it, how people are going to apply for it … [consumers] already seem to be somewhat confused and uncertain, and they come to us and ask us to help," Cavalier said. "We spend a lot time interpreting and helping them apply for the programs that are out there."
To increase awareness and understanding of the LA-Rx plan, it is currently being circulated within various communities. It may soon be put before the City Council.
"[Consumers of medication] right now have no one to speak for them," Ramallo said. "In this program, they will by pooling together and having a single entity negotiate on their behalf."
"This [proposal] will directly impact the Jewish community, as well as every resident in the city of Los Angeles, [and it] is a process that we want to participate in," Ten said. "This is an issue that crosses all boundaries and borders. If there’s any single unifying factor, it’s the health care of our families."
More Turn to Israel for Cheaper Drugs
Q & A With Norman Brokaw
Norman Brokaw’s first day at the William Morris Agency was July 7, 1943; he has never worked anywhere else.
The 15-year-old, $25-a-week mailboy was the first mailroom trainee to become an agent, later becoming the agency’s chairman of the board. He represented Bill Cosby for four decades and was responsible for introducing Joe DiMaggio to Marilyn Monroe.
On April 20 at the Regent Beverly Wilshire, Brokaw’s three decades of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center philanthropy — as a member of the hospital’s board of governors, board of directors and now life trustee — are being honored by Cedars-Sinai’s Heart Fund as Brokaw receives its Steven S. Cohen Humanitarian Award.
The cardiology unit is special to Brokaw because his mother had a stroke and heart attack while her older sons fought in World War II (one was executed on the Bataan Death March). One of Brokaw’s brothers and his father died of heart attacks.
In his cozy office, the 76-year-old William Morris icon gave a rare interview to The Journal discussing his 30-year love affair with Cedars-Sinai.
Jewish Journal: How did you get involved with Cedars-Sinai?
Norman Brokaw: I’ve always had an interest in things that had to do with the heart, because of family history. Having had all this experience, first at the age of 15, when my mother had a heart attack, I lost a brother who died at the age of 43 with a heart attack, I’m very mindful of the heart situation. When my father and brother had their heart attacks, if we had that knowledge then (about the heart), they’d be living a much longer life.
JJ: What’s the connection between your success at work and your success at philanthropy?
NB: If you work hard in business and you work hard for the hospital, if you’re successful in business you can be successful for the hospital.
JJ: What do you think of philanthropy in Hollywood today? George Gobel once joked, "By the time I got to Hollywood, the only charity that was left was water on the knee."
NB: Well there you are. Everybody has a favorite charity. Cedars has been very, very special to me. So many doctors I know are longtime, personal friends of mine, and they all work through the hospital, treating family and friends of mine, including actors, writers, directors, producers, etc. Chances are that their personal physicians are on staff or had privileges at Cedars-Sinai.
So many people are drawn to the hospital; it has an incredible reputation. With Dr. P.K. Shah, the director of cardiology and atherosclerosis, and the research and things that are accomplished in his department, it’s really the whole future.
JJ: What did you learn about philanthropy from Lew Wasserman?
NB: A great and friendly competitor. I considered him a mentor to me. I liked everything about Lew Wasserman. How he supported candidates from both political parties. He cared about everybody.
JJ: During the same 60 years you have been in Hollywood, you’ve also seen the rise of Jewish philanthropy and institutions in Los Angeles, including Cedars-Sinai.
NB: As a young man, I was in the entertainment section of the United Jewish Welfare Fund. I was one of the two founders of the Cedars-Sinai annual tennis tournament, which is now in its 32nd year. I did create a huge benefit to launch the Betty Ford cancer center, because of my relationship with President and Mrs. Ford.
My main contributions go to Cedars-Sinai, because of my involvement with them. I’ve always made contributions to the United Jewish Welfare Fund.
JJ: There is also a very personal reason why you are so attached to Cedars-Sinai and especially Shah, its cardiology division director.
NB: P.K. Shah saved my life. Because of my family history, every year I go to Cedars-Sinai and take a complete physical. Dr. Shah spotted a change in my cardiograph about a year-and-a-half ago and told me he wanted me to have a angiogram.
I told him that I had no aches, no pains, no shortness of breath, I work 17 hours a day and did I really have to have an angiogram? He said yes and scheduled it for a few days later.
At 5:30 in the morning, they did an angiogram. When I awakened about four hours later, I learned I had a triple bypass.
Because of P.K. Shah’s early detection, they found there was blockage in three of the arteries. I was operated on with no damage to my heart. I was back working from home four days later and back in the office in three weeks.
Again, it was because P.K. Shah spotted that there was something going on. His early detection prevented me from having a major heart attack.
For tickets to the Heart Fund Humanitarian of the Year gala on April 20 honoring Norman Brokaw, call (310) 423-3657.
Inmate Wants New Label to Avoid Hate
Teen’s Loss of Sister Spurs Charity Efforts
Seventeen-year-old Megan Knofsky keeps alive her sibling’s memory by sustaining a teen support group that raises money for research to find a cure for cystic fibrosis, the genetic disorder that affects 30,000 people and claimed her sister, Sarah, in 1997.
Two years ago, Knofsky of Irvine proved the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation’s top fundraiser nationally. By writing to everyone she knew about her plan to compete in a Kona benefit marathon, Knofsky received pledges of $33,000.
"All in memory of my sister. It was an awesome thing," said Knofsky, whose parents, Carol and Myron, accompanied her to Hawaii for the event.
"She could have started high school and pushed this aside," said Helen M. Johnson, the foundation’s California field management director in Anaheim. Instead, at virtually every foundation charity event in the area, Knofsky assembles a team of ready helpers drawn from Shooting Stars, the group she started in 1997 with her friends and those who knew her sister. "They’re an amazing group of young people," Johnson said.
On March 21, Knofsky will share a bit of her passion and startup know-how in mitzvah making at the fourth annual Mitzvah Mania fair at Irvine’s Tarbut V’ Torah Community Day School. The Bureau of Jewish Education’s free, communitywide event provides helpful advice for parents and their sixth-grade children, who plan a bar or bat mitzvah. Most rabbis expect a self-directed mitzvah project.
Last year, 150 families, most from 15 local synagogues, participated. Activities include a Mitzvot R Us exhibit of poster-board illustrated mitzvah projects. Some of the mitzvah makers will be on hand to personally describe their charitable projects and explain their displays.
Participants also will visit four, 20-minute workshops, where speakers such as Knofsky will give students a firsthand look at suggested charitable work. These include animal therapy and assisting disabled children in sports.
Knofsky did a food drive for her own project as a bat mitzvah at Santa Ana’s Temple Beth Sholom. But she is more enthusiastic about Shooting Stars, so-named to "shoot for the cure." The group now has about 90 members that she contacts through an e-mail list.
"I’m lucky that my friends participate," said the Northwood High School senior and class president, who encourages participation in Cystic Fibrosis Foundation events by handing out brochures in class and at school clubs. She expects 20 to 30 Shooting Stars will collect pledges and walk as a team for Great Strides, a May 15 10-K walk in Huntington Beach.
"I’m very dedicated to the CF Foundation," Knofsky said, noting that life expectancy for those with the genetic disorder has increased from five to 33 years during her sister’s brief, 12-year lifetime.
"We could have planted a tree, but that’s not continuing," said Knofsky, born 22 months after her sibling. "I wanted her to still be a part of me."
Vigil Points to Interfaith Inroads
Circle of Friends
Every Sunday afternoon at 4 p.m., Alysson Beckman and Julie Pinchak go to Victoria Maddis’ house to hang out and play. What makes this situation unique is that Alysson and Julie are both 16-year-old high school students, while Victoria is a 7-year-old girl with a neurological disorder. They have been brought together by The Friendship Circle of the Conejo Valley, a new outreach effort designed to enrich the lives of Jewish children with special needs and their families.
The Friendship Circle and its Friends at Home program pairs local teenagers with families of special-needs kids in order to provide a social outlet for disabled children and support for their often over-extended parents. The Agoura-based Conejo Friendship Circle is modeled after the flagship program in Detroit, which was founded in 1994 by Rabbi Levi and Bassi Shemtov of the Lubavitch Foundation, a branch of Chabad-Lubavitch. The Conejo Friendship Circle was launched by its director, Rabbi Yisroel Levine, and assistant directors Chanie Malamud and Devorah L. Rodal in April 2002. The program is administered by Chabad of the Conejo, and currently boasts 100 teen volunteers and 50 families with special- needs children, ages 4 to 13.
The teenagers who volunteer their time learn the value of giving through the experience of making a difference in a child’s life.
Michelle Levy, a 17-year-old student at Oak Park High School, learned about the organization from a friend at Los Angeles Hebrew High. Levy, who works with a 6-year-old autistic child, said that “although at times it can be difficult, it’s about having fun and being open,” and said that the reward she reaps from being involved always “masks” the difficulty for her.
“I’ve told others to get involved,” she said. “It’s a help for the family to have a little bit of time, and it is so good for us because it’s really special to connect with someone you wouldn’t otherwise know. It’s amazing.”
What makes The Friendship Circle unique is that the one-on-one contact between the child and the teen volunteers takes place in the environment the children are most comfortable in: their own home. Families interested in enrolling in the program are interviewed and evaluated by the directors and a speech pathologist.
The Friendship Circle addresses many types of special needs, ranging from autism and blindness to ADHD and bipolar disorder. Rodal stressed that this program is “truly open to anyone who feels that they need a friend.”
Teen volunteers are carefully screened, selected and trained to work with the children, and are then paired with a second volunteer and a special needs child in the program. The volunteers visit with the child once a week for an hour. Their role is to play and interact with the child, while giving the parents a much-needed respite. They can bake cookies, play games, read books or do almost anything the child wants.
“This program is wonderful,” said Robin Felton, a Calabasas mom whose 6-and-a-half-year-old son Jonah is autistic. “This is the only time that’s really just for fun. Jonah’s life is so therapeutic, and everyone has an agenda related to an IEP [school] goal. His therapy is all adult driven. These girls [from the Friendship Circle] come every Sunday afternoon, and they are completely focused on Jonah and what he wants. It’s not babysitting, it’s not respite, it’s just a gift.”
Felton said that the rest of the family also benefits from this program. Hilary Srole and Sami Wellerstien make an extra effort to share their attention with Jonah’s two brothers, ages 9 and 4.
Erica and Matthew Kane’s family has been with Conejo’s Friendship Circle since its inception. Like many of the children in the program, Kane’s daughter Abby, 6, is autistic; Abby has a 20-month-old brother and an 8-year-old sister.
“Kids thrive on the continuity” Erica Kane said. “We are paired up with two wonderful high school seniors. They come every Sunday, and the kids really look forward to it. The girls are very devoted, and the kids are all very bonded to them. They jump rope, play in the yard, play with Play-Doh … it’s very healthy for them.”
Rodal explained that teen volunteers must provide references as well as copies of past report cards and an explanation of why they are interested in volunteering in The Friendship Circle. All teens attend an hour and a half training session run by the directors, a speech pathologist, a family liaison and a parent of a special-needs child. There may also be additional training provided for a particularly difficult situation, as in the case of a child currently in the program who is blind, autistic and developmentally delayed. In the future, Jewish Family Service will provide this training, and is currently working to make the sessions more interactive.
Rodal and Malamud always accompany the teens on their first visit to their assigned family, and follow up regularly with both the families and the teens. In addition, each teen is responsible to report back to Rodal and Malamud via e-mail (or standard mail) postcard after each visit.
Becoming a member of the Friendship Circle’s Volunteer Club is yet another benefit for the teens. It is a place for the teenagers to come together, discuss their experiences, and just have a good time.
“They help others, but they also have a lot of fun,” Rodal said.
“I want these children to feel like they have someone to lean on when I come to visit them,” said Andrea Kramer, another 15-year-old Friendship Circle volunteer who attends Milken Community High School. “Seeing a child feeling good will boost up their life as well as mine. I want to know that a child is feeling even a tiny bit better because of me.”
To learn more about the Friendship Circle, visit the
program’s Web site at
Active Camps for the Unathletic
Pledge Storm Hits Federation
The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles had a super Super Sunday, ringing up pledges of $4.5 million, or $800,000 more than last year.
"The volunteers were amazing, and, to tell you the truth, it was raining and more people were at home," said Craig Prizant, senior vice president of financial resource development for The Federation. "I think people are really feeling positive about what we’re doing."
Super Sunday’s strong showing comes on the heels of The Federation raising $1 million more in the 2003 General Campaign than one year earlier, he said.
In both instances, the improving economy made people more willing to open their wallets, Prizant said. But changes in the way The Federation raises money also has helped.
During Super Sunday, volunteers and staff spent more time on the phone discussing, in depth, The Federation’s various programs, Prizant said. Armed with the information, potential donors felt more comfortable as they knew the ways the money would benefit Jews both here and abroad, he said.
Prizant also credited the new lay leadership at The Federation for Super Sunday’s success. Federation chair Harriet Hochman, General Campaign chair Laurie Konheim and Women’s Campaign chair Sharon Janks worked tirelessly, personally greeting volunteers and making everyone feel at home. The trio also knows many of the big machers in the community and leveraged their contacts to help raise additional money, Prizant said.
An estimated 400 volunteers worked at The Federation’s office in midtown, another 400 staffed phones in the San Fernando Valley and 300 participated in the South Bay.
In Los Angeles, a coffee cart from the Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf was wheeled around so volunteers could take a break, catch up with friends and network. The mood was festive, but focused.
In the Valley calling stations circled three rows deep around the George Gregory Family Gymnasium at the Bernard Milken Jewish Community Campus in West Hills. Teens ran completed pledge sheets from volunteers placing calls to those entering the donations on laptops set up around the gym, dodging brimming food carts along the way.
At 11:30 a.m., the scoreboard high above the crowded gym floor flashed the day’s first tally of more than $200,000. At 9 p.m., The Jewish Federation/Valley Alliance closed Super Sunday with $1.7 million in donations, exceeding last year’s total of $1.58 million.
Many of the 1,000 volunteers who braved the rain throughout the day were pleased to discover that the inclement weather ensured more people were home to take the call.
"Rain is good," said Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Sherman Oaks), who was among four public officials placing calls at the Valley location. "Maybe that’s the contribution from a higher power to The Jewish Federation."
City Councilman Dennis Zine, whose 3rd District is home to both the Valley Alliance and Jewish Home for the Aging, scored a substantial gift for The Federation early on.
"A donor who had given $1,000 in 2003 gave $10,000 this year," he said.
Sitting next to Zine, 2nd District City Councilwoman Wendy Greuel took pledges while her newborn son, Thomas, sat in her lap chewing on the phone cord.
"This is my first time. I’m so impressed with the number of people here," she said. "My son is going to be raised Jewish and I’m looking forward to being part of this community."
"Super Sunday has become not just a fundraising enterprise, it’s really the community reconnecting with itself in a fundamental way," said 3rd District County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, who was doing double duty after opening the day at 6505 Wilshire. "This is the organized Jewish community reaching out and touching individual Jews and Jewish families in our community."
For Carole Koransky, this year marks her 20th Super Sunday and her first as the Valley Alliance’s new executive director, having started the position on Feb. 2.
"We finished a really great campaign in the Valley in 2003, and we’re just primed to jump even higher," she said. "We know how much is needed and how much we have to do, and we feel we are in really good shape to be doing it."
"Our general campaign last year was $7.2 million from the Valley Alliance," Valley Alliance President Ken Warner said. "We’re hoping to beat that, to get to an $8 million figure, which we’ll be thrilled with."
With the state facing a budget shortfall this year, Warner expects that the increase will likely go toward helping to make up for cuts in social service funding.
"We’re trying the best we can to pick up as much of that slack as possible," he said.
VBS Reaches Out With Tunes and Tie-Dye
Not So Funny Comedy
Emotions have been erupting between Jewish comedians performing raunchy and tasteless routines at the twice-monthly, Comedy Central-sponsored “blue” humor “Sit ‘n’ Spin” nights at Hollywood’s Hudson Guild Theatre.
The fracas began at an early October “Sit ‘n’ Spin” when John Hayman, a non-Jewish comedian, performed his work-in-progress which included a galling routine where Hayman imitated Anne Frank describing her death-camp experience in summer-camp terms. The jokes offended longtime comic actress Annie Korzen, who also performs the traveling one-woman show “Yenta Unplugged.” Korzen’s heckling brought mixed audience reactions.
At the “Sit ‘n’ Spin” two weeks later on Oct. 16, while other comedians maintained the lowbrow and crass atmosphere in the club by slinging penis and sex jokes thick and fast, Korzen performed a serious rebuttal piece to Hayman, stating “Didn’t the world do enough to Anne Frank?”
Tension climaxed with the evening’s final routine by Jewish comic and TV producer Ron Zimmerman, who defended the original Anne Frank routine as satire. He also read Holocaust revisionists’ anti-Semitic literature to the audience, saying, “This is not satire. Why aren’t Annie [Korzen] and her friends out heckling them?”
Zimmerman then read the original Anne Frank routine, including a joke about her death camp’s arts and crafts activities including the pulling of gold teeth. Korzen’s supporters stood and walked out, shouting “This is disgusting!”
The show’s organizers then cut short Zimmerman’s routine, cuing the house band and announcing the evening’s end.
“Shame on you!” said Zimmerman as patrons left their seats. “Everybody that left here is pathetic! The last Jewish man standing, that’s what I am.” — David Finnigan, Contributing Writer
Knott’s Berry Shul
Prayer was a special Sukkot attraction at Knott’s Berry Farm, when about 50 visitors converged to daven mincha, the afternoon prayer service, on Oct. 15.
Supporters of Bais Chana of California Women’s Yeshiva gathered at the home of Alan and Lisa Stern on Oct. 1 to honor the memory of rebbetzin Chana Schneersohn, the mother of Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneersohn, the seventh Chabad Rebbe.
Rebbetzin Chana died 39 years ago, on the sixth day of Tishrei, but she is vividly remembered for the self sacrifice that she exhibited when her husband, Rabbi Levi Yitzchak was exiled in Siberia in the 1920s and 1930s. There she collected herbs and plants to grind into ink so that he could continue writing his kabbalistic texts.
At the Stern’s house, Berel Weiss spoke about the joy of giving, and Sarah Karmely talked about inspiration from the rebbetzin. Neil Seidel played Chasidic tunes on the guitar, and Vanessa Paloma played the harp.
Nshei Chabad (the Women of Chabad) also held a gathering for the rebbetzin’s yarhzeit, at the home of Devorie Kreiman in Hancock Park. Fayge Yemini and Ruchama Thaler organized the event, which featured Shternie Lipsker from Sherman Oaks, speaking about the High Holidays, and Chabad emissary Ita Marcus from Los Alamitos, who spoke about the mystical experience of baking challah. Marcus explained that the Hebrew name Chana stands for the three mitzvot given to women: challah (separating a portion of challah dough for God), niddah (family purity) and hadlakas ner (lighting Shabbat candles). She said that one should give charity before baking challah, and when kneading the dough, one should bear in mind the needs of others, and ask that they be blessed with what they need.
For more information about Nshei Chabad, call 310 785-9389, or 323-651-0138.
If you are still hankering for a taste of sukkot then you can head down to the Jewish Community Library of Los Angeles where you can look at the winning booths of the Jewish Student Union’s (JSU) model-sukkah-building contest. Be sure to check out Gina Gorner’s winning booth. Gorner is a sophomore at John Marshall High School, and she won the $200 prize. Neda Kadkhoda and Nazanin Frankel of Santa Monica High School shared the first runner-up prize, a Sony Discman. Honorable mentions went to Michelle Rapport of Hamilton High School, and Jasmine Andout and Julianne Andout of Santa Monica High School.
JSU is a program that facilitates Jewish clubs for public school kids. Typically, JSU counselors go to public schools at lunchtime armed with kosher pizzas, and sit down and talk about Judaism with unaffiliated Jewish students in a friendly and open manner. Currently, JSU is operating in 14 public high schools in the greater Los Angeles area.
Call 310-229-9006 for more details.
Laugh it up
Fifth District City Councilmember Jack Weiss refused to tell any jokes, but he did get up on stage on Oct. 16 at the Laugh Factory to thank everyone who attended the Benefit for the Fairfax Building Plane Crash Victims (to help those injured in the June 6 tragedy when a airplane crashed into an apartment building in the Fairfax district). The comedians who performed were hilarious. Among them, Sunda Croonquist who launched into a thousand accents as she described being black, Jewish and having to fit into both South Los Angeles and Sinai Temple; Tony Rock, brother of comedian Chris; and Bob Saget (“Full House,” “America’s Funniest Home Videos”).
Before Saget’s set, he and Weiss schmoozed about the jokes they heard in shul over the High Holidays.
7 Days In Arts
Betty Green’s paintings work on so many levels — seriously. Her latest collection of mixed-media works, titled “Worlds Within,” refers to the layers of paint and found objects that cover her canvas, as well as to the infinite nature of the visual space they inhabit. Orlando Gallery hosts an opening reception for the exhibition today.7-9:30 p.m. 18376 Ventura Blvd., Tarzana. (818) 705-5368.
Socially conscious kicks are just what the doctor ordered this evening. Presented by Physicians for Social Responsibility, tonight’s engagement is titled “Rx” and features performances and art to benefit the organization of doctors and health professionals working toward a world “free from violence, weapons of mass destruction and environmental threats to human health.” Marcus Kuiland-Nazario and Nurit Siegel co-host the event, with acts by osseus labyrint, Paul Zaloom, Danielle Brazell and others.7 p.m. $20. The Electric Lodge, 1416 Electric Ave., Venice. (213) 386-4901, ext. 125.
Congrats to Wilshire Boulevard Temple for making thecut. New out this month is Samuel D. Gruber’s survey of the evolution of theAmerican Jewish house of worship over the past 100 years. With photographs byPaul Rocheleau, the book “American Synagogues: A Century of Architecture andJewish Community” features 36 of the country’s most beautiful or architecturallysignificant temples. Wilshire is the lone edifice representing our fine state,but other highlights include designs by Frank Lloyd Wright, Philip Johnson,Walter Gropius and Minoru Yamasaki. $40. Rizzoli International. www.barnesandnoble.com .
Pick up the carpool and head to Borders in Westwood this afternoon for Shalom Time. Kids and parents enjoy Jewish quality time with songs, stories and finger-puppet theater, sponsored by the Los Angeles Intercommunity Kollel, better known simply as LINK.4 p.m. Borders Books and Music, 1360 Westwood Blvd., Westwood. (310) 470-5465
Aaron Sorkin’s repartee writing for television is known for being both prolific and distinctive. But is his live banter as good as his “West Wing” scripts? Find out this evening, as the Museum of Television and Radio invites you to participate in “A Conversation With Aaron Sorkin.” As the creator, writer and executive producer of the shows “The West Wing” and “Sports Night,” he’ll discuss how he constructs dialogue and how he moves an episode through production.7-8:30 p.m. $12-$15. 465 N. Beverly Drive, Beverly Hills. R.S.V.P., (310) 786-1091.
One of only three military rabbis in the theater of battle comes to Los Angeles this Sept. 11. Capt. Avrohom Horovitz of the U.S. Army 3rd Battalion, 27th Artillery Regiment, Ft. Bragg, N.C., will share observations from the Iraqi front lines and discuss the spiritual struggles in the war on terror.8 p.m. $5-$7. Los Angeles Intercommunity Kollel, 10523 Santa Monica Blvd., Westwood. (310) 470-5465.
Don the goofy glasses for some retro fun tonight. The World 3-D Film Expo kicks off tonight, hosted by the Egyptian Theatre. Movie trailer archivist Jeff Joseph has organized the festival, which will feature more than 33 classic and rare feature length 1950s 3-D films and more than 20 short subjects. Tonight, see “House of Wax” and the short, “Motor Rhythm,” followed by “Stranger Wore a Gun.” Other festival highlights include screenings of “Kiss Me Kate” and “Creature From the Black Lagoon.”7 p.m. Runs through Sept. 21. $10 (per screening), $320 (festival pass, plus souvenir booklet). The Egyptian Theatre, 6712 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood. (661) 538-9259.
7 Days In Arts
Israel: Independence and Remembrance
Events remembering Israel’s fallen soldiers, on May 6, and celebrating the nation’s founding, officially May 7, include two local benefits to address gaping needs of Israelis.
Yom Yisrael at Eilat will treat religious school students at Mission Viejo’s Congregation Eilat to a simulated Israel trip on May 4 , 9 a.m. at 22081 Hidalgo Road. Activity stations include a kibbutz, a Western Wall, archaeological dig, flag factory, army training, shuk (marketplace), Bedouin tent and Israeli dancing. For more information, call (949) 770-9606 ext. 13.
The 40-member Israel scout troop, established earlier this year at Irvine’s Tarbut V’Torah Community Day School, intend to ignite a fire sign on May 5 at 7:30 p.m. to honor Yom HaZikaron, the remembrance day for Israel’s soldiers. The scouts haven’t settled on what the canvas-wrapped sign will say, but it is to be lit somewhere outside the upper campus, said Eyal Giladi, a parent organizer.
Singer Igal Bashan will perform May 10 at 8:30 p.m. Tarbut V’ Torah’s lower school in Irvine in a benefit concert marking Israel’s 55th anniversary. A student dance group and choir will also perform at the joint Women’s International Zionist Organization (WIZO)-Jewish Community Center event.
Proceeds from the $36, $50 and $180 tickets will help fight growing child poverty in Israel by providing foodstuffs to day-care providers. One in four Israeli children are below the poverty line, according to annual census figures released in March, said Michal Kropitzer, who heads a local WIZO chapter.
“It’s hard to face, but this is the reality,” she said, adding that in the past six months WIZO started providing meals at schools for hungry students. Her goal is $20,000. For more information, call (714) 731-9254.
Anaheim’s Temple Beth Emet will celebrate Israel’s birthday on May 18 at 1 p.m. with wine, hors d’oeuvres, candlelighting and music sung by a student in USC’s opera program. Held at the shul, 1770 West Cerritos Ave., the $55 per person event will in part fund emergency kits needed by Magen David Adom, Israel’s emergency response, ambulance and blood service. For more information, call (714) 772-4720.
Jewish Odd Couple
A Wish Is Granted
The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles and Jewish
Family Service (JFS) have received the first federally funded grant in California
for so-called naturally occurring retirement communities (NORCs), places where
a majority of the population is over 55.
JFS, which collaborated with the Federation in a year-long
lobbying effort to land the money, will use the $500,000 to provide support
services to clusters of seniors living in the Fairfax area and West Hollywood.
“This is a significant victory for the community, especially
in these tough economic times,” said Paul Castro, JFS executive director.
As their physical and mental capabilities diminish, many
seniors living at home must grapple with myriad problems, ranging from balancing
their checkbooks to flipping their mattresses to finding a ride to the
Often to frail to adequately take care of themselves, they
nonetheless continue living in their homes after the children leave for fear of
losing their independence and ending up in nursing homes. Even healthy seniors
generally prefer staying among friends in their old neighborhoods as long as
NORCs have cropped up around the country, with an estimated
5,000 now dotting the U.S. As the population grays — an estimated 75 million
Americans will be over 55 in 2010 — the number of NORCs is expected to jump,
said Andrew Kochera, senior policy advisor at AARP in Washington.
To better provide services for the people residing in them,
the federal government has awarded 18 grants worth nearly $10 million to 15
Jewish Federations in the past seven months. And in late February, The Jewish
Federation of Greater Los Angeles and JFS were awarded their grant.
“This is really the wave of the future for senior care,”
said Jessica Toledano, the Federation’s director of government relations.
“There’s a huge need for this.”
JFS, which the Federation partially funds, will spend the
grant money to improve the lives of local seniors. JFS plans to identify what
seniors might most benefit from NORC support services and then begin providing
them within six months, said Castro, agency executive director. Programs under
consideration include home-delivered meals, transportation to and from doctor
offices and grocery stores and taxi vouchers.
All seniors living in JFS-designated NORCs in the Fairfax
area and West Hollywood, regardless of income levels, would qualify for support
JFS has a proven record of providing vital services to needy
seniors, said Perri Sloane Goodman, director of state programs for the agency.
The Multipurpose Senior Services Program has, since 1980, provided frail,
indigent elderly men and women with an array of services ranging from taxi
vouchers to home-meal preparation to keep them out of nursing homes.
A growing number of politicians favor funding NORC support
services partly because of economics, said Diana Aviv, vice president for
public policy at the United Jewish Communities (UJC), the umbrella group for
the nation’s federations. She estimates that nursing home care costs $55,000
annually per person, while senior housing with special services is $20,000. By
contrast, NORC support services cost about $5,000, Aviv said.
One of the reasons why the UJC has become involved in
seeking funding for NORCs is because of demographic trends in the Jewish
community. Whereas 11 percent of the general population is 65 or older, 19
percent of Jews are, Aviv said.
UJC will continue going after NORC funding “as long as our
communities are interested in it,” she added.
Funding for NORCs dates back nearly two decades, although
federal support is still relatively recent and small.
The first support services for NORCs began in New York City
in 1986. Less than a decade later, in 1994, the New York State Legislature
supported 14 NORC programs. Five years later, the City Council in New York City
allocated millions of dollars to expand the program.
In the Big Apple, services for the elderly inhabiting NORCs
ranged from social worker home visits to cat sitting and plant watering for
wealthy seniors near Lincoln Center, said Fredda Vladeck, director of the
United Hospital Fund’s Aging in Place Initiative.
Last August, the federal government got into the act by
allocating $3.7 million to five Jewish federations, including Baltimore,
Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. Seven months later, the government awarded 13
grants totaling almost $6 million, including the stipend to Los Angeles.
Each federation receiving federal funds individually lobbied
legislators for money. Among others, Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-Calif), Sen.
Barbara Boxer (D-Calif), Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Van Nuys) and Rep. Howard Berman
(D-Los Angeles) championed local NORC funding, the Federation’s Toledano said.
The Boston, New York and Richmond, Va. Federations all failed in their bids to
land NORC money.
Collaborating on Education