Another Braff Tale of Jewish Ennui


“The Unthinkable Thoughts of Jacob Green” by Joshua Braff (Algonquin Books, $22.95).

While fidgeting at Shabbat dinner, Jacob Green decides to play a game he calls “The Unthinkable” — imagining blasphemies that would infuriate his super-strict father. Like hurling the challah football-style at the fridge. Or making it drop from his tush. Or putting it in his mouth and thrashing his head like a doberman.

“Or if I molded it into a big breaded schlong and bumped it repeatedly against [my brother’s] forehead,” he says to himself.

If Green sounds like every teenager who’s hated mandatory Shabbat dinners, he’s also the protagonist of Joshua Braff’s viciously witty and poignant new novel, “The Unthinkable Thoughts of Jacob Green.” It’s a thorny coming-of-age story set in New Jersey suburbs, a trend recently proffered by Jewish artists such as filmmaker Todd Solondz (“Welcome to the Dollhouse”) and writer-director Zach Braff (“Garden State”).

Zach, also the star of NBC’s “Scrubs,” is Joshua’s younger brother, so it’s perhaps not surprising the siblings’ debut efforts share emotionally repressed youths and ambivalent attitudes toward Judaism. In “State,” Zach Braff’s character ridicules the moveable walls shuls erect to accommodate High Holiday Jews and professes, “I’m Jewish, but I’m not really Jewish.”

“Unthinkable” is Joshua Braff’s edgier answer to a childhood in which ritual wasn’t a choice, but an obligation.

“Although Abram Green wasn’t my father, luckily, there were certain rules,” the 36-year-old novelist said. Churlish rabbis supervised tzitzit inspection at his Orthodox elementary school yeshiva; bar mitzvah thank-yous had to be written and proofed; the teenage Braff had Conservative Hebrew school three times a week and an older brother who scribbled sardonic drawings behind the rabbis’ backs.

“His bitterness toward it all was kind of attractive,” the mild-mannered Braff said. “I was kind of the middle, sensitive child, so I looked up to my brother and was proud of his ability to rebel.”

Although Braff repressed his own rebellious thoughts as a boy, he lets loose in “Unthinkable,” which he describes as “perhaps a bit of a primal scream, albeit highly fictionalized.” His protagonist imagines bar mitzvah thank-yous detailing his lust for the nanny.

“I had no idea that they made bookends out of Jerusalem stone,” another imaginary note says. “We were able to hoist them up on my bookshelf yesterday. They looked really great up there before my shelving collapsed into a cloud of snapped particleboard.”

Green’s older brother, meanwhile, gets busted for the “disturbingly accurate pencil drawing of Rabbi Belahsan … found pinned-up in the yeshiva library. In it, the rabbi was in a consensual threesome with a lobster and an erect pig.”

How have readers responded to the lobster and the pig?

“I’ve gotten a lot of reaction to that — so far, all good,” Braff said.

Yet, he concedes others may not be amused when he participates in an upcoming Jewish Book Council tour.

“I wrote the novel, especially the religious stuff, with a certain amount of reckless abandon,” he said. “If I offend anyone, I’ll certainly apologize, but I don’t think the book is self-hating. It’s just kind of rebellious, kind of a shout out — like that Woody Allen scene where the rabbi is on a game show and his wife force feeds him bacon. It’s twisted, and out of context, ridiculous, but at the same time kind of shocking and funny.”

The darkly comic novel began, innocuously enough, with musings about Braff’s yeshiva lunchbox several years ago. Having written myriad short stories also featuring “unheard, precocious children,” he hoped to create a book “that was not a memoir but that drew on real emotion and memory,” he said.

Stream-of-consciousness writing exercises helped, notably a drill in Anne Lamott’s “Bird by Bird” that suggested jotting items remembered from one’s grade school lunchbox.

Braff’s thoughts drifted back to his yeshiva’s cafeteria and to his kosher lunch ensconced in a “Waltons” box. Of why he preferred that treacley drama to “The Incredible Hulk,” he says in an essay, “Sensitive and troubled middle child of early 1970s New Jersey vintage stares longingly at the sleepy ease of this unconditionally ‘normal’ 1940s family.”

“I certainly had warmth and affection in my home,” he told The Journal, “but I would have loved to have had the freedom of being on Walton’s Mountain at times instead of being in a place in which there was quite that much ritual. At yeshiva, I always felt like I was fumbling those rituals, and that there was always a rabbi who was not interested in explaining anything but who just kind of barked at me.”

Braff dropped Judaism when he left home to attend New York University; he began his return during a college trip to Israel in which the culture “for the first time was on my terms,” he said. “I remember being at the Wailing Wall and absorbing in a different way than I had before.”

Now he has a Jewish wife and children: “We have fun with the holidays,” he said. “It’s been reinvented, in a way.”

Since Braff revisits touchier years in “Unthinkable,” he was understandably nervous about showing a draft to his parents before publication. Turns out he need not have worried: “They’re supportive, so they were encouraging.” he said. “My dad did say, ‘The father figure is terrible,’ and he wanted to know if it was him. I told him, ‘Certainly not.'”

Yet that character and others are so vividly drawn, Kirkus Reviews noted that “Unthinkable” is “compulsively readable, in a horrifying sort of way. What will Braff do next now that he’s gotten that off his chest?”

The author’s answer isn’t unexpected.

“I think I’m probably going to write about a family, and I think they’re going to be Jewish,” he said.

Braff’s “Unthinkable” launch party is Sept. 18, 7 p.m. at Book Soup, 8818 Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood, (310) 659-3110. He’ll also appear Oct. 17, 7:30 p.m., at Fais Do-Do, 5253 West Adams Blvd., Los Angeles as part of First Fiction 2004, a reading by five debut novelists. For information, call (310) 659-3684.


When I get to my classroom, my stomach begins to clench. I put my books and lunch box by my desk and move slowly into the [tzitzit] inspection line behind Ari Feiger. Ari has a glandular issue that gives him breasts and makes him smell like wet skin. He also has striped pajama bottoms that creep out the back of his pants and a dirty blond afro that can actually hold pencils. When I ask him if he has an extra tzitzit he says, "Yes, but not for you," and walks away from me.

"Ari," I say, following him, "I’ll pay you for it."

"I put on a clean one after lunch," he says. "It’s not for sale."

"But I forgot mine," I whisper.

When he hears this he turns to the other six boys in my class and starts singing the word tzitzit to the tune of "The Flintstones." "Tzitzit, meet the tzitzit, have a yabba-dabba tzitzit, a yabba tzitzit, you’re gonna be so screwed. Ya’akov’s got no tzitzit!" he yells and points at me.

"Shhhh! Shut up, Ari. The rabbi will hear you."….[Now] Rabbi Mizrahe moves toward the lineup and touches each of Gary Kaplan’s tassels. Gary sings along to "Torah Torah" but stops completely when the rabbi steps past him. I feel a sour and tingly stomach-burning climb up my throat. I try to swallow but I have no spit. Michael Bornstein is next. His yarmulke needs centering but his tzitzit has never hung better. And then I see him. I see my brother, [Asher]. He’s hopping in the hallway, trying to find me. I shake my head. "Too late," I say without sound. Too late.

As the rabbi moves closer, our eyes meet. I sing with him, "…tziva lanu Moshe." I watch his fingers touch Ari’s tassels. I watch him finish and step up to me.

"Excuse me, Rabbi Mizrahe," says Asher.

The rabbi stops his song and turns to the door. Asher keeps his eyes from me and takes a step closer.

"I need to tell my brother something. May I see him for a second, please?"

Rabbi Mizrahe faces me and nods his head. Asher steps up and grabs me by the elbow. He leads me back toward the door.

"Do not leave this classroom," the rabbi says. "Torah, Torah, Torah…"

Asher holds my shoulders and turns my back to my classmates. He reaches in his pocket for his balled-up tzitzit and crams it down the front of my pants."

"No time to put it on," he whispers. "Untuck your shirt and let the fringes just hang over your belt." — From "The Unthinkable Thoughts of Jacob Green" © 2004 by the author. Reprinted by permission of Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, a division of Workman Publishing.

More Meaning, Less Material


“Danny Siegel’s Bar and Bat Mitzvah Book: A Practical Guide for Changing the World Through Your Simcha,” by Danny Siegel (The Town House Press, $12).

This is a book that we have long needed. I wish that it had been around when my children were becoming bar and bat mitzvah.

Bar and bat mitzvahs are now widely observed. There was even a story in the Wall Street Journal a while ago about how non-Jewish kids are pestering their parents that they want one, too, since they are envious of their Jewish friends who get to have such big parties. However, children and their parents are bewildered and confused over how to make these events meaningful. Children wake up the morning after, after the out-of-town relatives have left, and before the mountain of waiting thank you-notes has to be attacked, and they ask themselves: What was this event which took over our lives for the last six months or more really all about?

Was the party that we threw only a way of reciprocating for the ones that our kids were invited to? Were the adults whom we invited really there only for business reasons or for social ones? Was this haftorah that our kids broke their teeth learning how to chant for so many weeks connected in any way to the world in which we live? And what message did we send our kids about our values by holding such a lavish bash?

Danny Siegel’s new book is filled with wise and helpful suggestions on how to avoid the letdown that the child and the family so often feel after such a simcha. First of all, it provides the child and the family with a whole different perspective on what this event means. And then it provides the family with a plethora of ideas on how to make this turning point in the life of the child and the family a genuinely meaningful event.

Siegel, the founder and chair of Ziv Tzedakah Fund, provides a definition of what it means to become a bar or bat mitzvah that I think puts everything into perspective. He says in some cultures the stages of life are: infant, toddler, child, teenager, young adult, adult, midlife, empty nester, retiree, etc. In Jewish thought, the stages of life are: infancy, childhood and then mitzvah manhood or womanhood. The whole point of the day is to understand and accept the status of one who is now capable and obligated to do good deeds.

If you accept this perspective, then everything else begins to fall into place: What you say on the invitation; if you buy your kippot from Guatemala women who live in utter poverty and desperately need the work; what the child says in his or her speech; what kind of party favors to give out; who you honor and how you honor them; and what happens with the leftover food after the party all flow directly from this understanding of what the event is really all about.

Here’s one example of what Siegel proposes you can do if you have imagination and good will:

Everyone has a challah at the dinner, right? Technically, you don’t need a challah except at the Shabbat or the holiday meal, but, for some reason, almost everyone has a big challah at the banquet table. And usually we call upon Uncle Herman — who is still sober this early in the evening, gave a pretty good gift and is one of the few at the meal whom we can trust to recite the “Motzi” by heart — to do the honors. But what more can be done with this ritual?

Level 1: At most parties the caterer takes the challah away the moment Uncle Herman recites the “Motzi.” It disappears through the swinging doors that lead into the kitchen, and it comes out some time later, neatly sliced and ready to serve. At some parties that I have been to, the family does it differently. They all gather around the challah, and instead of cutting it with a knife, each member of the family tears off a piece. It involves everyone in the mitzvah, and it is much more informal and haimish than having one person do it, and then having the people in the kitchen do the rest. And it is certainly easy to do.

Level 2: Consider baking the challah yourself, as a family project. Baking it is literally a hands-on mitzvah. And believe me, knowing how to make a challah is a very useful skill to have, something that will come in handy for years to come in the life of the boy or girl who learns how to do it. In this egalitarian age, who says that only girls should know how to bake a challah? Every Jewish wife will be delighted if she finds out that the man she has married knows how to and likes to bake challah, believe me

Level 3: Ask the rabbi for a list of members of the congregation who are in the hospital and bring them each a challah in honor of Shabbat. If you have ever been in the hospital, you know that it is a lonely and a scary experience, and it feels especially lonely if you are there on Shabbat. Imagine what it would mean to a patient to have someone come in, smile, wish them well and leave them a loaf of challah to enjoy in honor of Shabbat.

Level 4: If you have a challah, you have to have a challah cover. You can assign the honor to one of your relatives or friends who sews. They will feel honored and delighted to be given this mitzvah. Or you can go on the web and find lots of places where you can purchase a challah cover and help the poor at the same time. My favorite is Yad Lakashish, Lifeline for the Old (www.lifeline.org.il), where you can not only pick up some beautiful challah covers, but you can give honor and dignity to the elderly who make them.

Level 5: What if you went to a senior citizens center, nursing home or assisted- living center and asked if anyone there still remembers how to sew and knit? If they do, then offer them the mitzvah of making the challah cover for the simcha. You will have a work of art that has been specially commissioned for your simcha. How many people can say that?

Level 6: Invite the senior citizen who has made the challah cover to the dinner as your guest, and introduce her to everyone as the artist who made the cover. If you do that, you will have two mitzvot for the price of one: You will have added a lovely new work of ritual art to the simcha and you will have fulfilled the mitzvah of bringing out the radiance in the face of our elders.

And the challah cover that made its debut at this event can become a family treasure to be taken out again as the engagement party, at the wedding and, if we are fortunate, at bar mitzvah’s child’s bar mitzvah.

This is just one small example of the kind of innovative thinking that is found on almost every single page of this book. If even a simple challah can provide so many different opportunities for “mitzvah-izing,” then so can every other detail and every other aspect of the experience. Everything — the invitation, the mitzvah project, the d’var Torah, the centerpiece, etc. — no matter how small a detail it may be, has the power to become a method for doing good and, if it does, then the benefits to the bar or the bat mitzvah child, and to everyone else present, are very great.

There is an old joke that explains why we need this book so much. An exhausted parent says after his child’s simcha: “If having a bar mitzvah is going to get any more expensive, I hope that the next one runs away and becomes a bar mitzvah at a justice of the peace!”

For that parent and for all those who understand what he is saying, this book is a precious resource. If you know a family that will soon approach this event, run, don’t walk, to get them a copy. They will bless you for it.

For more information on purchasing the book, visit www.ziv.org .

‘Literati MeetsGlitterati’


"Will Kevin be there?" my friend Jodi asked when I invited her to my upcoming book party at Dutton’s.

Oh, no, I thought. Not again.

It used to be that literary launch parties were about books, not boys. They were a chance for like-minded lit lovers to commune amid dusty bookshelves, to meet the author and — in the benighted days before signed editions sold for big bucks on eBay — snag a personalized copy for posterity.

But at the Dutton’s gathering for my first book, "Stick Figure: A Diary of My Former Self," I watched with amazement as junior high gender jockeying took centerstage: awkward flirtations, too-loud laughter, spats over who’d spotted the buxom brunette "first." Could my book’s subject matter — my adolescent diaries — have somehow inspired this regressive behavior?

After all, at an event reputed to be a bastion of bohemia, my normally low-key gal pals were suddenly sporting glossy lipstick and push-up bras, while my cool-as-a-cucumber guy friends frantically tossed out paper scraps, like pieces of confetti, scrawled with phone numbers. Two weeks later, when "Stick Figure" made the Los Angeles Times best-seller list, four pairs of friends called to say — squeal! — congratulations before reporting that they’d begun — squeal! squeal! — dating.

At the time, I believed both the best-seller status and the hookups had been a fluke.

Then I started telling folks about this month’s Dutton’s party for my latest book, "Inside the Cult of Kibu." It wasn’t just Jodi who inquired about Kevin’s attendance. It was Kevin who pressed me about Lisa’s R.S.V.P., and Lisa who coyly asked if David would be "in town" that evening. David, in turn, wanted to know if Amy planned to show up sans "the ornery boyfriend she’d been on the rocks with" while Amy more tactfully wondered whether Michael had "bought the book yet."

Finally, I confronted my friends. "This is a publishing party!" I reminded them. "If you want me to set you up, I’m happy to play yenta. You two can grab a latte. Alone."

Not so, they insisted. Between work and Whole Foods, Tae Bo and tennis night, no one seems able to program a Palm with individual coffee dates. In our time-compressed lives, we’ve reduced reading to Internet hyperlinks and compacted chemistry into quickie first-second impressions.

Embodying the cliche about judging a book by its cover, we’ve bought into the nifty online profile, the book party as gawking event. But maybe we’re overlooking the "book" itself.

I tried this logic on my friends. Unimpressed, they replied with two words: speed dating.

"All your eligible single friends will be in the same room for an hour — and they’re prescreened by you!"

Before I could utter, "Oy vey," the suggestions came pouring in: "You should send out an Evite so we can see who’s coming." "Maybe you should get JDate to sponsor the event." And the perennial Jewish girl’s lament: "Are you sure you want to have it in the courtyard? Our hair might frizz in the humid nighttime air."

The more I insisted that this wasn’t a meat market, the more people became noncommittal about attending. "We’re marking the occasion of my publication! This isn’t a primping-fest!" I whined before announcing that I wouldn’t stand for a "literati meets glitterati" party.

Predictably, the number of takers dwindled. Soon my earnestness turned to shameless self-promotion: Hoping that the book’s merits would serve as incentive, I quoted reviews calling it "hilarious" and "gossipy" and recited the blurb declaring that it "deserves a place on the bookshelf right next to that other classic of digital bubble-popping, Michael Lewis’ ‘The New New Thing.’"

But by week’s end, many had deleted "Lori’s Reading" from their Outlook and replaced it with "Yoga Works." As my friend, Mike, put it, "Where else can you find so many beautiful bodies in one place?"

Then came the missive from my editor. Despite my radio appearances, he admonished, "No one can get more bodies into the room than the author!!!!" His desperation was apparent in those four consecutive exclamation marks, a punctuation faux pas he’d never have allowed in my manuscript.

I remembered that ubiquitous childhood nightmare of having no one show up at your birthday party. The adult version felt equally mortifying: reading in a huge public space to a mere four people, two of whom are deaf, two of whom are your parents.

In the service of preserving both my self-esteem and the good graces of my publishing house, I decided to cut a Faustian bargain: I would steal those beautiful bodies from Yoga Works.

Out went an e-mail titled, "Multitasking With Menshes." I touted Dutton’s as the hottest venue for meeting attractive, quality, like-minded mates. I name-dropped hipper-than-thou hunky young writers who’d read at the celebrated book venue, capitalized the phrase "speed dating" and even admitted that I’d met Mitch, a cute chemist I dated several years ago for nine months, at another friend’s Dutton’s signing. (So what if Mitch turned out to be gay?)

Part of me feels a tinge of disappointment that some will buy my book as no more than a soulmate lottery ticket. The other part is grateful that people will come to my party at all. Then again, I now have far more pressing problems to deal with. Like, what the heck should I wear?

Calendar & Singles


Calendar

SATURDAY/8

Sinai Temple: 9:30 a.m. Shabbat services. 10400 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles. For more information, call (310) 474-1518.

Barnes & Noble: 2 p.m. Author Peter J. Levinson discusses and signs “September in the Rain: The Life of Nelson Riddle,” a book about the famous band leader. 111 W. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena. For reservations or more information, call (626) 683-8551.

Jewish Community Library of Los Angeles: 8 p.m. “One People, Many Stories,” hour-long radio show celebrating Chanukah with celebrities such as Bill Pullman reading works from authors such as Sheldon Oberman to I.B. Singer, on KPCC-FM. Also: Sun., Dec. 9, 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Celebrities such as Doris Roberts will read stories at the Skirball Chanukah festival. $8 (adults); $4 (children). 2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles. For tickets or more information, call (323) 655-8587.

Adat Shalom: 7 p.m.-11 p.m. USY teens meet to babysit children of all ages. Features movies, games and food. $5 (per hour, per child). For reservations or more information, call (310) 390-6549.

The Workmen’s Circle/Arbeter Ring: 7 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. Yale Strom and Klazzj, klezmer/jazz musical performance. $12 (members); $15 (nonmembers); 1525 S. Robertson Blvd., Los Angeles. For more information, call (310) 552-2007.

Young Israel of Century City: 7:30 p.m. “A Night of Comedy and Song,” featuring Journal contributor Mark Schiff, followed by a dessert reception. $100 (one ticket); $180 (two tickets). Silver Screen Theater, 8687 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles. For reservations or more information, call (310) 273-6954.

SUNDAY/9

Temple Emanu El: 10 a.m.-11 a.m. Students ages 5-12 will perform Chanukah songs with the Laurel Canyon Retirement Community. 5527 Laurel Canyon Blvd., Valley Village. For more information, call (818) 562-6644.

Beth Jacob Synagogue: 1 p.m.-4 p.m. Chanukah carnival with rides, a moon bounce, petting zoo and more. 910 S. Fairfax Ave., Los Angeles. For more information, call (310) 278-1911.

Kol Neshama Performing Arts Conservatory: 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. “Chanukah Scenes,” performance for women and girls only with music and dancing. $10. The Ivar Theater, 1605 Ivar Ave., Hollywood. For more information, call (310) 772-8221.

Chabad of the Marina: 4 p.m.- 6 p.m. Chanukah festival with grand menorah lighting, moon bounce, clowns, balloons, raffles, music, prizes and food. $5 (general admission). 2929 Washington Blvd., Marina del Rey. For more information, call (310) 578-6000.

The Beverly Hills Hotel: 5 p.m. The first night of Chanukah is kicked off by 94-year-old Holocaust survivor Jack Glicksman lighting the menorah, and Rabbi Yosef Cunin speaking on the significance of the holiday. Reception and musical entertainment will follow. 9641 Sunset Blvd., Beverly Hills. For reservations or more information, call (310) 208-5159.

Congregation Kol HaNeshamah: 5 p.m.-8 p.m. Chanukah festivities with food, Israeli dancing and singalongs at the Northwood Community Center in Irvine. $10 (adult nonmembers); $5 (children nonmembers); $8 (adult members); $4 (children members). For more information, call (949) 551-2737.

Pasadena Jewish Temple and Center: 10 a.m.-noon. “The Dead Sea Scrolls and the Early History of the Bible,” lecture and breakfast. $3. 1434 N. Altadena Drive. For more information, call (626) 798-1161.

Temple Beth David: 2:30 p.m. “Three Faiths, Three Holy Seasons, One Common Quest for Peace,” lecture regarding Christianity, Islam and Judaism and their fundamental tenets. 9677 Longden Ave., Temple City. For more information, call

(626) 287-9994.

MONDAY/10

National Council of Jewish Women: 11:30 a.m. Annual Chanukah luncheon and fashion show, benefiting children’s services. $35. The Calabasas Inn, 23500 Park Sorrento Drive, Calabasas Park. For more information, call (818) 986-8365.

Temple Israel of Hollywood: 9:15 a.m. Clinical Psychologist and author Wendy Mogel discusses her book, “The Blessings of a Skinned Knee: Using Jewish Teachings to Raise Self-Reliant Children.” Refreshments served. For more information, call (323) 936-1850.

UCLA Female Sexual Medicine Center: 10 a.m.-11:30 a.m. “Let’s Talk About Sexual Health,” free workshop led by a therapist, nurse practitioner and research coordinator, all available for questions. The Westside Pavilion, 10800 W. Pico Blvd., Community Room C, Los Angeles. For reservations or more information, call (310) 208-2222 ext. 229.

Beverly Hills Public Library: 7 p.m.-9 p.m. “The Charming Pimp: Bashevis Singer’s Infatuation With the Underworld,” presentation by author Susan Dworkin. 444 N. Rexford Ave. For more information, call (310) 288-2220.

Committee for Judicial Independence: 7:30 p.m.-9 p.m. “Justice Hangs in the Balance: The Federal Courts and Our Basic Rights at Risk,” lecture by Ralph Neas, president of People for the American Way. University Synagogue, 11960 Sunset Blvd., Brentwood. For reservations, call (323) 223-4462 ext. 3157.

TUESDAY/11

The Jewish Federation: 8 a.m. Breakfast reception featuring Los Angeles City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo discussing Sept. 11 and hate crime. Four Seasons Hotel, 300 Doheny Drive, Beverly Hills. For more information, call (323) 761-8077.

WEDNESDAY/12

Fairfax Senior Citizens Center: 1 p.m.-3:30 p.m. Holiday party with raffle prizes, dancing and refreshments. Also: Dec. 31, 9 p.m.-1 a.m. New Years Eve Party featuring food, entertainment, party favors, food and drinks. $20. 7929 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles. For tickets or more information, call (323) 653-1824.

Calabasas Shul: 6:30 p.m. Heroes of Freedom Chanukah Celebration 2001 with latkes, donuts and music at the Calabasas Commons. For more information, call

(818) 591-7485.

B’nai Tikvah Congregation: 7 p.m. Community candlelighting and singalong. 5820 Manchester Ave., Westchester. For more information, call (310) 645-6262.

Temple Beth Shalom: 10 a.m. Pan tournament with prizes ranging from $50 to $100 and a continental breakfast. 3635 Elm Ave., Long Beach. For reservations or more information, call (562) 594-8817.

Jewish Studies Institute: 7 p.m. “Does Yoga Help or Thwart Our Spiritual Focus?” discussion about yoga and its relationship to Judaism and the Torah, as part of the Talkback series. $4 (members); $5 (nonmembers) Museum of Tolerance, 9786 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles. For more information, call (310) 552-4595. ext. 21.

Sinai Temple: 7:30 p.m.-9 p.m. Former Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen will speak on the country’s security and economic situation, followed by a dessert reception. 10400 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles. For reservations or more information, call (323) 761-8220.

Anti-Defamation League: 7:30 p.m. “The Role of Coalition Building in a Diverse Los Angeles,” panel and reception led by Marjorie B. Green, director of Educational Policy and Programs. $20. Wyndham Bel Age Hotel, 1020 N. San Vicente Blvd., West Hollywood. For reservations or more information, call (310) 446-8000 ext. 230.

THURSDAY/13

Temple Sinai of Glendale Seniors: Noon-2 p.m. Chanukah celebration with latkes, dreidel spinning, gifts and songs. 1212 N. Pacific Ave. For more information, call (818) 766-8700.

American Civil Liberties Union: 6 p.m. Annual Bill of Rights Dinner honoring individuals who have preserved civil rights featuring Antonio Villaraigosa, Fred Davis and Jerry Offsay, at the Regent Beverly Wilshire Hotel. For reservations or more information, call (213) 977-9500.

KCET: 9 p.m.-10:30 p.m. Documentary of seven Palestinian and Israeli children and their intimate and detailed accounts of the war and peace efforts in the Middle East.

Singles

SATURDAY/8

Palos Verdes Singles: 7 p.m.-11 p.m. Party at a private home with live entertainment, dancing, a catered buffet and a complimentary bar. $25. For more information, call (310) 372-6071.

The Wise Years (60+): 7 p.m. Party with live entertainment and food. Toy donations accepted for charity. $5 (members with a gift); $7 (nonmembers with a gift); $17 (all those without gifts). For more information, call (310) 395-1235.

SUNDAY/9

L.A.’s Best Connection: 2 p.m. Chanukah lunch. For location and more information, call

(323) 782-0435.

Jiffy Date (25-39), (49-60): Meet for introductions in the Westside. $20. For more information, call (310) 276-6200.

MONDAY/10

Israeli Dancing: 8 p.m.-12:30 p.m. Open session dancing. For more information, call (800) 750-5432.

TUESDAY/11

Isralight (20-40s): “Nights of Light” class with an emphasis on Chanukah. For more information, call (310) 552-9420.

WEDNESDAY/12

The Learning Annex: 7 p.m.-2 a.m. Party at Lush, benefiting the Sept. 11 Fund. $19 (in advance); $24 (at the door). 2020 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles. For more information, call (310) 478-6677.

Shari Mindlen: 7:30 p.m.-9:30 p.m. “How to Meet Someone Over the Holidays,” workshop. $20. The Empty Stage, 2372 Veteran Ave., Los Angeles. For more information, call (310) 394-2647.

THURSDAY/13

Conversations!: 7:30 p.m. “Would You Marry Yourself?” lecture. $15. For more information, call

(310) 315-1078.

FRIDAY/14

Sinai Temple: 7 p.m. Friday Night Live, service, refreshments and socializing. 10400 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles. For more information, call (310) 474-1518.

 

MONDAY/2

Singles Helping Others: 7 p.m. General meeting to plan events and activities. For more information, call (323) 769-1307.

Israeli Folk Dancing: 8 p.m.-12:30 a.m. Dance session with Israel Yakovee. Also: Lessons every Thursday with Michelle. $6. 2244 Westwood Blvd., Los Angeles. For more information, call (800) 750-5432.

TUESDAY/3

Singles Helping Others: 7:30 p.m. Fourth of July celebration at the Hollywood Bowl, with fireworks. $18. For reservations or more information, call (323) 851-9070.

Bridge for Singles (59+): 7:30 p.m. Intermediate players meet at a private West Los Angeles home. $4. For more information, call (310) 398-9649.

Jewish Association of Single Professionals (25-55): 8 p.m.-1 a.m. Independence dance party with appetizers, dessert and no-host bar. $20. Lush, 2020 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica. For more information, call (323) 656-7777.

Social Circle (35-59): 8 p.m. Blue Jeans Bash with a live Oldies band, dancing, food and drinks. $20 (members); $25 (nonmembers). Stephen S. Wise Temple, 15500 Stephen S. Wise Dr., Los Angeles. For more information, call (310) 476-8561.

Stu & Lew Productions (21-39): 8 p.m.-2 a.m. Fourth annual Summer Blowout dance party. $20 House of Blues, 8430 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles. For tickets or more information, call (310) 364-2301.

WEDNESDAY/4

L’Chaim Entertainment (21+): 9:30 p.m. Party with singers and a DJ playing international, salsa, Middle Eastern and hip-hop music. $10. Dinner available with reservations. Beverly Hills Cuisine, 9025 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills. For more information, call (310) 289-4435.

Nexus (21-39): 2 p.m. Independence Day potluck picnic, with volleyball, canoeing, barbeque and fireworks at North Lake, Woodbridge, Irvine. For more information, call (714) 974-2279.

Jewish Singles Meeting Place (30’s-40’s): 5 p.m. Barbeque party at a private home in celebration of the 4th of July. For reservations or more information, call (818) 780-4809.

New Age Singles (55+): 2 p.m. Fourth of July potluck pool party. $3 (if accompanied by food); $10 (without food). For members only. For reservations or more information, call (310) 473-1391.

Jewish Single Parents & Singles Association: 3 p.m. Picnic with games and fireworks. Yorba Linda Middle School, 4845 Casa Loma Ave., Yorba Linda. For more information, call (909) 262-1788.

THURSDAY/5

Conversations!: 7:30 p.m. Guest speaker leads discussions with food and drinks, every Thursday. $15. For reservations or more information, call (310) 315-1078.

FRIDAY/6

New Age Singles (55+): 6:30 p.m. No-host dinner, followed by Shabbat services at Adat Shalom Temple. For reservations or more information, call (310) 854-0358.

UPCOMING

Palos Verdes Singles (35+): Sat., July 7, 6:30 p.m.-10:30 p.m. Dance party with dinner at a private home. $25. For reservations or more information, call (310) 372-6071.

New Start (30-75): Sun., Aug. 5. “A Romantic Evening With the Gatsbys,” event with food and drinks. For more information, call (310) 478-3137.