Jewish day schools short-change kids with special needs


Adam is pushing the strings of his tzitzit through a small hole on the side of his desk.

“If you don’t want to finish your work now, that’s OK,” his teacher, Chau Ly tells him. “You can do it later.”
“It’s easy. I just don’t feel like it,” answers Adam (not his real name).

He looks at the language arts workbook open in front of him, then flips it to examine the bar code. He wants to tell Ms. Ly about the cat next door. Ms. Ly, sitting right across from him, tells him he can do that when he finishes his assignment.
She begins to read him the next question.

He pulls at some rubber on his sneaker and says, “I don’t need help, it’s easy.”

Ms. Ly sits back. Adam, an 11-year-old with learning and emotional disorders, begins to work quietly.

Finally, he finishes his assignment. Ms. Ly adds up the points he’s earned for doing things like getting his head into the assignment and working independently, and sets the timer for his break.

He chooses to spend his time exchanging cat stories with Ms. Ly.

Adam is one of 12 students in Kol Hanearim, an organization that sponsors small classes in three local day schools for children with learning disabilities and emotional disorders such as attention deficit, oppositional behavior, depression or obsessive compulsive disorder. The kids spend part of the time in their own classroom and part of the time mainstreamed in regular classes. They also join their grade level for lunch, recess, art, PE and other activities.

The classes were founded last year by mothers of kids who had been either asked to leave a Jewish day school, or who chose to leave on their own. Their decision to stay and make something new is part of a slowly emerging trend toward integrating diverse learners into the Jewish day school milieu — a move that everyone agrees has been too slow in coming, and has hardly begun to reach the students who need it.

For years, resources for kids with special needs have been scarce in Los Angeles’ day schools.

While supplemental Jewish education programs — camps, Hebrew schools, Shabbatons and parties — have provided wonderful Jewish experiences to the region’s special needs kids during the last 10 to 20 years, other cities seem to be making greater strides with their day school populations.

Parents who want their special needs children immersed in a Jewish environment on a daily basis often have to fend for themselves with minimal school support. Those able to afford it have hired tutors and shadows, which has not always been a successful solution. More often, parents have had to make the difficult choice to take the kids out of Jewish schools.

For parents in the Orthodox community, the decision to pull a kid out of day school means not only forfeiting a vital environment and education, but has social consequences, as well. Since the majority of Orthodox children attend day school, the child will be excluded from social circles, further marginalizing him or her.

With the explosion of day school attendance in the non-Orthodox sectors over the last 15 years, that decision is equally painful for Conservative and Reform parents who hoped to solidify a child’s identity with an intense Jewish experience.
About 10 percent of the general population has a disability, and the Bureau of Jewish Education estimates that between 700 and 800 children with disabilities are in Los Angeles’ 37 day schools, which serve 10,000 kids.

Over the past several years, schools and programs have opened up to teaching a more diverse array of learners in Orthodox, Conservative, Reform and community schools.

“There is a growing awareness that day schools need to be accessible to the widest range of students possible, and schools are working hard to refine their mission statements and to make sure that whatever their aspirations are to work in this area, that they find the financial and human resources to make it successful,” said Rabbi Joshua Elkin, executive director of the Partnership for Excellence in Jewish Education. The Boston-based group recently published a best practices report from day schools across the country.

Adam’s mother says her son, who previously attended Vista Del Mar’s Julia Ann Singer Center, a school near Culver City for children with severe emotional, learning and developmental disorders, has worked his way from a first-grade reading level to a fourth-grade reading level at Kol Hanearim. Whereas before he was surrounded by other kids with behavioral challenges, now he has nonchallenged children to model behaviors for him.

He is no longer embarrassed to wear a kippah and tzitzit, and can participate in class cooking projects without worrying about kashrut. He now asks to go to shul every Shabbat, and he even sings Hebrew songs in the shower.

While singing in the shower may seem like a silly benchmark, a positive or negative day school experience can have lifelong impact on a child’s Jewish identity.

One woman who contacted Kol Hanearim told the story of her son, now grown, who had been thrown out of yeshiva and told he would never amount to anything. Today, he is working toward a master’s degree in physics and is engaged to a non-Jewish woman.

Slammed Doors, New Opportunities

Kol Hanearim started its classes last academic year, soon after, Sharon Gindi was told that day school was no place for her son. She found that there were no good options for him within the Jewish community.

She got in touch with Kol Hanearim, a group of parents who had coalesced a few years before to offer Jewish programming to their children, who had left day schools. They had already met with principals in hopes of figuring out how to start classes for special-needs kids in day schools. But after two years, those meetings had gotten nowhere.

“I looked at my husband, and I said, ‘ All we need is a classroom and a teacher? How hard can this be?'” said Gindi, who will be speaking on this topic at a session at the United Jewish Community’s General Assembly here this week. So she skipped over the organizational meandering and immediately got down to details.

Israeli Conductor Soars in ‘Butterfly’


Madame Butterfly,” the story of a trusting 19th-century Japanese girl who falls in love with a fickle American naval officer, first captivated American audiences in 1900 as a play by impresario David Belasco. The Italian opera composer Giacomo Puccini saw the play’s London production and commented later that though he didn’t speak English, he completely understood the passionate characters and the emotion-laden story, which depicts the couple’s love affair and ends in tragedy. Puccini turned the story into “Madama Butterfly,” a work that has since become one of the greatest hits of the operatic world, beloved by directors and performers alike.

Among the most striking recent productions of this wildly emotional piece was one staged by the minimalist director Robert Wilson, which had its American premiere at Los Angeles Opera in 2004 to great acclaim. The production returns to Los Angeles in January, with an Israeli conductor at the podium and a celebrated soprano making her local debut. Patricia Racette, who has cut a wide swath through the classic Italian repertoire while creating roles in new American operas, will head the cast as Cio-Cio-San.

Puccini’s first attempt to set “Madame Butterfly” to music, mounted at La Scala in 1904, was unsuccessful, but a revised version later that year became one of the world’s most frequently produced operas. While Puccini incorporated Asian sounds into the opera, the score is filled with the lush, soaring music associated with the Italian composer.

Wilson’s austere production places the singers on an almost bare stage and restricts them to slow, precise movements influenced by Noh theater and modern dance.

“If you weren’t hearing Puccini coming out of the orchestra pit … you’d swear it was an opera by Philip Glass,” one commentator wrote of the 2004 production.

The spareness of the physical production doesn’t faze conductor Dan Ettinger, however, although the 34-year-old Israeli describes himself as “very emotional and dramatic.”

Ettinger, who conducted “Aida” for the L.A. Opera in 2004, told The Journal that he plans to counter the emotionality of “Madama Butterfly” with strict attention to rhythm.

“Many singers and opera listeners think Puccini’s music is free, because it loses its way in wonderful melodies and emotional expression,” he said. “But actually all of his operas are composed with very strict rhythm instructions that serve the drama well.

“This balance between wild emotions and strict rhythm in my music making should match Wilson’s minimalist physical production. I believe that the less the singers do physically on stage will bring out the inner emotion and drama that are so well built in Puccini’s score,” added the Holon-born Ettinger, who recently became music director and principal conductor of the Israel Symphony Orchestra and also conducts for the Staatsoper Berlin.

The production also marks Patricia Racette’s first visit to a Los Angeles stage, a debut long awaited by local opera lovers. She has sung many of the leading roles in the Verdi and Puccini repertoire, along with roles in classic French, Czech and Russian operas, to critical acclaim and ecstatic audiences around the world.

Racette, 37, is known as a champion of new works and has created leading roles in recent operas by Tobias Picker and Carlisle Floyd. In fact, Racette comes to Los Angeles from the world premiere of Picker’s opera “An American Tragedy,” based on the Theodore Dreiser novel, for the Metropolitan Opera in New York.

She performs regularly with the Metropolitan Opera, the San Francisco Opera, the Lyric Opera of Chicago, the Santa Fe Opera and the Houston Grand Opera. Covering performances earlier this year in Verdi’s “Falstaff” and Janacek’s “Jenufa,” reviewer D.L. Groover of the Houston Press called Racette “a consummate actor” and “one of opera’s greatest assets.”

She sang Cio-Cio-San in Houston last year, her first production of “Madama Butterfly” since her workshop days fresh out of North Texas State University.

“She brings this na?ve, terribly honorable girl to life just by the way she delicately closes her square paper parasol, or lightly dances a few geisha movements, or gently covers her mouth in embarrassment, or fiercely embraces her child in their last good-bye,” reviewer Groover wrote. “Racette, with effortless ease of tone and phrasing, with dramatic surety and star presence, is in a league of her own.”

But Racette gives just as much attention to characterization in the older European roles she performs, speaking in past interviews of the challenges of working with characters that seem two-dimensional or unbelievable to contemporary American audiences.

Puccini’s music, Racette told a Houston Chronicle interviewer, lends itself well to her voice, and she finds Cio-Cio-San an interesting and complex character. The role does present the challenge, she said, of acting like a demure geisha while singing like an Italian diva.

But she succeeded in doing just that in Houston, and in a way that should serve her well in Wilson’s austere mounting.

“Racette conquered the basic dilemma of the role: how to look Japanese, act 15 and sing like a hot-blooded Italian two or three times that age,” reviewer Charles Ward wrote in the Houston Chronicle. “Outwardly, the geisha was graceful and respectful; Racette’s stylized movement was effortless. Inwardly, she had a steely, single-minded commitment to idealized love.”

The L.A. Opera’s production of “Madama Butterfly” opens Saturday, Jan. 21, at 7:30 p.m., at Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, with subsequent evening performances on Jan. 25 and Feb. 1, 4, and 8, and matinees on Jan. 29 and Feb. 12 and 19. Tickets to “Madama Butterfly” range from $30 to $205, and are on sale at the L.A. Opera Box Office, by phone at (213) 972-8001 or online at www.laopera.com.

 

When Sad Things Happen to Good Kids


“The Boy Who Didn’t Want To Be Sad” by Dr. Rob Goldblatt (American Psychological Magination Press, 2004).

After taking his children to see a pleasant Disney cartoon, Dr. Rob Goldblatt thought there would some animated chatter about the film during the drive home.

Instead, there was silence, and tears.

“My kids started crying and said they never wanted to see the movie again,” said Goldblatt, a Los Angeles-based clinical psychologist and father of three. “All they could remember about it was that the hero’s father had died.”

At that moment, Goldblatt, was torn. As a father, he wanted to protect his children from grief. As a psychologist, he realized that running away from unpleasant feelings only serves to inure you from pleasant ones to come.

Instead of dwelling on the lachrymose movie, Goldblatt started telling his children a story which he made up on the spot, about a boy who tried everything possible to never be sad, only to find that the best way to deal with sadness is to acknowledge it and live through it.

Inspired by the moment, Goldblatt turned the story into a children’s book, “The Boy Who Didn’t Want To Be Sad” (American Psychological Magination Press, 2004), which he illustrated as well.

In the book, the boy decides that he wants to rid his life of everything that makes him sad. So he goes away to his secret place in the shade of the trees, and is happy. But then he’s struck by the thought that the trees will lose their leaves, and that makes him sad. He leaves the trees, and retreats to his room, where he watches videos and makes a huge tower with his blocks. “But every story has sad parts,” Goldblatt writes. “Blocks fall, toys break, game pieces get lost. He’d had it with everything.”

The boy continues to shut himself off from the world so that he never comes into contact with anything that could possibly make him unhappy. And, ironically, what he finds is that running away from sadness makes him terribly sad. The book ends with the boy embracing everything that he rejected, and riding the waves of emotion that are part and parcel of human existence.

Although the book is written for children, Goldblatt asserts that its message is crucial to healthy emotional development in adults as well.

“If we learn to be scared of feelings and run, we keep running because the feelings keep coming,” Goldblatt said. “This is the very thing that causes or worsens every psychological and relationship problem I treat in my office. Feelings are brief, but the problems we develop to escape them last a lifetime.”

Goldblatt, who in his practice treats everyone from “celebrities to soccer moms,” said that the secret to happiness is not to feel disconnected from sadness. Society places too much emphasis on the material keys to happiness (i.e., getting good grades, going to a good college, having a lucrative profession) and not nearly enough on the emotional ones. And it is the emotional equilibrium, according to Goldblatt, that makes the difference between a satisfying life, and an unhappy one.

“Unfortunately, feelings come as a set. You don’t get to choose to just have one,” Goldblatt said. “What most of us learn to do as a kid is, when we feel bad, to just push those feelings away. Parents are often annoyed with displays of emotion, and [tell kids] to walk it off. Parents think they are teaching their kids to cope with it, but what they end up doing is teaching them how to push away their feelings. And in order to have happiness, you have to feel. You have to stay with the emotion [and realize] that feelings are temporary. They come and go like a wave. They grow in intensity and then they come down all by themselves.”

For parents, helping children deal with their tears is a three-step process.

“First, you look at [the situation] and make sure there is no major damage,” Goldblatt said. “Then you tell them that it must hurt, and then you kiss it and make it better. And then pat them on the butt and send them out to play. Staying with them when they are feeling something uncomfortable is a very powerful experience. They don’t have to throw a tantrum because they have your sympathy, and what you teach them is courage.”

But even if you didn’t get that nurturing as a child, it’s never too late to mend one’s approach to processing emotions.

“It is less important what you feel than it is that you feel. Be as intensely engaged with life as you can,” Goldblatt said. “The more you feel the richer your life is going to be.”

 

Gay Marriage


Just married in San Francisco, Mindy Blum and Pam Postrel returned home to Pasadena to find that their kids had decorated the house in balloons and signs congratulating “Mom and Mommy.”

For days after, Eve, 7, shouted in playground sing-song, “I have married parents! I have married parents!”

“Coming from her, especially, it really just hit us where we live,” said Postrel, who has been with Blum for 16 years. The two are also mothers to Matt, 5.

It hit them, in fact, much more than they had anticipated.

“For some reason, the societal recognition is important to both of us. We kind of felt like it shouldn’t be — like who cares — but it is a big deal,” Postrel said.

Amid a flurry of legal activity and political posturing, the topic of gay marriage has moved with lightning speed from being an obscure issue reserved for advocates and their seasoned respondents to the forefront of political, emotional and intellectual debate.

Advocates and opponents of gay marriage are in agreement about what is at stake here: giving same-sex marriage equal status as heterosexual marriage. Where they differ is on the impact. Gays and their supporters say marriage is the only way to guarantee their constitutional right to equal protection under the law. Opponents say gay marriage will lead to nothing less than the unraveling of society.

At the heart of the debate is an intertwining of the social, religious and legal fibers that combine to form marriage and questions regarding to what extent those fibers can or should be untangled.

Opponents of same-sex marriage say that trying to separate the spiritual and legal definitions of marriage is a disingenuous exercise, since marriage is defined by a society that bases itself on moral, and very often religious-based, values and uses those values to decide who will reap the benefits of society.

“Our society is based upon Judeo-Christian values, and as much as people would like to think we are completely divorced from religion, that is simply not the case,” said Rabbi Daniel Korobkin, rabbi of the Orthodox Kehillat Yavneh in Hancock Park. “Our society does make moral judgments, and ultimately, moral judgments are based on a moral compass. And where does that come from? For most people in the United States, that moral compass comes from the Bible.”

Advocates say society would benefit from loving couples and their children being afforded the same legal protections and benefits as anyone else. They argue that choosing one religious definition of marriage over another to determine who receives governmental benefits is unconstitutional.

“We are dangerously overlapping church and state in the whole legal marriage discussion,” said Rabbi Lisa Edwards, leader of Beth Chayim Chadashim (BCC) on Pico Boulevard, which was the world’s first gay and lesbian synagogue. “I do think that God needs to be part of the conversation within the Jewish community and other religious communities, but I don’t think God ought to be part of the larger legal, public discussion.”

Bringing religion in obscures the basic civil rights issue that is at the heart of this, advocates say.

“This movement for gay marriages is plain and simple about helping families protect themselves, using the mechanisms our society has created to protect families and to protect partners in loving relationships, and to have them live up to the rights and responsibilities that go along with that,” said Rabbi Denise Eger, rabbi of Kol Ami, West Hollywood’s Reform Synagogue, and a member of the steering committee of the California Freedom to Marry Coalition.

But many fear the consequences of taking God out of foundational societal mores.

“A godless society is not a healthy society,” Korobkin said. “It may be functional, but if there is no larger cause that unifies the people and calls them to a higher moral standard, then that society is doomed to a short-lived and amoral tenure.”

One idea being floated is taking the state out of the marriage business altogether. The state would offer civil unions to everyone — gay and straight couples — and leave the sanctification to religious bodies.

“It makes sense to me to get city hall out of the marriage business and put that squarely in the hands of the religious leaders,” said Rabbi Steve Greenberg, an Orthodox rabbi who came out of the closet a few years ago. “The advantage of this approach is that nobody uses civil marriage as a bully pulpit to force one religious view of marriage or another on the larger body politic.”

But gay couples acknowledge — and opponents are quick to agree — that it is both an emotion and legal challenge to make that separation. The bestowal of the hundreds of legal rights and protections that go along with the word “marriage” signifies a societal acceptance that is an equally, if not more, important goal of the movement to legalize same-gender marriage.

“My parents have this piece of paper, and we wanted to have the same piece of paper and have the same experience,” says Bracha Yael, holding up the framed marriage license she and her partner of 24 years, Davi Cheng, signed in San Francisco in February. “For me it confirms that our relationship is equal; that my parents’ relationship is not somehow greater than ours.”

It is only in the last seven or eight years that Cheng and Yael have lived openly and proudly as lesbians. In 1998, they had a Jewish wedding at BCC, with many friends and almost no family members.

“There has been this tremendous arc in our relationship, from being fully closeted, where no one had to tell us we were less than, because we already thought we were less than, through these trials and tribulations to the other side, where we’re equal within society, but mainly within ourselves,” said Yael, a contractor.

When they announced they had gotten married, even Cheng’s “Rush Limbaugh Republican” colleague cried and hugged her.

It is just that kind of validation and acceptance of facts on the ground that opponents don’t want to see, that they say can lead to the slippery slope of a society with no moral foothold.

“I don’t want children to start thinking at the age of 7, when somebody says, ‘Who are you going to marry?’ ‘Well, maybe it will be Johnny or maybe it will be Jennifer,'” said Dennis Prager, the conservative KRLA radio talk show host who debated same-sex marriage at the University of Judaism on May 12 with Greenberg and others.

He argues that the question of same-sex marriage has nothing to do with civil rights, since, just like anyone else, gays are permitted to marry members of the opposite sex.

Prager said that society does and should define the terms of who can marry — such as prohibitions on brothers and sisters marrying each other or polygamy.

“Utah was banned from admission to the union until it prohibited polygamy. Why was that not anti-Mormon or violating the rights of Mormons?” Prager asks.

Prager said his issue is not with gays who want to be in relationships, it is with those who want to make those relationships equal to heterosexual marriage.

“Everybody has a line they draw, and the burden of argument is on those who wish to redefine an institution that has had only one meaning in the history of civilization,” Prager said.

While opponents of same-sex marriage draw parallels to polygamy and incest, advocates compare it to the ban on interracial marriage, which California became the first state to lift in 1948.

Experts estimate that anywhere between 3 percent and 10 percent of all people are homosexual, and a growing number of gays are weaving themselves into society as proud couples and families.

“I understand it’s this huge cultural shift for some people, but the fact of the matter is it has been going on for years in some form or fashion, whether it was called marriage or not,” said Samuel Bernstein-Shore, who married Ronald, his partner of 10 years, in Vancouver last summer and at Temple Kol Ami in 1996. “By having this discussion, people are forced to acknowledge that we exist, and that we exist in a loving and committed way.”

When the Bernstein-Shores married in Canada, they didn’t realize that their marriage would not be portable — that in most places in the United States, that marriage license would be meaningless.

It is one of the many legal confusions arising out of the incremental gains and setbacks to legalizing same-sex marriage.

Marriages performed in San Francisco in February remain valid while the California Supreme Court weighs the issue, taking into account both the 4,000 couples who are already married and the 2000 Defense of Marriage initiative, which defined marriage as between a man and woman. But like marriages and civil unions performed in Vermont, Canada or starting this week in Massachusetts, California gay marriages may not be recognized in other states. Before February there were four cases before courts nationwide. Today, there are at least two dozen.

Gay couples in California have been able to register as domestic partners since 1979, and the rights associated with domestic partnership — rights to hospital visits, power of attorney, limited inheritance rights, benefits for partners of state employees, sick leave to care for partners — have been increasing over the years.

In January 2005, a new law will take effect in California that gives domestic partners — which is limited to same-sex couples or senior citizens — nearly all the same state and county rights as married couples, though none of the federal rights. It will also remove other existing inequities, such as gay partners having to pay taxes on insurance benefits for a partner.

The constitutional amendment to define marriage as between a man and a woman, if enacted, would pull the plug on states that have already allowed marriages and not leave many options open to gay rights advocates.

Jewish law, meanwhile, divides along denominational lines. The Reconstructionist Rabbinical College was the first to ordain gay rabbis, starting in 1984, and endorsed officiating at gay marriages in 1993.

The Reform movement has been ordaining gay rabbis since 1990. Reform rabbis have been performing same sex-ceremonies since the 1970s, and in 2000, the movement passed a resolution endorsing rabbis who choose to officiate and supporting the personal autonomy of those who don’t.

Both the Reform and Reconstructionist movements endorse civil gay marriages.

Simcha DuBowski’s movie, “Trembling Before G-d,” chronicling the struggle of gays within the Orthodox movement, along with Greenberg’s coming out, opened up in some Orthodox circles conversations about how to act more sensitively, even when open homosexuality is not sanctioned by halacha.

It is in the Conservative movement that the conversation is most active and possibly divisive.

“I think many people who want to retain the traditional stance feel intimidated by an increasing number of people who demand politically correct statements and politically correct positions and are eager to demonize those who would uphold traditional standards, as opposed to going with the more liberal reforms, and that is hurtful to people,” said Rabbi Perry Rank, president of the Conservative movement’s Rabbinical Assembly.

The questions of same-sex commitment ceremonies and ordaining gay and lesbian rabbis are currently before the movement’s influential Committee on Jewish Law and Standards. By next March, the committee will consider teshuvot (halachic treatises) prepared by its members and most likely will ultimately validate several positions. Conservative rabbis will be free to choose which to follow.

Rabbi Elliot Dorff, rector and professor of philosophy at the University of Judaism, is vice chair of the law committee and had been slated to become its chairman last year. But because his views are clearly on the left on this issue — he advocates full equality — the committee deferred his chairmanship until the question has been decided.

Dorff believes it is clear that gays do not choose to be gay and cannot become straight and that society has an interest in seeing loving, stable, monogamous relationships.

With those factors motivating his study, Dorff believes it is imperative to narrow down the interpretation of the verses in Leviticus prohibiting male-male sex.

“I am not in any way shape or form trying to ignore the verses or change them by takanah [rabbinic decree]. All I am doing is saying that we should understand those verses differently from our ancestors, who understood them to prohibit all homosexual sex. We should understand them to prohibit only promiscuous, oppressive or cultic sex, but loving monogamous homosexual sex would be outside of those verses and would be something we want to sanctify,” Dorff said.

Whether or not Dorff’s opinion will prevail, it is clear that within both American society and the Jewish community, the terms of the conversation have changed.

Gays who once would have been thrilled with civil unions are now pushing for full marriage.

And some who might never have considered civil unions are now open to it. Korobkin, the Orthodox rabbi from Hancock Park who is firmly against gay marriage, not only believes the Orthodox community should be more tolerant and sensitive to gays, but he is open to the idea of giving loving partners legal status other than marriage to afford them rights and protections.

“If two people have committed themselves to each other as partners, they should have a right to designate another person of whatever gender as the primary caregiver or life partner, and I think that person should have special privileges,” he said. “I think it would be a callous society that would deny a homosexual the comfort and consolation of his life partner.”

Where Are High EI Guys?


Dating is not brain surgery, but for some men it is more difficult. I think I’ve discovered why. The current thinking on intelligence is that people have several types of intelligence, which may not be equally developed.

Psychologist Daniel Goleman coined the phrase “emotional intelligence” or EI. He defined EI as “knowing one’s emotions, managing emotions, motivating oneself, recognizing emotions in others and handling relationships.” Goleman and others have found that EI has little correlation with IQ. They are on to something.

Arnie, a Jewish doctor, and not an “ordinary” one — rather a professor of neurosurgery, tumor specialist and brain surgeon (I am not making this up) — contacted me through Advanced Degrees Singles. Oh, he also is a pilot and owns a plane. My grandmother would be kvelling. But after speaking with him, I do not share her enthusiasm.

Among all the men I have spoken to on the telephone or dated, Arnie has the lowest EI. Like all Internet daters, we exchanged the perfunctory pleasantries by e-mail and then exchanged telephone numbers. After a round of telephone tag, he found me at home. Immediately following the “How are you’s?” he suggested that we meet for dinner.

Gosh, doesn’t he believe in foretalk?

I explained nicely that I would feel more comfortable if we spent a little time getting to know each other. He then told me that he is not a “telephone person” and that, having recently arrived from London, where he held a number of prestigious positions, he had only a cell phone and it would cost him 65 cents a minute to talk to me. Last I checked, neurosurgeons were fairly well paid.

There’s more: Besides my wanting some foretalk, I also was up against a project deadline, which I explained to Dr. Doctor.

In response, he said, “I am sure that you can spare a half hour to meet me at the marketplace for coffee.”

I thought, well maybe I can; the marketplace is only a mile from me. But then it occurred to me that he was talking about the marketplace close to him, which is nearly a half-hour from me.

Math was one of my best subjects, so I figured this out: 30 minutes to drive there + 30 minutes for coffee + 30 minutes to drive home. That equals an hour and a half. Of course, he couldn’t know this. He didn’t bother to even ask where I live.

So, I said to him nicely (I’m not sure why I was so nice), “I would rather meet you when I can give you my full attention and not have my mind on my work or my eye on the clock.”

There’s even more, but I think we have enough here to score Arnie’s EI. Here’s how it works. EI is scored similarly to IQ, with 100 as the norm. Every 15 points represents a standard deviation above or below the mean. Two standard deviations above the mean (130) is “emotionally gifted” or “socially sensitive” and two standard deviations below the mean (70) is “severely socially challenged.” For EI, everyone starts with 100. You can earn 7.5 points for each socially sensitive statement and lose 7.5 points for each faux pas or socially insensitive statement.

Let’s do the math: 100 — (4 x 7.5) = 70 or “severely socially challenged.”

The next day, I opened my e-mail to find Dr. Doctor’s CV. He wrote, “Hi, here is a little overkill on meeting me. Maybe it will save some time.”

Well, I’m no physicist, but I do know that Einstein believed that time is relative. Relatively speaking, I’ve wasted enough time but, in the process, I have done research on Goleman’s concept of EI. My findings indicate that, among some highly intelligent men, IQ and EI have an inverse correlation: as IQ goes up, EI goes down. It’s another form of “Women Are From Venus” and “(Some) Men Are From the Dark Side of the Moon.”


Sharon Lynn Bear is a researcher, writer and editor living in Irvine. She can be contacted at BearWrite@AOL.com.

Baggage Claim


I used to want things. One day, I realized the seven pairs
of Puma sneakers and the Pottery Barn rug and the 8-pound “Columbia
Encyclopedia,” those were just things to pack, and I didn’t
want them anymore.

Actually, that day was just about two weeks ago, when I got
a job in New York and had to pack up my worldly belongings in a matter of days
to ship off to Manhattan. I got here just in time for the first snowstorm,
which is happening today, as I stare out my hotel window. Maybe I should have
held onto those wool gloves, but in a fit of Buddhist nonattachment, I erred on
the side of frozen.

I donated most of my clothes to my girlfriend, a social
worker who divvied them up among the teenage girls under her charge. I divided
my books into piles: the Mitzi pile, the Bianca pile, the Tim pile. I parceled
them out stuffed in the multitude of tote bags I amassed during my five years
in Los Angeles. I packed up sacks of makeup for my 14-year-old cousin. She also
got a jewelry box filled with stuff I hadn’t worn since I was her age.

My silky green Indian print curtains went to a friend of a
friend, with the cream-colored panels thrown in for good measure. I left behind
a coffee maker and microwave for my home’s new inhabitants.

With days left before I was scheduled to leave, my blue
Taurus plagued me. It was worth so much to me, a way to get safely from place
to place, but worth almost nothing to Mr. Kelley Blue Book. When my dad called
saying one of his jalopies broke down, I said “Dad, you’re in luck. The Taurus is
yours and it will be parked in my garage with a full tank of gas and the keys
under the doormat. Godspeed.”

I can honestly tell you that the most I ever got from my
things was in the giving away of them.

“What do you want for Chanukah?” my mom asked before I left.

“Nothing,” I responded, with perhaps a little too much snap
in my newly nonattached voice. “I don’t want things. If you must, send a bottle
of Scotch, that way it will be gone in a day.”

I can’t tell you how many expensive candles I owned that
were too good to use. There were the tubes of body lotion that were too special
to open, the gifts that I put on a shelf, the fancy champagne I was waiting for
the right occasion to pop, the scarf that was too pretty to wear. If you don’t
think burning that grapefruit-currant candle you’ve been hoarding is a
spiritual act, think again. Having isn’t living, it’s waiting to live. 

I think we single people do a lot of that waiting; as in,
when I have a date, I’ll try getting my legs waxed; when I have a boyfriend,
I’ll try that new Italian restaurant; when I get married, I’ll try buying a
house. 

Okay, I sound mighty philosophical for a girl who breaks out
in tears at least once a day, trudging through black ice and wet snow and
wondering, which way is uptown? Will my new co-workers like me? Am I doing a
good job? Have I made a huge mistake and ruined my life?

If only you could pack up your emotional baggage in a couple
Hefty sacks and drop them off at the Goodwill. 

Maybe I’ve taken the first step, the easy one, in giving
away the material things I don’t need. And every night, in a ritualistic fit of
beauty product blasphemy, I purposefully massage my fancy face cream into my
hands and elbows like so much drugstore Lubriderm. I’m using what I have and I’ve
disposed of what I don’t need, and maybe I’m hoping something so silly and
small will have a profound effect on the storage unit that I call my brain.

In the meantime, I’m traveling as light as I can. The phone
numbers in my cell phone are the most important things I have, and I use them
nightly to report on how homesick I am. 

And when you rip off the packing tape and shake out all the
Styrofoam peanuts and unroll the bubble wrap, it’s right there, small and
obvious as a regifted picture frame — I’m scared. 

I’ve collected anxieties and stowed away a mother lode of
smothering perfectionism and now I wish I knew how to give them away. I had
them in Los Angeles, and here in New York, away from my friends and my routine,
they’ve multiplied. I’ve learned only this: giving stuff away is only possible
when you understand how deeply you don’t need it. 

I have to believe that will happen with the things that
truly weigh me down. Until then, I would like those gloves back.   


Teresa Strasser writes from Manhattan, where she is a
feature reporter for Fox’s “Good Day New York.” She’s on the Web at www.teresastrasser.com
.

Capture Stirs Mixed Mideast Reactions


After surviving the Holocaust and five Middle East wars,
Ze’ev is a hard man to impress. But news of Saddam Hussein’s capture Sunday
managed to move the Israeli retiree to tears.

“It is good to see Israel a little bit safer,” Ze’ev said in
his hometown of Ramat Gan, as footage of the Iraqi tyrant-turned-prisoner
played on television screens at roadside snack stands. Ramat Gan, where Iraqi
Jewish emigres settled en masse in the 1950s, ironically was a main target of
Saddam’s Scud missiles in the 1991 Persian Gulf War.

 The capture of the only Arab leader to perpetrate an
unanswered strike against the Jewish State generated an upbeat reaction in Israel,
buoying the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange and resonating at the Defense Ministry.

“The capture of the Iraqi dictator is additional proof that
the policies of the free world, led by U.S. President George W. Bush, are
determined to bring to justice all terrorists responsible for killing,
destruction and anarchy,” Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz wrote in a telegram to
his U.S. counterpart, Donald Rumsfeld.

On Sunday, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon also phoned Bush to offer
congratulations.

The Arab leaders who still battle Israel were more
circumspect. While Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat, a longtime a
Saddam ally, mulled an official reaction to the news of the capture in Tikrit,
Hamas and Islamic Jihad cautioned the West not to rejoice too soon.

“The Americans need to be the lords of the world by
eradicating all resistance against them,” said Adnan Asfour, a Hamas leader in
the West Bank. “I say to the Iraqi people: Observe what the Palestinian people do.
Our leaders are assassinated and arrested every day by the Israeli occupiers,
and that does not stop us from continuing our fight.”

In the Gaza Strip border town of Rafah, which sees almost
daily fighting between Palestinian gunrunners and Israeli troops, a rally to
mark the 16th anniversary of Hamas quickly became a show of support for Saddam.
Children bore posters showing Saddam in better days: uniformed, smiling, an
unabashed patron of the Palestinian cause.

Israeli strategic experts agreed that while a quick trial
and sentencing for Saddam might calm Iraq, it was unlikely to affect the
Palestinian front. Terrorist attacks against Israel continued, even though
Saddam’s payments to the families of Palestinian suicide bombers stopped after
he was deposed in March.

Unlike Saddam, Arafat still enjoys the status of
international statesman in most places except Washington.

“What amazes me,” said Yuval Steinitz, chairman of the
Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, “is that Saddam can now sit in
shackles for his support of terrorism, while archterrorist Arafat remains
free.”

Some experts warned of a surge in violence by pan-Arab
nationalists keen to show they are not cowed by the loss of a major figurehead.

“Those normal citizens who have taken up arms against the
Americans in Iraq and the Islamist extremists who have flocked to help them
might well put up a last fight,” said Jacky Hugi, Arab affairs correspondent
for Israel’s daily Ma’ariv.

The parallels between the Iraqi and Palestinian fronts
resonated recently with revelations that Israel was exporting its hard-learned
counterterrorist tactics to U.S. forces operating in Iraq.

Elsewhere in the Arab world, the news initially was greeted
with disbelief. But as the news was confirmed, many expressed joy that Saddam
would never return to power in Iraq. Others seemed disappointed that he had not
fought back against his U.S. captors.

In Yemen, one man said he had expected Saddam to fight back.
“I expected him to resist or commit suicide before falling into American
hands,” said teacher Mohammed Abdel Qader Mohammadi, 50. “He disappointed a lot
of us. He’s a coward.” Â

From Fritos to Freedom


“I bet you could lose the weight if you really wanted to."

"You just need to have more will power."

"Come on, don’t be lazy."

Struggling with being overweight affects more than 75 percent of all Americans, and is a serious problem for the Jewish population in the United States. But it is not a moral issue.

I’ve always struggled with my weight. I could lose the weight but never keep it off. I remember many times getting to my goal weight and then thinking, "Hooray, now I can eat again." I usually would end up gaining all the weight back that I had lost plus more. That was always the problem with diets for me.

And it would always start with that first bite. Fritos chips. My head would say, "Oh we’ll just have one bag, you’ve been so good, it’s just this time, we’ve had a tough day, we just need to take the edge off." And then, of course, the all-famous, "We’ll get right back on track tomorrow."

The only problem was that it was never just one bag and it always led to more food — maybe not that day, but maybe later that week or the next, and soon I ended up back to my old ways of eating.

There’s the "normal" type of eater who might have gone through a traumatic or stressful experience, put on a few pounds and, when the experience passed, was able to take the weight off. Then, there is someone like me. Without realizing it, I used food to alter my state. It was a way of life. I didn’t know any other way. Did that mean I was lazy? Lacked willpower? Liked to be overweight? Didn’t care about my looks? No.

I was a grazer kind of an eater — just kind of noshed all day long. I didn’t even realize it until the scale made me take a hard, honest look.

I guess it is called an eating disorder. I remember trying to explain it to my Jewish grandmother, of blessed memory. "Vat’s an eating order?" she would ask.

I said, "Bubbe, it’s eating dis order — it means I would eat dis order of french fries, dis order of onion rings and dis order of ice cream. Now you understand dis disorder!"

Why was I altering my emotional state with food? Who knows? I believe we are all here to learn how to serve God, and part of that process is learning to live life on life’s terms, not turning to outside fixes when things don’t go our way. This is the path of emotional maturity. This is the path toward the Almighty. We are all looking for God. My overworking, overthinking, overeating, overeverything were ways I unconsciously cut myself off from God. But, on the other hand, it also has been part of the process to become closer to God.

It’s neat when you first lose the weight. I lost 50 pounds. People really get excited. "Wow, you look fantastic." "Wowee gazowee, you look awesome!"

But now I’ve been at goal weight for a long time and nobody says anything, which I can kind of understand. What are they gonna say, "Wow you look the same!"?

I remember the first time I tried eating in a different way. My kind friend suggested that I eat three meals a day with life in between.

"Life in between?" What did that mean? I have come to learn that it means life on life’s terms. Happy, sad, glad, mad, frustrated, excited — all feelings and emotions that life brings that has nothing to do with food. So the first day of my new food plan I ate my breakfast, and then a few hours later I remember feeling like I would actually starve if I didn’t put some food in my mouth. I called my friend. I told her, "If I don’t eat something right now, I’m not gonna make it!" I’ll never forget what she said to me.

"Wow, I never heard on the news or in the newspaper headlines: "Women dies of starvation from not eating between breakfast and lunch!"

As I continue to grow in my Yiddishkayt, I see that part of maturity comes from delaying instant gratification. Who knew? You mean I can say no to Fritos and step up the ladder on emotional growth?

Some people are normal eaters and can have a cookie or two. God has a sense of humor. For me one cookie was too much and 1,000 was never enough.

He used french fries, Fritos and frozen yogurt to get my attention. Now since I can’t indulge like I use to, I have to call on him. So today I say thank you God for this funny relationship I have today with food. It has brought me closer to the Almighty.

On the Sabbath, the way I related to food was avodah zora-like (idol worshipping). Why was I thinking about the dessert at "Kiddush" while the rabbi was speaking? I really had to take a look at that. How can Shabbat be about God if it is about the food? I’d try little tricks — eating perfectly in front of others and then going to town when I got home — or saying I’m just going to have one cookie, or one piece of chocolate. But once that sugar hit, I’d be making a new trail in the rug with going back and forth to the kitchen for more.

By being sick and tired of being sick and tired of my relationship with food, things have changed.

Maybe your thing isn’t food. With the overweight person it’s easier to be judgmental. But know that fat is not a moral issue.

I remember that before I lost the weight I went to see Dr. Goldberg. She said, "Part of your problem is that you push down your feelings with food. You need to express yourself. Get it out, don’t push it down. Out, out, out. Express yourself."

The next night when I was getting mugged at gunpoint, I told my assailant, "I’m feeling very angry." He put the gun down, looked at me and said, "Dr. Goldberg?"

Now that the weight is off I noticed I was shopping more. I decided to have a meeting with my rabbi. I asked him how to have a meaningful, happy, fulfilling life. He basically told me that the goal is to align my will with God’s will. I left the meeting with the rabbi and I was very moved.

"Make my will God’s will. I think I got it! Wow, this is deep. Oh, yeah. I am a spiritual giant now. Mashiach now!"

And as I was seriously contemplating aligning my will with Gods will, I drove to Beverly Hills.

So I am standing on Rodeo Drive looking at a dress in the window that I know I can’t afford and I say to myself, "How do I know it’s not God’s will? Why would God have me on Rodeo Drive? I know. Maybe I should go and try the dress on and see if it fits then I’ll know if it’s God’s will. It fits! It must be God’s will. Well, just to make sure, if the money is in my purse, then I’ll know it’s God’s will."

I put my hand in my purse and pull out my Visa Card. "Aaaah, he’s everywhere you want him to be."

You see that’s the great thing about credit cards. Now I have the dress, and God has 30 days to get me the money.

If you do not suffer from food issues, then God bless you and remember, "There for the grace of God go I." But if you are struggling, there is hope and help. If you are a friend or family member of someone who has food-related issues, keep in mind that help is out there for those who want it, unfortunately not for those who need it.

I write this in loving memory of my father, of blessed memory, Label ben Meisha, who died of a heart attack. He was overweight and diabetic and said, "If I can’t have my sugar at night, I’d rather die," which he did.


Sandy Wolshin Mendlowitz is a
writer, motivational speaker and stand-up comic. She is also a dating coach for
marriage-minded women at ElianahRochel@yahoo.com.

A Rough-and-Tumble Return


Actress Jessica Lundy was mostly working TV guest starring roles when she landed the part of Roberta in John Patrick Shanley’s "Danny and the Deep Blue Sea" last month. The searing play spotlights two survivors who meet, clash, have sex, reveal secrets and begin to heal one another. Lundy’s character, an incest victim, cajoles and physically tussles with Danny (Matthew Klein).

"Initially, I thought, ‘My God, I don’t know if I can do this; I’m really scared," said the Jewish actress, who played Gloria on the hit sitcom "Hope & Gloria." "I’m not known for theater and the role is much darker than anything I’ve ever done."

Klein, however, thinks Lundy "brings a wonderful, unpredictable quality to the role. She can switch in an instant from one emotional extreme to another."

If the fictional Roberta is a scrappy survivor, so is Lundy. With her Catholic mother and Jewish father, she grew up in a "preppy, WASPy" Avon, Conn., where Jews weren’t allowed to play golf at the country club. Nevertheless, she said, she "always strongly identified with being Jewish…. Jewish survival despite centuries of persecution is inspirational because there’s been no surrender or sense of defeat."

Lundy had an easier journey as a young actress. By 21, she was playing Jackie Mason’s daughter in "Caddyshack II"; in 1991, she landed her first sitcom, "Over My Dead Body."

When the film and TV jobs began dwindling several years ago — partly because of the dearth of roles for women over 30 — she began looking for theater work.

Her career angst helped her to identify with the desperate character of Roberta: "I’ve had moments of despair when I’ve felt ‘This is the end of the road for me,’" she said.

Rehearsing the play has proved intense.

"Every day I’d come home exhausted and dirty because we were crawling on the floor and sweating and battered from the raw, ugly emotions," she said, hoarse from shouting her lines. "Sometimes I find myself thinking like the character offstage: Everything feels more sensitive and irritating and I can’t hold back my anger, frustration or disgust quite as well…. But while this kind of role can strip you bare, it’s also thrilling. When I said I wanted to be an actress as a child, this is what I meant."

The play runs Oct. 7-28 at Stage 52, 5299 W. Washington Blvd., Los Angeles. For tickets, call (310) 229-5295.

A Roll in the Snow


The central theme of "Yossi & Jagger" is a love affair between two gay Israeli officers, but — straights please note — the film’s impact goes well beyond the sexual motif.

Seldom has the boredom, tension and camaraderie of men and women at war been portrayed more realistically and economically than in this film, which has been a surprise hit among Israeli moviegoers, soldiers and civilians.

Strikingly, the film takes place not in Israel’s hot, humid coastal plane, but entirely on a freezing, snow-covered mountaintop on the Israeli-Lebanese border, where a small IDF unit mans an isolated outpost against unseen infiltrators and terrorists.

Commander of the unit is Yossi (Ohad Knoller), a career soldier. His lieutenant is Jagger, so nicknamed because his buddies see in him the aura of a rock star. Jagger is played by Yehuda Levi, billed as the "Israeli Tom Cruise" and the nation’s number-one heartthrob.

Carrying on their secret affair in the macho and privacy-deprived confines of their platoon, Yossi and Jagger are limited to an emotional — but sensitively depicted — roll in the snow.

The situation is complicated by the arrival of a colonel, accompanied by two attractive female communication operators, one of whom falls hopelessly in love with Jagger.

The overbearing colonel (Sharon Reginiano) pulls his rank for sex with the other girl and to send the exhausted soldiers on a night ambush, despite Yossi’s protests.

Director Eytan Fox, who said the film was based on an actual incident, made "Yossi & Jagger" for an astonishingly low $200,000, barely enough to pay for a wrap party at a Hollywood studio.

Fox is a native of New York City and joins other American-born directors who have created some of the most challenging films to come out of Israel, including Joseph Cedar’s "Time of Favor" and, currently, "The Holy Land" by Eitan Gorlin.

"Yossi & Jagger" opens Oct. 24 at the Laemmle Fairfax Cinema in Los Angeles (323) 655-4010 and the Town Center in Encino (818) 981-9811. For more about the film, visit www.yossiandjagger.com. — Tom Tugend, Contributing Editor

The Big Question


We’re now in the midst of a period called Bein HaMetzarim, a three-week period of national mourning for tragedies throughout Jewish history.

The most powerful of these tragedies was the destruction of the two temples in Jerusalem; these three weeks culminate with Tisha B’Av, the day that commemorates this tragedy.

While growing up, I resented that the Bein HaMetzarim fell during summer vacation. The summer was when we were out of school, unfettered by school rules and homework. Why did the rabbis have to put a damper on a kid’s summer by sticking such a sorrowful period of three weeks smack in the middle? I especially disliked the rabbis for their ban on swimming during the nine days between the first of Av and Tisha B’Av (the ninth of Av). You want to restrict my swimming? Do it in February — not during a searing August!

Part of the mourning process is the reading of the Book of Eicha (Lamentations) on the evening of Tisha B’Av (Aug. 6). This five-chapter dirge is Jeremiah’s moving account of the First Temple’s destruction. Eicha — how? — was the first word that Jeremiah used to describe the devastation. It expresses the horrified bewilderment of a person who has witnessed his entire world crumble all around him.

The Midrash (Torah commentary) introduces Eicha by noting that three prophets used the word: Moses, Isaiah and Jeremiah. Moses said, “How can I myself alone bear your cumbrance?” (Deuteronomy 1:12); Isaiah said, “Howhas the faithful city become a harlot?” (Isaiah 1:21); and Jeremiah said, “How does the city sit solitary?” (Lamentations 1:1).

Rabbi Levi said, “It may be likened to a matron who had three groomsmen: one beheld her in her happiness, a second beheld her in her infidelity and the third beheld her in her disgrace. Similarly, Moses beheld Israel in their glory and happiness … Isaiah beheld them in their infidelity … Jeremiah beheld them in their disgrace; and all three exclaimed, ‘eicha!'”

We can understand the connection between Isaiah’s and Jeremiah’s “hows.” Isaiah was lamenting the Jews’ spiritual nadir shortly before the destruction of the Temple, while Jeremiah was lamenting the consequent destruction. But when Moses exclaimed “eicha,” he wasn’t lamenting at all. He led the Jews during their spiritual apex, hundreds of years before the Temple era. He was saying, “Wow! What a colossal people. How can I, humble Moses, possibly bear the brunt of this massive nation?”

He was a doting parent, kvelling at the spiritual, emotional and physical growth of his children over the course of 40 years in the desert. Why, then, does the Midrash tie his “how” with the other two?

The fact that Tisha B’Av falls in the summer is not just a stroke of bad luck. God deliberately destroyed the Temple in the summer. Summer, when the world is outside their closed homes and offices, taking vacations, having fun. Summer, when there is the greatest propensity for calamity, because of our carefree attitudes. This is why it’s worthwhile to take some time amid all the fun to contemplate our sad history; to remember that it was these good times that precipitated a carelessness in our spiritual devotion that escalated into the ultimate destruction.

What’s the last thing we do at a Jewish wedding, under the chuppah? Break the glass. We deliberately put a damper on our simcha (celebration), to remind ourselves that our intense happiness should be channeled toward productive spirituality, instead of the narcissistic gratification — prevalent in too many marriages today — that leads to so much destruction. One thought of the Temple is all it takes to put our joy in the proper perspective. God, then, is not being a killjoy; He’s just reminding us that our “summer fun” should be integrated with spirituality, not estranged from it. And that’s precisely why Moses shouted “eicha.” Remember, says Moses, use your joy and prosperity as tools in the service of God instead of tools for self-destruction.

I know it may be inconvenient to have Tisha B’Av during summer. It may interfere with your summer plans, be it a cruise, family getaway or just a day at the beach. But try to take some time to appreciate all the divine blessings in your life, and connect them to the tragedies that have occurred throughout history and still continue. Connect the “how” of a prosperous today to the “how” of yesterday’s persecutions. Break the proverbial glass this year on Tisha B’Av. Appreciate that our heaven-sent blessings are tools for coming closer to our Maker. If we do our job correctly, next summer we’ll get to swim on Tisha B’Av in Jerusalem.


Rabbi Daniel Korobkin is rosh kehila at Kehillat Yavneh in Hancock Park.

Candles Shine From L.A. to Tel Aviv


The miracle of Chanukah took on a double meaning Dec. 4, when Los Angeles Holocaust survivors participated in a menorah-lighting ceremony with their counterparts in Tel Aviv via videoconferencing.

"We celebrate the miracle of Chanukah, and we also celebrate the miracle that we survived," said Eva David, a survivor originally from Romania-Hungary. "Who would have thought when we were weak and hopeless that we would reach old age"?

The event, which was staged by Cafe Europa, a Jewish Family Service program that serves as a social outlet and offers financial assistance and emotional support to Holocaust survivors, allowed those who shared a common experience to also share the joy of Chanukah with one another. Cafe Europa has served the Los Angeles survivor community for 15 years, but the candle-lighting celebration marked the Tel Aviv group’s first anniversary since its establishment.

"It’s inspiring for me to see how much your group has grown there. I’m kveling right now," Eleanor Marks Gordon, coordinator of Los Angeles Cafe Europa, told the nearly 50 participants in Tel Aviv.

Many Los Angeles residents at the event had friends or relatives in the Tel Aviv group. Lydia Bagdor saw her cousin’s daughter, who, when she last saw her, was 4 years old and is now a young adult. "You are my only cousins from my old family," Bagdor said.

Guta Schulman was able to spend Chanukah with her Auschwitz bunkmate, Chaya Rabinowitz, who had settled in Tel Aviv after the Holocaust. Schulman said that she owes her life to her friend, because Rabinowitz convinced her to leave Auschwitz, although her sister-in-law was not allowed to leave. "I have goose bumps," Schulman said after their emotional conversation.

As the Los Angeles group watched, a survivor lit the candles on the menorah in Tel Aviv. Then all the survivors — in Tel Aviv and Los Angeles — joined in singing "Hatikvah."

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