Don’t cut support to innovative nonprofits


From New York to Los Angeles to San Francisco, the impact of the global financial crisis feels like an eerie parallel to the days after Sept. 11. No one knows whether the acute phase is over or whether there will be further shocks. For some, little has changed; for others, life will never be the same. Everyone knows someone who has been directly affected.

Our major institutions are struggling to adjust, react, prepare but most of all to respond to those most harmed. News outlets strive to explain and advise; houses of worship have added services; social service agencies brace for increased demand even as they anticipate reduced charitable and government support. Each organization is focused on what it can do to minimize and mitigate the effects of the crisis on our city, our country and our world.

Amid this outpouring of effort, we have been dismayed by intimations, in the Jewish media and elsewhere, that smaller, newer nonprofit organizations will and perhaps ought to lose funding support in order to allocate more to immediate concerns: a warm meal, a place to stay, income stabilization. While we agree that protecting the most fragile is key, we disagree with this last-hired, first-fired funding mentality.

The argument against the new nonprofits is both simple and disingenuous. The simple argument is that they are risky investments, ephemeral champions of the latest passing fads. The disingenuous argument is that these innovators are self-indulgent narcissists, insubstantial and erosive of the communal fabric. These arguments are not only wrong, they are counterproductive.

Far from risky ventures, new start-ups like Darkhei Noam, Hadar, Jewish Milestones, IKAR and the Progressive Jewish Alliance actually are fulfilling the promise of engaging a new generation of Jews in their own idiom and on their own terms. It is this generation’s connection to Judaism that ultimately will determine the future of Jewish life and of its larger institutions. They build innovative new minyanim and educate young leaders who in turn will strengthen their communities. They develop, test and promote new models of community involvement that will be the foundation for generations to come.

From Hazon to Jewish Mosaic to Matan to Sharsheret, they use new tools and methods to promote environmental responsibility, ensure our community welcomes Jews of all backgrounds, widen the reach of special education and put resources into the hands of those afflicted with deadly diseases — all missions at heightened risk in the period of social and economic turmoil we are entering.

While the big boys debate scalpels and hatchets, these new start-ups quietly perform laparoscopies without cutting open the patient. Bootstrapped together with all the advantages of today’s cost-saving technologies that many established Jewish organizations have yet to discover, these start-ups are models of industry and investment that will help America emerge from recession. They can feed for a year on what their larger brethren consume in an hour. They are lean, staffed more austerely than their older, bigger peers and subsist by sweat equity donated by those for whom they mean a great deal.

Putting the attention on new start-ups distracts us from asking the tough questions of our most venerable institutions, many of which have lost sight of their original missions in the struggle for institutional survival.

But these start-ups are also fragile, without reserves to fall back on, and do not yet possess long-term funding relationships to be called upon in times of crisis. They lack the confidence and reputation — and the sheer seniority — conferred on larger nonprofits by decades of service. Questioning the viability, merit or necessity of nascent nonprofit organizations risks becoming self-fulfilling. Moreover, it’s unfair to do so without also challenging the unquestioned assumptions governing larger nonprofits.

New ventures are essential to our recovery and are ideal places for funders to invest to stabilize the community. Individual or institutional funders seeking ways to make fewer dollars go further should take a closer look at the group of emerging nonprofit organizations ready to rise to the occasion if given a chance. These new groups do far more than put on hip-hop concerts and publish risqué magazines. From a communal investment perspective, these organizations provide tremendous value.

Just as after Sept. 11, the priority is on rebuilding — not only our portfolios but also our souls. We must succor those re-examining their values and goals, and support those for whom economic distress leads to personal distress. Financial crisis is often the mother of religious crisis, during which the quest for meaning becomes not only more potent but more critical. It is precisely in trying times that we must focus on efforts that can best distill and transmit the essence of Jewish values in today’s complex and decentralized world.

The age of an organization doesn’t correlate to the significance of its mission. In 1798, when our new nation faced a grave economic and political threat from France, John Adams summoned leaders of each of the nation’s diverse faiths to organize “a day of solemn humiliation, fasting and prayer,” during which citizens were asked to pray “that our country may be protected from all the dangers which threaten it.” The message was clear — strengthening committed communities strengthens our nation.

The new groups formed by our most gifted social entrepreneurs are just such committed communities — some religious and others not — and now is the hour when they can do their finest work.

Shawn Landres is the CEO of Jumpstart, a thinkubator for sustainable Jewish innovation in Los Angeles. Toby E. Rubin is the founder/CEO of UpStart Bay Area, igniting Jewish ideas and supporting Jewish start-ups in the San Francisco Bay Area. Martin Kaminer is the New York-based chair of the board of Bikkurim: An Incubator for New Jewish Ideas.

Why Reform, Chabad Are Necessary


Contemporary Judaism cannot spare any of its competing components. Each one, from Charedi to Reform, has a unique contribution to make.

I recently spent some time with the Helsinki Jewish community and learned something about Judaism I didn’t know. First, I learned that the community of Judaism needs the Reform movement and cannot survive without it.

Second, I learned that the community of Judaism needs the Chabad movement and cannot build a future without its unique contribution.

The Reform movement’s unique contribution is a common-sense approach to halachic disciplines — a willingness to deal with how things really are, and not only to make the best of them but to make them better. In Helsinki, the community is nominally Orthodox but genuinely secular. Here, nearly every Jewish marriage is an intermarriage. The Jewish school has upward of 100 children, most of them children of intermarriages. But nominal Orthodoxy defines matters.

Formalities without heart! I learned this because I met the head of the Jewish community — a serious Jew, himself intermarried — who told me about a current crisis.

The 2004 tsunami killed most of a Jewish family from Helsinki — the Christian wife and three Jewish children died in the catastrophe. The Jewish husband survived and wanted to bury his wife and three sons in the Jewish community’s cemetery. The lay president and Orthodox rabbi said no to the wife; it would offend those already buried there if a Christian body were to be interred.

The Christian woman’s Christian family was horrified by the notion that their daughter’s remains would offend the remains of Jews, since, after all, she had borne and raised three Jewish children.

What halachic solutions to such a problem exist I could not propose; I have no experience in making halakhic decisions. But I could not help thinking that what Finnish Jewry needs is a Reform movement, able and willing to cope with problems that Orthodox readings of halacha treat as cut and dried, and which they botch completely. There is a human dimension to take into account. Reform takes it into account, and the Orthodoxy, represented by the lay leadership of the nominally Orthodox Jewish communities of continental Europe, does not. How much stronger all of the communities of Judaism are because among them is a Judaic religious system that opts for humanity and common sense as principal criteria for halachic decision-making.

The other community of Judaism I met is Chabad Judaism, represented by a fine young rabbi, Benyamin Wulff, and his wife, both young Americans born into Chabad families. They are devoting their lives to building a Chabad community in Helsinki, studying the notoriously difficult Finnish language and planning to make their lives there.

He had come to my lecture for the Jewish community and invited my wife and me for Shabbat lunch at his home. There he had assembled a mixed crew of Israeli, British, American and Finnish Jews. He struck me as the most welcoming, unpretentious, good-natured rabbi I know, drawing out each person in turn, asking questions more than giving answers.

The Helsinki synagogue has a rabbi who comes from Israel from month to month. But the Jews in Helsinki also have a Chabad rabbi, always on the scene, whose outreach knows no outer limits.

He teaches one at a time or several; he has the capacity to add to the Judaic resources of the community by making Jews Jewish. He organizes Judaic events that involve people in Judaic activities and he does everything he can to convert Jews to Judaism — not by words, but by deeds.

The power of Chabad to cherish the sparks of holiness in every Jew sustains him and through that remarkable couple brings light to the assimilated, fast-fading Judaism of Finland.

Reform Judaism and Chabad Judaism prove essential, the one to mediate between the law of Judaism and the real life of the Jewish people, and the other to build and nurture, to make Jews Judaic.

I know it is conventional to dismiss Reform as inauthentic or assimilationist, and to condemn Chabad as divisive and dubious by reason of the messianic claims made in behalf of the late Rebbe. (From Helsinki’s Chabad rabbi I heard that those claims represent only a small minority of the Chabad constituency.)

They say Chabad is nothing more than halachic Christianity, and Christians apprised of the Rebbe’s coming resurrection comment, “Right idea, wrong man.”

But in Helsinki, I missed Reform Judaism and I got a sense of hope from Chabad Judaism. We all benefit from the quarrels that produce Judaisms.

Jacob Neusner teaches Judaic studies at Bard College.

 

A Micro Solution to Macro Poverty


 

The outpouring of international charity for the victims of the Asian disasters is a clear sign that we humans are capable of enormous empathy

and generosity.

But the near-instant world reaction should go even farther. Now, the world’s eyes are turned on an area of the globe where poverty, disease and underdevelopment cripple societies, whether the world is looking or not.

The fact is there are more than 1.2 billion people living on less than $1 per day. The task of riding the world of the scourge of grinding poverty was long thought to be a problem too massive, too overpowering for any organized effort to even attempt to solve.

However, in our world that today seems so destructive, so bitter and so sad, there is some good news. There is a highly effective worldwide anti-poverty program now operating that is called microcredit. This functions by creating small loans (some less than $50), primarily in Third World countries, with those loans targeted to the poorest of the poor.

By conventional banking standards, these loans could never be made, and the charge is, if made, would never be repaid. Today there are more than 3,000 microlending organizations and over 80 million of these loans have been made in over 65 countries, with an average repayment rate in excess of 90 percent.

More than 95 percent of these loans were made to women who in the past were chattels in a male dominant home, often beaten and badly abused. Now their empowerment and enhanced self-esteem resulting from this program have brought women prestige, power and respect in their families and in their communities.

Although these microlending programs vary from country to country, depending on local cultures, most have a basic group of five borrowers, each with their own idea of what they might make, repair or collect to have a salable product. Since there is usually joint responsibility for the loans, this creates a functioning support system. Payments on the loans are made weekly.

I have seen women proudly make their installments and recite a list of social objectives that are a part of the program.

Tikkun olam, heal the world, is an ethic of our people, and there is no greater contribution to the repair of the world than combating this disease of world poverty. Microcredit is receiving increasing recognition as an effective anti-poverty weapon. And last month, the United Nations proclaimed the year 2005 as the International Year of Micro Credit.

The organization in which I am deeply involved has a target of 5 million loans to be made within five years, which will reach 20 million people and raise 10 million out of poverty. A remarkable goal — and we are on schedule.

I have visited microlending programs in China, Bangladesh, in Vietnam and, last month, in India. As an example of the work being done, I asked a woman in a village what microfinancing had done for her life.

She pulled me over to a tree and said that before she had taken her first loan, she lived under that tree for five years with no shelter whatsoever. She told me she used the loan to buy seeds and raise vegetables, which she sold. Then she took me to a tin-roofed hut and proudly showed me her home for herself and her family, which she had created from her business profits.

This remarkable program was created by professor Muhammad Yunus. He was teaching economics at a university in Bangladesh and visited a neighborhood village, where he saw a woman making reed baskets. He asked her how much she was earning, and she said five cents per day.

Amazed, he asked her why so little, and she replied that she bought the reeds from a man who required that she sell the completed baskets to him. Since he set both the buy and sell price, what she had left was five cents.

When Yunus asked her if she could sell the baskets herself, she replied yes, that is no problem. Then he asked her how much money she needed to be independent.

She said that she was one of 42 women working together and asked him to wait while she discussed it with her friends. She came back after a few minutes and said they needed $27 total for all 42 women to be independent.

Amazed, he gave her the money out of his pocket, came back a few weeks later and found her functioning very effectively and profitably. That was the inspiration for the creation of the Grameen (village in Bangali) Bank that today has more than 2 million borrowers and has made more than $4 billion in loans to the poorest of the poor.

A remarkable story about a remarkable man.

This work is a fulfilling experience at both the micro and the macro levels. The micro in that you are pulling people out of poverty one by one, totally changing the lives of these individuals and their families. Macro in that you are attacking a massive, worldwide problem that was once thought to be impossible to even approach.

A unique aspect of contributing to this cause is that the funds get used over and over. It is not like a normal charity, where no matter how wonderful it is, once the funds are given they are used, and there the chain stops without new funding.

But in microlending, the funds are repaid, then lent again and again. Thus, the programs have the potential and, in many sites around the world, are self-sustaining and need no further funding except for expansion purposes.

The images on our TV screens this past month should be a reminder of the awesome force of nature but also of the abiding poverty that afflicts too much of the world. There is no more appropriate and noble work than helping the poorest of the poor climb out of poverty and live happy, productive lives.

And there is no more effective way to do it on a personal level than microloans.

Richard Gunther is member of the board and former president of Americans for Peace Now, a member of the State of California’s Commission on Aging and founding chair of the Israel Economic Development Task Force in Los Angeles. He is also a board member of The Jewish Journal.

 

Pauper Turned Prince Gives Bat Yahm Gift


Isidore Myers and his three siblings had a less-than-carefree childhood. Their parents, penniless immigrants, eked out a living early in the last century in Akron, Ohio, where their barely literate father painted houses. Although the family managed food and shelter, they scrambled for odd jobs like peddling papers so they too could to contribute something to the household.

From such hardscrabble beginnings, Myers nonetheless recently made a gift of more than $3 million to Newport Beach’s Temple Bat Yahm, the largest single contribution in the synagogue’s 31-year history. To honor the philanthropist and his late wife, the 7-acre site recently was renamed The Isidore C. Myers and Penny W. Myers Temple Bat Yahm Campus.

"I’d rather have a temple named after me than a jail," said Myers, 87, whose wife died last July after a 16-month battle with Lou Gehrig’s disease at 78. He expects to complete a memoir about her by July. Until then he won’t have his picture taken alongside the plaque erected at the synagogue that bears both their names, which was was dedicated in February, days before what would have been their 60th wedding anniversary.

"I want to hold a copy of the book so she’ll be there. She deserves it as much as I," said Myers, who met his wife on a blind date arranged by an older brother.

The couple joined the synagogue in 1974, shortly after moving to Newport Beach from Ohio for a fresh start.

"I wanted to make my life a little easier," said Myers, who had sold his share of a tire making and distribution business back to his two brothers. Their company got its start as a used tire shop in 1931, the last year Model A Fords were produced.

Over the ensuing 30 years, Myers invested the proceeds from the tire business into commercial properties throughout Orange County. He also got involved in Jewish philanthropy. Twice without success he tried to start a local Jewish newspaper by promising financial backing.

"To build a Jewish community, you need to put a face on leaders so people will emulate them," Myers said. "We need more role models. You want to have Jewish people looked up to."

In the family business, Myers’ job included writing for company catalogs, bulletins and business letters.

"It comes easy to me," said Myers, whose sister, Goldie Singer, resides in Laguna Woods.

Myers is the self-published author of two personal memoirs. One documents his own family’s journey and the other honors his parents’ families in Poland and Russia. The books are intended as guidebooks for his two married sons, Todd and Jay, and their grandchildren. In its pages, Myers advises "whatever I have didn’t grow on trees" and "have ambition of their own and make the most of life."

In December 1999 the couple decided that upon their deaths, the 600-family synagogue would be the beneficiary of their home in the gated, golf-course community of Big Canyon.

Half of the proceeds are to be used as an endowment held at the Jewish Community Foundation. Its income, perhaps as much as $60,000 per year, will support new programs and the synagogue’s $2.3 million annual budget. The other half of the Myers’ gift is unrestricted and could be used for operations or to defray debt, said Bill Shane, the synagogue’s executive director. Last year, Bat Yahm cut some costs and took out a mortgage to cover construction cost overruns from a major expansion.

"I’m sure they’ll use it to good purpose," said Myers, who says he isn’t a synagogue regular, but recently attended the synagogue’s Purim gala and fall lecture series. "I know it’s hard to raise money and this will make them more secure."

Giving


The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles is one of our city’s most successful philanthropies. Yet, nationwide, it ranks behind New York, Chicago, Detroit, the Bay Area, Philadelphia and Baltimore in the Chronicle of Philanthropy’s annual listing of the 400 not-for-profit organizations with the largest revenues from individual contributors.

I’ve often wondered why this is so. With the exception of New York, these are cities whose Jewish populations are far smaller than our own. People tell me it’s because Jews are like other Angelenos: They come West to make their own way, to avoid hierarchy and organization of all kinds. They are spread out, self-absorbed, apolitical and apathetic.

Others tell me the Federation itself is to blame. For too long it focused on Israel and overseas Jewry, as local Jews turned more toward domestic concerns. It lacked a clear mission, it became political (or not political enough), and it had a cumbersome and resolutely unsexy name — Federation — in a town where packaging matters.

In fact, a little of “all of the above” might be the case, but these reasons must not obscure what I’ve understood as the Federation’s mission: to meet the needs of Jews here, in Israel and around the world.

The Federation is the central planning, coordinating and fundraising body for 18 local and international agencies that offer the entire community a broad range of humanitarian programs. The annual UJF campaign supports these programs and is the largest single year-round fundraising endeavor in the Jewish community.

There is a legitimate discussion going on about the best way to meet Jewish communal needs in the 21st century. But now, today, the Federation and its beneficiary agencies are the primary way those needs are being met.

You could dismiss the organization, focus only on its faults, or argue it should be reinvented from A to Z, but that wouldn’t change the nature or urgency of the needs the Federation has evolved to meet.

There would still be 31,300 L.A. Jewish households living at or below the poverty line. Who would help feed, shelter and care for these people?

There would still be battered women, drug- and alcohol-ravaged families, mentally ill Jews and non-Jews. Who would meet their needs?

There would still be immigrants from Russia, Ethiopia and other nations in need.

There would still be thousands of Jewish children in need of quality education, good community centers and programs that reinforce a strong identity.

There would still be emergencies, such as the North Valley JCC shooting, to which the Federation and its beneficiary agencies are uniquely suited to react, with a full range of social services that goes beyond sound bites.

This Sunday, thousands of people will take part in the Federation’s Super Sunday fundraising event. Volunteers will make calls, staffers will coordinate, donors will donate. It’s a big production, which last year raised $5 million, about 10 percent of the annual United Jewish Fund (UJF) campaign locally.

I don’t think there is ever a time to stop asking whether the institutions that help define this community could do better, be more efficient or more accountable. To ask those questions and seek fair and accurate answers is the job of this journal, if not each one of us.

But at the same time, our other job is to make sure that those among us who need help will get it. One of the best ways I know of doing that, still, is giving on Super Sunday.

Ticket prices


Ticket prices are for the full series, including Rosh Hashanah evening and morning, Yom Kippur evening, and all day on Yom Kippur. Many synagogues offer tickets for single services, and many will nego-tiate. And remember, whatever you pay for holiday tickets is a tax-deductible charitable contribution.

$5-$50

  • Arbeter Ring/Workmen’s Circle

  • Temple Beth Israel

  • Aish Los Angeles

  • Sholem Community (Kol Nidre)

$51-$100

  • Temple Beth Emet

  • B’nai Ami Synagogue

  • B’nai Tikvah Congregation

  • Etz Jacob Congregation

$101-150

  • Jewish Learning Exchange ($50 children)

  • B’nai David-Judea

  • Malibu Jewish Center and Synagogue

  • Cong. N’vay Shalom

  • Cong. Or Ami ($25 children)

  • Rodeph Shalom

$151-$200

  • Beth Chayim Chadashim

  • Temple Beth Hillel ($100 seniors, $40 students)

  • Beth Shir Shalom

  • Cong. Kol Ami

  • Leo Baeck Temple

  • Makom Ohr Shalom

  • Temple Menorah

  • Mishkon Tephilo

  • Sha’arei Am

  • UCLA Hillel (other than UCLA students)

$201-up

  • Adat Shalom ($140 for people under 25)

  • Temple Beth Am (less for alternative BAIT Tefillah service)

  • Cong. Beth Ohr

  • B’nai Horin

  • Temple Emanuel

  • Temple Isaiah (seniors $150)

  • Kehillat Israel

  • Stephen S. Wise Temple ($50 membership ages 21-32)

Congregation Ner Tamid in Rancho Palos Verdes does not sell tickets to nonmembers but offers a three-month membership.

Free services and programs

  • All holiday services at Southwest Temple Beth Torah in Gardena are free and open to the public.

  • Leo Baeck Temple offers a free service for families with very young children at 2 p.m. on the first day of Rosh Hashanah and on Yom Kippur, and a Rosh Hashanah “family program” with music, art and drama activities at 10 a.m. on the second day of Rosh Hashanah.

  • Cong. Or Ami offers free family services at 2 p.m. on the first day of Rosh Hashanah and on Yom Kippur.

Many synagogues that hold services on the second day of Rosh Hashanah (most do, except for some Reform temples) do not require tickets. Similarly, many congregations do not require tickets for Yom Kippur services late in the day, following an after-noon break. Call around to locate temples offering these open services.

Chabad offers free holiday services all over Southern California; see synagogue listings for West Coast headquarters and specific congregations. Also, the Chai Center will hold free services near LAX.

UP FRONT


Question: What do you get when you cross Hollywood, the Holocaust and Jewish communal fund-raising? Answer: Something exactly like last Wednesday night’s Simon Wiesenthal National Tribute Dinner at the Beverly Hilton Hotel.

It was a deliriously effulgent affair, a symbol of the diversity and reach of the Los Angeles Jewish community, and of the Wiesenthal Center. In what other town could you draw a line-up that included Michael Douglas, comedian Chris Rock, a packed crowd of top Hollywood executives, several heroes of the Holocaust, a reformed neo-Nazi skinhead and Bob Dylan, who came out on stage to sing perfectly three perfect songs? And did we mention Harrison Ford?

Of course, it helps when your calling card is Jonathan L. Dolgen. Dolgen –chairman of Viacom Entertainment Group, former president of Sony Pictures, Columbia Pictures and Fox, Inc. — was the night’s honoree, the recipient of the Wiesenthal Center’s 1997 Humanitarian Award. Persuaded to step into that role by his friend Jeffrey Katzenberg, a Wiesenthal Center trustee and the “K” in Dreamworks SKG, Dolgen turned out to be the ideal choice. He’d never been honored before in such a way, meaning that his charity chits extended wide and deep and long, long into the past.

So they came. Close to 1,100 guests and $1.6 million in contributions. The tribute journal read like a “Best Of” compilation from Daily Variety: Sony, Universal, Castle Rock, Arnold and Maria, Tom and Nicole and dozens of others kicked in at the $25,000-$100,000 level (including Daily Variety itself). Disney was good for $25K too, and chairman Michael Eisner was listed as an honorary dinner chair, despite Katzenberg’s bitter split and lawsuit with the Magic Kingdom. The lesson: You may never eat lunch in this town again, but you’ll always be hit up for an ad book.

The big names helped leverage Big Talent. Sure the Wiesenthal Center, with its museum and educational programs that expose thousands of children and adults every year to the horrors of the Holocaust and the importance of tolerance, is a worthy cause. But there are hundreds of worthy causes out there –who gives is almost always a function of who expects you to give.

Beyond the ad book, these dinners usually proceed along a strict law we can only guess was handed down at Sinai along with the other Ten. Cocktails in a crowded anteroom, speeches that strive for brevity and humor but achieve neither, a dinner of in-flight quality, live entertainment that wouldn’t stand a chance on an evening’s channel surfing, the lugubrious presentation and acceptance of an award and somewhere around midnight, just a few more closing remarks.

But Wednesday’s event broke those rules. It was smooth, professional, and truly entertaining. The speakers –Katzenberg, Douglas and Dolgen himself — spoke with the same quick, no-nonsense, joke-inflected patter that enables them to chew up 100 agents before breakfast. Dinner was well-above average too: a seared lamb chop the size of a family pet, smothered with morel mushrooms.

During dinner, Wiesenthal staffers worked the tables, introducing around Tom Leyden, the former skinhead who now speaks on behalf of tolerance.

But all this, however competent, was backdrop. The real show began with comedian Chris Rock, young, hot and black, who admitted to being out of his element, then proved it. Ten minutes of jokes that heavily relied on the seven words you can’t say on TV, much less in front of the Orthodox rabbis of the Center and their many Orthodox supporters. Paramount Studios, part of the Viacom group, had requested Rock appear. He’d been briefed by Hier on the nature of the cause. But Rock, just off a sold-out concert at Universal Amphitheater, seemed unable or unwilling to bowdlerize himself. Those who weren’t experiencing fribulations were laughing hard– Up Front thinks Rock’s a scream–and in the end, the Rocky Horror Show probably only served to show how cool the Center is to the many young execs and agents in the crowd.

After Rock came Bob Dylan. Imagine that. He sang three songs, beautifully, coherently, acoustically, ending with “Forever Young.” Then he was gone, like a dream, leaving, by his decree, no pictures and no video.

Things got even more surreal when Rabbi Hier presented brief videos and spoken tributes to five people who came to the aid of Holocaust survivors just after the war: Colonel Richard Siebel, who liberated the Majdanek camp; U.S. Army Chaplain Rabbi Abraham Klausner, who ministered to survivors; Dr. Ruth Gruber, the journalist who brought the plight of the displaced persons to world attention; Captain Rudolph Patzert, who ran DPs toward Palestine against British regulations; and Clifton Truman Daniel, who accepted the tribute on behalf of his grandfather, President Harry S. Truman, for helping create the State of Israel. All this on a stage that had just seen 10 minutes of penis jokes and the greatest folk-rock singer of his generation.

The sum effect was a bit baffling, but even more intriguing. How has Rabbi Hier managed to crack Hollywood in a way that has got to be the envy of every other Jewish organization in town? How does he manage to mark the suffering of the Six Million at a luxurious dinner featuring comedians and singers without cheapening it? What can the Center do next year to top this? And, finally, how did Harrison Ford get there?


Food and Memory

If you’ve read “In Memory’s Kitchen: A Legacy from the Women of Terezin” by Cara DeSilva, you’ll want to attend a reading, lecture, book signing and tasting with the author at the Skirball Cultural Center on Sun., June 8 at 2 p.m. If you’ve never read the book, which was reviewed and lauded in these pages, you’ll certainly want to attend. The event will begin with an introduction by Michael Berenbaum, president and CEO of the Survivors of the Shoah Visual History Foundation. A screening of an animated Czech film about Terezin will follow DeSilva’s talk. Afterward, participants will be able to sample recipes from the book in dishes prepared by Ziegler’s Cafe. Tickets are $25 (general) and $15 (students) and may be reserved through Theatix at (213) 466-1767.


A Volunteer’s How-To

The hullabaloo surrounding National Volunteer Day–speeches from President Clinton, Colin Powell, and so on–reminded us that for eight years, the Wagner Human Services Training Program at the University of Judaism has been graduating trained human-service workers qualified and eager to work as para-professional volunteers. This year’s class will be graduated on June 3. Orientation to the incoming class will be held June 16. To enroll, call (310) 476-9777, ext. 215.

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