Adelson: Nuke Iran to get it to talk business


Sheldon Adelson, a top backer of Republican and right-wing pro-Israel causes, advocated bombing Iran with a nuclear device as a means of negotiation.

“You pick up your cell phone and you call somewhere in Nebraska and you say ‘OK, let it go,’ and so there’s an atomic weapon goes over, ballistic missiles in the middle of the desert that doesn’t hurt a soul, maybe a couple of rattlesnakes and scorpions or whatever,” Adelson, a casino magnate, said in a rare public appearance on Oct. 22 at Yeshiva University in New York. “And then you say, ‘See? The next one is in the middle of Tehran.’ ”

Video of the event was posted on the Mondoweiss website.

Adelson, a lead backer of Republican candidates in the 2012 presidential campaign, was criticizing the Obama administration’s readiness to negotiate with Iran’s leaders toward undoing the country’s suspected nuclear weapons program.

“So, we mean business, you want to be wiped out? Go ahead, take a tough position and continue with nuclear development,” said Adelson, who owns a major Israeli newspaper considered close to the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“You want to be peaceful, just reverse it all and we will guarantee that you can have a nuclear power plant for electricity purposes, energy purposes,” he said.

Adelson and his wife, Miriam, are major contributors to the Birthright Israel program.

Casino in the shuk


On the other side of town, inside Mahane Yehuda Market, today’s Casino de Paris picks up where the British Mandate period left off. Once a popular officer’s club-casino-bordello, the current incarnation is a much tamer late-night haunt. 

Co-launched by shuk innovator Eli Mizrahi, Casino de Paris serves 20 wines, 25 beers (including Taybeh) and whimsical cocktails — designed by co-owner Sha’anan Street, soloist of the Israeli band Hadag Nahash. 

These unusual concoctions hint at times passed. The cup of “Yitzchak Rabin” is Scotch whiskey and soda with olive leaves. The “German Colony” combines Weihenstephan beer with a Jäger chaser “and a surprise side.” The “King Agrippas,” for whom the nearby street takes its name, blends sparkling cava with a hint of arak, sugar and walnuts. And the delicious “Ha’Agas” (Hebrew for “pear”) combines pear syrup with white rum, mint leaves and a fruit slice. 

Delicious small plates, such as the smoked fish or veggie, sized to share with a friend, come with fresh bread accompanied by delicious tiny dishes of mayo and coriander pesto. The signature marzipan dessert, featuring two twin candies, is the perfect, tiny conclusion to a light, delightful dinner in the most unexpected location. From Agrippas Street, enter the open air Mahane Yehuda Street. Turn right at the last entrance before Jaffa Road and left at the next corner. 

3 Mahane Yehuda (Georgian Market within Mahane Yehuda), Jerusalem, 972-2-650-4265.

Adelson lawsuit describes pressure on NJDC to apologize


Sheldon Adelson’s $60 million defamation lawsuit against the National Jewish Democratic Council describes extensive efforts by his representatives, including Alan Dershowitz, to talk the group into apologizing for intimating that the casino magnate approved of prostitution.

The 16-page lawsuit was filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in New York.

Lawyers for Adelson, one of the worlds’ wealthiest men, a major Republican donor and among the largest U.S. givers to Jewish and Israeli causes, had sent a warning letter to the NJDC and to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee last month after each body quoted news reports alleging that Adelson had approved of prostitution at his properties in Macau, China.

The allegation appeared in a lawsuit filed by a former Adelson employee, Steven Jacobs, who had managed Adelson’s Macau business until he was fired in 2010.

The DCCC apologized last week for referencing the allegation in news releases sent June 22 and July 2.

Under pressure from Jewish groups, the NJDC removed an online petition calling on Republicans to stop accepting money from Adelson—but it would not apologize.

“We don’t believe we engaged in character assassination,” said the July 11 statement announcing the petition’s removal and signed by NJDC President David Harris and Chairman Marc Stanley, who also are named in Adelson’s lawsuit. “We stand by everything we said, which was sourced from current, credible news accounts.”

Instead, Stanley and Harris said, they were removing the petition in the name of “shalom bayit,” the Hebrew term for peace in the home.

The original NJDC petition had cited an Associated Press story quoting parts of the Jacobs lawsuit. Nothing in the AP story aside from the quote from the Jacobs lawsuit validated the prostitution claim.

The AP story notes that federal investigators are interested in claims by Jacobs in the lawsuit that Adelson’s business authorized bribes to Chinese officials. In addition to the prostitution allegation, the NJDC petition cited the bribery investigations as well as Adelson’s clashes with unions to bolster its claim that Adelson’s money was “dirty.”

Adelson’s publicist, Ron Reese, had no immediate comment, but the lawsuit suggests that the NJDC’s non-apology made matters worse. The lawsuit cites not just the July 3 petition but the July 11 statement removing the petition to make its case. The claim by Harris and Stanley that they “stand by” what they described as “credible news accounts” was in itself “false and defamatory,” the lawsuit said.

The lawsuit details how, through an interlocutor, Adelson tried to show Harris that Jacobs was lying. It quoted what it said was a 2009 email from Jacobs to Michael Leven, Adelson’s chief operating officer, asking whether Adelson had approved of prostitution. The lawsuit does not quote the email at length or explain why Jacobs would make such a query, but it does quote him as saying that allowing prostitution would “seem at odds with what I know to be Sheldon’s ‘no tolerance’ policy.”

Leven responds the next day, May 12, 2009, and says “there is no evidence that can be found that anyone here supported in anyway (sic) a different policy than we have in las vegas (sic).”

The lawsuit says that Harris was contacted after the July 3 petition was posted and that the email exchange between Jacobs and Leven was described to him.

Alan Dershowitz, the prominent First Amendment lawyer and Harvard professor, told JTA on Wednesday that he was the interlocutor who reached out to Harris on Adelson’s behalf.

“I had a conversation with David Harris in which I personally told him the same man whom they quote as having made the allegation in an email had said he doesn’t believe the allegation to be true,” Dershowitz said.

Jacobs’ email, at least as quoted in the lawsuit, does not address the veracity of the prostitution allegation; it only notes that the allegation would seem at odds with Adelson’s stated policies. Harris would not comment on his conversation with Dershowitz.

Dershowitz, a Democrat who was among the notable Jewish individuals who had called on Harris and NJDC to rescind the petition as soon as it appeared, said Harris’ refusal to apologize disqualifies him to represent Democrats or Jews.

“He is now doing more harm to Democrats and the Jewish community than good. They are willfully spreading a ‘lashon hora’ that they know to be false,” Dershowitz said, using the Hebrew term for malicious gossip.

Dershowitz said he could not comment on the freedom of speech merits of the NJDC case because he may be called upon to act as a witness should the lawsuit go to trial.

Organizations associated with Adelson have paid Dershowitz twice: for speaking at the Jewish day school founded by Adelson and his wife, Miriam, in Las Vegas, and as a lawyer helping to represent Adelson’s Venetian casino in its efforts to keep union picketers off sidewalks adjacent to the hotel. The Venetian lost that 2001 case, which Dershowitz said occurred before he met Adelson.

“The work he does for Jewish education is unmatched,” Dershowitz said.

Adelson seems particularly galled in the lawsuit by the prostitution allegation because of the work he and his wife fund in Israel to rehabilitate prostitutes.

“The Adelson clinics work to support these women, provide them with drug abuse treatment, and end their involvement in prostitution,” the lawsuit says.

The lawsuit notes Adelson’s continued efforts to have the NJDC stand down, including the July 17 warning letter, and then outreach from Adelson’s lawyers to the NJDC on Aug. 3 to note the DCCC apology issued the day before.

The NJDC said in a statement Wednesday announcing the lawsuit that it would stand its ground.

“Referencing mainstream press accounts examining the conduct of a public figure and his business ventures—as we did—is wholly appropriate,” NJDC said in the statement. “Indeed, it is both an American and a Jewish obligation to ask hard questions of powerful individuals like Mr. Adelson, just as it is incumbent upon us to praise his wonderful philanthropic endeavors.”

The statement called Adelson’s lawsuit a “strategic lawsuit against public participation,” or SLAPP, a term used for legal maneuvers aimed not at obtaining justice but silence.

“We know that we were well within our rights, and we will defend ourselves against this SLAPP suit as far and as long as necessary,” NJDC said. “We simply will not be bullied, and we will not be silenced.”

Bad blood between Harris and Adelson runs deeper than the usual Republican-Democrat square-off. Harris appeared at the Jewish Federations of North America TribeFest gathering in Las Vegas for young leaders on March 25 as a surrogate in a debate on the merits of the presidential candidates. Adelson walked into the event, which took place at his Venetian hotel, and berated Harris for six minutes, using insulting terms to describe Obama and harrumphing out loud when Harris attempted to respond.

Late Wednesday, NJDC blasted followers with an email fundraising off the lawsuit.

“Your support at this moment is more important than ever,” said the email, which carried the subject line “We’ve been sued for $60 million.”

Adelson donates $5 million to Republican Super PAC


Casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, a major giver to the Newt Gingrich presidential bid, has donated $5 million to a Super PAC supporting Republican candidates.

Adelson and his wife, Miriam, made the donation in February to the Congressional Leadership Fund, a super PAC connected to House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and other Republican leaders that supports establishment Republican candidates, Politico reported, citing a newly filed campaign finance report.

Adelson also reportedly is hosting a fundraiser on Friday at one of his Las Vegas hotels for a Boehner umbrella group that works closely with the Republican National Committee and the National Republican Congressional Committee, according to Politico.

Watch Sheldon Adelson dish on all the candidates here.

The donation is a positive sign for Mitt Romney, Politico reports, because his campaign is hoping to attract wealthy donors of the GOP presidential hopefuls he appears to have beaten as Romney prepares to take on President Obama in the general election in November.

The Adelsons donated more than $16 million to Winning Our Future, an independent committee, or Super PAC, that is run by former Gingrich associates in support of the candidate. Gingrich has not dropped out of the race but Romney appears to be well on his way to the Republican nomination.

Adelson is worth more than $21 billion, according to Forbes magazine. He is a major giver to Birthright Israel, which provides free 10-day trips to Israel for Jews aged 18 to 26.

Miss. Jewish casino worker wins discrimination lawsuit


A federal jury found that a Mississippi man was fired from his casino job because he’s Jewish.

Marc Silverberg was fired from his job as food and beverage director at Sam’s Town Casino in August 2008 because of what his former employer claimed was poor performance.

Silverberg disagreed and sued. The jury found for Silverberg, awarding him $102,000 in back pay, $76,500 for mental anxiety and $400,000 in punitive damages.

“I didn’t do anything wrong. They put together a concerted effort to get rid of me because of my Jewish heritage,” Silverberg told The Clarion-Ledger. “The jury vindicated me.”
He now teaches at a culinary school in Memphis, where he said he makes 60 percent less than he did at the casino.

Silverberg said in his lawsuit that the trouble started when a new general manager was hired at the Tunica, Miss. casino. The manager apparently was prejudiced against people who didn’t share his ethnicity, and particularly “despised Silverberg because he was Jewish,” according to the lawsuit.

Two former casino employees testified they heard the man refer to Silverberg as a goddamn “Jewish slug.”

Your Letters


The Hardliner

Look no further, you’ve found a Republican who drives a Prius, as well as a Democrat (“The Hardliner,” Aug. 6). In fact, there are four Priuses in our family with two more hybrids on order for 2005. We are making a statement, and more to the point, it is an apolitical statement.

Our friends of all political stripes talk with agonizing concern over the dangers we face as Americans, Jews and supporters of Israel. They then talk excitedly of their new gas-guzzling SUV as if there is no connection. The thought of sacrificing their creature comforts or any aspect of their lifestyles in contribution to America’s energy independence is either so foreign or frightening to them that the discussion quickly goes nowhere.

Republicans, Democrats, liberals, conservatives — put your political hats aside. Each of us is responsible for the situation, as it exists today.

Contrary to what you might think, you can do something about it!

Ozzie Goren (Republican), Bruce Goren (Democrat) Los Angeles

Kabbalah Cartoon

I was very offended by the cartoon by Steve Greenberg in the Aug. 27 issue. The way he stereotyped the people that participate at and are influenced by the Kabbalah Centre seemed very superficial and more than a little mean-spirited. If he had experienced the classes and services at the center the way that I have in the last two years he would have realized that they are very challenging, sincere, holy and certainly not at all for “dummies.” I suggest that he start by reading “The Secret” by Michael Berg, “Dialing God” edited by Yehuda Berg or any of the dozens of scholarly works written their father, Rav Berg.

Israel Scott Kotzen, Mar Vista

Synagogue Perks

I was disappointed by the consumer mentality of your articles about paying for synagogue membership (“Synagogue Perks Entice Unaffiliated” and “When You Can’t Go Home Again,” Aug. 27). I would hope that people looking to join a congregation base their decision on which community offers the best fit rather than the best benefit package. Ideally, one would decide to join a community, then the connections they form would lead to greater participation in any number of ways. Perhaps too many congregations have strayed from this crucial underlying theme of community.

Mike Werbow, Shtibl Coordinator Los Angeles

In your article on “Synagogue Perks Entice Unaffiliated” you identified a number of “privileges” that synagogue membership brings to the unaffiliated.

The “Model” attributed to our congregation, Temple Beth Am, was “Come join … so you can enroll in our day school.” New this year to demonstrate our commitment to education, we are offering free synagogue membership for new families enrolling a child in our Sunday morning religious school kindergarten/first-grade program.

We hope our program will speak for itself and this experience will lead to long-term affiliation. In addition, our regular dues structure has always included complimentary first-year membership for Jews-by-Choice, and significantly reduced fees for students, young adults and all who require assistance.

Sheryl Goldman, Executive Director Temple Beth Am Los Angeles

Hawaiian Gardens

Thank God Dr. Irving Moskowitz got the permanent license at last, letting him run his casino in Hawaiian Gardens without harassment by those nasty “stopmoskowitz.com” antagonists (“Casino Wins License,” Aug. 27). Their entire campaign to block Moskowitz was based on his notion that formerly Jewish land in Israel should be redeemed and remain Jewish. It was against his politics that these post-Zionists waged their irrelevant campaign.

Cannot a casino owner buy property with his money whenever and/or wherever it is offered to him? Of course he can. But what has this got to do with Hawaiian Gardens?

One question remains, however. Why did we not hear one word from these self-righteous, political ideologues (including some rabbis) of opposition to the granting of a license to Larry Flynt, the self-proclaimed “porno king” casino owner in Gardena, who received his license in a matter of minutes, not years? Ah, yes, that was a moral, not a political, issue.

Rabbi Julian M. White, Los Angeles

Corrections

In “Hatzolah Expands Emergency Service” (Aug. 6), the nonemergency phone number for Hatzolah of Los Angeles is (310) 841-2382.

In “Midlife Calling” (Aug. 20), Rabbi Yocheved Mintz was a rabbinic intern and is a member at Temple Beth Sholom in Las Vegas. She currently works independently with the Jewish community there.

Gaming Hearing Takes Israel Spin


Bingo impresario Dr. Irving Moskowitz is either the hero of Hawaiian
Gardens or a prolific and controversial supporter of West Bank settlements,
according to wildly differing viewpoints expressed at a Dec. 18 state Gambling
Control Commission hearing on his casino license request.

At issue during the hearing was the character of Moskowitz,
because it is a factor in granting an applicant a permanent gambling license.
In Moskowitz’s case, it involves his profitable, Las Vegas-style Hawaiian
Gardens Casino card club, which is currently operating with a temporary
license.

The hearing drew Moskowitz supporters that included Jewish
conservatives, plus Hawaiian Gardens Hispanics and elderly residents. On the
other side there were ex-casino employees allied with Jewish liberals and
middle-class peace activists.

Moskowitz’s supporters endorse his permanent license
request. They believe that he has helped small Hawaiian Gardens and that his
alliances with Israel’s religious conservatives are irrelevant to his Gambling
Commission license request.

Moskowitz’s opponents are fighting the request, because they
want the commission to consider how gambling profits are allegedly fueling
intense Israel-Palestinian tensions through his funding of ultra-Orthodox
settlers in the West Bank.

So extensive was testimony on both sides that the commission
agreed to hear more comments at its Jan. 9 meeting, at which time it will
either vote on the license request or study the matter further.

“Everything comes from Dr. Moskowitz,” one Hawaiian Gardens
woman said about the retired Long Beach doctor. Moskowitz opened a lucrative
bingo hall, founded Long Beach’s Hebrew Academy and has served on the Zionist
Organization of America’s board of directors.

The woman’s comment encapsulated the one point that pro- and
anti-Moskowitz forces agree on: Moskowitz is central to everything in Hawaiian
Gardens, a small, poor southeast Los Angeles County city. Money from his bingo
and casino operations allegedly gives Moskowitz an unusual hold on the town’s
politics.

Moskowitz is also central to the war chests of Israel’s
conservative and far-right political movements. Funds from bingo and casino
operations have allowed him to buy East Jerusalem land for Jewish settlers.

“What goes on in Israel is irrelevant to his entitlement to
receive a gaming license for a small town in California,” said Beryl Weiner,
personal attorney for Moskowitz, who lives in Miami Beach and did not attend
the commission meeting.

Weiner said state officials performed an “unprecedented”
four-and-a-half-year probe of Moskowitz’s finances, with California Atty. Gen.
Bill Lockyer pronouncing him fit for a permanent casino license. Moskowitz’s
opponents countered by saying Moskowitz has held a Lockyer fundraiser.

For several hours in downtown Los Angeles, the commission
heard comments about Middle East politics and Moskowitz’s settlement financing,
rather then on gambling.

“There’s no such thing as a Palestine in Israel, and with
the help of God, there never will be,” said Moskowitz supporter and
conservative Jewish activist Max Kessler. “The Arabs had a chance for this land
in 1948, and they gambled and they lost.”

Moskowitz is “the pre-eminent financier of Israel’s
extremist settler groups,” said Rabbi Haim Dov Beliak of the Coalition for
Justice in Hawaiian Gardens and Jerusalem, who lead the Moskowitz opposition.
Actor Ed Asner also spoke in opposition at the hearing.

Hawaiian Gardens Mayor Betty Schultze was one of several
residents who praised Moskowitz’s local philanthropy and charities. However,
opponents see Moskowitz as an old-fashioned political boss, reportedly pulling
the strings, controlling elected leaders.

The small city was plagued by gang problems until
Moskowitz’s businesses became the community’s largest employer, after which the
crime rate dropped.

“If we didn’t have him, we wouldn’t be a city,” the mayor
said. “We need him very much.”

“We’re a poor city. That doesn’t make us a bad city,” said
Hawaiian Gardens apartment manager Thelma Mullins. “All this unrest in the
Middle East has been going on for years. I don’t know what it has to do with
running a casino.”

Hanging over the entire hearing was the absent Moskowitz,
who dominated it despite being in Miami Beach.

“Maybe the real issue here is, ‘Who is Dr. Moskowitz?'”
anti-Moskowitz attorney Jay Plotkin said to the commission. “The real Irving
Moskowitz, the person who is not here today.”

Kramer Wins With a Vegas Loser


Wayne Kramer identifies with the karmically challenged hero of his sleek new movie, "The Cooler." Bernie Lootz (William H. Macy) has bad luck so contagious, a Las Vegas casino employs him to cool down high rollers.

Kramer — who is hoarse as luck would have it, in an interview — more than relates.

"My family has a legacy of terrible luck," the Johannesburg native said. "It’s like a black cloud hovers over us."

His grandmother, a compulsive gambler, squandered her money and a couple of husbands. His father lost several businesses, the family home and his eyesight, due to retinal pigmentosa. Kramer’s mother uses an oxygen tank, due to a SARS-like illness; his 40-year-old brother had rectal cancer; an uncle had his fortune stolen out of a safe; and Kramer almost lost his life to malaria while in the South African army.

In an interview from his Los Angeles home, he described how he survived the anti-Semitism at boot camp, only to be shipped off to Angola to shoot a training video.

"They didn’t bother to give us malaria pills," Kramer said. While on leave for the High Holidays two months later, he experienced severe chills and was rushed to the hospital.

"I was told that the strain I had would either kill me or that I’d completely recover, with no recurrences," he said. Of course, he got it twice.

No wonder he was drawn to sad sack Lootz when his friend, Frank Hannah, e-mailed him the "Cooler" idea around 1999.

"The Cooler" tells of Bernie Lootz (William H. Macy), a former compulsive gambler forced to work in a casino to pay off his debts. Because his bad luck rubs off, he’s invaluable as a "cooler," a professional jinx who turns winners into losers. But his luck changes when he develops an unexpected relationship with a cocktail waitress (Maria Bello), placing their love — and their lives — in jeopardy.

"I immediately knew I had to co-write and direct it, because this guy was me," Kramer said. "I was going to make a movie about the world’s biggest loser and exorcise several generations of rotten luck from my psychic aura."

Kramer, 38, has often courted disaster. As a teenage film buff, he collected videotapes of American classics films such as "A Clockwork Orange," banned due to violence, political or sexual content. But a classmate ratted on him, and the vice squad banged on his door one day when he was 17. "It was like a drug raid," he said.

Although the charges were dropped, Kramer again found himself in trouble when he suffered a malaria relapse just before moving to the United States in 1986. He refused to postpone his trip, however.

"I hated South Africa because of apartheid and because of the artistic repression," he said. "Ever since I saw my first American films when I was small, it had been my dream to live and work in America."

Eventually, Kramer moved into a series of dumpy apartments in Orange County, where he bused tables and resurfaced bathtubs while trying to hustle screenplays. "I survived on $500 a month," he said. When he tried to direct a low-budget feature in 1990, much of the film came back out of focus.

Five years later, his luck began changing when he became a teaching assistant at Stephen S. Wise Temple Elementary School, where he met his future wife, teacher Jodi Kabrins. One of his screenplays made the semifinals of the 1995 Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting contest, and his short film, "Crossing Over," premiered at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival in 1996. But his career progress was slow. "My bad luck was holding steady," he said.

Thus he was riveted when Hannah started regaling him with stories about Vegas "coolers" in the late 1990s.

"Frank described nights playing craps on a roll, when suddenly someone would show up at the table and the air pressure in the room would change," Kramer said. "The whole mood would change, and he would start to lose."

"I realized that I could’ve been employed as a cooler," he said in an essay. "Maybe my whole family could’ve gotten on the payroll."

The authors decided to set their gritty fable in the seedy remnants of old Vegas, "which is sort of Felliniesque in its characters," Kramer said. The protagonists include "older cocktail waitresses with big bouffants" and a retro Jewish casino owner, Shelly Kaplow (Alec Baldwin), modeled after brutal Vegas moguls such as Meyer Lansky.

For Kramer, getting to direct his first feature proved brutal. "No one wanted to know from me," he said. He braved rejection until hooking up with producers Sean and Bryan Furst (see sidebar) in 2001: "Wayne was more than ready to make this movie," Sean Furst said. "He came to us with more than 1,000 storyboards he had drawn, a detailed outline of what the film was going to look like frame by frame."

Yet, even after top actors signed on, Kramer remained nervous. He knew he would have only 21 days to shoot the film, including explicit sex scenes and ultraviolent sequences, on a budget of just $3 million. And he had that penchant for bad luck: "I felt if things could go wrong in a big way, this would be the time," he said.

But when "The Cooler" received rave reviews at the 2003 Sundance Film Festival, Kramer was suddenly hot.

"My phone started ringing off the hook and I’m now booked two years in advance," he said.

His projects include directing his original screenplay, "Running Scared," for Lions Gate, and his noir thriller, "The Sleeping Detective," for Paramount.

Kramer, nevertheless, remains phobic about his history of bad luck.

"I’ve already suggested to ‘The Cooler’s’ distributors that they hire some armed guards to protect the negative," he said.

"The Cooler" opens Nov. 26 in Los Angeles.