Community Briefs


Hollywood Welcomes Israel Foreign Minister

Israel Foreign Affairs Minister Silvan Shalom met with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and a bevy of high-powered Hollywood stars, an achievement granted few foreign dignitaries, during a three-day visit to Los Angeles.

During the 45-minute meeting in his Santa Monica office on Friday, Schwarzenegger spoke with Shalom about trade, the rising global tide of intolerance and the governor’s trip to Israel for the May 2 groundbreaking for the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Center for Human Dignity-Museum of Tolerance in Jerusalem.

On Saturday evening, producer Arnon Milchan hosted a private party at his home for Shalom, his wife, Judy, and some Hollywood friends.

Joining in the five-hour party, which lasted late into the night, were the likes of power couples Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston, Warren Beatty and Annette Benning and Danny DeVito and Rhea Pearlman, as well as Denzel Washington, Kevin Costner, Angelina Jolie and Naomi Campbell.

Sharon Stone was there, as was director Oliver Stone (no relation), who has not been known hitherto for his pro-Israel sympathies.

The press was not invited, but Moshe Debby, Shalom’s spokesman, reported that the dialogue between the Hollywood contingent and the foreign minister was lively and ranged across the spectrum of Middle East and Israeli-Palestinian problems.

Shalom also met with some 150 community leaders at the headquarters of The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles.

When Shalom mentioned that his office has only a very modest budget for hasbarah, or international information and public relations outreach, community activist Guilford Glazer rose and announced that he was giving $1 million in support of Israel’s hasbarah effort.

"I hope that other American Jews will join in this important cause," said Glazer, a retired commercial real estate developer.

During a Friday visit to the Wiesenthal Center’s Museum of Tolerance, Shalom warned of growing anti-Semitism, particularly in Europe and the Muslim countries.

"Like terrorism, anti-Semitism is not only threatening Jews, but the whole world," he said.

Shalom announced that he was convening a high-level international conference in June at a Jerusalem venue on anti-Semitism and the danger it represents. — Tom Tugend, Contributing Editor

AJC Takes L.A. Consulars on Whirlwind Tour

About 20 Los Angeles-based diplomats spent six hours on a bus March 16 to absorb Jewish Los Angeles in the first consular corps tour sponsored by the American Jewish Committee (AJC).

Southern California’s 600,000 Jews seem, "well-organized, very strong, very accommodating, interactive," said Ethiopian Consul General Taye Atske Selassie, who toured several Westside Jewish institutions with colleagues from Argentina, Austria, Belize, Croatia, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Hungary, Japan, Mexico, Peru, Romania, Sweden and Switzerland.

The AJC tour stopped at the Wilshire Boulevard offices of The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, which that same day was hosting Israeli Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom (see story above). The diplomats did not meet Shalom and instead toured The Federation’s Zimmer Children’s Museum and heard presentations from several Federation-funded agencies.

On the bus, tour guide lecturers included Young Israel of Century City Rabbi Elazar Muskin, Jewish Journal Editor-in-Chief Rob Eshman and Jewish Historical Society President Steve Sass. — David Finnigan, Contributing Writer

Open Debate Preferable to Blind Support


A recent report in The New York Times captured almost perfectly the thorny questions that stand at the center of relations between the American Jewish community and Israel. Should one be permitted to criticize the government of a foreign country with which one feels a deep affinity, or is it a moral and political imperative to support the policies of that government, right or wrong?

What was so striking about The Times article was that it raised these questions not about the American Jewish community and Israel, but rather about the African American community and Zimbabwe.

The parallels between the two cases couldn’t be more intriguing. Just as a number of American Jews, usually of the progressive persuasion, have asserted their right and responsibility to criticize Israeli government policy, so, too, a group of African American intellectuals and activists recently abandoned their posture of strong support and advocacy for Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe by issuing a stinging condemnation of his policies, including appropriation of white-owned farmland.

In a letter of June 3, 2003, they recalled their “strong historical ties to the liberation movements in Zimbabwe, which included material and political support, as well as opposition to U.S. government policies that supported white minority rule.” But they quickly moved on to denounce “the political repression under way in Zimbabwe as intolerable and in complete contradiction of the values and principles that were both the foundation of your liberation struggle and of our solidarity with that struggle.”

This public letter provoked a torrent of responses from African Americans, many of whom were critical of the signatories. According to The Times account, the letter writers have been cast as “politically naive, sellouts and misguided betrayers of liberation struggle.”

Among the more serious critics, professor Ronald Walters of the University of Maryland justified his opposition to the letter by stating that “I am on the side of the people who claim there’s a justice issue in terms of the land. You can’t escape the racial dynamic, and you can’t escape the political history.”

Another critic, Mark Fancher, questioned the legitimacy of the letter writers. “This is an African problem, a Zimbabwean problem” — beyond the ken of “people who are really disconnected from the day-to-day lives of people in Zimbabwe.”

It is hard not to hear in those words echoes of a refrain frequently uttered in the American Jewish community — the gist of which is that it is the responsibility of American Jews to express enthusiastic and unequivocal support for the government of Israel.

The underlying logic is that American Jews are themselves “disconnected from the day-to-day lives” of Israelis. It is not they who fight the wars or suffer from the scourge of terrorism; consequently, they have no standing to criticize. Indeed, to express criticism of Israeli policies is to abet the enemy — and thereby come dangerously close to treason.

I am familiar with these arguments, because I have often been on the wrong end of them. Those of us American Jews who have felt compelled to condemn the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip as immoral, self-destructive and a violation of Israel’s own best ideals have often faced the wrath of fellow community members. How could a Jew attack Israel in a time of need? Hadn’t the Palestinians surrendered any right to a state? Weren’t they better off now than before 1967?

A similar set of justifications now issues from the mouths of the opponents of Mugabe’s African American critics. How can one attack an African leader, a heroic figure, in time of need? After all, as Fancher asserts, “The one thing nobody disputes is that, whether he won or not, Mugabe got a lot of votes.” Such statements reveal the absurdity — and moral bankruptcy — of blind support.

Curiously, the tables have turned in the case of American Jews and Israel. Not too long ago, it was taboo to criticize Israel’s occupation. Israel’s government had to be supported, regardless of its policies.

But will the same people who insisted on these principles now be able to reverse course? After all, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, in a speech to his own party, used the “O” word — occupation — to refer to Israel’s hold on the West Bank and Gaza. All of the extraordinary Israeli and Jewish public relations efforts that went into claiming that the territories were “administered” rather than “occupied” went out the door after that speech.

Even more significantly, Sharon has adopted the “road map” for peace. The logic of blind support would dictate that American Jews line up in warm embrace of this Israeli government policy.

It is tempting to argue that those who demanded in an earlier period that American Jewish progressives hold their criticism do the same as Israel enters a new and more promising phase, even if they have reservations about the road map. Tempting perhaps, but not beneficial in the long run.

The recent case of African Americans and Zimbabwe reveals that the stifling of dissent not only reinforces a dangerous status quo but replicates the very policies of repression that one might want to criticize. Open debate, with all its messiness, is preferable to blind support.

This is an important principle to keep in mind — now and in the future — as Jews and African Americans debate the policies of, and demonstrate their bonds to, the countries of their dreams.


David N. Myers is professor of Jewish history and vice chair of the history department at UCLA.

State Fund to Keep Israel Investments


The California Public Employees’ Retirement System
(CalPERS), the nation’s largest public pension fund, has decided to keep Israel
on its list of permissible foreign countries in which to invest, in spite of
campaigns spearheaded by groups on several University of California campuses
demanding that it divest itself of Israeli equity holdings.

At the Feb. 18 meeting of the CalPERS Board of
Administration, Israel was green-lighted for its 10th straight year as an
approved country for investment.

Reacting to calls for a CalPERS boycott of Israel, Byron
Tucker, a Los Angeles spokesman for Gov. Gray Davis, told The Journal this
week, “We will continue to stand side by side with our friends in Israel, both
in business and friendship. The people of Israel are going through tremendous
difficulties right now.”

“They live with daily unrest, violence and death,” Tucker
continued. “California will not abandon its friends in their time of need.”

Campus activist groups — led by Arabs in Students for
Justice in Palestine and Jews for a Free Palestine — had been gaining ground in
their campaign for divestment from Israel, to the point where the UCLA Daily
Bruin editorially endorsed divestment last July. This prompted a pro-Israel
backlash, headed up by the UC Justice Campaign (www.ucjustice.org).

The Legislature formally rejected divestment in a joint
Assembly-Senate resolution in September.

Until last month, Israel was the only Middle Eastern country
in which CalPERS was permitted to invest. Neighboring Jordan has now been added
to the list. Egypt was evaluated but did not make the cut.

In other action, the CalPERS board, which oversees a fund
with assets of approximately $131 billion, complied with its requirement to
report to the Legislature on equity holdings in companies that may have
benefited from slave labor during the Holocaust era.

“CalPERS is required to annually report to the Legislature,
under Chapter 216, Statute of 1999 (SB 1245, Hayden), on investment holdings in
companies that may owe compensation to victims of slave or forced labor during
World War II,” Mark Anson, chief investment officer, wrote in a Feb. 18 letter
to the secretary of the California Senate.

According to Anson, the CalPERS report contains “the latest
information on companies that includes precursor companies, subsidiaries and
affiliates identified as employing forced/slave labor during World War II. To
compile the report, CalPERS contracted with Investor Responsibility Research
Center (IRRC). The center provided research from multiple information sources
and supplied a list of companies with a potential Holocaust-era restitution
liability.

The majority of the companies on the IRRC list in which
CalPERS holds stock are headquartered in Germany, Japan, Austria and
Switzerland. However, a few major U.S. corporations appear on the list, too,
including Ford Motor Co., General Motors, Eastman Kodak, Honeywell, NCR and
Pitney Bowes.

Sacramento-based CalPERS spokesman Brad Pacheco told The
Journal that the pension fund, itself, had received no direct protests from
groups demanding that CalPERS divest itself from investments in Israel.

“Israel was evaluated as one of 27 emerging equity markets
and received a passing grade, along with 14 other countries,” Pacheco said.

The pension fund’s consultant, Santa Monica-based Wilshire
Associates, reviewed the emerging market countries against a variety of
financial factors, plus other considerations, such as transparency, political
stability and labor practices/standards. Israel was ranked in seventh place overall
on the list — a weighted result after combining its No. 1 ranking in market
analysis and No. 8 in “country factors.”

Israel could arguably make a case for being included in the
category of “developed country markets,” which comprises the similar economies
of Finland and Singapore and the recent entry of Greece.

“Israel certainly meets the criteria for a developed country,”
said Doron Abrahami, Israel’s economic attaché in Los Angeles. “In terms of GDP
per capita, Israel is ahead of Greece. On the other hand, there are certain
advantages to being defined as an emerging market.”

Israel was approved by CalPERS, while some of the world’s
largest economies were not — notably China, Russia and India. Not one country
in conflict with Israel — or even hostile to the Jewish State — qualified.
Among those receiving failing grades were Malaysia, Pakistan and Indonesia.

CalPERS has approximately $1.6 billion currently invested in
emerging markets, including $83.3 million in Israeli equities.

“After CalPERS sets the policy guidelines, we oversee but do
not make the actual investments,” Pacheco emphasized. “That is done by our
active managers: asset management companies and investment banks.”

Although Pacheco originally said that CalPERS invests only
in public equity markets outside of the United States, IVC-Online in Tel Aviv
told The Journal that CalPERS has invested in six of Israel’s leading venture
capital funds through East Coast-based private equity manager Grove Street
Partners.

Ethel Lozabnick: Community Leader


A community activist, whose commitment to the Jewish community and Zionist causes was locally and nationally recognized, passed away Aug. 17, 2001. Lozabnick had served as National Vice President of Hadassah the largest woman’s volunteer organization in the United States and the largest Zionist organization in the world and was a member of Hadassah’s National Board. For her zionist activities, she received the distinguished Women of Merit Award in 1965, and in 1999 was one of three outstanding veteran local zionists honored by the American Zionist Movement with a Lifetime Achievement Award. Her commitment, dedication and tireless efforts on behalf of Israel led her to that country more than 40 times, including travel to Egypt, Lebanon, Syria and Jordan as a woman’s representative to early peace discussions. Her travels in various instances were as a representative of Hadassah, the World Zionist Organization, The Jewish Agency Assembly and The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles.

Among her numerous local activities, she served as past president of the Southern Pacific Coast Region of Hadassah for three years, during which time 10 new chapters were formed. She served as a past president of the Beverly Hills Girl Scout Council, the Beverly Hills Community Chest, Los Angeles Mayor’s Community Youth Program and the, League of Women’s Voters as well as serving as chair of the Martyr’s Memorial and Museum of the Holocaust, The Soviet Jewry Commission and the Executive Committee of the American Jewish Committee and The Jewish Federation Council of Greater Los Angeles.&’9;

Born in Denver, Colo., and raised in Cheyenne, Wyo., she moved with her husband, Oscar, and three children to Beverly Hills in 1947. She leaves behind her son, Donald (Ann) Loze; her daughters, Bobbie (Leonard) Kolod and Jan (Douglas) Stein; seven grandchildren; and six great-grandchildren.

Olmos Connects


Edward James Olmos wants to connect. Give him a large multi-ethnic crowd — as was on hand Sunday at the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles — and he’ll split himself into pieces finding common links.

“It comes from my old neighborhood in East Los Angeles,” he explains. “We had everyone there. I looked out my window — we lived above the garage in an alley — and saw the Russian Jews dressed in white, and the blacks dressed in blue-black.” His father was a Spanish-speaking Southern Baptist Mexican immigrant, his mother a Mexican-American and his Catholic great-grandparents lived down the block. The actor and community activist, who is perhaps the most visible symbol of the new multi-cultural Latino consciousness sweeping America, even claims to be a fraction Jewish. Olmos, wearing a fine gray suit and cordovan-colored sweater, says is really “Olmosh” with a great grandparent coming from Hungary to Mexico.

L.A.’s New Leaders


If you’re a young Jewish leader who would like to know more about Los Angeles civic life, or if you’re a young civic leader who wants to be more in step with the Los Angeles Jewish community, the New Leaders Project might have a place for you. NLP, sponsored in Los Angeles by the Jewish Community Relations Committee of the Jewish Federation Council, is currently seeking applications for its fourth class.

The program, which graduated its first class a few months after the riots split the city asunder in 1992, aims to create an informative blend of civic instruction and Jewish values that appeal to its audience of about 15 to 20 men and women, ranging from their mid-20s to early 40s.


“I loved the idea of 16 of us sharing background and ideas and thoughts. It broadened my knowledge of this city.”

— Larry Greenfield, businessman, attorney and political activist


“Each year, we’ve attracted people into the program who I don’t think would have entered into a traditional Jewishleadership program,” said NLP co-founder and co-chair Donna Bojarsky. One of the main goals, she said, is to build bridges across the city between the civic and Jewish communities.

“As our cities have become increasingly complex and diverse places, it’s important to call upon Jewish values to inform us as good Jewish leaders and also to be civic leaders,” said Bojarsky, a longtime political and Jewish activist who is a public-policy consultant to actor Richard Dreyfuss.

As in the previous two sessions, the 1996 program, which ended in October, began with a weekend retreat in which speakers — including rabbis, previous NLP graduates, Federation and civic leaders, and media representatives — spoke about such topics as Jewish values and public policy, the meaning of Jewish leadership and spirituality, and, of course, the challenges facing Los Angeles. In the months that followed (usually on alternate Sundays), NLP participants met with leaders from the African-American, Asian and Latino communities, as well as with city officials, educators and Jewish leaders. Other events included potluck Shabbat dinners, a spiritual retreat, and a discussion on leadership from the Orthodox Jewish perspective.

One of the most meaningful parts of the program, according to some participants, was creating a community-service project that could be put into action and, presumably, would have some impact. Working on a project helped Dean Shapiro tie his business skills with Jewish activism. Shapiro is vice president of international theatrical sales at Metromedia Entertainment in Century City. He and another NLP member, Nicole Silverton, produced a reading of a new play titled “Magda’s Story” at the Wiesenthal Center. Putting together the production, with actors Stockard Channing, Michael York and Larry Drake (Benny in “L.A. Law”), was “really thrilling,” Shapiro said. The play, a Holocaust theater piece for schoolchildren about a righteous gentile’s effort to save a former boyfriend from the death camps, proved popular and will be staged again this summer with a different cast.

For Shapiro, the play’s message about people of different backgrounds helping each other “is the core of the New Leaders Project.” The 27-year-old Los Angeles native, a member of Congregation Kol Ami in West Hollywood, said that the program was stronger in its civic than its religious components, but that he received “an excellent foundation on how political Los Angeles works, how the Los Angeles Jewish community works, and how they work together.” It also proved invaluable as a networking tool. “I now know someone at AIPAC, someone who works in Israel Bonds and at City Hall. When, in the rest of my public life, I need to call them, I can. And when there’s something I might know about, they can call me.”

Scott Stone, another member of the class of 1996, was also impressed with how much he learned about the way the Los Angeles Jewish community works. Other than his involvement with his synagogue, Temple Emanuel in Beverly Hills, Stone, 41, who has his own television production company (Stone Stanley Productions), had had little understanding or connection with the organized Jewish community here. “For me, this was a way of being exposed to a much more Jewish approach to tikkun olam, to creating bridges between communities I was already involved in.”

Stone’s project, which is still a work in progress, grew out of his commitment to both the Jewish and gay and lesbian communities. He is making a documentary about successful gay and lesbian couples, where both partners are Jewish. “My hope is that by showing examples of couples in relationships of anywhere from six months to 50 years, I will be able to depoliticize and take the religious edge off the issue,” Stone said.

Larry Greenfield, a businessman, attorney and political activist for international human rights and Jewish causes, refers to himself as “born and bred into Conservative Jewish life,” in Los Angeles. Among other things, he is co-chair of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee Leadership 2000 group, on JCRC’s board of directors and co-chair of Unity ’97, Los Angeles Young Adult conference commemorating Zionism’s centennial. Being part of NLP allowed him to become more familiar with civic Los Angeles, Greenfield said. “I loved the idea of 16 of us sharing background and ideas and thoughts. It broadened my knowledge of this city.”

At graduation, however, Greenfield made a speech in which he challenged the facilitators of the NLP program to seek out not only the “usual minority coalition partners…but also such groups as the Christian Right or the Libertarians or Cultural Conservatives or others with whom you do not often agree.”

The New Leaders Project, however it evolves in the future, has already spawned programs in four other cities: Boston, Indianapolis, Detroit and Flint, Mich. Two additional cities, still unnamed, will offer the program later this year.

NLP in Los Angeles is funded by grants from the Charles I. Brown Foundation, the Hillside Foundation, Stanley Hirsh, the Audrey and Sydney Irmas Charitable Foundation, the Jewish Federation Council of Greater Los Angeles, the Nathan Cummings Foundation, the Righteous Persons Foundation through the National New Leaders Project, the David Polak Foundation, program alumni and many individual donors. Richard S. Volpert chairs the program, and E. Eric Schockman is the program director.

NLP applications are encouraged by May 16, but will be accepted until May 30. For information, call (213) 852-7730.