Algeria reportedly refuses body of Toulouse gunman


The body of the gunman who killed three children and a rabbi at a Jewish school in Toulouse will be buried in France rather than Algeria as his father had requested.

Algerian authorities have refused to allow the body of Mohammed Merah to enter the country for burial, Reuters reported, citing an official at the Grand Mosque of Paris.

The mayor of the Algerian village of Bezzaz reportedly citied security reasons for declining the request, according to Reuters.

Merah’s father continues to insist that his son will be buried in Algeria. Merah is a French citizen of Algerian origin.

Abdallah Zekri of the Paris mosque, however, told Reuters that Merah would likely be buried in the Toulouse area, preferably in the next 24 hours.

Merah’s body is currently at a hospital morgue in Toulouse.

He was killed by police after a 30-hour siege at his Toulouse home. During the siege, Merah told French police that he killed the Jewish students at the Ozar Hatorah school in revenge for Palestinian children killed in Gaza, and had killed three French soldiers the previous week for serving in Afghanistan.

Exercise your options


As the holidays roll around, so, too, do days spent cooped up indoors with kids and relatives, braving rainy weather (or even snow, for those who head East) and moving very little, except perhaps to the dining room table and back.

It might seem like a time to abandon all hope of exercise, but the truth is that there’s no need to head to a gym or a studio for those looking to keep their heart rates up — according to fitness experts, plenty of effective workouts can be done from home.

“There are so many things you can do, whether you’re inside or outside,” says Jonathan Aluzas, owner of Arena Fitness in Encino. “There’s an infinite variety; the challenge is that it requires a little bit of creativity, work and research.”

Over the next few months, for many of us that will mean modifying our usual routine to accommodate a living room, a hotel room or a guest room at a family member’s house. But as we succumb to our 10th latke in one night, that extra effort will no doubt feel worth it. 

Exercising at home can seem daunting, certified Pilates instructor Shana Stark says, because we may think that we need to go full bore for an hour, like we would in a fitness class. Instead, it’s important to remember that a little goes a long way.

“If you give anywhere from 10 to 20 minutes of concentrated, focused work, it should be enough to get your circulation going, get your body oxygenated and wake yourself up,” she said.

Workouts also needn’t be done all at once, Aluzas says.

“You can put together a few 15-minute blocks of exercise in a day, and it has the same value as if you had done it all at the same time,” he said. “The cumulative amount is just as effective.”

In other words, fit in whatever you can between breakfast and lunch, shopping and more shopping, or cooking meals and wrapping Chanukah gifts.

Whenever you’re working out — and particularly in cold weather — it’s important to spend some time warming up. Here are a few exercises that Stark teaches in her Pilates classes, and from a series of workout videos created by Aluzas:

Warm Up the Whole Body

Lie down on the floor and stretch your arms and legs out, keeping your arms beside your body. Pull your knees to your chest, then return them to a straightened position.

Medicine Ball Chop Squat

Holding a medicine ball overhead (or “anything that weighs anytwhere from 4 to 8 pounds — you could literally grab an encyclopedia,” Aluzas said), with legs shoulder width apart, squat and carry the ball down past the front of your body, with straight arms, until it’s between your legs. Stand and lift the ball overhead again. 

Hamstring Stretches

Lying on your back, wrap a towel or resistance band around the bottom of one foot. Keeping both legs straight, use the band or towel to pull the leg up toward your chest. Release back down and switch legs.

Alternating Lying Crossovers

Lying flat on your back with your arms outstretched in a “T” shape and your legs straight, lift one leg until it’s perpendicular to the floor, cross it over your body, lift it back up and place it down again. Repeat on the other side.

Rolling Like a Ball

Sit up and pull your knees toward your chest. Lift your feet a few inches off the floor, and keeping yourself tucked like a tight ball, use your core muscles to roll onto your spine and roll back up.

Glute Bridges

Lying on your back with your knees bent, lift your hips up off the floor while digging your heels into the floor and squeezing your shoulder blades together. Lower back down.

After finishing the warm-up, Stark says, your body should feel toastier, and it’s time to get to the bulk of the workout. Aluzas notes, though, that for people who are newer to working out, a warm-up can be enough exercise on its own.

“It depends on the degree of fitness of the person involved,” he says, adding, “People have to be patient with themselves,” and do as much as they are able to do without overexerting.

The following exercises can be done using dumbbells, or using household items of the same weight. Best of all, they can be done any place where there’s enough room to “lie down on the floor and stretch your arms and legs out,” Stark says.

Arm Circles

Standing up, lengthening the spine and holding 2- to 4-pound weights, lift your arms straight out in front of you, keeping the elbows straight. Do not lift beyond the shoulders. Lower back down. “The key is not to swing your arms but to resist, almost as if you have to push your arms through water,” Stark said.

Squat Curl Press

Holding dumbbells in each hand and standing with your feet shoulder width apart, squat down with your arms hanging by your sides. As you stand, bend your arms at the elbow, curling the weights up to your shoulders. Finally, press the weights over your head, twisting your palms to face forward and keeping your arms shoulder distance apart.

Triceps

Standing with your feet hip distance apart, bend your knees and push your tush behind you like you are in a downhill skiing position. Lean forward, bring your elbows back behind you and straighten your arms back behind you. Bend the elbows back to return to starting position.

Mountain Climbers

Starting in a plank position, face down with both hands on the floor and your tush slightly lifted, bend one knee up to your chest and place that foot on the floor. Keeping your hands on the floor, alternate your legs with a slight jump.

The Hundred

Lying on your back, lift your legs about a foot off the floor, keeping the knees straight. Lift your head and shoulders until you feel the tip of shoulder blades come off the mat. Keeping the arms straight, lift and lower the arms from the shoulders rapidly, moving the arms only about five inches. Inhale and pump for five counts, then exhale and pump for five counts, until you reach 100.

Crunches

Lying on the floor with knees bent and feet flat on the floor, place your hands behind your head and lift the shoulders, pressing the lower back against the ground. Lower the shoulders to return to starting position, keeping the head lifted.

In addition to maintaining your existing level of fitness, working out over the holidays can have particular benefits for travelers.

“The best thing for jet lag is exercise,” Stark says. “Even if it’s cold or you’re in a new place, throw on a coat and some gloves and go for a brisk walk for five to 10 minutes.”

Aluzas adds that those who are able to push themselves to exercise on their own, especially during the holidays, deserve a pat on the back. People get caught up in berating themselves for what they aren’t doing, he says, rather than commending themselves for what they are doing.

“You should applaud yourself for being willing to work out on your own in your living room,” he says. “That’s not easy to do.”

Body of Brooklyn youngster Leiby Kletzky found, suspect arrested


The body of an 8-year-old Brooklyn boy who disappeared while walking home from camp was found, and at least one suspect was taken into custody.

Leiby Kletzky had been missing since Monday. Part of his dismembered body reportedly was found Wednesday morning in a dumpster in Brooklyn and the rest was discovered inside the Brooklyn apartment of a suspect, who was arrested and is being questioned by police.

Police had checked the dumpster since its lid was open, the New York Daily News reported.

New York Assemblyman Dov Hikind told the newspaper that the suspected killer is Jewish. The Daily News reported that three suspects are in custody.

The discovery of the boy’s body comes after a massive search for the boy which included police and hundreds of volunteers, most from the Orthodox community. Leiby went missing after walking home from camp for the first time; he was supposed to meet his parents three blocks from the camp, halfway from his home.

The boy reportedly was seen on surveillance videos following the man who was later arrested.

Mind, body and sole


The Grinberg Method, named for its Israeli founder, Avi Grinberg, is described as “a structured way of teaching through the body.” But a better way to explain it is through an example. Let’s take a universal source of anxiety that most women can relate to: waiting for the guy to call after a date.

It’s something Marcela Widrig, one of two L.A.-based Grinberg Method practitioners, encounters often among her female clients.

“First she can get angry with the person — ‘He’s such a jerk,’ ” Widrig said during an interview at her Atwater Village studio, Bodies That Work. “She could feel bad about herself — ‘What did I do wrong?’ She could constantly be checking her e-mails, phone calls. All of a sudden, he becomes the center of her life, after one date.”

The anxiety is often accompanied by physiological changes: tightening of the stomach muscles, tensing of the jaw or erratic breathing.

Through a combination of touch and dialogue, the Grinberg Method practitioner calls attention to what is happening in the woman’s body when she thinks about the anticipated phone call. In doing so, she can break the pattern and allow for fresh ways of experiencing, perceiving and reacting to the situation.

A holistic approach reminiscent of other mind-body therapies — like Hellerwork, the Feldenkrais Method, the Alexander Technique and Rolfing — the Grinberg Method aims to foster self-awareness about limiting beliefs, often inherited from childhood, and sources of pain and fear that often express themselves through the body.

The method combines elements of foot reflexology, acupressure, breath work and deep-tissue massage to treat emotional issues. The method is also intended to treat physical injuries, although its promotional materials carry a disclaimer that it is not intended for serious conditions.

A few days before this interview, Widrig sprained her ankle and planned to treat it with the guidance of Rachel Putter, whose Grinberg Method Center of Activities practice is based in West Hollywood.

“Any time the body gets injured, there’s fear,” Widrig said. “The energy from that is what we use to heal.”

Putter, who grew up in Israel, discovered the Grinberg Method 19 years ago, soon after earning her bachelor’s degree in philosophy from Jerusalem’s Hebrew University. She has taught the method for 12 years throughout Israel and Europe.

“When I got sessions, I saw the effect on my life,” Putter said in an interview at her studio. “Every session would bring me to experience myself in reality in a more authentic way. That is what made me interested in this work, until today. Touch cuts the bull——. You can have a belief of who you are and what you want in your mind. But when you shift your attention to the experience in your body, you can really know what you want and don’t want, what is the thing you are fighting against, and be honest about it.”

The Grinberg Method is new to the United States and is currently offered only in Los Angeles. Local medical and mental health professionals contacted by The Journal were unaware of the treatment. Results of a study conducted by Grinberg practitioners, The Pain Project, are awaiting publication; no independent studies evaluating its effectiveness are available. The method, Widrig and Putter said, reaches clients largely through word of mouth.

Practitioners do not position themselves as a replacement for traditional therapists, although costs could render complementary treatment pricey. Widrig’s sessions go for $120 per hour; Putter’s for $150 per hour. Group classes on wellness inspired by the Grinberg Method are available at lower costs.

Grinberg, born in 1955, developed the method after studying and practicing various healing arts, including working as a paramedic and as a reflexologist. He established a school for his method in Haifa in the late 1980s, and has authored a book on his method, “Fear, Pain and Some Other Friends,” which presents its basic concepts and ways of incorporating them into daily life. After giving a series of lectures in Switzerland to an enthusiastic audience, Grinberg moved his headquarters there, expanding with branches in Germany, Austria, Spain, Italy and the United Kingdom.

Grinberg’s training in reflexology is reflected in the method’s “foot analysis,” which begins the process. While examining the client’s feet, the practitioner asks questions about beliefs, character and/or circumstances.

“How you walk and move through life is reflected through the feet,” Widrig said.

The technique impressed Josh Kartsch. “I had no idea what to expect, and in the first five minutes I was blown away by what she was saying to me while she was looking at my feet,” the 37-year-old L.A. designer said. “She said so many things that were in my attention but which I couldn’t articulate.”

After several sessions with Widrig, Kartsch signed up for the three-year training course but dropped out when his business took off, thanks, he said, to improved communication the Grinberg Method fostered.

“When I would go through the traditional therapist, it was boring,” he said. “It was nothing compared to what I was getting from the Grinberg Method. … This was totally revolutionary and very immediate — the effects and the changes I was making.”

But trying the method may require a leap of faith for some, Kartsch said. “The Grinberg Method is not for everybody, and it’s not a cure-all. It’s for people who are really willing to try something new and powerful. Not everyone is willing to do that.”

For more information about the Grinberg Method, visit ” title=”bodiesthatwork.com” target=”_blank”>bodiesthatwork.com

Rachel Putter
Grinberg Method Center of Activities, LA
7327 Santa Monica Blvd, West Hollywood
(310) 855-3368

Obama decides not to release photos of bin Laden’s body


U.S. President Barack Obama has decided not to release photos of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden dead, U.S. television networks said on Wednesday.

“We discussed this internally, did DNA sampling. It was important for us the photos won’t become a propaganda tool,” Obama said, according to White House spokesman Jay Carney.

“We don’t use this staff as a trophy that’s not who we are. Given the graphic nature of these pictures, it could be used for incitement members of my national security team agreed,” he said.

Read more at Haaretz.com.

Searching for the soul


On a recent Friday night, during one of her rare articulate moments, I asked my 88-year-old mother with Alzheimer’s if she could feel her soul.

“Yes, I certainly can,” she answered slowly, searching for her words, as she struggled to express the reflection of the feelings inside.

“How?” I probed.

“I believe in it. I always have,” she said.

I had come to Grancell Village at the Jewish Home for the Aging to pick up my 90-year-old father and bring him home for Shabbat dinner. My mother was so unusually alert that evening, so I brought her too.

At our house, with our adult children present, her ability to talk continued. I was so surprised that I brought out the volumes of hand-written recipe books that she began in 1947 and asked her if she knew what they were.

She picked them up and felt them. “Of course, I know what these are.”

“What are they?” I asked.

“These are a part of me,” she said slowly. “They are connected to who I am.”

I noticed that she had answered far deeper than saying, “These are my recipe books.”

I didn’t need any more evidence that she indeed felt her soul.

The next day, my father told me, she had reverted back and couldn’t string three words together.

At the age of 56, I have learned that we assume upon ourselves many labels and classifications during our lifetime. As much as we try to hold on, nothing stays static. In the last year, one of my most active identities has become being the son of an Alzheimer’s victim. As each week passes, the week before looks like a time when my mother was capable of miracles. A little more than two years ago she was still driving and cooking Rosh Hashannah dinners for 20 people. Now I don’t even have to worry about her reading this article. Always a voracious reader, she stopped reading a year ago.

My father, who doesn’t appear a day above 60, has stepped up in a big way, always at her side, completing her sentences and her movements, so that they can remain together in their apartment at the Jewish Home.

In my new capacity as the son of an Alzheimer’s victim, I have many questions. Some of them are Jewish questions. One kept me up for hours the other night, leading me to my bookshelf at 3 a.m., combing through volumes to see what insights I might glean. What happens to the soul during Alzheimer’s?

Right now, while my mother is still in physical form, where is her soul? The soul that was so deeply emotional, at times irrational, always larger than life, filled with equal amounts of love and anger, happiness and discontent that could burst forward with dancing, singing, crying, yelling and admonition—the soul that always reached out to those in despair, touching people with deep reservoirs of friendship and concern?

Does that soul still exist? Is it sick, too? Does it also have Alzheimer’s, while she is still alive? Maybe it is completely present, having pulled inside itself until it is released from this ailing body? There are comments my mother still makes as she did at my house that evening, when I can still see sparks of her soul.

When I put this question out to my friend, Larry Neinstein, a cantor and doctor who is head of student health at USC, he had much to say. Larry has multiple myeloma. In the last two years, he has survived through a successful blood transplant and refers to his ongoing chemo treatments as appetizer chemos, main course chemos, dessert chemos and triple high-dose atomic blasts. Larry thrives in remission, holding his breath of life from blood test to blood test. He is an inspiration to our entire circle of friends, who all stand in awe of his active life filled with family, work, hikes, music, trips abroad and his continuing to attend international conferences as a world-renowned keynote speaker on adolescent medicine.

Larry wrote me a few days later:

“The soul, I think, is only a flickering light when we are born,” he wrote. “It gains and grows in strength, meaning and depth throughout our life, through our families, our friends, our colleagues, through the profound moments, through music and through dance. At the same time, our soul is partially emptying itself to others, to our children as they are born, to friends and to the colleagues that we touch. It was like an ‘Ah ha!’ moment, when I was staring at my 1-month-old granddaughter’s eyes, and she was staring back with a combination of emptiness and fullness, of love and yearning, for her soul to have a chance of so much to come.

“I realized at that moment that my soul is in so many places and people, to one small degree or another,” he continued. “And the better life I have led, the deeper that soul that is in me, but the less that is left as I age. If I have led a full life, there will be none left on one side, and an immense amount left elsewhere.” 

Another friend of mine, a writer and editor, when I told him about these same questions, asked me in return, “Is this really about the questions?  Isn’t all this actually about the relationship with your mother?”

I gave his very penetrating question days of thought. While I might be psychologically in constant relationship with her understanding, and acting out the effect a parent has upon a child, I am no longer in an active give-and-take relationship with my mother.

As I told my brother, wife and kids recently, “The mother I knew is gone. This is not the same woman. This is a remnant of my mother. Shades of my mother have been removed, lifted to some other place. Without her full soul, I may recognize her physical appearance and even some of the things she says; her expressions and her scant memories. But while I give her all the respect and care she deserves—the attention and even interaction—there is no longer the exchange of dynamism and love between us that there once was.

She told me just three years ago, while we were driving on the 405, “You see this freeway?  If I ever get Alzheimer’s or any kind of dementia, you roll me out of this door right here and tell them I jumped out myself. I don’t ever want to be living like that in one of those places. Do you hear me?”

That was the mother with whom I was having a relationship. I often wonder what my responsibility is toward the mother I knew and her ebullient soul, as opposed to one at the Jewish Home?

Gary Wexler, a former advertising agency creative director, owns Passion Marketing, a consulting firm to nonprofit organizations worldwide, including major Jewish organizations in the United States, Canada and Israel.

Abramoff receives new four-year sentence, Phoenix community leader murdered


Abramoff Receives New Four-Year Sentence

Jewish lobbyist Jack Abramoff was sentenced to four years in prison. Abramoff had pleaded guilty to corruption and tax offenses related to influence peddling involving Republican congressmen and midlevel Bush administration officials, some of whom were convicted.

The prosecution noted Abramoff’s cooperation in helping to build cases against some 10 other officials in recommending that he be given a reduced term, largely to motivate others to cooperate with investigators.

However, on Sept. 4, Judge Ellen Huvelle of the U.S. District Court in Washington sentenced Abramoff to nine months more than the 39-month term suggested by prosecutors, citing the erosion of the public’s trust in government that Abramoff’s activities generated.

Wearing a yarmulke, Abramoff offered a wrenching apology to the court, saying, “I have fallen into an abyss,” according to the reports. “My name is the butt of a joke.” Abramoff currently is serving a two-year prison term in an unrelated fraud case.

Prominent Jewish Activist in Phoenix Slain

A prominent Jewish activist in Phoenix, Irving Shuman, 84, was murdered at his office on Sept. 2.

Shuman’s body was found Tuesday evening at his real estate office after he failed to show up for a dinner appointment, according to the Arizona Republic. His car was also stolen.

Shuman, who was active in Jewish organizations and pro-Israel lobbies, had received several honors, including the Tree of Life award by the Jewish National Fund in Arizona and the Jewish Federation of Greater Phoenix’s Medal of Honor.

“Irv Shuman was a man of exceptional values,” said Rabbi Ariel Shoshan, who studied with Shuman and other Phoenix executives on Thursdays, according to the Republic. “He lived for causes like the well-being of Israel and the furtherance of Jewish education and was an active supporter of over 100 charities.”

Shuman’s gold Lexus was recovered in San Bernardino this week.

Divine Listening


“This is the story of Isaac, son of Abraham. Abraham begot Isaac. Isaac was 40 years old when he took to wife Rebecca, daughter of

Bethuel of Paddan-aram, sister of Laban the Aramean. Isaac pleaded with the Lord on behalf of his wife, because she was barren; and the Lord responded to his plea, and his wife Rebecca conceived. But the children struggled in her womb and she said, ‘If so why do I exist?'” (Genesis 25:19-22).

How do we answer those in pain?

This week’s Torah portion begins with an issue that is a recurrent one for our foremothers — difficulty conceiving. As Sarah before her and Rachel after her, Rebecca has trouble getting pregnant. After her husband Isaac pleads with God, she does conceive. But the pregnancy is a painful one — so much so that Rebecca cries out with words to the effect of, “Would that I did not exist!” Out of this depth of despair she approaches God.

She went to inquire of the Lord, and the Lord answered her: “Two nations are in your womb, two separate peoples shall issue from your body; one people shall be mightier than the other, and the older shall serve the younger” (Genesis 25:23).

God’s response is profound and gives us great insight into how we can help those in pain. The most noteworthy element is that God does not seek to take away Rebecca’s pain. Rather God listens to her with no interruptions. While such listening does not cure Rebecca of her pain by removing it, it heals her because it helps overcome some of the isolation and loneliness that often accompanies those who are suffering.

In addition, God points out that her pain is due to the nature of the fetuses that she carries and is indicative of the way they will be as both individuals and even as kingdoms. In essence, God informs Rebecca that her pain is not random and pointless but that it has meaning and significance. After being heard, Rebecca is able to motivate herself and endure her suffering until the end of her term.

So often when we encounter those who are in pain we make several mistakes. Our natural reaction is to want to take their suffering away. While understandable, it is also highly impractical since we cannot really do it (nor by the way do people expect us to do so). But since we cannot directly relieve them of their suffering, we search for the right thing to do or say in an attempt to make everything OK.

Another error we make in our desire to help is to talk. We either say that they should not worry and that everything will be all right. Or we hear their pain and then tell them of our own experiences in an attempt to show that we empathize with them.

But these responses make us feel better and not those who we are seeking to help.

When someone is hurting, there truly are no right things to say or do. It’s sometimes enough merely to be present, to show people that they are heard and hence not alone. We must acknowledge where they are so that they know we have heard them in all their pain. Furthermore, we must help them see that their suffering is not for nothing, but has meaning and purpose; for these two things allow them to bear that which would otherwise be unbearable.

To be able hear someone’s pain and give meaning to his or her suffering are the most important things we can do when we approach those in difficulty — and in doing so effectively we act divinely.

Jonathan Jaffe Bernhard is a rabbi at Adat Ari El, a Conservative synagogue in Valley Village. He can be reached at rabbijjb@adatariel.org.

 

A Towering Achievement


At a willowy 5-foot-10 1/2, Jennifer Rosen ticks off the quandaries of growing up supertall, female and Jewish: At her Miami Beach religious school she scraped her knees on the desk, which practically stuck to her backside when she stood up. At her Conservative bat mitzvah, she danced with boys who had to lean their heads on her chest. While reciting her Haftorah, she even towered over the rabbi: "He was wearing a bad toupee, and I was looking down on it," said Rosen, now in her 20s.

Her height felt all the freakier because Jews are generally more vertically challenged than, say, Swedes.

Rosen, who now wears high heels, eventually embraced her stature. It’s a journey she recounts in her debut monologue, "Tall Girl," a visiting production at The Groundlings Theatre, directed by Groundlings founder Gary Austin. The tall tale is a more G-rated version of the kind of comic monologue, celebrating the liberated self, epitomized by shows such as Margaret Cho’s "I’m the One That I Want."

In the highly physical piece, Rosen plays herself and a variety of characters, such as classmates who called her Big Bird and Daddy Long Legs. Throughout her childhood, she said, "There were stares and people pointing at me and thinking I was older. I felt extremely awkward, unsure of what to do with my limbs."

Her mother shlepped her to endocrinologists and also to acting class, which helped draw the painfully shy teenager out of her shell. After graduating from Stanford, she studied at Manhattan’s Circle in the Square theater school and with Austin, who taught her to use her long limbs to comic advantage.

"Initially, Jennifer was more self-conscious," recalled the director, who has also coached stars such as Helen Hunt. But as he helped her develop "Tall Girl," she "became much more committed to using her whole body, not just while playing herself but in the extreme character work."

These days, the poised Rosen still stands out at Jewish singles events such as Friday Night Live, where she’s taller than many of the guys. "But that no longer bothers me," she said.

"Tall Girl" runs Tuesdays through March 30. $15. 7307 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles. (323) 934-4747.

Mind, Body and Soul


What do women want? Happiness, family and to shed those last 10 pounds. Women can learn how to accomplish all this and more at an educational conference produced by women and designed to meet the needs and wants of women.

"Exercising Your Mind; Minding Your Body," the fourth annual Women’s Community Conference, offers Southern California women a unique learning experience. A joint effort of the Hadassah Southern California Northern Area and the University of Judaism (UJ) department of continuing education, the daylong event on Sunday, March 10, aims to expand women’s spiritual and physical knowledge. Speakers, ranging from UCLA professors and Los Angeles-area rabbis to pediatricians and clinical psychologists, will tackle topics such as "The Women’s Revolution in Judaism," "What Color Is Your Diet?" and "Families and Other Unusual Life Forms."

"We want to explore health and spiritual topics that are meaningful to today’s Southern California women," said Roz Kantor, Northern Area chairperson. The conference is for women of all ages, from all Jewish movements and also non-Jewish women.

The more than 5,000 Hadassah Southern California Northern Area group members range from newlyweds in their late 20s to grandmothers in their late 80s. To accommodate the interests of all the women, the conference will present insights into all stages of a woman’s life. A new mother may be interested in seminars like "Using the Jewish Tradition to Raise Caring Kids" and "The Challenge of Raising a Challenged Child," while a mother of grown children may be drawn to "Midlife Challenges Not Midlife Crises" and "This Can’t Possibly Be My Life."

The conference not only will explore the different stages of a woman’s life, but also the different elements. Seminars will cover a woman’s mind, body and soul.

"We have something for everyone. Talks on diet and nutrition, women of the Torah, Israeli politics, stem cell research and even herbal medicine," said Debbie Kessler, the Women’s Community Conference co-chair. "Since its inception four years ago, the conference has aimed to educate women on multiple aspects of their lives."

The international Hadassah organization, over 300,000 strong, started as a women’s study group in 1912 and contributes much of its funds to Jerusalem’s Hadassah College of Technology. And so, the leaders of the Northern Area Chapter, felt it only appropriate to create an event dedicated to self-education.

"Since education is a cornerstone of our organization, it seemed fitting to start an educational day — a day for women to come together and learn," Kantor said.

To further enhance the day’s educational component, Hadassah invited the UJ to co-sponsor the event. "UJ is a renown Jewish educational institution right here in our area, and it made sense to join forces with them," Kantor said.

The UJ also saw the cooperation as an easy match. "Our mission is to provide a multitude of opportunities that enrich the lives of various segments of the population. To work with a group such as Hadassah was not only a pleasure, but a true fulfillment of this mission," said Gady Levy, UJ continuing education dean.

Levy emphasized the university’s excitement over the joint venture. "The conference provides our community with such a meaningful day of education, and the caliber of this program is something we’re very proud of," Levy said.

The UJ not only lends the conference academic prowess, but physical facilities. In past years, the conference was limited to 175 attendees, but this year’s university campus venue enables the conference to increase to 300 participants. "The event just keeps getting better and bigger. We have so many women who return every year, and now we can accommodate both returning and first-time attendees," Kessler said.

The 300 women will begin their day with a kosher continental breakfast, attend one of four morning seminars, have a kosher box lunch and then choose one of four afternoon seminars. The conference also features three keynote speakers (at the start, middle and end of the day), as well as a book sale and signing.

"Hadassah is a dynamic, 90-year-young organization, and we welcome and encourage all women to come to the conference and be a part of us," Kantor said.

The conference will run from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. at the University of Judaism, 15600 Mulholland Drive, Bel-Air, and is open to everyone.

Registration is $40. Same day walk-up attendees may attend on a space-available basis, and sign-language interpreters will be provided. For more information, contact Hadassah Southern California Northern Area at (818)783-3488.

There’s No Time Like the Present


In my family, death and funerals seem to inspire joking. Maybe it’s discomfort, but it also seems to be a lack of concern and heaviness about the whole thing. No one in my family does much visiting of graves, and burials are apparently not deemed necessary.

My mother wants her body cremated and her ashes scattered at her camp in Maine. I imagine my sister and I will someday combine sharing our grief with a nice trip to New England.

My father, after years of making jokes about his postmortem plans, suddenly informed us that he wants to donate his body to the Northeastern Medical College in Ohio. (His only concern is that some of his former psychology students might recognize him.)

My grandparents also gave their bodies to medicine. My father recalled how some men from the medical school carried my grandmother out in a body bag. Did it bother him? “Well, they looked just like the men who came to fix the television,” he joked.

But it is a serious subject, and a necessary one to discuss — well before the time comes, in order to avoid extra emotional stress and expense.

Yet only 35 percent of the funerals in the Los Angeles area are preplanned through mortuary arrangements, says Steve Espolt, director of sales at Hillside Memorial Park and Mortuary in Los Angeles. This means that someone — a spouse or a child perhaps — not only has lost a loved one, but also has to make arrangements for the person’s body while grieving.

Planning a funeral is not unlike planning a wedding, Espolt says. For both events, you need clergy, a location, flowers and probably some meaningful comments. But “a wedding is usually planned over six months to a year and is the happiest day of your life. A funeral has to be planned in 24 hours and might be the worst day of your life,” he says.

“We don’t ask to be born, and we have nothing to say about when it’s our time to be called,” says Ira J. Polisky, sales manager at Eden Memorial Park in Mission Hills. Making arrangements and having them paid for ahead of time, Polisky asserts, “is the greatest expression of love within a family.” Eden offers seminars at temples and fraternal groups for the purpose of bringing the facts of life about funeral arrangements out in the open.

“After 20 years in this business, I’ve seen prepared and I’ve seen unprepared,” Espolt says. “Prepared is better.”

Both Polisky and Espolt mentioned payment plans they offer to encourage families to be prepared. “A small deposit is made,” says Polisky of Eden’s plan, “and then the necessary items are paid off over a seven-year period, which locks in the prices.” This way, one isn’t forcing a new widow to start writing checks at the painful time of loss.

If it’s practical and relatively easy to make arrangements, why are so few people prepared?

“Most people don’t like to think about their own mortality, so they don’t like to talk about what will happen to them after they die,” says Arnold Saltzman, general manager of Mount Sinai Memorial Parks and Mortuary.

“Many people take the ostrich approach,” Polisky says. “They pretend that nothing will happen to them, that they will have as much time as they want.”

According to Espolt, men are worse than women, because more men don’t want to admit they’re going to die. Now they are having to deal with their parents’ arrangements, and they don’t like that either. So, they avoid the subject.

Saltzman, a former therapist and executive vice president of the Jewish Family Service of Los Angeles, a beneficiary agency of The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, has seen stress explode when funeral arrangements are not made ahead of time. “Families come in with old wounds and battles that they’ve had over the years,” Saltzman says. “The stress causes them to become more agitated, rather than bringing them together, and as they’re trying to reach these decisions they haven’t made already, they get into arguments.”

One result is “emotional overspending.” Espolt describes a situation where a recently widowed man asked the son of his deceased wife to choose whatever he wanted for his mother, since she hadn’t made her wishes known. “The son picked the most expensive casket available, which made the widower uncomfortable, partly because he knew his wife wouldn’t have wanted anything so extravagant, but he’d made the offer and felt he had to live with it.”

Parents frequently make a decision to just let their kids take care of funeral arrangements when the time comes. “This places an undue burden on children,” Saltzman says. “If the parents won’t talk about it, their children should try to initiate discussion. It will make things easier when the time comes.”

To encourage discussion, Saltzman has created a brochure called “The Right Words,” which offers advice on how to broach this awkward subject. Mount Sinai has also launched a campaign that includes pins that say, “Let’s Talk.”

Espolt says Hillside is also keeping its services in the front of people’s minds with a recent community service ad offering 20-year yahrtzeit memorial calendars to anyone who calls and asks for one.

After speaking with these professionals, I feel relieved that I know what my parents want for themselves after they die. It will be difficult enough to be feeling their loss without trying to imagine what they would have wanted.

Hopefully, it’ll be many years before I need to think about it again.


Ellie Kahn is an oral historian, freelance writer and the owner of Living Legacies Family Histories in West Los Angeles. Her e-mail address is elliek1@earthlink.net.

Exercising the Mind


As we enter the new millennium, fitness professionals are becoming more aware of the movement toward spiritual forms of exercise. Programs like Pilates, Yoga, Tai Chi, meditation, and body work are common in fitness clubs and community centers. To keep up with today’s stressful lifestyles, we must do more than increase our heart rates and pump iron to maintain maximum health. Mind and body fitness can facilitate this by achieving inner balance and harmony in mind, body and spirit.

One way to practice mind and body fitness is through meditation. Methods of meditation were used in ancient Judaic times by focusing on certain words or prayers. Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan has written two books on Jewish meditation: "Jewish Meditation, a Practical Guide" and "Meditation and the Bible."

According to Kaplan, Judaism produced one of the more important systems of meditation. "There is also evidence that during the period when the Bible was written [until approximately 400 b.c.e.], meditation was practiced by a large proportion of the Israelite people," he maintains.

Today, meditation is becoming much more mainstream and has crossed religious barriers once associated with it. Rabbi Jonathan Omer-Man, founder and rabbi emeritus of Metivta, a center for contemplative Judaism, describes meditation as a "profound and demanding practice" which "clears the obstacles in our mind, to help us perceive the underlying realities, the divine."

Meditation produces a state of deep relaxation that has been known to reverse the stress process. Focus is key. By focusing on our breath or a mantra, we are able to quiet our minds and still our constant chatter. Meditation should be thought of as an exercise program. You would not run on the treadmill once a week and expect any results. The same is true of meditation. A regular meditation program of 10 minutes a day will produce psychological as well as physiological benefits.

The following is a basic meditation exercise for beginners:

Sit or lie in a comfortable position.

Close your eyes and relax.

Focus on your breath entering and leaving your body. (Place your hands on your abdomen; feel it expand and collapse with each breath).

At the exhalation, count each breath, from 1 to 10; repeat.

Repeat a phrase that has meaning to you. It could be a phrase from the Bible, such as Deuteronomy 4:15: "Take you, therefore, good heed of your souls." It could also be a single word, such as "Shema."

Continue the meditation for 10 to 20 minutes. If the mind begins to wander, calmly direct it back to the task.

A Wise Peace


The first thing Itzhak Frankenthal did after his son’s murder was exact threepromises from his wife. First, he said, the couple would not blameGod. Second, they would thank God for at least allowing them to havetheir son’s remains to bury. Many Israeli families never receive thebodies of their loved ones killed by war or, in Arik Frankenthal’scase, by terrorists. Lastly, Frankenthal made his wife promise thattheir life without Arik would go on. After sitting

shiva

, Frankenthal walked intohis children’s room, turned on the TV, and told them that they mustgo back to doing normal things.

But Frankenthal is the first to acknowledge thathis life has never been the same since July 7, 1994, when Arik’s bodywas found dumped in a village near Ramallah, riddled with bulletholes and stab wounds. The soldier had been hitchhiking home on leavewhen he was kidnapped and murdered by Hamas terrorists. He was19.

Before his murder, Arik, an Orthodox Jew, had beendrawn to the nascent religious Zionist peace movement. He had spokento his father about Oz V’Shalom/Netivot Shalom, a group thatmaintains that Jewish law, or halacha, requires Israel tocompromise with the Palestinians. One month after his son’s death,Frankenthal dissolved his business interests and threw hisconsiderable energies behind Oz V’Shalom — eventually becomingexecutive director.

He also organized 50 families who have lost lovedones to terror to speak out for compromise. “We are suffering,” hesays of the family group. “We know what it means to lose ourchildren. Eventually, we will have to give the Palestinians a state,but, in the meantime, we will lose more children. Why wait?”

If you want to sway public opinion in Israel’sskeptical society, you better come armed with the right credentials.Frankenthal, the Orthodox father who lost a son to terrorism, knowshe has, if nothing else, instant credibility.

He can understand those unwilling to concede anypart of the Land of Israel, which they believe God granted the Jewishpeople. “I know it belongs to us,” he says, “but we realize we can’thold on to all of Greater Israel without paying a very high price,losing our morale and losing our children.” The Jewish law of savinglife, pikuach nefesh, clearly overrides the value of expanding Jewishterritory. “There is nothing in all of Jewish values about lettingchildren die for a bigger Israel,” he says. “Why hold on to the Tombof the Fathers [near Hebron] to create graves for ourchildren?”

Oz V’Shalom’s message has resonated in a worldwhere Orthodoxy more often than not connotes fundamentalism. “Thepeople who are credible are religious people talking peace andcompromise,” says Frankenthal.

The organization has grown from 450 to 4,500members. The next step is to market the group’s peace plan, whichcalls for Israel to annex about 7 percent of the West Bank and Gaza,and along with it about 100,000 of the 130,000 settlers. The rest ofthose areas would become a Palestinian state, devoid of heavyarmaments.

The group devised the plan after Frankenthal heldmeetings with Israelis of all political leanings, generals andPalestinians. A just peace, he concluded, is impossible. How can heever exact justice for the murder of his son? “Don’t look for a justpeace,” he says, “look for a wise peace.”

Frankenthal is in Los Angeles as part of afund-raising drive to help Oz V’Shalom distribute its “Wise Peace”plan in Israel and to educate settlers and religious students on thehalacha of peace.

Because of his background, Frankenthal has beenable to take his message where other peace activists rarely tread. Hewill speak on Saturday morning at the Orthodox B’nai David-JudeaCongregation on Pico Boulevard and on Sunday at Temple Israel ofHollywood. Both events are open to the public.

In his pursuit of peace, Frankenthal is fearlessand focused. “Since Arik’s murder, nothing upsets me. When I wonderif what I’m doing is right, Arik reaches out to me and says, ‘Thankyou, Dad.'”

For more information, write Oz V’Shalom, P.O.B.4433, Jerusalem, Israel, 91043. Tel. (02) -566-4711. E-mail:ozshalom@netvision.net.il. — Robert Eshman,Managing Editor

A Women’s Peace

Perhaps it was only coincidence, but just as ElNiño made a last swirl through Los Angeles, two of Israel’smost outspoken feminists/peace activists, Naomi Chazan and GaliaGolan, swept through town with their gusty critiques of the Jewishstate’s political and social progress.

At a lecture last month organized by Friends ofGivat Haviva, Chazan spoke of her sadness, anger and disappointmentover the stagnation of the peace process.

“Nothing is moving in the peace process. Nothing,”she said.

According to Chazan, the stalled peace process hascontributed to Israel’s economic recession, a sharp division amongcitizens, and an unpleasant mood in Israel. One of the most upsettingresults of the frozen negotiations with Arab countries are the sourrelations that Israel now suffers with other countries. Some, shesaid, are even considering applying economic sanctions onIsrael.

“Three years ago, we were flying high in theinternational arena, and now people don’t even want to talk to us,”said Chazan.

Galia Golan, in an interview with The JewishJournal, expressed similar sentiments.

“With Rabin, tourism was up, investments were up,morale was up. We were beginning to be part of the region,” saidGolan, professor of Soviet East European Studies at Hebrew Universityand founding member and spokesperson for Peace Now.

In contrast to the hope and excitement thatIsraelis felt during the Rabin years, many now feel isolated,disillusioned and disappointed. Many had hoped that the Netanyahugovernment would support the Oslo accords and witness thecontinuation of Israel’s political and economic successes, Golansaid.

“This [Netanyahu] government was democraticallyelected, but I don’t think this is what they were elected to do,” shesaid.

Golan and Chazan may have rained some on Israel’s50th-birthday parades, but their criticism of government policy wasmitigated by news of headway the two women were making in improvingthe status of women in Israel. One purpose of Golan’s visit to theUnited States was to raise funds for the Lafer Center for Women’sStudies at Hebrew University, the only program of its kind at anIsraeli University. In early June, scholars will meet in Jerusalemfor the Lafer Center Conference on Women in the Yishuv and the EarlyState, which will be held jointly with Brandeis University.

As chair of the Knesset’s Committee on thePersonal Status of Women, Chazan helped push through the legislativebody a bill that defines and prohibits sexual harassment ingovernment offices and institutions.

Despite their recent achievements, Golan andChazan note two major obstacles that Israeli women still face: thepolitical influence of the religious parties, who have limitednotions of women’s roles, and sexism in the army. The message manywomen receive in the army is that they are not needed. But Golanmaintains that peace will improve the situation of women.

“The army is sexist. It is a patriarchalsituation. With peace, the social importance of the army will recede.This will be good for women,” said Golan.

“We’re not looking for peace because peace is anobjective,” said Chazan. “We’re looking for peace as a vehicle for ajust society in Israel.” — OritArfa, Contributing Writer

 

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