Bin Laden's killing raises immediate questions of security


For years after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, many Americans waited in fear for the next strike by al-Qaida on U.S. soil. But the ensuing decade has seen no more major terrorist attacks in the United States.

Now, with the news that Osama bin Laden has been killed in Pakistan by U.S. forces, the question many American Jews are considering is whether the liquidation of al-Qaida’s leader makes a follow-up attack more or less likely, and whether Jews could be a target.

“More likely,” said Paul Goldenberg, director of the Secure Community Network, the American Jewish community’s security organ known by the acronym SCAN.

“We know of no imminent threat as of today as a direct result of the death of bin Laden,” Goldenberg told JTA on Monday morning, when much of the world woke up to the news of bin Laden’s death. “However, the community should remain extremely vigilant because there are lone wolves, and other terrorist groups have used incidents like this to launch revenge attacks.”

Last October, a pair of mail bombs from Yemen were sent to Chicago synagogues but were intercepted by law enforcement officials before they reached their targets. A year ago, on May 1, 2010, a Pakistani-born man tried and failed to detonate a car bomb in New York’s Times Square. Neither event was linked to a specific American action, but both resulted in raised states of alert at many Jewish institutions. Security experts have credited better U.S. intelligence and law enforcement in preventing terrorist attacks on U.S. soil after 9/11.

In Israel’s experience, assassinations of senior terrorist figures have been followed up months or even years later by revenge attacks. Hamas and Hezbollah often have ascribed their terrorist attacks on Israel to Israeli military actions.

But some security experts are warning against interpreting terrorist attacks as acts of revenge, saying it fuels the mistaken notion that somehow the actions of the West are to blame for terrorism.

“When you focus on this sort of causality, we accept the terrorists’ framing,” Bruce Hoffman, director of Georgetown University’s Center for Peace and Security Studies, told The Atlantic blogger Jeffrey Goldberg a year ago.

“They see themselves as reluctant fighters, always retaliating, never initiating,” Hoffman said. “The media can make it look as if the terror groups are simply defending themselves from some provocation. The question is one of original provocation.”

More concerning now, say security experts, is the possibility that a lone wolf will be motivated by bin Laden’s killing to attack a U.S. target. While intelligence and law enforcement officials are adept at tracking terrorist activity and planning—just last week, German officials arrested three suspected al-Qaida members for planning an imminent terrorist attack—it’s much harder to stop a lone person acting spontaneously or with little coordination.

“The concern is that a lone wolf that sits in front of his or her television screen sees this, becomes furious at what occurred and with no real planning, on their own or in a small group, will make an effort to go out and execute an attack,” Goldenberg said. “Those in law enforcement have a very tough time keeping track of the lone wolf.”

That’s the scenario that took place in March 1994, when a Lebanese cab driver in New York, incensed at the massacre of 29 Arabs in Hebron by Baruch Goldstein, opened fire on a van full of Chasidic youths on the Brooklyn Bridge, killing 16-year-old Ari Halberstam.

When it comes to al-Qaida, the question is whether removing the movement’s leader will deal al-Qaida a critical blow or whether the movement is diffuse enough to thrive even without bin Laden’s leadership.

“What is this great victory? What is the great thing that they achieved?” a Sunni Muslim preacher in Lebanon, Bilal al-Baroudi, was quoted in The New York Times as saying. “Bin Laden is not the end, and the door remains shut between us and the United States. We dislike the reactions and the celebrations in the United States.”

The response to bin Laden’s death elsewhere in the Muslim world has been mixed. Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh condemned the killing, calling bin Laden a Muslim and Arab warrior and saying that “We regard this as a continuation of the American policy based on oppression and the shedding of Muslim and Arab blood.”

A Palestinian Authority spokesman, however, said bin Laden’s demise was “good for the cause of peace.”

Israel and Jewish groups concurred, with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hailing it as a triumph in the fight against terrorists.

“The State of Israel joins the American people on this historic day in celebrating the elimination of Osama bin Laden,” Netanyahu said in a statement. “This is a resounding victory for justice, freedom and the common values of all democracies that are resolutely fighting shoulder to shoulder against terrorism.”

Celebrate Israel Closer to Home


This year, Israel Independence Day falls on May 12. If this is a holiday you’ve never celebrated, consider adding it to your family traditions.

With Israel in the news every day, the Jewish state is unusually prominent in our minds, but not always for positive reasons. Celebrating Israel Independence Day gives us a chance to remember why Israel is such an important part of our Jewish heritage.

Here are my top 10 tips for celebrating Israel Independence Day:

1. If there is an Israel festival of any kind, don’t miss it. This year, the annual Israel Independence Day festival takes place May 15 at Woodley Park (www.israelfestival.com). At an Israel festival, you can dance to Hebrew music, eat great food and maybe even see an Israeli film. Kids today need some help connecting pride in being Jewish with pride in Israel.

2. Rent an Israeli film from your local library or video store. Have your own Israeli film festival at home or with some friends. The Israeli film industry is thriving. Depending on the ages and interests of the viewers, you may want to check out a 1991 film called, “Cup Final,” that tells the story of an Israeli soldier captured by the PLO while the World Cup soccer finals are going on. The soldier and his captors reach an understanding through their mutual love of soccer. Then there’s always the classics. For example, “Exodus” wasn’t an Israeli film, but it does tell the story of its beginnings in an exciting way.

3. Eat Israeli food. Falafel and hummus are so easy to make. You can even buy mixes in your grocery store’s natural foods aisle. Just add water to the mixes and chop up some cucumbers and tomatoes and you’ll have an Israeli feast. Pita bread is also pretty easy (and fun) to make or you can buy a package at the grocery store.

4. Play some Israeli music. Even your teens will like some of the exciting and fun pop music coming out of Israel today. Check out Ofra Haza, one of my favorites who unfortunately died a few years ago. There’s probably a section on Middle Eastern music at your teenager’s favorite music store. Don’t expect “Hava Nagila” unless, of course, it’s done with a world beat sound or as a rap song.

5. Send a letter or e-mail to a friend or family member in Israel. Children in Israel are interested in polishing their English, so don’t let your lack of modern Hebrew scare you away. It’s a great way for your children to learn more about what it’s like to live in Israel today. If you are unable to make this happen on your own, ask your rabbi or your child’s religious school teacher for suggestions. Some Jewish federations, like The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, have programs to facilitate these relationships through their sister cities.

For more information on the The Federation’s Tel Aviv/Los Angeles Partnership, visit www.jewishla.org/html/io_partnership.htm.

6. Study the history of Israel as a family. There are a lot of good books on this topic. Be wary of Web site information unless you are confident of the site’s quality. Look at the Web site of the Coalition for the Advancement of Jewish Education (www.caje.org) for the newest thoughts on how to teach about Israel.

7. Review the history of the Middle East peace process — the high points and the low points. The American

Israel Public Affairs Committee (www.aipac.com) is an excellent source for timelines on all issues regarding Israel. They may not have materials intended specifically for children, but they explain the situation to busy adults all the time, so they make their materials easy to understand.

8. Have an open and honest debate about the issues. Help each other, especially the young people in your family, understand what is happening in Israel today. Talk about media bias and anti-Semitism. This is a very complex situation involving many important issues from water rights to refugees.

9. Don’t forget Yom HaZikaron (Israel Memorial Day) on May 11. This is the traditional day to remember Israeli soldiers killed in action, but it would also be a good time to talk about the civilians who have been killed in terrorist attacks.

To learn more, about it, visit myjewishlearning.com/holidays/Modern_Holidays/Yom_Hazikaron.htm.

10. Plant a tree in Israel. Jewish National Fund (JNF) is still planting trees in Israel but you don’t have to be in Israel to plant one. They even have a special deal: You can pay to plant two trees and JNF will plant the third for free.

$18 for one, $36 for three or $72 for five and can be ordered online at www.jnf.org.

Donna Gordon Blankinship is a freelance writer living in Seattle.

Roll It, Pat It and Mark It With a ‘B’


For the birthdays of each of her grandchildren, Babulinka used to bake a krendel, a traditional Latvian cake in the shape of a B. The classic shape was really a figure eight; it just looked like a B to Babulinka’s youngest grandchild, and so it became “the B cake.”

The cake isn’t what most children might imagine for a birthday cake. After all, it has no frosting, no layers, and no candles. Krendel (pronounced kryen-dzel) is low and yeasty with a streusel topping, more like coffee cake or a babka.

On the day of the celebration, the cake would sit on a wooden board on my grandmother’s kitchen counter, covered by a white dishtowel. Once the table was set and the guests arrived (usually a small gathering of family), we would sing a song reserved only for birthdays. It was a Russian ditty that, roughly translated, went like this: “One time for Gabi’s birthday we baked a birthday cake. Look how wide it is, look how narrow it is! Look how high it is, look how low it is! Birthday cake, birthday cake, choose whomever you desire. Of course, I like everybody here, but I love this person most of all….”

I can’t remember the last time we ate a krendel on a birthday, or the last time we sang that song, but I’m sure it wouldn’t sound the same without Babulinka’s enthusiasm and her thin Yiddishe trill.

Gurevich Family Krendel

1 1/4 cup of milk
1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter
1 tablespoon active dry yeast
1/2 cup of sugar
1 teaspoon crushed cardamom seeds
1 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs lightly beaten at room temp
1 cup golden raisins
4 1/2 to 5 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 large egg beaten with 1 tablespoon milk, for brushing on top

Streusel topping

3/4 cup all-purpose flour
6 tablespoons sugar
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

Melt one stick of butter in 1 1/4 cup of milk and set aside to cool to a temperature between 105 F and 115 F. Sprinkle one tablespoon of yeast into the cooled milk mixture, and whisk it in. Set aside for about five minutes, or until the yeast has dissolved.

In a large bowl, whisk in the milk mixture, sugar, cardamom, salt and eggs. Switch to a wooden spoon, add 2 cups of the flour and beat it until smooth. Mix in 1 cup of raisins, then add as much of the remaining flour, 1/2 cup at a time, until the dough is stiff. (It will still be sticky.)

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead, adding flour 1 tablespoon at a time until it is smooth and no longer sticky, about 10 minutes.

Shape the dough into a ball. Place it in a lightly greased bowl, turn the bowl to grease the entire surface and cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap. Let the dough rise at room temperature 45 minutes to one hour.

While the dough is rising, make the streusel topping. Mix the flour and sugar, working the butter into the flour mixture with your fingers until large moist clumps form.

When your dough has risen, punch it down and let it rest. On a lightly floured surface, form the dough into a long rope, about 20 inches, stretching it gently and rolling with your hands. Place on the buttered baking sheet in the shape of a big pretzel (a figure eight). Butter the outside of two soufflé ramekins (or empty tuna cans), and place them in the open parts of the pretzel to prevent them from closing during baking.

Cover the krendel loosely with plastic and let it rise until almost double in bulk. Brush the top with egg wash and scatter streusel over the top.

In the meantime, preheat the oven to 375 F. Bake the krendel for about 45 minutes, or until it is golden.

Transfer to a wooden board to cool, then cover with a clean dish towel to rest until ready to eat. It tastes best the next day.

Gabriella Gershenson is a restaurant reviewer and food columnist with the New York Press — and a sometime-compulsive eater.

Briefs


Shabbat Across America Returns

For Lynne Sturt Weintraub, Friday evening is the perfect time for friends and family to get together “and show warmth and love and find out what’s going on in other people’s lives,” she said.

Weintraub, president of Temple Beth Zion in West Los Angeles, has been involved in Shabbat Across America since its inception eight years ago.

The program, established by the National Jewish Outreach Program (NJOP) in New York, celebrates one Shabbat weekend around North America to reach out to mostly unaffiliated Jews or those with little Judaic background, in an effort to bring them back into the fold. This Friday, March 4, some 600 synagogues and organizations across Canada and the United States – including 20 in the L.A. area – will attend Shabbat services and sit down to dinner under the banner of “Shabbat Across America.”

“I think it’s a nice thing to do, to participate along with the rest of the country and Canada in having the Jewish community get together, having that solidarity,” Weintraub said.

“Just knowing that at the same time you’re doing it 40,000 other people are also doing it, strengthens people’s resolve,” said NJOP Director Rabbi Yitzhak Rosenbaum. “Jews are so scattered and we like to be part of large numbers.”

Rosenbaum also emphasized that it’s the whole Shabbat issue that makes the event work. It’s not “Adult Jewish Education Across America,” or “Kol Nidre Across America” and that’s because “Shabbat is what marks us as Jews,” Rosenbaum said.

“Shabbat resonates with modern man. We often feel very isolated. Certainly the nuclear family is gone. People no longer live in the same place as their parents and the community has been weakened. Shabbat provides an opportunity to be part of a Jewish community.”

Paul Solyn, the director Temple Mishkon Tephilo in Venice, has also been involved in Shabbat Across America for a number of years.

“It’s a good way to reach people in the community who are interested in the synagogue but not yet involved with one,” he said.

Mishkon Tephilo actually incorporates Shabbat Across America into its adult education program, bringing in a guest speaker, Miriyam Glazer, University of Judaism literature professor and author of the cookbook, “The Essential Book of Jewish Festival Cooking,” who will speak about, “Our Bodies, Our Souls: Food and the Human Spirit in Jewish Tradition.” Despite the fact that Shabbat Across America is now in its ninth year, the Jewish community still has an uphill battle on its hands.

“Overall our losses [in the Jewish community] are so vast,” Rosenbaum said. “We haven’t yet staunched the flow, but this program is definitely making inroads. Every Jew is a world unto themselves, and if only one Jew starts to observe or becomes more involved as a result of this program then we’re happy.” – Kelly Hartog, Staff Writer

Dennis Ross on The Mideast

Dennis Ross, former U.S. envoy to the Middle East under President Bill Clinton, told an Anti-Defamation League gathering that a “loss of fear” in the Arab world has meant Palestinian and Iraqi elections and the Lebanese standing up to Syrian terrorists as old Arab dictatorships slowly give way to democracy.

“If it looks like the Lebanese people succeed in forcing the Syrians out, then it’s going to have an effect across the region,” said Ross, who negotiated the 1997 Hebron accord. “One of the things that people aren’t focused on enough is that what Lebanon represents right now is the Lebanese people no longer being afraid.”

Ross spoke to about 100 people attending the ADL’s Feb. 25-27 Weekend Institute at the Biltmore/Four Seasons Resort in Santa Barbara with James Prince, who runs the L.A.-based, Mideast-focused Democracy Council. Prince has tracked Palestinian finances and dismissed the notion that deceased Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat stashed away billions.

“I don’t think there’s pots of money out there,” Prince said.

Ross, who is promoting his book, “The Missing Peace” said Arafat’s death has removed a cult-like leader who controlled all facets of Palestinian life.

“The way that Arafat preserved power was [to have] everybody depend on him,” Ross said. “Our aid right now has to be focused on empowerment.”– David Finnigan, Contributing Writer

Munich Games Film Gets Winter Release

Steven Spielberg will begin production on his long-awaited film on the 1972 Olympic Games in the summer and release it to theaters on Dec. 23.

Tight secrecy surrounds the feature film, which will focus on the hunt for the Black September terrorists responsible for the death of 11 Israeli athletes at the Olympics.

No title or cast has been announced, except for Australian actor Eric Bana (“Troy,” “Hulk”). Spielberg had also hoped to cast Ben Kingsley (“Schindler’s List”), but he became unavailable when shooting was delayed by one year. At one point, reports had it that the delay was caused by fears that Muslim extremists might target locations to be used in the movie. However, the actual reason was that Spielberg was dissatisfied with the script by Eric Roth (“Forrest Gump”) and instead Pulitzer Prize-winner Tony Kushner (“Angels in America”) is writing a new screenplay.

Spielberg has said that his Jewish heritage took on a new dimension while making “Schindler’s List.” The Survivors of the Shoah Visual History Foundation, which he established 12 years ago, has since videotaped the testimonies of 52,000 Holocaust survivors and witnesses.

The documentary, “One Day in September,” on the Munich Olympics, won an Oscar for Swiss producer Arthur Cohn in 2000. – Tom Tugend, Contributing Editor

End of Talmud Celebration Draws Thousands

More than 2,600 people filled the Walt Disney Concert Hall in downtown Los Angeles for the March 1 national celebration marking the end of Daf Yomi, a worldwide reading of one page of the Talmud each day for seven and a half years.

“This majestic hall has now been sanctified because it is host to the largest gathering of Torah Jews in the history of this city,” said Rabbi Yaakov Krause of Young Israel of Hancock Park as he spoke before the huge hall – with an overflow audience of schoolgirls in an adjacent auditorium.

The three-hour, early evening event drew an almost entirely Orthodox crowd with row upon row of Modern Orthodox and Chasidic men alternately praying and watching large TV screens showing Daf Yomi gatherings on the East Coast.

The busloads of teenagers from local Orthodox high schools included Shoshana and Hadassah Klerman, fraternal twin sisters and sophomores at the all-girls Beis Yaakov High School in the Fairfax District.

“This reflects the continuity that we have with Torah throughout the ages from the beginning of time until now,” said Shoshana Klerman. “You think that, ‘OK, the Holocaust happened’ and these kinds of things happen and people try to wipe us out but we’re still here.”

Rabbi Marvin Heir, dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, called this year’s Daf Yomi event, “one of the most significant events in American Jewish history; it shows the renaissance of the Jewish people after the Holocaust not only in population but in terms of a recommitment to their heritage.”

A cluster of freshman boys from Yeshiva University High School of Los Angeles agreed that studying the Talmud makes homework seem easier.

“It really uplifts a lot of people. It’s really important that you learn every day,” said 14-year-old David Korda.

Howard Gluck, a deputy Los Angeles city attorney, came with his two sons even though he did not pursue the Daf Yomi himself.

“I wanted my children to be part of a very unified day celebrating the completion and starting of the Talmud,” Gluck said. “It’s an amazing thing to have a program where the same page is being studied in Los Angeles and New York and in Poland and in Moscow and in Israel. The main thing is, we are all part of one family, the Jewish people.” – DF

Chrismukkah Web site


 

A menorah is topped with candy canes, a mini Christmas tree adorned with a Jewish star and a spinning dreidel pictures Frosty the Snowman on one side and the tree on another: These are just some of the “interfaith” pictures featured on the mugs on the gift section of the Chrismukkah Web site (www.chrismukkah.com). Other images – which also adorn T-shirts and holiday cards – include a reindeer with a menorah for antlers, a zayde-slash-santa and other cute combo sayings like “Oy Joy” and “Merry Mazeltov,” which get across the sentiment of both Judaism and Christianity.

“Chrismukkah is a blend of favorite traditions from both Chanukah and Christmas,” writes site founder Ron Gompertz, a Jew, who is married to a Protestant, Michelle. “Michelle and I deeply respect the religious observances of Christmas and Hanukkah as individual holidays,” he writes. “Chrismukkah is not intended to replace either.”

The Gompertzes began observing Chrismukkah officially last year.

Of course they only started celebrating it last year – that was the first time there even was a holiday called Chrismukkah. While the blending of the two December occasions has been a long American tradition, last year is the first time the combo-holiday got an official name. Lexicographers (and readers of The Journal) will recall that Josh Schwartz, young Jewish creator of Fox�(tm)s teen campy drama, “The O.C.,” first coined the term for the lead interfaith poster-child character Seth Cohen (Adam Brody). Cohen pestered his entire family to get into the spirit of both holidays.

A national Jewish population survey, conducted by the United Jewish Communities (UJC) in 2000-01 and corroborated by an American Jewish Committee (AJC) survey, counted 5.2 million adult Jews living in the US and found that of all married ones, nearly one-third are married to non-Jews. The UJC poll further reported that nearly half of all Jewish newlyweds within the past five years had chosen non-Jewish spouses.

But this year, with the eight days of Chanukah celebrated from Dec. 8-15, the Jewish holiday ends way before Christmas begins. So maybe we don�(tm)t need Chrismukkah after all.

 

Q & A With Dr. Michael A. Friedman


Last May, Dr. Michael A. Friedman took the helm of City of Hope as its CEO. A federally designated Comprehensive Cancer Center, the 112-acre biomedical research and treatment center in Duarte got its start in 1914 when members of the Jewish Consumptive Relief Association set up two tents as a haven for those stricken with

tuberculosis.

Friedman, an oncologist and clinical researcher, also has experience in public policy and commercial drug development. He served as the acting commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration under President Bill Clinton and as associate director of the National Cancer Institute (NCI). He got his start as a clinical oncologist and professor at UC San Francisco Medical Center and most recently worked in the pharmaceutical industry.

The Jewish Journal spoke with Friedman as City of Hope celebrates its 90th anniversary, Friedman marks his first year with the institution and a state-of-the-art Helford Clinical Research Hospital, scheduled to open this fall, nears completion:

The Jewish Journal: What attracted you to this position?

Dr. Michael A. Friedman: If you look for the intersection between wonderfully creative research and dedicated, effective and compassionate care in an environment where all the best humanistic values are evidenced, I don’t think there’s another institution that captures all of that confluence quite so well as City of Hope. It’s an institution that has a splendid history, but more than that, is poised to have some wonderful scientific and clinical accomplishments over the next decade.

JJ: What were some of the challenges you faced as you began your tenure as CEO?

MF: The general challenges are that the health care environment in Southern California is very challenging, dynamic and unpredictable. Support for research from federal and local agencies is finite and hotly competed for. The economic environment in Southern California and the nation has been struggling, and that has affected development opportunities and fund raising.

The unique challenges here, I think, are to examine how a modest-sized institution that has aspirations of the highest quality activities can function effectively. We’ve decided there are a limited number of clinical areas that we want to focus on and do them extremely well.

JJ: Does that mean there some areas that you’ve had to let go or de-emphasize?

MF: Not so much de-emphasize as not emphasize. There’s a difference. We feel confident and capable of giving superb care for all kinds of malignancies, but from a research perspective, we’re going to focus on certain of these malignancies … where we can make a world-class difference.

JJ: With medical costs rising dramatically, how does City of Hope meet the financial challenges of health care delivery?

MF: Providing the highest quality care and research can’t be done without great expense. Our research is partly underwritten by grants … our patient revenues are higher than ever before … our past successes translating basic science into clinical science has generated substantial royalty income, but even these are not enough to cover costs. If we didn’t have donations, this would not be possible. We recognize that public generosity makes our quality of care and quality of research possible. We could spend less money and have things more self-sustaining, but we would lose the greatness of the institution.

JJ: How is City of Hope poised to make a difference in cancer research?

MF: The unique aspect of what we do here is taking basic science knowledge and translating it into clinically meaningful treatments. We’ve had this very pragmatic perspective since the institution was founded of trying to make a practical difference in people’s lives.

On this campus, a scientist in one building gets an idea, makes a small molecule — or monoclonal antibody or gene therapy or whatever it is — gets FDA approval to use that molecule in patients and walks across campus where the substance can be made under the most rigorous standards. And then the clinicians can administer that treatment here. That’s making that loop [from idea to reality] as short as possible without compromising a moment of patient safety or concern.

JJ: What was it like working at the FDA?

MF: It was hugely interesting and overall very enjoyable — especially looking back on it. When I was sitting in the House or the Senate testifying, I enjoyed looking around at the formal organs of government and knowing that it’s a privilege to participate in a democracy.

JJ: What do you think the founders who pitched those tents 90 years ago would think of today’s institution?

MF: While they would be confused by the complexity … and frightened by the number of choices and possibilities for the future … I think they would be struck by the humanness and the heart and good intentions of the institution that have remained remarkably intact over the years.

JJ: Are you willing to be a soothsayer and predict when cancer will be conquered?

MF: I don’t know the answer to that. I can tell you that there will be selective cancers that will be cured within the next decade. There are others that will be difficult and less tractable. This is the most complicated problem because each person is different and each person’s tumor is different. To come up with general answers to such unique situations is challenging.

There’s a pioneering spirit that was true when this place was first started and remains today: No problem is too hard. Today, it’s easy to look back and minimize the challenge of tuberculosis, but TB was miserable. There was no treatment and it was the No. 1 killer for many years. But nobody said, “That’s too hard.”

As TB became highly treatable, this institution could have easily folded its tents. But they said, “OK. We’ve dealt with one impossible problem. Let’s take on another impossible problem — this time it’ll be cancer. Or diabetes.” That speaks volumes about what this place is about: Hope. Hatikvah resonates in a lot of different ways. It’s a powerful idea that is right at the heart of this institution.

For the Kids


In Parshat Behar the Israelites are taught about shmita (sabbatical). Every seven years, the Jews in Israel must not farm their land so that the soil may take

a rest. So, what does this have to do with

 

Mother’s Day falls on May 9 and is like a once-a-year sabbatical for mothers. It is her day to rest, to not have to cook, shop or work. So give your Mom a nice Mother’s Day this year. She’ll appreciate that breakfast in bed so much, and will be able to return to working and caring for you with renewed energy!

Have a Holly Jolly Schmooz-fest


Chinese-food-and-a-movie faces strong competition in our
city once again this year. This Christmas Eve, on a night that would otherwise
be distinguished by what we aren’t celebrating, Stu and Lew Productions brings
Jewish cheer with its “Schmooz-a-Palooza” party. Going on its 10 year, the
annual event for under-40 Jews has practically become an institution.

“We were the first, I think, great party that came to L.A.,”
said Lewis Weinger, the “Lew” behind the name. This year, the party again takes
place at the House of Blues in West Hollywood, and Weinger expects the
1,200-some tickets will sell out, as usual.

It began 10 years ago with two friends, Stuart Wax and Lewis
Weinger, and an idea to create a new way for Jewish singles to meet.

“I think what prompted me to start was that I felt there’s a
real need in the community to create a fun, hip place for young people to get
together and to party and hopefully date and marry within the faith,” said Weinger,
a self-described ba’al teshuvah (returnee to Jewish observance). 

While people typically think of “Schmooz-a-Palooza” as a
singles event, it’s evolved over the years. Today, Weinger runs the operation
without Wax, and the feel of “Schmooz-a-Palooza,” which this year falls on the
sixth night of Chanukah, has become more party than mixer. People come in
couples or in groups of friends, and schmooze, dance and mingle, or not, as
they choose.

“It’s become this networking, reconnecting, ‘Wow, we went to
camp together 10 years ago [sort of event],'” Weinger said. “From that whole
energy, I think there have been countless relationships, not only getting
married, but friendships and business connections.”

And realizing that not everyone loves a dance party, Stu and
Lew experiments this year with a chill alternative in the form of the loungey
House of Blues Foundation Room. A pricier VIP ticket grants guests entree to
the smaller penthouse room usually reserved for members — complete with couches
and a fireplace.

“I’m not looking to provide an exclusionary kind of atmosphere,”
Weinger said, “yet they said this room is small. We can only sell a limited
amount.”

In other words, plan ahead, or risk a night of take-out and
overpriced popcorn.

8 p.m.-2 a.m. $25 (general), $40 (VIP).
House of Blues, Los Angeles.

My Yiddishe Mamma Day


Yesterday, I got three messages from my mother, a long distance Jewish mother joke from my brother in London ("A homeless man approaches a Jewish mother on the street. ‘Lady, I haven’t eaten in three days,’ he said. ‘Force yourself,’ she replied.") and the last was from the Loews Hotel confirming my reservation for Mother’s Day brunch.

The messages from my mom were typical: "Darrrling, I was at Smart & Final and I bought food for your cat; it’s cheaper there," "Darrrling, I just wanted you to know that we are going to the theater tonight and we will be back at 11" and "Darrrling, I got your message regarding Mother’s Day and I would like to talk to you about it."

I phoned my mom on her cellphone: "Hi, I got your messages. Thanks for the cat food."

"Darrrling, I would like to talk to you about Mother’s Day. It’s not a Jewish holiday, we don’t need to celebrate," she said.

"Would you rather do something else?"

"Mother’s Day, Shmother’s Day, they make such a big deal of holidays in America. In Europe, only the florists have special Mother’s Day bouquets," she explained.

"Do you not want to do anything?" I asked.

"I don’t need a special day. Every day is special with my children. It’s not a Jewish holiday. I think the Greeks started it and then the Church of England called it Mothering Day. It’s for goyim."

I was stumped and not quite sure how to argue the point. I learned — at 40 — that circular conversations with Mom tend to lead to nowhere but aggravation.

But maybe she has a point. Do you have to celebrate Mother’s Day because Hallmark, Godiva, Amazon.com and every restaurant in town tell you to? In some ways, for a Jewish daughter, every day is Mother’s Day (or daughter’s day). When you are connected to your mother 365 days a year, do you need Hallmark to remind you to make your mom feel special one day a year?

My family does celebrate many non-Jewish holidays: Thanksgiving, New Year’s Eve, Bastille Day (we lived in France for a long time) and Cinco De Mayo. But my mother also reacts strongly to celebrating certain non-Jewish holidays: Halloween, which reminds her of the pogroms, and she finds the American celebrations of Christmas, Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day excessive. She prefers to express and receive love in a more understated, European way.

I was intrigued to find out how my girlfriends were handling Mother’s Day. I called my pal, Merav, who is Israeli, and she laughed at all the retail extravaganza. She did share, however, that in Israel there is an annual Mother’s Day, but for some reason no Father’s Day on the calendar.

Judith, my Orthodox friend, told me point-blank that she does not feel a need to celebrate Mother’s Day. She and her family just live their lives according to the Jewish calendar.

I called Elliot, my best friend, who recently lost his mother. This was going to be his first Mother’s Day alone. When I shared with him my mother’s resistance to celebrating Mother’s Day, Elliot paused and said: "They can be a pain, but when they’re gone, you sure miss them."

In the end, I found a way to celebrate my mother Jewishly — by attending the Israel Independence Day Festival in the Valley.

"I’ll cancel the brunch reservation," my mother said.

"You don’t have to. We can have brunch first," I countered.

"We don’t have to," she offered.

"It’s all right. I’ll go," I insisted.

So, I am set to celebrate with my mother and Elliot on May 11. It was worth the effort to try and figure it out; it is an important day. Despite the complexities of our relationship, there is deep caring between me and my mother — on Mother’s Day and all the other days of the year.


Annabelle Stevens is the director of public relations at Gary Wexler +
Associates/Passion Marketing for Issues and Causes. She can be reached at prannabelle@aol.com.

A New Home for Hillel


Rabbi Chaim Seidler-Feller walks out of his office at the University Religious Conference, locking the door on its matted and stained rust-colored carpet, which for years has been covered with stacks of books and journals. On his way out, he doesn’t bother to glance into the musty student lounge because he knows students don’t hang out there. As he emerges onto Hilgard Avenue, he lets the glass-and-steel door swing shut on the building where UCLA Hillel has been housed since the 1950s.

He makes his way north on Hilgard to the corner of Westholme Avenue for a visit to the nearly complete Yitzchak Rabin Hillel Center for Jewish Life. Standing at the northern end of Sorority Row, just east of the center of campus, the building’s gracefully curving facade of Jerusalem stone gleams against the overcast sky. An archway beckons with open arms, awaiting the students who will soon fill the spacious lounges, offices and meeting rooms.

This Sunday, Seidler-Feller plans to make a similar trek — this time permanently — as he dances through campus with Torah scrolls and hundreds of students and community members to celebrate the dedication of the new 22,000-square-foot facility, which will host its first Shabbat for students this week.

“My great hope is that the building becomes a hangout, and that it is a comfortable place where students can come to do their work, have something to eat or just to be with friends,” said Seidler-Feller, who has been with Hillel for 27 years. “I hope that it will provide us with really wonderful programming opportunities.”

Seidler-Feller and others who have worked for the last six years to bring the building to reality are fully aware that an edifice alone does not revitalize a Jewish community. But the energy that it is arousing in students and community members is apparent. Seidler-Feller said students have already begun to approach him about new programming ideas and religious services.

“The building is just a shell for our program,” said Janice Kamenir-Reznick, an attorney who chaired the building campaign. “I think our program was stifled by an outdated and remote venue, so it is a sign of our maturity and our need and readiness to move and to elevate everything about the program…. I don’t think buildings can solve problems, but I think they can help.”

The building is sure to draw students, with ice blendeds at the kosher cafe, a pool table and pingpong table, a kosher cafeteria opening in the winter quarter, meeting rooms, student offices and an artfully crafted multipurpose room.

There is ample lounge space filled with comfortable couches and chairs and laptop outlets, many of which are wired for high-speed Internet connections, in addition to a bank of computers and printers available free of charge to students.

“We decided we can’t give students anything less than they have at UCLA,” said Daniel Inlender, who was on the architectural committee as a student and has remained involved since he graduated two years ago. “So if they have access to color laser printers in the library, then we can’t give them anything less than that because they wouldn’t come.”

The hope is that someone who comes to watch a football game on the large-screen television might stick around for a class or come back for Shabbat dinner. Jewish social circles can develop with a natural focal point, highlighted by programs such as Israeli dancing night, scholarly or political lectures or Jewish student film festivals.

The arts, Seidler-Feller said, will be a major part of the program.

Outside the airy social hall-auditorium on the third floor is a reception area and gallery space. A performance stage sits in the cafe, and Seidler-Feller envisions regular open-mic nights.

The building itself has an accessible sense of artistry. The corridors meander ever so slightly, just where the archways cast shadows on the sand-colored tile — an evocation of Jerusalem’s Old City.

David Moss, the Judaica artist renowned for his haggadah, ran focus groups with students and worked as a consultant. His touch is evident down the center hallway, where glass bricks containing dirt from the lands of the Jewish Diaspora replace the tile every few feet. When the multipurpose room is divided into three sections for services of various denominations, transparent arks will visually connect students as they pray.

David Myers, professor of Jewish history at UCLA, hopes the building will draw in faculty members, as well, and that the larger Los Angeles community will see the building as a cultural and intellectual center.

“Because of the university’s cachet, because of the dynamism of the staff and the incredible facility and resources, UCLA Hillel is going to be able to attract the most outstanding and important thinkers in American and world Jewish life,” Myers said.

But there are cautious notes, as well. Maintenance, staffing and programming costs are anticipated to rise, although Hillel is in the final stretch of a $15 million capital and endowment campaign. The campaign was kicked off with donations of $1 million each from Edgar Bronfman, Steven Spielberg and the late Lew Wasserman. Henry and Susan Samueli of Orange County, Lee and Irving Kalsman and their daughter and son-in-law, Peachy and Mark Levy, along with the Spiegel Family Foundation, contributed major funding, too.

Rhoda Weisman, chief creative officer for international Hillel, who works out of Los Angeles, said that while costs increase, buildings have been known to bring out more donors for programming.

“For some reason, buildings give you permission to ask for things you would never have asked for — and get them,” said Weisman, who started her career in Hillel as UCLA’s program director.

Weisman said her biggest concern is that the building can make a community too insular.

“The danger of this wonderful building is that the Jewish community stays in the building, and emphasis is not put on going out of the building and meeting students where they’re at,” she said.

UCLA, like other California campuses, cannot afford to become complacent when it comes to reaching out to the unaffiliated students who make up about three-quarters of the Jews on campus.

“Ninety percent of all Jewish kids go to college,” Kamenir-Reznick said. “This is our last clear chance to reach young Jewish people in an organizational way, because after college they disperse. [Community support for Hillel] is an acknowledgment of the significance of our opportunity to touch them in a way that will bind them in deeper terms to the community.”

On the 20 campuses nationwide where Hillel buildings have gone up in the last 15 years, including CSUN and USC, nearly every one has been well-utilized and has positively impacted the campus, Weisman said. It has also created a sense of pride even in students who never walk into the building, she added.

“The challenge is not to let the building overwhelm the vision, to realize at all times that as beautiful as it is, and as inviting as it is, the task is to touch students,” said Seidler-Feller, whose new office has floor-to-ceiling bookshelves on every wall. “As much as you can believe that stones have souls and as comforting a presence as we are, the overwhelming reality is that the majority of Jewish students are not involved Jewishly, and there is an enormous task ahead.”

Dahlia Rabin-Pelossof, minister in the Israeli Knesset and daughter of the late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, is featured as the keynote speaker at the dedication of the new Yitzhak Rabin Hillel Center for Jewish Life at UCLA, Sunday, Nov. 17. Procession from old building (900 Hilgard Ave.) begins at 12:30 p.m. Program at new building (574 Hilgard Ave.) begins at 1 p.m. For more information call (310) 208-3081.

Harmonic Convergence


Singers and lovers of Jewish music will gather in Sepulveda Pass this week for a festival celebrating Jewish choral music of the past and present.

The first David Nowakowsky International Jewish Choral Festival, which begins Sunday at the University of Judaism (UJ), will present a series of concerts and presentations designed to celebrate Jewish liturgical music scored for choirs in every genre, from 19th century "classical" to pop.

Geared primarily toward choir directors, choral singers and cantors in its sessions on repertoire and the use of choral music in the synagogue, the festival will also feature nightly public concerts in UJ’s Gindi Auditorium.

Although one of the concerts and one of the workshops will feature the music of the festival’s namesake, David Nowakowsky (1848-1921), most of the festival’s focus is on recent and contemporary composers of Jewish music with ties to Los Angeles, including William Sharlin, Max Helfman, Aminadav Aloni, Craig Taubman and Michael Isaacson.

The region’s premier Jewish choral group, the Los Angeles Zimriyah Chorale, will perform at the opening night concert and on Aug. 6, in a concert featuring Taubman. Other featured choirs include the Workmen’s Circle Mit Gezang Chorale, in a program of Yiddish music, and the Valley Beth Shalom choir, performing works by Aloni, on Aug. 5. Cantor Ira Bigeleisen of Adat Ari El and British pianist Harold Lester will appear in recital on Aug. 7.

The festival is sponsored by the Nowakowsky Foundation, founded in 1988 by the grandsons of Nowakowsky, a prolific composer of synagogue music in Odessa during the last decades of Tsarist Russia.

For more than 50 years, Nowakowsky served as music director of the Brody Synagogue in Odessa, part of a tradition of Jewish choral music most noted for the 19th century works of Salomon Sulzer and Louis Lewandowski. He was part of a sophisticated artistic circle that included writers Sholom Aleichem, Ahad Ha’am and Chaim Bialik.

Though little of Nowakowsky’s work was published during his lifetime, his manuscripts, representing more than 3,000 pieces, survived World War II and were brought to the United States in the 1950s. Several of his works, most notably his closing service for Yom Kippur, gained attention among U.S. synagogue musicians and singers after the war.

A foundation-sponsored concert of Nowakowsky’s music conducted by Roger Wagner in 1989 galvanized Noreen Green, now artistic director of the Los Angeles Jewish Symphony.

"It struck such a chord in me," Green told The Journal. "I was so surprised at the vastness of his music: the variety, the beauty of the arrangements." Green took on a leadership role in the foundation, and for several years led the Nowakowsky Chorale, an ensemble devoted to performance of his music.

She compares Nowakowsky to Johann Sebastian Bach, both in the breadth of his output, composing music every week for his synagogue, and in his sophisticated use of counterpoint. "It weaves such a beautiful harmonic pattern," she said of his work.

Musicologist Neil Levin, an archivist and a professor of music at Jewish Theological Seminary in New York, told The Journal that while Nowakowsky was not an influential composer, he successfully blended thorough understanding of Jewish musical motifs with "magnificent craft" in his music. The festival’s artistic director, Nick Strimple, who will conduct the Zimriyah Chorale singing Nowakowsky’s music on Sunday, said that while many of his pieces fall into the category of European art music, they can’t be mistaken for the work of any other composer. "There’s that Russian seasoning," Strimple said.

Festival director Gregory Cherninsky, a Russian émigré, relates to Nowakowsky as a fellow Odessan, whose instrumental music he compares to that of Tchaikovsky and Mussorgsky. "I consider myself his third-generation student," said Cherninsky, who is preparing a program of Nowakowsky’s chamber music.

Much of Nowakowsky’s work was meant to be performed in concert, not as part of a worship service, and some of the pieces by more recent composers represented at the festival fall into that category as well. Ironically, the festival is occurring at a time when many synagogues are pulling away from formal, cantor- and choir-oriented music and moving toward simpler tunes that everyone in the congregation can sing.

However, Green noted that not every Jew experiences his or her Jewishness through prayer. "People want to feel connected to their Judaism, and music is a nonthreatening way to do that," she said.

Levin added that "just listening" is part of prayer, too, and that a concert of sacred music is itself a spiritual experience, not entertainment. "High art is by definition spiritual," he said. "If it isn’t, it’s not high art."

Silver Lining for Silverlake


At the onset of 2002, it looked like curtains for the Silverlake-Los Feliz Jewish Community Center (JCC). The JCC, located at Sunset Boulevard and Bates Avenue, was one of five sites originally slated to be shut down and sold so that parent organization Jewish Community Centers of Greater Los Angeles (JCCGLA) could repay a $3 million debt.

Seven months later, the Silverlake center will have much to celebrate during its community-wide party on July 28. Renamed the Silverlake Independent Jewish Community Center (SIJCC), the center is still standing, still open for business, and, as its new moniker suggests, the JCC is severing ties with JCCGLA — with the JCCGLA’s help.

Silverlake’s move toward independence is part of the ongoing rearrangement of the JCC network since a financial crisis last summer spurred a dispute between JCCGLA and The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles and threatened to shut down many of the facilities. But how Silverlake’s move will affect other JCCs — if they will also choose to go independent — is yet to be seen.

JCCGLA President Nina Lieberman Giladi told The Journal that it is premature to predict the shape that the centers will take in the future. "Everything that we have done since we inherited and tried to manage this crisis is unprecedented," she said.

"The JCC leadership and the Federation leadership are now looking for broader solutions in terms of the long term solutions of JCC services in L.A.," said Federation President John Fishel. "The spirit is positive, anger has dissipated and everyone’s working to find solutions.”

In Silverlake, "It’s been a roller coaster ride these past six months," said Janie Schulman, chair of SIJCC’s 13-member board of directors, who spearheaded efforts to save Silverlake’s JCC. Since the JCCGLA crisis was first made public in late 2001, Silverlake’s members galvanized to marshal political and financial support to save their institution. By February, action committees formed to develop a viable business plan to keep their center alive. They created a nonprofit group called Friends of the Silverlake-Los Feliz JCC to facilitate these efforts.

Today, the center is in the process of forming a new independent 501(c)(3) entity, using the nursery school and kindergarten early childhood education (ECE) programs as its primary service. JCCGLA is assisting the nascent SIJCC make the transition by letting members use the building rent-free until summer of 2003, when the organization will sell the property. This gives members, who have organized into various committees, nearly a year to find a new building.

"They’ve been very cooperative," Schulman said of JCCGLA, which technically still operates the SIJCC until the nonprofit status is finalized. To ease continuity, SIJCC has incorporated the phrase "Jewish Community Center" — not a registered trademark of JCCs of North America — into its name.

In addition to JCCGLA’s support, Schulman said that The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles has provided the center with a $55,000 contingency cushion, to be used in case of a sudden drop in enrollment, need for repairs or other emergency.

"I am very pleased by how the numbers look," Schulman said. "We are making a real effort to be fiscally responsible and making sure we don’t have a hole in the middle of the school year."

Such potential snags have not deterred parents from committing children to SIJCC’s schools. Nearly 60 kids have enrolled.

"The irony was that the original plan was to close us down because there was no Jewish community on the east side of Los Angeles," Schulman said. "Now we might have a waiting list."

JCCGLA’s crisis was not the first time that the Silverlake center has experienced hardships. In fact, the center was born from turbulence, opening its doors in 1936 as the Hollywood-Los Feliz JCC after area Jews experienced anti-Semitism.

An early 1970s joint review by the institutions that are now JCCGLA and The Federation identified demographic, membership and financial redundancies. The center had 841 members — an enviable tally by today’s standards. Nevertheless, funding was eliminated in 1976 for Hollywood-Los Feliz JCC, which was on the brink of closure until community activists pressured the organizations to reverse their decision.

For now, SIJCC will concentrate on rebuilding step by step into a full-service community center.

"There is a definite need in our area," said SIJCC Director Ruthie Shavit, who emphasized how important the center is to Jewish and interfaith families alike. "If the center was not here, many people would not seek a synagogue."

Passionate About Passover


Each year I search for ways to make the entire week of Passover come alive for my family — not just the seders. I get excited about the holiday, always finding a surprise experience to create for my children, depending on their ages and stages. I passionately search the library and Internet, looking for new meanings to the holiday. Each year there is something old and something new at our family seders. I also look for experiences before Passover begins, as well as during the week.

Before Passover begins

We spend a great deal of time cleaning and changing the entire kitchen. In addition, the kids empty out my minivan of all their “kid junk” so I can have it thoroughly cleaned before Pesach. Every year, my husband and kids kvetch about all of the work needed to be done. Mom becomes the “Egyptian taskmaster,” forcing them — their words, not mine — to clean, carry boxes, move furniture, prepare fruits and vegetables, set the tables, etc. The entire house is a frenzy of cleaning, organizing and food preparation.

They soon identify with the Jewish slaves of Egypt, and many questions unfold: “Why do we have to go through all this fuss?” “Why can’t we eat whatever we want?” “Does God really care about all of this?” My three beloved children and husband take on many of the characteristics of the Four Sons.

The conversations become opportunities for questions, disagreement and meaningful yiddishkeit. The secular and ordinary tasks of our household become transformed into something greater than ourselves. We are now working together as a family with a sacred mission, a purpose, as Jews have done for hundreds of years. When we sit down exhausted to the seder, there is a real sense of accomplishment. We are an essential part of the Jewish story.

Bedikat chametz, bi’ur chametz and bittul
chametz

The night before Passover, when all the chametz (leaven) has been removed, I scatter 10 pieces of bread throughout the family room. Our tradition calls this bedikat chametz (the search for chametz), instructing us to hold a feather and lighted candle to gather the bread pieces in a paper bag. You can purchase a bedikat chametz kit or make your own. The room is darkened and the hunt is on. My children, even the older ones, look forward to this, especially when we burn the bag of bread the next day. This ritual is called bi’ur chametz (the destruction of chametz before Passover).

Kids have a fascination with hide-and-seek — and fire. In addition, bittul chametz is the nullification of our chametz possessions. We prefer to give much of our food to SOVA, the Jewish food bank, to share with others. In addition, our rabbi symbolically transfers ownership of our food, to another person for the week of Passover.

Shopping at the kosher markets

I’m the master shopper most of the year, usually avoiding taking my children to the market because I usually end up with more kid purchases than planned. But when I take them to the kosher markets or special Passover sections of the larger grocery chains, the sky’s the limit. We break the rules! We look for as many kosher-for-Passover goodies as we can get our hands on.

Finding delectables of every flavor keeps the kids more satisfied for the entire week. In addition, I shlep them to the kosher markets because I want them to see all of the Passover food choices we have, an entirely different experience than when I was growing up. The food shopping becomes a pedagogic experience, as they ask me questions while looking for permissible foods. The “Passover junk food” (an oxymoron?) definitely reaches its quotient, but everyone seems satiated by the end of the week.

Something old

For years, our family seders were held at the home of my beloved Bubby and Gramps. Even though they are no longer with us, we use some of the objects from their seders. We incorporate their seder traditions as a way to preserve our collective family memory. We speak of them and they are now seated at the table beside us. My grandmother’s Passover paraphernalia is used on the table: all of her silver bechers (wine cups), her crystal used to hold the parsley and celery sticks; her little plastic matzah boxes with her age-worn matzah covers, her faded afikomen bag and her silver pitcher for hand washing. Even one of their old worn Maxwell House haggadot is there beside me.

I cherish these items, which my thoughtful aunts bring to my home each year for the family to use. These items are treasures to us. We honor Bubby and Gramps’ memory, but even more important, we honor their commitment about living our lives passionately as Jews. Our family seder wouldn’t be complete without these items used year after year.

We also use some of my grandmother’s recipes, trying to replicate the foods she served us. My mother and two aunts help me prepare many of the Passover comfort foods Bubby made.

Something new

I watched Bubby add new things to her seders: a reading about Soviet Jews, a clever and witty song, a personal family blessing. By her example, I started adding readings to our family seders when I was in high school. My grandfather encouraged me to sit beside him and co-lead the seder.

In those days, he indulged my need to read pieces about Jewish feminism and changing the God language to be “gender-neutral.” He encouraged me to lead beside him, and see myself as having a larger role as a Jewish woman, both in and outside of the kitchen. I will forever be grateful to my grandparents for encouraging my active participation at the seders. This was truly “leadership training” at its best, because it inspired me to be both the baleboste and seder leader.

By my grandparent’s example, I have sought to create new experiences for my own family. The seders have been greatly influenced by the ages of my three children and what they were learning in school. Their school-made Passover projects have held a sacred place, alongside the silver and crystal at the table. I lovingly bring out a few of their handmade haggadot and afikomen bags, even those from preschool, and wonder where the time has gone.

The following is a list of some ideas I’ve borrowed and adapted from other sources. Feel free to experiment and challenge yourself. Even one or two new ideas employed will give each Passover a unique memory, and perhaps create a new family tradition.

1. Pharaoh comes to our seder

Last year, I rented a Pharaoh headdress from a local costume shop. My husband wore it for the maggid, the part of the seder that tells the story of the Exodus. My two sons played Moses and Aaron, complete with beards, and my daughter was Miriam. I interviewed each of them to tell their side of the story. They gave us a glimpse of each character’s perspective in the Passover saga. The second night, we traded roles and costumes. Everyone loved it, and the story came alive for us.

Another year I acted the part of Shifra, one of the midwives who risked her life to assist in the birth of Moses. The children listened with awe as I described how dangerous those times were. I recounted the story of the plagues and the Exodus. I recreated the story from the female perspective, also giving voice to Miriam, Moses’ sister. The “old woman” also engaged the children with questions, to foster an appreciation of the drama of the story and our personal and communal connection to it, rather than a dry, monotonous reading.

2. Passover trivia

I research and gather different Passover facts. Some are quite simple for the kids — how many times is the number four repeated in our Seder? — to the more challenging for the adults — what are the names of Moses’ mother and father? As answers are given correctly, I throw a piece of kosher-for-Passover Bazooka bubble gum across the room to the person who has answered correctly.

I sprinkle the trivia questions throughout the Seder, so they are imbedded into the experience. Many questions are easy for those that have been paying attention. They have to keep on their toes. The kids love the challenge and stay involved throughout the evening as the bubble gum flies around the room.

3. Passover diorama

The kids and I gather items that replicate the Exodus story. This becomes the centerpiece at the head table. We have a miniature Pharaoh troll — thanks to the Luxor hotel in Las Vegas — a Beanie Baby camel, a blue foam Nile River and floating baby Moses in the basket of reeds and a homemade pyramid. Some years the pyramid has been made out of LEGOs, papier-mache or charoset. There are locusts, frogs, mini-Moses and clothespin Israelites sprinkled throughout the tables. The kids love taking out these “Passover action heroes” and take a special pride in decorating the table.

4. “Frogs were jumping everywhere”

Like the words of the well-known Passover children’s song, my dear friend, Wendy, has a Passover frog fetish. Each year, she places various frogs throughout her dining room. We marvel at all of her frogs, and our eyes roam throughout the room to see frogs hanging from the chandelier, frogs she has hand-painted onto bowls, Beanie Baby frogs, frog bookmarks — she even wears frog brooch.

Over the years, I have bought her a few frog items to add to her collection. She makes it a challenge to see who can find and count up all of the frogs.

5. Passover music

We sing the traditional songs in the seder. However, we listen to contemporary Jewish artists’ Passover music. My kids enjoy Cindy Paley’s Passover CD, and we have used it as inspiration during our house cleaning. Last year, I bought Debbie Friedman’s Passover CD, and we incorporated some of her incredible songs into the seder experience.

The seder’s heart and soul are transformed by beautiful and rich melodies from all over the world, both old and new. The kids enjoy hearing the songs they have grown up with. At the same time its important for them to see the ever-evolving role of Jewish music.

6. Wine tasting

Why use the same old standbys of Concord grape? There are so many incredible kosher-for-Passover wines you and your guests can enjoy to increase the ta’am (flavor). Be careful not to use the silver cups with certain wines, because the taste will be altered. In addition, there are some delicious nonalcoholic varieties for those who do not drink alcohol.

7. Charoset tasting

I usually prepare several charoset recipes from different countries. I want my children to see that we are part of the Jewish Diaspora experience, adapting our traditions to our countries of residence. It’s important for them to see they are part of a larger world Jewish family. I love trying new recipes each year, and the guests enjoy tasting the different flavors and textures. I also have a charoset pyramid, which they love to dismantle, bite by bite. For those of you proud Californians, Judy Zeidler has a great California charoset with ingredients from our Sunshine State.

8. Use your local print shop

Feel free to copy readings that are meaningful and incorporate them into your seder each year. Your haggadah should never be confined to the printed page. I keep several beside me, in addition to handing out supplemental readings for all to use.

As the developmental needs of your children change and grow, so, too, should aspects of the seder, with readings and questions to match. Don’t be fearful to embellish the experience with new words, insights and questions.

9. “Invite the stranger in your midst”

From the time I was young, I remember my grandparents always having guests at our seders. We continue this important mitzvah each year by inviting friends and strangers, both Jew and gentile, to participate in our seder. I call the rabbi’s office and offer my home.

A few years ago, we had a young man from South America considering conversion. Another year, it was a young couple and their babies who were new to the Los Angeles area. A local synagogue or Hillel can help you find people eager to share a family-style seder. It’s also very important that my children participate in this important mitzvah, seeing this as a lifelong mitzvah of hospitality.

10. Chol ha’moed

The intermediate days of Passover offer rich experiences to my family. The eating of matzah and the abstinence from chametz are all encompassing during the week. Every excursion outside the house takes on new meaning and challenge, as we take the Passover foods along with us, to school and work.

At times, my kids have been embarrassed by the foods. Other times, they have willingly shared these “funny crackers” with their public school friends, just as I did many years ago. Last year the kids went with my non-observant brother-in-law to Disney’s California Adventure during Passover. He respectfully schlepped the container of permissible Passover foods. While the kids kvetched about this, they were pleasantly surprised to run into some friends during lunch.

My daughter remarked at how proud she was to see the picnic area filled with Jews observing Passover, and the kinship she felt with them. I privately thanked God for that moment between us.

Look for ways to enrich your life, crafting your observance of Passover with new meaning, renewed kavannah (inspired intention and aim) and passion for Passover.

Shanghai Shuls 2nd Wind


Shanghai resident Seth Kaplan got tired of celebrating the High Holy days in rented hotel spaces while the city’s oldest intact synagogue sat empty, deteriorating just a few miles away.

So along with others in his congregation of expatriates, Kaplan, 34, began advocating for the restoration of Ohel Rachel, which the Chinese Communists had turned into a warehouse.

Their efforts came to fruition recently when the World Monuments Fund added the synagogue, built in the 1920s, to the 2002 Watch List of 100 Most Endangered Sites. The fund, which publishes the list to bring attention to threatened cultural sites around the world, revises its list every two years. The 2002 list includes one other synagogue, Subotica Synagogue in Yugoslavia, built in 1902. The list includes well-known sites such as the Great Wall of China as well as more obscure ones such as a Gothic church in Poland.

According to Henry Ng, the fund’s executive vice president, Ohel Rachel was chosen because it symbolizes the long history of the Jews in China. "This is really the only active synagogue left in all of China that’s authentic," he said.

Ohel Rachel is urgently in need of repair.

For nearly 50 years, the building has been used by various state and local governmental bodies. Reoccurring leaks and vegetation growth threaten its structural fabric.

Perhaps the most important factor in the fund’s decision to include Ohel Rachel on the list was the energy and commitment of Shanghai’s Jewish community. The synagogue "has that local, on-the-ground group that’s willing to be advocates for the building and to basically ensure its long-term future," Ng said.

While inclusion on the list will likely draw international attention to the site, there are no immediate financial rewards.

Kaplan, who was born in New York, said his community plans to undertake a campaign to raise money for the repairs.

Ohel Rachel is one of only two remaining synagogues in Shanghai. The other, Ohel Moshe, has been turned into a museum.

When the Ohel Rachel Synagogue was built, Shanghai had a population of approximately 1,700 Jews.

It was constructed to accommodate a community of approximately 600 Jews from Baghdad living in Shanghai at the time.

With a seating capacity of 700, the Sephardic synagogue had a walk-in ark that once held 30 Torah scrolls. The synagogue is part of a small compound that at one time included a Jewish school, library, playground and mikvah.

Sir Jacob Elias Sassoon, a Baghdadi Jew living in Hong Kong, endowed the synagogue in memory of his wife, Lady Rachel.

The first major wave of Jews, arriving primarily from Baghdad and Bombay, came to Shanghai after the city was opened to foreign traders in 1842, following the Opium War.

A second wave of Jewish emigrants came from Russia in the decades following the 1917 Russian Revolution.

The third wave of Jews moved to Shanghai from Central Europe in the 1930s and during World War II. Because the city was the only place in the world not to require a visa for entry, approximately 20,000 Jews escaped to Shanghai between 1938 and 1945.

After the Communist takeover in 1949, Shanghai’s Jewish community dwindled.

The new government confiscated Ohel Rachel in 1952, removing its furniture and decorations.

During the Cultural Revolution in the 1960s, Ohel Rachel’s windows, chandeliers and ornaments were smashed, and the building was then used for a variety of government functions.

Most recently, the Shanghai Government Education Commission used it for offices and storage.

In 1993, the city of Shanghai declared Ohel Rachel a historic landmark, which granted it some protection, but continued to use it as a municipal building.

After then-U.S. First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton and Secretary of State Madeline Albright asked to visit the building during a 1998 visit to China, the city cleaned up and painted the building, but little structural repair was done.

Ohel Rachel is still owned by the city government, which lets Shanghai’s Jewish community of approximately 300 — which is served by a Lubavitch rabbi — use it only a few times a year.

Kaplan and the rest of his congregation hope that the Monuments Fund listing will encourage the city to return the building to his congregation.

He said he wouldn’t mind if the city used it as a museum — as it has said it wants to — as long as the congregation is able hold services there.

"It’s a symbol of Jewish-Chinese relations," Kaplan said. "It’s also a symbol of what the Chinese people have done for us in the past, such as for the refugees during the war," he added.

"This synagogue represents the past. It represents the future. It needs to be restored."

Calendar & Singles


Calendar

SATURDAY/8

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

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

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

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

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

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

SUNDAY/9

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(626) 287-9994.

MONDAY/10

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

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

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

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

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

TUESDAY/11

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

WEDNESDAY/12

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

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

(818) 591-7485.

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

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

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

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

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

THURSDAY/13

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

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

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

Singles

SATURDAY/8

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

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

SUNDAY/9

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

(323) 782-0435.

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

MONDAY/10

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

TUESDAY/11

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

WEDNESDAY/12

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

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

THURSDAY/13

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

(310) 315-1078.

FRIDAY/14

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

 

MONDAY/2

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

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

TUESDAY/3

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

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

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

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

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

WEDNESDAY/4

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

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

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

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

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

THURSDAY/5

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

FRIDAY/6

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

UPCOMING

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

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

Turkish Delight


In the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the first joint Turkish-Jewish gala in Los Angeles went ahead almost as planned.

For security reasons there was a change of venue — from the residence of the Turkish consul general to a Marina del Rey hotel — but the organizers felt that a public affirmation of solidarity between the two ethnic groups in their support for America was now more important than ever.

“We are here to celebrate the Jewish experience under centuries of Turkish rulers and the close ties existing now between Israel and Turkey,” said Gary Ratner, regional executive director of the American Jewish Congress, which co-sponsored the Sept. 29 event, organized by the American Turkish Association of Southern California.

In size, the estimated 250,000 Turkish Americans in the United States are nowhere near the 6 million Jews, but the history of the two peoples have been entwined for centuries.

Speakers reminded the 280 guests that the Turkish Ottoman Empire stood as a welcoming refuge for Jews, particularly in times of medieval persecution and expulsion. A 14th-century sultan sent ships to bring persecuted Ashkenazi Jews from France to his domain. Sultan Beyazit II, who warmly welcomed Sephardic Jews after their expulsion from Spain in 1492, emulated him.

More recently, the Turkish government gave shelter to Jewish academics fleeing Nazi Germany in the 1930s. During World War II, though levying extremely heavy taxes on its Jewish subjects, Ankara rejected Hitler’s demands that the refugee professors be returned to Germany.

In 1949, Turkey became the first Muslim country to recognize the State of Israel.

Currently, the largest Turkish concentrations in the United States are in the New York-New Jersey area, followed by the Chicago-Detroit area and California — where there are large pockets around the state, including 20,000 in Southern California — said Sema Karaoglu, the community’s resident historian.

Karaoglu, like more than 90 percent of Turks, is a Muslim, but she works as an active volunteer in senior citizen programs at the Jewish Community Center in Costa Mesa.

In its first interethnic foray, her group sought a Jewish partner, she said, instead of turning to the larger Latino or African American groups, because of perceptions that Jews are “more homogenous, better-organized and more effective,” in addition to sharing historic links with Turkey.

Keeping with the dinner’s theme, a main honoree of the evening was Dr. Moshe Arditi, whose heritage is both Jewish and Turkish.

The 45-year-old physician heads the Division of Pediatric Infectious Disease at the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, and he speaks with equal animation about his youth in Istanbul and his present-day “mixed” Sephardic-Ashkenazic household in Encino.

Turkey’s Jewish community numbered around 90,000 in 1945, but after massive aliyah to Israel following the 1948-49 and 1967 wars, it now stands at about 24,000.

The Sephardic community that Arditi recalls was nominally Orthodox, but in practice somewhere between Conservative and Reform.

“When I grew up, I didn’t know one family that kept kosher, and I met my first real Orthodox Jews in Israel and America,” he said.

His most enduring memory of religious life is that of a Yom Kippur service, when he and his buddies sat in the last row of the synagogue so that they could follow the fortunes of their favorite soccer team, Fenerbahce, on their transistor radios.

Arditi’s loyalty to his team has not diminished over the years. He and his young son rise early on weekends to watch the satellite transmission of Turkish soccer matches.

Religious or not, the ties of Turkish Jews with Israel have always been very close, and as a schoolboy, Arditi spent some eight summers on school vacations working on kibbutzim.

Though clearly identified as a Jew by his name, Arditi cannot recall a single anti-Semitic incident in Turkey, a Muslim country, while attending public, Catholic and medical schools, or during a brief stint in the army.

The only negative aspect, he recalled, was the failure of the Turkish press to report on Israel’s positive achievements, and on the close military and diplomatic ties between Turkey and Israel.

After a 1980 coup, which put Turkey temporarily under military rule, Arditi, then 25, left for better educational opportunities in the United States. He pursued medical and specialized training at Yale, University of Chicago and Northwestern University. He was named to his present post at Cedars-Sinai in 1998 and ranks as professor of pediatrics at UCLA. He heads a research team that focuses on how the human immune system recognizes and fights bacterial infection, a study with potential applications toward treating inflammatory and coronary diseases.

The number of Turkish Jews in Los Angeles is quite small, Arditi said, and they have no specific organization or synagogue meeting point.

Arditi said that he knows some 25 to 30 Turkish Jews of his own generation living in Los Angeles and estimates that there are no more than 100 in the area.

As a bachelor he attended Sephardic Temple Tifereth Israel in Westwood and was married there to Debi, an “Ashkenazi Valley Girl,” he said. The couple, with Rachel, 6, and Andy, 5, live in Encino and are now congregants at Valley Beth Shalom.

The doctor frequently cooks Turkish meals at home (“The kids love it,” he said), but what he really misses is a good Turkish restaurant; he consoles himself at some of the better Indian dining spots.

One occasional shadow on the congenial relations between Turks and Jews in the United States is the still bitterly contested question of the staggering death toll of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire during World War I.

Armenians say the Turks perpetrated a clear-cut genocide, which claimed 1.5 million lives. Some Jewish organizations and college campus groups, with their own memories of the Holocaust, have supported Armenian demands for an acknowledgment of guilt by the Turkish government.

Turkey admits that hundreds of thousands Armenians died, but claims the deaths resulted from wartime dislocation and support for Turkey’s enemies by Armenian militants.

The “Armenian genocide” question is one that Turkish Americans, whether Muslims or Jews, address only reluctantly. “This is a loaded subject,” said Sema Basol, chairman of the American Turkish Association. “This happened during wartime, when there were high casualties on all sides.” She noted that her organization has many Armenian members.

Arditi responded to the same query, “I will leave this matter to the historians.”

Celebrating the “Torah cycle”


The eighth day of the holiday of Sukkot is actually a separate holiday called Shemini Atzeret. It means “the eighth day of the assembly.”

The Israelites gather for seven days around the Temple in Jerusalem, and they are just not ready to go home yet, because they are having so much fun. So they stretch the seven-day holiday into one more day.

These days, Shemini Atzeret is one day long in Israel and two days long outside of Israel. In Israel, the first day of Shemini Atzeret is Simchat Torah (meaning, the Happiness of the Torah). Outside of Israel, Simchat Torah falls on the second day of Shemini Atzeret — so we actually get nine days of holiday!

I hope you plan on making a beautiful flag that you can wave high above your head when you join the Torah procession. Remember, on this day we finish reading the Torah and we start all over again without even taking a breath! The cycle of Torah reading is like the cycle of the seasons. On Simchat Torah, we also pray for rain. It is time for the rain to bless our earth throughout the fall and winter months so that when the spring comes round again we will be able to decorate our Passover table with colorful flowers!

And Many More


There’s nothing like completing chemotherapy to spice up a birthday party. Last weekend, 40 of my dearest friends performed a commemorative Havdalah ceremony to mark a really great CT scan and year 53. My "re-birthday" celebration was just the ticket, restorative not only for me but also for the extended community that has seen me through my struggle with lung cancer.

In the afternoon, we painted silk squares for a healing quilt. We stuffed ourselves on smoked turkey and exotic salads. At sunset, we stood in a circle, lighting each other’s candles, saying blessings, smelling the spices that would stimulate the memory of friendship overcoming pain.

After the candles were blown out, we stood around the lemon cake lit with a single candle and sang the Birthday Song. When we got to the last line, I raised my arms like a choral director and elicited a benediction: "Hap-py Birth-day to you. And mannnnny more."

Yes, yes, make it so. Many, many more.

It is wonderful to be back among the living. During the afternoon, I walked around my garden, the summer sun dappling through mock pear trees. I eavesdropped as my friends, all Baby Boomers, complained about the ravages of age. One cries that her ear lobes are growing longer. Another says her face is sagging. Still another notes that her nose seems bigger, or that there’s no hair on her legs. How I want these problems, too.

And when I’m 90: a sturdy cane, decent hearing, a steady hand for the crossword puzzle, gums to eat corn.

Now begins yet another hard part, the reconstruction of normal time. Cancer shakes to the roots any complacency that we own our own existence. A day, a week, a month, a year. The forest of my life has separated into distinguishable trees, many of them now fallen, as if by a hurricane. Who or what owns what comes next? I am baffled. What is a worthwhile activity, and what would lead only to irrelevance or regret?

When the matriarch Sarah dies, the Torah counts her life this way: "The life of Sarah was 100 years, and 20 years and seven years." Why the triple repetition of the word "years"? The sages answer that Sarah truly lived every part of her life cycle: She was intently young, intently adult, intently old.

"One who has truly lived walks through the days," says Samson Raphael Hirsch. "He does not walk above them or below them." I will walk through the days, too.

What does this mean to me? Hirsch explains that we must bring the best of ourselves into our future. I assume he doesn’t mean my youthful love of Archie and Veronica comics, but wouldn’t mind my carrying along a sense of humor.

Can I really move on without resentment, not embittered by cancer, still resolutely me (whatever that might mean)?

The mythology of cancer is that the disease changes us in big ways. We imagine that if we survive chemo, well, naturally, we’ll quit our jobs, or go off on a junket around the world, living with an urgency and a new desire for spicy food.

But I’m not so sure. Since the diagnosis of lung cancer, the biggest change I intuit is that I drive slower.

Well, it’s true. I have a peculiar new understanding of risk, and the way unfortunate forces converge in unpredictable ways. There is danger in a sloppy left-hand turn, and what about that guy tailgating in the next lane. Having made it through lung surgery, would I want to die on Pacific Coast Highway?

To counter this caution, maybe what I need to bring with me into this next period is my insouciance. I loved being young. I gave away my years, and flaunted my energy. I crammed a lifetime into a day, reading bad books, following bad fashion, seeing bad movies without discrimination.

"Hope I die before I get old," I sang with the car radio. How close to that goal I came.

Shabbat on the Boulevard


After the candles were lit, the wine blessed and the bread broken, Jimmy Gamliel and Yosi Levy, standing on a small stage in front of patrons at Tempo Restaurant in Encino, broke into traditional Shabbat songs from Israel. The crowd, nearly 110 strong, sang and clapped along with the band. Some mothers stood, holding their children, and swayed to the music. Other patrons, moved either by memories or the melodies, joined Gamliel and Levy onstage to dance.

During a break in the music, people drifted from table to table, greeting and hugging friends. The camaraderie and ambience were such that it was easy to forget that Tempo is a restaurant, not someone’s home.

The Valley-based restaurant is a gathering place for Israeli and American-born Jews alike. But for the Los Angeles Israeli community, heavily concentrated in the south Valley, Tempo is a focal point for cultural reconnection, offering a variety of special evenings with them in mind. But it’s the Friday evening Shabbat dinner that attracts the entire family. And for those Israelis who have married an American, Tempo’s Shabbat dinner offers a vibrant way to present an Israeli-oriented Shabbat tradition to their children.

Gilli Sharoni, co-owner of Tempo with her husband, Avner, and his family, want to make sure their customers feel at home. During each Shabbat dinner, which lasts from 7 to 10 p.m., everyone is given some kosher wine and challah. Individuals are then invited onstage to either light candles or lead the “Kiddush,” and children are gathered together in front of a microphone for a rousing “Hamotzi.”

“A lot of families came here [on Friday nights] and the natural thing to do was allow them to bless the bread and wine and light the candles,” Sharoni said, referring to the beginnings of the restaurant’s Shabbat dinner, a regular feature for nearly 20 years. “It just makes it a little bigger than what you would do at home. Even though it’s not in exactly the right hour for the blessing, it’s the tradition we’re trying to show the kids.”

Sharoni recalled one Shabbat dinner at Tempo during Passover with particular fondness. “It felt like everybody knew each other; they were all together, reading [the haggadah]. It was unbelievable. It had this family feel.”

This Friday-night dinner has kept some, like Sol and Esther Jackel, coming back regularly for 15 years.

“I love the music and the whole Shabbat atmosphere,” said Esther, who teaches preschool at Baldwin Hills Elementary. “After a week of school, this really relaxes me.”

Gamliel and Levy alternate each week with Zioni Zadok and Ruben Barci, who gravitate toward the American Jewish spectrum of music.

For 7-year-old Adam Gootnick, who was visiting Tempo for the first time with his family, Gamliel and Levy’s music was the best part of the evening. “I like the singers,” he said. “They sing good.”

The family-owned restaurant, started in 1977 as a humble but popular falafel stand, quickly evolved to become an upscale restaurant with a Mediterranean menu and a passion for live music. Many in the Los Angeles Israeli community have also met their spouses at Tempo, especially the employees. “We’re trying to make an evening for all the people who got married here,” Sharoni said about plans for the restaurant’s upcoming 25th anniversary. “There’s so many of them.”

The Shabbat dinner is one of four nights during the week when Tempo features live music, some of which draw as many as 200 to 300 people. Tuesday night features an Israeli singalong, and Saturday focuses on disco dancing and slow sambas for a more mature crowd, but the Israeli club night with Pini Cohen on Thursdays is a different story.

“Thursday night, [Israelis] dance on the tables and get wild,” Sharoni said. “It’s always different, surprising and fun. The one thing you can’t say is that Tempo is boring.”

After 15 years at Tempo, Sharoni still looks forward to Friday nights, especially when it comes to the customer-led blessings.

“Everybody does it a bit differently. There’s Sephardics, Ashkenazi, Israeli, Yemenite,” she said. “Even in the Israeli community there’s so many ways of blessing that it’s very interesting.”

Tempo Restaurant is at 16610 Ventura Blvd., Encino. For more information, call (818) 905-5855.

Hollywood Legend Turns 75


Like most legends in Hollywood, Temple Israel of Hollywood has undergone a few makeovers to stay fresh since it was founded in 1926. Maybe that’s why even as it celebrates its 75th anniversary, the Reform synagogue is even more bustling than it was in its heyday when it was billed as “Filmland’s House of Worship.”

Founded by a handful of Hollywood legends, the shul on Hollywood Boulevard west of La Brea Avenue thrived from 1942-1974 under the leadership of Rabbi Max Nussbaum, who not only married such stars Elizabeth Taylor and Eddie Fischer, but managed to bring in speakers like Golda Meir and Martin Luther King Jr.

But in a familiar story, shifting demographics and a deteriorating Hollywood Boulevard left the shul with a dwindling membership in the ’70s and early ’80s, until the arrival of Rabbi John Rosove in 1988. Rabbi Rosove rebuilt the temple, focusing on the preschool and the religious school, and building up the day school.

Today, with 850 member families, the synagogue is a center of adult learning and social action. Most recently, the shul embarked on a three-year period of introspection and change under the guidance of Synagogue 2000, a synagogue revitalization project run out of the Whizin Center for the Jewish Future at the University of Judaism.

“We are looking at all our assumptions and coming up with ideas about how to make Judaism more than pediatric — where people just come for the kids,” says Jane Zuckerman, the temple’s executive director. “We’re looking for ways to make it family inclusive, with adult prayer and advanced adult education.”

In celebration of the 75th anniversary, Temple Israel has installed a new wall of history in the synagogue. The community and anyone who has been involved with Temple Israel is invited to Friday night services June 1 at 7 p.m. to participate in a special anniversary Shabbat, where many past and present members will join together for services, Israeli dancing and an Oneg Shabbat. The celebration will continue Saturday night, June 2 at 6:30 p.m. at a dinner dance.

Temple Israel of Hollywood is at 7300 Hollywood Blvd. at Martel. For more information, call (323) 876-8330.

Valley Jewish Festival Goes Green


All the fish in the ocean,
All the birds in the sky,
All the trees in the forest,
All the clouds floating by,
All the boys and the girls,
All the squid and the squirrels,
Ought to know it’s one world we share….
– “One World,” Craig ‘N Co. © 1997

If anyone knows how to have fun, it’s singer/songwriter Craig Taubman. Known to thousands of kids and former kids for tunes such as “Shabababat Shalom” and the “Chanukah Rap,” Taubman, the musical force behind Sinai Temple’s popular Friday Night Live and Adat Ari El’s One Saturday Morning services, is about to bring his special brand of ruach (spirit) to the Valley Jewish community’s biggest event of the year.

As co-producer of the Valley Jewish Festival, which takes place Sunday., June 3, at California State University, Northridge (CSUN), Taubman is drawing on his experience putting together events like Sunday Funday to gather a variety of acts from today’s Jewish music scene, combine them with the events planned by The Jewish Federation/Valley Alliance and kick the festival up a notch.

“What we need to do at this time is make people feel good,” Taubman said. “We could have been born in Serbia or South Africa; instead we are blessed to be born in a glorious place, in a time where we have the State of Israel. There is a lot more to celebrate than to moan about.”

The playlist for this year’s festival includes Israeli pop star David Broza and soul singer Neshama Carlebach (daughter of the revered Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach), who will appear on the Monster.com Main Stage along with world beat band Pharoah’s Daughter, popular local act Hollywood Klezmer and the Keshet Chaim Dance Ensemble. In the children’s area, acts appearing on the Saban Entertainment Family Stage include tot favorites Joanie Bartels and Parachute Express, plus Taubman’s own group, Craig ‘N Co.

Taubman put to good use his relationship with Zany Brainy (for whom he recently produced two CDs) and a chance meeting with media mogul Haim Saban to obtain key sponsorships for the festival, which, in turn, allowed him to attract acts like Broza and Carlebach.

“The corporate sponsors have been terrific,” Taubman said. “We were thrilled to get such high-powered companies as Saban. It really elevates the level of the festival.”

The Valley Jewish Festival, which first appeared as the Exodus Festival in 1986, has always been constructed around a theme of social action. This year’s motif, the environment, is particularly apt considering the state of California’s ongoing energy crises and concerns about the current federal administration’s energy policies.

“The festival’s theme is an effort to help the Jewish community find the link between Judaism and good environmental stewardship,” said David Rosenstein, director of the Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life–Southern California (COEJL/SC), which, along with the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, is sponsoring the festival’s Environmental Pavilion. “Many people are not aware that their deep concern for the environment has a Jewish base. We want people to leave with a sense of their responsibilities and to know that this is a Jewish issue.”

The pavilion will feature the DWP’s “Green Power for a Green L.A.” program of renewable solar, wind and geothermal energy sources; a display of electric and hybrid vehicles; and exhibits by Heal the Bay, California Wildlife Center, Coalition for Clean Air, Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), Shalom Nature Center and Sierra Club. During the festival, COEJL/SC will join with members of the Los Angeles City Council to present the third annual Jewish Environmentalist of the Year award to co-recipients Mark Gold of Heal the Bay and the NRDC’s Gail Feuer (wife of City Council member and city attorney candidate Mike Feuer).

Children visiting the festival can participate in conservation projects such as planting saplings with TreePeople. Festival organizers are also making a conscious effort to respect the environment during the event: the main stage will be solar-powered; volunteers from Clean and Green will provide recycling containers and pick up litter, and food vendors are being strongly encouraged to use recycled or biodegradable plates and cups instead of Styrofoam, that enemy of all that is green.

Rosenstein said he hopes visitors’ festival experience will encourage them to get involved with one of the featured organizations or at least spur them on to create and implement environmental programs for their synagogues and schools.

“I don’t think the Jewish population is any less negligent than the population at large,” he said. “But certain people have the intuitive sense that, as a socially responsible Jew, they have a moral imperative to care for Creation. The United States comprises 5 percent of the world population but contributes 25 percent of the greenhouse gases, which are projected to cause millions of deaths in the coming decades. If that isn’t a moral issue, I don’t know what is.”

In addition to environmentally themed centers, the festival will also host the traditional booths for the gamut of local Jewish agencies, ranging from Abraham Joshua Heschel Day Schools to the Zimmer Children’s Museum. The Jewish Journal will be raffling off prizes, including tickets to Dodger Stadium and Universal Studios, and will also feature a children’s drawing contest, where the theme will be “What can you do to protect the environment?”

And, of course, there is the food, much of it under kosher supervision and some of it quite interesting, like the (kosher) Greek salad or pesto tuna salad in a taco shell being offered by the Marriott Hotel.

First-time festival director Dawn DeRoy Muroff said she and her staff are working hard to make the festival more user-friendly than the previous one at CSUN. The Jewish Federation/Valley Alliance hired a parking company to monitor the lots and extra security to help keep the area safe for the estimated 30,000 people expected throughout the day. Efforts were made to ensure enough activities to interest toddlers, teenagers, singles and seniors; booth occupants were encouraged to create interactive displays, although not too high-tech.

“People recommended having computers (at various booths), but I really had a visceral reaction to that,” Muroff said. “I really want people to interact with people at this festival.”

Muroff said she hopes the festival will convey the spirit of all that the Valley Jewish community has to offer. “This is a very safe way for people reticent to walk into a synagogue to find something that speaks to them,” she said.

Taubman said he just hopes the event will give Jews from all walks of life a much-needed break from the high-speed pursuit that Los Angeles life represents.

“I just want people to stop at some point and say a shehecheyanu, a ‘thank you’ to God for bringing me here and letting me live in this space and time,”
he said. “So often, we live life in retrospect and hindsight. It would be great to just have one day to live in the present moment.”

Opting In


We lit the candles Friday night in honor of the new millennium.

I know it should not have been done that way. Observant Jews insisted right up until the Waterford ball dropped in Times Square that the millennium had nothing to do with them, that on Friday night it was Shabbat, not 2,000 years after Jesus that they were celebrating.

I had been tempted to follow their lead. Several times throughout the year, I’d begun columns saying that this is not our millennium. I wanted to endorse the sanctity of Jewish history, especially our own false messiahs of the past, against the current apocalyptic madness. Sure enough, Jewish writers did fill the Internet with missives about the real millennial shift, Y6K, some 240 years from now. Amid unendurable tension from calendar change, Jews were opting out.

That’s why what happened Friday may one day be regarded as a major historical shift in consciousness, Jewish and otherwise. As it turned out, the world did not end. As importantly, Jews did not implode: we became part of the world, on our own terms. In my home, as in Jewish homes around the world, we had both the Sabbath and the Millennium. We lit candles and still acknowledged the great psychic turning toward the future that would be impossible — and foolish — to ignore.

For much of the last century, Jewish experience has been a tug of war between two poles: the ghetto or assimilation, the religious world or the secular. Either we run away from our tradition, fleeing specific Jewish rituals while retaining a kind of antiseptic social action reformism, or we flee into spiritual extremism.

The century just passed has been an experiment in finding the mean. But it has not been easy to achieve equilibrium. After decades spent exulting in the American mainstream, the early years of the Ba’al T’Shuvah (returning Orthodox) movement were marked by joy, but also pain, as children of secular parents suddenly took on all the ritual obligations except the mitzvah of honoring their parents. In Israel, the fight too often became violent: assaults on women who wanted to pray with a Torah at the Wall, or who entered Orthodox areas of Jerusalem with arms exposed. Intolerance became the 11th plague.

Behind these struggles has been a passionate, poignant but ultimately misguided search for authenticity — for the right way to be a Jew, whether in Israel or in Diaspora. This is the battle that began not with America, nor with Israel’s establishment, but with the Enlightenment, when Jews first received the right to normal citizenship. Are we a nation like any other? Or are we exclusively a Jewish state? Are we a people like any other? Or are we bound to keep ourselves so separate we don’t even write our checks (as Rabbi Steve Leder says) with Roman dates?

Only at the last seconds of the 20th century have we resolved these questions raised 250 years ago. That’s why the most important Jew of the 20th century, from a spiritual perspective, must be Rabbi Mordecai M. Kaplan, who taught Jews that they can, and must, be both separate and universal. He urged them not to opt out of the world, but to opt in, to cultivate the knack, even in Israel, of living in two civilizations at once.

Perhaps it was the resignation of Russia’s Boris Yeltsin. Or the technological relief coming from New Zealand and Australia, that the Y2K bug would not cause computer meltdown. Perhaps it was the amazing lack of violence in Jerusalem, against the threat of apocalyptic zealots waiting for the Messiah and the End of Days.

Wherever it began, the shift that began Friday morning will, I hope, have an impact on us in the years to come. The steam of anxiety, that had been building across the globe for much of the past year, lifted. And most Jews, however they observed it, felt part of it, too.

Looking back now, I understand the desire to run for cover, especially against the messianic fervor of both Christian and Jewish fundamentalists fascinated by red heifers and rebuilding the Temple. But now that it’s over, what a lesson has been taught: Future generations may be able to trust the normal bureaucratic police process to filter out the true crazies, so the rest of us can feel safe to join in the fun.

On Friday, wherever we were on the religious spectrum, we could have our Shabbat in full glory of the holy seventh day, and still acknowledge our place among the world’s peoples. American synagogues acknowledged this need, albeit tentatively. The early abbreviated service (some were too abbreviated, lasting only half an hour) made the point that the Jewish way to bring in the future is to say special prayers on its behalf.

The television cameras panned across the international date line, through Egypt and Israel, China and Paris and even into a Cuban nightclub.

And what came to mind was the Hebrew prayer for universal peace, “Aleynu.” At the end of every prayer service, we say these words daily:

“May all the inhabitants of the world perceive and know that unto you every knee must bend, every tongue vow loyalty.”

A blissfully peaceful millennium shift was celebrated with such sweetness round the world. Everyone was there. Jews too.


Marlene Adler Marks is senior columnist of the Jewish Journal. On Saturday evening she joins Gary Rosenblatt of New York Jewish Week and Alan Abrahamson of the Los Angeles Times to discuss “Jewish Ethics and Journalism” for Young Israel of Century City. Call (310) 273-6954. Her email address is wmnsvoice@aol.com


Her website is www.marleneadlermarks.com.

Her e-mail address is wmnsvoice@aol.comHer book, “A Woman’s Voice” is available through Amazon.com.