Briefs: Irvine school receives $10 million gift, Orthodox schools get federal funding


Irvine School Receives $10 Million Gift

Tarbut V’Torah Community Day School (TVT) in Irvine received a $10 million gift from an anonymous donor to be used for student scholarships, beginning this fall.

The grant, to be paid at the rate of $1 million a year, is available to new and returning students at Orange County’s only independent K-12 Jewish day school.

Administrators hope the funds will allow TVT to reach its 1,000-student capacity, according to Derek Gavshon, acting head of school. Last year, 603 students attended the National Blue Ribbon school.

“We will be doing a lot of campaigning this year so that finances won’t be an impediment to a Jewish education,” he said.

About 25 percent of TVT’s 377 families receive financial aid, previously capped at half of the annual tuition of $14,000 to $17,000. Aid was largely based on recommendations by the National Association of Independent Schools, which assesses needs of families in more than 2,400 private schools nationwide. The donor has requested that TVT remove its aid cap so that more families can afford to send their children to the school.

That will not only attract new students to the 21.5-acre campus but will also provide relief for current families whose economic status has changed, Gavshon said.

While most families will be expected to pay some part of the tuition, Gavshon said exceptions might be made on a case-by-case basis.

—- Lisa Armony, Contributing Writer

Orthodox Schools Get Federal Funding

Several Orthodox Jewish day schools in Houston will receive $70,000 in federal funding. The schools were notified of the funding last week, according to a statement from the Texas chapter of Agudath Israel of America.

The ultra Orthodox umbrella group, in partnership with other faith groups in Houston, successfully lobbied the school board for an expansion of federal support. The funds are part of a total of $610,000 in federal dollars allocated to private educational institutions. They can be used for supplies, textbooks and staffing expenses for remedial programs, the statement said.

“This allocation provides vital funding for our schools and demonstrates how important entitlement funds are to the educational success of our children,” said Rabbi Yehiel Kalish, Agudah’s national director of government affairs. “We look forward to the day when funding comes to our families in the form of school vouchers — giving parents a real choice when it comes to the education of their children.”

— Jewish Telegraphic Agency

Teens Win $36,000 Tikkun Olam Grants

Two Los Angeles teens were among five young Californians to receive $36,000 grants in the second annual Diller Teen Tikkun Olam Awards.

Shelby Layne, 17, and Fred Scarf, 18, will receive their awards at a September ceremony hosted by the Helen Diller Family Foundation. Layne of Pacific Palisades and Scarf of Sherman Oaks will be able to use the prize money to further fund their tikkun olam (repair the world) projects or for college educations.

Layne, an incoming high school senior at Harvard-Westlake, was nominated by Jewish World Watch (JWW) for her efforts in raising money and awareness about the four-year genocide in the Darfur region of Sudan. Her project, Live by Give, specifically addresses the danger of rape and violence women and girls face when leaving their camps to collect firewood.

JWW’s project of purchasing solar cookers so that women don’t need firewood motivated Layne.

“When I heard it was just $30 to save and unite a family — that’s what really spoke to me,” Layne said in a recent phone interview. “I had always felt I wanted to give back to causes such as this … it felt like something really tangible.”

Layne began making jewelry and also collecting pieces from local donors to sell, giving the proceeds to the Solar Cooker Project. She’s so far collected $32,000, providing solar cookers to over 1,050 families. Layne plans to use her prize money to further humanitarian efforts in Darfur.

Scarf’s project also resonates deep in the community. After his best friend, Shiri, died at 16 from osteosarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer, Scarf founded the Shiri Foundation, an organization dedicated to researching and finding a cure for the disease.

It was at Shiri’s funeral that Scarf realized just how much he wanted to prevent anyone else from going through the loss he did. “I was asked to be the first speaker…. I had never been to a funeral before,” Scarf said in a phone interview. “I felt these emotions. I just can’t describe it. I just knew I never wanted to feel that again; I knew I had to do something.”

Now with $20,000 raised and annual proms for kids who may miss their own due to an illness, The Shiri Foundation has touched the lives of many. Still, osteosarcoma remains somewhat under the radar.

“There has been progress,” noted Scarf, who graduated Birmingham High School in June and will be attending UC Berkeley. He will donate his prize money to the Shiri Foundation.

— Laura Donney, Contributing Writer

Israeli Counselors Infuse Spirit Into Camps

Along with the peanut butter-and-jelly sandwiches, the pita-hummus-falafel combination is emerging as a new lunch favorite at L.A. Jewish summer camps. The culinary quirk is a result of the influx of Israeli counselors into the Jewish American summer camp community.

This summer, 11 Southern California overnight and day camps hosted 69 Israeli shlichim (emissaries) as part of a program funded by the Jewish Agency. The Israelis served in traditional counselor and specialist roles in sports, swimming, dancing, music and art.

“They bring a love for Israel that couldn’t be matched by any American,” said Bennet Cross, a counselor at Camp JCA Shalom in Malibu. “They not only cover their faces in blue-and-white paint on Israel Day, teach uniquely Israeli games and share their personal experiences living in the Jewish homeland, but they also find a unique and powerful way to build and strengthen a tangible connection for these campers to Israel.”

This summer, the Jewish Agency Summer Shlichim Program sent 1,500 Israeli young adults into approximately 200 Jewish camps across North America. The figure represents a steady annual increase and a number that has doubled since 2000.

“We are excited that the program has grown so large and will impact tens of thousands of young Jews in North America, strengthening their link to Israel, and will also impact thousands of young Israelis who will gain a better understanding of the Jewish community in North America after spending a summer here,” said Ariella Feldman, director of the Jewish Agency Summer Shlichim Program.

— Marion Ashley Said, Contributing Writer

Briefs: Methodists don’t ‘divest,’ Jewish groups mobilize for Myanmar, Reno TV anchor sues


Methodists Reject Divestment Proposals

Methodists overwhelmingly defeated measures calling for divestment from companies that allegedly enable Israel’s “occupation” of the West Bank. The resolutions, targeting companies like Caterpillar, which manufactures tractors, and Motorola, which manufactures security systems, had drawn much media scrutiny before last week’s United Methodist Church General Conference in Fort Worth, Texas.

Jewish groups were even more offended by a background document prepared in connection with the motions than they were by the notion of divestment itself. According to Jewish groups, the document was dismissive of Jewish concerns about anti-Semitism and ventured into “replacement theology,” the belief that Christianity has superseded Judaism.

An alliance of grass-roots church activists, who nurture ties to the Jewish community, helped defeat five divestment resolutions, often in the early stages of the conference. The activists also helped pass resolutions opposing the proselytizing of Jews and promoting Holocaust awareness and the fight against anti-Semitism.

Ethan Felson, associate executive director of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, a public policy umbrella group bringing together national and local organizations, attended the conference. He credited outreach by Jewish groups across the country to sympathetic Methodists and called the defeat of the resolutions a “turning point.”

“The church has spoken that they don’t want this one-sided approach to their witness,” Felson said Friday, the final day of the conference. “This wasn’t about a national campaign, it was about community to community. This was about relationships.”

U.S. Orthodox Rabbis Assail Israeli Rabbinical Court on Nullifying Conversions

American Orthodox rabbis slammed the decision by an Israeli rabbinical court to nullify conversions by an Israeli Orthodox rabbi.

The Rabbinical Council of America (RCA) said Tuesday that the ruling, which retroactively nullified the conversions performed under the auspices of Rabbi Chaim Druckman, was “entirely beyond the pale of acceptable halachic practice,” is a violation of “numerous Torah laws” and constitutes a “massive desecration of God’s name.”

“The RCA is appalled that such a ruling has been issued by that court,” according to a statement by the organization.

According to the RCA, it has received assurances from Israeli Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar that the ruling by the Rabbinic Court of Appeals has no legal standing.

The episode is the latest to rouse concerns over who is authorized to perform conversions recognized by the Jewish state.

In February, the RCA announced an agreement with the chief rabbinate recognizing 15 American courts and some 40 Orthodox rabbis in North America authorized to perform conversions. A group of liberal Orthodox rabbis said the agreement represented a capitulation to the increasingly stringent standards of the Israeli rabbinate.

Jewish Groups Mobilize For Myanmar

Both the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) and B’nai B’rith International have opened disaster relief funds to send aid to the Southeast Asian country of Myanmar, formerly called Burma, where at least 22,000 people have been killed and millions left homeless after the May 3 cyclone.

The JDC’s International Development Program, which responds to natural and manmade disasters providing immediate relief and long-term assistance, collects funds on a nonsectarian basis. The JDC is helping some of the region’s estimated 10 Jews.

The B’nai B’rith disaster relief fund will allocate $10,000 to help IsraAID send 10 relief workers, including paramedics, doctors, nurses and water specialists, to Myanmar. The team is cooperating with the local United Nations office and Israel’s embassy in the region.

Tel Aviv-based IsraAID, the Israel Forum for International Humanitarian Aid, is an umbrella organization of more than 35 Israeli and Jewish nongovernmental organizations active in development and relief work.


For more information, contact the JDC at www.jdc.org or (212) 687-6200; or B’nai B’rith at www.bnaibrith.org/support/disaster_relief.cfm.

To donate to the LA Federation’s Emergency Relief Fund, call (323) 761-8200 or send a check to: The Jewish Federation, 6505 Wilshire Blvd. Los Angeles CA 90048. Please make checks payable to The Jewish Federation with the words “Myanmar Relief Fund” in the memo line.

To contribute to AJWS, visit www.ajws.org, or call (800) 889-7146. Checks can be sent to: American Jewish World Service, Burma Relief, 45 West 36th Street, 10th Floor, New York, NY 10018.


London Mayor Critical of Israel Loses Bid for Re-election to Third Term

Ken Livingstone, a frequent critic of Israel, was beaten in London’s mayoral election.

The Conservative Party’s Boris Johnson received 53.2 percent of the vote last Saturday to 46.8 for Livingstone, the Labor incumbent. Johnson was sworn in the same day.

Livingstone has accused Israel of “ethnic cleansing” and refused to apologize after comparing a Jewish journalist from London to a Nazi concentration camp guard.

The first person to serve as the mayor of London, a post created in 2000, Livingstone served two terms.

Johnson has worked to understand the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and has been a supporter of Israel. He opposed a call last year by Britain’s University College Union to boycott Israeli colleges and universities.

During a trip to Israel in November 2004, Johnson visited Tel Aviv’s Carmel Market shortly after a suicide bombing and toured the West Bank security fence, according to the Jerusalem Post.

Judaism Trumps Nationality Among Israelis

Jewish identity takes precedence over national identity for most Israelis, a poll found.

According to the survey in Tuesday’s Israel Hayom newspaper, 65 percent of Israeli Jews identified primarily as Jews and only then as Israelis, whereas 14 percent said the reverse. Nine percent said they don’t know in which order they identify.

Asked whether they want Israel to be more Jewish or more democratic, 47 percent said the former and 43 percent the latter, with the rest undecided.

The poll reflected mixed feelings among Israeli Jews about their country’s future as it celebrates its 60th Independence Day, though most made clear they would not want to live elsewhere.

Asked to rate their “personal mood” on an ascending scale of one to 10, the average number given was seven. The “national mood” was a more gloomy 5.8.

Briefs: CIA lifts lid on Israeli raid on Syrian reactor; Iranians raze Tehran shuls


CIA: Syria Could Have Made Two Nukes

Israel destroyed a Syrian nuclear reactor that was nearly ready to produce two bombs, the CIA chief said.

Michael Hayden said Monday that the secret, unfinished reactor that the United States believes Israel bombed Sept. 6 in northeastern Syria eventually would have made fissile material for bombs.

“In the course of a year after they got full up, they would have produced enough plutonium for one or two weapons,” he told reporters.

Israel has refused to provide details on the target of the air strike, leaving the CIA to deliver an extensive briefing last week on indications that Syria was pursuing nuclear weapons with North Korean help. In an apparent reference to help from Israeli intelligence, Hayden said that CIA’s disclosures were “the result of a team effort.”

Some Israeli experts have questioned the wisdom of the CIA giving such an expansive account on the reactor because it could compromise intelligence assets in Syria. But Hayden indicated there was no breach of trust with Israel.

“One has to respect the origin of the information in terms of how it is used,” he said.

GOP Lawmakers Target Carter

Two Republican congressmen introduced legislation that would deny the Carter Center federal dollars.

U.S. Reps. Joe Knollenberg (R-Mich.) and Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) introduced the Coordinated American Response to Extreme Radicals Act , or CARTER Act, last week in the wake of former President Jimmy Carter’s recent outreach to Hamas.

“America must speak with one voice against our terrorist enemies,” Knollenberg said in a statement. “It sends a fundamentally troubling message when an American dignitary is engaged in dialogue with terrorists. My legislation will make sure that taxpayer dollars are not being used to support discussions or negotiations with terrorist groups.”

The Zionist Organization of American praised the legislation.

Carter’s Atlanta-based center focuses mostly on international development. The former president met with Hamas officials against the advice of the Bush administration. He defended his meetings as his attempt to help bring an end to the violence on the Israel-Gaza Strip border.

Pollard: I Don’t Know Kadish

Jonathan Pollard says he does not know alleged spy Ben-Ami Kadish.

Kadish, 84, allegedly passed American military secrets to Israel during the same period as the former Navy intelligence analyst.

Esther Pollard, the wife of the convicted and jailed spy, said in an interview that the first her husband had heard of Kadish was when his arrest was announced last week.

Kadish, a former U.S. Army engineer, is accused of spying for Israel between 1979 and 1985, a period coinciding with Pollard’s activities. Kadish is also believed to have been run by the same Israeli agent.

“He said he did not know Kadish and asked me if this would embarrass Israel, even though this was an affair that had been known for years,” Esther Pollard told Ma’ariv.

She further downplayed speculation that the new affair could hurt Israel’s efforts to win clemency for Pollard, who is eligible for parole in 2015.

Observers believe the U.S. government will likely deny the request.

“It won’t take long for this to drop from the headlines,” she said. “There will always be people who want to interfere, but this must not obscure Israel’s goal, which is to rescue its agent from jail in a foreign country.”

Iranians Raze Seven Synagogues in Tehran

Seven synagogues in Tehran have been razed by local authorities to make way for residential skyscrapers and urban renovation, L.A. Iranian Jewish leaders report. The synagogues were located in the Oudlajan neighborhood of Iran’s capital, a former ghetto with a dwindling Jewish population.

“It is a Muslim-owned area that in the eyes of a neutral observer would justifiably require a major renovation,” said Sam Kermanian, secretary general of the Los Angeles-based Iranian American Jewish Federation.

Oudlajan was the poverty-stricken site of Tehran’s Jewish ghetto nearly 100 years ago. After Iran’s Pahlavi monarchs gave Jews new freedoms more than 60 years ago, Tehran’s Jewish community gradually attained prosperity and left the area.

Kermanian downplayed the value of synagogues, saying that they were all but deserted.

“The synagogues there were mostly store fronts,” he said. “They were not the type of structures that would be considered significant historical monuments.”

While he believes the destruction of the synagogues was insensitive, Kermanian says he doubts anti-Semitism played a role.

Calls made to the Central Jewish Committee in Tehran for comment were not returned.

Tehran currently has 11 functioning synagogues, several Jewish schools and a Jewish library.

— Karmel Melamed, Contributing Writer

Young Jews to Pledge Genocide Fight

Young Jews will pledge to fight all genocide during a Yom HaShoah gathering at Auschwitz. Some 10,000 participants in the annual March of the Living had planned to sign the pledge Thursday — Holocaust Remembrance Day — at the Nazi concentration camp in Poland.

The March of the Living Pledge commits each individual, the majority of whom are aged 16 to 22, “to fight every form of discrimination manifested against any religion, nationality or ethnic group.” It goes on to say, “After the Shoah the promise of ‘Never Again’ was proclaimed. We pledge to create a world where Never Again will become a reality for the Jewish People and, indeed, for all people. This is our solemn pledge to the Jewish People, to those who came before us, to those of our generation, and to those who will follow in future generations.”

The ceremony will be led by Brig. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi, the chief of staff of the Israel Defense Forces, in recognition of Israel’s 60th anniversary. Following Thursday’s event, a global effort will attempt to enlist the support of the 150,000 March of the Living alumni to publicly state their condemnation of genocide past and present.

Briefs courtesy Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

Theo for Jews in Poland, Italian seder, HIBM awareness


Theodore Bikel Plugs Jewish Life in Poland

Passionately devoted to the resurgence of Jewish life in Poland, entertainer Theodore Bikel, accompanied by Tamara Brooks, performed an hour-long private concert of Yiddish, English and Hebrew songs to benefit the nonprofit Friends of Jewish Renewal in Poland.

More than 70 people attended the fundraiser, held in the Brentwood home of art collectors Elyse and Stanley Grinstein. They included Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev and Barbara Yaroslavsky; Rabbi Mark Diamond, executive vice president of the Board of Rabbis of Southern California; professor David Myers, director of the UCLA Center for Jewish Studies; Polish Consul General Paulina Kapuscinska; and Jewish Federation COO Ken Krug and Andrea Scharf.

Hosting the event was Severyn Ashkenazy, Friends of Jewish Renewal board member and co-founder of Beit Warszawa, Warsaw’s first progressive synagogue since World War II, headed by American Reform rabbi Burt Schuman and assisted by Russian-born Israeli Reform rabbi Tanya Segal.

“Don’t let anybody tell you Poland is a graveyard,” Bikel said. “It’s a place of living, breathing Jews today.”

— Jane Ulman, Contributing Editor

Italian Seder Sizzles at Skirball

Traditional Passover seders are on their way out, and specialized seders are this year’s hot ticket. April is loaded with various options, including intercultural, interfaith, alternative and sober seders, where ancient traditions meet modern sensibilities.

Recalling the fare of Jewish ghettos in ancient Rome, the Skirball Cultural Center kicked off the seder season with its delizioso Italian Seder, a tribute to the history of Jewish Italian cuisine.

The idea may sound puzzling, given the Italians’ overwhelming penchant for pork meatballs and shellfish, but chef Sean Sheridan placated the discriminating palate with a six-course feast: Charoset Italiano with figs, dates and oranges; branzino grilled with leeks, parsely and lemon; sfoglietti with chicken soup and herbs; and osso buco of veal with gremolata and garlic spinach.

But the meal was not enough to distract the table from delving into divisive political conversation, and by dessert, improptu Democratic debates overshadowed the sweetness of the kosher wine.

ARM-ing for a Cure


ARM emcee Cara Yar Khan and ARM volunteer Mansour Pouretehad. Photo by Karmel Melamed

Medical researchers were honored for their work by the Advancement of Research for Myopathies (ARM) at a gala event on March 16 held at the Los Angeles Airport Marriott.

Nearly 600 guests from various countries and backgrounds gathered to help raise funds for additional research on a cure for hereditary inclusion body myopathy (HIBM), a progressive and debilitating genetic muscle disease. While it’s possible to inherit the disease from parents of Asian or European ancestry, HIBM primarily affects Jews of Middle Eastern ancestry, including some Iranian Jews.

One of the organization’s founders, Dr. Babak Darvish said over the years ARM has battled to remove the stigma the Iranian Jewish community has feared in publicly acknowledging family members with HIBM.

“My brother and I are both physicians, we were both affected by this disease — so we felt we had to take action and we founded ARM in 1997 in our living room,” Darvish said.


ARM co-founder and president Dr. Babak Darvish.Photo by Karmel Melamed

“Now the organization has gone international to help everyone, not just Iranian Jews, with this disease.”

While the genetic variation for HIBM has been located, an effective treatment for the disease has not been created, Darvish pointed out.

For more photos from this event, visit the Iranian American Jews Blog at http://jewishjournal.com/iranianamericanjews/

— Karmel Melamed, Contributing Writer


Briefs: Groundbreaking for Holocaust Museum, finally


Groundbreaking on Holocaust Museum

After 47 years of waiting for a permanent home, everything seems to be moving quickly now for the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust. Museum officials and an impressive list of L.A. politicos broke ground Jan. 25 on the museum’s future home at Pan Pacific Park, joined by the survivors who founded the first memorial of its kind in the United States nearly five decades ago.

The event coincided with the 63rd anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz; and it came more than three months earlier than planned. Until the museum, currently located in Mid-Wilshire, signed a 50-year lease with L.A. Department of Recreation and Parks in November for the Pan Pacific property, the groundbreaking had been planned for Yom HaShoah in early May.

“We realized we had a major accomplishment when we signed our lease with the city, and we wanted to celebrate,” said Mark A. Rothman, museum executive director.

So on a cold and wet afternoon, some 250 people packed the park’s senior center to honor the achievement and symbolically dedicate the land by digging into a box of dirt atop the auditorium’s stage. The new 15,000-square-foot museum is expected to be completed in 2010 and will include several exhibits, a library and an archive. Officials hope to educate 50,000 students each year.

“This museum will serve not only as a memorial for those who died in the death camps,” said L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, “but for those who survived and started life anew in Los Angeles.”

Being built across town from the better-known Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Museum of Tolerance — which covers a history of human rights abuses including the Holocaust, the Rwandan genocide and Darfur — the Museum of the Holocaust will be dedicated solely to remembrance of the atrocities committed by the Nazis. About $7 million of the $20 million needed for construction has been raised.

“There aren’t enough,” said Jona Goldrich, a board member who donated more than $1 million to the museum and built the monument. “If you built a museum on every corner of every street in Los Angeles, you wouldn’t be able to tell the whole story.”

— Brad A. Greenberg, Senior Writer

Live for Sderot Benefit Concert Planned for L.A.

The Israeli consulate in Los Angeles began a campaign this week to raise awareness about the precariousness of life in the western Negev, which has been bombarded by more than 7,000 Qassam rockets since fall 2001.

The consulate uploaded a video to YouTube that shows the daily struggles of those living around Sderot. A benefit concert featuring Ninette Taieb, a top Israeli singer who won that country’s first “American Idol”-style contest. The benefit is scheduled for Feb. 26 at the Wilshire Theatre, and plans are also being made to bring a group of children to Los Angeles.

“We’d like to present to the Americans the plight of Sderot, which is constantly under fire since the disengagement from Gaza,” Consul General Yaakov Dayan said. “The concert will provide an opportunity to show the solidarity that the people in Los Angeles feel toward the citizens of Sderot.”

Daily life in the western Negev is a constant test of will power and psychological strength. With sometimes dozens of rocket attacks each day, residents learn to respond with measured terror to the siren warning of an incoming attack.

“Tzeva adom” (red light) they hear, and then they’ve got 20 seconds or less to take cover.

“The attacks are unprovoked, unpredictable and continuous, and their effect has been close to catastrophic for us, both economically and psychologically. Our every action, our every waking moment, is geared toward minimizing the impact of living under enemy fire,” Marcell Bar-On, a resident of Kibbutz Nir-Am whose family was profiled in these pages last summer, wrote in a recent e-mail.

“Our first concern is always for our elderly and our children. My son Gabi, who turns 10 in December, was 3 years old when the bombings started, and doesn’t remember life without Qassam bombs. There are no reinforced rooms in our homes, and the old communal shelters cannot be reached in the five to 10 seconds it takes a Qassam bomb to travel between Beit Hanoun and Nir-Am. So our family does what all the other families do: when we hear the ‘tzeva adom’ alert, we huddle in a small windowless area (in our case, a small passage between bedrooms), our bodies and the tiled roof the only barriers between our children and the incoming bomb. We silently count the seconds to impact; I often need to remind the children to breathe — they are frozen in total terror. And we pray that this time, too, we will be spared.”

For more information, visit Live4Sderot.org.

— BG

Jews In Space

Two Milken Community High School students (photo, above) who won first prize in a national space-oriented high school competition were recognized this month in a ceremony at NASA Headquarters in Washington, D.C.

Seniors Michael Hakimi and Talia Nour-Omid won the inaugural “Pete Conrad Spirit of Innovation Award” from the X Prize Foundation in September for developing a business and technical plan for a device that would effectively monitor a human being’s vital signs while in space. The X Prize sponsors various awards that recognize civilian efforts to further scientific and technological breakthroughs, and this is its first award for high school students.

In Washington, Hakimi and Nour-Omid helped unveil a new traveling exhibit, co-sponsored by NASA and the X Prize Foundation, which showcases their proposal and other entries into the 2007 X PRIZE Cup at Holloman Air Force Base in Alamogordo, New Mexico.

The Conrad Award Scroll, inscribed with the names of the winning team, will be carried to the International Space Station in the fall of 2008 by Richard Garriott. The team also won a $5,000 grant for the school’s science program and a trophy presented by Nancy Conrad, wife of the late Apollo astronaut Pete Conrad and creator of the prize, and Erik Lindbergh, X PRIZE Foundation Trustee, great-grandson of Charles Lindbergh and designer and sculptor of the First Prize trophy.

Hakimi and Nour-Omid are both students at Milken’s Mitchell Academy for Science and Technology, founded in 2003 and headed by Roger Kassebaum. Students there immerse in college-level research and pair up with professors at local universities. Milken students have placed in the Intel Talent Search, a young epidemiologists competition, an Israeli physics competition, and a civil engineering competition.

Briefs: Israel apologizes to the Beatles, Europe commemorates the Holocaust



Beatles, Shea Stadium, 1965
Israel Apologizes to the Beatles

Israel is trying to atone for a decision to bar a tour by the Beatles 43 years ago. Israel’s ambassador to London, Ron Prosor, has written a letter to relatives of the late Beatles singer John Lennon and guitarist George Harrison apologizing for a 1965 government ban on the British pop group and inviting its surviving members — Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr — to play in the Jewish state.

“We should like to take this opportunity to correct the historic error which to our great regret occurred in 1965, when you were invited to Israel,” Yediot Achronot quoted the letter as saying. “We should like to see you sing in Israel.”

The Beatles were to have sung in Tel Aviv during their 1960s heyday, but political leaders nixed the appearances out of fear the Fab Four would “corrupt” Zionist youth.

Europe Commemorates the Holocaust

Former Auschwitz prisoners gathering at the Nazi death camp was among numerous Holocaust Remembrance Day commemorations in Europe. Sunday’s event in the Polish town of Oswiecim, on the third annual commemoration day created by the United Nations General Assembly, took place on the 63rd anniversary of the camp’s liberation by Soviet troops.

“Let remembrance of this serve as a shield that will protect us and generations to come against resentment, hate, aggression, racism and anti-Semitism,” said Ewa Junczyk-Ziomecka, a representative of Polish President Lech Kaczynski.

Sunday, Jewish communities in Ukraine lit candles and observed a minute of silence to honor the 6 million Jewish Holocaust victims, including 1.5 million Jews killed in Ukraine. It culminated four days of performances and exhibits in Kiev co-hosted by The Jewish Foundation of Ukraine and the All-Ukrainian Association of Jews – Former Concentration Camps and Ghetto Prisoners.

On Friday, the U.N. office in Vienna held a remembrance ceremony at the Rotunda of the Vienna International Center featuring the Vienna Jewish Choir performing for delegates from around the world. Also that day the Czech Senate, president and prime minister marked the Holocaust with ceremonies.

Moshe Kantor, the president of the European Jewish Congress, will address the European Parliament in Brussels Monday as it commemorates the Holocaust. Also Monday, more than 1,600 people, including genocide survivors, are expected to attend a service at Liverpool’s Philharmonic Hall to mark the day in England.

Methodists Consider Divestment

A top Methodist body heard arguments for and against divesting from Israel. The United Methodist General Board of Church and Society heard from four speakers Friday discussing whether to present a divestment from Israel plan at the church’s general conference in April, according to the New York Sun.

The Rev. Douglas Mills, an executive on the church’s General Commission on Christian Unity and Interreligious Concerns, made the case against divestment, the Sun reported, partly from concerns that a church-wide decision to divest would damage relations with Jewish groups.

Among those making the case for divestment was Susanne Hoder, a member of the New England Conference’s Divestment Task Force. Two of the 11-million member church’s regional groupings, in New England and Virginia, have recommended divestment from companies that they allege are complicit in Israel’s West Bank “occupation.” The weekend meeting, in Fort Worth, Texas, also considered divestment from other nations, including Sudan.

Christian Group to Give $3 Million for FSU Kids

A Jewish-Christian group is contributing $3 million to help needy Jewish children in the former Soviet Union. The International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, headed by Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, will give the $3 million to the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC). In exchange, Eckstein, who collects money from evangelical Christians, will have a say in how the money is spent and in formulating JDC’s strategy and programming.

The JDC estimates there are up to 50,000 needy Jewish children in the region. Eckstein gave $9 million the JDC in 2007, $6 million of which went to helping elderly Jews in the former Soviet Union and $3 million that went to help children. Eckstein recently cemented a similar strategic partnership with the Jewish Agency for Israel, giving the agency $15 million per year for the next three years in exchange for a seat on its highest governing committee, its executive. The Fellowship will also continue to fund JDC programming for the elderly in the former Soviet Union.

Israeli Doubles Pair Makes History

Andy Ram and Yoni Erlich became the first Israeli doubles tennis team to win a Grand Slam tennis title. The pair, seeded eighth, defeated the seventh-seeded French duo of Arnaud Clement and Michael Llorda in the Australian Open final Saturday in Melbourne. Ram has won two mixed doubles Grand Slam titles, but never with an Israeli partner.

“It’s a great day for us, for our family, for Israel, for everybody,” Ram said, who noted that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert had already called the pair to congratulate them. “He left a message for us to call him back; he couldn’t reach us.”

Hundreds of flag-waving Israelis were in the crowd, including Israel’s ambassador to Australia, Yuval Rotem, who traveled with his staff from Canberra for the match. The Israelis, who did not drop a set in the tournament, earned $393,211 for their victory.

Shahar Peer earlier in the tournament had become the first Israeli female to reach a Grand Slam final, but lost in three sets with her partner, Victoria Azarenka of Belarus. The three Israelis are planning to play in Arab countries next month. Peer is poised to become the first Israeli to play in Qatar, while Ram and Erlich are considering a Dubai tournament along with another Israeli, Tzipi Obziler.

Facebook Founder to Visit Israel

Israel invited Facebook’s founder to attend its 60th Independence Day celebrations. Mark Zuckerberg met the Israeli delegation at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, this week and accepted an official invitation to visit for the festivities in May, Ma’ariv reported Sunday. A former Harvard student, Zuckerberg shot to international fame by creating the Facebook networking site.

Ma’ariv quoted Zuckerberg, 23, as saying that Facebook would be an ideal platform for linking all the participants in a technology conference that Israeli President Shimon Peres is organizing in honor of the national birthday.

Briefs: Jewish Dems slam Huckabee; ‘Settlement’ crackdown expected


Outpost Crackdown Seen This Week

Vice Premier Haim Ramon said last week that troops and police could be deployed as early as this week for a mass-removal of outposts erected in the West Bank without state approval. He indicated that the operation could be timed to coincide with President Bush’s visit to Israel and the Palestinian Authority .

“I hope and assess that in the coming period and thereafter, during the U.S. president’s visit to Israel and afterward, real steps will be taken to remove those outposts,” Ramon told Israel Radio.

The U.S.-led peace “road map” obligates Israel to remove all outposts from the West Bank, where the Palestinians want a state. But the government has yet to take any comprehensive actions. Ramon did not say how many of the scores of outposts would be removed, but he predicted the crackdown would mostly take place east of the West Bank security fence, which many Israelis see as a future border with Palestine.

Speaking to Reuters last week, Bush made clear he considers the settlements a serious issue to be raised with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert during his visit.

“I will talk about Israeli settlement expansion, about how that is, that can be, you know, an impediment to success,” Bush said.

Jewish Dems Slam Huckabee

Jewish Democrats slammed Mike Huckabee as an “extremist” after he won the Iowa caucuses. The former Arkansas governor’s wide margin over other Republicans on Jan. 3 was the surprise of the first vote of the season in the effort to select a candidate.

Huckabee drew strong support from Christian evangelicals who share his adamant opposition to abortion and to church-state separation. His advocacy on behalf of the poor and his break with Republican orthodoxies about reducing the role of government also cultivated independents.

“In choosing a candidate so beholden to the extremist elements in the Republican base, Iowa Republicans have sent a strong message about the role and power of the religious right in GOP politics,” the National Jewish Democratic Council said in a statement. “Governor Huckabee’s record and rhetoric would certainly not play well with Jewish voters in a general election campaign.”

The release quoted Huckabee as once saying: “I got into politics because I knew government didn’t have the real answers, that the real answers lie in accepting Jesus Christ into our lives.”

Lebanese Rockets Hit Israel

A rare rocket salvo from south Lebanon jarred Israel, though no one was hurt. At least two Katyusha rockets slammed into the northern Israeli border town of Shlomi early Tuesday, causing damage to buildings but no casualties.

Lebanese authorities had no immediate comment on the attack, which for many Israelis aroused memories of Hezbollah rocket barrages during the 2006 war. But Israeli security analysts said Hezbollah was unlikely to have been responsible and that the rockets — relatively small 107mm Katyushas — were likely fired by Lebanon-based Palestinian terrorists looking to disrupt President Bush’s visit to the region this week.

Meanwhile, Hezbollah’s rocket arsenal is bigger now than before its war with Israel, Ehud Barak said.

“Hezbollah has learned the lessons of the Second Lebanon War,” the Israeli defense minister told a security conference in Tel Aviv on Monday. “Today, Hezbollah has more rockets than before the war.”

The arsenal of more than 10,000 rockets was a strategic asset against Israel during the 34-day conflict, though many of the missiles were destroyed on the ground in air strikes.

An Israeli commission of inquiry into the Second Lebanon War will deliver its final report on Jan. 30 to Olmert and Barak. The commission’s interim report, issued in April, was highly critical of Olmert’s handling of the war, but stopped short of calling for his ouster. Israeli analysts have said they do not expect the final Winograd report to call for Olmert to step down.

Hillel Joins Conference of Presidents

Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life had been an adjunct member of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, which acts as an umbrella group and a convener of the presidents of 51 major Jewish organizations. The Conference of Presidents’ membership committee voted unanimously to give the group full membership.

“We see this as a recognition of the need for the conference to include those who will be future leaders of the Jewish community and to give them a voice in our deliberations,” Conference chairwoman June Walker and Executive Vice Chairman Malcolm Hoenlein said in a joint statement released Monday.

Anti-Semitic Newspaper Distributed in Tblisi

A newspaper accusing Jews of plotting to “shed the blood” of Georgians was distributed in Tblisi. According to the Tblisi Bureau of the UCSJ: Union of Councils for Jews in the Former Soviet Union, the newspaper issued by the political movement Axali Sitkva calls for its readers to “say no to Jewish mason spies!” and claims that “other people’s property to a Jew is like an abandoned thing, the owner of it is the Jew who will appropriate it. For the Jew to acquire it, Georgians blood should be shed in the streets.”

The paper is distributed in the Georgia capital’s subway stations. The UCSJ report did not state what reaction, if any, has come from the police or the Jewish community to the distribution of the anti-Semitic newspaper, which violates Georgia’s laws against ethnic incitement.

Peer Falls in Australian Tennis

Israel’s Shahar Peer lost in the semifinals of a tennis tournament in Australia. Unseeded Belarusian teenager Victoria Azarenka, Peer’s doubles partner, defeated the fifth-seeded Peer, 6-4, 6-2, on Friday to reach the Mondial Australian Women’s Hardcourts final, a primer for the Australian Open, in Queensland. Azarenka, the world’s 30th-ranked player, was beaten in the title match by another nonseed, Li Na of China. Peer entered the tournament ranked 17th in the world. Last year she advanced further than any Israeli in a grand slam event by reaching the quarterfinals of the Australian Open, which begins Jan. 14 in Melbourne.

Radcliffe Giving Specs to Shoah Exhibit

The lead actor in the “Harry Potter” films will donate his first pair of eyeglasses to a Holocaust memorial project. Daniel Radcliffe, whose mother is Jewish, will give the glasses he wore when he was 6 years old to the RESPECTacles Project, where they will join 1,000 pairs. Other celebrities donating include Yoko Ono, Stephen Fry and Jerry Springer. The art project was inspired by a famous photo of a mountain of misshapen and broken glasses taken from Holocaust victims — a testament to the magnitude of Nazi cruelty and murder. The exhibit will be on display Jan. 21-26 at the town hall in Liverpool, England, as part of the national commemorations leading up to Great Britain’s National Holocaust Memorial Day on Jan. 27. At the close of the exhibit, the glasses will be donated to Vision Aid Overseas.

Briefs courtesy Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

Briefs: 100th birthday for Workmen’s Circle; ‘Kosher’ is numero uno


A Century of the Workmen’s Circle

Under the banner of “For a more beautiful and better world,” the Workmen’s Circle in California will mark its centennial with Yiddish songs, historical anecdotes and tributes to noted community members.

Actor and social activist Ed Asner will keynote the event on Sunday, Jan. 6, starting at 1 p.m. at the Skirball Cultural Center.

“For 100 years, our members have stood at the forefront of the movement for social justice,” said Eric A. Gordon, Southern California director of the Workmen’s Circle/Arbeter Ring.

“We founded the City of Hope to provide health care to the indigent, fought alongside farm and grocery workers for fair contracts, and today advocate for immigration, housing, and other social and political reforms that reflect our Jewish heritage of struggle for a better world.”

Gordon, who is also an author and singer, will receive the group’s Yidishkayt Award.

Entertainers will include klezmer artists Yale Strom and Elizabeth Schwartz, Uncle Ruthie Buell of KPFK-FM, troubadour Ross Altman, comedian Lou Charloff, storyteller Archie Barkan, M.C. Kolya Borodulin, and the Voices of Conscience and Mit Gezang Yiddish choruses.

Hosts Henry Slucki, Jolie Mason and Shawn Casey O’Brien of Access Unlimited, a KPFK-FM program that has advocated for the rights of people with disabilities for 20 years, will be honored with the Sands Memorial Award for Human Rights.

Other honorees include Ruth Judkowitz, chairmentsh of the regional Workmen’s Circle, who will receive the Ben Froman Member of the Year Award. Judkowitz is a professional music therapist, who founded Voices of Conscience, the organization’s social justice chorus.

For ticket information and reservations, phone (310) 552-2007, or e-mail awards@circlesocal.org.

— Tom Tugend, Contributing Editor

USY Builds Yeshiva for Ugandan Jews

The Conservative movement will build an adult yeshiva for the Abayudaya, a community of Jewish converts in Uganda. The $15,000 gift, announced Wednesday in Anaheim at the national convention of United Synagogue Youth, the youth arm of the Conservative movement, was presented to Gershom Sizomu, the first member of the Abayudaya community to enter rabbinical school.

A research fellow at the Institute for Jewish and Community Research in San Francisco, Sizomu will receive his ordination from the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies at American Jewish University in Los Angeles in May.

The 800 members of the Abayudaya, who had been living as Jews for years, were formally converted to Judaism in 2002 by a visiting delegation of Conservative rabbis.

Rabbi Jerome Epstein, executive vice president of the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, said the gift of the yeshiva sustains the youth movement’s support of the Abayudaya Jews begun last year with a donation for a Jewish library. The library will be housed in the new yeshiva, which is expected to be completed by summer.

Four or five students will begin studying next fall, Epstein said. Other students are expected to follow, some from “lost” African Jewish communities elsewhere in Uganda, Ghana, Nigeria and southern Africa.

Billionaire Leviev Leaving Israel

Israeli billionaire Lev Leviev, the Uzbek-born diamond magnate and Orthodox philanthropist, is leaving Israel for London with his family, Ha’aretz and other media reported Thursday. According to the reports, Leviev, 51, expects to find better tax terms and new business opportunities in Britain. But he will maintain a home in the Jewish state, where one of his daughters will continue running his international consortium, Africa-Israel. Leviev’s personal fortune is said to be worth as much as $8 billion, making him Israel’s richest citizen.

Kosher Most Popular Claim

The kosher label beat out all claims found on food products in the United States in 2007, such as “All Natural,” the second-most frequent claim and “No Additives or Preservatives,” according to a report from Mintel’s Global New Products Database, a consumer products monitor. In 2007, companies launched 3,984 new kosher food products and 728 kosher beverages. Mintel polls have shown that Jewish and non-Jewish consumers believe a product marked kosher is healthier and safer than non-kosher products. Muslims on a Halal diet also eat kosher food, and people on lactose-free and meat-free diets tend to look for kosher certification to ensure products do not contain the things they can not eat.

Israeli Airport Profiling Reviewed

Israel is reviewing the security practice of profiling Arab passengers at its international airport. Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz said Tuesday he was working to abolish the Shin Bet security service’s practice of singling out Israeli Arabs for more intensive screening than Jews at Ben-Gurion Airport. The announcement came in response to a petition filed with Israel’s High Court of Justice by minority rights groups arguing that all air passengers should be subject to the same level of scrutiny. Mofaz proposed that new criteria be created for vetting potentially dangerous passengers, such as age, profession and military service records. The plan will be submitted to Attorney-General Menachem Mazuz and the Shin Bet for their assessment.

Nazi HQ to be Learning Center

The Brown House in Munich, which was home to the Nazi Party beginning in 1933, will serve as a documentation center and a place of learning, according to Germany’s Deutsche Welle news service. The center was first proposed in 1989, and in 2001 the city of Munich approved a plan for the center. The project will be funded by the state of Bavaria and with $50.4 million from the German federal government. Construction will begin at the end of 2008, which is also the 850th anniversary of the city of Munich, according to Deutsche Welle. Nothing is left of the original headquarters building, which was torn down and removed by the temporary U.S. military government at the end of World War II.

Briefs: Kosher grasshoppers and eco-Torah


Kosher Animal Kingdom

Is giraffe kosher? What about peacock? Or bison? (What is bison anyway?) Find answers to these mysteries of the edible animal kingdom next week at the Orthodox Union’s (OU) “Halachic Adventure” in Los Angeles, which will present the traditional perspective on all different types of species. The first day of the Aug. 5-7 conference is open to the public (the other two days are for rabbis and kashrut professionals).

Sunday, Aug. 5 will begin with an all-day session at the OU (cost $15), with speakers such as Rabbi Steven Weil discussing growing up on a cattle farm and the “two Aris” — Rabbi Dr. Ari Zivotofsky and Dr. Ari Greenspan, who have devoted years to investigating which species are kosher. They hope to restore kosher status wherever possible to animals, fish and poultry that at one time might have been acceptable but whose status is now in doubt, or have been considered kosher only in a limited area.

“Kashrut is something that’s very popular,” said Rabbi Daniel Korobkin, director of community and synagogue services for the OU West Coast. “Many people are concerned with what they’re putting on their table and are interested in what animals are kosher.”

The public is also invited to a 15-course meal Sunday night at Prime Grill (cost $175), where plates of quail, red deer, bison, udder, partridge and yak will be served. For more information, call (310) 229-9000, ext. 200 or e-mail westcoast@ou.org.

— Amy Klein, Religion Editor

Torah With a Green Lens Jews have long been involved in saving the world — especially when it comes to the environment — so they should be happy to know that’s what the Torah commands. “Bring Torah Down To Earth,” a three-hour seminar, will explore the Torah-based approach to activism and ecology.

Sponsored by the Happy Minyan, a Shlomo Carlebach-style synagogue, the outdoor workshop will be led by Israeli rabbis from Yeshiva Simchat Shlomo, the Carlebach yeshiva in Jerusalem, which recently began the Eco-Activist Beit Midrash.

“We hope to become a serious center for a deep Torah ecology, connected to our ancestral land and our modern people, cultivating a cadre of rooted, informed and inspired activists to bring lights of tikkun [fixing] into our own communities and the world,” the program introduction reads. Yeshiva Simchat Shlomo (www.shlomoyeshiva.org/eco/) leads Torah ecology seminars in Israel for Birthright.

“A lot of people wouldn’t put Torah and green together in a million years,” said David Sacks, a member of the Happy Minyan. “Most people see it as a good thing to do, rather than as part of the Torah’s vision of the world — not just taking care of people in the world, but the world itself.” The seminar will take place July 29 from noon to 3 p.m. at Roxbury Park in Beverly Hills.

— AK

U.K. Jews in danger; Olmert in Jordan; Israel in British Commonwealth?


Olmert visits Jordan

The Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem announced Tuesday that Ehud Olmert had made an unpublicized visit to Jordan for talks with King Abdullah II, a key regional power-broker. The two leaders discussed bilateral issues and developments in the Palestinian Authority as well as the wider regional situation, the office said in a statement.

Abdullah backs Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas against his Hamas rivals, even allowing a militia loyal to Abbas’ more moderate Fatah faction to be garrisoned in Jordan. Israel has agreed in principle to the militia’s transfer to Gaza.

Israeli Court: End Ban on Palestinian Students

Israel’s highest court ruled that a sweeping ban against allowing Palestinians to study in Israel is unreasonable. The High Court of Justice on Monday ordered the military to set criteria within 60 days for admitting at least some Palestinian students into Israel. The interim ruling on Dec. 18 came after the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies asked to join a court petition arguing against a total ban. Due to the ban, the institute, which is near Eilat, has not been able to enroll Palestinian students.

“Today’s ruling prevents the military from automatically vetoing the ability of Palestinian students to study in Israel,” said Noam Peleg, an attorney for Gisha, the civil rights group that argued the petition before the court.

For security reasons it has been increasingly difficult for Palestinians to study in Israel since the Palestinians launched their violent intifada in September 2000.

Israel to join British Commonwealth?

As a former British colony, Israel is being considered for Commonwealth membership. Commonwealth officials said this week they had set up a special committee to consider membership applications by several Middle Eastern and African nations. Speaking on condition of anonymity, diplomats said those interested in applying include Israel and the Palestinian Authority, both of which exist on land ruled by a British Mandate from 1918 to 1948. An Israeli official did not deny the report, but said, “This issue is not on our agenda right now.”

The Commonwealth expects some interested countries to hold off on submitting formal applications until its next summit, scheduled for November 2007. The Commonwealth offers trade and other benefits for member countries.

Hamas inspired by China-Taiwan relationship

Hamas’ supreme leader proposed that a future Palestinian state could exist alongside Israel like China next to Taiwan.”There are many countries in the world that exist next to each other without recognizing one another, such as China and Taiwan,” Khaled Meshaal said in an interview with the Italian newspaper Corriere Della Sera published this week. Hamas is sworn to Israel’s destruction but has said it could enter a long-term truce in exchange for statehood in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Israel has rejected the proposal as a ruse for Hamas to consolidate power ahead of an all-out confrontation.

U.S. Delays Israel embassy move from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem

President Bush again delayed moving the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. The move has been postponed every six months since the Jerusalem Embassy Act, which mandates that the U.S. embassy should be in Jerusalem, Israel’s capital, passed in 1995. Bush wrote in a statement Monday that his “administration remains committed to beginning the process of moving our embassy to Jerusalem.” U.S. presidents have postponed the move to avoid angering the Muslim world, which does not accept Israeli control of Jerusalem.

U.K. Jews in more danger than Muslims

Jews in Britain are four times more likely to suffer hate crimes than are Muslims, according to police figures. The Sunday Telegraph reported this week on data collected from July to September. Crimes recorded ranged from assault and verbal abuse to vandalism and other criminal damage at places of worship. The Association of Chief Police Officers requested the statistics for the first time in 2006 following reports of Muslims being attacked after the Sept. 11 and July 2005 terrorist attacks in the United States and London, respectively. However, the results show that only one in 1,700 Muslims, as compared to one in 400 Jews, is likely to be the victim of a hate crime.

Bush talks values with Jewish educators

President Bush met with Jewish college students and higher education leaders to discuss the importance of a moral component in university life. Bush met Monday with four activist students associated with Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life, as well as with leaders from seminaries belonging to all four Jewish streams and the heads of Jewish universities. Bush chooses a different theme for his Chanukah meeting each year, and this year appeared eager to link his war on terrorism with what he said was the battle against moral relativism on campus, participants said.

“He reiterated that the battle we’re involved in is not religious because terrorists can’t be God-believing people,” said Richard Joel, president of Yeshiva University.

In related news, Bush joined Jewish members of his Cabinet in welcoming the fourth night of Chanukah.

“Today, by lighting the menorah, Jews around the world celebrate the victory of light over darkness and give thanks for the presence of a just and loving God,” Bush said at a White House ceremony attended by Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, White House Chief of Staff Josh Bolten and U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab.

The traditional White House Chanukah party followed the lighting and the White House kitchen was made kosher for the event.

Conservatives might label food

The Conservative movement is considering labeling kosher food according to the ethical standards by which it is produced. A commission appointed by the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism and the Rabbinical Assembly is debating the creation of a social responsibility certification. The commission was created in response to recent reports of unsafe working conditions and labor violations at AgriProcessors of Postville, Iowa, one of the nation’s largest kosher meat-packing plants.

The new label would be concerned primarily with protecting workers’ rights, in accordance with Jewish law. It would be an additional label placed onto food already carrying traditional kosher certification.

U.S. Jewish Population Rising; California and Israel Join in Tourism Pact


U.S. Jewish Population Rising?

The new American Jewish Yearbook reports that there are 6.4 million Jews in the United States. That’s significantly more than the 5.2 million figure provided by the 2000-2001 National Jewish Population Study.

The yearly survey, published by the American Jewish Committee, is based on a tally of individual Jewish communities across the country. According to the survey, 2.2 percent of the American population is Jewish. New York has the largest Jewish population of any state with 1,618,000, followed by California with 1,194,000, Florida with 653,000 and New Jersey with 480,000, the AJCommittee said in a release.

California and Israel Join in Tourism Pact

The state of California and the state of Israel have jointly established a commission to encourage their citizens to visit each other, proving again that the Golden State is big enough to conduct its own foreign policy. At a recent ceremony at the Los Angeles Convention Center, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Isaac Herzog, Israel’s Minister of Tourism, signed an agreement launching the California-Israel Tourism Commission. Both credited Los Angeles-based media mogul Haim Saban for the initiative to establish the commission.

During the ceremony, Schwarzenegger recalled that he has visited Israel three times, first as a body builder, then to open his Planet Hollywood restaurant in Tel Aviv and last year for the groundbreaking of the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Museum of Tolerance in Jerusalem.

No breakdown was available on the number of Californians visiting Israel, or Israelis visiting California, however, the latest figures from Israeli tourism officials showed that between January-September of this year, 1.5 million tourists came to Israel, of whom 400,000 were Americans. In 2005, Israel had 2 million visitors, among them 533,000 Americans.

— Tom Tugend, Contributing Editor

Iran Hosts Holocaust Deniers Conference

The Iranian government held a conference of Holocaust deniers and skeptics this week, a discussion of whether 6 million Jews actually were killed by the Nazis during World War II.

A report in The New York Times quoted the opening speech by Rasoul Mousavi, head of the Iranian Foreign Ministry’s Institute for Political and International Studies, which organized the event, saying that the conference would allow discussion “away from Western taboos and the restriction imposed on them in Europe.”

Speakers at the event include David Duke, the American white-supremacist politician and former Ku Klux Klan leader, and Georges Thiel, a French writer who has been prosecuted in France over his denials of the Holocaust, the Times reported.

— Staff Report

Seattle Rabbi Regrets Xmas Tree Removal

A Chabad rabbi in Seattle expressed regret that his request to add a menorah to the Seattle-Tacoma Airport’s display of Christmas trees resulted in the trees’ removal.

“I am devastated, shocked and appalled at the decision that the Port of Seattle came to,” Rabbi Elazar Bogomilsky of Chabad-Lubavitch of the Pacific Northwest said in Monday’s Seattle Times.

Last week, Bogomilsky’s attorney Harvey Grad threatened the port with a lawsuit after not receiving a response to a request, first made in October, to install an 8-foot menorah, which Bogomilsky offered to supply.

Port Commissioner Pat Davis told the Times that the commission had not heard about the request until Dec. 7, the day before Grad was to head to court.

An airport spokesperson said it was decided to take down the trees because the airport, preparing for its busiest season, did not have time to accommodate all the religions that would have wanted a display.

The removal resulted in a firestorm of criticism, much of it directed at Bogomilsky, who said he never wanted to see the trees removed.

Thousands March for Hezbollah

Hundreds of thousands of protesters led by Hezbollah marched in downtown Beirut Sunday to demand that Prime Minister Fouad Siniora either cede some government power to the terrorist group and its allies or resign, The Associated Press reported.

Hezbollah has been pressing for increased power since its war with Israel over the summer. Lebanese troops Sunday sealed off Siniora’s compound, as well as the roads nearby. Siniora and most of his ministers have stayed in the complex since Dec. 1, when Hezbollah launched massive protests aimed at toppling Lebanon’s Western-leaning government.

Senate Approves Red ‘Crystal’

The U.S. Senate certified the Red “Crystal,” paving the way for Magen David Adom’s acceptance into the International Red Cross’ bodies. The Red Cross approved the symbol which resembles a playing card diamond earlier this year, ending a decades-long shutout of non-Muslim and non-Christian groups such as Israel’s first responder, which rejected using the Red Cross and Red Crescent symbols as inappropriate. The Red Cross had also rejected the Star of David symbol used by MDA.

The Senate’s certification last Friday, the last day of Congress, protects the symbol’s copyright and follows similar legislation passed last week in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Israeli Hostages Said Wounded

Two Israeli soldiers held by Hezbollah since July were seriously wounded during their capture, security sources said. Israeli security sources last week quoted a declassified military report that said bloodstains and other evidence gathered at the site of the July 12 border raid in which Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev were seized showed the hostages were seriously wounded.

To survive, the sources said, the two army reservists would have required immediate medical attention, something that may not have been available in the custody of the Lebanese terrorist group.

Hezbollah has refused to provide information on the captives’ condition, saying it would only release them as part of a swap for Arabs held in Israeli jails. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has ruled out a swap on Hezbollah’s terms unless the terrorist group provides information on the soldiers’ health. The captives’ families criticized the release of forensic details from the raid.

“I think this may be an attempt by the Prime Minister’s Office to lower pressure to get the kidnapped soldiers freed,” Regev’s brother, Benny, told Israel Radio.

Conservative Movement to vote on gay marriage


The Committee on Jewish Law and Standards, the movement’s highest legal authority, is expected to vote next week on five separate teshuvot, or responsa, that range from a complete overturn of the traditional prohibition on homosexual intercourse to a restatement of the committee’s 1992 decision upholding the ban.

Implicit in those opinions are views on whether gays and lesbians should be ordained as rabbis and whether Conservative clergy can officiate at commitment ceremonies. Committee members were loath to speculate this week on the final outcome, but insiders expect the committee to endorse both the traditional ban and a more liberal opinion — leaving it to local rabbis to make determinations for each community.

But that’s hardly a foregone conclusion, and the liberal opinion could still fail, particularly if the committee determines that lifting the ban on homosexual intercourse is so substantial a break from halachic precedent that it entails a takanah, an act of legislation overturning an established tradition. A takanah requires an absolute majority of the committee’s 25 members, or 13 votes, to pass. A normal interpretive teshuva requires only six votes.

Report: Jerusalem talks to Barghouti

Israel’s government has been holding indirect talks with a Palestinian politician jailed for orchestrating terrorist attacks. Channel 2 television reported Monday that Marwan Barghouti, a Fatah lawmaker sentenced to five life prison terms in 2003, helped broker this week’s Gaza Strip cease-fire at the behest of the Olmert government, which contacted him through Chaim Oron, a Knesset member from the Meretz Party. Oron declined comment. According to Channel 10 television, the previous Israeli government of Ariel Sharon also communicated indirectly with Barghouti. With Israel and Western power brokers scrambling to offset the influence of Hamas among Palestinians, there has been growing speculation that Barghouti, who professes moderate political views, could be released as part of a rapprochement deal.

West Bank truce seen

Israel and the Palestinian Authority are trying to extend the Gaza Strip cease-fire to the West Bank. Following Sunday’s declaration of a Gaza truce, spokesmen for both sides said negotiations were under way for a similar deal in the West Bank.

“I hope we are going to move in the next few days to have a similar arrangement in the West Bank,” Saeb Erekat, an aide to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, told Israel’s Army Radio.Israeli diplomatic sources confirmed this in comments to The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday. Extending an olive branch, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Monday that Israel was willing to evacuate settlements in the West Bank to make way for a Palestinian state, but only on condition that the Palestinians abandon violence.

Israel allows pro-Abbas deployment in Gaza

Israel agreed to allow Mahmoud Abbas to send a loyal security force to the Gaza Strip. Israeli sources said Tuesday that the Palestinian Authority president had requested permission to redeploy the 1,000-strong Badr Brigade, which is currently stationed in Jordan, to Gaza, and that it had been approved by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. There was no immediate date given for the move, which would strengthen Abbas’ hand against the rival Hamas in Gaza and could help cement an Israeli-Palestinian truce declared in Gaza over the weekend. The United States has voiced interest in bolstering Abbas’ security forces, especially given the buildup of Hamas terrorists.

Holocaust hero Werber dies at 92

Jack Werber, who helped rescue some 700 Jewish boys at a Nazi camp, died at age 92. Werber suffered a fatal heart attack Nov. 18 in his hometown of Great Plains, N.Y. Born in Poland to a furrier, Werber was separated from his wife and daughter in 1939 and taken to Buchenwald. In 1944, a transport of 2,000 prisoners came to the camp, including some 700 boys. Werber, the barracks clerk, worked with fellow inmates to hide the youngest throughout the barracks and find easier jobs for the older ones. He obtained the complicity of some Nazi guards who were beginning to fear war-crimes charges. After the war, Werber moved to the United States, where his older brother, Max, his only surviving immediate relative, had settled. Werber remarried and started a business in the 1950s, selling coonskin-style caps made popular by Disney’s “Davy Crockett” television show.

OU agrees to oppose Israeli policy

The Orthodox Union (OU) adopted a resolution empowering its leadership to publicly oppose Israeli government policies. The measure was approved by delegates at the group’s biennial convention in Jerusalem on Saturday night.

It was part of a broader resolution on Israel’s security challenges. The resolution noted the continued launching of rockets from Gaza more than a year after Israel’s withdrawal from the coastal strip and expressed skepticism about any policy that relinquishes territory without obtaining security and peace in return. Other resolutions adopted at the convention concerned the plight of evacuated Gaza settlers, the need for a “proactive” response to substance abuse in the Orthodox community and the genocide in Darfur.

Palestinians start English-language newspaper

A privately owned English-language newspaper was launched in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The Associated Press reported that The Palestine Times began circulation Monday with 5,000 subscriptions. The new daily says it is not affiliated with any political party; its first edition included op-eds from a Hamas spokesman, a Fatah spokesman and an independent analyst, the AP reported. Circulation in Israel and an Internet edition are planned.

Canadian Muslims send anti-Semitic cartoons

The Canadian Islamic Congress circulated anti-Semitic cartoons to Jewish homes in Ontario, B’nai B’rith Canada charged.

According to a B’nai B’rith statement, Jewish residents of London, Ontario, received the cartoons in their mailboxes along with political flyers from the Canadian Islamic Congress, days before a Monday federal election.

One cartoon shows Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper draped in an Israeli flag with a slightly exaggerated hook nose, reminiscent of stereotypical anti-Semitic depictions of Jews.

Jewish Woman Is European Beauty Queen; Katsav Urged to Temporarily Quit


Jewish Woman Is European Beauty Queen

Alexandra Rosenfeld, 19, won the Miss Europe 2006 title in Kiev last Friday. Rosenfeld, a student who is also Miss France, walked away with $130,000 in prize money and a diamond-studded crown. According to media reports, the Web sites covering the pageant were flooded with anti-Semitic messages after Rosenfeld’s win.

Katsav Urged to Temporarily Quit

Israel’s attorney general recommended that President Moshe Katsav temporarily resign. Attorney General Menachem Mazuz issued his advisory Sunday in response to a High Court petition lodged by a lawyer who wants Katsav to resign in light of the rape allegations against him. Mazuz noted that the High Court is not the forum for deciding Katsav’s fate, but said the president should consider having the Knesset declare him “temporarily incapacitated” until the investigation against him runs its course. Mazuz, who holds ultimate responsibility on deciding whether to prosecute Katsav, said that should there be a trial the president would have no choice but to step down. Katsav, who is suspected of raping more than one former female employee, has denied wrongdoing. Meanwhile, Elie Wiesel has said he is not interested in becoming Israel’s president in response to reports that he has been named as a possible successor to Katsav.

One-Third Favor Clemency for Rabin Assassin

Almost one in three Israelis would support seeing Yitzhak Rabin’s jailed assassin go free one day, a poll found. According to the survey published over the weekend by Yediot Achronot, 5 percent of Israelis would like Yigal Amir to be granted clemency now, while another 25 percent would favor him being freed in 25 years. Support for clemency was stronger among right-wingers and religious Jews. Sixty-nine percent of respondents said they want Amir, who shot Rabin, Israel’s prime minister, at a 1995 peace rally, to stay behind bars for life. A 2001 bill passed by the Knesset ruled out clemency for anybody who assassinates an Israeli prime minister.

Foundation Funds Day School Scholarships

A U.S. foundation will offer scholarships worth $11 million for students to attend Jewish day schools in Baltimore. The multiyear grant from the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation will be managed by the Associated, Baltimore’s Jewish federation. The Associated, which already provides more than $3 million a year to Jewish schools in the Baltimore area, committed an additional $1 million for each year of the partnership. Studies have shown that many Jewish parents say they are unable to send their children to Jewish schools because of the cost.”This fund will not only enable more children to attend Jewish day schools, it will centralize the scholarship process and ensure that the moneys are being disbursed as efficiently and effectively as possible,” said Shale Stiller, president of the Weinberg foundation.

Blair Attends Day School Launch

British Prime Minister Tony Blair attended the opening of an ultra-Orthodox day school. The Yesodai Hatorah Girls School was launched Oct. 26 at an event in London’s Stamford Hill. Blair called himself a proud friend of the Jewish people and praised the school for promoting the kind of “values that in the end must motivate and govern the whole of our country and society.”

Hours earlier, Education Secretary Alan Johnson reversed a government decision that would have required state-funded faith schools to reserve at least 25 percent of their spots for students of other faiths or no faith.

Auerbach, Legendary Celtics Coach, Dies

Legendary basketball coach Arnold “Red” Auerbach died over the weekend at age 89. Auerbach led the Boston Celtics to nine NBA titles between 1956 and 1966. Born to Jewish parents in Brooklyn, Auerbach was an innovator on both offense and defense. In 1954, the NBA introduced the 24-second shot clock to counter Auerbach’s tactic of having point guard Bob Cousy dribble out the game clock if the Celtics had a lead with under three minutes left.

Berlin Community Returns to Historic Quarters

Berlin’s Jewish community moved back into its historical headquarters. The community on Saturday celebrated its full return to a synagogue in the city’s east where both communal administration and board will be under one roof. Previously, some communal offices were located in the former West Berlin. The synagogue, which once could hold some 3,000 worshippers, largely was destroyed by allied bombing raids in World War II, but a new chapel and offices were constructed after reunification. The city’s Jewish population has quadrupled to more than 12,000 in the years since unification, particularly due to the influx of Jews from the former Soviet Union.

— Briefs courtesy Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

Interfaith dialogue continues locally despite Hathout brouhaha; Sukkot huts inspires home building


Interfaith dialogue continues locally despite Hathout brouhaha
 
After the brouhaha surrounding Maher Hathout, the Muslim spokesman who received a human relations prize last month amid protests by some Jewish groups, the state of interfaith relations in Los Angeles may appear to be at a low point.
 
But in fact, that is not the case, as evidenced last week, when Jews, Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Sikhs, Bahá’í­s and more gathered at Sinai Temple for a dinner honoring Rabbi Paul Dubin, one of the founders of the Interreligious Council of Southern California.Interfaith dialogue is “at a high point,” said Dubin, 81, seated at a small, round table during the evening’s cocktail hour. “Fifty years ago, interfaith relations really consisted of (conversations between) Christians and Jews. Today, we have more than 10 faith groups in this Interreligious Council,” said Dubin, who helped create the council nearly 40 years ago.
 
Nearby, two Hindu monks wrapped in orange cloth, representing “the fire of the spirit,” huddled together. A Catholic priest, dressed in black with the traditional white collar, greeted a Buddhist in a brown robe and jade prayer beads.
 
A Sikh wearing a white gown and turban surveyed the room with satisfaction. “People need to see us like this more — doing things together,” she said.
 
During dinner, Jihad Turk, vice president of the Interreligious Council, sat beside a Holocaust survivor, discussing ways to deal with extremist elements within religious communities. “My father is Palestinian, and my name is Jihad,” Turk said. Nevertheless, he has come to realize that “Islam and Judiasm share so much in common. We truly are close kin.”

At another table, in between bites of salmon, sweet potato and asparagus, an Episcopal priest was talking about a trip he had taken to Israel with Jews, Christians and Muslims. Across from him, the Rev. Albert Cohen, a delegate to the council who represents Protestant churches, explained why the board decided to honor Dubin.
 
“We wanted to have a dinner, and we wanted to build it around the person we loved the most,” Cohen said. “Rabbi Dubin relates to everybody.”
 
“In our religion,” chimed in Dr. Jerome Lipin, a Jewish pediatrician, “we’d call him a mensch.”
 
As dessert arrived, Rabbi Elliot Dorff, rector of the University of Judaism, gave the keynote address.
 
“If we believe each of our religions is true, then how is it that all the other religions aren’t false?” he asked.
 
Dorff suggested a few ways we might believe in our own religion without negating others.
 
Humans are not omniscient, so we can recognize that our own knowledge is limited, he said. Also, if we all were intended to have the same views, then we would have been created the same. The fact that each of us is unique suggests that every one of us has an element of the sacred within.
 
Next, Dubin took the spotlight.
 
“I want to tell you why I have felt so strongly about participating in interfaith meetings and dialogues,” Dubin said. “It can be summed up in one word: pluralism. By pluralism, I mean not the toleration of another faith — I hate that word, ‘toleration’ — I mean respect and acceptance.”
 
After a standing ovation, the Rev. Gwynne Guibord, president of the Interreligious Council, announced, “Our time has ended. Go in peace.”
 
The guests dispersed into the halls of the temple. Some visitors peeked into rooms, hoping to get a glimpse of the main sanctuary.

“This is quite the place,” one said on his way out into the chilly night.
 
— Sarah Price Brown, Contributing Writer
 
Sukkot huts inspires home building for homeless
 
While many Los Angeles Jews commemorated the second day of Sukkot by eating outside in their temporary dwelling created just for the holiday, Wilshire Boulevard Temple members took the edict of the holiday even further.
 
On Oct. 8, some 300 members — adults and children — at the temple’s two locations partnered with Habitat for Humanity of Greater Los Angeles to help build real dwellings for low-income families.
 
Adults helped build housing frames, which will be used in the homes of “partner” or low-income families. The children sewed 400 pillows and made 400 welcome home signs. The congregants put together 800 outreach kits for PATH (People Assisting the Homeless) and they fed 140 families at the temple’s food pantry.
 
“The Festival of Sukkot commemorates the temporary shelter Jewish ancestors lived in during their years of wandering in the desert and represents the building of shelter,” said Rabbi Stephen Julius Stein of Wilshire Boulevard Temple in a press release. This first-time partnership between Wilshire Boulevard Temple and Habitat “helps to raise awareness and support of the need for affordable housing for local families.”
 
Habitat strives to eliminate poverty housing through advocacy, education and partnership with families in need to build simple, decent, affordable housing. Since 1990, Habitat for Humanity of Greater Los Angeles has built more than 180 homes, transforming the lives of hundreds of individuals. In the fall of 2007, the organization will host the Jimmy Carter Work Project, Habitat for Humanity International’s preeminent event. The project will bring Carter, his wife, Rosalynn, and thousands of volunteers from around the world to Los Angeles to help build or renovate 100 homes.
 
“It was a very productive day as regards to Tikkun Olam at Wilshire Boulevard Temple,” Stein said.
 
For more information, visit www.habitatla.org.
 
— Amy Klein, Religion Editor

Shop for a breast cancer cure
 
With Breast Cancer Awareness Month in full swing, M”&”Ms, KitchenAid appliances and Coach key chains have consumers seeing pink. Mattel has launched a new Pink Ribbon Barbie as a way for adults to talk with kids about the disease. Dyson is featuring a limited-edition pink vacuum cleaner and Seagate has jumped on the Susan G. Komen Foundation bandwagon with a pink external 6 gigabyte hard drive.
 
Locally, the newly opened Nordstrom at Westfield Topanga will feature Fit for the Cure, a special bra-fitting event on Oct. 21. Wacoal will donate $2 every time someone gets fit for a bra, as well as an additional $2 for each Wacoal, DKNY Underwear or Donna Karan Intimates bra purchased during the event. Also, Vons and Pavilions stores are hoping to help generate $6 million as part of Safeway’s fifth annual Breast Cancer Awareness Campaign, with proceeds from sales of pink ribbon pins and pink wristbands at checkstands going to services for patients and research. The grocers will also donate funds from purchases of specially marked products, and are making a free download of Melissa Etheridge’s song, “I Run for Life,” available to its customers.
 
Other retailers running special sales promotions include Aveda, Lady Foot Locker, Payless ShoeSource, Target and Bed Bath & Beyond.
 
— Adam Wills, Associate Editor

Mid East




Video Caption Goes Here
Photos: Mayor, Local Officials Carry Torahs to Beith David’s New Shul
Iranians Adopt Plan to Avoid Future Agunot
Greater Los Angeles Community News Briefs
World News Briefs from JTA

Briefs


Presbyterian Church Fixes Divestment Damage
Two years after it angered Jews by passing a resolution calling for divestment from Israel, the Presbyterian Church (USA) is trying to undo the damage.

At this year’s General Assembly in Birmingham, a church committee agreed Saturday night to ask the full assembly to replace its 2004 resolution calling for “phased, selective divestment in multinational corporations operating in Israel” with a policy of “corporate engagement” that would restrict investments in Israel, the Gaza Strip and West Bank to peaceful pursuits. The full assembly was to vote on the resolution Wednesday.

The committee overwhelmingly agreed to the motion after days of deliberation in which it held open hearings and heard dozens of proposals.

Although the resolution does not formally rescind divestment, most took it to mean that the drive toward divestment had been stopped, and that the call for “corporate engagement” shows a more balanced approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The resolution approved by the church’s peacemaking and international issues committee:

  • Calls on the church to restrict its investments that relate to Israel, Gaza, eastern Jerusalem and the West Bank to peaceful pursuits;
  • Urges peaceful cooperation among Israelis, Americans and Palestinians, and Jews, Muslims and Christians;
  • Calls for dismantling Israel’s West Bank security barrier where it ventures beyond the pre-1967 boundary;
  • Aims to submit these proposals to U.S., Israeli and Palestinian politicians and religious leaders.

Klimt Paintings to Leave LACMA
Los Angeles’ loss is New York’s gain, with the sale by local resident Maria Altmann of an iconic Gustav Klimt painting to the Big Apple’s Neue Galerie, owned by Jewish cosmetics heir and philanthropist Ronald Lauder.

The gold-flecked 1907 portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer, Altmann’s aunt, was sold for a reported $135 million, the highest known price ever paid for a painting.

In addition to the portrait, four other Klimt paintings were recently returned to Altmann and her family by the Austrian government, after a seven-year legal and diplomatic battle waged by Los Angeles attorney E. Randol Schoenberg.

The art works were seized from the Bloch-Bauer family by the Nazis, after their takeover of Austria in 1938.

Sale of the “Golden Adele” is a cultural blow for Los Angeles, and especially the L.A. County Museum of Art (LACMA), which is currently exhibiting all five Klimt paintings.

LACMA tried hard to keep the collection intact and permanently on home grounds, but was unable to come up with the necessary funds.

Altmann, a lively 90-year-old Cheviot Hills resident, is now planning a trip to Europe with her grandchildren, but doesn’t plan to change her lifestyle.

“I’ll stay in the house where I’ve lived for 30 years, keep driving my ’92 Ford, and I don’t need any new clothing,” she told The Journal in an interview earlier this year.

Angelenos have one more week to view the Klimt collection at the LACMA exhibit, which closes June 30. — Tom Tugend, Contributing Editor

Ethiopian Immigration to Israel to Remain Flat?
An Israeli ministerial committee recommended that the government postpone a decision to double the number of Falash Mura allowed into Israel from Ethiopia. The Falash Mura are descendants of Ethiopian Jews who converted to Christianity and who are now returning to Judaism. The government decided several years ago to increase the number allowed into Israel each month, from 300 to 600. However, the decision was never implemented, and the committee said the move should be postponed further because of financial considerations. The recommendation comes as Israel’s High Court of Justice is set to hear a petition next week on the government’s failure to expedite the aliyah.

Reform Movement Center Opens in Jaffa
The Reform movement in Israel inaugurated a $12 million cultural center in Jaffa on Sunday. The facility, to be opened officially in October, will be called Mishkenot Daniel. The decision to put it in Jaffa was part of the movement’s efforts to reach out to middle- and working-class families in Jaffa and Tel Aviv. The inauguration coincided with the first annual convention of the Association of Reform Zionists in Israel to be held in the Jewish state. The center is to include a youth hostel, auditorium, classrooms and a synagogue. Some prominent American Jews have donated to its building, and Israeli Reform movement officials hope local Reform congregants will help raise additional funds for the complex.

Israel Expands Residency Law
Israel expanded a law granting residency to children of non-Jewish foreign workers. On Sunday, the Cabinet approved a proposal by Interior Minister Ronnie Bar-On to ease the minimum age requirement for children whose parents work legally in Israel and who want to become citizens themselves. Previously, only children who were born in Israel or arrived before age 10 were eligible, but the bar has now been raised to 14. Other requirements for candidates are that they speak Hebrew and have lived in Israel for at least six years. After completing mandatory military service, they will become eligible for citizenship. The amendment was opposed by Cabinet ministers from the Shas Party, which said it would threaten Israel’s demographic balance. But Bar-On argued that it applied to only a few-hundred potential candidates.

Kosher Restaurant to Open in Turkey
Yediot Achronot reported Tuesday that Silence Park, a new holiday resort to be launched in the city of Antalya next month, includes a glatt kosher restaurant, the first in Turkey. The restaurant will serve both meat and dairy meals, using both local fare and products imported from Israel. Antalya is especially popular with Israeli vacationers given its geographical proximity and cheap prices.

Briefs courtesy Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

 

Nation-World Briefs


U.N. Asks Israel to Stop Making Nukes
A U.N. commission recommended that Israel refrain from manufacturing any more nuclear weapons as a step to a nuclear-free Middle East. The United Nation’s Weapons of Mass Destruction Commission, chaired by weapons inspector Hans Blix, released its 60 recommendations on Monday. Regarding the Middle East, Blix recommended that most nations commit to not possessing any nuclear weapons. However, with Israel he recommended only that it commit to not manufacturing any more weapons. Israel is highly unlikely to agree to dismantle the 200 warheads it is believed to possess as the region’s sole nuclear power. Israel’s agreement would be a start, Blix said.

State Dept. Blasts Israel for Human Trafficking
Israel is on a U.S. State Department watch list of nations that fail to effectively prevent human trafficking. Israel was classified as being on the Tier Two watch list in the report released Monday. Tier Three is the worst classification, reserved for countries that fail to comply with minimum U.S. standards. Israeli law enforcement has made strides in cracking down on sex trafficking, the report said, but the same was not true of labor trafficking and “the estimated thousands of victims of forced labor were not provided with protection.” It described fees demanded of laborers ranging from $1,000 to $10,000, “a practice that often leads to debt bondage and makes these workers highly vulnerable to forced labor once in Israel,” it said.

FDA Approves Israeli Parkinson’s Drug
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently approved an Israeli drug that treats Parkinson’s, a chronic disease characterized by uncontrolled shaking and muscle stiffness. Marketed under the name Azilect, this is the first once-daily oral treatment for Parkinson’s to be distributed in the United States; it was developed by Technion professors Moussa Youdim and John Finberg and is being manufactured by Tel Aviv-based generic pharmaceutical giant Teva. The drug is expected to become available by prescription in the United States by July or August.

While not a cure, the drug slows the progression of the disease. Azilect works by blocking the breakdown of dopamine, which tells the body how and when to move.

Parkinson’s currently affects 1 million people in the United States.

“This is a welcome development for the more than 50,000 Americans who are each year diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, ” said Dr. Steven Galson, director of the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. “Parkinson’s is a relentless disease with limited treatment options, and each new therapy is an important addition to the physicians’ treatment options.”

However, the FDA is warning that the drug could carry an increased risk of hypertensive crisis — a precursor to a stroke — if taken with tyramine-rich foods (cheese, chocolate, red wine), dietary supplements or cough/cold medicines. — Adam Wills, Associate Editor

Nazi Papers Declassified
The U.S. government declassified more than 8 million pages of files related to Nazi war crimes. The material including documents relating to the CIA’s employment of suspected Nazi war criminals after World War II. The members of the government’s Interagency Working Group said at a news conference Tuesday that the revelations pointed to the dangers of working with war criminals, as the United States did after World War II. Among other revelations, the papers show that former Nazis employed by the United States were more susceptible to recruitment as double agents by the Soviet Union. Additionally, the papers show that the United States had a strong lead on the whereabouts of Adolf Eichmann in 1958, but did not pursue it because of fears that his capture would expose the Nazi past of high-ranking officials in the West German government, which was allied with the United States.

Trump Fires Jewish Contestant
An observant Jew failed in his bid to become Donald Trump’s next apprentice. Lee Bienstock was fired Monday on the season finale of “The Apprentice.” Bienstock and another Jewish contestant, New Jersey’s Dan Brody, observed Rosh Hashanah together early in the season missing the third episode’s task but only Bienstock, who grew up in the New York area, stayed in the show long enough to observe Yom Kippur, missing another task.

Briefs courtesy Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

 

Community Briefs


Reclaimed Art to Be Shown at LACMA

Five paintings by Austrian artist Gustav Klimt will be exhibited at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) from April 4 to June 30, following a seven-year battle to return the Nazi-looted art to its legal owner, Maria Altmann, a Cheviot Hills resident.

Among the works exhibited will be the most famous of the paintings, a gold-flecked portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer, a Viennese Jewish beauty painted by Klimt in 1907. The “Golden Adele” alone is valued at about $125 million.

Altmann, the 90-year-old niece of Bloch-Bauer, and her attorney E. Randol Schoenberg, engaged in a tenacious legal and diplomatic struggle with the Austrian government to transfer ownership to Altmann.

Altmann said she decided on the location of the first American exhibit of the five paintings “in gratitude to the City and County of Los Angeles. [They] provided me a home when I fled the Nazis, and their courts enabled me to recover my family paintings at long last.

“I am very pleased that these wonderful paintings will be seen at LACMA. It was always the wish of my uncle and aunt to make their collection available to the public.”

The Klimt paintings epitomize the height of the Viennese Jugendstil and also include a second portrait of Bloch-Bauer and three landscapes, “Beachwood,” “Apple Tree I” and “Houses in Unterach on Lake Atter.”

Until the recent court and arbitration decisions in favor of Altmann’s ownership, the Klimt paintings hung in the Austrian Gallery in Vienna’s Belvedere Castle. They were the gallery’s most popular tourist attraction and were considered a national treasure.

The total value of the paintings is estimated at $300 million, and the Austrian government declared that it does not have the funds to purchase them from Altmann and keep them in Vienna.

Altmann has not made a decision on the future permanent location of the collection, but hopeful speculation continues.

Stephanie Barron, LACMA senior curator of modern art, said that “should there be some way to make this exhibition something that would be forever available, that would be extraordinary.”

But Austria hasn’t given up entirely. Klaus Pokorny, spokesman for the Austrian Gallery, expressed the hope that the “Golden Adele,” at least, would find its way back to Vienna if enough generous private donors step forward to buy the portrait and donate it to the gallery. — Tom Tugend, Contributing Editor

A Razed Jewish Building’s Postmortem

Concerned city, federal and private construction officials are planning an open meeting for Boyle Heights residents and Jewish preservationists on plans for a new Social Security office building to be built on the site of the former Eastside Jewish Community Center.

The meeting comes in response to numerous complaints following a report in The Journal that the old JCC building, which was of both historical and architectural significance, had been razed without public notice or issuance of a demolition permit.

Architect Raphael Soriano, who helped pioneer the mid-century architectural style known as California Modernism, designed the demolished building, which was dedicated in 1939 as the Soto-Michigan JCC.

In 1958, as the Jewish population of Boyle Heights dwindled, the JCC transferred the building to serve as a community and sports center for the growing Latino population.

Because it is a federal entity, no demolition permit was required for the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA), which signed the lease for construction of the new Social Security building. The GSA also was not obligated to obey city regulations.

However, local civic organizations and such groups as the Los Angeles Conservancy and Jewish Historical Society, were outraged at the failure to give any public notice of the planned razing.

Among those caught unaware when the building was demolished was the district’s newly elected city councilman, Jose Huizar, who scheduled a press conference this week to demand an investigation of the transaction by city and federal officials.

Steven Doctor, project manager for the private developer who acquired the site and will erect the new building, said that prior to starting work he checked with the appropriate city departments, including the district’s then councilman (and now mayor) Antonio Villaraigosa.

Doctor said he was told that no demolition permit and notice to neighbors were necessary.

Among those expecting to attend the community meeting is Peter Zepeda, GSA’s Los Angeles branch chief of real estate.

In a phone call to The Journal, Zepeda expressed his and the government’s deep regret at the lack of communication with the community. He indicated that steps will be taken to avoid such mishaps in the future and to assure consideration of the historical provenance of existing structures.

Zepeda welcomed a suggestion to affix a historical marker citing the site’s Jewish roots at the new Social Security building.

Historians and conservancy groups have long protested the continuing destruction of cultural and historic monuments in Los Angeles, and the Jewish community seems as negligent in preventing such actions as the rest of the population, said renowned architectural photographer Julius Shulman. Shulman, now 95, was instrumental in bringing together architect Soriano and the Soto-Michigan JCC building committee in the 1930s.

Not enough programs are in place to officially identify such buildings as historic monuments. A study by the Getty Conservation Institute found that although a municipal Cultural Heritage Ordinance went into effect in 1962, only 15 percent of Los Angeles real estate had been surveyed by 2001.

In a 2003 update, the Getty institute reported that “many historical properties and districts are unrecognized, underutilized and frequently threatened.”

However, alert community groups can intervene and even score some victories.

Stephen Sass, president of the regional Jewish Historical Society, said that his all-volunteer group, working with the L.A. Conservancy, Jewish Labor Committee and the Boyle Heights Historical Society, were able to save the facade of the former Workmen’s Circle Shule on St. Louis Street in Boyle Heights, which was threatened with destruction.

Another rescue operation saved the Joseph Young mural on the history of Boyle Heights currently in the lobby of the Hollenbeck police station; when the station is torn down, the mural will be moved to another site, perhaps to the nearby Breed Street Shul. — TT

L.A. Federation Names New Board Chair

Over the past 30 years, Michael Koss, 59, has held a variety of top positions in The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, including real estate construction division chair, general chair of the annual campaign and board vice chair. Now, Koss, who heads a commercial real estate financing group, has been named L.A. Federation board chair.

Koss succeeds Harriet Hochman and will serve a two-year term. He comes in with goals for boosting the organization’s bottom line and its ability to touch people’s lives. Koss says The Federation needs to develop an extensive list of affluent area Jews who have yet to give and to find ways to reach them. He also believes the organization should continue to do more than simply raise and distribute money, including developing programming to “raise consciousness” and promote community.

“I want The Federation to feel inclusive, like it’s open to everyone and accessible to everyone,” he said.

Koss has the passion, commitment and perseverance to succeed, said Steve Bram, a Federation executive committee member and mortgage broker who has known Koss through the Federation for more than 15 years.

“I would say Michael is one of the few people I know who calls Federation supporters every day to enhance their support,” Bram said. “I think Federation is in his blood.”

As head of the Real Estate Division in the late 1980s, Koss said he wrote a manual about how to operate and manage the business of professional divisions, including the importance of mentoring. He also established networking programs for younger members of the division, where they received solicitation training. In 2004, Koss was honored for his efforts by The Federation’s Real Estate Division.

In addition to his work on behalf of The Federation, Koss served as chairman of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, Los Angeles chapter, in 1991, and four times as chairman of the Brentwood Country Club UJF campaign. He currently serves as the club’s UJF co-campaign chair. — Marc Ballon, Senior Writer

LAPD Officers Study Security in Israel

The Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) sent two senior-level officers last week to Jerusalem for an Israeli conference on homeland security; LAPD Chief William Bratton did not make the trip.

The March 19-23 conference was hosted by Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and attended by about 130 officials from homeland security units from local and state police departments in the U.S., according to the foreign ministry. Representing the LAPD was a sergeant from Bratton’s personal staff and Cmdr. Mike Downing, the South Bureau assistant commanding officer who later this spring will become second-in-command at the department’s counterterrorism bureau.

An LAPD spokesman told The Jewish Journal that Bratton had planned to attend the Jerusalem conference but canceled his trip due to, “pressing local matters.” The spokesman said Bratton’s decision was unrelated to a recent Los Angeles Times article about the police chief’s travel, which reported that he spent 125 days away from L.A. last year on personal or department-related trips. — David Finnigan, Contributing Writer

 

Nation & World Briefs


Ambulances Services Seal Deal

Israeli and Palestinian ambulance services signed an agreement they hope will ease Israel’s accession to the Red Cross and Red Crescent movement. Under Monday’s pact signed between Magen David Adom and the Palestinian Red Crescent in Geneva, Palestinian ambulances are guaranteed speedier passage through West Bank checkpoints. The move is seen as key to mollifying Arab signatories to the 1949 Geneva Conventions who might otherwise have voted against a resolution, to be discussed next week, that would introduce a nondenominational red diamond emblem to the Red Cross and Red Crescent movement, as Muslim states refuse to recognize the red Star of David. Swiss officials voiced confidence that the resolution would pass votes Dec. 5 and 6.

Kadima for Palestinian State

Ariel Sharon’s new political party accepts that a Palestinian state will arise alongside Israel. The Kadima party platform, published Monday, calls for “maximum security and assuring that Israel be a Jewish national home and that another state that shall arise be demilitarized, with terrorists disarmed.” The Israeli prime minister long opposed the idea of a Palestinian state before accepting it in recent years. Addressing members of his new faction in the Knesset, Sharon said he would not rule out a future coalition with his former party, Likud, even if it is led by his right-wing rival Benjamin Netanyahu.

“I favor achieving the broadest possible unity,” Sharon said.

Israel, Germany in Holocaust Grave Probe

Israel is helping German police identify the recently discovered remains of 34 Holocaust victims. The skeletons were uncovered last September in a suburb of Stuttgart that was formerly the site of the Echterdingen concentration camp. German authorities, who have a manifest of the camp’s inmates, turned to Israel for help in identifying the bodies. Yad Vashem said Sunday it would search its Holocaust archive for information that could be of use.

“This is a very rare case a mass grave with a relatively small number of bodies, accompanied by an orderly list of Jewish prisoners who were kept there at the time,” said Nadia Cohen of Yad Vashem’s information department. “All of this allows us to turn to our database in hope of identifying some of those buried there.”

Mubarak Calls Sharon Peacemaker

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak said only Ariel Sharon can bring peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

“Sharon, of all the Israeli politicians, is the only one capable of achieving peace with the Palestinians,” Mubarak said last weekend in an interview with Spain’s ABC newspaper. “He has the ability to take difficult decisions, commit to what he says and carry it out.”

Mubarak praised Sharon’s decision last week to quit the Likud party.

“I think Sharon is serious in his efforts to achieve peace. The recent progress in Israel confirms this. He has left his own party to build another more centrist one, driven by his discontent with the rigid attitudes of his party on the peace process,” he said.

Asked about Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ failure to crack down on terrorist groups as required by the U.S.-led “road map” for peace, Mubarak counseled a wait-and-see attitude.

“You can’t demand now that the Palestinians disarm Hamas; it would complicate the situation,” he said. “The president is working seriously to stop the anarchy but he must be given time.”

Russian Bill Causes Alarm

Some Russian Jewish activists voiced concern that a new Russian bill on nonprofit organizations would harm Jewish groups. The bill that passed the Russian Duma on Nov. 23 would place nonprofits under greater state scrutiny. The measure could also prevent foreign nonprofits from operating branches in the country and force Russian nonprofits to reject money from abroad.

“The bill will make our life so much harder. We don’t know yet how we would operate,” said a top manager — who spoke anonymously — for a private Moscow nonprofit organization that spends most of its foreign donation money on Jewish projects.

The bill now requires two more readings in the parliament, expected to take place by the end of the year, before President Vladimir Putin can sign it into law. The lion’s share of the funding currently spent on Jewish causes in Russia comes from overseas charity sources.

Briefs courtesy Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

 

Nation & World Briefs


Church Condemns Israel’s Barrier

A Protestant church has condemned Israel’s West Bank security barrier. The proposal, passed Saturday by the Evangelical Lutheran Church’s assembly, denounced the barrier for causing hardships for Palestinians, and also called on the denomination to play a role in “stewarding financial resources — both U.S. tax dollars and private funds — in ways that support the quest for a just peace in the Holy Land,” The Associated Press reported. But it did not specifically mention divestment from Israel or companies that do business with Israel. The vote is the latest taken by Protestant churches to protest Israel’s security barrier.

Travel Warning Issued on Gaza

The U.S. State Department warned U.S. citizens to avoid traveling to the Gaza Strip. The advisory, an intensification of prior warnings, calls on U.S. citizens to “avoid crowds, maintain a high level of vigilance, take appropriate steps to increase their security awareness and exercise caution in public places or while using public transportation” during Israel’s withdrawal, which began this week. It also reiterates prior calls on Americans to avoid travel to Gaza, postpone unnecessary travel to the West Bank and weigh the necessity of travel to Israel.

Roberts Backed ‘Moment of Silence’ in Schools

While working in the Justice Department for the Reagan administration in 1985, Supreme Court nominee John Roberts wrote in a memo to his supervisor that he would not object to a constitutional amendment on school prayer. Referring to a Supreme Court ruling that struck down a school prayer law in Alabama, Roberts wrote that the idea that the “Constitution prohibits such a moment of silent reflection — or even silent ‘prayer’ — seems indefensible.”

The memo was among nearly 5,400 pages of records pertaining to the Supreme Court nominee released by the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library. Roberts also wrote in a memo that a California group’s memorial service to protest abortion was an “entirely appropriate means of calling attention to the abortion tragedy.” Roberts’ confirmation hearings are expected to begin early next month.

Sharon: More Withdrawals Possible

Ariel Sharon said additional West Bank settlements could be handed over to the Palestinians as part of a future peace agreement. Asked in an interview with the Yediot Achronot newspaper if Israel eventually would withdraw from other West Bank settlements, he said, “Not everything will be there. The issue will be raised during the final-status talks with the Palestinians.” Still, Sharon insisted that the large West Bank settlement blocs would remain intact. In addition, he reportedly noted, “I never replied when asked what the boundaries of the settlements blocs are — and not because I’m not familiar with the map.”

Fund to Buy Up Gaza Hothouses

A private international fund agreed to pay Jewish farmers in Gaza $14 million to buy most of the hothouses they will leave behind. Representatives for the Gaza farmers signed the deal Friday with the Economic Cooperation Foundation, the Jerusalem Post reported. The deal came days before Israel began evacuating the Gaza settlements. The foundation, which organized the collection of private donations to fund the project, will transfer the hothouses to a Palestinian Authority company. James Wolfensohn, Mideast envoy for the Quartet — the diplomatic grouping of the United States, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations that is driving the “road map” peace plan — was instrumental in raising funds for the transfer, and himself donated $500,000.

Bedouin Soldier Behind Bars

An Israeli soldier who killed a British activist in the Gaza Strip was jailed for eight years. Wahid Taysir, a volunteer from Israel’s Bedouin Arab minority, was sentenced by a court-martial last week to 10 years in prison for manslaughter and another 18 months for obstruction of justice but was told that three and a half years of the sentence would be suspended. It was the toughest punishment handed down to an Israeli soldier for an unlawful killing in a combat zone during the Palestinian intifada. The ex-sergeant confessed to shooting Tom Hurndall, a member of a pro-Palestinian activist group, in the southern Gaza town Rafah in 2003 and to falsely telling investigators that Hurndall had been armed. The court-martial said it chose not to give the defendant the maximum possible sentence of 27 years in prison because of his exemplary combat record and to pre-empt accusations that it was scapegoating a member of an ethnic minority.

Minority in the Homeland

Jews are no longer the majority of residents in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza Strip combined, a study found. According to data supplied last week by the liberal daily, Ha’aretz, Jews constitute slightly more than 49.3 percent of the population in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The figures were supplied by Israel and the Palestinian Authority’s statistics bureaus. The paper included as non-Jews some 185,000 foreign workers in Israel and almost 300,000 immigrants who are not Jewish under Orthodox law. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has said that the Gaza withdrawal would help Israel demographically by ridding it of responsibility for 1.4 million Palestinians. According to Ha’aretz, demographers say that after the Gaza withdrawal, the percentage of Jews within Israel’s borders will be around 56 percent, a majority that should last for around 20 years.

Oy, Mr. Tallyman

Harry Belafonte retracted his recent statement that Jews were “high up in the Third Reich.” But the singer and political activist told the Jerusalem Post that Jews had contributed to Nazism.

“Was it rampant? Absolutely not,” Belafonte told the Post. “But these things happen and people are not exempt from their behavior.”

To support his contention, Belafonte referred to “Hitler’s Jewish Soldiers,” a book that detailed how some Germans of partial Jewish descent served in the Nazi army during World War II.

Briefs courtesy Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

 

Briefs


Rabbis Against Reserves

Fifty Israeli rabbis opposed to the planned Gaza Strip pullout called on army reservists not to turn up for duty.

“The criminal expulsion mission, which the Israeli government has imposed on the army, makes any service in aid of this crime a serious sin,” the rabbis, most of whom are West Bank and Gaza Strip settlers, said in an edict published during the weekend before Shavuot. Israel plans to enlist thousands of reservists to replace conscripts to conduct the evacuation of Gaza’s 21 settlements and another four from the West Bank beginning in August. Sounding a contrary opinion, former Sephardi Chief Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu last week called for Israeli troops to obey the evacuation orders.

Settlers Sue Soldiers

Anti-pullout activists sued two Israeli army commanders over the evacuation of an illegal West Bank settler outpost. In an unprecedented move, the activists traveled to the homes of deputy IDF Chief of Staff Maj.-Gen. Moshe Kaplinski and Samaria’s commander, Col. Yuval Bazak, last week to serve them with a civil suit demanding $70,000 in damages. Israeli media reports on Sunday said that the suit rejected by the officers accused them of wantonly destroying the Givat Shalhevet outpost outside Nablus in January. The incident highlighted fears that opponents of the Gaza withdrawal could personally attack Israeli officials. Also, two settlers were detained after a struggle on Friday at the Tapuah checkpoint in which the pair fought with soldiers who had ordered them to stop putting up anti-pullout banners on security barriers, the Jerusalem Post reported.

Disarmament Demand Flouted

A Palestinian Authority minister said terrorists in the West Bank and Gaza will not be disarmed before Israel withdraws.

“The disarming of armed factions is not on the table because weapons are legal as long as the occupation exists,” Nasser al-Kidwa said in a Palestinian television interview, according to a transcript released Saturday. “Possession of weapons is a strategic issue as long as there is occupation.”

Israel condemned the declaration as flouting a demand in the U.S.-led peace “road map” for terrorist groups to be disarmed and dismantled as a prerequisite for talks on Palestinian statehood.

“We should make clear that there will be no talks on a Palestinian state unless the terrorists are disarmed,” Deputy Defense Minister Ze’ev Boim told Israel Radio on Sunday.

Ukraine, Jews Discuss Restitution

Ukrainian President Viktor Yuschenko met with Jewish groups to explore setting up a process for the restitution of Jewish communal properties confiscated during the Soviet era. A formal process, either via a commission or law, will speed the return of properties more than case-by-case discussions, said Mark Levin, executive director of NCSJ: Advocates on Behalf of Jews in Russia, Ukraine, the Baltic States & Eurasia. During the meeting last Friday, which included the U.S. ambassador to the Ukraine and Josef Zissels, head of the Va’ad of Ukraine, an umbrella group, Yuschenko reiterated his call for support in getting the 1974 Jackson-Vanik Agreement by the U.S. Congress lifted. The Jewish groups voiced a willingness to help Ukraine “graduate” from the agreement, which links trade restrictions to Ukraine’s treatment of Jews, once progress is made on restitution.

Fridman Gets Medal Back

An Israeli Olympic champion retrieved his stolen gold medal. Gal Fridman, a windsurfer who triumphed at the 2004 Athens Games, had his medal stolen from his parents’ home last week. He was told by police Saturday that the medal had been found in a forest in central Israel. He told Israeli media that the culprit probably decided to abandon the medal after realizing they could not sell it, given the public outcry over its theft. There was no sign of the rest of the booty from the burglary, including jewelry belonging to Fridman’s mother and a handgun belonging to his father.

‘Sir Jonathan’ Leads UK Jewry

Queen Elizabeth, marking her 79th birthday, bestowed the vaunted “Sir” title on Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, Britain’s chief rabbi, on Saturday in recognition of his services to the Jewish community and interfaith relations.

“This is an honor not just for me but for the Jewish community and its contributions to British life, as well as for the continuing inspiration of Jewish teachings,” Sacks, who has served as chief rabbi since 1991, said in a statement. “I hope it encourages further progress in good relations between the faiths.”

Also knighted was Iqbal Sacranie, head of the Muslim Council of Britain.

Orthodox Site Becomes Orange

A Chabad-Lubavitch news site has adopted an orange color scheme to protest the Israeli government’s Gaza withdrawal plan.

“I’m sitting here in Brooklyn, N.Y.,” Shmais.com’s CEO and founder, Levi Hodakov, told JTA, “and I’m really feeling for the Jews in Gaza here.”

Hodakov said the initiative aims to send a message to his readers to oppose the withdrawal and to inspire them to pray and learn on the Gaza Jews’ behalf.

“Every little bit counts,” he said.

Beatification of Priest Delayed

The beatification of a French priest has been postponed due to concerns over his anti-Semitic writings. The beatification of Leon Dehon was signed off on by the late Pope John Paul II, but his successor, Benedict XVI, is having Dehon’s file re-examined. Dehon, who died in 1925, was the founder of the order of priests of Sacre C’ur. Among Dehon’s anti-Semitic statements: Jews should wear a “special garment” identifying them as Jews and be “consigned to the ghettos.” According to Dehon, “anti-Semitism is a sign of hope.” French historian Jean-Dominique Durand alerted the French episcopate to the writings in February. The interruption of a beatification is extremely rare; halting the process for Dehon at this stage might be unique in Catholic history, because once a candidate’s “miracles” have been recognized, only the death of a pope can stop the process.

Tree Grows After 2,000 Years

Using a seed found in the Masada fortress, Israeli scientists have sprouted an ancient date palm tree. The date palm, which is praised in Jewish and Islamic writing, once grew throughout Israel but disappeared over the centuries. The date palms in modern Israeli agriculture are descendants of a different line of trees from other parts of the Mideast. Dr. Elaine Solowey, of the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies, grew the plant, which a New York Times article says dates back approximately 1,990 years, according to DNA testing.

 

Briefs


PETA Apologizes for Shoah Comparison

The animal rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has apologized for its eyebrow-raising, 2-year-old “Holocaust on Your Plate” campaign, with PETA’s leader stating, “it was never our goal to humiliate the victims” of the Shoah.

“We know that we have caused pain,” wrote Ingrid Newkirk in a statement sent out to Jewish news media on May 5, Holocaust Remembrance Day. “This was never our intention, and we are deeply sorry.”

PETA’s contrition did not impress Simon Wiesenthal associate dean Rabbi Abraham Cooper. “Did they know the impact this campaign would have when they started it two years ago? Absolutely,” Cooper said. “They leveraged the victims of the Shoah to promote their issue. The victims of the Shoah should not be leveraged to gain copy in a newspaper or airtime on TV.”

The “Plate” campaign began in February 2003. When asked why it has taken more than two years to re-evaluate the campaign, PETA spokesman Matt Prescott said, “We’ve apologized because we’ve had two years to reflect on it. We’ve been everywhere in the world on it [the ‘Plate’ campaign]. I actually did it myself in Warsaw, and the people in Warsaw loved it.”

The “Holocaust on Your Plate” campaign included a Sept. 16, 2003, protest in Los Angeles at the Museum of Tolerance, complete with posters comparing genocide to food manufacturing. Prescott was among 10 demonstrators, and he said Newkirk’s broad “Plate” apology includes regret over that event.

“It encompasses everything that we did with that campaign, the Web site and that protest included,” Prescott said.

Copper said it was unnecessary to use Holocaust imagery to provoke discussion about the treatment of animals.

“The whole question of meat or non-meat — these are historical, societal issues worthy of serious debate,” he said. We don’t need to be convinced that this is a legitimate issue.” — David Finnigan, Contributing Writer

Neil Diamond Instead of Avinu Malkenu

When Cantor Sam Radwine lifts his arms to conduct his 32-member choir on June 5, it won’t be for “Avinu Malkenu,” but for “Cabaret” and “I Could Have Danced All Night,” the music of Jewish American songwriters and composers such as Irving Berlin, Rodgers and Hammerstein, Kander and Ebb, Neil Diamond and others.

Culminating the celebration of 350 years of Jews in America, Congregation Ner Tamid and Radwine have produced “Coming to America: Jewish Composers and the American Scene.”

Radwine’s community choir boasts singers from three different South Bay Synagogues: Congregation Ner Tamid, Temple Menorah in Redondo Beach and Temple Beth El in San Pedro. In addition to the choir, the concert will feature soloists and a five-piece live band conducted by Ner Tamid musical director Brent Reynolds. This salute to Jewish American composers of “popular” music will include Broadway hits, movie themes, pop, rock ‘n’ roll, and more.

“We’re very excited,” Radwine said. “Our choir will have an opportunity to perform some very different music that we don’t ordinarily hear in the synagogue. Their talent with the popular songs we’ve selected is phenomenal, and our soloists are extraordinary.”

The program contains brief biographies of more than 100 Jewish composers and songwriters from the 18th century through today. A dessert reception follows the 90 minute concert. The Ner Tamid Museum 350 exhibit, which highlights the remarkable history of Jews in America, will be open for viewing throughout the evening.

Sunday, June 5, 7:30 pm. $18 (adults), $12 (children under 12); $25 (at the door). Congregation Ner Tamid, 5721 Crestridge Road, Rancho Palos Verdes. For tickets, call (310) 377-6986. — Julie M. Brown, Contributing Writer

Nation & World Briefs


High Flier Takes Over

Dan Halutz, a former air force commander, replaced Lt. Gen. Moshe Ya’alon as chief of the Israel Defense Forces’ General Staff at a blue-ribbon ceremony Wednesday. Considered a confidant of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, Halutz’s immediate challenge is implementing the Israeli withdrawals from the Gaza Strip and northern West Bank.

“The decision of the government and the Knesset on the matter of ‘disengagement’ will be carried out with the proper sensitivity and the required determination,” Halutz said in his inaugural speech. Halutz, 56, is Israel’s 18th chief of staff but the first to come from the air force. Another strategic concern facing him is the Iranian nuclear program, which analysts describe as the greatest threat to Israel’s existence.

Dollars for Withdrawal

Israel will pay evacuated settlers an average of $450,000 per family in compensation. The government figure was presented Wednesday at an interministerial meeting in Jerusalem. Some 8,500 settlers are to be relocated when Israel withdraws from the Gaza Strip and northern West Bank beginning in mid-August. Their compensation packages will be set according to criteria including family size and how long they lived in their former homes. Some settlers have petitioned against the withdrawal plan at Israel’s High Court of Justice, calling the relocation terms inadequate.

Ya’alon: Another Intifada Seen

Israel can expect Palestinian terrorism to flare up after it withdraws from the Gaza Strip, the retiring chief of staff said. In an interview with Ha’aretz published in part on Wednesday, Lt. Gen. Moshe Ya’alon said that unless Israel continued ceding land to the Palestinians after the withdrawal planned for this summer, they would inevitably return to terrorism.

“If there is an Israeli commitment to another move, we will gain another period of quiet,” he said. “If not, there will be an eruption,” adding, “There is a high probability of a second war of terror.”

Terrorist groups in the West Bank and Gaza largely have honored the cease-fire declared by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon last February, but Ya’alon said this was no indication of lasting peace prospects. Citing Abbas’ calls for a “right of return” for millions of Arab refugees to land now inside the Jewish state, and Abbas’ refusal to crack down on terrorist groups, Ya’alon said that a future Palestinian state would try to undermine Israel and ultimately would lead to war.

Holocaust Heroes Honored

Yad Vashem posthumously honored a Dutch couple and a Pole for rescuing Jews during World War II. On Wednesday, Albertus and Margaretha Haverkort of Holland and Zofia Wroblewska-WieWiorowska of Poland, who hid nine Jews from the Nazis, were named Righteous Gentiles.

Irish Group Protests Israel

An anti-Israel group in Ireland will stage a protest before an Israel-Ireland soccer game. The Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign has organized a demonstration against Israeli “occupation” to coincide with the arrival of the Israeli soccer team and its hundreds of traveling supporters in Dublin on Saturday for a World Cup qualifying match. The protesters will be marching from the center of Dublin to the Israeli Embassy two blocks from the soccer stadium. The group is encouraging people attending the match to wave Palestinian flags. An attempt to get Irish fans to boycott the last match between the teams in Tel Aviv in March was met with complete indifference. Neither the Israeli Embassy in Dublin nor the Israel Football Association would comment on the planned protest.

Denying the Deniers

Internet providers should block French users from accessing a Holocaust denial site, Paris’ district attorney said. The comments, made Monday, came during a trial on the issue of whether Web users should be allowed to access Aaargh, which in French stands for the Association of Amateur War and Holocaust Historians. The case, which went to trial March 8, was brought by eight anti-racist associations fighting to put into effect Internet filters to forbid access to Aaargh in France. A law passed in June 2004 would allow a French judge to order the site’s host to shut down the site or prohibit access to it. Two of the site’s hosts — OLM and Globat — have agreed to prohibit access, but a third — the American company ThePlanet.com — has refused to cooperate.

Briefs courtesy Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

 

Briefs


 

D.C. Envoy Apparently to Stay

Israel’s ambassador to Washington apparently has received assurances from Ariel Sharon that he can continue in his post. Daniel Ayalon has been engaged in a public feud with Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom, and some media reported over the weekend that Ayalon had been fired, but sources tell JTA that the Israeli prime minister told Ayalon he was satisfied with his work and wanted him to continue until the end of his term. Ayalon reportedly was unable to secure a White House meeting for Shalom when he came to Washington earlier this year, and his assistant could not coordinate a meeting for Shalom’s wife with Madonna when the singer was in Israel last year. Israel’s U.S. ambassador reports directly to the prime minister, not the foreign minister, which has strained relations between Ayalon and Shalom. The Israeli Embassy in Washington declined to comment on the issue.

Court: Rabbi Can Sue

A San Francisco rabbi can sue a former president of the city’s Jewish Community Federation for defamation, a court ruled. Overturning the ruling of a trial judge, members of the First District Court of Appeal said Rabbi Pinchas Lipner can sue Richard Goldman for allegedly defamatory comments made in a documentary on Jewish philanthropy in the Bay Area, the Daily Journal reported. In the oral history, Goldman reportedly criticizes Lipner’s treatment of students and says the school he runs, the Hebrew Academy of San Francisco, is a financial drain on the Jewish community. In another portion of the interview, the Journal reports, Goldman compares Lipner to Hitler. Lipner’s lawyer said the comparison was especially painful because Lipner lost family in the Holocaust. The lower court had ruled that Lipner could not sue because of a statute of imitations. However, the appellate court said that because the interview was stored in a library for eight years before Lipner found out about it, it falls under the category of delayed discovery, allowing him to sue.

Travelers Insured

A new law prevents insurers in Washington state from life insurance discrimination due to travel. The issue is of concern to the Jewish community because some insurers were denying insurance based on past travel to countries on the State Department’s travel warning list, including Israel. Washington joins New York and Illinois in enacting such legislation.

Mass. Episcopalians

Oppose Divestment

The leader of the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts came out against proposals to divest from Israel. Bishop M. Thomas Shaw, head of the 80,000-member diocese, which includes 194 churches in eastern Massachusetts, made the comments in a statement for two members of the diocese who, together with the American Jewish Committee (AJ Committee), are planning an Israel trip for church members in January 2006. James Kaufman, president of the AJCommittee’s Greater Boston chapter, praised Shaw’s “bold decision,” which he said followed 18 months of “often intense dialogue with the leaders of the Boston Episcopal community.”

The statement comes as several U.S. Protestant denominations, troubled by what they perceive as Israeli mistreatment of the Palestinians, consider calls to sell holdings in companies that do business with the Jewish state. Kaufman said he hoped “other religious communal leaders who have considered the legitimacy of divestment will follow” Shaw’s lead.

Testifying in Tampa

Scores of Israelis are expected to testify at the Florida trial of alleged Islamic Jihad bank-rollers. Ha’aretz said Wednesday that the U.S. Department of Justice, in a precedent-setting step, would fly out as many as 100 Israeli terror victims and experts to next month’s trial in Tampa of University of South Florida computer engineering professor Sami al-Arian and three alleged accomplices. The defendants are accused of using U.S.-based Islamic and pro-Palestinian charities to raise funds that helped terrorists from the West Bank and Gaza Strip carry out attacks that killed dozens of people, including Americans.

Israel Seeks TV ‘Bachelor’

An Israeli cable TV station is seeking the perfect bachelor for a reality show. The station has begun a worldwide search for a foreign Jewish bachelor who wants an Israeli bride, the Israeli daily Yediot Achronot reported. The bachelor must be between 24 and 38, handsome, educated and financially secure. Auditions will take place in coming weeks in New York, Los Angeles and a European city. Candidates can be nominated at kuperman@hot3.co.il.

Briefs courtesy Jewish Telegraphic Agency

 

Community Briefs


Yellow Star’s Powerful Makeover

The dreaded yellow Star of David, which the Nazis forced Jews to wear as a badge of humiliation, is getting a makeover.

In an interesting twist, two Jewish activists hope to denude the yellow star of its anti-Jewish connotations and make it a symbol of pride. Dr. Joel Geiderman, a board member of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, and University of Judaism professor Michael Berenbaum, former project director for the museum, have manufactured 5,000 yellow-and-white Star of David pins with the Hebrew word Shoah emblazoned across them. The Southern California residents want Jews and non-Jews to don the pins on Yom HaShoah, the day of remembrance for Holocaust victims — which started at sundown on May 5 — to make a statement of solidarity with those who perished and suffered. “We’re claiming the symbol and infusing it with pride and not shame or stigmatization,” Berenbaum said.

The pair eventually hope to create a nonprofit foundation to promote and raise money for large-scale manufacturing and distribution of the pins, which they hope will generate discussion about the victims of the Holocaust. Contributions of about $6,000 in seed money underwrote the first batch of pins, they said.

For Geiderman, a professor at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, the pins serve as sort of a tribute to his late mother, who passed away less than two years ago. A Czech Jew, she survived three concentration camps, including Auschwitz. Geiderman said his maternal grandparents and two uncles weren’t as lucky.

“My mother is a Holocaust survivor, and I think this is something I can do to help make sure people never forget what happened and to memorialize the victims,” he said.

For more information, e-mail Geiderman at jgeiderman@sbcglobal.net. — Marc Ballon, Senior Writer

LAPD, ADL Investigate Hate Mail

The Los Angeles Police Department, FBI and U.S. Postal Inspection Service are investigating a series of hate mail sent to Southland Jews. A number of large manila envelopes that appear to have been mailed out randomly to Jewish institutions, such as Studio City’s Congregation Beth Meir and Temple Shalom in Ontario, and home addresses of people with traditionally Jewish last names. On the front and back of the stamped envelopes were racist and anti-Semitic statements such as, “Jew Murderers,” and “Die Jews, Die.”

A retired local government employee in Sherman Oaks said the envelope he received earlier this month had the words, “Jewish child molester” and “The only good Jew is a dead Jew” written on the envelope. The man, who asked to remain anonymous, told The Journal that he did not open the envelope but instead gave it to the LAPD.

Similarly, a retired Westside teacher received a manila envelope more than a month ago with the words, “Jew Killers” written in large letters on the outside.

“I sent it to ADL,” said the woman, who also asked to remain anonymous. “I never opened it.”

The mailings seemed to have died down since the ADL’s press release last month.

“We’ve only had a handful more complaints,” said Amanda Susskind, ADL’s Pacific Southwest regional director. “It’s possible that this particular kind of thing had run its course.”

Those who received the envelopes said the writings did contain a specific threat to them. Police confirmed they are investigating the mailings but that the investigation is in its middle stage and that no arrests have been made. There are also questions as to whether mailing out anti-Semitic mail is a crime.

“You have a right to hate as long as you don’t harm anyone,” said former federal prosecutor Laurie Levenson, a Loyola Law School professor. “You have to make an actual threat…. This may be a hate incident, but not a h ate crime.” — David Finnigan, Contributing Writer

Milken Crowns Its ‘Idol’

And the new idol is … David Ashkenazi! Well, at least at Milken Community High School, and at least in the “Milken Idol” public-speaking competition. The contest for ninth- through 12-graders was designed to help students develop the critical skill of public speaking and feel more comfortable in front of large audiences, according to Richard Greene, Milken speech coach.

The students wrote and delivered

90-second speeches, ranging from Ashkenazi’s interpretation of “Never Again” and applying that lesson to the situation in Sudan, to how teachers and parents should value youngsters’ individuality and soul, not just the grades on their math tests.

The other winners were: Chanel Halimi (second place), Lena August (third place) and Jeremy Ullman and Adam Handwerker (tied for fourth place).

For more information on Milken go to www.milken.

Community Briefs


 

Temple Museum Marks 350 Years of Jews in America

A Rancho Palos Verdes congregation has built a museum inside its temple to celebrate 350 years of Jewish life in America. The exhibit at Congregation Ner Tamid covers various topics related to Jewish life, ranging from early immigration, intolerance and work in trades to information about famous Jews in politics, the military, entertainment and sports.

This tapestry of experience is conveyed with timelines, maps, posters, artifacts, personal histories, art and the original signatures of luminaries. The Celebrate 350 Museum highlights the significant impact that Jews had on the formation and development of the United States.

Since opening its doors in January, the museum has hosted students, church groups, librarians and community volunteers from throughout the Los Angeles area. Docent-led tours are available by appointment. The exhibit is open for self-guided tours Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Visitors should call ahead.

Rabbi Jerry Danzig and temple leaders also have organized numerous educational events to commemorate “Celebrate 350.” On Friday, April 15, at 8 p.m., Dr. Max Novak, UCLA professor emeritus, will lead a discussion on the “Impact of Jewish American Writers on American Literature.”

The free event is open to the public, and no reservation is required.

All events take place at Congregation Ner Tamid, 5721 Crestridge Road., Rancho Palos Verdes, (310) 377-6986. — Julie M. Brown, Contributing Writer

Palestinian Funding Raises Capitol Hill Concern

Israel and the United States need “serious transparency” from the new Palestinian leadership to achieve long-term peace, Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.) told the Republican Jewish Coalition of Southern California on March 20 at the Museum of Tolerance.

Cantor added that congressional leaders are concerned about Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s promotion of increased funding for infrastructure in Palestinian-controlled territory. There’s concern on Capitol Hill, he said, that such funds would indirectly be funneled to Palestinian terrorist groups.

“That money to the Palestinians is very, very troubling to me,” Cantor said. “God forbid they use it to fund terrorism again.”

This possibility also has raised concerns about Israel’s plan to withdraw from occupied territory in the Gaza strip.

“That does tend to color how members of Congress look at disengagement,” he said.

Cantor, the chief deputy majority whip, also spoke earlier that day to about 100 Republican Jewish Coalition members at Newport Beach’s Sutton Place Hotel. The Jewish congressman was slated to speak in person at both events, but instead stayed in Washington because of emergency legislation related to removal of life support for Terry Schiavo, the brain-damaged Florida woman.

Cantor spoke via an Internet video hookup for the Museum of Tolerance event and by audio hookup for the Newport Beach gathering. — David Finnigan, Contributing Writer

Waxman Sees Iran Danger

Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Los Angeles) called Iran a ticking time bomb at a recent event at the Nessah synagogue in Beverly Hills.

“We do have a ticking time bomb,” Waxman said of Iran during his 45-minute speech before an audience of Iranian Jews. “Those terrorists want to create a theocracy.”

Waxman has been a persistent critic of President Bush, but he praised the president’s European trip as a positive gesture toward key European allies and his statements in support of reformers in Iran.

“Those overtures are important to reach out directly to the Iranian people,” he said.

Separately, Waxman spoke optimistically about changes in Palestinian leadership, but also said that a broad, deep psychological shift must occur among Palestinians if peace is to be achieved.

“The real dilemma is that Palestinians have never made clear they’re willing to live with a Jewish country,” Waxman said. “In this world, there has to be one Jewish country, and they have to accept that fact.”

“There’s no easy solution,” he added. “We don’t have the world with us at this point. There’s going to have to be a period of time of confidence building.” — DF

 

Political Journal


 

This month’s Political Journal is a tale of two labor disputes. One is dragging on and on; the other has come to a peaceful conclusion just when it seemed there might be a strike ahead.

Hotels Battle Continues

A protracted 11-month debacle continues between UNITE HERE, Local 11, representing workers at eight (formerly nine) upscale Los Angeles hotels and the L.A. Hotel Employer’s Council, representing hotel management.

The crux of the battle is the workers’ demand for a short-term contract that would expire in 2006, which is also when contracts would expire at hotels in cities across the nation. The unions would then be able to cooperate, strengthen their common positions and have more clout in dealing with the international hotel conglomerates (like Starwood) that own some of the hotels.

The L.A.-area hotels (Hyatt Regency, Hyatt West Hollywood, Westin Century, Sheraton Universal, Wilshire Grand, Millennium Biltmore, Regent Beverly Wilshire and Westin Bonaventure) have insisted on a longer contract that would extend past 2006, saying that national union concerns are not relevant locally.

At this point, there are no scheduled negotiations.

On the upside for workers, the hotels have stopped charging a $10-a-week health care co-payment, which was instituted last July, after management declared an impasse.

“We didn’t ask the union for anything in return, but we hoped that it would help bring them back to the table,” said management spokesman Fred Muir.

Not surprisingly, the union doesn’t think management canceled the fee out of inherent goodness. It points to a pending complaint by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) in January, which is expected to allege that management broke NLRB rules when it declared an impasse and imposed the co-pay.

“They have not refunded any of the [health care] money they collected,” said union spokesman David Koff. “Should the NLRB ultimately prevail in its complaint, the hotels could be liable to repay this money with interest.”

Taking the issue to trial and through the appeals process could take years. The hotels contend Local 11 is using a delaying strategy to get 2006 as the date for its next contract by default.

“Every time we meet, they don’t want to meet again for a month or six weeks,” Muir said. “They basically want to keep this thing going until 2006.”

Koff responded that five independently owned hotels around the city (including the Hotel Bel-Air and the Radisson Wilshire Plaza), which usually follow the hotel council’s lead on these issues, have already signed contracts with the union that expire in 2006.

“If the Bel Air and these other properties can live with the deal Local 11 has proposed to them, there is little question that these other hotels could live with it as well,” he said.

In the meantime, portions of the L.A. Jewish community have become deeply involved in the dispute, consistently siding with the workers.

The Progressive Jewish Alliance (PJA) and the Workmen’s Circle have organized the Adar Hotel Workers Campaign, collecting $40 supermarket gift certificates for the workers during the month of Adar (Feb. 10- April 9).

“They’re not being charged [the co-pay] anymore, but regardless, they’re facing extreme economic hardship, and they’re still owed the $40 per month from before,” said PJA’s Jaime Rappaport.

The certificates are being collected at a variety of congregations around the city, including Leo Baeck Temple, Temple Israel of Hollywood and IKAR, to name a few.

Teachers Get a Happy Ending — For Now

Meanwhile, a second labor dispute, this one brewing for an amazing 18 months, has been settled peacably, which almost counts as a surprise ending. United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA) reached a tentative agreement with the L.A. Unified School District (LAUSD) Tuesday.

For the past year and a half, teachers had been fighting for higher pay and more involvement and flexibility in the design of their own training.

“It’s not a one-size-fits-all situation, where what’s working in the Westside will work in South Central. The teachers in the classroom know what they’re dealing with; they should be included in the dialogue with the district, and that hasn’t been the case,” UTLA spokesperson Angelica Urquijo said the day before the agreement was reached.

In the preceeding week, a work-to-rule protest spread from West Valley schools to the rest of the district. Work-to-rule means teachers stop all the uncompensated work usually necessary to improve students’ education, such as spending unpaid hours after school tutoring children.

Urquijo said work-to-rule was meant to demonstrate how hard teachers really work, how the community of parents would stand behind them and how frustrating the interminable contract negotiations had become.

UTLA members reserved some frustration for their own president, John Perez, who was voted out earlier this month. He’ll be replaced July 1 by A.J. Duffy, a teacher who pledged to take a harder line against the district, especially on pay raises. That turn of events made the prospect of a strike seem more likely.

But just the day after work-to-rule went districtwide, the union and district reached an agreement running through June 2006. It includes a 2 percent retroactive pay raise from last July 1. The union also made gains on other contested issues, achieving a greater role for teachers in evaluating their own training programs and in providing more input on student assessmens.

Negotiators will go back to the table to discuss health benefits, which are funded through December.

Los Angeles in the past two years has trudged through a series of lengthy and painful labor disputes, running the gamut from supermarkets and buses to hotels and schools. At least LAUSD students, already working against the odds, won’t also have to overcome the fallout from a teachers strike.

 

Briefs


 

Passover, Festival of Books Converge

This year, the People of the Book will miss out on the largest book festival in town, the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books. Passover starts at sundown on Saturday, April 23. The festival, which takes place annually on the last weekend of April, falls on the April 23-24. While Sabbath-observant Jews have always been limited to attending the second day of the festival, this year Sunday coincides with the first day of Passover. The holiday would preclude participating in such an activity. Other people who might consider attending may be busy preparing for seders both nights.

Mike Lange, communications director for the Los Angeles Times, said that when organizers became aware of the conflict and looked into changing the date, UCLA was already booked with other events.

Asked if he had any thoughts about how the holiday might affect attendance, Lange replied, “No. We think there’s plenty of activities and we’ll just see.”

He said he was not aware whether exhibitor or author participation was affected and noted that measures were taken to insure that future festivals will have no such conflict.

Last year’s Jewish exhibitors included The Jewish Federation’s Koreh L.A. program, The Jewish Journal (which is not participating this year) and the Skirball Cultural Center. – Nancy Sokoler Steiner, Contributing Writer

Dovish Beilin ‘Not So Lonely’

Dr. Yossi Beilin, who at the height of the intifada was often labeled by the Israeli media as a “lone dove,” doesn’t feel so lonely anymore.

Over the last decade or so, the debate pitting “hawkish” Greater Israel advocates against two-state-solution “doves” has changed to broad acceptance of a Palestinian state, with the current discussion centering on the precise terms for a compromise, Beilin told the Los Angeles World Affairs Council March 2.

While Israel’s “57-year struggle for normalization” is not yet over, Beilin, the chief architect of the Oslo and Geneva accords with the Palestinians, expressed considerable confidence in Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, formerly his chief partner in the Oslo talks.

During his address at the Beverly Hills Hotel and in fielding questions from an audience of close to 300, Beilin said that Abbas, in seeking to control Palestinian extremists, “is pushing the envelope, testing the waters, and expanding his maneuvering room.”

Beilin, a cabinet minister in previous Labor governments, credited Abbas with putting an end to Palestinian media incitement against Israel, firing his top security officers for failing to prevent attacks against Israel, and for being the first Palestinian leader to describe suicide bombers as “terrorists.”

A long-time ideological opponent of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, Beilin was relatively muted in his criticism. However, “by saying that there can be no peace process while there are terrorist acts, Sharon has given a gift [of stopping the peace process at will] to terrorists,” Beilin said.

Responding to questions, Beilin said he did not think there would be a civil war among Palestinian factions, to the benefit of Israel, because “there is always a spillover from a civil war.”

As to the refugee problem, Beilin said that while Jordan had taken steps to integrate its Palestinian population, the main difficulty was represented by Lebanon’s 200,000 unassimilated Palestinian refugees.

The immediate task of the Bush administration is to push its “road map” for peace, by setting deadlines for each step along the way, while in the long run the United States must act as the “referee” between Israel and the Palestinians, Beilin said.

Beilin, who was born three weeks after the State of Israel was established,

was asked whether he could have been more effective by staying in the Labor Party.

“I couldn’t accept Labor joining the Sharon government,” he replied. “I can accept supporting Sharon on specific points, but not in sharing the responsibility for governing,” he said.

Beilin currently holds no government post, but is chairman of the Yachad Party, which has six votes in the Knesset. – Tom Tugend, Contributing Editor

 

Briefs


 

Council Adds Some Fire to Mayoral Race

The Los Angeles City Council is doing a great job of overcompensating for the general public’s lukewarm interest in the upcoming mayoral election. With accusations of electoral politics flying from both sides, six council members left Mayor Jim Hahn shaking with rage during the week of Feb. 6., after blocking his (and Police Chief William Bratton’s) attempt to put a half-cent city sales tax increase on the May 17 ballot to fund 1,200 new police officers.

Some of the councilmembers opposing the city tax measure, like Jack Weiss of the Westside’s 5th District, had just recently supported failed Measure A, a half-cent countywide sales tax increase designed to hire more law enforcement personnel that was defeated in the November general election.

The councilmembers supporting one of Hahn’s mayoral rivals, or who are themselves candidates, are obviously more susceptible to accusations of voting “no” for political reasons. Hahn is running a campaign based in large part on his public safety record, and successfully placing this tax proposal on the May ballot would have given him powerful ammunition were he to find himself in a runoff.

After two votes, Hahn was one council member short of winning approval of the ballot measure. After the failure, he implied that no-voting Councilmen Antonio Villaraigosa and Weiss should be recalled, because a sizable majority in both their districts supported Measure A. Weiss is an avid supporter of Villaraigosa’s mayoral campaign.

“I support raising the sales tax by a half-cent to pay for more cops; that’s not the issue,” Weiss said. “I think the best time to do it is not when there’s a contested mayor’s race, not when major segments of the city are opposed to it, such as the [San Fernando] Valley and many folks in South L.A.”

Weiss called Hahn’s sales tax a “half-baked” measure, because it would not affect other cities in L.A. County. He said voters in the 5th District approved the countywide measure – not this city-only tax – and this is not the right time to ask them about it again.

Weiss even disputed Hahn’s credentials on the issue in general, saying, “Mayor Hahn was AWOL on [county] Measure A. Sheriff [Lee] Baca and Councilman Villaraigosa led that effort.”

“Absolutely false,” said Shannon Murphy, Hahn’s communications director.

She pointed out that Hahn attended a county supervisors’ meeting (among other events) to support Measure A, before it was placed on the November 2004 ballot, and said that his support for this latest tax fits perfectly with his record.

“The mayor is disappointed that a minority of the council chose not to trust the voters with this crucial decision,” Murphy said.

So was the mayor really pursuing the sales tax as part of his long-standing commitment to public safety and Bratton, or was it just a way to horde political capital ahead of an election? And does Weiss truly believe that the tax must be countywide, or was he simply blocking Hahn to support Villaraigosa?

With an election coming soon, you can bet on all of the above.

Love and Marriage – and Welfare

Far beyond the gravity of local politics, a House of Representatives bill is winding its way through committee in Washington D.C., but it could have a big impact on Los Angeles. H.R. 240 is the latest reauthorization of Temporary Aid for Needy Families (TANF) funds, which are distributed through state welfare programs.

This year, one of President Bush’s pet projects has found its way into TANF: marriage education. The bill would set aside $1.5 billion over the next five years to fund high school education on the “value of marriage,” divorce reduction programs and programs to “reduce the disincentives” (in the bureaucratese of the bill) to getting married among people who receive welfare support from TANF.

Women’s advocacy groups, in particular, have been very skeptical of the premise that government should assume that marriage should always be encouraged. They point out that many couples rightly split up due to abuse.

Paul Castro, Jewish Family Service (JFS) executive director, weighed in on the issue: “We have to look at the broader context. It’s great to have the promotion of formation of healthy families and marriages, but in an environment that doesn’t provide enough child care and where there are not enough jobs, you’re putting a Band-Aid over one thing, while the rest of the body is still bleeding.”

With the amount of federal dollars slated for Medicaid and food stamps (programs to help the poor) decreasing, funding a marriage education program creates some novel dilemmas.

“How do you measure whether a state has been successful in forming healthy marriages?” Castro asked. “Would the state simply count the number of unwed parents?”

With all these caveats in mind, the seemingly arbitrary selection of a marriage education requirement, while other programs go underfunded, makes the plan sound more like a social conservative’s whim and less like good public policy.

Castro said JFS runs its own parenting classes and is convinced of the need for healthy families, but the complexities of why individuals end up on welfare – and why marriages fail – make legislating it in this way a dubious enterprise.

In the meantime, JFS, which provides social services to approximately 60,000 people a year, just lost $87,000 in federal funds for its Gramercy Place homeless shelter.

 

Briefs


 

700 Gather to Protest Suicide Bombings

With the charred remains of Israeli Bus No. 19 as a backdrop, about 700 Angelenos gathered Jan. 30 at the Museum of Tolerance to take a stand against suicide bombings.

In a show of support with the community, guest speakers such as Los Angeles Mayor James Hahn; Rabbi Marvin Hier, dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center; and Carrie Devorah, a free-lance journalist whose sibling perished on the bus, inveighed against the destruction wrought by suicide bombings.

“This is my brother Scotty,” said Devorah, clutching a framed picture of him while fighting back tears. “It’s all that’s left.”

At the exhibition, signatures were gathered to petition the United Nations to declare suicide bombing a crime against humanity. Hier said that the scourge of suicide bombings represented a clear and present danger that called for a unified response from the international community.

“This hate threatens all of us: Jews, Christians, Muslims and people of all faiths,” he said. “Today, these fanatics can murder thousands. Tomorrow, they will have the technology and know-how to murder and maim tens of thousands and even hundreds of thousands and more.”

Bus No. 19 came freighted with controversy both for its message and the messenger. Some local Jewish groups opted not to attend the event, because they considered it exploitive, inflammatory and a hindrance to Arab-Jewish reconciliation. Peace Now, the Progressive Jewish Alliance and The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles declined invitations to participate.

And then there’s the messenger. Jerusalem Connection, an Evangelical Christian group owns the bus, and the group’s leader has rankled some in the community. Dr. James M. Hutchens said in a recent interview that Palestinians are not a distinct people, that a religious war between Muslims on one side and Christians and Jews on the other is taking shape and that true Muslims believe in Jihad or holy war.

Hutchens’ beliefs prompted the Southern California chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) to ask event co-sponsor, the Wiesenthal Center, to call off the exhibit. The center denied CAIR’s request.– Mark Ballon, Senior Writer

Board of Rabbis to Lead Christian Clergy Israel Tour

The Southern California Board of Rabbis is taking a tour group to Israel next week, largely composed of Protestant clergy from churches often at odds with Israeli policies.

“Christians and Jews who visit Israel see different things,” said Rabbi Mark S. Diamond, the board’s executive vice president. “We tend to see things from the Israeli perspective; they tend to see things from the Palestinian perspective. This trip is an attempt to say, ‘Can we do one unified mission, where we visit Israel and also meet with the Palestinians, and see and do the same things?'”

Diamond organized the trip with support of the local Council of Religious Leaders, which he chairs, and The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, which funds the Board of Rabbis. The Feb. 7-14 trip, with each of the 19 participants paying their own way, is centered on the council’s leadership of Jewish, Catholic and mainline Protestant leaders and will touch on Jewish-Protestant clashes over the Presbyterian Church (USA)’s calls last summer for divestment of church funds from companies doing business with Israel.

Traveling with Diamond and B’nai David Judea’s Rabbi Yosef Kanefsky will be local leaders from the Episcopalian, United Church of Christ, Lutheran, Methodist and Presbyterian churches, all of which have faced internal divestment debates.

Along with meeting Knesset members and Cabinet officials, the clergy tour group will meet Israeli journalists, such as Yossi Klein-Halevi; politicians from the recently elected Palestinian leadership; and Episcopalian/Anglican leaders at St. George’s College in Jerusalem. Diamond said that Saturday, Feb. 12, will be a free day for the Christian clergy to tour Bethlehem and meet their Arab Christian counterparts. – David Finnigan, Contributing Writer

Sympathetic Ear

Rabbi Bentzion Kravitz, chaplain for the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, went to the site of the recent Metrolink crash in Glendale to provide counseling and a sympathetic ear. As medical examiners and coroners were removing the 11th and final body from the wreckage, Kravitz rushed to their side and led them in a short prayer. – MB

Synagogue Raises Funds for Darfur Genocide Victims

Valley Beth Shalom (VBS) hosted several-hundred people at its Jan. 31 Darfur awareness event, with the Encino synagogue announcing $45,000 in local Jewish donations for genocide victims in Sudan’s Darfur region.

“We fight with whatever weapons we have, and this is my weapon,” said actor Theodore Bikel, pointing to his guitar, before singing at the evening sponsored by the Conservative shul’s Jewish World Watch (JWW) group. Linking Jewish history to Africans slaughtered in Darfur, Bikel said, “It is always my fight. It is always our fight.”

Speakers stood at the bimah in front of a large picture showing a refugee mother and her child, with the headline, “Genocide in the Sudan: A Human Tsunami.” The event followed JWW’s mid-December Darfur event at the Skirball Cultural Center, which attracted more than 650 people.

Reform shuls Kol Tikvah of Woodland Hills and Stephen S. Wise Temple in Bel Air, Westwood’s Conservative Sinai Temple, the UCLA Hillel and the Jewish Community Foundation, have been sponsoring the Darfur awareness evenings.

“God is not in the cause; God is in the response,” said VBS Rabbi Harold Schulweis. The rabbi is the driving force behind JWW raising the funds for the Santa Monica-based relief group, International Medical Corps, and its Darfur refugee work in neighboring Chad.

Another $13,000 has been donated to the corps by students at Milken Community High School, organizers said. Students have been wearing green Darfur awareness bands. VBS day school students have raised about $1,100.

Human-rights experts have estimated that about 10,000 people a month were killed last year in Darfur, most of the victims were tribal residents killed by Sudanese military and Arab terrorists.

Rep. Howard Berman (D-Van Nuys), who sits on the House International Relations Committee, told the VBS audience, “Many other countries do not seem to view the situation with the same gravity as we do.”

On April 6, Sinai Temple will host another Darfur evening with American Jewish World Service President Ruth Messinger. – DF