CSU system debates restarting Israel study abroad programs


During the past few months, top California State University administrators, who oversee 23 campuses with 420,000 students, were spending a good deal of time wrestling with upcoming draconian state budget cuts and protesting students, yet they set aside some time to consider whether the largest four-year college system in the United States should restart its study abroad program in Israel.

CSU shut down the program in 2002, during the height of the Second Intifada, citing U.S. State Department warnings against travel to Israel.

But now, with relative quiet in Israel, and under considerable pressure from Jewish organizations, student groups, legislators and even Israeli diplomats, CSU seemed on the verge of announcing a resumption of the Israel program.

Not everyone applauded the new attitude. In early December, a petition in the form of an Open Letter landed on the desk of CSU Chancellor Charles Reed, under the boldface header, “We strongly urge you not to reinstate the CSU Israel Study Program Abroad.”

The petition had been signed by some 81 faculty members, nearly half from the university’s Northridge campus (CSUN), as well as 46 students and alumni. Among the signatories were a number of deans and department chairs, as well as Harry Hellenbrand, who at the time was CSUN’s provost, vice president for academic affairs and the campus’ second-highest administrator.

On Jan. 1, Hellenbrand was named the interim president of the campus, following the recent retirement of its president, Jolene Koester. (Under the CSU nomenclature, the head of the entire system is the chancellor, while each campus is led by a president — the reverse of the University of California designations.)

The chief organizer of the petition, as of most anti-Israel activity on campus, was David Klein, a veteran mathematics professor at the school. Klein’s Web site on the CSUN server is a compendium of just about every charge ever leveled against Israel, starting with the quote “Israel is the most racist state in the world at this time.”

Not surprisingly, Klein has been the bête noire of pro-Israel groups for some years, and the petition — which also warned that American students might be killed by Israeli soldiers or face discrimination if of Arab descent — stoked the anger.

CSU’s announcement in mid-December that the study program in Israel would be resumed with the 2012 fall semester at the University of Haifa, did little to lower the level of acrimony. (Asked why the Hebrew University or Tel Aviv University is not included in the program, CSU spokesman Erik Fallis cited security considerations.)

One of the first formal outside complaints against Klein’s Web site came to CSUN President Koester in late November from Leila Beckwith, a professor emerita and child psychologist at UCLA, who wrote in conjunction with Tammi Rossman-Benjamin, a lecturer in Hebrew and Jewish studies at UC Santa Cruz. The two recently co-founded the Amcha Initiative, described as a grassroots Jewish organization focusing on problems of public higher education.

Amcha’s charges were quickly reinforced by two other organizations, StandWithUs and the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA).

A series of phone interviews, e-mail exchanges and correspondence made available by the university to The Jewish Journal yielded a general outline of the evolving dispute.

In the first round of e-mail exchanges, Amcha, StandWithUs and ZOA focused on Klein’s “anti-Semitic and anti-Israel Web pages,” citing the “most racist state” quote, alongside “gruesome photos of dead children to imply that Israel intentionally murders Palestinian babies.”

As a follow-up, the pro-Israel groups argued that, while Klein was free to express his ideas, “however abhorrent,” as an individual, he was violating university regulations and the law by posting his material on the CSU server.

He was thus not only implying the university’s imprimatur for his opinions, but also using taxpayers’ funds in the process, the critics charged.

In response, Koester wrote that a full administrative review found that while Klein’s views might be offensive, he had the academic freedom and free-speech rights to express his opinions.

She also affirmed that Klein’s rights “extend to the use of an individual’s Web pages as part of the university’s Web site.”

Amcha and ZOA shot back challenging the use of the CSUN Web site for “political propaganda,” and Roz Rothstein, CEO of StandWithUs, said in an interview that she would explore the possibility of taking legal action.

For her part, Rossman-Benjamin received in response to a lengthy memo to Koester listing a series of objections, a curt e-mail consisting of just two words — “Too bad” — followed by Koester’s initials.

This seemingly contemptuous reply from the school’s then-president quickly made the rounds of CSUN’s critics, until Koester hastily drafted a somewhat awkward apology. She explained that she had sent the message from her cell phone while traveling, intending to forward the information to her staff, but had accidentally pressed “reply” instead of the “forward” button.

“The comment ‘too bad’ was meant to express to internal staff regret about the controversy and the distress it had caused,” Koester wrote. “It was not a comment directed at you … and was not intended to disrespect or dismiss either you or your point of view.”

Collegians do the ‘Write Thing’ at GA


College students are not only attending the General Assembly, they are
covering it as well.

This will be the 17th year that a select group of Jewish collegians, as
members of the Do the Write Thing team, will have its own prestigious place
in the General Assembly.

For this 40-member cadre, most of whom staff their campus Jewish and/or
secular newspapers, the GA will be more than a place to learn about and
participate in organized Jewish life. They will also have the opportunity to
sharpen their journalistic skills while deepening their understanding of
what the community does — and how it does it.

Do the Write Thing is sponsored by The Jewish Agency and the Hagshama
department of the World Zionist Organization, with some sessions coordinated
by the American Jewish Press Association.

Hagshama translates to “fulfillment,” explains New York-based fulfillment’
and find a personal connection and engagement with the Jewish state is
through programs such as this,” he says. “It also helps these students to
be better equipped to make Israel’s case on campuses.”

The GA, he adds, “is a great place for these students to meet Jewish
leaders, and to establish friendships with each other.”

In addition to being at major GA plenaries and sessions, DTWT participants
will attend press conferences with visiting dignitaries and hear, in
sessions exclusively for them, from such eminent people as Gary Rosenblatt,
publisher and editor of The Jewish Week (New York), and Rob Eshman, editor
of The Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles, about “Covering Israel in
the American Jewish Press.” Meetings with Israeli journalists and workshops
with members of the American Jewish Press Association also are on the
agenda.

For many DTWT alumni, participation proved to be a step toward a
professional career. Gil Hoffman and Miriam Saviv are on the staff of the
Jerusalem Post. Dan Schifrin is director of literacy programs at the
National Foundation for Jewish Culture, and Marita Gringaus was press
officer at the Consulate General of Israel in New York. Rustin Silverstein,
who served as press secretary for Rep. Tim Roemer of Indiana, was also a
producer at “Hardball With Chris Matthews.”

“Do the Write Thing,” Silverstein says, “helped me understand the craft of
writing from a Jewish perspective.”

As a result of a visit during last year’s DTWT program at the Toronto GA by
Laura Kam, director of the Washington-based Media Fellows Program of The
Israel Project, participants learned about the project’s fellowship program.

“Several students applied, and two were chosen, ” Kam reports. “They proved
to be excellent media fellows,” she says. “They were sincere students who
were intent upon pursuing Israel advocacy.”

“I hope to make more connections this year through Do the Write Thing,” Kam
says.

Keren Douek, assistant editor of the St. Louis Jewish Light, says DTWT
confirmed for her that writing for and about the smaller, more specific and
personally relevant Jewish world, was an intriguing concept. “There is
nothing like it,” she says.

Students remind General Assembly they’ve got a lot to give, too


In 1969, a group of college students staged a protest at the premiere gathering of the organized Jewish community, demanding more say and more attention to issues that mattered to them — such as Soviet Jewry, Jewish identity and culture. They also wanted a younger voice to be heard within Jewish power structures.
 
The demonstrations and vocal disruptions at the Boston General Assembly — an annual gathering of federation and other communal leaders — lead to the formation of the North American Jewish Students Appeal, which was funded by federations until 1995.
Ever since then, students have been a part of the GA, which this year is taking place at the Los Angeles Convention Center Nov. 12-15.
 
As it has for many years, Hillel — the international student organization that is supported in part by federations — will host 300 student delegates, many of them leaders on their campuses.
 
The students, who registered at a reduced rate, will participate in regular conference sessions and a Monday night program of film and interactive activities that will expose students to new approaches to building Jewish communities.
 
But Hillel is trying something new to expose even more students to the organized Jewish community — and to demonstrate to the community that students care.
 
On Sunday, Nov. 12, 1,000 college students from Southern California schools and from universities across the country, including GA participants, will be deployed across Los Angeles to do social justice work. They will lend a hand at more than 20 community service projects, such as the Beit T’Shuvah rehab residence, the Venice Family Clinic, the Midnight Mission and Heal the Bay. The program, called “Just for a Day,” will end with an exclusive concert by GUSTER and the LeeVees at the Henry Fonda Theater.

“We know that community service and social justice are the best ways of engaging students, so by doing that in conjunction with the GA we are letting the students know about the larger Jewish community,” said David Levy, director of the Los Angeles Hillel Council.

About 30 students are also participating through a journalism track called Do the Write Thing, sponsored by World Zionist Organization, the Jewish Agency for Israel and the American Jewish Press Association.

Student journalists get access to high-level politicians, publishers and editors, and this year will focus on Israel’s image in the media.
Many of the issues that faced students in 1969 still linger today — how to make the established community understand the desire for culture and identity, for spirituality, to get the oldsters to listen to the younger generation’s concerns.

And with today’s wired movers communicating and connecting in entirely different ways, cross-generational interface becomes even more challenging.

“This is a qualitatively different generation,” Levy said. “The whole way we organize is not the way they organize, and the pressures that used to be on students are not the same as they are now.”

Student identity has become more complex, as a generation raised by multitaskers comes of age.
 
“Students have multiple identities and multiple parts of their identities — like windows open on a computer screen. They have multiple windows open at one time — Israel, spirituality, social justice, being a sorority member. We need to give them an opportunity to connect through whichever window happens to be open at that moment, and working within one window can lead to others and strengthens them all,” Levy said.
 
That multipronged identity, and the desire for real-life community, carries through to college graduates as well, as young 20- and 30-somethings try to integrate into the Jewish community.
 
“The age of wine and cheese is over,” said Rhoda Weisman, director of Professional Leadership Project, which inspires and mentors young people for work in the Jewish community. “They are looking for a deep connection to the Jewish people — a meaningful connection. There is a search for spiritual depth and intellectual depth, and a very great need for community among them.”
 
About 100 competitively selected leaders in their 20s and 30s are part of Weisman’s Live Network, which every few weeks brings participants together at five regional hubs for seminars in leadership skills, Jewish content, case studies and personal development. The first cohort will soon begin year two, which will entail working with each other and experienced mentors to develop and follow through on a project.

At the GA, 10 participants in the Professional Leadership Project will be teamed up with seasoned Jewish communal leaders.
 
“The purpose is for them is to shadow some of the influential leaders, professional and volunteer, to learn about the inside workings of the Jewish community and to make connections for the future,” Weisman said.

The young leaders will also be filming a documentary, interviewing people of all ages at the GA about how the next generation of leaders can affect the community, and what sort of changes they can or should make. The film will be posted on the Web.

Mostly, Weisman hopes their presence will have an impact — both by allowing established leaders to dialogue with the up-and-comings, and by helping participants learn about existing organizations and structures to see where they can contribute.
 
“You can’t change things unless you already know what is happening,” Weisman said.
 
At the same time, she encourages the young leaders to integrate themselves into the existing community.
 
“Whether it’s by working with an established organization or creating a new one, you have to be connected to the greater Jewish community,” Weisman said.

For information, go to www.hillel.org, www.wzo.org.il/en/dtwt/ or www.jewishleaders.net
 

20-Somethings


Do you remember what it’s like to be in your 20s?

You’ve just finished college, or maybe you’ve had an entry-level job or two, or maybe you’ve put off entering "the real world" for another couple of years by going into grad school and into unbearable debt. You’re wondering what it all means and how exactly you fit in the picture. You’re unsure about almost every single thing and yet you are interested in all of it just the same.

As I sat on a small stage at the Universal Studios Hilton Hotel on Tuesday looking at the anxious, inquisitive faces of a few dozen 20-somethings who were here at this particular hour to find out about career options in the Jewish community, all the heady uncertainty of that decade came back to me in a rush. The panel was part of a three-day conference called Professional Leadership Project: 20-Something Think Tank and CareerBreak, which brought together 145 21-29 year olds from around the country to figure out the needs of the future Jewish community. Although the participants were brought here to be studied, their concerns for their own career paths were so palpable I could recall that time quite clearly.

OK, maybe it wasn’t so long ago that I left my 20s, but it certainly seems like a quite some time has passed since I was fresh out of college, facing a world spread out frighteningly in front of me, with a million opportunities and only one possible direction that I alone could decide to take.

"I’m listening to all of you talk about the paths you’ve taken to become Jewish professionals, and I’m wondering right now if I’m doing the right thing, if I’m in the right job," a participant from the audience said to the panel: Matthew Grossman (B’nai B’rith Youth Organization executive director), Michelle Kleinert (Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s deputy director of community affairs), Craig Taubman (musician, composer, producer) and me. We, along with four others on a concurrent panel in another room, were meant to serve as young(ish) examples of Jewish professionals — people who have chosen to make their careers serving the Jewish community in one way or another. Sponsored by William M. Davidson, the Charles and Lynn Shusterman Family Foundation, Michael Steinhardt/Jewish Life Network, Eugene and Marcia Applebaum and Robert Aronson, the Aug. 22-24 conference may sound like many other well-funded, well-intended and well-attended ho-hum Jewish "renewal" programs, but in reality there was something different in the air, something that I would call the "winds of change" if I weren’t afraid of sounding like… an eager 20-something or an aging hippie.

Here’s the thing: As I sat on stage answering questions and giving advice about what it’s like to work in the Jewish community, based on having been in it for more than 10 years, I thought, when I was their age, I never had something like this.

When I was coming of age who was interested in what I thought? Who, besides my parents and friends, cared about my ideas? And I — like most whippersnappers — had puh-lenty of ideas. But who wanted to listen? Who was interested in how I could contribute meaningfully to the world, to the Jewish community, to anything at all? More importantly, who cared about what I wanted to change about the world, society and the Jewish community?

No one.

When I graduated college and tried to find myself, all I got — after hundreds of thousands of dollars spent on Jewish education, summer camp, seminars, leadership programs etc. — was to be told what was expected of me. To be told how I should fit in to the world around me, to be told what there was, take it or leave it. I went to lectures, programs, seminars, you name it, and there were plenty of people who were willing to tell me the way to lead my life, but it seemed like no one was really interested in anything I had to say. And why should they be? The world wasn’t created for me, it wasn’t stopping or changing just because I was about to participate in it and, sadly, it felt like the only way that there would be room for me is if I’d play by whatever and whosever rules were there. That’s life, right?

Ah, but maybe — and I don’t know, it’s just a thought sparked by this conference — maybe it doesn’t have to be that way.

PLP gathered 146 people — only about a third are already working in the Jewish community — in order to ask them what they think, to find out what they need in order to be involved in Jewish life, what they want to get from being Jewishly involved and how existing Jewish life could change (change!) in order to accommodate them. To attract them. To keep them. To retain them. To get these bright, talented, creative, young people who are just beginning their lives, to begin them in the Jewish community. Not at a computer start-up or law firm or theater company or secular nonprofit, but here in the Jewish community.

Here, in the Jewish community — you know, the one that always complains about "Brain Drain," about losing its best and its brightest, about the "graying" of Jewish community organizations, the Jewish community in which all institutions try and try and try to make themselves "relevant" and "meaningful" so that they can attract the next generation.

This generation, the one sitting right in front of me.

This "think tank" has gathered a few of that next generation here in order to survey them, and analyze them so that PLP can come up with the answers from the grass-roots. It’s the Howard Dean of Jewish programming: instead of established institutions providing top-down stop-gap solutions to the core issues facing the Jewish community, the think tank plans to glean information from the very focus group it is trying to attract. Results will be compiled, studied and published. The question is, of course, what will they find? And will anybody listen?

"Maybe it’s not fair of me to abandon [Jewish community work] because I was having a hard time," Rachel Hochheiser told me privately after our group discussion. Hochheiser, 26, had left her job at Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life after three years because she felt "frustrated and burnt out," in her words, although they’re words I hear all the time from Jewish professionals. Hochheiser is currently getting her MBA in St. Louis, and now, after the emotional highs of the conference — of discussing Jewish issues pertaining to spirituality, history, current events, leadership and contribution — she was troubled: Should she work in the business world that she was being trained for, or go back to the Jewish world she loved but ultimately left?

"There is no career path in the Jewish community; there is no next step," she explained. When Jewish organizations worry about attracting the next generation, they lament the fact that their even within their own ranks, the primary color is gray. Hochheiser talks about it from the other end of the spectrum, from working inside Jewish organizations. "There is something for 25-year-olds, maybe 27-year-olds, and also for 45-year-olds," she said about jobs within Jewish organizations. She worried "what was going to happen when I turn 30? There’s just no middle ground."

The interesting thing about Hochheiser — and many other participants — was that money plays little part in deciding whether to become a Jewish professional.

"Money doesn’t matter, it’s just a certain threshold," Seattle resident Josh Miller said.

Many participants said they were willing to start at low salaries as long as there was promise for growth, because they believed the trade-off would be doing something they loved and believed in.

"I realize how much I care, how much I hope to continue working in the Jewish community," Hochheiser said.

Still, she and others have other concerns: Is there a level of professionalism in Jewish life that you can find in the outside world? Are there people who are open to new ideas?

At 30, Miller is at the end of the decade under examination, and he is confident in his career: post-MBA, he is now the director of Jconnect in Seattle (www.jconnectseattle.org), what he described as a nonprofit for social, religious and cultural activities for — guess who? — 20-somethings.

Why 20? What is it that is so important about this newly defined target group? (Most marketing groups are 18-24 and 25-34, and here, some of the 27- and 28-year-olds felt like they were in a different category than 21- and 22-year-olds.)

"I think we need some sort of 20-something successor to teen youth groups and Hillel," said Jason Brzoska, a 24-year-old from Albany who works at MyJewishLearning.com.

"There is no obvious path for someone who wants to remain involved Jewishly," he said, pointing out that men’s clubs, sisterhoods, all those things were for people who are older and/or in a more settled phase of life.

Times are a changin’. It used to be that after high school and college people got married — especially in the family-oriented Jewish community. Then they joined synagogues, had babies, sent them to Jewish schools, Jewish camps and even conferences. Today, as anyone who’s ever seen one episode of "Seinfeld" or "Friends" can attest, most people get married later. And while people in the Jewish community tend to get married at a somewhat younger age than the general population, it’s unusual to get married at 22. Or 23. Or 24 or even 25.

One way that the organized community has dealt with the changing times is to try push Jewish singles events: Get young Jews married to other Jews, the thinking goes, and then they’ll start having babies and families and be ready for the organized life of the Jewish community — in other words, for the men’s clubs, the sisterhoods, the federations and everything that already exists. That philosophy works, to an extent. New innovations like JDate and SpeedDating have been successful.

But successful at what? Preventing intermarriage, creating new Jewish families, finding someone’s soul mate, for sure. But is it a solution for creating Jewish leaders? For involving passionate post-college students who aren’t ready for marriage, but seem to be yearning for something else?

"Some sort of youth group for 20-somethings is what we need to remain connected to the Jewish world," Brzoska said. "Too many people get lost."

Most of the participants were far from lost, though. They were more like lit matches looking for the right hearth to light their fires. I met Yotam Hod, a 26-year-old public school teacher who had already worked for two years in the Peace Corps, and was just searching for any way to gain entry into working for his own community — maybe with Palestinian and Israeli kids, maybe first going back to graduate school in Jewish studies (alumni from various grad schools with Jewish programming also led a session).

There was Tamar Auber, who runs a nonprofit soup kitchen/food pantry/intervention center in Brooklyn that services 5,000 people. She’s only 26 and already feeling overwhelmed, but here, at the conference, found so many participants who want to volunteer. The conference also pushed volunteerism and philanthropy as ways to get involved Jewishly if you weren’t going to make it your career.

There was Rachel Cohen, who works for an ambassador at the United Nations and wants to improve the image of the Jewish people and Israel there.

And then there were a few people unsatisfied with their experience.

"I felt I missed out on the entire purpose I was coming for — I was trying to figure out how to get [other] 20-somethings involved that aren’t involved," said a 23-year-old Chicagoan, who preferred not to give his name.

"This think tank is not for blank slates," Rhoda Weisman, the executive director of PLP, said at the closing session of the conference, an open-mike evaluation session. "This is specifically for people who have strong Jewish passions, to be involved in something like this."

Questionnaires were filled out, the microphone was passed around, people said what they loved, what they didn’t love, what they’re going to do, what they hope to do.

Weisman previously worked for 10 years as chief creative officer for Hillel and much of this project is borne out of her experience in working closely with college students and within the Jewish organizational world. At 46, She is one of those "middle ground" professionals, and perhaps it is in this place that she can bring the fire of the youth to the hearth that is the staid Jewish organizational life.

"Initially our thoughts are that this could be the forerunner of an institution that will attract first-class people to the Jewish communal world and will incentivize them through fellowships, will mentor them, will keep them together throughout their careers, through various approaches," Michael Steinhardt told me from a lounge chair in the hotel lobby, where we were interrupted by dozens of conference participants who wanted to hang out with him. Steinhardt is one of the other impetuses behind this unprecedented project. As the founder of Birthright, the program that has sent thousands of 20-somethings on free trips to Israel, Steinhardt is used to defying the norm. Back then, he said, "they" said Birthright couldn’t be done, and now "it’s a transformative milestone of Jewish identity."

Will PLP be the next Birthright? Both Weisman and Steinhardt insist that the think tank part of the project is a one-time deal intended to produce an actionable study. But PLP as an organization is now incorporating into non-profit status to continue working with 20-somethings, providing fellowships and career guidance. PLP leaders are hoping what will turn into a continuing national program is CareerBreak — a mentoring program. After the three day conference, 25 participants will "shadow" Los Angeles Jewish professionals to get a taste of working life. Mentors include Jewish Federation President John Fishel, Progressive Jewish Alliance Executive Director Daniel Sokatch, Zimmer Museum Director Esther Netter and Pressman Academy Education Director Rabbi Mitchel Malkus.

"We don’t realize how difficult it is to get in [to Jewish life,] said Rabbi Ron Wolfson, University of Judaism’s vice president and dean of its Fingerhut School of Education, who is also serving as a CareerBreak mentor.

All mentors are being paid for their time, "because people need to know that Jewish professionals’ time and expertise is valuable too," Weisman said.

Full disclosure: the payment part came as news to me, as I had volunteered long ago to become a mentor. My mentee’s name is Lauren Leonardi, a writer who has spent the last five years in Savannah, Ga., and has recently moved back to N.Y. She feels deeply connected to Judaism, but is not sure how to incorporate it into her work.

"Why should I work at a Jewish newspaper?" she asked me. "Why should I work in Jewish life at all?" she said — and this was at the end of PLP on Tuesday night, before CareerBreak began. I’ll have been with her on Wednesday and Thursday, taking her with me to put together this newspaper. I don’t know how I’ll answer the questions — if I can even answer the questions — or if I’ll be a good mentor. Twenty-somethings aren’t the only ones with questions.

Stanford’s Grunfeld Flies High


It’s March Madness and all eyes are on the Stanford Cardinals. Ranked No. 1 in the nation, the near-perfect team enters this weekend’s Pac 10 Tournament as the Pac 10 regular season champions and will enter next week’s NCAA Tournament as a No. 1 seed. Key to the Cardinal’s success is reserve guard/forward Dan Grunfeld. Grunfeld, who averages 11.7 minutes a game, heads into the tournament with a levelheaded perspective on his team’s near-perfect season.

“We’ve had success this year, but it’s because of our hard work. We don’t lose sight of what’s gotten us to this point. We’re still focused and we still have a lot more to achieve,” Grunfeld said. Finishing the season with an outstanding 26-1 record, the Cardinals hope to continue their winning streak in the weeks of tournament play ahead.

Grunfeld, who scored a career-high 21 points against Southern Utah in December, has come into his own in his second year of play.

“This year I’m more comfortable with the offense and I’ve got a better feel for all of the guys,” said the 6-foot-6, 210-pound sophomore. “I feel like I’m more a part of it.”

Grunfeld comes from a basketball family. His paternal grandfather spent the Holocaust in a Romanian work camp; his paternal grandmother hid in a basement with false papers. They immigrated to the United States in the 1960s, where their son, Ernie, learned to play basketball. Ernie earned a basketball scholarship to Tennessee and, after college, played for the Milwaukee Bucks, the Kansas City Kings and the New York Knicks. He later became the general manager of the Knicks, then the Bucks, and today is the president of basketball operations for the Washington Wizards.

“People talk about my dad and his career a lot,” said Grunfeld, 20. “But it’s just who I am and where I come from. It’s no added pressure.”

Grunfeld is also unfazed by the added pressure of being a Stanford student-athlete. With a great deal of time dedicated to practice, weight training and traveling, Grunfeld’s learned to juggle athletics and academics.

“Going to college at any school in the country you’ve got to do your work. As an athlete, you’ve got to do your work and you’ve got to go to practice. It’s not an impossible thing to do, you just have to find the balance that works best for you.”

Grunfeld learned to balance his basketball and his Judaism early on. He gets a smile on his face as he recalls his after-school regiment.

“My attendance at Hebrew school probably wasn’t as perfect as some other kids’,” said Grunfeld, who was bar mitzvahed. “I remember going to Hebrew school in my uniform and going straight to basketball games. I only get asked about my Judaism occasionally, but I don’t forget those times in Hebrew school, or who I am.”

Stanford plays No. 8 Washington State University in the first round of the 2004 Pac-10 Men’s Tournament on March 11 at 12:20 p.m.

Sports a Family Affair for Israeli
Bruin

Ortal Oren hopes to be the first Israeli to play in the WNBA, but for now she’s happy being the only Israeli on the UCLA women’s basketball team.

“I love being a Bruin,” said the sophomore guard.

Oren lead Kiriat-Sharet High School to back-to-back Israeli championship titles her junior and senior years and was named MVP of both title games. The heavily recruited Oren chose UCLA for its strong basketball program, challenging academics, sunny weather and proximity to her uncle in Orange County.

“I also enjoy being around such diverse people. I thought coming from a different country would make me different, but everyone at UCLA has a different background and ethnicity,” said Oren, who picked jersey number 00 because it’s also spells out her initials.

Oren was a key force off the Bruin bench this season, averaging 9.2 minutes per game.

“I have more confidence this year and have a bigger role on the team,” said Oren, who played for the Israeli Junior National Team this summer. “I’m having a better year overall. Last year I had to adjust to the language, classes and different basketball play, but this year it’s much easier. I’m doing well in school, and I’m more comfortable with the team,” said Oren who rooms in the dorms with teammates Nikki Blue and Emma Tautolo.

Oren’s parents are both well-known Israeli athletes. Her father, Ronen, was the director of the Maccabi Tel Aviv Basketball Academy and her mother, Ronit Gazit, was a competitive high jumper.

“I miss my family and friends, but I don’t miss being in Israel because I’m having so much fun here,” said Oren who left four younger brothers and a sister back in Rishon-Lezion. “The girls on the team are like sisters to me.”

Oren and the UCLA Bruins finished the regular season 16-11 overall and 11-7 in conference. They lost to Stanford in the semifinals of the Pac-10 Tournament on March 7 in San Jose.

YULA Takes Pride in Its Panthers

YULA Panthers head coach Edward Gelb has led his team to roaring success over the past 13 years. Under his guidance, the team has won seven Liberty League Championships in 10 years, advanced to the quarterfinals several times and recently clocked in its 200th victory.

“I first started coaching at YULA because I wanted kids who were committed to getting a Jewish education to have the option to play basketball at the same competitive level as kids who were attending other schools,” said Gelb. “I didn’t want them to feel they’re missing out just because they’re Jewish.”

With the JV and varsity teams having 12-13 players each, just getting on the YULA team has become competitive. Every year 40-50 freshmen try out in hopes of filling the few spots left open by exiting seniors.

“Boys basketball is our most popular sport, it’s the one the students follow most closely,” said YULA Athletic Director Joel Fisher.

While other high school teams practice daily, YULA practices three times a week. The students attend school from 7:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m. — many take advanced Talmud classes from 7:30-9:30 p.m. twice a week — and attend Sunday school.

“The key to our success is concentration,” Gelb said. “We don’t practice as much as other teams, so the kids really have to focus and concentrate when we do. Then they bring that concentration to the game. But still, practice time is our biggest challenge.”

Fisher would say Gelb and his team face an even greater challenge.

“The most impressive thing about Ed’s coaching at YULA is that he’s had all this success without a gym,” Fisher said. With no on-site gymnasium, the YULA Panthers practice at the Westside JCC or outside on playground courts.

This year, the Panthers beat Calvary Chapel Murietta 58-43 in the first round of playoffs. They went on to lose a tough game (58-53) to Santa Clara in the round of 16.

“Our basketball team has been extremely successful over the years, and that’s greatly due to Ed’s tremendous time, effort and dedication to the program,” Fisher said.

Book Preps Jewish Students for College


Jeff Gabriel knows that when he arrives at the University of Colorado in Boulder this September, connecting to his Jewish roots won’t be a priority. As the Calabasas High School senior prepares for college, his primary concern is adjusting to his new lifestyle, while living more than 1,000 miles from home.

“I love Judaism, but it won’t be the No. 1 thing on my list,” admitted the 17-year-old Reform Jew from Calabasas. “If I have time and I can go [to synagogue] with my family friend, who is a senior there, maybe I will.”

Like many incoming freshman and older students, Gabriel is already anticipating the challenges of staying in touch with Judaism while in college. For the first time, young Jews find that observing the Jewish holidays and traditions, as well as engaging in the local Jewish community, is not a requirement but a choice.

Rabbi Scott Aaron, education director at the Brandeis-Bardin Institute in Simi Valley, believes part of the problem is that American Jewish education neglects to focus on students after high school.

“Once children leave the nest, we assume they are on their own,” said the educator, noting that many Jews reconnect when they marry and have children. “We as a community say, ‘It’s college,’ and we let them go. We skip a crucial life step in there.”

To help students over the hump, Aaron, who worked as a Hillel director at several East Coast colleges, including New York University and Ohio State, wrote “Jewish U: A Contemporary Guide for the Jewish College Student” (UAHC Press, 2002).

Aimed at both affiliated and nonaffiliated students, the book offers suggestions for “Jewishly” preparing for college, dealing with anxious parents, communicating with roommates, handling holidays, finding Jewish resources and practicing without parental guidance. Early on, Aaron advises students to think about what being a Jewish college student means and to consider finding the Jewish community on campus.

“Even if you have no interest right now in being Jewishly involved or identified, just find out some basic details in case you ever need to know,” Aaron writes.

For some out-of-state students, like Alison Peck from Houston, establishing an on-campus Jewish connection can be crucial. “Where I grew up, it was not a strong Jewish community, so it was important for me to find it in college,” the 20-year-old admitted.

Peck, who just completed her sophomore year at USC, chose the school, in part, because of its growing Jewish population, which is now up to 10 percent. She considers the campus Hillel center her “home away from home.”

The filmic writing major attends services and has Shabbat dinners at Hillel every Friday night. She is also a member of Alpha Gamma Gamma, a local Jewish sorority.

For students like Linda Alpert, a senior a Milken Community High School, choosing a school close to home may be enough of a Jewish connection for now. Alpert, 17, plans to continue her Conservative observance with her family when she attends USC in the fall.

“That’s the attraction for going to USC — to come home for the holidays,” the Encino resident explained. In addition, Alpert takes comfort in knowing that many of her Milken classmates also plan to attend USC. “If I were going away to college, I’d probably try to get involved with Hillel or the Jewish Student Union,” she explained.

While Peck and Alpert are more concerned with simply staying connected, other students feel that college is an opportunity to grow religiously. Chad Rosen, a UCLA freshman, arrived from Scottsdale, Ariz., with hopes of reaching beyond his Reform roots.

“I came to UCLA with the knowledge that I wanted to be more traditional,” said the 19-year-old, who is a double major in psychology and Hebrew. “Living at home, I had more limitations, and at college, I’m able to explore Judaism more.”

Involved in both the campus Hillel and JAM (Jewish Awareness Movement), Rosen believes that college has allowed him to learn more about Jewish politics, community and text.

While some students may opt to disengage from Judaism in college, Aaron said that many students — particularly those with strong religious backgrounds — will eventually turn back to religion.

“Going to college into your first adult freedom and choice experience is overwhelming and [students] have to adjust to making their decisions,” the rabbi explained. “They know that they are supported and that their Jewish identity is there for them. They come back.”

The Circuit


Justice Seekers

Bet Tzedek’s sixth annual Justice Ball has always been a popular affair for Los Angeles’ young professionals. But this year, add “swanky” to the fundraiser’s list of superlatives.

Justice Ball 2002 was held at the recently renovated and reopened Park Plaza, an art deco vestige of Los Angeles’ glamour and glitter days that gave the occasion a different ta’am from previous years.

“What we tried to do was to find a venue to enjoy great music as well as provide a place where people can talk,” said Allan Schweitzer, who is serving his fourth year with the Justice Ball and his first year as event co-chair, with Jennifer Kleinert.

More than 2,500 young professionals attended the evening, made possible with the help of a 23-member steering committee and a large group of co-sponsors that included The Jewish Journal. The $350,000 raised in proceeds that night will directly benefit Bet Tzedek (House of Justice), which annually provides free legal services to more than 10,000 local low-income residents who can not afford the price of justice.

“I’m so excited by how this has turned out,” said Kleinert, a real estate attorney who helped organize all six Justice Balls.

“It’s a classy, fun crowd,” said corporate real estate attorney Shervin Gabayan, this being his second year on the Justice Ball’s planning committee. “Bet Tzedek is a wonderful organization that provides a fantastic service to our community.”

There were enough performers at this year’s Justice Ball to overstuff a deposition brief. Former Wailers frontman Elan delivered the reggae; DJ Jason Bentley, of KCRW and KROQ fame, spun the ambient music; disco cover band royalty The Boogie Knights gave up the funk; and Smittin, fronted by “The Practice” star Marla Sokoloff, rocked the room.

Also appearing, in the nonsinging category, Sokoloff’s “Practice” pal Camryn Manheim. The actress, who also played in Todd Solondz’s “Happiness,” is a longtime devotee of Bet Tzedek and has attended The Justice Ball since its inception.

“Every year, it gets better and better,” said Manheim, hanging out with Joshua Malina of “SportsNight.” Malina, a nice Jewish boy, found out about Justice Ball from Kleinert’s sister, Michelle Kleinert, a pal of his from their New Israel Fund involvement.

“Bet Tzedek’s a Jewish organization whose philosophy extends to everyone, regardless of race or religion,” Malina said.

“He’s been instrumental in getting the celebrity crowd here,” said Randall Kaplan, Justice Ball founder and chair emeritus. “He goes a million miles out of his way to make it happen.”

Bartenders poured cocktails — courtesy of VIP room sponsor Grey Goose Vodka — for attendees through an ice sculpture as the group SmackDaddy jammed for the VIP crowd.

Also spotted at the Justice Ball: Bet Tzedek Executive Director David Lash; socialite Janis Black; South Park Group Vice President Sean Hashem; jewelry designer Lili Rachel, and Hollywood Reporter online editor William Yelles.

Kaplan was pleased with this year’s fundraiser — the first Justice Ball he hasn’t directly overseen.

“They’ve done a phenomenal job this year in every respect,” said Kaplan, proud papa of the Justice Ball and of 5-month-old twins, Bianca and Arianna, whose picture he flashed to friends. “It’s truly wonderful to see the event raised to a new level and continue with a talented group of volunteers.”

For information on Bet Tzedek and the Justice Ball, call (323) 939-0506 and www.TheJusticeBall.org .

Talk of the Town

Local property manager SK Management LLC will present several college scholarships to tenants of buildings it maintains. Jerry Steinbaum, founder of SK Management, will present the scholarships to tenants in need of financial assistance for college.

4Robert Hertzberg, Assembly speaker emeritus, presented Boyle Heights native Judge Harry Pregerson of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals with a resolution officially naming the interchange of the 110 and 105 freeways in his honor.

4Los Angeles Hillel Council will honor its immediate past president, Michael Diamond, on Aug. 18 at the Fairmont Miramar Hotel in Santa Monica.

4UCLA heart surgeon Dr. Hillel Laks, professor and chief of cardiothoracic surgery at the David Geffen School of Medicine, was honored in Beverly Hills by the American Heart Association.

4Commissioner Ruth Jernigan has been elected as president of the Los Angeles County Commission for Women.

4San Fernando Valley Business Journal has named Arter & Hadden LLP partner Deborah Feldman one of its “Women Who Means Business” for 2002. The Woodland Hills lawyer was honored at a Warner Center Marriott gala.

Balanced Action for Israel


Nearly 100 college students from San Diego to San Francisco gathered at Sinai Temple on Sunday, Feb. 24, to dispute the anti-Israel action that has become increasingly prevalent on campuses. Action Israel offered intensive strategy and communications training in order to equip students with the tools necessary to counteract anti-Israeli sentiment.

The day began with an impressive panel of speakers, including Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky and Consul General of Israel in Los Angeles Yuval Rotem.

"Without a physical homeland, your existence would be significantly different," Yaroslavsky said. "We would be vulnerable and at other people’s mercies." The county supervisor offered advocacy strategies such as public protests and writing letters to newspapers. "Don’t forget the impact that you can have on the course of history."

Rotem strongly held to his opinion that "anti-Zionism is inherently anti-Semitic."

The next panel, moderated by Elan Carr, supreme governor of the Jewish fraternity Alpha Epsilon Pi (AEPi), included speakers David Suissa, founder and CEO of Suissa Miller Advertising and founder of Olam magazine; and David N. Myers, professor of history at UCLA. Suissa expressed his belief that Palestinian civilians are not the enemy. Rather, they are at the mercy of corrupt leaders. Thus, he encouraged students "not to do advocacy for Israel, but to do advocacy for American ideologies."

The remainder of the day included dividing students into two discussion groups led by Dan Schurr, media and Republican political strategist, and Michael Parks, former Jerusalem bureau chief and editorial page editor for the Los Angeles Times. Schurr’s presentation, "Stand and Deliver: The right words at the right times," dealt with the importance of knowing one’s audience and what interests them, as well as knowing one’s message and delivering it effectively. Parks’ presentation, "The Pen and the Sword: Critical reading and strategic writing,’ dealt with the media and how to engage an audience. In addition, Schurr gave tips on writing a good Letter to the Editor.

Plans have been made to follow up the program with the individual campuses in attendance in order to focus upon their unique needs.

The one-day seminar was sponsored by The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, The Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles, the Anti-Defamation League, the Consulate General of Israel, American Israel Public Affairs Committee, Los Angeles Hillel Council, AEPi, Israel Aliyah Center, Jewish National Fund, Betar and Hamagshimim.

Funding the Future


In the past, the Jewish Community Foundation has used its grant-making powers to help senior citizens, Conejo Valley preschoolers, and teens traveling to Israel. Now it has announced a major initiative on behalf of Jewish college students on local campuses.

Marvin I. Schotland, the foundation’s president and CEO, notes that “roughly 25,000 Jewish students are currently attending colleges and universities in greater Los Angeles, and many of them are not Jewishly active.” The foundation’s hope is to change that picture, by way of an eight-year, $1.9 million Comprehensive Development Grant and an innovative partnership that will include Los Angeles Hillel Council (LAHC), the Shalom Nature Center, and Federation’s Jewish Community Relations Committee (JCRC) of The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles.

Created byFederation in 1964, the foundation is a philanthropic agency with the power to allocate millions of dollars each year.

Its new College Campus Initiative, spearheaded by program director Susan Grinel, was launched because it is in college that young people generally form the attitudes that shape their adult lives. As the foundation’s Lewis Groner puts it, “The college audience is really a group that we can approach and access for the last time before they venture out beyond our borders and disperse into the world.”

The goal of the initiative is to connect these young Jews to the Jewish community through a range of attractive offerings that capitalize on their interest in hot topics like social action and the environment.

To implement its initiative, the foundation is looking to Hillel and its existing network of Jewish Campus Service Corps fellows. These are young men and women who work on campuses throughout the nation, encouraging Jewish students to get involved in Jewish activities. Eventually, fellows will operate at seven local universities.

The scope of the initiative does not stop here. Research shows that unaffiliated Jewish students tend to gravitate toward social activism and environmental causes. This is why the Shalom Nature Center and the JCRC have been brought aboard, to contribute quality programming in their areas of specialization.

The Shalom Nature Center, established with the Foundation’s help in 1999, is a brand-new adjunct of the Jewish Centers Association’s Shalom Institute Camp and Conference Center in Malibu. Beginning this September, the Nature Center will be able to hire two full-time Jewish educators to provide college students with hikes and other challenging outdoor activities. The $552,000 coming from the Jewish Community Foundation will also fund campus lectures on such topics as “Environmental Issues in Israel,” “Jewish Perspectives on Genetic Engineering,” and even “The Influence of Hollywood on Our Fear of Nature.”

Bill Kaplan, Shalom Institute executive director, points out that “most of the world’s environmental leaders are Jewish. But a lot of people don’t know that love of nature is a strong ethic in the Jewish tradition.”

JCRC executive director Michael Hirschfeld looks forward to introducing college students to social action projects from a Jewish perspective.

The JCRC will receive $255,000 to help hook college students on meaningful social service and public policy activities. Hirschfeld acknowledges that today’s students possibly may not be as public-spirited as his own generation was. He says, “I want to think that politics and social action are still interesting to young people. We’ll soon find out if I’m right or wrong.”

Eitan Ginsburg, acting executive director of Los Angeles Hillel Council, is delighted by the magnitude and scope of the Foundation’s investment in college students. He makes clear that “we want to sustain this over the long term, not only the eight-year duration of the grant.”

As time passes, he predicts that other subject areas will be explored, with special programming for Jewish students interested in sports, the arts, and the Greek scene. Ginsburg notes that Hillel has learned over the past decade that “one size doesn’t fit all. We don’t try to program one single activity that’s going to attract every student.” He suspects “there’re probably things we haven’t thought of, that the students will think of. If we do less talking and more listening, the students will tell us what they want.”

Cover Story


The recent revelations about the South OrangeCounty Community College District’s desire to offer a course that, inpart, blames the Mossad and the Anti-Defamation League for theassassination of President John F. Kennedy read something like a badclipping from the area’s far-right past.

Even as the county continues to emerge as anincreasingly cosmopolitan, high-tech region, it appears that theregressive gene, with its racist and anti-Semitic characteristics,remains all too embedded in the county’s public policy. Despite thecancellation of the course (due to various outside pressures), theelected head of the board of trustees, Steven T. Frogue, continues tospew out the right-wing conspiratorial line, which, in other parts ofSouthern California, has thankfully receded into history.

Indeed, despite rapid demographic and economicchange, the county still is bedeviled with a significant, highlyvisible group of people whose views seem more in line with the MiddleAges than the Information Age. Of course, such views do not representanything like a majority in Orange County, notes UC Irvine’s MarcBaldassare, the region’s leading pollster. By his estimation, no morethan 20 percent of Orange County residents share the kind of”hard-right” politics that produces leaders such as Frogue. Evenwithin the Republican Party, Baldassare believes, the vast majoritytend more toward a libertarian, fiscally conservative but sociallymoderate philosophy.

“The whole right-wing social agenda, ‘familyvalues’ thing does not play well here,” Baldassare says, noting thatin the 1996 elections, Republican presidential candidate Bob Dole wononly 50 percent of the Orange County vote and moderate DemocratLoretta Sanchez upset far-right (but not anti-Semitic) incumbentCongressman Bob Dornan. “I don’t think there’s a vast undercurrent ofracism or anti-Semitism here at all. That conflicts with theprevailing sense of personal rights and responsibility.”

Rabbi Arnie Rachlis of University Synagogue inIrvine essentially shares these views, suggesting that the region’sJewish community, estimated to be between 70,000 and 100,000 strong,has little to fear from anti-Semitism from its non-Jewishneighbors.

Life in Orange County may be plagued by a kind of”Stepford Wives” suburbanite conformity, but not by rabidanti-Semitism. “People like Frogue are exceptional,” Rachlis says.”When you go out to soccer practice, it’s white, Gentile andconservative, but not a bunch of Birchers and skinheads.”

Perhaps so, but having Frogue entrenched as anelected official still should give pause to Jews in Orange County andthroughout Southern California. For one thing, Frogue’s anti-Semiticpolitics are not a new development on the other side of the OrangeCurtain.

Since the 1920s, racist, anti-Semitic and nativistsentiments have surfaced repeatedly in Orange County politics.Indeed, back in the 1920s and 1930s, the Ku Klux Klan gainedpolitical power in cities such as Anaheim, Fullerton, Brea and LaHabra; the rabidly anti-Semitic group was hardly on the fringe. Asone scholar noted later, most Klansmen were considered “civicallyactive, substantial citizens.”

Nor did the extremist element die with the demiseof the Klan in the 1930s. Although Jews, African-Americans andAsian-Americans were only a tiny proportion of the county’spopulation — itself nearly 75 percent white Protestant — the racistculture continued to exist in Orange County’s fertile soil. Into the1960s, extreme right-wing politicians, such as James B. Utt,represented the southern end of the county, even proposing aconstitutional amendment that called for official recognition of “theauthority and law of Jesus Christ, Savior and Ruler of Nations.” TheJohn Birch Society also found its strongest California base in OrangeCounty.

As the county grew in population and economicpower, far-right anti-Semitic and racist elements still found succorwithin prominent institutions, such as Knott’s Berry Farm. In thiscase, recalls marketing consultant Bob Kelley, it may have been morea matter of indifference and ignorance than outright activeanti-Semitism. Walter Knott, Kelley says, was himself not ananti-Semite and even had Jewish secretaries, but he tolerated afundamentalist-run bookstore that openly sold anti-Jewish tracts.Eventually, Kelley and other advisers persuaded Knott to shut downthe bookstore.

But Kelley, my own longtime personal friend and aprominent adviser to many Orange County high-tech companies, believesthat the region is now at a crossroads between its far-right,intolerant past and a more cosmopolitan future. The bulk of OrangeCounty’s increasingly high-tech and trade-oriented businessleadership remains politically conservative but far from racist orexclusive. Indeed, Kelley points out, some of the county’s leadingbusiness figures — such as Quicksilver Software’s Bill Fisher,Westec’s Michael Kaye and Toshiba Information Systems’ Paul Wexler –are themselves Jews.

“In the high-tech and medical world that I dealwith, it’s pretty Jewish these days,” Kelley says. “In that world, Inever encounter anti-Semitism. But, sometimes, when I was dealingwith car dealers and with insurance brokers, well, some of themclearly came from wherever rednecks are minted.”

In other words, Kelley and other business leaderssuggest, Orange County’s new, and buoyant, economy, increasinglydominated by Asians and Latinos, has no room for bigots — even ifonly in its own self-interest. To compete for educated workers,capital and media attention against Silicon Valley or other high-techregions, Orange County must purge itself as much as possible of itsugly regressive genes. It may be blind optimism to believe this willhappen, but I’m betting that it will.

Joel Kotkin is the John M. Olin Fellow at thePepperdine Institute for Public Policy.


Beyond the Orange Curtain


The recent revelations about the South OrangeCounty Community College District’s desire to offer a course that, inpart, blames the Mossad and the Anti-Defamation League for theassassination of President John F. Kennedy read something like a badclipping from the area’s far-right past.

Even as the county continues to emerge as anincreasingly cosmopolitan, high-tech region, it appears that theregressive gene, with its racist and anti-Semitic characteristics,remains all too embedded in the county’s public policy. Despite thecancellation of the course (due to various outside pressures), theelected head of the board of trustees, Steven T. Frogue, continues tospew out the right-wing conspiratorial line, which, in other parts ofSouthern California, has thankfully receded into history.

Indeed, despite rapid demographic and economicchange, the county still is bedeviled with a significant, highlyvisible group of people whose views seem more in line with the MiddleAges than the Information Age. Of course, such views do not representanything like a majority in Orange County, notes UC Irvine’s MarcBaldassare, the region’s leading pollster. By his estimation, no morethan 20 percent of Orange County residents share the kind of”hard-right” politics that produces leaders such as Frogue. Evenwithin the Republican Party, Baldassare believes, the vast majoritytend more toward a libertarian, fiscally conservative but sociallymoderate philosophy.

“The whole right-wing social agenda, ‘familyvalues’ thing does not play well here,” Baldassare says, noting thatin the 1996 elections, Republican presidential candidate Bob Dole wononly 50 percent of the Orange County vote and moderate DemocratLoretta Sanchez upset far-right (but not anti-Semitic) incumbentCongressman Bob Dornan. “I don’t think there’s a vast undercurrent ofracism or anti-Semitism here at all. That conflicts with theprevailing sense of personal rights and responsibility.”

Rabbi Arnie Rachlis of University Synagogue inIrvine essentially shares these views, suggesting that the region’sJewish community, estimated to be between 70,000 and 100,000 strong,has little to fear from anti-Semitism from its non-Jewishneighbors.

Life in Orange County may be plagued by a kind of”Stepford Wives” suburbanite conformity, but not by rabidanti-Semitism. “People like Frogue are exceptional,” Rachlis says.”When you go out to soccer practice, it’s white, Gentile andconservative, but not a bunch of Birchers and skinheads.”

Perhaps so, but having Frogue entrenched as anelected official still should give pause to Jews in Orange County andthroughout Southern California. For one thing, Frogue’s anti-Semiticpolitics are not a new development on the other side of the OrangeCurtain.

Since the 1920s, racist, anti-Semitic and nativistsentiments have surfaced repeatedly in Orange County politics.Indeed, back in the 1920s and 1930s, the Ku Klux Klan gainedpolitical power in cities such as Anaheim, Fullerton, Brea and LaHabra; the rabidly anti-Semitic group was hardly on the fringe. Asone scholar noted later, most Klansmen were considered “civicallyactive, substantial citizens.”

Nor did the extremist element die with the demiseof the Klan in the 1930s. Although Jews, African-Americans andAsian-Americans were only a tiny proportion of the county’spopulation — itself nearly 75 percent white Protestant — the racistculture continued to exist in Orange County’s fertile soil. Into the1960s, extreme right-wing politicians, such as James B. Utt,represented the southern end of the county, even proposing aconstitutional amendment that called for official recognition of “theauthority and law of Jesus Christ, Savior and Ruler of Nations.” TheJohn Birch Society also found its strongest California base in OrangeCounty.

As the county grew in population and economicpower, far-right anti-Semitic and racist elements still found succorwithin prominent institutions, such as Knott’s Berry Farm. In thiscase, recalls marketing consultant Bob Kelley, it may have been morea matter of indifference and ignorance than outright activeanti-Semitism. Walter Knott, Kelley says, was himself not ananti-Semite and even had Jewish secretaries, but he tolerated afundamentalist-run bookstore that openly sold anti-Jewish tracts.Eventually, Kelley and other advisers persuaded Knott to shut downthe bookstore.

But Kelley, my own longtime personal friend and aprominent adviser to many Orange County high-tech companies, believesthat the region is now at a crossroads between its far-right,intolerant past and a more cosmopolitan future. The bulk of OrangeCounty’s increasingly high-tech and trade-oriented businessleadership remains politically conservative but far from racist orexclusive. Indeed, Kelley points out, some of the county’s leadingbusiness figures — such as Quicksilver Software’s Bill Fisher,Westec’s Michael Kaye and Toshiba Information Systems’ Paul Wexler –are themselves Jews.

“In the high-tech and medical world that I dealwith, it’s pretty Jewish these days,” Kelley says. “In that world, Inever encounter anti-Semitism. But, sometimes, when I was dealingwith car dealers and with insurance brokers, well, some of themclearly came from wherever rednecks are minted.”

In other words, Kelley and other business leaderssuggest, Orange County’s new, and buoyant, economy, increasinglydominated by Asians and Latinos, has no room for bigots — even ifonly in its own self-interest. To compete for educated workers,capital and media attention against Silicon Valley or other high-techregions, Orange County must purge itself as much as possible of itsugly regressive genes. It may be blind optimism to believe this willhappen, but I’m betting that it will.

Joel Kotkin is the John M. Olin Fellow at thePepperdine Institute for Public Policy.