Yes, I can

Now that the election season is over, I want to share a personal revelation that I think can help bring Obama voters and McCain voters closer together. But first, a
little background.

I’ve always loved a good conversation, especially with people whose views are different from mine. But this year, I have been vacillating between McCain and Obama, and without taking a clear stand, I found it hard to have any decent debates. I haven’t met too many other vacillators.

I have, however, met plenty of hysterical partisans.

My McCain buddies have sent me countless e-mails warning me that an Obama victory might jeopardize the survival of Israel and endanger America, and my Obama buddies have been certain that the future of the Western world hangs on their man’s victory.

If I tried to mention at a McCain table how an Obama victory would re-brand America globally, or how his ability to look at different sides of an issue might be a good thing for the country, or how there are advisers around him like Dennis Ross who could hardly be accused of being anti-Israel, I would invariably get an alarmed response demonizing the man. Conversation over.

If I expressed concern at an Obama table about his lack of experience, or his relationships with unsavory characters, or his politically convenient flip-flops on major issues, or if I brought up McCain’s experience and independent nature, I would invariably get an indictment of McCain’s war-like ways, or a demonizing of Sarah Palin. Conversation over.

People didn’t just pick sides. They dug their heels into thick mud and barely moved. Unless you were surrounded by like-minded people where you could just pile on, you either had very short conversations or screaming matches.

So I came up with a secret plan. I shut my mouth. Instead of telling people how I felt about the candidates, I channeled the big “O.”

Not the big O of Obama, but the big O of Observer. I became an observer and a listener. I soaked it up. I asked questions. I observed how people argued, what set them off and how people on both sides acted in similar ways. I learned that when emotions run so high and opinions are so intense, you learn a lot just by observing and studying the show.

And study I did. I read important writers on both sides. I read National Review and the Nation. I read the key blogs. I would go from the passion of Andrew Sullivan and Joan Walsh on the Obama side to the passion of Victor Davis Hanson and Mark Steyn on the McCain side. Somewhere in the middle, I would hear the moderating voice of David Brooks.

Because I have many friends whom I respect who are strongly anti-Obama, I tried to muster some animosity towards the man — but I couldn’t. Maybe it was because I remember how my mother cried on a November day in 1963 when she heard on the radio that President John Kennedy had died. I was a little kid, having dinner with my family in Morocco, and all I remember thinking was: Why would my mother cry for someone who lives so far away?

No matter how many alarming blog posts I read against Obama, I simply couldn’t ignore the few billion people around the world who might soon look up in admiration to our African American president in the White House — just like my mother looked up to Kennedy from her house in Morocco.

And no matter how many brilliant and valid critiques I would hear against Senator McCain, I couldn’t stop thinking about the decent and heroic American that David Foster Wallace wrote about so lyrically when he covered McCain’s “Straight Talk Express” for Rolling Stone magazine in the 2000 election.

Back and forth I went, seeing the power and weaknesses of both sides. Instead of engaging in exhausting debates, I channeled my passion away from ideology and toward understanding.

And by the time the winner was announced, I had received an unintended blessing from my dispassionate journey. A personal revelation, if you will.

It struck me that no matter who runs the White House — even after a historic victory that my grandchildren will talk about — they still won’t be able to help me with the most important things in my life: How I raise and educate my kids, how I deal with my friends and community, how ethically I lead my life, how I give back to the world, how I grow spiritually, how I stand up for Israel and the Jewish people, how I live an eco-friendly life — in short, how I help my country by taking personal responsibility for my own little world.

Those things are not so much “Yes, We Can,” but more “Yes, I Can.”

In fact, I have a wish that our eloquent new president will have the audacity to tell the nation that, for most of us, 99 percent of our happiness is in our own hands. While we await universal health care, we should take better care of our bodies and our health and save the country billions. While we await a better education system, we should read to our kids every night and teach them the values that will make them productive citizens. While we await government action to fight global warming, we should go green in our own lives. While we await a fix to the economic meltdown, we should learn to budget and spend within our means, and, for those of us who can afford to help, have the kindness to help those who have fallen through the cracks of our debt-ridden safety net.

The truth is, despite the headiness of this historic moment, neither President Obama nor President McCain could do for us what we need to do for ourselves and for our country. If our new president can inspire us to understand this truth, he will bring about the real change we need.

Suad Abu Siam turns sorrow into power

“I am a mother of five, and I am pregnant. I didn’t plan this pregnancy, and I am very tired,” Suad Abu Siam, a 35-year-old Bedouin told a group of American women last month. “It energizes me to get out of my reality.”

We’d come to Tel Aviv on a mission organized by the Jewish National Fund to learn about our counterparts in Israel — women of all backgrounds. We came to hear their stories and find out what we have in common. And what we don’t.

Sitting in a nondescript hotel conference room, Abu Siam and five others described challenges faced as Israeli women. Among them, no one seemed both more foreign and yet more immediate than Abu Siam, who appeared dressed in colorful Muslim garb sparkling with jewelry, covered from head to toe so that only her beautiful and expressive face was visible. She appeared alternately angry and sad, fierce and broken, and as we heard her story — translated from Hebrew by our group leader — the reasons for her emotions became both understandable and unfathomable.

Abu Siam was raised among 13 brothers and sisters. She said she’d learned from her father that she should not be limited by the difficulties of Bedouin life — the poverty and restrictions in education and freedom placed on women.

So despite being married at 16, she set out to be an emissary for women’s rights in her village of Lakiya in the Negev and to attempt to help empower other Bedouin women. Abu Siam said that despite her responsibilities as a mother, she had “aspirations” for her life and a desire to study and to “build myself.” She also said that she loves her husband and her family very much.

In response to Abu Siam’s work, her husband took a second wife.

Abu Siam is not divorced, and she is carrying her husband’s child. While polygamy is technically against the law in Israel, Muslim society allows up to four wives, and multiple marriages often exist within the Muslim community.

Her husband’s action was, she said, a “crisis” for her and her children, who were already challenged by learning disabilities and who felt ostracized and abandoned.

Yet Abu Siam said she has found solace through identifying with other women. She has taken it upon herself to organize forums for Bedouin women to continue to empower them.

“My children gave me power,” she said. “All of a sudden, I felt I am OK without him. My children are back on their way now, having success in school.”

Her voice low, her face determined, she spoke across what seemed like centuries of distance between her culture and ours. And yet her solution to her problems seemed both simple and hauntingly profound: “I would like to emphasize I teach my children to educate themselves. The reality speaks for itself; I don’t need to make an effort to teach them.”


American ideas boost bid to get Israelis to work

One advocacy group’s look at the problem
Click the BIG ARROW to play

Eti Sharabi walked through the glass doors and marveled at the shining hardwood floors and the walls splashed with green and orange, making this space feel more like a sleek advertising or architectural firm than an office to help the unemployed.

She found herself in the headquarters of STRIVE, after not working outside the home since her first child was born 15 years ago.

“I lost faith in myself and thought I would never find it again,” said Sharabi, 38, now a mother of four. “Here they have given me so much strength.”

Sharabi is part of the expanding Israeli underclass — a populace that includes the unemployed, the underemployed and the destitute. Many are casualties of what some consider draconian economic policies.

STRIVE, an intensive work-readiness program, is modeled after an initiative of the same name that began more than 20 years ago in New York’s Harlem in an effort to help women on welfare overcome their severe difficulties in finding and keeping meaningful jobs.

The program’s core message: Participants are important as individuals and therefore are worthy not just of make-work employment but of fulfilling careers.

That message of personal empowerment and tough love is underscored, its organizers explain, by the professional and pleasant look and feel of the STRIVE offices, as well as the intensive personal guidance that the organization provides its clients for more than two years after they enroll.

Participants are counseled in everything from how to pay off personal debts and find creative childcare solutions, to discovering and pursuing an ambitious career path that suits their interests and abilities.

STRIVE is one of at least two programs operating in Israel that are patterned after American-originated efforts to boost employment among the economically struggling and longtime unemployed; it is funded by the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee and the Israeli government.

Another such American transplant is called Mehalev, Hebrew for “from the heart,” based on the state of Wisconsin’s welfare-to-work plan that was unveiled in the mid-1990s after the U.S. Congress revamped welfare regulations.

One STRIVE participant is Tsivka Ben-Porat, 36, who spent a decade working in hotel kitchens as a cook — he had been unemployed for several months before finding STRIVE. With the help of its counselors and coaches, Ben-Porat is now working at a media company editing video, a steppingstone in his new chosen career: communications.

The program, he said, “is like being given a key to life, professionally and personally.”

Another STRIVE participant is Hanan Jaffaly, 32, an Arab Israeli single mother of two who had been in and out of what she described as dead-end customer service jobs for years. She supports her children on her own, with no assistance from her family.

Through STRIVE, Jaffaly is hoping to realize her goal of becoming a social worker and finally creating a stable, middle-class life for her family.

Mehalev was designed as a two-year pilot program in four Israeli cities. Launched in 2005, it was aimed initially at getting at least half of the country’s 150,000 welfare recipients off the public rolls and back to work. Participants are required to report to employment placement centers for 30 hours a week or lose their welfare income, which averages about $380 per month for an individual.

Safi Sasson, 40, now has the first job he’s ever held, thanks to the program. He had spent the majority of his adult life involved in petty crime and spent a total of eight years in prison, off and on, for offenses that included selling drugs and theft.

Sasson never imagined he could be a salaried worker, but for the past three months he has held down a job as a construction worker. He’s doing so well, his boss is planning on giving him a raise.

“I was apprehensive about working; I had never done it before,” he said. “I’ve learned a lot, most of all that I am capable of working. In the past I thought no one would ever hire me because of my criminal past.

“I wake up in the morning and I have somewhere to go. I’m feeling great, and it’s all because of the work.”

Is Mehalev Working?

The program, however, has met with mixed results. It has been widely denounced in the Israeli media and by social welfare advocates, who maintain that Mehalev has backfired. Rather than increase employment, detractors charge, the program has swelled the ranks of Israelis who receive neither paychecks nor public assistance.

A recent report by the National Insurance Institute of Israel found that the program saved Israel $1.43 million in welfare payments since it began, but that relatively few of its participants had found work, the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz reported.

The savings in welfare payments apparently stemmed from people who had dropped out of the program and had their payments cut off.

More than 80 of the Knesset’s 120 members signed on to proposed legislation recently that called for a major overhaul of the program. The bill calls for, among other things, canceling the stipulation that all unemployed people — such as single mothers or those with part-time work — participate full time in the program or lose their welfare benefits.

The bill also would provide alternative arrangements for the disabled, those nearing retirement age, people who speak little or no Hebrew, and others who activists say are hurt by the program in its present form.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert approved the establishment of a government committee that will work to make major changes in the program to address some of these same issues.

According to Dorit Novack, until recently the administrator of Mehalev, in the program’s first year 11,000 job placements were found for participants. About double that number initially reported to the centers.

Not all the participants stayed in those jobs, however. The figure of 11,000 job placements includes those who have been placed in several jobs successively, Novack noted. But those figures, she said, do constitute progress.

“I am not saying the project has not made mistakes,” Novack said. “But the main point of this program is trying to help people change their future. If they are now working a minimum-wage job, that is double what they were making on welfare. I would prefer to see every person work as long as they are able physically.”

One of the main differences between the Wisconsin Works program in the United States and the Israeli version is the demographic profile of the participants. In the United States, the focus is predominately on young black single mothers. But in Israel, the clients are men and women, often older than 40, many of them immigrants or Arabs. Some have physical or mental disabilities or limited Hebrew-language skills.

All told, many participants were funneled into the program by the National Insurance Institute without an adequate assessment of “who might be a good fit,” according to Sari Revkin, executive director of Yedid, a Jerusalem-based social welfare organization.

“The idea [is] not to get people to change their motivation and skills,” Revkin said. “It’s to get them into a job quickly. With the population of new immigrants and Arabs this is very, very problematic.”

One of the four program centers in Israel is located in Nazareth, the largest Arab city in Israel, where some participants are women older than 50 who have never held jobs and have rarely traveled beyond their home villages. Now they are expected to find employment that may carry cultural baggage, in the form of their husbands’ or families’ disapproval over them working at outside jobs, critics say.

Meanwhile, many workplaces in Arab locales pay below minimum wage. And those Arabs who seek work in predominately Jewish areas, such as west Jerusalem, sometimes encounter discrimination and are refused employment.

However, Roy Newey, group board director for A4E, the British company running the pilot Mehalev program in Jerusalem, said he has seen some success in placing Arab women in jobs. He cites 15 women who found work on a mushroom farm near Jerusalem for about $830 a month, the Israeli minimum wage.

“They have self-esteem, finances, purpose in their lives,” Newey said. “It’s a real success story.”

Of the 8,000 participants who have come through the Jerusalem Mehalev, 3,000 have found and kept jobs since they joined the program in the past year and a half.

Role Playing for Success

At the STRIVE office in Tel Aviv — others are planned for Haifa and Jerusalem — a class in how to undergo a group interview is taking place.

In keeping with the STRIVE emphasis on nurturing long-term careers rather than landing stopgap jobs, participants are urged to dress for success. As a result, the Tel Aviv role players are wearing proper business attire — dark pants, skirts and button-down shirts.

In preparation for the group interview, a common hiring exercise used by Israeli firms, half the class is given a problem to solve collectively. The other half observes and provides feedback on how their classmates performed. For example, they evaluate who displayed leadership qualities, who was a good team player, who knew how to set priorities and who failed to participate sufficiently.

“The enthusiasm is catching and they start believing in themselves, and we see people with very limited desires jump to much wider horizons,” said Amir Natan, 33, a former high-tech executive who directs STRIVE in Israel.

Nearly 90 percent of STRIVE participants have found jobs.

One is Sharabi, who said she plans to start work as an office clerk, with hopes of eventually becoming an accountant.

“My oldest son said he has such fun watching me do homework and seeing me interested in something,” she said.

Sharabi then politely excuses herself from talking about the program to continue participating in it. The assignment: A role-playing workshop aimed at familiarizing clients with the ins and outs of office jobs.

There is still a lot to learn, she says with a smile.

STRIVE Israel:
‘ target=’_blank’>

Israel poverty videos test

Can Israel’s alpha bubbe bring Mideast peace?

Galia Albin is one grandmother who isn’t spending afternoons knitting booties, baking cookies or changing diapers. Instead, she’s running to television studios for tapings, representing Israel at international business forums and wielding influence on Israeli policymakers. She is one of the country’s powerful women, and her mission is to influence and empower other women throughout the world.

Sitting in a cramped Tel Aviv television studio dressing room, Albin is bright-eyed, alert and enthusiastic while breaking for lunch between tapings of “The Club,” a talk show she hosts for Israel’s 50-plus demographic.

“Would you like to share my salad?” she offers generously before launching into excited chatter about her projects and work.

At 57, Albin holds a slew of titles and positions in both public and private sectors in Israel and beyond. She serves as company director of at least 10 publicly held Israeli/international giants including Marks & Spencer Israel, United Steel Mills and the Koor Industries Group; she chairs the Business Forum Women’s advisory to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, the National Council for Children, The Center for Economic Development Among Jewish & Arab Women and serves as director of the Israel Women’s Network.

Most recently, she was invited to the second annual International Women’s Forum in Deauville, France, to address global concerns over health care, education and demography. Bringing together world leaders and prominent businesswomen, the conference attendee list included Jordan’s Queen Rania, Kuwait’s premier female minister Maasouma Al-Mubarak, Lucent CEO Pat Russo and State Department Undersecretary for Public Diplomacy Karen Hughes.

“I would have to say that the strongest message on all levels was self empowerment for women. The societal and economic topics addressed in Deauville tapped into the woman’s role and how women can be influential in policy making and business,” Albin said.

At the conference, Queen Rania called on women to join her in solving the current Middle East crisis and invited select participants from Kuwait, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, etc. to Jordan next spring for a Convention of Women for Peace in the Middle East. Rania hand-picked Albin to represent Israel.

“What I wish for more than anything is a connection between women in Israel, our region and the world. It’s a weak link that needs promoting, but luckily I think I have the power, knowledge and connections to do it. I would love to go to more cities and meet more women to speak about empowerment from my experience.”

Albin’s experience is broad. She holds four degrees — two in psychology, one in law and another in acting — has produced and executive produced three films, owned the Globes and Monitin business publications and at one point held the Israeli franchise rights to Penthouse Magazine.

“I fought religious groups like mad. They burnt down sales points. So after 11 issues, I threw in the towel,” she recalled.

Her husband’s sudden death in the mid-1980s prompted a tremendous shift.
“I had a business career until then, but mostly I stayed home with my children.

When he died, I inherited seven public companies and other holdings, and I had a choice: sit back and spend the money or learn how to ‘work it.’ It took four years to become chairwoman, and some of my husband’s closest associates didn’t like me being there. I made mistakes but ultimately I was the winner.”

At 50, Albin opted again for a major life change. “I realized I had been through six wars in my lifetime, my four kids were grown and the future of my country seemed to be in question,” she said.

She packed it in and headed to New York to study acting with Lee Strasberg, mentor to Al Pacino, Dustin Hoffman, Uma Thurman and Geraldine Page.

“It was a lifelong dream,” Albin said.

After two years of acting study she returned to Israel and auditioned for her current role as “The Club” host, beating out some of Israel’s premier actors. Recently the show celebrated its 200th taping.

“It’s not too late to realize dreams. When you stop dreaming, you stop living,” Albin advised.

Dr. Raanan Gissin, the former adviser to past prime minister Ariel Sharon and a 30-year friend of Albin’s who sometimes guests on her show, says he sees huge potential in Albin’s dream of bridging the peace gap.

“Israel is like an island surrounded by enemies and fences. Her nonconformist way of reaching out is very important because in going beyond the regular formalities, sometimes people can be reached,” he said.

Sharing Albin’s dream of regional peace, Lebanese-born Fadia Otte says that when she and Albin discussed the region’s conflict in Deauville they found a common bond.

“When I met Galia we were nearly in tears over recent events. She wants peace between Arab and Jewish women, and I want the same. We have a moral obligation to meet in Jordan and try to bring peace,” Otte said during a call from her home in Paris.

A member of Lebanon’s prominent Khabbaz family, Otte left the country years ago due to severe in fighting between warring factions. “I grew up in bomb shelters,” she said, adding that she lost her brother in a bombing when she was 21.

Otte hopes that together with Albin and other attendees, problems of generations may be addressed at the upcoming Jordanian Women’s Convention.

“It’s really all about tolerance. Tremendous ignorance is making the world go wrong but if we inform the young that we are not each others’ enemies maybe it can stop,” Otte said.

Albin shares the sentiment, taking it one step further.

“My biggest fear is that in my lifetime I won’t be able to fulfill the mission I’m supposed to: leaving a safe country. I’m a grandmother with two grandchildren and I know I’m not good enough in that role because I choose to spend time with the children on my terms. But women and peace is something I want to be good enough at. I want to make the connection and do it right.”

Stephanie Freid is a freelance writer in Israel for ISRAEL21c, a news agency focusing on 21st century Israel.


Shabbat Across America Returns

For Lynne Sturt Weintraub, Friday evening is the perfect time for friends and family to get together “and show warmth and love and find out what’s going on in other people’s lives,” she said.

Weintraub, president of Temple Beth Zion in West Los Angeles, has been involved in Shabbat Across America since its inception eight years ago.

The program, established by the National Jewish Outreach Program (NJOP) in New York, celebrates one Shabbat weekend around North America to reach out to mostly unaffiliated Jews or those with little Judaic background, in an effort to bring them back into the fold. This Friday, March 4, some 600 synagogues and organizations across Canada and the United States – including 20 in the L.A. area – will attend Shabbat services and sit down to dinner under the banner of “Shabbat Across America.”

“I think it’s a nice thing to do, to participate along with the rest of the country and Canada in having the Jewish community get together, having that solidarity,” Weintraub said.

“Just knowing that at the same time you’re doing it 40,000 other people are also doing it, strengthens people’s resolve,” said NJOP Director Rabbi Yitzhak Rosenbaum. “Jews are so scattered and we like to be part of large numbers.”

Rosenbaum also emphasized that it’s the whole Shabbat issue that makes the event work. It’s not “Adult Jewish Education Across America,” or “Kol Nidre Across America” and that’s because “Shabbat is what marks us as Jews,” Rosenbaum said.

“Shabbat resonates with modern man. We often feel very isolated. Certainly the nuclear family is gone. People no longer live in the same place as their parents and the community has been weakened. Shabbat provides an opportunity to be part of a Jewish community.”

Paul Solyn, the director Temple Mishkon Tephilo in Venice, has also been involved in Shabbat Across America for a number of years.

“It’s a good way to reach people in the community who are interested in the synagogue but not yet involved with one,” he said.

Mishkon Tephilo actually incorporates Shabbat Across America into its adult education program, bringing in a guest speaker, Miriyam Glazer, University of Judaism literature professor and author of the cookbook, “The Essential Book of Jewish Festival Cooking,” who will speak about, “Our Bodies, Our Souls: Food and the Human Spirit in Jewish Tradition.” Despite the fact that Shabbat Across America is now in its ninth year, the Jewish community still has an uphill battle on its hands.

“Overall our losses [in the Jewish community] are so vast,” Rosenbaum said. “We haven’t yet staunched the flow, but this program is definitely making inroads. Every Jew is a world unto themselves, and if only one Jew starts to observe or becomes more involved as a result of this program then we’re happy.” – Kelly Hartog, Staff Writer

Dennis Ross on The Mideast

Dennis Ross, former U.S. envoy to the Middle East under President Bill Clinton, told an Anti-Defamation League gathering that a “loss of fear” in the Arab world has meant Palestinian and Iraqi elections and the Lebanese standing up to Syrian terrorists as old Arab dictatorships slowly give way to democracy.

“If it looks like the Lebanese people succeed in forcing the Syrians out, then it’s going to have an effect across the region,” said Ross, who negotiated the 1997 Hebron accord. “One of the things that people aren’t focused on enough is that what Lebanon represents right now is the Lebanese people no longer being afraid.”

Ross spoke to about 100 people attending the ADL’s Feb. 25-27 Weekend Institute at the Biltmore/Four Seasons Resort in Santa Barbara with James Prince, who runs the L.A.-based, Mideast-focused Democracy Council. Prince has tracked Palestinian finances and dismissed the notion that deceased Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat stashed away billions.

“I don’t think there’s pots of money out there,” Prince said.

Ross, who is promoting his book, “The Missing Peace” said Arafat’s death has removed a cult-like leader who controlled all facets of Palestinian life.

“The way that Arafat preserved power was [to have] everybody depend on him,” Ross said. “Our aid right now has to be focused on empowerment.”– David Finnigan, Contributing Writer

Munich Games Film Gets Winter Release

Steven Spielberg will begin production on his long-awaited film on the 1972 Olympic Games in the summer and release it to theaters on Dec. 23.

Tight secrecy surrounds the feature film, which will focus on the hunt for the Black September terrorists responsible for the death of 11 Israeli athletes at the Olympics.

No title or cast has been announced, except for Australian actor Eric Bana (“Troy,” “Hulk”). Spielberg had also hoped to cast Ben Kingsley (“Schindler’s List”), but he became unavailable when shooting was delayed by one year. At one point, reports had it that the delay was caused by fears that Muslim extremists might target locations to be used in the movie. However, the actual reason was that Spielberg was dissatisfied with the script by Eric Roth (“Forrest Gump”) and instead Pulitzer Prize-winner Tony Kushner (“Angels in America”) is writing a new screenplay.

Spielberg has said that his Jewish heritage took on a new dimension while making “Schindler’s List.” The Survivors of the Shoah Visual History Foundation, which he established 12 years ago, has since videotaped the testimonies of 52,000 Holocaust survivors and witnesses.

The documentary, “One Day in September,” on the Munich Olympics, won an Oscar for Swiss producer Arthur Cohn in 2000. – Tom Tugend, Contributing Editor

End of Talmud Celebration Draws Thousands

More than 2,600 people filled the Walt Disney Concert Hall in downtown Los Angeles for the March 1 national celebration marking the end of Daf Yomi, a worldwide reading of one page of the Talmud each day for seven and a half years.

“This majestic hall has now been sanctified because it is host to the largest gathering of Torah Jews in the history of this city,” said Rabbi Yaakov Krause of Young Israel of Hancock Park as he spoke before the huge hall – with an overflow audience of schoolgirls in an adjacent auditorium.

The three-hour, early evening event drew an almost entirely Orthodox crowd with row upon row of Modern Orthodox and Chasidic men alternately praying and watching large TV screens showing Daf Yomi gatherings on the East Coast.

The busloads of teenagers from local Orthodox high schools included Shoshana and Hadassah Klerman, fraternal twin sisters and sophomores at the all-girls Beis Yaakov High School in the Fairfax District.

“This reflects the continuity that we have with Torah throughout the ages from the beginning of time until now,” said Shoshana Klerman. “You think that, ‘OK, the Holocaust happened’ and these kinds of things happen and people try to wipe us out but we’re still here.”

Rabbi Marvin Heir, dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, called this year’s Daf Yomi event, “one of the most significant events in American Jewish history; it shows the renaissance of the Jewish people after the Holocaust not only in population but in terms of a recommitment to their heritage.”

A cluster of freshman boys from Yeshiva University High School of Los Angeles agreed that studying the Talmud makes homework seem easier.

“It really uplifts a lot of people. It’s really important that you learn every day,” said 14-year-old David Korda.

Howard Gluck, a deputy Los Angeles city attorney, came with his two sons even though he did not pursue the Daf Yomi himself.

“I wanted my children to be part of a very unified day celebrating the completion and starting of the Talmud,” Gluck said. “It’s an amazing thing to have a program where the same page is being studied in Los Angeles and New York and in Poland and in Moscow and in Israel. The main thing is, we are all part of one family, the Jewish people.” – DF

Healing the ‘wounds’

When rabbi and author Jan Goldstein was suddenly faced with the news that his 12-year marriage was ending — leaving him with primary custody of his three children — he felt his life was ruined, until he learned to make sense of his pain.

In his new book, "Sacred Wounds: Succeeding Because of Life’s Pain" (Regan Books, $24.95) Goldstein recounts his personal journey of self-actualization and offers a nine-step process toward transforming pain into empowerment.

"The pain is not going away. But it’s going to serve a purpose in our lives if we let it," said Goldstein, an award-winning poet, playwright and screenwriter, who is now happily remarried.

In addition to being instructional, each chapter includes a story about someone who has taken one of Goldstein’s nine steps. In "Step One: Acknowledging the Wound," Goldstein tells the story of Debrah Constance, a woman who overcame the obstacles of her three failed marriages, alcoholism, cancer and a near-death car accident, and used her own experiences to establish A Place Called Home, a safe house that today provides a nurturing environment to several hundred 9- to 20-year-olds in South Central Los Angeles. In the book, Constance says, "Coming to terms with my wounds has meant acknowledging and believing in myself. It has also meant learning to believe in others."

Goldstein said that while the book is always relevant, it is especially applicable in today’s time of war.

"The images and losses have an impact on all of us … and what they ought to be doing is reminding us what’s really important," he said.

Jan Goldstein will discuss and sign "Sacred Wounds: Succeeding Because of Life’s Pain" on Tuesday, April 22 at 8 p.m. at Barnes & Noble, 111 W. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena. (626) 585-0362.