Butt flag fever, Orthodox crawl, what to expect, propaganda

Flag Skirts

I was very interested in the subject matter of the young people of the United States going to Israel on the Birthright program (Cover, July 18).

However, am I the only paranoid Jew who found it offensive? Since when is it appropriate to drape a flag (from any country) around one’s rear end? These students perhaps do not know the proper procedure in displaying a flag, but surely the editors of your fine publication would know.

Sally Michaels
Woodland Hills

Defending Identity

Coming from an Orthodox background, only recently did I start reading the Jewish Journal (it’s delivered to the Russian Chabad of all places). I really enjoy the multitude of opinions expressed here — especially Rob Eshman’s editorials — until I read “Defending Identity” riding to work this morning (“Defending Identity,” July 18).

A single written word can be a very powerful tool in educating and liberating, but it can do quite the opposite as well. A single reference to God in the feminine form “Her” was a major blow to my opening up to the Jewish non-Orthodox ideas. In the same sentence: not only it’s “Her,” but she also has a “dark sense of humor.”

Come on, Mr. Eshman, that’s too much! Whose identity are you defending?

Offending mine — that’s for sure! Now I want to crawl back to my shell, where I feel safe and where I can be unapologetically Orthodox.

Marat Kirgiz
Los Angeles

Best of L.A.

One of the finest synagogue bands in our area is Beth Shir Sholom’s TishTones. They were not mentioned in your otherwise excellent feature on the best in (Jewish) Los Angeles (July 4).

The TishTones were created more than 18 years ago by Rabbi Neil Comess-Daniels, and were one of the first synagogue bands. While longevity is not proof of “best,” I invite anyone interested to Beth Shir Sholom’s Shabbos Tish at 7:30 p.m. on Aug. 22, where the TishTones will be featured. Everyone is also invited to the 6 p.m. barbecue preceding the Tish (reservations appreciated).

Participants can then decide for themselves.

Brenda Barrie
Executive Director
Beth Shir Sholom
Santa Monica

What to Expect

Yes, a woman needs to listen to her body (“What to Expect When You’re Done Expecting,” July 11).

For some, it means having that one child, for others more children. There comes a time when the body says “enough is enough.”

It’s painful for women [who] due to nature’s quirks can’t have children. It’s one of the most beautiful things a woman can do: give life.

Giving birth does have its risks. I know — my mother died the day after I was born.

Elizabeth Kruger
Los Angeles

Ich bin ein Amerikaner

It is absolutely shocking that a Jew would write an article such as “Ich bin ein Amerikaner” (July 25).

Anyone acquainted with Jewish history should be painfully aware that if a person, people or state are loathed, it very well may be caused by unfair or even vicious propaganda. Those on the left, who blame Bush for the hatred of America, never consider that their venom is the primary reason for this hatred.

This of course includes obscene analogies (Hitler), absurd conspiracy theories (Sept. 11) and a constant stream of accusations that he is a liar (two bipartisan commissions concluded that he did not lie about WMDs). Amazingly, Kaplan praises American films, which the world loves. American films since Sept. 11 almost always demonize the United States or Israel.

While I would concede that Bush is a terrible communicator and disagree with many of his policies, we have to ask what would have happened if Roosevelt or Churchill were accorded the same treatment as Bush and the wrongs of Hitler were treated as a force of nature? What would have happened if all of the films produced during World War II dramatized wrongs committed by the United States or Britain?

We all understand the unfairness of absurdly disproportionate criticism of an ethnic group or race, but is it not equally unjust when this is done to a country such as Israel or the United States?

Ronnie Lampert
Los Angeles

Beyond Sicko

The headline over the column of Marty Kaplan, “Beyond Sicko” (July 18), was a perfect description of his opening paragraph (although I know that was not the intent of the headline writer), which takes a totally irrelevant swipe at Vice President Dick Cheney.

Kaplan made no direct connection between Cheney and the subject of his column.

For the obvious reason that he does not care for Cheney (Kaplan is the director of the leftist Norman Lear Center) he did an amazing stretch in his segue to justify his attack by the fact that the subject of his column (a conference on the health of people in the United States) was being held “a short taxi ride from the White House.”

Poor Kaplan, he even fell short in his queer segue. Cheney is not in the White House. Sicko.

Leon Perlsweig
Woodland Hills

Getting Serious

It will come as a revelation to Rachel Heller that intimacy, in long term relationships, can, and has been achieved, without ever sharing all the sounds each others’ bodies can make (“Getting ‘Serious’ Is No Joke,” July 11).

As it is, how shallow a measure that is anyway. I will no longer laugh at those self-help relationship books that flood the market; seems there must be a need for them.

Judith O. Kollman
Sherman Oaks


In the June 5, 2008 article, "Shoah Survivors Graduate from New Jew," the phrase "Polish concentration camps" was incorrectly used. The correct phrase should have been "concentration camps in Poland."

VIDEO: Mind of Mencia — cultural explorer Carlos goes to Fairfax to visit the Jews

<a href="http://www.comedycentral.com/" target="_blank">Mind of Mencia: Cultural Explorer &#8211; Jews</a>

Official Comedy Central Video: The Mind of Mencia—cultural explorer Carlos goes to visit the Jews

The Best of (Jewish) Los Angeles 2008

We like to think of our Annual Guide to the Best of (Jewish) Los Angeles as kvetch-proof. Our writers and editors provide personal favorites that are so idiosyncratic and eclectic that it’s hard to argue. (“No, that’s not the best place to buy a $50 set of used Talmud, this is!”)Our contributors are out there — in the community, in the neighborhoods, off the beaten track — and their choices not only reflect the varied tastes of our staff, but the great diversity of L.A. Jewish life. Year after year, by the way, Los Angeles is still our “Best Jewish City.”

Best Places to See Jewish Opera: Los Angeles and Long Beach

Thanks to maestro James Conlon and his “Recovered Voices” project, Los Angeles Opera has become the go-to destination in this country to see fully staged productions of works suppressed by the Nazis. This year’s fare included the one-act “The Broken Jug” by Viktor Ullmann, who composed the piece just before he was interned at Terezin (he died in Auschwitz in 1944). Conlon aims to stage one such opera per year to help “right musical wrongs” — Walter Braunfel’s rarely performed “The Birds” is planned for 2009. Meanwhile, the iconoclastic Long Beach Opera had such a successful run with its re-staging of Grigori Frid’s “The Diary of Anne Frank” (performed in a parking garage to evoke the claustrophobia of Anne’s attic) that a second production was added this month.Los Angeles Opera, 135 N. Grand Ave., Los Angeles.(213) 972-8001.Long Beach Opera, 507 Pacific Ave., Long Beach. (562) 432-5934. .

— Naomi Pfefferman

Best Really Jewish-Themed Plays Now Around Town (or, At Least, Some of the Many)

If you’re in the mood for a long weekend of Jewish theater (you’d have to start on a Thursday), check out Jennifer Maisel’s “The Last Seder,” in which the family patriarch has Alzheimer’s, the pregnant lesbian daughter brings her life partner and another daughter shows up with a guy she met at the train station, among other intrigues (at the Greenway Court Theatre through July 27). Then there’s Naomi Newman, of San Francisco’s acclaimed Traveling Jewish Theatre, who’ll play a Holocaust survivor recounting her long life (traversing the 20th century) in Martin Sherman’s solo show, “Rose” (among Rose’s adventures: visits to a hippie commune and to a West Bank settlement), at the Odyssey Theatre (July 5-Aug 31). “The Accomplices,” by former New York Times political reporter Bernard Weinraub, spotlights what the United States government and American Jews did — and didn’t do — to help Jews fleeing the Nazis, at the Fountain Theatre (July 12-Aug. 24). The satiric “Adam Baum and the Jew Movie,” directed by Paul Mazursky, is at the Hayworth Theatre through July 20. Watch these pages for more shows as they hit town. Greenway Court Theatre, 544 N. Fairfax Ave., Los Angeles. (323) 655-7679. Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 477-2055. Fountain Theatre, 5060 Fountain Ave., Los Angeles. (323) 663-1525. Hayworth Theatre, 2509 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, (323) 389-9860.

— NP

Best New Literary Salon:Town Hall’s Writers Bloc

A decade ago, Andrea Grossman started Writers Bloc in her Beverly Hills kitchen; over the years, the salon has hosted pop-culture-meets-literati conversations between the likes of Norman Mailer, Elmore Leonard and Erica Jong. This past year, the venerated series merged with Los Angeles’ 70-year-old Town Hall Los Angeles program to form (what else?) Town Hall’s Writers Bloc series, which has made a splash with authors from Salmon Rushdie to angry Jewish comic Lewis Black. Stay tuned for best-selling author Paul Auster (“Brooklyn Follies”) who will talk about his war-themed new book, “Man in the Dark,” later this summer.Town Hall Los Angeles, 515 Flower St., Los Angeles.

— NP

Best (Sinfully Rich) Persian-Infused French Bakery: Mignon

When I see a bakery with a French name in the Valley, it’s a good bet it’s Persian. One example is Mignon Bakery (mignon means cute in French). The aroma of fresh pastries baking and the owner’s warm smile make Mignon a delightful stop on a shopping trip to Valley Produce, a favorite market among Israelis. Although there are French items, so far I’ve focused on the Persian pastries, and all that I’ve tried have been fresh and of good quality, from saffron-glazed turnovers with almond-cardamom filling to tasty cinnamon-walnut baklava to exotic sweets like cardamom-flavored chickpea balls. There are a variety of Persian cakes and pastries, like delicate Yazdi cupcakes, syrupy fried pastries and gata, a rich round breakfast bread. This is the only place I know to get fresh barbary bread, the long, oval ridged Persian bread. Like baguette, it has a pleasing crust that’s most delicious when just baked. If you want some, come early — they disappear quickly. Try not to eat the whole loaf before you get home! Mignon Bakery, Valley Produce Plaza, 18353 Vanowen St. Suite G, Reseda. (818) 774-9920.

— Faye Levy

Best Place to Learn Persian and Hebrew While Drinking Blended Coffee: The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf


The L.A.-based Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, whose stores are certified kosher throughout Nevada and Southern California, draws a wide range of customers who enjoy drinking a blended beverage and maybe picking up a new language. At many of the stores, from Pico-Robertson to the Westside to Ventura Boulevard, you can hear Persian-language speakers and Hebrew speakers mingle over mochas. Just plop in a corner and see if you can follow along. As an added bonus, the purple straws and yummy pastries have been joined by challahs, available for order and pickup right at the store. For locations, visit coffeebean.com.

— Shoshana Lewin

Best Way to Visit the World of Krusty the (Jewish) Clown: The Simpsons Rideat Universal Studios Hollywood


Homer, Marge, Bart and the rest of the family have recently moved from Springfield to Universal City. The six-minute simulator attraction took the site once occupied by the “Back to the Future” ride — and completely changed the look of the theme park’s upper lot. The ride takes you into the crazy world of Krusty (a.k.a. Herschel Shmoikel Pinkus Yerucham Krustofsky) through a visit to the very low-budget Krustyland. But there’s a hitch: Sideshow Bob has escaped from prison and can’t wait to get revenge on Krusty and the Simpsons. After riding Krusty’s “

Best street for a J-cation? Fairfax!

In a summer of rising airfares and gas prices, you need to take a trip that is close by, low cost, in town and that will fill you with Jewish stories.

The best place to do that? Fairfax Avenue.

That’s right, become a Jewish cultural tourist, not in New York, Venice or Seville, but right here in Los Angeles. The area’s sidewalks, walls and parks remain populated with monuments, plaques, murals and statues of Jewish cultural and spiritual significance.

Take a local J-cation!

People bemoan the passing of Jewish life on Fairfax — and, certainly, some of what was here is gone. But what remains is a truly cosmopolitan representation of Jewish life from all over the world: Iraq, Iran, Russia, Yemen, Germany and Israel. It’s still a place to buy a set of Talmud or tefillin, but now you can also buy a samovar, finjan, or hipster Jewish T-shirt or hat. Hey, there are still four places in a two-block area where you can buy a black-and-white cookie. That’s not bad.

You can usually find metered parking on Fairfax near the high school (south of Melrose Avenue). On Sundays, parking there is tight due to the Sunday flea market, so you might want to park near Pan Pacific Park and begin there. On Shabbat many of the points of interest will be closed.

Give yourself about two hours to make the loop. Think about lunch. There are plenty of places to either dine along the way or pick up a nosh for a picnic at the park.

1. National Council of Jewish Women Building, 543 N. Fairfax Ave.
On the northern wall (corner of Clinton Street and Fairfax Avenue) in a vivid, almost folk-art style, is a mural by artist Daryl E. Wells that depicts women of human and civil rights, justice and courage. Many of them are Jewish. There’s activist Betty, and the poet (“Eli, Eli”) and World War II rescuer Hannah Senesh. Notice the challah and candlesticks in the middle. That’s playwright Lillian Hellman (“The Little Foxes”) holding the Kiddush cup. L’chaim!

2. Sami-Makolet, 513 N. Fairfax
Fellow talmidim (students), at Sami-Makolet (Sami’s market) we can not only find our favorite Israeli foods, but practice our Ivrit (Hebrew) as well. Many of the package labels are in Hebrew. When it’s time to check out with your Hashahar chocolate spread (don’t forget the challah), above the checkout is a Hebrew sign for “cashier.”

3. Solomon’s Book Store, 447 N. Fairfax
ALTTEXTThis store has supplied generations with haftarah booklets and seder plates. But the reason to go is for the biggest wall of art about rabbis in Los Angeles. On the southern wall is an eclectic collection of paintings and prints of rabbis and scholars done in every style on every material, from canvas to velvet. Stern, blissful, angelic, they kind of stare back.

4. Canter’s Delicatessen, 419 N. Fairfax
A slice of L.A. Jewish history on rye. Everyone seems to know about Canter’s — how it followed L.A.’s Jewish migration westward, settling in on Fairfax, Kibbitz Room and all. Stop in for a sandwich, knish or blintz. Need a suggestion? Just ask — the waitresses know all. Be sure to go upstairs and view the framed, headlined stories. Check out the 1955 menu — pastrami and hot corned beef, 75 cents.

5. Canter’s Parking Lot, Fairfax Community Mural (one storefront south)


On a parking lot wall, a mural painted from historic photos is a megillah of L.A. Jewish history. Created by Art Mortimer, with artists Stephen Raul Anaya, Peri Fleischman, coordinating artist Sandra B. Moss and a crew of adults and teens, it’s a seven-panel panorama. Highlights include, from left, Congregation B’nai B’rith, circa 1862, which later moved and became Wilshire Boulevard Temple. A Victorian house that in 1902 opened as the Hebrew Benevolent Society, a hospital to treat tuberculosis, which eventually became Cedars-Sinai. The film biz and its Jewish beginnings are captured by an image of Al Jolson in the “Jazz Singer,” and that man firing a fastball — that’s dandy Sandy Koufax. Holding the Torah is Laura Geller, third woman ordained as a Reform rabbi in America (now senior rabbi at Temple Emanuel in Beverly Hills).

Directions to the next destination, the L.A. Holocaust Monument:
Walk south on Fairfax to Beverly Boulevard. Cross Beverly, then cross Fairfax (by turning left, heading east). You are now at the corner of CBS Studios. If it’s a weekday, you might see audience members for “The Price Is Right.” Continue walking east, past the light at Grove Drive, the Post Office, and then turn right, into the parking lot for Pan Pacific Park. Walk to the back of the lot, bearing to the right. Follow the concrete path down. Directly on the right is the monument’s entrance.

6. Los Angeles Holocaust Monument,Pan Pacific Park
Located in the heart of the Los Angeles Holocaust survivor community, overlooking a flood-control basin, stands a circular grouping of black stone pillars, evoking in its six-pointed form a Mogen David and the Six Million. Inscribed on the pillars are key Holocaust dates, beginning with Nazification of Germany in 1933 and concluding with liberation in 1945. Circumscribing the pillars is a ring with nations and the corresponding numbers of Jews who perished. A new Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust is slated to be built adjacent to this site.

Directions to Haym Salomon Statue:
From the entrance of the monument, take the curving concrete path down through the center of the park. Continue past the covered bench and table areas, bearing left and up the hill. Continue bearing left, following the path uphill and around to the southeast corner of the park.

7. Haym Salomon, corner of Third and Gardner streetsALTTEXTGazing eastward, almost as a greeter and guardian of the Fairfax area, sits the financier of the American Revolution — Haym Salomon. As you will gather from the plaque at its base, this statue of Haym has been around, moving westward along with L.A.’s Jews. The irony here is that during the Revolutionary War, Lord Thomas Fairfax, after whom Fairfax High and the area are named, had his lands confiscated.