DETROIT, MI - JUNE 3: Brad Goldberg #67 of the Chicago White Sox pitches during the eighth inning of the game against the Detroit Tigers on June 3, 2017 at Comerica Park in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images via JTA)

Jewish pitcher Brad Goldberg makes his White Sox debut


Relief pitcher Brad Goldberg, who is Jewish, made his Major League Baseball debut with the Chicago White Sox.

Goldberg, 27, was called up from the minors, the Triple-A Charlotte Knights, over the weekend, after pitcher Michael Ynoa was placed on the 10-day disabled list with a right hip flexor strain.

Goldberg pitched part of the eighth inning against the Detroit Tigers on Saturday, allowing four runs on a walk and three hits.

He was drafted by the White Sox in the 10th round of the 2013 MLB draft, after ending his college baseball career at Ohio State University in Columbus.

Goldberg left this year’s spring training with the White Sox to pitch for Team Israel in the second round of the 2017 World Baseball Classic in March. The Israeli team was eliminated from the tournament after the second round, with a loss to Japan in Tokyo.

Goldberg was born in Cleveland and grew up in the heavily Jewish suburb of Beachwood.

A view of the Harry and Rose Samson Family Jewish Community Center in Milwaukee Wisconsin, which was one of several JCCs to receive more bomb threats on Sunday. Photo from Facebook.

At least 7 JCCs receive bomb threats on Purim


At least seven Jewish community centers in the United States and Canada received bomb threats while they were hosting Purim events.

The threats, either called in or emailed, were reported Sunday at JCCs in Rochester, New York; Chicago; Indianapolis; Milwaukee; Cleveland; Houston, and Vancouver, British Columbia.

Most of the JCCs were evacuated and searched. None of the threats turned out to be credible.

For some of the centers it was their second threat in the past week.

The threats are part of a wave that has hit JCCs, Jewish schools and other Jewish institutions since the start of 2017. More than 150 threats have been received since the beginning of the year, according to the Secure Community Network, which coordinates security across Jewish organizations in North America.

On Sunday, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo called the second such threat against the Rochester JCC in less than a week “a despicable and cowardly act” of anti-Semitism. Cuomo ordered the New York State Police to launch a more intense investigation into the threats, and to work with federal and local law enforcement on the investigation.

“Like all New Yorkers, I am profoundly disturbed and disgusted by the continued threats against the Jewish community in New York,” Cuomo said in a statement. “As New Yorkers, we will not be intimidated and we will not stand by silently as some seek to sow hate and division. New York is one family, and an attack on one is an attack on all.”

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker said he plans to provide additional law enforcement intelligence and staffing to the JCC in Milwaukee so it “continues to be a safe place” after it was evacuated Sunday for the fourth time in six weeks.

Meanwhile, a rally was held Sunday outside the Rady Jewish Community Centre in Winnipeg, Canada, which was evacuated due to a bomb threat on Thursday, “to send a signal of unity against fear and terrorism.”

At its last Cleveland convention, the GOP nominated a friend of refugees — and Jews


Last night, a series of speakers at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland told voters to elect Donald Trump, who has repeatedly called for a ban on Muslim immigration to the United States. One of the speakers, Sabine Durden, said “crooked Hillary always talks about what she will do for illegal aliens and for refugees. Well, Donald Trump talks about what he will do for Americans.”

But the last time the Republicans met in Cleveland, their nominee wanted to let refugees become Americans. Alf Landon, nominated at the 1936 Republican National Convention, was an outspoken critic of Nazi persecution of Jews. Later, he advocated bringing Jewish refugees to America, and supported the establishment of a Jewish state.

Landon was the governor of Kansas, a state with relatively few Jews. But in 1933, Landon denounced “the inhuman treatment now accorded the Jews in Germany,” according to Rafael Medoff, director of The David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies. That statement, according to Medoff, was more than President Franklin D. Roosevelt ever said publicly about Nazi anti-Semitism before 1938.

“He didn’t have any particular connection to the Jewish community in Kansas, he didn’t have any major Jewish donors of whom I’m aware,” said Medoff. “He didn’t have any ostensible reason for doing it other than that the plight of the Jews appealed to him on a straightforward humanitarian basis.”

Kansas Governor Alf Landon lost to Franklin Roosevelt in the 1936 election. Photo from Wikimedia Commons

The statement didn’t help Landon in 1936. Jews were considered such a solid Democratic constituency that year, says Medoff, that Landon didn’t even campaign for their votes. A component of the juggernaut New Deal coalition, Jews voted overwhelmingly for Roosevelt in 1936, giving him 85 percent of their votes. The president would earn 90 percent of Jewish votes in 1940 and again in 1944. Jewish leaders remained loyal to Roosevelt and didn’t build relationships with Landon.

(Republican efforts to draw Jewish voters have intensified during the past several elections, to little avail. Seventy percent of Jews voted for President Barack Obama in 2012. Conservative Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubinestimated last week that presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton could get 90 percent of the Jewish vote in 2016 — tying Roosevelt’s number.)

But unpopularity didn’t stop Landon from advocating for the Nazis’ Jewish victims. Days after Kristallnacht, in November 1938, Landon called on Americans in a radio address to protest on behalf of European Jews.

In 1939, according to Medoff, he was one of few Republicans to support the Wagner-Rogers bill, which would have allowed 20,000 Jewish refugee children into the United States. The bill died in committee. A few years later, Medoff writes that Landon praised a Revisionist Zionist position paper calling for mass Jewish emigration to Palestine ahead of the creation of a Jewish state.

The head of the American Revisionist Zionists? Benzion Netanyahu, father of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. So along with being one of the only politicians to welcome refugees, Landon was among the first of many Republicans to like a Netanyahu.

 

Jewish security officials, cops from five North American cities tour Israel


Jewish security officials from five North American cities joined top police officers in a tour of Israel to examine its security practices.

Four U.S. metropolitan areas — Cleveland, Memphis, Detroit and Kansas City, the site of a deadly attack on Jewish institutions last year — are represented on the weeklong trip by Jewish security officials and senior police officers.

Also joining the tour, organized by Secure Community Network, the security arm of the national Jewish community, are directors of security for Montreal’s Jewish community and a representative of the New Jersey State Police. In addition, a senior official of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security is accompanying the group, which arrived in Israel on Sunday.

SCN, affiliated with the Jewish Federations of North America and the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, has long emphasized the importance of building relationships with local police. JFNA and local federations are paying for the tour.

The aim of the trip is to examine Israeli methods of increasing public awareness of a security threat. Israeli officials will brief participants on terrorism, international threats and cybersecurity, among other issues.

The timing of the massive terrorist attack in Paris over the weekend made the need for the training especially acute, said SCN’s director, Paul Goldenberg.

“The events in Paris, with well-planned and coordinated attacks on innocent civilians at soft targets, highlights the importance of an approach which brings together community, security professionals and law enforcement,” he said in a statement.

David Blatt puts Cleveland on Israel’s map


When my husband and I first made aliyah 15 years ago and an Israeli asked us where we were from in the United States, they looked at us blankly when we said Cleveland.

They knew New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and Miami, but Cleveland simply was not on their radar. This despite the fact that Cleveland for many years sent a high number per capita of members of the Jewish community on aliyah – I have the telephone and address book of former Clevelanders published by our hometown association to prove it.

After a few years, when I said I was from Cleveland, an Israeli’s immediate response was “LeBron” — prep phenom LeBron James had been drafted out of his Akron parochial school by the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2003 and immediately began to make a name for himself in the NBA. He then made quite a big show of leaving the Cavaliers for Miami with a live ESPN special titled “The Decision,” and Cleveland again became a laughingstock (burning river anyone?) and somewhat known even in Israel.

Two weeks ago I spent a Shabbat on a small kibbutz in the lower Galilee where my daughter is performing her first year of national service. During a Shabbat meal at the home of a native Israeli family, their young son, taking note of my still pretty poor Hebrew, asked where we originally came from. At the mention of the word Cleveland his eyes widened and he leaned forward. “David Blatt,” he said in a reverent whisper of the Cavs’ first-year coach.

While Israelis love LeBron, they love Blatt even more.

David Blatt led Israel’s beloved Maccabi Tel Aviv basketball team to the EuroLeague championship last year. David Blatt was the first Israeli to become a head coach in America. David Blatt, years earlier, had eschewed a shot at the NBA to make aliyah and play professional basketball in Israel until a career-ending injury.

Now Cleveland is on everyone’s radar here, with not only Clevelanders but thousands of Israelis waking up in the middle of the night to watch the playoffs and NBA Finals games live, saving the biggest cheers for shots of Blatt on the sidelines pacing in his neatly and decidedly un-Israeli tailored suit. We’re all walking bleary-eyed through the next day. The Clevelanders even have a hashtag, #CavsIsrael, and we cheer and commiserate via Facebook.

Being a fan of any Cleveland sports team is generally a thankless proposition – we haven’t had a championship for any major team since 1964 – but I love rooting for all my hometown teams.

Still the Cavs have a soft spot in my heart that predates Blatt, LeBron and aliyah. It goes back to the mid-1970s when my brother and I would huddle in his bedroom hours after we were supposed to be asleep listening to the team’s colorful radio announcer, Joe Tait, call the games.

You could hear the sport shoes scuffing on the floor and see the players going up for shots (“to the line, to the lane …”). Most rewarding was Tait’s triumphant shout of BINGO! when guard Bingo Smith swished a jump shot. We whispered Bingo with him and sang the Cavs’ fight song along with the fans at the games.

My nighttime Cavs’ watching here in Israel is reminiscent of those undercover nights as a youngster in Cleveland. Blatt and LeBron (who I have almost forgiven for “The Decision”) are just the icing on the cake.

Letters to the Editor: Cleveland Kidnappings, Hawking, Mount Zion Cemetery


How Much Involvement?

This is a thought-provoking article about our own responsibility as neighbors (“We Must Be Our Brother’s Keeper,” May 17). How do we strike the balance between being intrusive and being helpful?

Haya Leah Molnar
via jewishjournal.com

Brotherhood

In light with teachings of Holy Quran, we Ahmadis hope to bridge the gap and form bond of love with the fellow Jewish brethren (“His Holiness,” May 17)!

Noor Ul Amin
New Delhi, India
via jewishjournal.com

Boycotting Israel

I want to thank [Stephen Hawking] for boycotting Israel (“Hawking and Mohammed,” May 17). It was an insignificant, petty declaration with no real consequence. Had he not, I would have mistakenly continued to think he had integrity.

Israel should also be boycotted for receiving 180,000 Palestinians into their hospitals for medical care each year, too!

Phillip Pasmanick
via jewishjournal.com

I am sure that a lot of the Palestinians in Israeli jails, including young boys, do not feel Israel is so wonderful. Bravo, Mr. Hawking.

Ann McCoy
via jewishjournal.com

Global Warming: Real or Not?

On atmospheric CO2 reaching 400 parts per million, Marty Kaplan’s article on global warming attempts to gin up high drama about a subject waning in the public’ consciousness (“Say Goodnight, Earthlings,” May 17). Professor Kaplan: “Our planet’s hair is on fire.” Catchy, entertaining, but is it science? Data from the NASA Climate Change public Web page http://climate.nasa.gov/key_indicators suggest otherwise.

A plot from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, at the top of the page, shows atmospheric CO2 steadily rising since 2005.

Lower on the page, a plot from NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies indicates that global average temperatures have been slightly declining since 2004.

In other words, global temperature is not following the atmospheric CO2 concentration. An unbiased analyst would see no correlation between the two. Therefore, CO2 concentration exceeding 400 parts per million is no reason to panic and to dismantle our economy. Which is why the American public lost interest in the issue.

Professor Kaplan is using “disaster porn” (his words) and “grab us by the eyeballs” (his words) to push a gloom and doom picture in support of a Luddite economic approach. Solid data from two of the world’s research powerhouses prove him wrong.

Alex Abramovici
Pasadena

Marty Kaplan responds: Mr. Abramovici bases his case on global temperature from 2004 to the present. Anyone who’d like to see what’s happened from 1880 to the present — both to global temperature, and to CO2 concentration — should look at the same graphs on the same NASA page he cites:climate.nasa.gov/key_indicators. The facts really do speak for themselves.

Mattel Details

I read your article on the Autry exhibition with great interest and hope you will accept one comment/correction (“How the Jews Changed L.A.,” May 3). Mattel was started by both Ruth and Elliot Handler. Ruth was the CEO and Elliot the chief development officer (now would be referred to as chief creative officer), and both were responsible for developing and bringing out the Barbie doll and then Hot Wheels.

Irwin Field
via e-mail

Giving Credit Where Due: to L.A. Times

I was gratified to read Jared Sichel’s extremely well-reported and -written story “Restoring Mount Zion” (May 10). I’m glad that the Jewish Journal is covering the sorry state that this cemetery finds itself in — as well as nascent efforts to do something about it.

It was pointed out to me, however, by the person who forwarded the article to me that there was no mention of the fact that the publication I work for, the Los Angeles Times, broke that story. In fact, I was the person who reported and wrote the story about Mount Zion’s condition. As you know, these stories get picked up elsewhere, and people are none the wiser that the L.A. Times had a thing to do with breaking this story.

Hector Becerra
Staff Writer
Los Angeles Times

Editor’s note: The Journal has written about the decay at Mount Zion Cemetery before, including in 2007, as has The New York Times. The Los Angeles Times article mentioned did not break the story, but it did provide another look. We regret that omission.

Cleveland kidnappings: No one loves the stranger


I know what happened with those three women in Cleveland, how one man was able to imprison and torture them in the middle of a residential neighborhood for 10 years, even though he had grown children, brothers, cousins who visited the house for hours at a time. It’s not a pretty tale, but we’ve all heard it, although to a lesser degree, countless times before. 

Remember the command in the Hebrew Bible: “The Lord your God loves the stranger … and you shall also love the stranger, for you were a stranger yourself in the land of Egypt”? Well, that’s not true in L.A., and it apparently wasn’t true in Cleveland, either. 

For years after I had moved here from Iran, I drew suspicious smiles and “are-you-just-weird-or-do-you-have-a-hidden-agenda?” glares. A mother at my kids’ school would spend half an hour in the parking lot telling me about the husband who had just left her because she was ill, and now she was alone with toddlers and no one to care for them or her, and I would ask if I could help in any way. The neighbor across the hall from me would cry over lunch about her son who had been in a coma for 15 years and how she cared for him at home and could hardly get away, and I would offer to fill in for her from time to time. Or I’d see a colleague get mistreated at work, a child teased, an old lady yelled at by her caretaker at the grocery store for taking too long to decide which brand of milk to buy. If I rose to their defense, it wasn’t just the tormentor who resented me; often, the one I thought I was speaking for was distrustful to the point of being hostile. 

I don’t know why it took me so long to get it. I thought of every possibility but the most obvious one. 

Societies function through a set of entrenched boundaries. Some of these are spelled out and written into law; they are meant to create order and safeguard rights. The other boundaries, born of culture and custom, are often unspoken, even instinctive. Cross them and you’ll be sent into some form of emotional exile. 

In most traditional societies, these boundaries separate each tribe (the extended family, the members of an ethnic or religious minority) from all the others. Within, you suffer from a sometimes total lack of privacy but benefit from an equally formidable emotional support system. Their map looks like a jigsaw puzzle: Oddly shaped pieces fit together by some peculiar logic evident only in retrospect. 

In America, on the other hand, the map looks like a page from a grid notebook: Each individual or couple, while part of a larger whole, is ensconced safely, if alone, in a single little box. A person may expose herself, needs and vulnerabilities and all, to a near stranger, or on television and on the Web. She may do this merely to unburden herself, or to arouse the public’s sympathy or to become famous. But just about the only thing she doesn’t want is a display of pure empathy or an offer of guileless aid. 

Where I grew up, you did things for others because you were human and so were they. You relied less (or not at all) on government and institutions, taxpayer-funded organizations or troops of volunteers. The government was usually there to make you more, not less, miserable; rich people didn’t pay taxes, and the poor just paid to make others rich. You had only each other and your (and their) basic humanity. It wasn’t nearly as efficient as the Western model, but often it was more effective. Back there, if someone’s child disappeared, people remembered and remained vigilant long after the police had closed the case. They talked about it and asked questions and told the story to every newcomer for three generations. 

Back there, if you had a brother who had multiple locks on the basement door, you would know one way or another what he was guarding. If your father disappeared for an hour during a meal at his own house, or if your neighbor had naked women crawling around his yard, or an old man turned up at the park with a 6-year-old who resembled him, you would likely know enough about him to be able to connect the dots. 

There’s a difference between allowing people their space and privacy and making a conscious effort not to know because you don’t really care. 

There’s a difference between allowing people their space and privacy and making a conscious effort not to know because you don’t really care. Time and again here in L.A., I’ve seen one person look irritated and change the subject when another began to talk about a painful event or personal tragedy. An old friend of mine once sent out a mass e-mail to announce he did not want to hear about anything unhappy that went on in anyone’s life; bad news, he said, weakens one’s life force. 

So, yes, I may be completely wrong about Cleveland, there may be parts of this story that have yet to surface, but given what we know so far, I can tell you those women remained captive because the people on the outside didn’t care enough. The man’s family didn’t care enough about him or what he did to others to find out what lay behind the locked doors. The police didn’t think the girls mattered enough. And the neighbors? The neighbors were asleep in their little grids. That’s unfortunate, but it gets worse: The people on the outside didn’t care enough because they’ve been taught not to; because if they do, they’ll get punished for it in one way or another. 

Americans are a uniquely generous bunch. They’re splendid at organizing and effectuating aid, at answering a call to duty and committing acts of pure heroism. They rushed toward exploding bombs to save bleeding victims in Boston, drove across the country and inhaled poisonous debris for weeks at a time to sift through the rubble at the World Trade Center. They organize search parties for missing children and walk all night in mud and sleet, put their Ivy League educations to use in refugee camps and war zones. They’re good at donating and raising money for just about any cause. 

Then the battle is won, the search is over, and the once-formidable army of selfless and valiant givers breaks back up into a thousand lonely, self-sufficient cells. The lucky ones go home to a nuclear family — a spouse, a couple of kids who’ll leave home the minute they turn 18, maybe an aged parent. The rest have no one, or no home, to go back to. They might have saved 100 strangers from death or heartache, but they have no intention of saving themselves or each other from the neverland between intimate relationships and institutionalized charity. It’s the old pioneer spirit — break with the familiar, pack up your wife and children in a wagon, and do or die alone on the prairie. 

But the pioneer, make-it-on-your-own, build-a-new-world-or-kill-yourself-trying spirit, while hugely liberating and uniquely empowering, has its downside: Sit on the porch with a shotgun on your lap long enough and you’ll end up defending an empty, forgotten shell of a home separated by desert from other empty, forgotten shells. Or approach the lunatic on the porch and get shot at enough times and you’ll go home and put a dozen locks on your own door, live and let die. 

I still care about what happens to the “stranger,” but I know better than to step up and offer a hand. I find it at once sad and telling that the neighbor who responded to one of the women’s cries is being hailed as a hero. As if he did something most other normal beings wouldn’t do — aren’t expected to do. As if the normal course of duty is to hear a call for help and, because it comes from inside someone’s house, walk away. 

It would be easy for me to condemn such callousness except that I fear I’m increasingly guilty of it myself. I haven’t forgotten the awkward reactions or outright rejections I received from people when I believed we’re all bound together by our humanity. The woman crying about her husband in the parking lot never spoke to me again after I said, “I’d like to have you and your kids over for Shabbat dinner some time.” The neighbor with the son who was in a coma dialed the wrong number (mine), mistook me for someone else and said, “My neighbor called to ask if I need help; I wonder what she wants.” These days, I reserve my expression of empathy for close friends and family. I donate to charities and nonprofits knowing that this kind of aid, while important, is no substitute for a personal connection. Yes, it makes me less of a person. I believe this kind of detachment diminishes all of society, allows crimes large and small to go undetected. 

The only thing is, I’m still haunted by the anguish of the abandoned woman, the suffering and confusion of the old lady in the grocery store, the unjust firing of the colleague. I would much rather have had a part in helping heal the wound than spend years wondering what became of those people. I do see the distrustful neighbor from time to time, and though we only exchange polite greetings now, I can tell you that she seems no happier for all her well-guarded boundaries.


Gina Nahai is an author and a professor of creative writing at USC. Her latest novel is “Caspian Rain” (MacAdam Cage, 2007). Her column appears monthly in the Journal.

Modern slavery: Answering the cry


Modern slavery is everywhere, and women principally are its victims. 

Whether kidnapped by a single deviant, as appears to be the case in Cleveland, or trafficked en masse across national borders for purposes of labor or sex exploitation, women’s lives are being stolen from them. Unlike Amanda Berry, Georgina DeJesus and Michelle Knight, whose ordeals currently dominate the national news, most victims suffer — and sometimes die — in silence and anonymity.  

In the last decade, human trafficking and enslavement worldwide has exploded, rising from more than 12 million victims in 2005 to nearly 21 million victims in 2012. Everyone from organized crime syndicates to street gangs has (re)discovered the cheap cost of a reusable good — human life. 

According to a 2012 report by State Attorney General Kamala Harris, global profits from human trafficking surpassed $32 billion last year with almost 18,000 people smuggled into the United States destined for forced labor in industries and homes across our country. Shockingly, thousands more are American citizens — most often vulnerable girls, many of them runaways — who are lured via social media and other means into forced prostitution. 

These statistics are daunting, but there is hope — hope born of human kindness. 

“S” was brought to the United States from Indonesia to work as a domestic servant for a wealthy couple in La Cañada — a suburb of Los Angeles. The family confiscated her passport, ordered her not to speak to anyone outside the home and forced her to work without pay 16 hours a day, seven days a week. If she tried to escape, they warned, she would be raped, arrested and left to starve in prison, or captured by thugs who would harvest her organs and leave her to die in the street. 

The family confiscated her passport, ordered her not to speak to anyone outside the home. … If she tried to escape, they warned, she would be raped, arrested and left to starve in prison, or captured by thugs who would harvest her organs and leave her to die in the street.  

Despite these threats, “S” repeatedly tried to escape. The first time, she approached members of a construction crew working across the street, asking them to take her to the Indonesian Consulate, but they did not know where to go. Her next attempt was with a local plumber working down the block. 

Plumber: A lady approached me across the street with a note and request me to call the embassy. I called, and they claim they did not know her. I told her I had to finish my job. I’ll try to come back out to talk to her more. 

Attorney: What happened when you came back out?

Plumber: She was gone. I never saw her again.

This testimony was taken from the trial of a civil lawsuit brought by Bet Tzedek Legal Services with pro bono co-counsel at O’Melveny & Myers LLP.

Ultimately, “S” was freed because those initial encounters gave her courage to call an American friend, who alerted the police. The traffickers were prosecuted criminally and were sued civilly by Bet Tzedek, resulting in what is believed to be the first successful civil jury verdict under the California Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2005. At trial, the traffickers claimed that “S” was a guest in their home and argued that she fabricated the enslavement story in order to obtain a T-Visa, a special visa reserved by the federal government for trafficking victims.

“S” is among many victims whose stories have a happy ending because complete strangers recognized their plight and took action. The next three women, all clients of Bet Tzedek, never would have escaped without help. 

“A” was trafficked from Peru by a college professor who forced her to work as an unpaid domestic servant. A tenant on the professor’s property sensed something was wrong and gave her Bet Tzedek’s phone number. Following a series of secret meetings between “A” and her attorney, the professor became suspicious, drugged “A” and dumped her in Tijuana. Bet Tzedek found “A,” alerted the Peruvian Consulate and secured her release.  

“J” was brought to Los Angeles from the Philippines to work as a nanny. Once here, she was confined to the family condo, without pay, without her passport and without access to a phone or computer. Her first attempt to escape failed when “J” panicked and rejected the assistance of a health care practitioner who tried to help her. A second attempt succeeded when the condo doorman, who asked her if something was wrong, helped her to sneak out of the building and run away. 

“M” left an abusive husband in Ethiopia to work as a domestic servant in California, even though she spoke no English. Her employers beat her repeatedly, causing multiple injuries, including broken teeth. After one particularly brutal beating, she kicked open the back door of the house where she was being held and escaped. “M” lived on the streets for almost a month before a woman in a park approached her to ask if she needed help and took her to Little Ethiopia, where community members found her shelter. During her captivity, she had frequented many public places with the family, including Disneyland.

“These stories are all too common,” said Kay Buck, executive director of Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking (CAST), a Los Angeles-based nonprofit that provides services to trafficking victims and trains law enforcement officials, first responders and legal advocates how to recognize and assist victims. CAST has spearheaded anti-trafficking efforts resulting in the creation of stronger laws, including the 2005 Victims Protection Act and the 2010 Transparency in Supply Chains Act, which requires any retailer or manufacturer with annual worldwide revenues of more than $100 million to disclose its efforts to eradicate slavery and human trafficking.

These laws, and others at the federal level, form the backbone of a growing structure designed to combat trafficking. But laws are meaningless without civic participation.

HOW YOU CAN HELP

Be aware. Trafficking victims are everywhere, and they often exhibit characteristics similar to victims of domestic violence and sexual abuse.  Physical indicators may include bruises and other evidence of beatings and assault, as well as untreated critical illnesses or sexually transmitted diseases.  Indicators of psychological distress may include poor dental health, depression and extreme anxiety. First responders should look for lack of personal possessions and numerous inconsistencies in personal history. 

Step up. If you see someone who needs help, call the Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking (CAST) at (888) 539-2373 or call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center hotline at (888) 373-7888.  Both are 24-hour hotlines.  You can also text INFO or HELP to BeFree (233733). 

Be informed. Consumers can make a difference. To find out more about the business practices of companies you buy from, go to slaveryfootprint.org or free2work.org.

Get involved. CAST and Bet Tzedek could not help nearly as many clients without the assistance of pro bono attorneys and other volunteers. To donate your time, go to ­bettzedek.org/volunteer or castla.org/volunteer


Elissa Barrett is vice president and general counsel of Bet Tzedek Legal Services. Kevin Kish is director of Bet Tzedek’s Employment Rights Project.

Cleveland kidnappings: We must be our brother’s keeper


It is not our place to judge the neighbors of Ariel Castro. We don’t know enough about the particular circumstances of those who lived near this man who allegedly held three women hostage for a decade to be able to judge whether things could have been different had they been paying closer attention. But a story like the one that developed in Cleveland over the past 10 years compels every one of us to ask the following questions: “Could such a thing have happened on my block? Do I have a Jewish ethical obligation to familiarize myself with my neighbors and their lives so that I can know if something is awry? Or is this degree of precautionary vigilance beyond the reasonable limits of ethical responsibility? And what of the revered Jewish principles of granting people the benefit of the doubt, and of not being reflexively suspicious of others?”

As I thought about these questions, I realized that it would be disingenuous and inaccurate to assert that Jewish law demands that we proactively sniff out trouble. The numerous mitzvot that require us to remediate or at least diminish the travail of suffering of others are all reactive in nature. We must visit the sick of whom we are aware, but have no specific obligation to seek the sick out. The same holds true for the mitzvah to ransom captives, to feed the indigent, to comfort the bereaved. We mustn’t stand idly by the blood of another. But this mitzvah, too, presumes that we have already become aware of the difficult circumstances that another is facing. 

At the same time, though, in numerous different ways, the Jewish ethical tradition recognizes the stark reality that when we are purely responsive and not proactive, we will invariably drop many vulnerable individuals right between the proverbial cracks. Yes, it is necessary to be responsive to people in trouble, but necessary is not always the same as sufficient. 

Three young women were kidnapped and held hostage in Cleveland for a decade. From left: Amanda Berry, Georgina DeJesus and Michelle Knight.

The most dramatic expression of this recognition comes in the form of a story told in Avot of Rabbi Nathan, a compilation of wisdom and teachings from the period of the Talmud. The story is that of the young Eliezer ben Hyrcanus, who is born into a wealthy, land-owning family but whose heart is captured by the voice of study that is emanating from the beit midrash of Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakai, the great master of that generation. Eliezer’s father, who foresees Eliezer’s future in conducting the affairs of the estate, is displeased by his son’s interest in study. The text relates what happens next:

One day, Eliezer announced, “I am going to learn Torah from Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakai.” Said his father to him, “You will eat not a morsel today until you plow an entire furrow.” Eliezer arose early, plowed the furrow, and set off. It is said that this occurred on a Friday and that he ate that night at the home of his father-in-law, but others say that he did not eat at all. Instead, he placed rocks in his mouth, and some say the excrement of cows. He took up residence in an inn, and came to study before Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakai. At some point Rabbi Yochanan noticed that a bad odor was emerging from Eliezer’s mouth. “My son, have you eaten at all?” the sage asked. Eliezer was silent. Rabbi Yochanan summoned the innkeeper and asked him, “Did you feed Eliezer?” “I thought that perhaps he had eaten with you,” the innkeeper replied. “And I thought he had eaten with you!” replied the sage. “Between me and you, we lost Eliezer in the middle!”

By the time anyone realized Eliezer was in trouble, it was late, almost too late. What was missing and what was needed was the initiative to inquire, to ask questions, to uncover the circumstances by which this young man had appeared in the beit midrash, and to be in position to help before the trouble began. Simply responding to need is necessary, but not always sufficient. 

The value of being vigilant and proactive is also expressed by one of Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakai’s students who, when asked by his master, “What is the most important quality a person can have?” responded by saying, “That of being a good neighbor” (Pirkei Avot 2:13). He did not say “a good friend,” rather specifically a “good neighbor,” because it is the neighbor who is the set of eyes and ears able to detect even small changes in the daily routines of those immediately around him, and who can inquire and intervene at the first hint that something is amiss. And this very same value is almost certainly imbedded in the mitzvah to “love the other as yourself.” As is clear from its context, this mitzvah is intended to transcend the long list of response-type mitzvot that precedes it. It is the mitzvah to see and to feel broadly and expansively, including taking the time to wonder what that scream was that came from the house down the block. 

And, yes, at the same time, we are to give others the benefit of the doubt and to avoid being reflexively suspicious. But halachah strenuously sweeps these — and all Torah laws — aside whenever there is even the possibility that human life is at stake. 

I am the first to admit that I am not the neighbor I should be. And I can offer all the same excuses that so many of us can make. But in light of what has been revealed in Cleveland, it’s clear that our religious tradition would identify this particular moment as one when we are required to ask, “Could this have happened on my block”?

Suspected kidnapper Ariel Castro


Rav Yosef Kanefsky is senior rabbi at B’nai David-Judea (bnaidavid.com), a Modern Orthodox congregation in the Pico-Robertson neighborhood.

Cleveland-area march draws attention to unsolved murder


More than 200 people participated in a community walk in suburban Cleveland to bring attention to the unsolved murder of Aliza Sherman, a Jewish mother of four.

The marchers who gathered Sunday in Beachwood, Ohio, on Sunday, Mother’s Day, carried balloons past the home of Sherman before moving on to the Cleveland Clinic building where the slain fertility nurse had worked. There they released red balloons in her memory, each clipped with a card including the phone numbers of the Cleveland Police Department and Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson.

Sherman was stabbed to death March 24 minutes after completing a meeting with her divorce lawyer at the Erieview Tower in Cleveland; she was stabbed 11 times in the tower’s parking garage. Police have yet to arrest a suspect.

Event organizers encouraged participants to call the Cleveland Police in order to keep the case alive.

“We’ve been following up on all the tips and leads that have come in,” Sgt. Sammy Morris of the Cleveland Police told JTA earlier this month.

Cellist Weilerstein brings worldly depth to SoCal stages


Cellist Alisa Weilerstein grew up in a thriving Jewish community in Cleveland, where before she became a bat mitzvah, she had already made her debut at age 13 with the Cleveland Orchestra. 

Now 30, Weilerstein is the first cellist in more than 30 years to be signed to an exclusive contract by Decca Classics. Her debut recording, released last month with Daniel Barenboim conducting the Staatskapelle Berlin, confirms her stature as one of the finest cellists of her generation and an artist at a new peak of technical and musical maturity. 

For those not satisfied with listening to her on CD, however, she will be making a series of appearances in the Southland beginning next month. Audiences everywhere, from Orange County to Glendale to West Los Angeles, will have a chance to hear her artistry in person.

Weilerstein’s new disc represents a fascinating synthesis of several key interests in her musical life. In addition to a touching rendition of Max Bruch’s “Kol Nidre,” she delivers stunning accounts of Edward Elgar’s moving 1919 Cello Concerto in E Minor, Op. 85, and Elliott Carter’s bracing and rhythmically complex 2001 Cello Concerto. 

The Elgar concerto was a specialty of the late British cellist Jacqueline du Pré, one of Weilerstein’s long-time musical idols, whose career was cut short at age 28 by multiple sclerosis.  Du Pré made four recordings of the work, including a benchmark 1965 interpretation on EMI with conductor John Barbirolli, and two conducted by Du Pré’s husband, Barenboim. 

“I listened to every single recording and saw every bit of footage on du Pré before I was 10 years old,” said Weilerstein, speaking by phone during a stop in Los Angeles to visit a friend. “I was obsessed with her as a child. Her playing had a direct line to the soul.”

The turning point in Weilerstein’s career came in May 2009, when she played the Elgar concerto with Barenboim at the piano. He asked her to come for another session and afterward asked if she’d like to play a televised concert with him and the Berlin Philharmonic. 

“I was just in complete shock,” Weilerstein said. “Of course, I gave a very enthusiastic yes, but afterward I walked out of Carnegie Hall with my cello and wound up somewhere in Central Park. I was so completely stunned.”

According to Weilerstein, Barenboim, who stopped performing the Elgar for years after his wife died, still knew the concerto inside and out. 

“It was really a remarkable experience, because he provided such insight into structural, musical and even technical things, which is very unusual for a pianist,” Weilerstein said. “He talked about very specific string techniques. But, of course, he was playing with du Pré constantly and with [Itzhak] Perlman and [Pinchas] Zukerman.”

By coupling the tuneful, emotional Elgar work with the challenging Carter Cello Concerto, Weilerstein shows she’s serious about making the music of her time available to audiences.

“If we’re really going to make contemporary music a part of the mainstream repertory, you have to pair it with mainstream repertory, because that way you show the trajectory,” Weilerstein said. 

“You have to show where you’ve come from to show where things are going. I strongly believe in having new music juxtaposed with, let’s say, old music.”

Weilerstein said the Carter concerto was new to her repertory. “It couldn’t be more diametrically opposed to the Elgar concerto and, for that reason, it’s actually a wonderful pairing,” she said. “You have these real contrasts as to what the cello is capable of. The cello is a chameleon that can take on so many roles.”

Weilerstein said when she played the concerto for Carter, who died at age 103 earlier this month, she discovered the composer was “extremely exact about what he wanted.” She also realized the pitfalls of performing such a difficult work.

“You have to bring drama and life to it,” Weilerstein said. “If you approach it purely from an academic standpoint, it’s kind of a disaster for the music. You have to be true to what’s on the page, but at the same time, the music allows for a lot of artistic freedom when you’re playing it.”

The cellist will be displaying her versatility over the next several months in Southern California. She is scheduled to perform Dvorak’s Cello Concerto with the Pacific Symphony, led by guest conductor Alexander Shelley, on Dec. 6, 7 and 8 at the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall in Costa Mesa. 

Weilerstein said that the Carter concerto is similar to Dvorak in one respect. “The cello is always in the forefront. Even though it may not seem this way, the Carter is kind of a hero concerto,” Weilerstein said. “The cello is the protagonist, and the orchestra is in a supporting role most of the time. It’s very dramatic.”

On March 1, Weilerstein performs Haydn’s Cello Concerto No. 1 in C major at the Broad Stage in Santa Monica, kicking off a 16-city tour with the conductor-less Academy of St. Martin in the Fields. 

The Academy concert also features Inon Barnatan, the brilliant Israeli pianist and Weilerstein’s preferred recital partner, who will be playing Bach’s Piano Concerto No. 1 in D minor. “He’s a fantastic musician and also one of my best friends,” Weilerstein said about Barnatan. “One searches for a while for this kind of chemistry. Something happened, even when we first read together.”

Barnatan said that Weilerstein “understands that the music is more important than ego. For two soloists to work together takes an equal investment of both instruments. It’s not about a star — a cello and accompanist or piano and obbligato. We push each other musically and arrive at this common performance and energy that we love experiencing.”

The pianist recalled the first time they played together for a concert series. “We wanted to be spontaneous and didn’t over-rehearse,” Barnatan recalled. “We felt we could bounce off each other and let it rip.” The day before, they played on radio as a warm-up. “The host said we must have been playing together for a long time, and without batting an eyelid, Alisa looked at him and said, ‘about a year and a half.’ She didn’t want to embarrass either side by saying that we’d only met a few days ago.” 

On May 18 at the Alex Theatre in Glendale, and repeated the next evening at UCLA’s Royce Hall, Weilerstein is scheduled to join the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra for Shostakovich’s epic Cello Concerto No. 1 in E-flat major, Op. 107 — a change of pace from the Elgar.

“In Elgar’s music, the expression is very direct,” Weilerstein said. “There’s an intimacy and personal quality and a kind of tragedy that is so unique to the Elgar. That’s one reason it’s so touching. But Shostakovich’s music can’t appear direct. You have the sarcasm and so many double meanings. The first and last movements in particular, the really sardonic quality, the perpetual motion and relentlessness of it — this could not be more opposed from the Elgar.”

Weilerstein has already recorded her second album for Decca, all solo music, including Zoltán Kodály’s Solo Cello Sonata, a 35-minute masterpiece of the cello repertory.

“It really pushes the cello to its limits,” Weilerstein said.” There was virtually nothing written in the 19th century [for solo cello]. Kodály broke that barrier. Now we have an embarrassment of riches of 20th century music for the cello.”

Like her idol Jacqueline du Pré, Weilerstein’s life has not been without its challenges. She was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes when she was 9 and was initially cautious about revealing her condition. 

“I was quite secretive until it became clear to everybody that I could carry on as normal a schedule as anybody else,” she said. “I’ve managed it very successfully for the past 21 years.”

As a celebrity advocate for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation since 2008, Weilerstein speaks to young families with newly diagnosed children, bringing a very clear message that comes from experience. 

“There are marathon runners, actors, musicians, writers and lawyers with Type 1 diabetes,” she said. “You really can be anything you want, if you take care of yourself. It doesn’t have to curtail your dreams in any way.”

For tickets and information, visit 

Last pushes for Jewish votes in Ohio, other swing states stir emotions


The family wedding. The entrance to the local synagogue. The future of Israel. Your precious grandchild.

In the final days of what has been a close and bitterly contested election, it’s not so much that nothing is sacred in the fight for the Jewish vote. It’s that little that is sacred has not been put to use.

Efforts to pick up Jewish votes in states such as Ohio, Florida and Virginia have stressed themes of Jewish vulnerability and of threatened Jewish values. Jewish voters said at times they were taken aback by the tone.

Ruth Sudilovsky-Pecha said she gasped when she read an open letter in the latest edition of the Cleveland Jewish News in which Josh Mandel, the Republican vying to unseat Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), was excoriated by some of his wife's cousins.

In the letter, nine members of the Ratner family, a prominent Ohio clan that made its fortune in real estate, recalled their happiness when Mandel, the Ohio treasurer and a U.S. Marine Corps veteran, married into their family. But they noted their dismay over his opposition to same-sex marriage and allowing openly gay people to serve in the military. They cited a family member who married a same-sex spouse and also served in the military.

“This family is sprawling and diverse, but it has always believed strongly in the values of equality and inclusiveness,” said the letter, which appeared as a full-page ad in the paper. “Your discriminatory stance violates these core values of our family.”

“I was like, ‘whoa,' ” Sudilovsky-Pecha, 48, a social worker who lives in Solon, a suburb of Cleveland, said after leafing through the paper, the last before the election. “I may agree with them, but you’ve got to wonder what Shabbos dinner and Pesach is like.”

The family feud permeated the pages of the Jewish weekly and reflected the intensity of the election debate. In more full-page ads, two other Ratners, real estate magnate Ron and his wife, Susan, endorsed Brown and President Obama, while on a later page, two more Ratners and a dozen Mandels joined several hundred Ohio Jews in endorsing Mandel.

Another ad taken out in the paper by the Defend Israel Movement, which gave its address as a post office box in Israel, likened Obama to Neville Chamberlain, the British prime minister who appeased Hitler.

Such rancor was largely absent from a Nov. 1 debate organized by the Orthodox Union at Green Road Synagogue, an Orthodox shul in this affluent Cleveland suburb of 12,000. But the caliber of the speakers reflected the importance attached to Ohio by the campaigns: Jack Lew, the White House chief of staff, acting in a personal capacity, argued for Obama, while Tevi Troy, a former deputy secretary of health and human services, made the case for Republican nominee Mitt Romney, whom he now advises.

The surrogates adamantly disagreed on a number of topics. Troy said that Obama sought to “create daylight” between the United States and Israel, while Lew said the president had defended Israel to a degree that few predecessors had and imposed tough sanctions on Iran.

Lew also faulted the Romney campaign for pledging to reduce the deficit without offering specifics.

Troy countered that Obama pursued a “unipartisan” strategy in advancing his own fiscal reforms, preferring to ignore Republican advice and contributions. Lew, in the single instance he raised his voice, vehemently denied the point.

Troy and Lew, however, reserved much of their passion for their wrap-ups, when each spoke of the joys of being an Orthodox Jew serving in a senior government position.

“I enjoyed their personal experiences as Orthodox Jews, their commitment to their work,” said Rebecca Miller, a retiree who attended with her daughter. “It made me proud.”

Outside, as the audience members headed into the night, the intensity returned. A Democrat argued with a few Jewish Republicans who had gathered earlier near the entrance carrying an “Obama, Oy Vey” banner over whether Romney would roll back abortion rights.

Holly Litwin, a teacher at the Conservative movement-affiliated Gross Schechter Day School who attended the debate, said she was exhausted by weeks of robocalls, campaign mailings and postings throughout her suburban Cleveland neighborhood.

“I’m shocked by the personal attacks on the integrity of individuals,” said Litwin, of Shaker Heights, who recently moved to Ohio from Oregon, a solidly Democratic state that is not subject to such intensive campaigning.

Litwin was mailed a DVD, “Dreams From My Real Father,” which presents a conspiracy theory alleging that Obama has covered up his true origins as the illegitimate son of a black American communist.

“I had a visceral reaction,” she said. “I took it as if it was contaminated and deposited it in the recycling.”

Stanley Stone, a textile business retiree, said he also has been subject to a stream of fliers and phone calls from Republicans and Democrats in recent months.

Saying that Obama “inherited a lot of problems,” Stone said he wasn't buying Republican claims that the president's strategies had failed to revive the economy.

Fred Taub, a Cleveland Heights resident who writes and speaks against boycott and divestment efforts targeting Israel, said he was supporting Romney.

“Two reasons — the economy and Israel, he said. “I can’t afford Obama, and he's snubbed Israel too many times.”

But Taub also said that his Republican Jewish friends were weary of the material targeting Jewish voters.

“I don’t look anymore, you get sick of hearing the complaints from both sides — and I think most people have decided,” he said.

Sudilovsky-Pecha said that Republican ads had raised questions in her mind about Obama.

“I'm not a hundred percent convinced Obama's as strong a supporter of Israel as I would like him to be, but he's not as weak a supporter as Republicans paint him,” said Sudilovksy-Pecha, who has family in Israel. “But as a social worker, I can’t imagine living in country led by Romney with his ‘47 percent.’ ”

She was referring to a secretly recorded fundraiser appearance in which Romney dismissed Obama’s voting base as the 47 percent of Americans who do not pay income tax and, he claimed, are dependent on the government. The Obama campaign has bombarded swing states with ads featuring the remarks, for which Romney has expressed regret.

A September survey of 238 Jewish registered voters in Ohio by the American Jewish Committee found 64 percent saying they would vote for Obama, 29 percent supporting Romney and 7 percent undecided.

Ohio isn’t the only battleground state where Jewish votes are being sought aggressively.

The Emergency Committee for Israel, a political action committee that has been criticizing the president and other Democrats on Israel since 2010, has been doing robocalls in Wisconsin, Ohio and Virginia.

The first round of ECI’s calls spliced together disparate statements by Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — some of them made years apart — and presented them as a “debate” between the two leaders, thus suggesting that they disagree on the need to confront Iran’s nuclear program.

But the Obama statements were not about the nuclear issue, and the statement excerpted from Netanyahu was taken out of context from a speech in which he praised Obama’s commitment on the issue. The Washington Post’s Fact Checker columnist called the robocall “an Orwellian descent into falsehoods and misrepresentation.”

A second ECI robocall, also using spliced quotes to create a “debate,” focused on differences between Netanyahu and Obama over Israeli settlements and building in eastern Jerusalem.

Meanwhile, in the week before Election Day, Jewish Democrats and Republicans both made their final pushes.

In a National Jewish Democratic Council video, Barbra Streisand emphasized what she predicted would be a rollback of women’s rights under Romney.  “Mitt Romney does not share our values, I know Barack Obama does,” she said.

The Jewish Council for Education and Research — the pro-Obama political action committee behind a series of popular and profanity-laced pro-Obama videos featuring celebrities such as Sarah Silverman and Samuel Jackson — released a G-rated musical video, “Call your Zayde,” urging young Jews to phone their grandparents in swing states and tell them to vote for the president.

The Obama campaign released a video of Ed Koch, the former New York City mayor, explaining his support for the president’s reelection. Koch and Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz both wrote separate Op-Eds making the case for Obama’s reelection, defending his commitment to Israel and touting his positions on domestic policy issues. Footage of Koch and Dershowitz criticizing or questioning the president’s Middle East approach previously had been featured in anti-Obama videos.

The Republican Jewish Coalition released a video, which the group is running as a TV ad in Florida, featuring Bryna Franklin, a former chairwoman of Democrats Abroad-Israel, assailing the president’s record on Israel and the economy. With Jerusalem’s Old City in the background, Franklin urges American Jews to “switch sides and vote for Mitt Romney for president.”

Michael Siegal nominated to head Jewish federations


Michael Siegal of Cleveland has been nominated to chair the board of trustees of the Jewish Federations of North America.

The JFNA nominating committee on Monday also announced the nomination of Dede (Diane) Feinberg of Washington, D.C., as chair of the Executive Committee and Stephen Silverman of Jacksonville, Fla., as treasurer.

JFNA’s Board of Trustees will vote on the new officers at the General Assembly in Baltimore in November.

Siegal, the chairman and CEO of Olympic Steel, is the current board chair of the Jewish Federation of Cleveland and has held many leadership positions in his community. Most recently he served as chair of the federation’s 2009 and 2010 annual campaigns, which raised more than $56.5 million during his two-year term. Siegal is a current JFNA board member, a former Executive Committee member and a member of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee board. He also serves as a member of the national Board of Directors and Executive Committee of Israel Bonds.

Feinberg is past president of the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington and co-chair of the 2009 JFNA General Assembly in Washington. She currently serves on the Executive Committee, Board of Directors and as vice chair of the United Israel Appeal, and is a member of the Board of Governors at The Jewish Agency for Israel. In Washington, she chaired the Israel@60: A Capital Celebration on the National Mall. She has served in a range of leadership roles at the Washington Federation, including president and campaign chair, and at organizations including the United Jewish Endowment Fund of Greater Washington. 

Silverman has been chief operating officer of Raven Transport Company in Jacksonville since its inception in 1985. He is an active member of the ITCC, ATA and Chamber of Commerce Committee of 100, as well as past chair and advisory board member for the University of Georgia Transportation Seminar. He is also on the Board of Directors of the Truckload Carriers Association and is a director of the Florida Trucking Association.

Browns pick Schwartz in NFL draft


The second round of the NFL draft was not 30 minutes old when the phone rang in the Schwartz home on the afternoon of April 27.

The family recognized the Cleveland area code. Mitchell Schwartz, the Cal offensive lineman who was expecting to be drafted, picked up the phone. Then he smiled.

“I’ve never seen such a huge smile,” older brother and current NFL pro Geoff Schwartz said.

With the fifth pick of the second round (37th overall), the Cleveland Browns selected Schwartz.

“The best part was that I didn’t expect to go that high,” Mitchell said on April 29. 

The NFL now has two Jewish offensive linemen, from the same family. There are several pairs of brothers in the league, including offensive linemen Matt and Ryan Kalil, but none are Jews. Matt Kalil was taken fourth by Minnesota and will be Geoff’s new teammate. Geoff previously played with Ryan in Carolina.

Although Geoff’s draft experience was less than stellar — he had to wait until the seventh and final round to be chosen — he was pleased at his brother’s good fortune.

It was fortunate because, as father Lee Schwartz said, once one gets past the obvious first-round choices, “[I]t’s really a crapshoot.”

Before the draft, Mitchell traveled to Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Atlanta and Kansas City, and met with team officials. Lee said his son left Atlanta with the impression that if he was still available when the Falcons picked 55th, they would take him. (Atlanta ended up taking another offensive lineman.)

The family knew Cleveland could take him at 37, but they had seen mock drafts that had Mitchell going 58th to the Houston Texans or 63rd to the New York Giants.

Most mock drafts had Matt Kalil going to Minnesota, but Geoff said the addition does not affect his job.

“He plays left tackle; I play right guard,” Geoff said.

So when Mitchell’s name was called, the family whooped it up and hollered and screamed and jumped up and down.

And then came two realizations: First, “The draft was over for us, and we had no reason to watch it,” Geoff said.

Second, the family had planned a celebratory dinner for Saturday, not Friday.

They went out both nights, Mitchell said.

Former Nazi Guard John Demjanjuk dies at 91


John Demjanjuk, the Cleveland auto worker convicted as a death camp guard, died in a German nursing home.

Demjanjuk, 91, died Saturday at an old-age home in southern Germany, where he was free while he appealed his conviction last year in the murder of 28,060 people at the Sobibor death camp in Poland, NPR reported.

Demjanjuk, born and raised in Ukraine, was first identified as “Ivan the Terrible,” a notoriously sadistic guard at the Treblinka death camp, in the 1970s.

In 1986, U.S. authorities deported him to Israel.

A court there sentenced him to death, but during bhis appeal process, the Israeli prosecution uncovered evidence suggesting that another man who had died in the Soviet Gulag in the 1950s was “Ivan.”

The Israeli Supreme Court ordered him released, noting however that substantive evidence emerged during the trial identifying him as a guard at Sobibor.

He returned to Cleveland in 1993, and resisted multiple attempts to strip him of his citizenship and deport him again until U.S. authorities deported him to Germany in 2009.

There he was convicted in May 2010 for his crimes in Sobibor, and was sentence to five years in prison.

Survey of Cleveland Jewry finds stable population


A population study of the greater Cleveland area found that the Jewish population has remained relatively stable over the last 15 years.

The 2011 Greater Cleveland Jewish Population Study, the first comprehensive survey since 1996, found 80,800 Jews living in the greater Cleveland area, down slightly from 81,500 in 1996.

Among the findings:

* 62 percent of married couples are inmarried and 38 percent intermarried;

* 89 percent of children being raised Jewish have had some sort of Jewish education, as well as 43 percent of children being raised “Jewish and something else”;

* the Orthodox community grew by 2,200;

* 23 percent of Jewish Clevelanders are children up to the age of 17;

* 36 percent of Jewish households are “just managing” financially and another 5 percent can’t make ends meet.

The study also found that the community did not spread out geographically as much as was thought anecdotally.

“We are a significant Jewish community in North America, not only qualitatively, but numerically as well,” said the study’s chair, Enid Rosenberg. “We have the collective power to have an impact on making the world a better place for all people. This is our mission, and we are poised now more than ever to carry it out.”

The study was conducted by the professional research firm Jewish Policy and Action Research, an alliance between Ukeles Associates Inc. and Social Science Research Solutions. Together they have conducted 22 similar Jewish community population studies, including recent or current studies in Baltimore, New York and Chicago.

The survey employed random digit dialing of land lines and cellphones. Survey respondents in the 1,044 Jewish households that were the subject of extensive interviews after a short screening questionnaire were self-identified as Jewish.

Judge rejects Demjanjuk claim that documents withheld


A federal judge in Cleveland rejected a claim by convicted Nazi war criminal John Demjanjuk that U.S. prosecutors withheld documents that could have helped his case.

U.S. District Judge Dan Aaron Polster ruled Tuesday that a 1985 FBI memo that questioned the legitimacy of a Nazi identification card placing Demjanjuk at the Trawniki guard camp was immaterial to his case.

Polster said that because internal FBI documents are merely speculative, they did not need to be turned over to the defense, according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer. He also said that Demjanjuk “willfully lied about his whereabouts during the war,” which led to the revocation of his U.S. citizenship.

Federal public defender Dennis Terez had claimed that prosecutors withheld documents that could have helped Demjanjuk’s case. Terez had asked the judge to order a hearing to determine why prosecutors did not turn over the 1985 memo and to allow Demjanjuk, now 91, to return to the United States in order to defend himself.

Demjanjuk, a retired Cleveland-area autoworker, was extradited to Germany in 2009 to face charges of being an accessory to more than 28,000 deaths at the Sobibor Nazi concentration camp. A Munich court in May found Demjanjuk guilty of war crimes and sentenced him to five years in prison; he is residing in a German nursing home while the case is appealed.

Demjanjuk is stateless and has no passport. He cannot enter the United States unless Polster decides to overturn a 2002 denaturalization order. Demjanjuk’s citizenship was revoked for lying about his Nazi past to gain citizenship. The U.S. government has asked Polster not to reopen the citizenship case.

In the early 1980s, Demjanjuk was accused of being the notorious guard “Ivan the Terrible” at the Treblinka death camp. He was deported to Israel in 1986 and sentenced to death in 1988, but the Israeli Supreme Court overturned his conviction in 1993 after finding reasonable doubt that he was the guard in question.

“Holocaust survivors welcome the court’s decision and are relieved that this convicted war criminal will not set foot in the United States again,” said Elan Steinberg, vice president of the American Gathering of Holocaust Survivors and their Descendants. “Demjanjuk lied to get into this country and his ongoing efforts to cover up his terrible past have been foiled.”

Forward’s salary rankings: Men got more money, better raises


The Forward’s second annual survey of 74 major Jewish national organizations found that in the past year, women lost ground in leadership, continued to lag behind men in pay and did not experience the same increases in salary that a majority of the men enjoyed despite these recessionary times. (VIEW THE SURVEY HERE)

While there were 11 women serving as presidents and CEOs of federations, advocacy and public service groups, and religious institutions last year, there are now only nine. Even though the work force in these organizations is overwhelmingly female, the percentage of women in leadership roles has dropped in the past year to 12% from 14%.

In this, the Jewish communal experience is dramatically at odds with trends in the broader not-for-profit world. GuideStar, which collects the informational tax forms that not-for-profit groups are required to file with the Internal Revenue Service, reported in September that women were chief executives of nearly 47% of the nation’s charities in 2008. Although women were concentrated in smaller organizations, even in the larger charities — those with annual budgets of more than $1 million — they still held 38% of the top roles.

Read more: http://forward.com/articles/133803/#ixzz180nH1H7t

Buckeye State Gets a Jewish Museum


Stroll in the shadow of Jewish-owned factories like Glick Neckwear and Favorite Knitting Mills in Cleveland’s long-vanished garment district. Take a seat in an art deco theater where Ethel Merman belts out a song. Round a corner to see Superman bursting through a wall. These are among the sights, sounds and experiences visitors encounter in the new Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage.

Using state-of-the-art audio, visual and computer technologies, the museum illuminates Jewish history, both local and worldwide, setting these traditions and achievements against the backdrop of U.S. and world events. Within its walls, one meets a host of colorful characters whose personal stories are brought to life in film, interactive activities and exhibits of precious artifacts.

Cleveland media mogul Milton Maltz and his wife, Tamar, pledged $8 million toward the construction of the Beachwood, Ohio museum, and to begin an endowment. The Jewish Community Federation of Cleveland contributed the remaining $5.5 million to the museum, which opened Oct. 11. Research support was provided by the Western Reserve Historical Society, and many of the historical documents and artifacts in the museum came from its Jewish Archives.

“Although this is seen through Jewish eyes, it is really an American story,” said Maltz who, with his wife Tamar, was the visionary behind the museum. Beyond chronicling Jewish history, the museum pays homage to the immigrant spirit that, nourished by freedom, built Cleveland and this country.

Although it illuminates large themes, the Maltz Museum is compact. The permanent exhibit occupies 7,000 square feet of the 24,000-square-foot minimalist building, which is faced in luminous Jerusalem limestone. Elsewhere, exhibits throughout the meandering rooms and alcoves engage and inform museum-goers.

The museum experience begins in a light-filled, high-ceilinged lobby hung with eight huge iconic images representing the museum’s major themes. These include dramatic photos of Cleveland Rabbi Arthur Lelyveld, his head bloodied during the 1964 civil rights march in Mississippi, and the smiling face of astronaut Judith Resnick, an Akron native, paired with the Challenger space shuttle in which she lost her life.

Superimposed on these, a multilevel timeline shows the history of the Jews from Abraham onward, placing it in the context of world civilizations and historical events.

In the 60-seat Chelm Family Theater, a short film sets the tone — literally — for the visitor’s tour. A hazy close-up of a man blowing a shofar on a deserted hillside gradually dissolves into a sharply focused shot of the Cleveland Orchestra’s principal clarinetist, Franklin Cohen, playing Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue.” Actor Peter Strauss narrates this film, which provides an overview of the museum.

Exiting the theater, one encounters a floor-to-ceiling photo of immigrants disembarking on Ellis Island. They hold tightly to their children, bundles and valises. Anxiety, loneliness and hope are etched on their faces. This tableau ushers one into “They’ve Arrived!” — the first section of the core exhibit, which focuses on Cleveland’s first Jewish families and the immigrant experience.

Prominently displayed is the Alsbacher Document, the handwritten “ethical will” addressed to the small band of villagers from Unsleben, Bavaria, who settled here in 1839. In it, their rabbi urges the immigrants to remember their Jewish faith amidst the temptations of the New World.

To better understand the experience of those setting out for a new land, an interactive station allows a visitor to assume the identity of an immigrant, faced with numerous decisions and problems. Further along, exhibits show how schools and settlement houses enabled Americanization. Here, an interactive display challenges visitors to try to pass the citizenship test.

“Building a City” transports museum-goers to Cleveland at the turn of the 20th century. One side of the “street” looks back at the mom-and-pop shops that dotted the old Jewish neighborhoods. The other highlights Cleveland’s once-thriving garment district and pays tribute to Jewish-owned commercial firms like Forest City Enterprises, Rose Iron Works and American Greetings Corp., which all got their start here.

At the end of the street, “To Serve” focuses on the military experience of Jewish servicemen and women from the American Revolution to the war in Iraq.

A film loop shows a re-enactment of a seder held during the Civil War. Photos of soldiers appear on screen, narrated by excerpts from their poignant letters home. A Marine reservist who served in Iraq, Josh Mandel, also speaks.

Other multimedia exhibits highlight the last century of Jewish history. Dark events such as the Holocaust and the 1972 Munich Olympics massacre are covered, as is the creation of the State of Israel. Lighter trends are not ignored — in one section, a larger-than-life Superman bursts through a wall into the gallery, drawing attention to the story of the comic book superhero’s creation by local artists Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster. Even Jewish gangsters have their stories told.

The final area, “From Generation to Generation,” showcases Jewish achievements from 1950 to the present in science, medicine, business, industry, literature and the arts. Alongside photos of contemporary Jewish landmarks, filmed interviews address the question on of what it means to be a Jew today.

Off the main lobby is The Temple-Tifereth Israel Gallery, which showcases treasures drawn from the collection of The Temple Museum of Religious Art. The Temple’s collection includes ancient ritual objects, sacred books and scrolls from around the world, textiles dating from the 18th century, Holocaust art, Israeli stamps, paintings, lithographs and sculpture by renowned Jewish artists such as Marc Chagall, Jacques Lipschitz and Isidor Kaufmann.

While the museum has generated much initial excitement in the Cleveland Jewish community, its success will depend on drawing a wider audience and offering reasons for visitors to return. Maltz and Carole Zawatsky, the museum’s executive director, say they expect the museum to have regional appeal, drawing 45,000 to 75,000 visitors a year.

The changing exhibition space should be a magnet for repeat visits. The first of these temporary exhibits is “The Jewish Journey: Frederic Brenner’s Photographic Odyssey” which opens Nov. 12.

Just as he hopes people from other ethnic backgrounds will see some of their own stories reflected in the museum, Maltz also hopes they will want to use its open space to mount exhibits showcasing their own heritage.

Special events and ongoing activities will also bring people to the museum, said Zawatsky, who was formerly director of education at the Jewish Museum in New York. She and her staff have created a full schedule of activities for museum-goers of all ages.

“It’s wonderful to have this in our own backyard,” said Cleveland-area resident Ruth Mayers, who attended the Oct. 11 preview gala. “This will bring an understanding of our history to Jew and non-Jew alike; it is a gift to our children.”

For more information about The Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage, visit

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