Faith, not just gayness, informs filmmaker’s works

This has been a good year for filmmaker Ira Sachs. His new feature, “Keep the Lights On,” received a nomination for the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival and won the prestigious Teddy Award at the Berlin International Film Festival. And while the intensely personal, autobiographical film centers on a tumultuous love affair between two men, Sachs believes audiences will relate to the human experience of relationships shared by all couples.

During a phone interview from his New York City home, Sachs attributed his ability for universal affinity to his cultural heritage. “I feel that I live and breathe my Judaism as an individual, and it is how I connect to people here every day.”    

Sachs has been living in Manhattan since 1987, but his roots stem from the Deep South city of Memphis, Tenn., where he was raised in what he described as a Reform Jewish household. 

“My maternal side was German Jews who came to Memphis in 1850, and, on my father's side, Eastern Europeans who came in 1900; two major Southern immigration times for Jews, so I grew up in a mixed Jewish family,” he said.  

Sachs also points to the era of social change, in which he grew up, as an influence on his formative years. 

“I was in Memphis in the '60s, and that was obviously a very complicated time,” he explained. “One of the things about growing up Jewish in the South was there was a lot of assimilation going on among Southern Jews. And one of the things that did was create a greater interest in social action there. For example, there was a great connection between our rabbi and the civil rights movement, so I've always been interested in how people live and how difference is a part of one's experience. And growing up in the South as a Jewish person, and as a gay person, I think there were certain ways in which the two identities would overlap because it was a place in which I was an outsider. But I felt more of an outsider being gay.”

Keep the Lights On” target=”_blank”>

‘The Possession’ possesses the box office

“The Possession” is off to a devilishly good start at the box office, grossing $21.3 million — making it the second best opening for a movie on Labor Day weekend after “Halloween” in 2007, which brought in $30.6 million. Based on the dybbuk, a malevolent Jewish spirit, and the film “The Exorcist,” it features Matisyahu in his big screen debut and Kyra Sedgwick. The film tells the story of a young girl (Natasha Calis) who buys a mysterious box at a yard sale, unaware that inside lives an ancient spirit. Despite the box office success, “The Possession” received mixed reviews, scoring only 39 percent on the Rotten Tomatoes Fresh scale, but performing better with critic Roger Ebert, who gave the film 3 1/2 out of 4 stars.

Related: Hollywood dybbuk invades suburbia

Romney/Ryan and the lullaby of lying

It shouldn’t have taken Todd Akin’s ” target=”_hplink”>method of conception.” 

If the news media hadn’t grown blasé about the Republican war on women, plenty of pre-Akin Americans would have already known that GOP majorities in Congress and state legislatures have repeatedly voted to narrow the definition of “legitimate rape” to “” target=”_hplink”>personhood” to fertilized eggs, which would criminalize birth control pills, IUDs and in vitro fertility procedures.  If cynicism weren’t the default mode of political reporting, we’d now be seeing Mitt Romney’s feet held to the fire of his party’s ” target=”_hplink”>Reince Preibus’ attempt to dissociate the candidate from his platform would be worth more than a chuckle and a yawn from the press corps.

“The Big Lie” is a propaganda technique that kids hear about in school.  If you learn what Nazis and Communists did, if you read Orwell’s “1984,” you’re supposed to be inoculated against pervasive, outrageous falsehoods.  That’s why Jefferson and Franklin counted on public education and public libraries.  It’s also why the First Amendment protects the fourth estate; it shields muckrakers, investigative journalists, critics and gadflies from censorship.

But today the biggest threat to democracy isn’t government intimidation of the press.  It’s boredom – a consequence of the domination of political communication by paid media, the subordination of news to entertainment, the imperative to monetize audience attention, the fear that information and amusement are locked in a zero sum game. 

Mitt Romney and deep pockets like the Koch brothers and Sheldon Adelson have flooded the airwaves with ads claiming that Barack Obama has eliminated the ” target=”_hplink”>Medicare recipients to fund a ” target=”_hplink”>lazy blacks, there’s no news left in the narrative.  Networks fear that audiences will get bored, so they move on.  And yes, there may be some truth to their understanding of their customers.  We’re hooked on novelty, suckers for speed, addled by ADD.  But billionaires don’t get bored.  They keep paying to pound those ads into our heads, whether we like it or not.  Repetition is the demagogue’s best friend. 

No member of Congress is farther to the right than Paul Ryan.  He’s an acolyte of the ideologue ” target=”_hplink”>safety net that has defined the American social contract since the 1930s, but explaining this takes time, which risks audience share, and in the face of a barrage of ads portraying him as the savior of seniors, it takes the kind of persistence that news executives fear hurts ratings.  He is a ” target=”_hplink”>fraudulent, but hey, how ‘bout the six-pack on that dreamboat?

If the media were doing its job in this election, the story it would be telling over and over is that Mitt Romney’s qualification for the presidency consists of a career at Bain Capital about which we know essentially nothing; that his economic plan is the most massive ” target=”_hplink”>financial disclosure rules that have applied to presidential candidates since his father ran; that his ” target=”_hplink”>identical to the Affordable Care Act he promises to repeal; that he has ” target=”_hplink”>suppress voter turnout may well send him to the White House.

But that’s old news.  Been there, done that.  I’ll leave it to others to make the case that the press is giving Obama a free ride.  If that’s true, then there’s been a double dereliction of duty.  News producers are afraid that indefatigable fact checking of either party will bore the pants off people.  But I don’t smell any fear of ennui emanating from station owners making billions off broadcasting the Big Lie.

Marty Kaplan is the ” target=”_hplink”>USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism.  Reach him at

Opinion: Jerusalem bullies need a dose of respect

Jerusalem’s Zion Square, located in the city center, where rallies mobilize, concerts convene, street fairs assemble and pedestrians abound, caught the attention of local media and became the topic of weekend table talk when it was learned that on Aug. 16, 17-year-old Jamal Julani, an Israeli Arab from east Jerusalem who went to meet a friend who was working at a local restaurant nearby, nearly died from a savage beating unleashed by a gang of Jewish “tough teens,” who were out cruising the streets, apparently looking for a victim. The first responders from the United Hatzalah emergency response organization who answered the call, told us that Jamal wasn’t breathing when they arrived. It would be 24 hours before he would regain consciousness, but even then he couldn’t remember what had happened the night before. 

I visited Jamal in Hadassah University Medical Center in Ein Kerem 36 hours after the brutal attack. Upon entering his room in the familiar facility, I was met with thoughts of so many Israeli victims of bus bombings we visited there during the height of the intifada. But this time it was different.

Jamal couldn’t remember the 50 or so youth who either partook in the beating or stood idly by doing absolutely nothing to intervene. His father, Subha, stood over him saying that his memory of the day was gone. His wife, Nariman, was grateful that Jamal was alive at all and soon to be released thanks to the Israeli medics who reached the scene on time.

The underlying question, though, was what motivated these gang-like hoodlums —colloquially, arsim — to attack an innocent youth?

Reaction on the street went from, “How awful!”; “What do you expect from kids on drugs and booze?”; “Why can’t Arabs walk the streets of Jerusalem without fear?”; and “Why didn’t anyone do anything to help?” to “Where are the parents?”; “Where were the police?”; and “Where is the mayor?”

It’s not difficult to reason that when youth set out to stir up violence and chant “Death to Arabs,” no good can come of it.       

If the five Israeli teens — Jewish kids from 13 to 19 years old — who were indicted Aug. 28 in Jerusalem District Court, turn out to be the ones responsible for the incident, it is only the quick response and skill of the medics that stand between them and manslaughter or even murder charges.

Israeli police spokesman Mickey Rosenfeld told the Media Line that this wasn’t the first incident of its kind and said he couldn’t point to other incidents in reverse, cases of Arabs beating up on Jews.

In 2009, I wrote an Op-Ed that was printed on the same day in both The Jerusalem Post and Al-Quds about the Acre riots signaling a tipping point exacerbating the need to redefine the Jewish versus Arab rift. The trigger point then was rioting that followed an errant trip through a Jewish neighborhood by an Arab driver on Yom Kippur, the holiest day on the Jewish calendar, when even many secular Jewish Israelis avoid riding in cars.

Seeking solutions, I turned to legendary folksinger and humanitarian Peter Yarrow of Peter, Paul and Mary fame, and Charlotte Frank of McGraw-Hill publishers, who together fashioned an educational foundation that teaches students not to bully those not like themselves out of the song “Don’t Laugh at Me.” Yarrow’s Operation Respect curriculum is now taught in more than 22,000 schools in America alone, and in many other educational systems throughout the world.

After the piece ran, the American embassy in Tel Aviv contacted me to learn more about the program and to connect with Yarrow. As a result, the “Don’t Laugh at Me” curriculum is being taught in 30 Israeli schools — Jewish and Muslim — and will be introduced in schools in Jerusalem and Bethlehem this year as the total number of schools in Israel and the Palestinian Authority reaches 50.

Resolving differences between Jewish and Arab Israelis begins with youth education in schools and at home. At the heart of the Aug. 16 near-fatal tragedy is not so much nationalistic fervor as it is simple bullying — the pack mentality of brutality in numbers not to preach politics, but to experience the perverse rush of hurting someone. It’s not a stretch to project Operation Respect as an antidote for the disease underlying the attack on Jamal Julani.

Nor is it a stretch to believe that a schoolchild exposed to programs such as Operation Respect from early grades will not be cruising Zion Square — or Acre or Jenin — with a bloodlust 10 years hence.

I asked Subha whether this horrific incident changed his feelings toward Israelis. He said he works with an Israeli, many of his friends are Israeli, and he has Israeli citizenship because his wife is from Jerusalem.

It might not be a bad thing that Jamal doesn’t recall the attack. But he said he won’t be walking Yaffa Road alone any time soon.

Felice Friedson is president and CEO of The Media Line news agency; founder of The Mideast Press Club; and Women in Mideast Media. She can be reached at

Youkilis says he will play for Israel at World Baseball Classic

Chicago White Sox third baseman Kevin Youkilis said he will play for Israel at the World Baseball Classic.

Youkilis told Israel Sports Radio Wednesday that he would play for Team Israel if he is healthy. This season, the three-time All Star is hitting .241 with 15 home runs and 47 runs batted in. He has been hampered by injuries for much of the past three seasons.

Israel is one of 16 countries invited to play in next month’s qualifying round, and the top four teams advance to the 2013 classic.

Youkilis also said there are other Jewish Major League Baseball players who want to play, the station said. 

Diaspora Jews are eligible to play on behalf of Israel.

Former MLB player Brad Ausmus has signed on as coach and retired players Shawn Green and Gabe Kapler have agreed to assist as coaches and players for the Israeli team.

Elliot Caplow, real estate developer, philanthropist, 83

Elliot Caplow, a prominent real estate developer and Jewish philanthropist, died Aug. 16 at the age of 83.

Caplow graduated from UCLA in 1952 with a degree in business and began his career as a broker with Hollingsworth and Co. He is credited with brokering two landmark properties during the 1950s — the Simons Brickyard, which at the time was the largest industrial park in East Los Angeles; and Reston, Va., which was one of the first planned residential communities in America. In 1959, Caplow founded E.M. Caplow & Associates to develop commercial and residential properties throughout the Western United States. During the 1970s and ’80s, the company became one of the most prolific developers of Kmart shopping centers. Today, it owns and manages approximately 1 million square feet of property.

Caplow and his wife, Elaine, have been strong supporters of the local Jewish community and Israel. After he retired from his real estate business, Caplow served on the President’s Council of the American Jewish Committee’s Los Angeles chapter. In 2002, the couple opened a Donor Advised Fund at The Jewish Community Foundation of Los Angeles.

Caplow is survived by his wife of 56 years, Elaine; sons Bradley (Mindy) and Mark (Sue); and five grandchildren.

Services will be held on Friday, Aug. 17, 1 p.m. at Hillside Memorial Park and Mortuary, 6001 W. Centinela Ave., Los Angeles. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations in memory of Elliott Caplow be directed to The Memory Disorders Fund in the Department of Neurology at Cedars-Sinai, under the directions of Dr. Patrick Lyden. Gifts can be made online at

A Shabbat prayer for the victims of the Sikh shooting

This prayer was written to recite for the victims and survivors of the Aug. 5 shooting at the Sikh temple in Wisconsin.  Rabbi Naomi Levy, spiritual leader of Nashuva, wrote the prayer on behalf of the Conservative movement’s Rabbinical Assembly, which distributed it to congregations around the world.

Let Us Stand Up Together (נעמדה יחד)
–From our Haftarah this Shabbat, the second Haftarah of comfort (Isaiah 50:8)

We stand together in grief
For the innocent victims
Of the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin
Who perished in their house of prayer.
May their memories be a blessing,
May their lights shine brightly on us.

We stand together in mourning
For broken hearts,
The senseless loss, the shock, the emptiness.

We stand together in outrage,
Weary of this war-torn hate-filled world.
And together we pray:

Send comfort, God, to grieving families,
Hear their cries.
Fill them with the courage
To carry on in the face of this tragic loss.
Send healing to the wounded,
Lift them up, ease their pain,
Restore them to strength, to hope, to life.
Gather the sacred souls of the slaughtered
Into Your eternal shelter,
Let them find peace in Your presence, God.

Work through us, God,
Show us how to help.
Open our hearts so we can comfort the mourning,
Open our arms so we can extend our hands,
Transform our helplessness into action,
Turn the prayers of our souls into acts of kindness and compassion.

Let us stand up together
Our young and our old,
All races and faiths,
All people and nations.
Rise up above hatred
And cruelty and indifference.
Let us live up to our goodness
Let us learn from this tragedy
Let us walk together
Filled with hope
On a path of peace, Amen.

– by Rabbi Naomi Levy

Florence Appel Roth, 93

Florence Appel Roth, philanthropist and widow of entrepreneur Bernard B. Roth, passed away of natural causes on Tuesday, July 31, 2012 at her home in Beverly Hills. She was 93.

Florence Roth was an instrumental partner to her husband of 74 years as he built his company, World Oil Corp., from a single gas station in South Los Angeles into one of California’s largest privately held enterprises. As a young married couple, Florence and Bernard explored Los Angeles together evaluating sites for new gas stations following World Oil’s founding in 1938.  Florence continued to provide invaluable counsel and support to her husband until he passed away last year at the age of 95.

Today, World Oil and its affiliates operate gasoline stations throughout California, and have diversified their operations to include road and roofing asphalt production, trucking, marine terminal operations and real estate development. The company is perhaps best known for pioneering the “self serve” gasoline station. World Oil also anticipated the rise of “green” technology – decades before the popularity and success of most sustainable businesses, World Oil acquired a fledgling petroleum recycling company and transformed it into the largest petroleum recycling business in the Western U.S.

Florence Appel was born on May 28, 1919, in Montreal, Canada, the eldest of three children. Her family moved to Los Angeles when she was 3, and at 17 she married Bernard Roth, who was then working as an usher at the Paramount Theater in East Los Angeles. 

Giving back to the Los Angeles community was extremely important to Florence and Bernard Roth. Together, they created the Florence and Bernard B. Roth Family Foundation, and have actively supported leading civic institutions such as the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Music Center, Wilshire Boulevard Temple, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and the Jewish Federation, among others. The Foundation also played a lead role in the development of summer camps in Malibu and a West L.A. K-6 elementary school campus affiliated with Wilshire Boulevard Temple.

A loving and devoted mother, Florence Roth is survived by three children: Richard of New York, Steven of Beverly Hills, and Robert of Newport Beach. She is also survived by six grandchildren and six great grandchildren.

In lieu of flowers, the family encourages that donations be made to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.  Funeral services will be held at Wilshire Boulevard Temple Irmas Campus (11661 W. Olympic Boulevard, 90064) at 11:30am on Friday August 3, 2012.

Biblical politics

Michael Walzer frankly announces at the outset of “In God’s Shadow: Politics in the Hebrew Bible” (Yale University Press: $28.00) that he is approaching the Scriptures not as a biblical scholar but as a political thinker.  “The Bible is, above all, a religious book,” he argues, “but it is also a political book.”

Walzer is a distinguished social scientist and a public intellectual of long standing. Tellingly, he has served as co-editor of Dissent magazine for three decades. He concedes, for example, that he is capable of reading the biblical account of the Tower of Babel as an anti-imperialist argument or as a defense of cultural pluralism.”  But he declines to do so: “[T]hat is the stuff of sermons.” And he concedes that there is no single authoritative reading of the Bible, not even his own: “[R]eligious believers, as well as skeptics and unbelievers, will disagree about the meaning of the biblical text and the political views of its writers.”

Since Walzer holds himself to a laudable standard of clarity and even transparency, he readily admits that he has “only a schoolboy’s knowledge of biblical Hebrew” and relies mostly (but not exclusively) on the King James Version “simply because of its beautiful English.”  He tells what he thinks rather than what he knows, because much about the Bible cannot be known with certainty, even by biblical scholars.  “Reading the Bible is a complex and speculative business,” he observes, “but it isn’t a business for which we need an invitation; we are all readers if we want to be.”

Not surprisingly, Walzer is attuned to the tensions and contradictions in the biblical text. He points out, for example, that God offers two covenants, one based on membership in a “kinship group” whose bloodlines can be traced back to Abraham and one based on willing adherence to divine law. “[H]ence it isn’t entirely implausible to say that there is no chosen people, only people who choose.” And he argues that the moral burden of the covenant has been “radically democratized,” precisely because “the avoidance of wickedness isn’t an obligation of leaders alone but of the whole nation.”

He also discerns the diversity of both belief and practice in ancient Israel that is buried just beneath the surface of the biblical text — “the textual residue of oral advocacy,” as he puts it.  God may be the law-giver at Sinai, but even the Bible concedes that God later falls silent, and so the task is taken over by “Israel’s secret legislators,” as Walzer puts it.  Since they rarely agree with each other, the old biblical laws are “pluralized” rather than revised or replaced. “The result of their choice was a written law,” explains Walzer, “that made possible those strange open-ended legal conversations that constitute the oral law of later Judaism.”

Perhaps the most provocative feature of the Bible is the prophet, a truth-teller who is willing to stand up to even the most powerful of kings, just as Nathan confronts David with his moral failings, although not always with impunity.  Monarchy, according to Walzer, “arises in Israel as an entirely practical response to the dangers of theocratic (charismatic) rule.”  If the king represents “the full and often contradictory set of human interests,” however, it is the prophet who speaks only of right and wrong. “Prophecy is at war with personal wrongdoing, later on with social wrongdoing,” he points out. “But the prophet is also at war with politics itself.”

Walzer, however, insists on pointing out the dark side of prophecy.  One complaint that the prophets make against kings is that they are insufficiently zealous and ruthless, which is the sin that caused Saul to forfeit the favor of God.  “Here were kings who pursued sensibly secular policies, fighting limited wars and signing treaties of peace,” observes Walzer, “when they should have consecrated their enemies to God and slaughtered them all.” Eventually, the prophets seem to realize that Israel’s days of conquest and slaughter are over: “We find in their writings the first hints of an alternative conception: that Israel is a victim nation, always at the wrong end of someone else’s agency.”

By the book of Esther, which Walzer singles out for its “radical newness,” God is wholly replaced by human agency.  “God is never mentioned in the story,” he points out, “nor does he come to the people’s aid.” Significantly, Esther and Mordecai succeed in saving the Jews of Persia from destruction only by ingratiating themselves with the king — “We may think of them as the first court Jews (though Joseph is a distant model)” — and they serve as important exemplars of a certain coping strategy that served the Jewish people well until the Shoah.

Indeed, Walzer explores how the politics of the Bible took on grave new meanings in the 20th century.  Historian Simon Dubnow, for example, argued that exile was not only the fate, but also the strength of the Jewish people: “State, territory, army, the external attributes of national power, are for you superfluous luxury.”  But the Yiddish writer I. L. Peretz saw the same biblical story through the eyes of a Zionist pioneer: “When [he] called Mordechai an informer and a pimp,” explains Walzer, “he was hoping for a state that would make court Jews like him, like Esther too, unnecessary.”

“In God’s Shadow” always returns to the moral polarities that suffuse the Bible. “A God engaged in history is a dangerous God, for it is always possible to read his intentions and try to help him out, usually by killing his enemies,” Walzer points out. At the same time, however, the obligations imposed on the readers of the Bible can be profoundly exalting: “If anything in biblical politics is fundamental, it is this retail program, the social ethic of a covenantal community: do justice, protect the weak, feed the poor, free the (Israelite) salve, love the (resident) stranger.”

Countless authors possess the chutzpah that is necessary to come up with a fresh reading of the Bible, but very few succeed.  “In God’s Shadow,” however, is a rich and rare example of how new, provocative and illuminating meanings can be teased out of the ancient text.

Jonathan Kirsch, author and publishing attorney, is the book editor of The Jewish Journal. He blogs at

Youkilis traded from Red Sox to White Sox

Kevin Youkilis is changing his Sox: The three-time All-Star was traded from the Boston Red Sox to the Chicago White Sox.

Youkilis, who is Jewish, was sent to the American League Central Division club on Sunday for utilityman Brent Lillibridge and right-hander Zach Stewart, who was pitching in the minor leagues. The White Sox also received cash in the deal.

A three-time Gold Glove winner who can play first base or third, Youkilis had a .287 career batting average with 133 home runs and 563 runs batted in during his 8 1/2 seasons with the Red Sox. He was a member of the club’s 2004 and 2007 championship teams.

Youkilis has been hampered by injuries in the past three seasons, and the emergence of third baseman Will Middlebrooks made him expendable in Boston, where he was a fan favorite. He received a long standing ovation at Fenway Park after leaving Sunday’s game against Atlanta for a pinch runner after tripling in the seventh inning.

“He pushes me every day, and I want to go out and play hard every day just like he does,” longtime teammate Dustin Pedroia, a former A.L. Most Valuable Player, told ESPN.

Manager Bobby Valentine and Youkilis have had some public disagreements in Valentine’s first season with the team.

Joyce fans celebrate Bloomsday in Westwood

More than 100 James Joyce enthusiasts, performance artists and Irish descendants gathered at Westwood’s Hammer Museum on June 16 to celebrate Bloomsday. Taken from the name of Leopold Bloom, the assimilated Jewish protagonist in Joyce’s monumental book, “Ulysses,” the event celebrates the life of the Irish writer and relives the events of the day the tale is set: June 16, 1904.

With plastic cups of Guinness in hand, attendees warmed to the sounds of traditional Irish music played by the Sweet Set as they waited for the festivities to begin.

Stanley Breitbard, organizer for Bloomsday at the Hammer, says the event draws a wide demographic. “We get a very mixed crowd every year,” he said. “Academics, veterans, actors and people of Irish descent.”

A worldwide celebration established in 1954, Breitbard said the appeal of Bloomsday was understandable.

“He was the greatest writer who ever lived, and clearly I’m not the only one who thinks that,” he said.

Phil Hendricks, a Jewish man in his 60s, said it had been 20 years since he last read “Ulysses,” adding that it felt like a completely different book as he read in the Hammer’s courtyard. A sign of a timeless classic. Hendricks also addressed why Joyce would choose to make his protagonist a Jew in a predominantly Catholic country.

“The Irish themselves were outcasts amongst the British, so I think there is a similarity between them and the Jews,” he said. “The juxtaposition between Jews and Irish Catholics are very well known. Bloom was definitely more Jewish than he was Catholic.”

The buoyancy of the late afternoon hushed when attendees were asked to enter the Billy Wilder Theater, where a reading was performed by a host of Irish and American actors, including Jonny O’Callaghan (narrator in “Gangs of New York”) and James Lancaster (“Pirates of the Carribean 2”).

The seventh episode of the book, “Aeolus,”  was chosen to be read in full by nine actors. Introduced by Breitbard, the story unfolded with the Irish accents of O’Callaghan and Lancaster, which eased the process of imagining an early 20th century Dublin. The reading gave beautiful insight into Joyce’s stream-of-consciousness style, taking the listener right into the minds of the characters. A difficult narrative to follow at first, the story was peppered with humorous intervals, provoking laugh-out-loud responses from the standing-room-only audience.

Margot Norris, author and former president of the James Joyce International Foundation, intervened during the readings, providing insights into Joyce’s choices of syntax and literary devices. One of the questions she raised: Why would Joyce reveal Leopold Bloom’s Jewish heritage so far into the book, in the seventh episode?

Actor O’Callaghan told The Journal that it had to do with counteracting the blatant anti-Semitism of that era.

“I think it was revealed so late to get people to like him,” O’Callaghan mused. “You got to know and like the character. Then, when someone states what people are thinking, it lets the readers heal and all their walls go down.”

Richard Levy, 52, said Joyce may have been inspired by friends to make his protagonist Jewish.

“Joyce actually had a lot of friends who were Jewish and I think they had a big influence on him,” he said.

Levy, who lived and worked in Ireland for a year, says “Ulysses” can act as more than a book.

“ ‘Ulysses’ is actually the perfect map of Dublin when you visit,” he said. “It’s amazing how you can catch every street the book is set upon.”

The reading concluded with an excerpt from the episode read by Joyce himself – a 1924 recording made at HMV studios in Paris at the insistence of Joyce’s publisher, Sylvia Beach.

After the event concluded, Breitbard weighed in with his own insights as to why Joyce made his main character a Jew.

“Joyce met Jews in Trieste, Italy, and they were the biggest role models and influences in creating characters for ‘Ulysses,’ ” he said. “I think he made Bloom Jewish to make him different from other Dubliners. He was the nicest character in the book, and a very sympathetic character.”

LIVE BROADCAST: Temple Judea Shabbat Services – June 15, 2012

On Friday night, June 15 will be airing a live stream of Temple Judea’s Shabbat services.  Founded in 1952, Temple Judea is a vibrant, Jewish community with a variety of outstanding religious programming.

Broadcast to begin at 6:15pm (PDT)

A close encounter with Steven Spielberg’s dad

For Arnold Spielberg’s birthday in the late 1950s, his wife, Leah, gave him a Brownie movie camera. He had little chance to enjoy the present because it was immediately appropriated by his 13-year-old son, Steven.

Young Steven Spielberg repaid the gift a year or so later, when the already nascent director cast his father, dressed in his old army fatigues, as a jeep driver chasing German Gen. Erwin Rommel across the Arizona … er … North African desert.

The other actors in “Escape to Nowhere” were Steven’s high-school classmates portraying battle-worn soldiers in the opposing armies.

Arnold Spielberg recently spent two hours with a reporter in his home high up in the Pacific Palisades, a few blocks from the ocean, reminiscing about his part in bringing up a son and three younger daughters.

At 95, Arnold, a pioneer of the computer age, displayed an astonishing recall of dates, names, jobs and incidents in a full life, which he continues as one of the directors of a startup company designing unmanned land vehicles.

The interview took place about a week after the extended Spielberg clan had gathered at a Beverly Hills hotel to fete the family patriarch as he accepted the inaugural Inspiration Award of the USC Shoah Foundation Institute.

With an eye on the upcoming Father’s Day, Arnold shared some thoughts on his influence in raising four successful children—Steven; screenwriter Anne Spielberg Opatoshu; businesswoman Sue Spielberg Pasternak; and Nancy Spielberg Katz, a fundraiser and executive producer of documentary films.

“Leah and I had an open house, in the sense that we gave all our children a lot of freedom to do their own things and develop their imaginations,” he said.

With the freedom came some “sensible” restrictions, such as “not tearing up the house; not making a mess.” The strictures worked with the three girls, but not with the son: “Steven was his own person, and it was impossible to tie him down with rules,” the father admitted.

When the four Spielberg siblings stood on the stage with their father at the Shoah Institute event, they recalled various anecdotes from their childhoods.

Arnold and Leah Spielberg with their son, Steven. Photo courtesy of Arnold Spielberg

The young Steven had a terrible time falling asleep and no remedy seemed to help until his father put together an oscilloscope, with wave patterns and a green dot. “I just followed the dot and was fast asleep in seconds,” Steven remembered.

The girls spoke of their dad’s help with their math homework, and they recalled how he invented the character of Joanie Frothy Flakes, named for a frothy drink, who became the heroine of nightly bedtime stories.

Arnold, who became a crack rifleman while growing up in Kentucky, taught his only son the manly art of shooting at bottles, and Steven is still an expert skeet shooter, his father avowed.

More crucial to the son’s future career was the transformation of the family living room into a movie theater, with a white bed sheet doubling as its screen.

The screenings largely featured teenage Steven Spielberg productions, with the sisters working as candy hawkers.

Steven wanted to keep all the proceeds from the enterprise to buy more film, but, at the insistence of his father, he donated the ticket revenue to an organization aiding handicapped children. Profits from candy sales were Steven’s to keep.

Between engagements, the filmmaker made money whitewashing the trunks of orange trees to protect them from the sun, at 50 cents per tree.

Arnold’s own parents, Shmuel and Rebecca, the first generation of the family in America, both were born in Ukraine and immigrated to the United States in the first decade of the 1900s. They met and married in Cincinnati, where Arnold Meyer Spielberg was born.

In the best Jewish immigrant tradition, Shmuel started making a living with a pushcart and later became a jobber for wholesale and retail dry goods. Arnold described religious observance in his boyhood home as “Conservative to moderately Orthodox,” with his father attending shul every morning.

The economic fortunes of the Spielberg family went up and down. “In 1929, we had an especially good year, and we bought all new furniture,” Arnold remembered.

Then the Depression hit, and Shmuel, who had been a strict Shabbat observer, started going to work on Saturdays. With three children in the family, “My father had no choice,” Arnold said. “My mother somehow managed to put food on the table every day.”

Arnold’s parents hoped he would become a businessman, and, at 17, he went to work as a stock boy in a cousin’s department store in Kentucky.

But his heart was always in electric—and, later, electronic—gadgetry. At 9, he scrounged parts from garbage cans and put together the family’s first crystal set. His choice of radio stations was limited to the only one in Cincinnati—but it was a beginning.

At 15, Arnold became a ham radio operator, building his own transmitter, a skill that proved fortuitous when he enlisted in the U.S. Army in January 1942, one month after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, and joined the Signal Corps.

Four months later, he went overseas to the China-Burma-India Theater of Operations, transferred to the Air Corps and trained as a radio-gunner for a B-25 bomber squadron.

But his skills on the ground—including the design of new airplane antennas—were so outstanding that he was promoted to squadron communications chief, though he flew two missions as a volunteer replacement radio operator/gunner. He was awarded a Bronze Star for his work in improving the capabilities and efficiency of communications.

Just before entering the service, Arnold went on a single date with Leah Posner, a friend’s kid sister, and the two corresponded throughout the war.

Back in the States, Leah, a talented concert pianist, married Arnold in January 1945, and their four children were born over the next 10 years. As the kids became older, all attended Hebrew school, and, later, Sue and Nancy participated in a year-long kibbutz work program in Israel.

As Steven’s filmmaking skills developed, Arnold served as his consultant, especially in the son’s first full-fledged production, “Firelight,” a 140-minute sound film.

“The story was a forerunner to Steven’s ‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind,’ with aliens landing on Earth, and I built the special effects,” Arnold said. “But while Steven would ask for my advice, the ideas were always his own.”

With Arnold’s own growing prominence in the computer and systems engineering fields and national companies competing for his services, the family led a fairly peripatetic life.

Over the years, Arnold worked for such companies as RCA, General Electric, IBM and Scientific Data Systems in such places as Cincinnati, Phoenix, Detroit, Orange County, San Jose and other locations in the San Francisco Bay Area.

He officially retired at 75 but continues as a consultant to the Shoah Institute and as a director of the startup Land Drone Co.

From left: Siblings Sue, Nancy, Anne and Steven with their father, Arnold Spielberg, at the USC Shoah Foundation Institute luncheon, where the elder Spielberg received the inaugural Inspiration Award. Photo by Kim Fox

The apparently harmonious family life was sundered in 1965, when Leah and Arnold decided to divorce. “The kids were very sad for a long time,” Arnold said, “but they knew that I would always be there for them.”

After the breakup, Steven moved with his father to Saratoga in the Bay Area; the two younger girls, Sue and Nancy, stayed with their mother in Phoenix; and Anne struck out on her own.

It was in Saratoga, during his last year in high school, that Steven was the target of vicious anti-Semitic physical abuse by classmates, though the father said that his son never told him about the constant harassment. By contrast, Arnold himself has encountered hardly any anti-Semitism throughout his life, he said, whether in school, in the service or during his professional career.

The relationship between father and son has had its ups and downs. Steven was fascinated by his dad’s World War II stories and later credited them with inspiring his “Saving Private Ryan” war movie.

But during Steven’s teen years, the two came to a parting, at least temporarily, according to Arnold.

Steven was working on his short film “Amblin’,” which later became his introductory card to Universal Studios, and commandeered the father’s living room to store and edit his footage.

Arnold, at the time recently divorced, was beginning to see other women and objected to Steven barging into the living room for his editing chores when the father was entertaining a date. There was a heated argument, and Steven moved out and relocated to Long Beach, where he was attending the local state university.

Arnold subsequently had a brief second marriage and is now married to Bernice, his third wife.

Counting the progeny of his four children and those of his subsequent two wives, Arnold says he has around 20 grandchildren and is on good terms with all of them.

Two wall hangings in Arnold’s home office catch the eye. One large photograph shows the gates of Auschwitz with a squadron of Israeli fighter planes flying overhead, autographed by the commander of the Israeli air force.

The second is a United States patent issued to Arnold M. Spielberg for an electronic library system.

The latter invention and skill underlies the Shoah Institute’s cataloging of some 52,000 interviews and 105,000 hours of visual history, a system conceived by Arnold and put into practice by Sam Gustman, the institute’s chief technology officer.

Arnold is credited with a number of breakthroughs during his professional career, among them early guidance systems and computer circuit designs, and the development of the first business computer, called the Bizmac.

He cites as his greatest contribution the first computer-controlled “point of sale” cash register.

Although Arnold remains very much his own man, being the father of Steven Spielberg draws “more attention than I deserve,” he observed.

He recalled traveling with his wife Bernice in France and stopping at a small hotel in the Provence region.

When he signed his name in the guest ledger, the owner called in his entire staff and proudly introduced “le papa de Steven.”

Doctor fighting leukemia seeks matching donor

A veteran physician diagnosed with leukemia is hoping to find a compatible bone marrow match within the Jewish community to help him beat back the life-threatening disease. Be The Match, the National Marrow Donor Registry, is holding a donor screening on Thursday at USC’s Rand Schrader Health and Research Center.

The identity of the doctor is being kept confidential. He is of Jewish descent and has been with Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center for 20 years. So far no compatible matches have been found. Race and ethnicity are important factors in compatibility, and the physician will likely require a Jewish donor.

People willing to donate bone marrow or peripheral blood stem cells, who are generally healthy and between the ages of 18 and 60, are encouraged to register. The process is free and the majority of potential donors will have their cheek swabbed to determine compatibility. If selected, Be The Match will provide potential donors with additional information on the donating procedure, which the organization says is relatively painless. 

The screening will be held on June 14, 10 a.m.-2 p.m., at the Rand Schrader Health and Research Center, 1300 N. Mission Road, Los Angeles. For more information or to register, call (626) 373-4000 or visit

Ashley Biden marries Jewish doctor

Ashley Biden, the daughter of Vice President Joe Biden married a Jewish doctor.

Ashley Biden, 31, and Dr. Howard Krein were married Saturday in Wilmington, Del. in an interfaith Jewish-Catholic ceremony at the Biden family’s church. Biden and Krein reportedly dated for a year before they became engaged last September. Biden is a social worker. Krein is an ear, nose and throat specialist at Jefferson Hospital in Philadelphia.

“We’re happy to welcome Howard into our family, and we wish them all the best in their new life together,” said a statement from the vice president and his wife Jill, issued after the wedding.

The couple will reside in Philadelphia.

Hallie Biden, married to the vice president’s son, Beau, is also Jewish.

Israeli scientists invent marijuana ‘without the high’

Israeli scientists have cultivated a cannabis plant that doesn’t get people stoned in a development that may help those smoking marijuana for medical purposes, a newspaper said on Wednesday.

According to the Maariv daily, the new cannabis looks, smells and even tastes the same, but does not induce any of the feelings normally associated with smoking marijuana that are brought on by the substance THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol.

“It has the same scent, shape and taste as the original plant—it’s all the same—but the numbing sensation that users are accustomed to has disappeared,” said Tzahi Klein, head of development at Tikkun Olam, the firm that developed the species.

Read more from AFP via Google.

Tikkun Olam Medical Marijuana Greenhouse

Former neo-Nazi elected to local council in England

A former neo-Nazi who once defaced buildings with swastikas reportedly has been elected to a local council in south central England.

Margaret Burke won a seat on Milton Keynes Council earlier this month after demonstrating her remorse to local Labor Party officials and describing her earlier activities as those of a “brainwashed idiot,” the London Jewish Chronicle reported.

During the 1980s, Burke ran a pro-Hitler organization with her husband. She wore Nazi-style uniforms and organized racist leafleting. After the couple divorced, Burke joined the Animal Liberation Front and was jailed for vandalizing a butcher’s shop.

She told the Milton Keynes Citizen that she regretted her actions and had dedicated herself to working for the community to make amends.

The council’s Labor leader, Kevin Wilson, said the candidate selection panel had been aware of Burke’s past and had “questioned her at length.” He called her post-Nazi behavior “exemplary” and said it would have been “wholly wrong to deny her the possibility of being a candidate.”

Nashuva Lag Ba’Omer [SLIDESHOW]

Nashuva Lag Ba’Omer Bonfire, Thursday, May 10. Photos by David Miller

Yom HaShoah 2012 events calendar


The Museum of Tolerance screens award-winning Holocaust documentaries from its film division, Moriah Films, over the course of 10 days. Tonight features the 1982 Oscar winner for best documentary feature, “Genocide.” The series continues with “The Long Way Home” (April 16), “Liberation” (April 17), “Unlikely Heroes” (April 18), “Against the Tide” (April 19), “Echoes That Remain” (April 20), “I Have Never Forgotten You” (April 23) and “Winston Churchill: Walking With Destiny” (April 24). Sun. Through April 24. 2:30 p.m. Free. Museum of Tolerance, Simon Wiesenthal Plaza, 9786 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 772-2498.


The Holocaust survivor discusses his life in Poland, his experiences in Treblinka and Dachau, and his life in the United States after the war. Mon. 12:30-1:45 p.m. Free. CSUN Hillel, 17729 Plummer St., Northridge. (818) 886-5101.

Bauer, a pre-eminent Holocaust scholar and the USC Shoah Foundation Institute’s scholar-in-residence, will discuss the topics of genocide and the Holocaust during the institute’s inaugural Yom HaShoah lecture. Mon. 6-7:30 p.m. Free. University of Southern California, Taper Hall of Humanities, Room 101, 3551 Trousdale Parkway, Los Angeles. (213) 740-2950.


An approximately one-mile march commemorates Yom HaShoah, beginning outside of the Simon Wiesenthal Center and ending at Beth Jacob Congregation. A discussion follows with Rabbi Kenneth Brander, dean of the Center for the Jewish Future at Yeshiva University. Wed. 6:45 p.m. (memorial march), 7:30 p.m. (memorial program). Simon Wiesenthal Center, 9786 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles (march meeting place).  Beth Jacob Congregation, 9030 W. Olympic Blvd., Beverly Hills (memorial program). (310) 278-1911.

Join Rabbis Adam Kligfeld and Susan Leider, Cantor Magda Fishman and children from the Temple Beth Am community as they honor and remember children who perished in the Shoah. Stay for a screening of “Weapons of the Spirit,” a documentary that tells the story of a village in Nazi-occupied France, where 5,000 Jews were sheltered by 5,000 Christians, Wed. 7 p.m. Free. Temple Beth Am, 1039 S. La Cienega Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 652-7353.

Rabbi Alicia Magal, spiritual leader for the Jewish community of Sedona and the Verde Valley in Arizona, returns to Temple Emanuel, where she served as program director from 1992 to 1998. Magal discusses the experiences of her mother, Nika Kohn Flessig, a Holocaust survivor from Poland, whose wartime experience she pieced together in the book “From Miracle to Miracle: A Story of Survival.” Wed. 7-9 p.m. Free. Temple Emanuel, Bess P. Maltz Center, 8844 Burton Way, Beverly Hills. (310) 288-3737.

The Catholic priest set out to find the truth behind millions of undocumented Jewish victims of the Holocaust in his book, “The Holocaust by Bullets: A Priest’s Journey to Uncover the Truth Behind the Murder of 1.5 Million Jews,” and he lectures about his findings today at Sinai Temple. Wed. 7:30 p.m. Free. Sinai Temple, 10400 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 474-1518.


Mount Sinai Memorial Parks and Mortuaries and Café Europa, a Holocaust survivor group supported by Jewish Family Service, lead today’s commemoration event at its Hollywood Hills location. Sinai Temple’s Cantor Joseph Gole leads prayer and song during a service that features presentations by nine Café Europa members—survivors and members of the second generation –Sinai Akiba Academy and the Israeli Scouts as well as a candle lighting in memory of the 6 million Jews who perished in the Holocaust. Thu. 10 a.m.-noon. Free. Mount Sinai Memorial Parks and Mortuaries, Zarkheim Memorial, 5950 Forest Lawn Drive, Los Angele. (866) 717-4624.

Poet Maya Angelou narrates this documentary directed by Hilary Helstein, which highlights Holocaust victims’ resistance through art. Thu. 7:30 p.m. (film screening). Free. Adat Ari El, 12020 Burbank Blvd., Valley Village. (818) 766-9426.

This docudrama about a rescue operation waged by Sir Nicholas Winton — the “British Schindler” — features interviews with the Dalai Lama and Elie Wiesel. A Q-and-A with filmmaker Matej Minac and Holocaust survivor Dave Lux, who was rescued by Winton, follows. Additionally, the Jewish Community Children’s Choir performs under the direction of Michelle Green Willner and Cantor Natan Baram. Thu. 7 p.m. Free. Museum of Tolerance, 9786 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 772-2505.


Join Rabbi David Baron and the Beverly Hills congregation for a special Shabbat service that commemorates Yom HaShoah. Fri. 8 p.m. Free. Temple of the Arts, The Saban Theatre, 8440 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills. (323) 658-9100.

A traumatic wartime encounter inspires a man later in director Keegan Wilcox’s film, which highlights Beth Shir Shalom’s Yom HaShoah service. Cellist Lynn Harrell and John Dixon, who composed the film’s score, perform an original piece written in collaboration with Rabbi Neil Comess-Daniels. Wilcox, guest speakers and Holocaust survivors reflect on the Shoah. Refreshments served. Fri. 7 p.m. Free. Beth Shir Shalom, 1827 California Ave., Santa Monica. (310) 453-3361.


Events will take place inside and outside of the museum and in Pan Pacific Amphitheater all day long. At 9:30 a.m., join an intergenerational walk with Holocaust survivors that turns Pan Pacific Park into a timeline, with survivors walking along a path pre-arranged with “Memory Markers”; at 10 a.m., children’s art activities begin and continue throughout the day; at 10:30 a.m., dancer Alexandra Shilling performs in the amphitheater and a survivor leads a talk inside the museum; at 11:30 a.m., the Third Wheel Musical Group performs in the amphitheater; at 12:30 p.m., opera singer Julia Adolphe performs; at 1 p.m., a survivor talk takes place in the museum, while Michelle Willner Choir performs in the amphitheater; at 2 p.m., a commemoration features keynote speaker Yehuda Bauer, a professor of Holocaust studies at the Avraham Harman Institute of Contemporary Jewry at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and a performance by Theodore Bikel take place outside in the amphitheater; and at 4 p.m., singer Emiliano Preciado performs. Sun. 9:30 a.m.-5 p.m. Free. Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust, 100 The Grove Drive, Los Angeles. (323) 651-3704.


Daniel Jonah Goldhagen, author of “Worse Than War: Genocide, Eliminationism and the Ongoing Assault on Humanity” and “Hitler’s Willing Executioners: Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust,” appears in person. Mon. Noon-1 p.m. Free. Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Harvey Morse Auditorium, 8700 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles. RSVP to (323) 866-6896.

Fariborz Mokhtari discusses the life of Abdol Hossein Mokhtar, who saved the lives of many Jews during the Holocaust, during a presentation on his book, “In the Lion Shadow.” Mon. 6:30 p.m. Free. Nessah Synagogue, 142 S. Rexford Drive, Beverly Hills. (818) 908-0808.

Claudio Sobral’s documentary focused on the descendants of Nazis, who confront their family’s past and communicate their most profound feelings of guilt by inheritance. A post-screening Q-and-A features Sobral, Bernd Wollschlaeger, son of a Nazi take commander, and (via Skype) Samson Munn, founder of the Austrian Encounter, which arranges meetings between descendants of Nazi perpetrators and Holocaust victims. Mon. 7:30 p.m. $10 (MOT members, students, seniors), $12 (general). Museum of Tolerance, 9786 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 772-2505.

Editorial Cartoon: The Sacramento Chainsaw Massacre

Questionable behavior for after the seder

Why is the day after the seder different from all other days? Is it because we are exhausted? Or our clothes no longer button? Possibly.

More likely, I suspect the day after is different because of all the newly minted questions that drop into our brains like zuzim.

Hearing the Four Questions the night before at the seder just gets us started, and traditionally, by the next day when we meet another Jew, we have formulated four more:

  • At your seder, how many people were there?
  • How was the food?
  • What time did you eat?
  • How did you ever manage to stay awake?

Unlike the seder, where the Four Questions are usually asked by the youngest, the apres quartet are asked by friends, family and co-workers, and you will certainly want to respond with a detailed answer—a maggid, or story.

To that end, here’s a handy post-seder guide:

1. How many attended? That would seem the easiest to answer; even the simple son or daughter can count. What they really want to know is (in my best Four Questions chant), whose side of the family attended, and are they the ones that on Passover eat bread? Did the out-of-town college students take a plane? And tell me, did you invite any neighbors? Was there anyone there who wasn’t Jewish?

A lot of questions, but here’s the key query behind them: How inclusive was your seder?

On the night of the seder we ask why we dip our herbs twice, but the next day we want to know if Uncle Herb the family atheist fell asleep, or did Aunt Phyllis show with her new partner. And what of the vegan cousins?

Our tales of seder tables filled with character relatives are greeted with grins and groans, but Dr. Ron Wolfson, author of “Passover: The Family Guide to Spiritual Celebration,” with Joel Lurie Grishaver, says at his seder he purposely leaves one seat empty.

“You leave an empty seat at the table for Elijah the prophet because you want Elijah to come,” Wolfson, the Fingerhut professor of education at the American Jewish University in Los Angeles, said in a recent interview. “Symbolically, leaving space is a metaphor for inclusivity.”

Wolfson believes the seder is a “wonderful opportunity to gather people”—colleagues, friends and family who have no place to go, or who are not Jewish—and that “hospitality will hasten the day that Elijah will come.”

My family has found that inviting guests beyond family has brought new perspectives, flavors and songs to our seder. And as a bonus, everyone is on their best behavior.

2. How was the food?  Beyond inquiring about the specific density of the matzah balls and the Scoville (hotness) rating of the maror, what people want to know—especially cooks—is whether your festival meal escaped from the servitude of old school Passover cuisine.

Wolfson says that asking food questions after the seder is a good way for cooks to up their game.

“A lot of people share recipes after the seder,” he said. “Creative cooks are somewhat challenged by Passover. ‘How do you make a pesadik lasagna?’ they ask.”

In our own home, we have found that creative uses of typical Passover ingredients like matzah, or nuts to make matzah roca, or an almond tort can help delay the inevitable how many more days of this can I take?

3. What time did you eat?  Sometimes known at the seder as the fifth question, the query expresses our need to compare levels of endurance.

At our seder the festival meal usually isn’t served until about two hours in. (Is that an “oy” I just heard from some contrary son?) In such instances, before you start, Wolfson recommends tipping off people to the length, so they can prepare.

“And let them know why you are doing this,” he adds.

Wolfson also counsels flexibility. “I have seen seder leaders say it’s OK if you have to go at 10,” he said. He also suggests that hunger can be assuaged by using points of the seder, like eating the karpas, to also serve hor d’oeuvres.

We usually serve artichokes. After 20 pages it’s amazing how popular the pointy things become.

A post-seder question about length is really about our sense of time in responding to the Haggadah’s main dictate that “in every generation it is our obligation to retell the story of the Exodus from Egypt.” How successful we are in redacting the “going out” brings us to the fourth question.

4. How did you manage to stay awake? Few people actually ask this; it is more a question that every seder leader must consider. For in our “duty to tell the story of the departure from Egypt,” the more one tells of the departure in an unrelatable way might itself lead to a departure if not of seder attendees, then of their attention.

Wolfson suggests running the seder like a “committee meeting,” calling on different people to participate. He advises that prior to the seder, “Give them homework, so they can have an investment in the evening being a success.”

Depending on Jewish backgrounds of the seder goers, “edit judiciously,” Wolfson advises. “Most guests have not a clue to what’s going on.”

At our seder, after the plagues, to give guests a clue, we get them outside where between two walls of blue tarp and while singing “Dayenu,” we shpritz them with water bottles to remind them of the crossing of the Red Sea.

Afterward, there are lots of questions.

Edmon J. Rodman is a JTA columnist who writes on Jewish life from Los Angeles. Contact him at

How not to feel like a matzah ball on Passover

It’s April and steel shopping carts clang and collide like bumper cars in the kosher-for-Passover aisle of my local supermarket. Even in this mob I find soul mates, shoppers who share my angst about eating many of the hechshered-for-the-holiday packaged foods. Foods made with what blogger Lisa Rose calls the “four food groups of Passover: cottonseed oil, MSG, white sugar and potato starch.”

Take Elaine Hoffman from Berkeley Heights, N.J., who will buy spelt matzah but little else packaged. Or Robin Polson of Maplewood, N.J., who purchases whole wheat farfel for her granola recipe, but as for much of the rest, she “can live without for eight days.”

There’s a movement here, with no formal name or membership directory. It’s a movement of Jews—from those scrupulous about Passover kashrut to others who celebrate “kosher style”—who eschew what Rabbi Ethan Tucker, rosh yeshiva of Mechon Hadar in New York, calls the “modern affliction” of the Passover diet, eating a “disproportionate amount of food out of boxes and cans.”

That affliction extends to ditching—during Passover only—dietary principles followed year-round.

“I used to buy 20 bags of potato chips at Passover for my kids,” says Rabbi Debra Newman Kamin of Am Yisrael Congregation in Northfield, Ill. “During the rest of the school year I would never buy chips. Ever.”

She attributes our reliance on processed food during Passover to our terror “of being deprived.” Having grown accustomed to a 23-aisle-supermarket lifestyle, today’s Jews find it difficult to relinquish any daily comestible. Rose followed a recent Facebook exchange among Los Angeles Jews “desperate to find Diet Coke” and searching for “which kosher market in town still had some left because it sold out so fast.”

“Do we really need kosher-for-Passover chicken flavoring? Did people forget how to make chicken soup?” Rose asks. Or as Marilyn Labendz of West Caldwell, N.J., puts it, “You have tomatoes. You can make tomato sauce. What’s so limiting?”

Jews in this de facto circle question whether eating a less healthy diet on these eight days is truly halachic (according to Jewish law). Rabbi Noach Valley, former president of the Jewish Vegetarians of North America, points to Deuteronomy 4:9, which entreats us to guard our life and health diligently, and to the Rambam, who writes that matters of health take precedence over all-important ritual.

Valley himself rails against cottonseed oil, “ubiquitous during Passover,” and the byproduct of a cotton crop “inundated with pesticides.” He says that in the past he has contacted heads of kashrut agencies objecting to “injuring Jews in the process of observing Passover.”

Labendz chafes at the thought that anything unhealthy should carry a Passover hechsher. “It’s like smoking,” she says. “It should have a treif symbol.”

Rose, who is kashrut observant, struggles with whether she should lower her standards for certification so that “I can feed my kids what is healthy.”

In my own house we’ve opted to include kitniyot (rice and beans), even though we’re Ashkenazi. Last year I reluctantly started buying non-hechshered organic pasta sauce over Passover varieties containing sugar or cottonseed oil.

For someone like Los Angeles filmmaker Sarah Feinbloom, Passover is about values other than strict kashrut observance.

“The holiday should be a time when you think consciously of what you should or should not be eating,” she says. “I think of spring, of rebirth, regeneration, of bounty, of lots of fruits and vegetables.”

Karen Shiffman Lateiner of Phoenix, Ariz., makes dishes from scratch. Sometimes she’ll “buy a can of macaroons just because it’s tradition. The rest of the stuff—nah.” For her, the most important aspect of Passover is spending time with family and friends.

Eating low on the Passover food chain—fruits and vegetables—doesn’t mean facing eight days and nights of steamed broccoli.

“I am not an ascetic person,” says Roberta Kalechofsky, who has written two Haggadahs and three cookbooks for Jewish vegetarians. She recommended her recipe for Vegetable Nut Loaf from “The Jewish Vegetarian Cookbook.”

“We like good food and I like to serve it,” she says. More important than incorporating foods that don’t violate kashrut are nixing those that “violate the chemistry of the human being.”

Scratch cooking, as these health-conscious Jews advocate, can take time. There are ways to make it easier, though, says cookbook author and New York Times columnist Martha Rose Shulman.

“It’s not so much a question of finding fast foods but getting organized and getting ahead,” she says.

Some things can be made in advance, like vegetable or chicken stock, many salad dressings, or blanched or roasted vegetables.

The Passover recipes Shulman tested for this year’s New York Times holiday food column “aren’t that time-consuming.” A recipe for a Greek lemon soup, for example, calls for breaking up matzah into the broth rather than preparing more effort-intensive knaidlach.

Nava Atlas, author of “Vegan Holiday Kitchen” (2011, Sterling Publishing), suggests making holiday meals that involve entertaining cooperative affairs. “Divide and conquer,” she says. “It’s the only way to do it. And everyone feels they have participated.”

Atlas also praises—as did almost everyone I interviewed—quinoa, which has achieved manna-like status among Passover health foodies in the past decade-plus. When I asked Rabbi Newman Kamin what she does to make the holiday healthier, she answered, “I’ll tell you in one word. quinoa.”

This week, I did a dry run of Atlas’ Quinoa Pilaf from “Vegan Holiday Kitchen”; my dinner guests that night gave it a thumbs-up. So to start you on a healthy-eating chag, here goes:


8 to 10 servings

Gluten free, soy free and nut free

Adapted by Nava Atlas from a contribution from her longtime reader, Barbara Pollak, this pilaf is attractive when made with a combination of red and white quinoa, but either color can be used on its own. It’s a veggie-filled way to celebrate quinoa’s becoming standard Passover fare. Quinoa is high in top-quality protein, making this a good choice for an entree for vegetarians and vegans at the seder table, and a delicious side dish for everyone else. Don’t be daunted by the length of the ingredient list; this dish is as easy as can be to make.


  • 1 1/2 cups quinoa, rinsed
  • 3 cups prepared vegetable broth
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 medium yellow or red onions, or 1 of each, quartered and thinly sliced
  • 4 to 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 bag (16 ounces) shredded cole slaw cabbage
  • 2 medium carrots, sliced
  • 2 cups finely chopped broccoli florets
  • 1 cup sliced cremini or baby bella mushrooms
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh or jarred ginger, or to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice, or to taste
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup minced fresh parsley
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh dill, more or less to taste


Combine the quinoa with the broth in a large saucepan. Bring to a rapid simmer, then lower the heat, cover and simmer gently until the water is absorbed, about 15 minutes. Test to see if the quinoa is done to your liking; if needed, add another 1/2 cup water and simmer until absorbed.Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large skillet or stir-fry pan. Add the onions and saute over medium-low heat until translucent. Add the garlic and continue to saute until the onion is golden.Add the cabbage, carrots, broccoli, mushrooms, ginger, basil, thyme, and lemon juice. Turn up the heat to medium-high and stir-fry until the cabbage is tender-crisp, about 5 minutes.Stir in the cooked quinoa, then season to taste with salt and pepper. Stir in the parsley and dill, remove from the heat, and serve.

Elisa Spungen Bildner is co-chair of JTA.

Editorial cartoon: Aghast

Jewish Major Leaguers and why we care about them

Nearly all fans of baseball history have heard of Hank Greenberg. Most have heard of Al Rosen. But fewer have heard of Cal Abrams, and hardly any, it’s safe to say, have heard of Lou Limmer. All four are members of a compelling team—the 165 American Jews who played Major League Baseball between the 1870s and the end of the 2010 season.

Why should we care about Jews who played in the Major Leagues?

Baseball helped American Jews feel at home and helped non-Jewish Americans feel comfortable around them. For instance, there’s the famous Greenberg story of sitting out a game on Yom Kippur in 1934. The actions of the slugging Tigers’ first baseman along with his home runs made him a hero to Jews and non-Jews.

The conundrum of whether to play on Yom Kippur, the holiest day on the Jewish calendar, has resurfaced for many players, from Sandy Koufax deciding not to pitch in the first game of the 1965 World Series to, more recently, outfielder Shawn Green, both of the Dodgers. Every time a star player rests on the High Holidays, it generates national headlines and fosters Jewish pride. Of course, non-stars have to make the same call.

The story of Jews in baseball goes beyond the well-trod turf of the “High Holidays dilemma.” Rebutting anti-Semitism and fighting hecklers was not uncommon for Jewish players, even when the hecklers were on the opposing bench. In particular Rosen, a former amateur boxer, wasn’t shy about taking on hecklers.

Racial awareness is another theme. Most Jewish players understood some of the prejudices faced by black players. Some, like Abrams, felt a special bond with their black teammates.

“I associated with them because we had a rapport about being with each other,” Abrams said of his black teammates on the Brooklyn Dodgers, including Jackie Robinson. “We kibitzed around with each other, but I didn’t go out with them. I mean, I wouldn’t go into the end of town to go dancing with the black people, but whenever we could we were together clowning around and kidding around.”

Jewish pride is a recurrent trope, too. Ron Blomberg made many New York Yankees’ ushers happy when he made his debut for the team in 1967.

“Most of them were Jewish, with names like Hymowitz or Lichstein, and three or four of them told me they never thought they would ever see a Jew play baseball in Yankee Stadium,” Blomberg recalled. “They had tears in the eyes and said to me, ‘You little Yid, you’re someone I can look up to now.’ ”

Pride in being Jewish is one thing, but being actively Jewish is another—most Jewish players, like most American Jews, weren’t observant. Many were raised Orthodox—Al Schacht says his mother wanted him to be a cantor—but none seemed to have maintained this level of observance as adults. It makes sense: Eating kosher food and maintaining any sense of Shabbat, which restricts behaviors from sundown Friday through sundown Saturday, would be impossible while pursuing a professional baseball career.

The collective accomplishments of Jewish Major Leaguers likely would surprise most people. Jews, who made up about 3 percent of the U.S. population during the 20th century, made up just 0.8 percent of baseball players from 1871 to 2002, the latest year for which the nonprofit organization Jewish Major Leaguers has complete figures. But Jewish players on the whole have fared better than average. They hit 2,032 homers—0.9 percent of the Major League total, and a bit higher than would be expected by their percentage of all players. Their .265 batting average is 3 percentage points higher than the overall average.

Jewish pitchers are 20 games above .500, with six of baseball’s first 230 no-hitters (four by Sandy Koufax, including a perfect game, and two by Ken Holtzman). The group ERA is 3.66, slightly lower than the 3.77 by all Major Leaguer hurlers. With the recent influx of top-flight Jewish Major Leaguers—Kevin Youkilis, Ryan Braun, Ian Kinsler and Max Scherzer come to mind—the statistics even may have improved since 2002.

The stat in which Jews have fallen short is stolen bases, with a total of 995 through 2002—many fewer than Rickey Henderson stole all by himself. Apparently, Jewish players have observed the Eighth Commandment: “Thou shalt not steal.”

Of the 141 Jewish Major Leaguers as of 2002, 122 were born into families in which both parents were Jewish and 13 had one Jewish parent (seven with a Jewish father and six with a Jewish mother). Six players—including Elliott Maddox, an African American—converted to Judaism. Sixty-eight players hailed from New York or California, and the rest were born in 21 other states, as well as Russia, France, Canada and the Dominican Republic. Ten players changed their last names, all but one of them before Greenberg played.

Limmer, by the way, was a slugger who played for the Philadelphia Athletics in 1951 and 1954.

(Peter Ephross is the editor of the recently published “Jewish Major Leaguers in Their Own Words: Oral Histories of 23 Players,” from which this piece was excerpted.)

Ethiopian immigrant is top Jewish finisher in this year’s Jerusalem Marathon

Ashrat “Assaf” Mamo is such a common sight when he pounds the pavement in Jerusalem that he’s on a first-name basis with city bus drivers who, he said, always “ask me about the marathon and encourage me.”

On Friday, Mamo, a 27-year-old immigrant from Ethiopia, became the first Israeli to cross the finish line in this year’s Jerusalem Marathon, coming in 11th with a time of 2:33:12. David Cherono Toniok, of Kenya, won the race in 2:19:52, breaking the course record. Ethiopian Mihiret Anamo Antonios was the female winner, with a time of 2:48:38, and Moran Shabtai, with 3:38:35, was the first Israeli female finisher.

In an interview at the finish line in Sacher Park, Mamo told JTA he had expected to do better after completing a personal best time two months ago, with 2:22:32, in the Tiberias Marathon in northern Israel. But Mamo, wrapped in warming foil, appeared happy to have been Israel’s top finisher even though the country’s best marathoners did not participate.

“Jerusalem is the holy city,” Mamo said. “It is my home court.”

More than 14,000 runners from 52 countries competed in the event, which was launched just last year. The route takes runners through the walled Old City, past the president’s residence and up to the Hebrew University campus on Mount Scopus. Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat and a 77-year-old Holocaust survivor, Hanoch Shahar, participated in shorter versions of the race’s 26-mile course.

In the lead-up to the race, runners had spoken about the capital’s notorious hills as the most likely impediment to posting good times. But weather conditions for the race—rain and hail fell through the morning and the the sun only periodically poked through thick clouds—heaped on additional challenges.

Mamo, for whom this marathon was his eighth, said he blocked out the distractions of familiar neighborhoods and the kaleidoscopic lures of the Old City during the course’s brief foray there, staying focused on his running and continually checking the pace on his running wrist watch.

Mamo left the northern Ethiopian city of Tigry for Israel in late 2000 along with his father, who has since passed away. He lives in the Kiryat Hayovel neighborhood and is unmarried.

The slight Israeli with silver braces and a winning smile works as a contractor repairing car windshields. He described himself as a traditional Jew who attends synagogue only on High Holy Days.

Toniok said he was thrilled that, as a religious Catholic, his first ever marathon win came in Jerusalem. He expressed mild disappointment that the event did not start in the Old City, but said that he hoped to visit the following day before returning to Kenya on Saturday night. He lives in Eldoret, which is where the country’s legendary long-distance runners also reside and with whom he trains.

“I’m very happy because most Christian people [back home] learn about Israel but don’t have the chance to visit,” Toniok said. “I know about King David. I am King David of Israel because I won the Jerusalem Marathon.”

SLIDESHOW: Shimon Peres meets Hollywood

Israeli President Shimon Peres visits DreamWorks Animation on March 9.

Click “i” to view photo captions

Woody Allen to play pimp who irks Chasidic neighbors

Woody Allen will play a pimp who irks his Chasidic neighbors in a movie directed by John Turturro.

Allen is set to co-star in the “Fading Gigolo” along with Turturro and Sharon Stone, Variety reported Tuesday.

Turturro and Allen will play friends who spark the suspicions of their Chasidic neighbors when they launch a gigolo business. In the film, Allen serves as Turturro’s pimp.

Allen, who recently won an Academy Award for screenwriting for “Midnight in Paris,” rarely appears in other directors’ movies. According to Variety, he last appeared in another filmmaker’s movie in 2000 with a role in the comedy ““Picking Up the Pieces” and an uncredited cameo in “Company Man.”

Purim Calendar 2012


Join IKAR in assembling and distributing 700 mishloah manot bags. Fri. 1-5 p.m. Free. IKAR, 5870 W. Olympic Blvd., Los Angeles. (323) 634-1870.


Wear your best costume as you celebrate Purim on an 80-foot yacht, featuring double bars, a dance floor and an outdoor observation deck. Docked at Fisherman’s Village, the party boat sets sail at 9 p.m. sharp. Organized by Sinai Temple’s ATID-LA young professionals (20s and 30s). Appetizers and entertainment included. Sat. 8:30-9 p.m. (boarding time). $36 (until Feb. 26), $45 (after Feb. 26). Fisherman’s Village, 13755 Fiji Way, Marina del Rey. (310) 481-3244.


Megillah reading, groggers, family-friendly shpiel. Sun. 10:30 a.m. Free. Temple Israel of Hollywood, sanctuary, 7300 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles. (323) 876-8330.

Rides, attractions and games. Children 3 years and up need a hand stamp for admission. Adult admission is free, but scrip must be purchased. Sun. 10:30 a.m.-4 p.m. $36 (pre-sale wristbands by Feb. 29). $5, $10, $20 (scrip). Stephen S. Wise Temple, 15500 Stephen S. Wise Drive, Los Angeles. (310) 889-2300.

Costume contest, a Velcro wall, games, prizes, petting zoo and more. Sun. 11:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m. 50 cents (per ticket), $5 (11 tickets, pre-sale bundle until March 1), $40 (unlimited ride and game pass, pre-sale until March 1), $50 (unlimited ride and game pass). Temple Adat Shalom, 3030 Westwood Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 475-4985.

Dunk Temple Beth Am’s Rabbi Mitchel Malkus and other Temple Beth Am faculty and clergy in the dunk tank. Enjoy puppies, pony rides, a Ferris wheel, game booths, arts and crafts, face painting, live music, a costume parade, magic show, a Lego contest, a “Fiddler on the Roof” preview with Pressman Academy’s middle school students, food and more. Sun. 11 a.m.-4 p.m. $10 (ticket card, 12 tickets per card), $50 (wristbands, unlimited rides, game booths, entry to the magic show). Discounted tickets available until Feb. 27. Temple Beth Am, 1039 S. La Cienega Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 652-7353.

Teacup rides, a bungee jump, bounce houses, food, games, prizes and more. Sun. 11 a.m.-3 p.m. $85 (wristbands, includes unlimited inflatables, rides and game booths). $25-$100 (carnival tickets). Temple Israel of Hollywood, 7300 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles. (323) 876-8330.

Extraordinary juggling show, booths, moon bounce, prizes, costume contest, races, animals, food, balloon artist and more. Sun. Noon-3 p.m. Young Israel of Hancock Park, 225 S. La Brea Ave., Los Angeles. (323) 931-4030.

Face painting, a bubble show, theatrical Purim story, costume parade, crafts, games and more highlight Vista Del Mar Child and Family Service’s sensory-friendly pre-Purim celebration. Includes kosher afternoon snacks. Sun. 2-5 p.m. $6. The Temple at Vista Del Mar Child and Family Services, 3200 Motor Ave., Los Angeles.
(310) 836-1223.

Live ’80s music, a tzedek project, costume contest and more. JConnectLA, Chai Center and Moishe House co-sponsor. Taxi vouchers available. 21 and over. Sun. 8:30-11 p.m. $15 (advance), $20 (door). The Mark, 9320 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles. (323) 639-3255.


Adolescent punk bands The Ghouls and Bad Boyz perform at the Family Justice Carnival, while DJs Solemite and Mudfoot spin at the Adult Justice Carnival at 9 p.m. Food and activity tickets available for purchase. Come costumed. Wed. 5-7 p.m. (Family Justice Carnival), 7-9 p.m. (megillah and shpiel), 9 p.m (Adult Justice Carnival). $15 (family carnival, IKAR kid members), $20 (family carnival, general). $20 (adult carnival, IKAR members), $25 (adult carnival, general). Westside JCC, 5870 W. Olympic Blvd., Los Angeles.  (323) 634-1870.

Temple Isaiah’s Purim celebration is brought to life through the music and the antics of the Beach Boys. A 1960s-inspired dinner kicks off the fun. Wed. 6:15 p.m. (dinner), 7 p.m. (Beach Boys shpiel). $6 (dinner, per person). Temple Isaiah, 10345 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 277-2772.

Singing, dancing, hamantaschen and much more. All ages. Wed 6:30 p.m. Free. Stephen S. Wise Temple, sanctuary, 15500 Stephen S. Wise Drive, Los Angeles. (310) 476-8561. (310) 277-2772.

Stand-up comedian Flip Schultz, comedy writers and clergy interpret the megillah. Wed. 6:30 p.m. (cocktail hour), 7:30 p.m. (megillah). Wilshire Boulevard Temple, Audrey and Sydney Irmas Campus, 11661 W. Olympic Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 445-1280.

A Disney-themed reading and celebration. Dress up as your favorite Disney character. All ages. Wed. 6:30 p.m. Free. Valley Beth Shalom, 15739 Ventura Blvd., Encino.  (818) 788-6000.

An unicyclist show and an interactive Purim experience. Wed. 6:30 p.m. (megillah readings at 6:45, 7:45 and 8:45 p.m.) $5. Hyatt Westlake Plaza hotel, 880 S. Westlake Blvd., Westlake Village. (818) 991-0991.

Temple Israel’s adults-only Purim party features a Persian dinners and Napa Valley wines. Napa Valley’s Rabbi Oren Postrel leads the festivities, which include a reading of the Megillat Esther that is replete with drinking motifs, humor and palace intrigue. You’ll get a little wine education along the way. 21 and over. Costumes encouraged. Wed. 7 p.m. $25. Temple Israel of Hollywood, 7300 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angels. (323) 876-8330.

A Shir Hadash megillah celebration with Rabbis Adam Kligfeld and Susan Leider and Cantor Magda Fishman, along with students of the Pressman Academy Middle School, features a reading of selections from the megillah. YABA, Temple Beth Am’s young adults organization, throws a casino night afterward. Play poker, blackjack, craps; participate in a costume contest; enjoy Jewish Chinese cuisine from the M.O. Eggrolls food truck, beer, mixed drinks and more. Highest chip winner wins two tickets to a Los Angeles Kings game. Wed. 7:15 p.m. (Shir Hadash), 9 p.m.-midnight (casino night). $10 (casino night, in advance), $15 (casino night, door) – prices include starter chips and one drink. Extra drinks available for purchase. (310) 652-7353.

Persian-style dinner, a text study on how much alcohol one needs to consume to in order to not be able to distinguish Haman from Mordecai, and comedy sports. Wed. 7:30-10 p.m. $18. Temple Judea, 5429 Lindley Ave., Tarzana. (818) 758-3800.

Live Brazilian fusion music, two full bars and complimentary first-hour wine. Brazilian carnival costume or cocktail attire requested. Wed. 8 p.m.-1 a.m. $15 (early bird first 100), $20 (regular-advance), $30 (regular-door). Avalon Hollywood, 1735 Vine St., Los Angeles. (310) 692-4190.

Chabad-Lubavitch of South La Cienega and Kesher Events’ Purim bash features dancing with DJ Aviel, a chill-out room/hookah lounge, cash bar, food for purchase, a megillah reading on the hour and lots of l’chaims. Wed. 9:30-1:30 p.m. $10 (door, includes free drink ticket for those in costume). Chabad of South La Cienega, 1627 S. La Cienega Blvd., Los Angeles. (424) 288-4633.


DJ Eliran and DJ TAL play hits, mash-ups and electro house music. Bottle service suggested. 21-and-over. Thu. 10 p.m. $20 (early bird special), $25-$30 (door). Exchange Los Angeles, 618 S. Spring St., Los Angeles. (310) 857-6218 or (818) 602-7979.

Come dressed as a player from your favorite sports team! The Friendship Circle of Los Angeles’ Purim hosts a sports-themed program, and includes volunteers to ensure the event meets the particular needs of the children. An obstacle course, a moon bounce, sports-themed arts and crafts projects, a concert with some of Friendship Circle’s teenagers and buffet dinner mean fun for the whole family. Thu. 5:15-7:30 p.m., 5:25 P.M. (megillah reading), Free. Bais Chaya Mushka campus, 9051 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 277-3252.


Open bar, magician Fantastic Fig, casino games and more. Ages 21-39 only. Sat. 8-11:30 p.m. $15 (Valley Ruach members, advance), $20 (general, advance). Adat Ari El, 12020 Burbank Blvd., Valley Village. (818) 835-2139.


Magic, music and a megillah reading join rides, games and attractions at Wilshire Boulevard Temple’s Irmas Campus. Food available for purchase. Sun. 10 a.m.-3 p.m. $45 (all-access bracelet), $1 (individual tickets). Wilshire Boulevard Temple, Audrey and Sydney Irmas Campus, 11661 W. Olympic Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 445-1280.

Games, accessories and more. Rain or shine. Proceeds benefits VBS Israel programs and summer camp scholarship fund. Sun. 10 a.m.-4 p.m. $15 (advance by March 6-pre-school wristbands), $20 (door-pre-school wristbands), $30 (advance by March 6-general), $36 (door-general), $20 (advance by March 6-30 tickets), $20 (door-24 tickets), $1(door-per ticket) Valley Beth Shalom, Ventura Parking Lot, Malkin-Budorf Hall and Glaser Hall, 15739 Ventura Blvd., Encino. (818) 788-6000.

Amusement rides, bungee jump, food, crafts and games. Rain or shine. Sun. 10:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m. $70 (advance, family fun pack, includes 2 wristbands and 30 tickets), $25 (advance, wristband), $18 (advance, 20 tickets), $30 (day of event, wristband). Shomrei Torah Synagogue, 7353 Valley Circle Blvd., West Hills. (818) 346-0811.

Midway carnival games, KidZone, kosher barbecue and vendor marketplace. Kids come in costume to win prizes. Sun. 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Free (admission), $.50 (ride/game tickets), $50 (pre-sale wristband), $20 (pre-sale 50 tickets), $10 (pre-sale 23 tickets). Temple Judea, 5429 Lindley Ave., Tarzana. (818) 758-3800.

In-N-Out truck, Jamba Juice, Fresh Brothers pizza, carnival rides and more. Sun. 11 a.m.-3 p.m. $1 (per ticket), $50 (60 tickets), $75 (90 tickets), $100 (120 tickets). Temple Emanuel, 8844 Burton Way, Beverly Hills. (310) 409-4644.

Rides, games and food for sale. Rain or shine. Sun. 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Tickets available on-site on the day of the event. Adat Ari El, 12010 Burbank Blvd., Valley Village. (818) 766-9426.

Game booths, carnival rides, bake sale, moon bounce, dunk tank and more. Sun. 11 a.m.-2 p.m. $.50 (per ticket). Beth Shir Shalom, 1827 California Ave., Santa Monica. (310) 453-3361.

Rides, games, video game truck, food trucks, teen-only VIP lounge, social action awareness and live entertainment. Dress in your best eighties costume and receive a free ticket. Sun. 11 a.m.-3 p.m. $10-$40 (pre-sale), $10-$45 (day of event). Temple Ahavat Shalom, 182000 Rinaldi Place, Northridge. (818) 360-2258.


Hamantaschen, coffee, tea, songs, a creative megillah reading and entertainment. Tue. 12:30-2 p.m. Free (advance reservations required). Westside JCC, Weinberger Auditorium, 5870 W. Olympic Blvd., Los Angeles. (323) 556-5231.

Mormon church apologizes for proxy baptism of Wiesenthal’s parents

The Mormon church has apologized for the posthumous baptism of the parents of Simon Wiesenthal.

A member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints last month submitted the names of Wiesenthal’s parents for posthumous baptism, the Salt Lake Tribune reported. Wiesenthal was a Holocaust survivor who died in 2005; his mother was killed in the Nazi death camp Belzec in 1942.

Posthumous baptism, which is done by proxy, is also known as “baptism for the dead.” It allows members of the church to stand in for the deceased to offer them a chance to join the church in the afterlife. 

In 2010, the church agreed after meetings with Jewish leaders to halt the proxy baptisms of Holocaust victims unless the names were submitted by their direct ancestors.

The church said Monday in a statement that it “sincerely regret[s] that the actions of an individual member … led to the inappropriate submission of these names,” which were “clearly against the policy of the church,” the newspaper reported.

Rabbi Abraham Cooper, the associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, participated in many of the high-level meetings between Jewish leaders and Mormon officials.

“We are outraged that such insensitive actions continue in the Mormon Temples,” he said in a statement on the organization’s website. “Such actions make a mockery of the many meetings with the top leadership of the Mormon Church dating back to 1995 that focused on the unwanted and unwarranted posthumous baptisms of Jewish victims of the Nazi Holocaust.”

Meanwhile, some members of the church have submitted the name of Holocaust survivor and author Elie Wiesel for proxy baptism, who is still living, the Huffington Post reported.

The submission was uncovered last Friday by Helen Radkey, a former Mormon who lives in Salt Lake City. Wiesel’s father, who died in the Holocaust, and his maternal grandfather also were proposed for proxy baptism, according to the report.

A church spokesman said Wiesel’s name was submitted for inclusion in the church’s massive genealogical database, not for baptism.

Israeli parody of Taglit-Birthright Trips [VIDEO]

This season of “Eretz Nehederet,” Israel’s version of “Saturday Night Live,” features a running parody of a Birthright trip to Israel that mocks American Jews for their enthusiasm and naivite (and obesity and JAPpiness, of course) and Israelis for their gold-digging and trigger fingers. Chuckle along: