[EVENT] The New Reality: Jews in Trump’s America

Having trouble with the form? Please RSVP by emailing RSVP@jewishjournal.com.

Fighting Nice: Rob Eshman and David Suissa – Wed., Feb. 17 at 7:30 p.m. at Stephen S. Wise Temple

{exp:freeform:form form_name=”oscar_contest” required=”name|last_name|email” return=”/dollar” template=”oscar_contest” notify=”webmaster@jewishjournal.com” prevent_duplicate_on=”email”}

RSVP for the event by filling out the form below

I would like to receive JewishJournal.com's email newsletter to read breaking news, features and blogs.

*First Name:

*Last Name:



An Evening for Max Steinberg

For more information, please email honormax@jewishjournal.com.

EVENT: Hot & Holy — A provocative discussion on sex and spirituality

A provocative discussion on sex and spirituality. Whether you are single, married, have a great sex life, or want one — join the conversation as we talk about what sex means to a relationship and how it is reflected in our faith.

Moderated by Ilana Angel, panelists are Rabbi Ed Feinstein of Valley Beth Shalom, Sex Therapist Dr. Limor Blockman, Dating Coach David Wygant, and Hollywood Jew Danielle Berrin.  Ticket price includes admission and hors d'oeuvres.  Cash Bar. Special Valet Rate of $7.00.

Click here to buy your ticket online and secure entry. Some tickets will be available at the door. First come, first served.

2 authors, 2 takes on Jewish humor and theology

Jewish humor and Jewish theology share something in common. I can think of any number of jokes whose punch lines say something profound about God (“Work with me here — buy a ticket!”). And we need only consult the Torah to discover how the matriarch Sarah responded when God revealed that she would bear a child in advanced old age: “Sarah laughed …” (Genesis 18:12).

The point is made by Ruth R. Wisse, professor of Yiddish and comparative literature at Harvard, in “No Joke: Making Jewish Humor” (Princeton University Press, $24.95), a rare work of cultural scholarship that is also laugh-out-loud-funny. “Jewish humor rolls cheerfully off the tongue,” she quips, “like French cuisine and Turkish baths.” She quotes no less an authority on the workings of the human mind than Sigmund Freud on the Jewish genius for jokes: “I do not know whether there are many other instances of a people making fun to such a degree of its own character.”

“No Joke,” in other words, is full of jokes. Wisse declares her intention “to offer a descriptive map of some of the centers where Jewish humor thrived and where it still prospers,” and she insists that pondering (and laughing at) these jokes reveals something vital and important about Jewish identity: “I cheerfully confess that theories about humor interest me less than the evidence they offer of folk creativity,” she writes; “jokes offer the only surviving form of ‘folklore’ that is not protectable by copyright.”

She traces the distinctive folk culture of Eastern Europe, which she calls “an incubator of modern Jewish humor,” to such traditions as the Purim skit and the antics of the masters of ceremonies at weddings. She traces these influences into the work of Sholem Aleichem, although she points out that once the Jews of the Diaspora abandoned Yiddish, “they could no more understand the intricacies of his humor than could any Gentile.” But she also considers less familiar sources, including both the modernizers who embraced the Haskalah and the traditionalists of Hasidism: “We may not customarily associate Hasidic ecstasy with laughter, but we should consider how, like ecstasy, laughter too overcomes indignities through an altered state of mind.”

As deep as these roots go, the art of Jewish comedy still flourishes, as anyone who turns on a television knows well. “Jewish humor remains, as it has always been, merely one of many possible responses to the anomalous experience of the Jews,” Wisse concludes. “But as long as it does remain one of those responses, suppliers will arise to meet the demand.” And she shows how more recent exemplars, ranging from the Marx Brothers to Larry David to the Broadway hit “Old Jews Telling Jokes,” fit into the rich tapestry of Jewish humor.

Ruth R. Wisse will discuss and sign copies of “No Joke: Making Jewish Humor” at Stephen S. Wise Temple on Nov. 19 at 7:30 p.m. For tickets and information, visit the Stephen S. Wise Web site at ” target=”_blank”>http://wcce.aju.edu/default.aspx?id=10462.

Jonathan Kirsch, author and publishing attorney, is the book editor of the Jewish Journal. His new book is “The Short, Strange Life of Herschel Grynszpan: A Boy Avenger, a Nazi Diplomat and a Murder in Paris” (Liveright).

Moving and Shaking: Larger Than Life-L.A. Family’ 10th anniversary & ADL counter-terrorism training

From left: Rakefet Aharon, president of Larger Than Life-L.A. Family, honoree Margo Barber and Shay Diamant, chairman of Larger Than Life-L.A. Family at the organization’s Oct. 13 gala. Photo by Orly Halevy.

Larger Than Life-L.A. Family, which supports cancer-stricken children from Israel and Los Angeles, celebrated its 10th anniversary Oct. 13 when more than 1,200 people gathered at the Beverly Hilton Hotel for an evening gala of music, awards and more.

Among the predominantly Israeli crowd were 38 children from the Jewish state, including Jews, Muslims, Christians and Druze who are fighting the disease.

“Cancer does not discriminate — a sick child is a sick child, so we do not discriminate. It’s very simple,” said Ran Yaniv, Larger Than Life-L.A. Family co-founder and board member. “This does good beyond just helping the child. It helps the connection between two very disconnected communities in Israel.”

The event recognized the longtime financial backing of Encino philanthropist Margo Barber, who was presented the organization’s Woman of Valor award. The gala also raised more than $1 million in support of Larger Than Life-L.A. Family programs and its parent organization, the Israeli-based charity Larger Than Life.

Larger Than Life — Gdolim Mehachayim in Hebrew — was founded in 2000 by parents of cancer-stricken children. Its mission is to improve the quality of life for Israeli children living with cancer, irrespective of their religion, race or ethnicity. 

Meanwhile, the wide-ranging work of the Los Angeles chapter, an independent nonprofit established in 2003, includes improving the atmosphere of cancer wards and providing medical procedures and medications to patients with inadequate health insurance. Children with cancer enjoy a two-week tour of theme parks, famous sites and other attractions in the Los Angeles area as part of its flagship program, West Coast Dream Trip, Yaniv said.

All this and more was celebrated at the gala, which featured live performances and appearances by Israeli vocalist Dana International, who was the evening’s headliner; Israel Consul General in Los Angeles David Siegel; and Larger Than Life-L.A. chairman Shay Diamant and president Rakefet Aharon

L.A. World Airports Police Chief Patrick Gannon, left, and San Bernardino Police Chief Robert Handy, right, with an Israeli army commander in the northern region near Lebanon. Photo courtesy of the ADL

A delegation of West Coast law enforcement officials, including two from the Los Angeles area, participated in the Anti-Defamation Leagues (ADL) counterterrorism training program in Israel last month. It featured “high-level briefings on the operational response to terrorism, border and airport security, maintaining safety and access to holy sites, the role of advanced technology in policing, and use of media during a crisis,” according to an ADL statement.

During the Oct. 6-13 trip, Los Angeles World Airports Police Chief Patrick Gannon and San Bernardino Police Chief Robert Handy met with security experts, intelligence analysts and commanders in the Israel National Police and Israel Defense Forces. This was the fifth year of the annual program. 

Gannon and Handy were among a group of 15 law enforcement officials that also included Long Beach Police Department Deputy Chief David Hendricks and Ventura County Sheriff Geoff Dean

Joanna Mendelson, a Los Angeles-based ADL investigative researcher and director for special projects, accompanied the delegation. One of the mission highlights, Mendelson said, was a daytrip to the northern border with Lebanon, where they met with Israel Defense Forces soldiers who monitor Hezbollah’s activity. The trip also included visits to sites of archaeological and religious importance.

The ADL aims to combat anti-Semitism and bigotry. As part of that mission, the organization conducts law enforcement outreach and trainings related to “extremism and terrorism,” its Web site states.

Moving and Shaking acknowledges accomplishments by members of the local Jewish community, including people who start new jobs, leave jobs, win awards and more, as well as local events that featured leaders from the Jewish and Israeli communities. Got a tip? E-mail it to ryant@jewishjournal.com.

Calendar: October 5-11



Shalom Hartman fellow Yossi Klein Halevi serves as Beth Jacob Congregation’s Shabbat scholar in residence. Author of the new book “Like Dreamers,” which explores the story of the soldiers who reunited Jerusalem and divided a nation, Klein Halevi will give the Shabbat morning drash and speak during a community lunch-and-learn as well as during a Melava Malka at a private residence. Thu. 9 a.m. (services), 11 a.m. (lunch), 8:30 p.m. (Melava Malka). RSVP required for lunch-and-learn: $35 (adults), $25 (children). Beth Jacob, 9030 W. Olympic Blvd., Beverly Hills. (310) 278-1911. bethjacob.org.


The door is always open. Even if you missed Gary Baseman’s retrospective at the Skirball earlier this year, you’re still in luck. The painter, illustrator, performance artist, toy designer and TV/movie producer brings an extension of that retrospective to Venice. With a playful and dark aesthetic, Baseman pays homage to his family and creates wonder for his viewers. Through Dec. 14. Sat. 7-9 p.m. (opening reception). Free. Shulamit Gallery, 17 N. Venice Blvd., Venice. (310) 281-0961. shulamitgallery.com



Aggravated with Congress? Well, laugh at its expense! This improv troupe has been mocking our elected officials for more than 25 years, and they know what they’re talking about — they’ve all been staffers for the politicians they satirize. With 30 albums to their name and past venues like NBC, CBS and NPR, the group has a handle on clever comedy. There will be song parodies, costumed skits and some good old-fashioned stand-up. Sun. 4 p.m. $45. American Jewish University, 15600 Mulholland Drive, Los Angeles. (310) 440-1547. aju.edu.



A book launch party has never tasted so good — and so informative. Join Mozza’s Nancy Silverton, Midtown Lunch’s Zach Brooks and pastrami scholar Lara Rabinovitch as they discuss New York Times’ Allen Salkin’s new book. A panel discussion on the history of the Food Network and the Hollywoodization of cuisine includes Susan Feniger, Bruce Seidel and Karen Katz. Sat. 7 p.m. Free. The Border Grill, 445 S. Figueroa St., downtown. RSVP to lara@lararabinovitch.com.

THU | OCT 10


Once upon a time, a 19-year-old started as a member of Disney’s creative team. And then he worked happily ever after. Come listen to highlights from five decades of magic-making in Sklar’s new memoir “Dream It! Do It!: My Half-Century Creating Disney’s Magic Kingdoms.” Serving as Walt Disney’s right-hand man, and eventually becoming the creative executive of Walt Disney Imagineering, Sklar will guide attendees through the reality behind the whimsy. A Q-and-A and book signing follow the program. Thu. 8 p.m. Free (reservations recommended). Skirball Cultural Center, 2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 440-4500. skirball.org.


Do yourself a favor and join the more than half-million people who have listened to Raichel’s music. The Israeli singer-songwriter has transformed the idea of music as a universal language into something tangible. Singing in Hebrew, Spanish, Arabic, Amharic and Swahili, Raichel truly blends and binds nations and peoples. Named Musical Group of the Decade in Israel in 2010, The Project promises to deliver. Thu. 8 p.m. $30-$75, $15 (UCLA Students). Royce Hall, 340 Royce Drive, Los Angeles. (310) 825-2101.


It’s four days of the best Jewish-themed films from around the world! Opening night kicks off with a reception and screening of “Hava Nagila (The Movie).” Other films include the documentaries “The Flat” and “God’s Fiddler,” indie comedy “Putzel” and World War II drama “Süskind.” Through Oct. 13. Thu. 6:30 p.m. (reception), 7:30 p.m. (screening). $10. Alpert Jewish Community Center, 3801 E. Willow St., Long Beach. (562) 426-7601, ext. 1021. alpertjcc.org/filmfest.

FRI | OCT 11


It is a rare revival of a groundbreaking collaboration. Philip Glass and Robert Wilson joined forces in 1976 to create one of the greatest artistic achievements of the 20th century. Unconventional, non-narrative and fully visual with the help of choreography by Lucinda Childs, it will help viewers understand that knowing what you’re looking at isn’t as important as simply taking a look. Through Oct. 13. Fri. 6:30 p.m. $83-$312. Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, 135 N. Grand Ave., downtown. (213) 972-8001. laopera.com.


Alexis Rodriguez Fish finds her life to be a little bit of a disaster after the recent death of her cheating husband, so she decides to spend some time with her zany Latino-Jewish family. With an overbearing mother, encouraging father and quirky sister, Alex re-engages with her roots in an effort to grow. Writer/director Nicole Gomez Fisher creates a relatable and poignant visit home for all of us. The screening is part of the Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival. Fri. 7 p.m. $13. TCL Chinese Theatres, 6925 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood. (323) 446-2770. sleepingwiththefishes.eventbrite.com.

U.N. chief defies U.S., Israel; plans trip to Tehran

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon plans to attend a summit meeting of leaders of non-aligned developing nations in Tehran next week, defying calls from the United States and Israel to boycott the event, U.N. diplomats said on Wednesday.

A spokesman for Iran’s U.N. mission said it appeared that Ban would be attending the summit next week, though he declined to speak on behalf of the secretary-general’s office.

Several other U.N. diplomatic sources said that barring any unexpected scheduling changes, Ban would attend the meeting of some 120 non-aligned nations in Tehran.

“It’s a very important bloc of nations,” a diplomatic source told Reuters on condition of anonymity. “Of course the SG (secretary-general) is going. He can’t not go.”

A Security Council diplomat said it was important for the secretary-general to go. He said Ban should not turn his back on the entire non-aligned movement because one member, Iran, happens to have a president who doubts the Holocaust and questions Israel’s right to exist.

Ban’s spokesman declined to comment.

Diplomats said they did not expect Ban to raise Iran’s nuclear program, which Iran says is peaceful and Western powers and their allies fear is aimed at nuclear weapons, and its leaders’ anti-Israeli remarks during his public speech during the non-aligned summit.

Such rebukes would be better left to Ban’s expected private bilateral meeting with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Tehran, envoys said.

The Tehran summit, which Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi will also attend, takes place Sunday through Friday. Mursi is the first Egyptian head of state to visit Tehran since the 1979 Islamic revolution.


Earlier this month, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu urged Ban to cancel his plans to participate in the Tehran non-aligned summit, according to Israeli media reports.

U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland made clear to reporters in Washington last week that the United States would also like the U.N. chief to boycott the event.

“The fact that the meeting is happening in a country that’s in violation of so many of its international obligations and posing a threat to neighbors … sends a very strange signal with regard to support for the international order, rule of law, et cetera,” Nuland said.

“We’ve made that point to participating countries,” she said. “We’ve also made that point to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.”

Nuland added that if Ban does go, “we hope he will make the strongest points of concern.”

Last week Ban sharply criticized Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, describing their latest verbal attacks on Israel as “offensive and inflammatory.”

Ahmadinejad said there was no place for the Jewish state in a future Middle East, echoing previous remarks he has made about Israel. He has also repeatedly called into question the Nazi extermination of Jews during World War Two – the Holocaust.

Khamenei said last week that Israel would one day be returned to the Palestinian nation and would cease to exist.

Separately, Alireza Miryousefi, spokesman for Iran’s U.N. mission in New York, defended the Tehran summit in a letter to the editor of The Washington Post. He was responding to an editorial in the newspaper, which said Ban’s presence in Tehran “will dignify a bacchanal of nonsense.”

Miryousefi said the Post’s editorial board “unjustifiably smeared Iran and mocked the upcoming Non-Aligned Movement summit in Tehran.

“By bringing dozens of world leaders together, the summit promises to make significant contributions to the movement’s lofty objectives,” he wrote.

Editing by Stacey Joyce

Letters to the Editor: Milk, languages, kindergarten, breakfast, philanthropy

More on Milk

Rabbi Shmuly Yanklowitz is restirring a tempest in a glass of milk (“How Kosher Is Your Milk,” June 22). This issue was addressed in great detail in the fall 2007 issue of the Journal of Halacha and Contemporary Society in the article “The Kashrut of Commercially Sold Milk” by Rabbi Michoel Zylberman. The conclusion of the article:

“In the contemporary situation, there appears to be no credible evidence that a majority of dairy cows harbor adhesions. It is, however, quite likely that a prevalent minority (mi’ut hamatzui) of cows have terefot, such that more than 1.6% of milk that gets mixed together comes from such cows. To date, while a few individuals have stopped drinking commercially sold milk, major kashrut organizations have endorsed the continued consumption of milk, following the implication in Shulchan Aruch that we may assume that every individual cow comes from the majority of cows that are kosher, even if such an assumption contradicts a statistical reality.”

Rabbi Israel Hirsch
Valley Village

A Lesson in Languages

In your June 22 issue’s Letter From Egypt by Al-Qotb (“Egypt’s Election: An Argument Without Resolution”), you identified Al-Qotb (“The Writer”) as a pseudonym for The Jewish Journal’s Egyptian correspondent. Al-Qotb (correctly Al-Kotb or Al-Kootb) means “The Books,” and the Arabic name for anyone who writes is Al-Kaatb or Al-Kaateb, depending on one’s dialect. The proper letter (binyan in Hebrew) to use in this instance is “K-T-B” not “Q-T-B”. There is no equivalence in the English language nor in modern Hebrew for the Arabic letter “Q.” The best illustration would be in pronouncing the Hebrew letter “kaf” gutturally as in the case of the letter “khaf.” Quick pronunciation illustration is in the name of the leading member of the Muslim Brotherhood in the 1950s and ’60s, Sayyid Qutb — Qutb could mean pole or region, as in the North Pole or the South Pole, but Kutb signifies books.

Ed Elhaderi
Los Angeles

Kindergartens of Hate

Micah Halpern’s piece is profoundly disturbing (“Finishing School,” June 22). It states that Arab children in Gaza and the West Bank are taught to hate Jews and to aspire only to slaughter them as a duty of their Islamic faith. This despite 20 years of a “peace process” that earned Nobel Peace Prizes for its originators. I suppose the indoctrination of Jew-hatred, not to mention the suicide bombings, rockets and turning children into murderous robots described by Halpern only proves, as then-President Clinton said in late 2000, that “the peace process hasn’t gone far enough.”

Chaim Sisman
Los Angeles

Synagogue Breakfast

Last week’s calendar section mentioned a dog-walking tour for June 24. It did not mention the 20th anniversary breakfast of Congregation Bais Naftoli honoring Zvi Hollander and Dr. A. Richard Grossman. At this breakfast, not only will the Israeli and Hungarian consuls general attend, but also two members of Congress, Sheriff Lee Baca, Supervisor Mike Antonovich, the city attorney and controller, four members of the City Council and two members of the state Assembly.

Why does the canine event take precedence?

Andrew Friedman
Congregation Bais Naftoli

Editor’s note: The Jewish Journal calendar desk did not receive notice about the Congregation Bais Naftoli breakfast. Please send all event notifications at least three weeks in advance to calendar@jewishjournal.com

Philanthropic Teens

It came as no surprise to me that a cross-section of community schools participated in National Conference of Synagogue Youth’s (NCSY) philanthropy project (“Philanthropy Project Puts Teens in Charge,” June 8). NCSY has been breaking down barriers to Jewish involvement for quite some time with creative programs geared to young people from all spheres. 

My wife, Sara, and I [spent] a magical Shabbat with NCSYers at their regional Shabbaton in Woodland Hills recently. The diversity of the participants was amazing. There were kids from public schools, Jewish schools, Yachad for special needs, all singing, clapping, standing on chairs with a thunderous spirit that was inspirational and meaningful.

The philanthropy project was a good chance to bring to light the creativity NCSY displays in reaching out to all kids with the goal of bringing them closer to Judaism.

Ron Solomon
Executive Director
American Friends of Bar-Ilan University, Western Region

An article on a project exploring Los Angeles history (“UCLA Mapping Project Goes Back to the Future,” June 22) did not mention that the “Mapping Jewish L.A.” display of the digital project at the Autry National Center of the American West will be part of the larger exhibition “Jews in the Los Angeles Mosaic,” scheduled to open at the museum in May 2013.

Temple B’nai Hayim’s Rabbi Beryl Padorr is not retiring (“Ner Maarav to Merge With Ramat Zion,” June 15).

Doctor fighting leukemia seeks matching donor

A veteran physician diagnosed with leukemia is hoping to find a compatible bone marrow match within the Jewish community to help him beat back the life-threatening disease. Be The Match, the National Marrow Donor Registry, is holding a donor screening on Thursday at USC’s Rand Schrader Health and Research Center.

The identity of the doctor is being kept confidential. He is of Jewish descent and has been with Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center for 20 years. So far no compatible matches have been found. Race and ethnicity are important factors in compatibility, and the physician will likely require a Jewish donor.

People willing to donate bone marrow or peripheral blood stem cells, who are generally healthy and between the ages of 18 and 60, are encouraged to register. The process is free and the majority of potential donors will have their cheek swabbed to determine compatibility. If selected, Be The Match will provide potential donors with additional information on the donating procedure, which the organization says is relatively painless. 

The screening will be held on June 14, 10 a.m.-2 p.m., at the Rand Schrader Health and Research Center, 1300 N. Mission Road, Los Angeles. For more information or to register, call (626) 373-4000 or visit marrow.org.

‘Prime Ministers’ author to speak in Beverly Hills

Ambassador Yehuda Avner, who served as a diplomat, speechwriter and prime ministerial adviser in Israeli governments from the 1950s to the 1990s, will speaking this weekend at Beth Jacob Congregation in Beverly Hills. Avner wrote “The Prime Ministers: An Intimate Narrative of Israeli Leadership” (The Toby Press, LLC, 2010), a 700-page opus based on notes he took while serving as adviser or secretary to five prime ministers. The book, a finalist for the National Jewish Book Awards in 2010, is now being made into two motion pictures.

Avner will speak about “The Jewishness of Israel’s Prime Ministers” on May 19 at 11 a.m. during Shabbat morning services, which begin at 9 a.m. Israeli Consul General David Siegel will introduce Avner. A lunch with Avner is already sold out, but he will address the public again at 6 p.m., when Liebe Geft, director of the Museum of Tolerance, will moderate a conversation with Avner about the U.S.-Israel relationship as seen through encounters between U.S. presidents and Israel’s prime ministers. All events take place at Beth Jacob, 9030 W. Olympic Blvd. Signed copies of “The Prime Ministers” will be available for purchase before or after Shabbat at Beth Jacob.

For more information, go to

Honoring Hatzolah, Anjelica Huston, Sheba

All Hail Hatzolah

Ambulances, LAPD squad cars and fire trucks filled the parking spaces outside Beth Jacob Congregation the evening of March 16 — but there was no emergency going on inside.

Rather, it was an “Evening of Appreciation” for the Los Angeles Fire Department, presented by the Hatzolah Los Angeles emergency rescue team.

“We are here to salute you for a job well done,” said Hatzolah chairman Zvika Brenner to the 200 guests who packed the congregation’s ballroom.

Hatzolah, Hebrew for rescue, has dozens of round-the-clock trained volunteer emergency medical technicians and dispatchers who act as a bridge in the critical first minutes of an emergency before paramedics arrive. The group works in the Pico-Roberston, Fairfax, North Hollywood and Hancock Park neighborhoods. No other community in Los Angeles has its equivalent, LAFD Chief Douglas Barry, who was honored at the event, told The Circuit.

“What we have here tonight is a collection of the most selfless individuals in the city of L.A.,” Rabbi Avrohom Teichman said.

He was speaking both of the Haztolah volunteers and the many police and fire personnel in attendance.

The event was sponsored by Beth Jacob caterer Edmond Guenoun and honored Chief Timothy J. Scranton of the Beverly Hills Fire Department, Deputy Chief Terry Hara of the LAPD and Fire Commissioner Andrew Friedman. Also in attendance to honor what master of ceremonies Alan Stern termed “the life-saving and holy work of Hatzolah” were L.A. County Sheriff Lee Baca, EMS Commissioner Rabbi Chaim Kolodny, Hatzolah coordinator Michoel Bloom, LAPD Counterterrorism head Michael Downing and LAPD Det. Yehuda Packer.

The evening turned even more emotional when Hatzolah unveiled a new emergency supply truck dedicated in honor of Devorah and Aliza Levenberg, a young Hancock Park-area mother and daughter killed 10 days earlier in a traffic accident in Israel. Dvora’s mother, Rivi Adelman, a volunteer Hatzolah dispatcher, clad in black mourning clothes, expressed her appreciation to the assembly.

Burmese Rights Take Center Stage

Damien Rice. Photos by Mary Bell

Hollywood elite joined L.A. Buddhist monks and Burmese-born citizens in the penthouse Sunset Room of West Hollywood’s Hyatt Hotel on March 1.

The Human Rights Action Center and U.S. Campaign for Burma raised $30,000 to increase awareness and advocate on behalf of human rights in Burma. The organization is also boycotting the Beijing Olympics and the Chinese government for their involvement with the Burmese military junta, which has held Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi under house arrest in Rangoon for the past 20 years. Jewish World Watch is also rallying support to protest the Chinese government before the Olympics, holding monthly vigils in front of the Chinese Consulate in downtown Los Angeles.

Actress Anjelica Huston (photo, right) co-hosted the event and emerged on stage wearing a professional business suit, looking radiant as ever while reading an excerpt from one of Kyi’s essays, “Freedom From Fear.”

A bright-eyed Khin Phyu Htway, who left Burma in 1999, expressed her gratitude to the 200 guests in attendance. “Burmese people will be in high spirits knowing Americans support them,” she said.

Irish musician Damien Rice delivered a heartfelt performance and lamented the status of 70,000 child soldiers who are forced to fight in the Burmese military.Throughout the night speakers repeated a popular, powerful phrase coined by the detained Kyi, which reflected the sentiment of the event’s cause: “Please use your liberty to promote ours.”

— Celia Soudry, Contributing Writer

Sing a Song for Sheba

(From left) Honoree professor Arnon Nagler, honoree Cathy Schulman, co-chair Lynn Ziman, and co-chairs Sheldon and Annie Lehrer.

The Friends of Sheba Medical Center Awards Gala on March 16 at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel drew 400 enthusiastic supporters who raised their voices in singing “Yom Uledet Sameach,” or “Happy Birthday” in Hebrew, to congratulate both the State of Israel and a prominent Israeli charity on their 60th birthdays.

Cathy Schulman, Academy Award-winning producer of “Crash” and the recently released documentary “Darfur Now,” received the Sheba Humanitarian Award.In accepting the award Schulman, the president of Mandalay Pictures, described “Crash,” which deals with issues of race and diversity, as “the most rejected film in history,” but stressed her belief in producing films that can “make a change for the better.”

Also honored was Tel Aviv University professor Arnon Nagler, while Marjorie Pressman paid special tribute to the memory of former Sheba Board member J. Paul Levine.

The gala also raised funds to benefit the Sigi & Marilyn Ziering National Center for Newborn Screening, which tests Israeli newborns for 20 treatable genetic diseases at Sheba Medical Center in Tel Hashomer, a leading healthcare facility throughout Israel and the Middle East.

— Peter Rothholz, Contributing Writer

Making music the Algerian Jewish way

” target=”_blank”>http://www.chebisabbah.com or

LimmudLA: 4,000 years of Jewish history in one hour

David Solomon

With white butcher paper stretching around the room, David Solomon hurriedly scrawls timelines with his thick black marker, delineating 250-year blocks of time.

“Dudes, don’t try this at home,” he jokes with the audience of mostly 20- and 30-something participants.

In the space of the next hour — plus an extra 10 to 15 minutes thrown in for good measure — Solomon outlines the 4,000 years of Jewish history, from 2000 B.C.E. to the present. Each white paper wall represents 1,000 years, and as Solomon moves from Abraham to the 12 tribes, Moses, the prophets, the First and Second Temples, the Babylonian exile and the “PR stunt” of Chanukah, he works the room, swiveling the audience in its seats as he races from one side of the room to another.

“There’s a purpose to the Jewish people besides handing down the recipe for gefilte fish,” he tells the rapt group. “You don’t have to be frum to believe that the Jewish people have a purpose in the world.”

Welcome to “The Whole of Jewish History in One Hour” and the Solomon agenda, if this charmingly disheveled teacher has one. The 45-year-old Aussie, who says he feels — and acts — much younger than he is, utterly believes in the absolute necessity for Jews to know and understand Jewish history. Dividing the Jewish history timeline into phases provides people with a framework, Solomon says, and shows them “how amazing our history is.”

Solomon will be one of dozens of teachers at LimmudLA Feb. 17-20 in Costa Mesa. The conference will feature a weekend packed with everything Jewish, from text studies to meditation minyans to arts performances. About 600 people are expected to attend the three-day President’s Day weekend event, the first time the worldwide phenomenon is hitting the West Coast.

“In One Hour,” as produced by Solomon and his wife, Marjorie, started out as something of a joke. At the end of 2004, the Solomons had returned to his native Perth after he had spent several years doing postgraduate research in Jewish mysticism at University College London. When Solomon was invited to address a conference of Jewish high school students, he somewhat flippantly came up with the idea of covering the whole of Jewish history in one hour. As the date neared, he found that his talk was being billed as such, and the idea caught on as a more permanent concept.

“It’s really just … a way of making sense of it all, so that people are able to contextualize and comprehend the history,” Solomon says.

“In One Hour” is designed for a wide range of people, Solomon says. Some participants may simply want a better understanding of the framework of Jewish history, others may have a more solid background but haven’t been able to envision the entire timeline.

During the talk, Solomon throws in Hebrew terms and names and does not translate. He sees the use of Hebrew as an important part of acculturating his audience to “speak about Jewish things in Jewish terms.”

“There may be a gap between who it was designed for and who turns up,” Solomon says. “It’s a talk that attempts to give meaning; you don’t have to believe in God.”

In some ways, Solomon’s “In One Hour” is the Jewish History 101 of the Taglit-Birthright Israel age. While successfully branding a new approach to a subject that may have faded in popularity, Solomon is very serious about his desire to use Jewish history as a method of propelling students toward more serious Jewish study.

He wants them to learn Hebrew and Jewish history as a “method of self empowerment,” because he believes that the Jewish people have “lost” their “perspective.” Looking back at Jewish history — the Golden Age of Spain lasted a mere 700 years –Solomon wants to show the Jewish community outside of Israel that nothing lasts forever.

Learning Hebrew is a crucial part of Solomon’s proposed framework. He sees the Hebrew language as the “gateway to Torah” and believes that Hebrew and living in Israel are the only ways to “authentically renew” Jewish spirituality.

Solomon himself took what he calls “a spiritual exile” from the Jewish world for some 10 years and now calls himself a secular Jew who keeps mitzvot (commandments). He grew up in a Sabbath-observant family in Perth, attending Jewish day school and then a Lubavitch-run college in Melbourne, followed by yeshiva in Israel. After living in London and Australia, he and his wife moved to Israel late last year after it became “increasingly apparent that we didn’t feel at home anywhere except Israel.”

Now living in Tel Aviv, the Solomons travel regularly, bringing “In One Hour” to communities in England, the United States and Australia. The format has evolved into an entire series, branching into other subjects, including Bible, philosophy, women in Jewish history and Hebrew, as well as an expanded, nine-session version of the history course.

“I’m not interested in hoisting my own petard,” says Solomon, as intense in conversation as he is in teaching. “There really isn’t a script to this. The narrative just comes out, and these,” he says, pointing at the time-lined walls, “are the headlines.”

For more information on LimmudLA, visit http://LimmudLA.org

Conference tackles thorny Jewish-Polish relationship

In a groundbreaking collegial but hard-hitting conference sponsored by the UCLA Center for Jewish Studies, a slate of top scholars, public officials, diplomats and Polish Jewish community leaders met to discuss the controversial and complicated relationship of Poles and Jews.

Titled “From Past to Present: The State of Research in Polish-Jewish Relations,” the international conference held Jan. 13 and 14 was originally envisioned as a closed, scholarly gathering around a conference table. But the topic generated such intense interest that it was moved to larger rooms on the UCLA campus to accommodate the approximately 20 conference participants and overflow crowds of up to 150 people.

“Few historical relationships are as complex as that between Poles and Jews. The Poles see themselves as prime victims of the Nazi onslaught. The Jews see themselves as the prime victims, adding the belief that the Poles were often willing collaborators,” said David N. Myers, director of the UCLA Center for Jewish Studies.

The impetus for the conference came more than two years ago from Holocaust survivor Severyn Ashkenazy, who divides his time between Los Angeles and Warsaw and who has been at the forefront of Jewish renewal in Poland.

“I think the time has come to stop bashing one another,” Ashkenazy said, stressing that it is impossible to rebuild Jewish life in an atmosphere of mutual accusation.

Ashkenazy brought his idea to the Polish consulate in Los Angeles, currently headed by Consul General Paulina Kapuschinska, and to Myers, who received funding from the “1939” Club Holocaust Memorial Fund at UCLA. Both co-sponsored the event, with assistance from the Dortort Center for Creativity in the Arts at UCLA Hillel and the American Jewish Committee.

The conference consisted of three academic panels, a reception and photographic exhibit at UCLA Hillel and a concluding roundtable. What made it unique, however, in addition to the invitation to the public, was the format of the panels — a senior historian moderating and two junior historians presenting papers based on cutting-edge research.

These younger scholars have access to troves of new archival sources that only began opening up after the communist regime collapsed in Poland in 1989, according to Myers, and are self-critical, rather than bogged down in old stereotypes and interpretations. Additionally, they feel almost a sense of obligation, in Myers’ words, “to repopulate the landscape of Poland with a Jewish cultural presence.”

The historians presented papers on particularly thorny issues in Polish-Jewish dialogue. Marci Shore of Yale University, for example, spoke on “Zydokomuna: The Family Romance of ‘Judeo-Bolshevism.'”

Zydokomuna, essentially an untranslatable word meaning Jewish communist, is fraught with the anti-Semitic accusation that the Jews were responsible for the introduction and operation of communism in Poland. Shore asserted that this was not necessarily a stereotype, since even though the total number of Jews in the Communist Party was small, they were overrepresented as a group, especially among the party elite.

Joshua Zimmerman of Yeshiva University presented a paper on “The Attitude of the Home Army to the Jewish Question During the Holocaust: The Case of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.”

Zimmerman, who referred to the Polish home army’s relationship to the Jews as “highly emotional and not uncontroversial,” showed that it also changed during the war years. As he and the other presenters consistently demonstrated, the situation between the Poles and Jews was not black and white but many shades of gray.

Jan Grabowski of the University of Ottawa offered a more somber note in his presentation titled, “Re-writing the History of Polish-Jewish Relations From a Nationalist Perspective: The Recent Publications of the Institute of the National Remembrance.” He described the Institute of National Remembrance, a clearinghouse of information established by the Polish Parliament, as an organization with a decidedly nationalistic view of the past.

What was clear in all the presentations is that there is a need for Jews to be reinserted into the Polish historical picture. During the half-century of communist rule, Jewish history was deleted from textbooks and either erased or manipulated in peoples’ memories. Even the word “Jew” was removed from Poland’s vocabulary.

“If Poles write Jews out of their history, they deprive themselves of the basic knowledge of who they are,” historian Samuel Kassow of Trinity College said.

The sentiment was echoed by Jolanta Zyndul, a scholar at Warsaw University who grew up in communist Poland and who never heard the word Jew throughout her childhood, except in church. “I felt cheated when I learned Poland had a Jewish presence,” she said.

Conference presenters emphasized that the mostly opposing Polish and Jewish historical narratives have to be accurately confronted, and many old stereotypes were debunked during the two days.

Natalia Aleksium of Touro College, for example, in her presentation “Re-thinking Polish Jewish Intelligentsia in Interwar Poland,” addressed the fact that Jews did not all live in hermetically sealed Orthodox communities, and a large percentage were fully integrated into Polish society.

Adam Daniel Rotfeld, the former Polish foreign minister, who was born in 1938, survived the war in a monastery, where he had no idea of the serious risks undertaken by his rescuers.

Rotfeld remained in Poland after the war, and he said that the punishment for aiding Jews in Poland, unlike that in any other country occupied by Nazis, was death to the person and to his or her entire family.

“Poles, as a society, are proud that Yad Vashem has over 6,000 trees planted for the Poles,” said Rotfeld, pointing out that Poland has more people recognized as Righteous Among the Nations than any other country.

Rotfeld stressed that stereotypes against Poles continue to prevail because of the enormous number of Jews who trace their ancestry to Poland and because the Nazi crimes were perpetrated on Polish soil.

While the conference was primarily academic, its hot-button topic attracted observers who came for personal reasons. These included Jewish survivors and those of Polish ancestry who wanted to learn about their parents’ or grandparents’ country. The conference also attracted non-Jewish Poles, such as Chris Justin, who left Poland in 1980 and who now lives in Huntington Beach. “I have lots of Polish friends and lots of Jewish friends,” he said.

The Calendar Girls: Picks, kicks and plugs



” target=”_blank”>http://americancinematheque.com.

Have a thirst for higher education, but don’t want to deal with the hassle of test taking, registration and studying? Now you can go “Back to College For a Day” and learn from renowned USC and UCLA professors, among others. Lecture topics include the impact of stress on behavior and the brain, the coexistence of Christians, Muslims and Jews in Medieval Spain, and law in a multicultural world. 9:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. $179 (parking and lunch). Mount St. Mary’s College, Chalon Campus, 12001 Chalon Road, Los Angeles. (818) 704-4207. ” target=”_blank”>http://www.plays411.com/thrillme or ” target=”_blank”>http://maccabilosangeles.com/.

The Jewish Single Parents and Singles Association has a lovely Sunday all planned out for you: start out with a hearty omelet or toasted bagel with cream cheese at local favorite Katella Deli, then spend the rest of the day with the group, wandering the glorious art-filled halls of the Getty Center Museum. Exhibitions to check out include the photographs of Andr�(c) Kert�(c)sz, the history of the nude in photography and Nicole Cohen’s critically acclaimed video installation, “Please Be Seated.” 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Katella Deli, 4470 Katella Ave., Los Alamitos. (714) 964-7031.

Harry Boychick is inviting you to his bar mitzvah. Don’t know him? Doesn’t matter. None of the guests know Harry, but they will be joining him and his family at a rollicking reception. Amy Lord, the creator of “Grandma Sylvia’s Funeral,” brings us her new interactive show, “The Boychick Affair: The Bar Mitzvah of Harry Boychick,” where the audience joins in the insanity, mingling with actors, dancing, laughing and even partaking in the celebratory meal. This promises to be unlike any show (or bar mitzvah) you’ve ever been to. Sundays at 2 p.m. (open-ended run). $36 (twice chai for the bar mitzvah boy!). Price includes meal. Hayworth Theatre, 2509 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles. (800) 838-3006. ” target=”_blank”>http://www.westsidejcc.org.

Drag your honey out of bed to do some good today. ATID’s Couples Havurah, for young Jews (married or dating) between the ages of 21 and 39, has planned a volunteer day where you and your other can help prepare kosher meals for people with HIV/AIDS. “Project Kitchen Soup” will leave you feeling so warm and fuzzy inside that you’ll forget you woke up at 7 a.m. 7:45 a.m.-12:15 p.m. Free. Hirsh Family Kosher Kitchen, 338 N. Fairfax Ave., Los Angeles. R.S.V.P. required, (310) 481-3244. ” border=”0″ vspace=”8″ hspace=”8″ align=”left” alt=”pick”>Erudite composers Hans Gal and Robert Kahn were forced into exile when they fled Nazi Germany in the late 1930s. Their music was removed from libraries and destroyed, and they were stripped of their prominent posts. Tonight, contemporary musicians on cello, bassoon and piano will reclaim the banished music of their forbears during an evening of “Recovered Music by Exiled German Jewish Composers.” Wilshire Boulevard Temple, Stephen S. Wise Temple and Kehillat Israel are underwriting the program and proceeds will benefit the Alfred and Miriam Wolf Scholarship Fund of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion. 4 p.m. $36. Second Space — The Stage @ Santa Monica, Santa Monica College Performing Arts Center, Santa Monica Boulevard (between 10th and 11th streets). (310) 434-3414. ” border=”0″ vspace=”8″ hspace=”8″ align=”left” alt=”pick”>Comedian Wendy Liebman confessed something during a Hillel fundraiser last summer that deeply shames her: “I have separation anxiety … so I can’t do laundry.” The fundraiser was so successful, it’s happening again. Hillel 818 Presents “Comedy Night” is a cacophony of L.A.’s most wicked, witty and wild talent: the handsome Elon Gold, Lisa Ann Walter, who’s not sure if she’s naughty or nice, and Liebman. With nights like these, the partnership between the Pierce and Valley Colleges Hillel and the CSUN Hillel seems like a match made in heaven. 7 p.m. (VIP reception), 8 p.m. (show). $10-$75. The World Famous Laugh Factory, 8001 Sunset Blvd., Hollywood. (818) 886-5101 or

Passover scholastic debate conflict resolved, sort of

After months of contentious back and forth over the scheduling of the statewide high school debate tournament on the first night of Passover, Jewish leaders and tournament organizers have reached a half-hearted detente that will not change the date but will ensure such a scheduling snafu will not happen again.

As part of the compromise, orchestrated by State Assemblyman Lloyd Levine (D-Van Nuys), the California High School Speech Association also wrote a letter of apology to its coaches, teams and the Jewish community — a move the independent umbrella organization had refused to make at a board meeting in September.

“The California High School Speech Association regrets the unfortunate and unintentional conflict of the 2008 state championship tournament with the important holiday of Passover,” the statement reads. “The California High School Speech Association takes enormous pride in the diversity of its membership. It is our desire to express our apologies that our actions will cause Jewish members of the speech community distress at having to choose between the Passover celebration and participation in the state tournament.”

Jewish leaders were satisfied with the statement, but disappointed that the date was not changed.

“Obviously we did not win on the most important point, changing the date, but the board’s actions in [January] were far more sensitive to the Jewish community than they had been in September,” said Doug Lasken, a debate coach at Taft High School in Woodland Hills and CHSSA board member, who brought the conflict to light last June. “For this reason we feel the struggle has been worthwhile.”

More than a thousand coaches, parents and students will spend three days, April 18-20, at Santa Clara University at the annual tournament, which culminates the year of debate competitions for schools across the state. The second day of the tournament — a date set more than a year before the event — coincides with the night of the first seder, the most observed and family-oriented ritual on the Jewish calendar.

Lasken and more than half his team could not attend the tournament, so they voted to boycott the event. Debate teams from Sherman Oaks Center for Enriched Studies and Oaks Christian High School in Westlake also voted to boycott the state debate tournament.

They will attend an alternative debate tournament on March 29, sponsored by the Los Angeles Unified School District, which wrote a letter of concern to CHSSA in October.

The Anti-Defamation League, the Board of Rabbis of Southern California and the Jewish Community Relations Councils of Los Angeles and San Francisco spent seven months trying to impress upon CHSSA how central the seder is to the ritual and family life of a broad swath of the Jewish community. They lobbied the group to explore a date change and offered their help to do so, but CHSSA continued to maintain that because venues were booked and paid for it was too late to change the date, which had been set more than a year in advance.

“Renowned pitcher Sandy Koufax never played on Rosh Hashanah and chose not to pitch during the World Series because it conflicted with Yom Kippur — the World Series was not moved,” Sharon Prefontaine, CHSSA president, told the Daily News in November. “Hank Greenberg, on the other hand, played on Rosh Hashanah but not on Yom Kippur.”

“As much as we might want to protect them from it,” she continued, “we understand that our students will have to make some difficult choices, at times, relative to their personal beliefs.”

That attitude toward any religious or ethnic community was not acceptable to many in the Jewish community.

“We don’t feel that high school students should have to make that kind of decision,” said Alison Mayersohn, senior associate director of the ADL’s Pacific Southwest Region. Students who work toward a goal all year shouldn’t have to “make the choice between your religious observance and your family holiday, or to reach the pinnacle of success in an extracurricular activity.”

Levine got involved this fall, meeting with both sides and bringing them together for a meeting in December. As a result of those meetings, the CHSSA board voted in January to insert into its bylaws a stipulation that it will avoid scheduling the tournament on major religious holidays, “within reason.” It also voted to issue the apology, but voted not to have the apology posted on its Web site. It left up an earlier explanation that does not contain the words “regret” or “apology.”

In a final irony, the alternative debate is scheduled for a Saturday.

While Rabbi Mark Diamond, executive vice president of the Board of Rabbis of Southern California, who was not involved in organizing the LAUSD debate, says he would have preferred a date that would have included Sabbath observers, it is Passover’s near universal observance among the Jewish community that made this scheduling conflict akin to having the tournament on Easter Sunday.

“What I have said from day one, what we have been repeating over and over again to speech association officials, is that this conflict is so poignant and gut-wrenching for families because Pesach is a home-centered observance,” Diamond said.

The alternative high school debate tournament, sponsored by LAUSD to accomodate Jewish students who cannot attend the statewide debate tournament scheduled for Passover, has been expanded to two days, Saturday, March 29 and Sunday, March 30. For information, contact tournament director Dlasken514@aol.com.

Million-dollar night for ADL

Awash in diamonds, dresses and lapels, wealthy and fashionable philanthropists worked their weight in gold: in just one night, $1 million was raised for the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), which inspired 850 guests with the creed, “Be the change you want to see in the world.”

Although the Regent Beverly Wilshire Hotel ballroom glittered with the promise of the American dream during the Dec. 1 celebration, Erwin Chemerinsky, newly appointed dean of UC Irvine’s Donald Bren School of Law, sobered the crowd with the message that fundamentalism crumbles freedom, and if we want to sustain the concept of liberty, we need the ADL “now more than ever.”

“I was told a speech should be funny and uplifting. I have failed at that tonight,” Chemerinsky said. “I have no doubt that when historians look back at the last quarter century, they will say the most important development has been the worldwide rise of fundamentalism,” which he acknowledged in Islam, Christianity and Judaism.

He warned that the wall separating church and state is becoming too porous, that evangelical Christians are talking about “the rapture” in mainstream circles and said, “When government becomes enmeshed with religion, this country could become inhospitable to Jews.”

Leave it to the ADL to inspire the inspired to rally to the cause once again. You already give big? Give more. Like board members George and Ruth Moss or the evening’s honorees, Fred and Lenore Kayne, who set ADL records with their annual gifts and received the Humanitarian Award.

There’s also Allen and Suzanne Lawrence and Jurisprudence and Justice Award honorees Marshall and Marlene Grossman, who clock in with assets and activism. All these people contribute significantly because they believe that the work ADL does is always relevant, always necessary.

And the strength of this crowd showed: ADL National Director Abraham Foxman shared a table with new-to-L.A. Israeli Consul General Jacob Dayan. Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Sherman Oaks) made the rounds and met Argentine Consul General Jorge Lapsenson and his wife, Rosa Matzkin.

Not that the evening lacked humor: Emcee Elon Gold did an Al Gore impersonation, and when Marshall Grossman took the podium to accept his honor, he cracked, “This is much more organized than the chaos you see at the Chabad telethon” — of which he is also a staunch supporter.

With ADL’s focus securing fair treatment for all citizens of the world, Grossman brought it home with an anecdote about the once racially exclusive Jonathan Club, a private social retreat in downtown Los Angeles, where Jews, blacks and Latinos were prohibited membership until the 1970s. Following the ADL’s involvement, including drawn-out negotiations and a court battle, the club no longer considers race, creed or color as conditions for membership.

For an organization like the ADL, there are always triumphs, as Grossman reminded everyone, and always more work to be done, as Chemerinsky urged. Parties like this one may be reason to dust off gowns and don locked-up jewels, dine among friends and feel darned grateful that you can give, give, give, but it’s also a moment to reflect: The problem is big, the consequences are real and every million raised has a million people that need it. It’s nice to be part of a community that cares.

(From left) Former UCLA Chancellor Albert Carnesale, Robin Gerber Carnesale, event co-chairs Ges and Seth Gerber.

Erwin Chemerinsky

JDub worldwide concerts add synergy to the season

The buzzword in business circles is synergy. That’s what JDub Records was looking for when it began to think about its third annual Chanukah event.

And when Daniel Brenner, vice president for education at the Birthright Israel
Foundation, told JDub heads Aaron Bisman and Jacob Harris that he was interested in doing a project with the nonprofit music label, the buzz of synergy filled the air.

The result is the most ambitious Chanukah program yet for the label, a set of concerts planned Dec. 8 around the world — Los Angeles; New York; San Francisco; Seattle; Boston; Washington, D.C.; Philadelphia; Moscow; Mumbai; Tel Aviv; Rio de Janeiro; Toronto; Sydney, and possibly others — as a way of reminding Jews of their global connection to one another and a good reason to party in earnest.

“We knew we wanted to do something bigger and better, and Birthright came at the
right time,” said Harris, the label’s vice president. “Birthright has all these
alumni on the ground, so we’re expanding our reach. And we’re bringing them a
quality program for their alumni.”

Brenner admitted that his original concept was a bit grander, perhaps a little
too much so.

“I had the wildly ambitious idea of doing this all around the world on the same
night in 50 cities,” he recalled with a laugh. “I had to be talked off that
cliff. I certainly wanted the global Jewish peoplehood theme, which is one of
the things Birthright people get to experience in this one night.”

In a sense, he noted, that is the key to the whole Jewish experience, the
fellowship feeling that exists despite the Diaspora.

“We’re blown to the different corners of the world, and here we are seeing one
another for the first time. I wanted to recreate that feeling on one night,” he
explained. “The secular analogue was Dick Clark and the New Year’s ball dropping
around the world. I wanted that global sensibility. This is something in which
we are all together on this special night.”

While the Clark analogy still holds, the result is slightly more modest,
although the program has continued to expand during the planning stages.
For Birthright, JDub was the perfect partner.

“I felt that JDub had already cultivated such a great group of Israeli and
American artists, this would be one way to kick-start this thing,” Brenner said.
“And they’ve gone beyond their own bands and found some exceptional talent for

Bisman noted: “Our Chanukah efforts have often been about launching new bands,
but this is obviously different. We wanted to hit significant audiences in a lot
of different places at once. We tried to design shows that make sense of each

“We knew, for instance, that for San Francisco, we wanted to get Apollo
Sunshine, because their indie-rock sensibility blends so well with the city’s.

We want to make interesting shows. It was not easy, but it was fun,” he added.
Ultimately, it always comes down to what is possible.

“It depends on who’s available on the date and who’s in town,” Bisman said, “We
wanted to have more Israeli bands involved, but to fly in an Israeli band for
one show is just impossible.”

The choice for Los Angeles is a particularly interesting one. The headliners are
JDub artists Balkan Beat Box, who have played the city several times before. And
the presence of one-half of the Israeli rap group, Soulico — the other members
will be at the New York concert — makes perfect sense, since both groups offer
spirited Israeli takes on hip-hop.

So why not have the Cambodian surf-rockers, Dengue Fever, play on the same bill?
It may seem counterintuitive, but both Harris and Bisman think the blend is

“The pairing speaks to the overall mission of JDub, promoting new Jewish music
and cross-cultural dialogue,” Harris said. “[Dengue Fever’s] manager is Jewish;
they are an indie-rock world music collective that is very interesting. They
reached out about playing with BBB and Golem [another JDub band] specifically.”

And what they’re doing with Cambodian music is related: “There’s a rich ethnic
history and a sense of being a Diaspora music that doesn’t fit within the
mainstream Western world”

“With Balkan, you need another band, a bunch of different voices,” Bisman added.
In general, JDub has been working to expand its presence in Los Angeles. In the
past year, it has hired its first full-time staff person for Los Angeles, and,
as Harris noted, “We’re trying to get local artists involved, doing parties like
we did when we got started in New York, and our bands are going to be doing a
lot more West Coast touring.”

Although the label’s Los Angeles profile was already simmering, JDub expects it
to blow up very big with this event.

“I think L.A. is going to be the biggest party of all the Chanukah shows,” Harris predicted. “I expect there will be nonstop dancing on the eighth.”

The Los Angeles show, featuring Balkan Beat Box, Dengue Fever, Soulico and the Festival of Rights, will take place on Dec. 8 at the Echoplex, 1154 Glendale
Blvd., Los Angeles. Doors will open at 8 p.m.; show will begin at 9 p.m. For
more information, phone (213) 413-8200 or visit http://www.goeight.com.

Balkan Beatbox live in France

Combining fact and fiction confuses peace event

On June 5, the 40th anniversary of the Six-Day War, two years after standing side-by-side with friends in Gush Katif in an attempt to ward off the evacuation of Gaza, I attended an Israeli-Palestinian peace event marking “40 years of war and occupation” at the Tel Aviv Cinemateque.

I have not converted to the left; I applaud the achievements of the Six-Day War, yet I cannot deny that the situation in the West Bank – Judea and Samaria – the territories, is a tragedy for both Israelis and Palestinians. Palestinians live in a virtual cage, and Israeli soldiers spend the best years of their lives checking Palestinian identity cards at checkpoints to sift out terrorists.

I decided to attend the event with an open mind, to approach it as an opportunity to learn more about the occupation, to show my solidarity with my leftist brethren and to express my appreciation for their humanitarian instincts. While we may disagree on how to end the occupation – I believe in Palestinian disarmament, not reckless Palestinian empowerment –we agree that the status quo is untenable.

The event was like an annual conference for anti-occupation groups. Card-carrying far-leftist organizations were represented by different booths: IPCRI, Machsomwatch, the Public Committee against Torture in Israel, Yesh Din, Combatants for Peace, Students for Equal Rights and the Arab-Hebrew Theater.

I arrived a little late, as people onstage were reciting testimonies of acts of Israeli aggression in the West Bank. One man described a group of maverick settlers grabbing an old Palestinian man’s cane and beating him, sending him to the hospital. An Israeli border policeman described the mutual hatred and distrust he had witnessed at checkpoints.

But probably the most moving testimony was that of a Palestinian woman named Jamilla. Wearing a beige hijab, she emotionally described how the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) once prevented her from passing a checkpoint while she was in the middle of labor contractions – she gave birth to a boy in a car, only to watch him die on the way to the hospital.

I was deeply saddened and hurt by these stories and grateful that they were being told. We can’t afford to hide from the truth, and I intended to confront my settler friends about such events, because I thought they would share my sadness.

In the middle of the courtyard, Machsomwatch (an organization that monitors IDF behavior at checkpoints) had created a makeshift checkpoint for people entering the Cinemateque building, where films documenting Palestinian hardships were to be shown. I waited inside the caged corridor leading to the revolving metal exit, and Jamilla was standing just in front of me.

We were trapped together, and I felt a need to say something, to apologize for her baby’s death. I knew at the height of my anger during the intifada – when a terrorist attack hit my favorite cafe and a friend got moderately wounded in another – I might have been guilty of bashing Palestinians, calling them horrible names and wishing upon them ugly things, but no one deserved her kind of suffering.

After all, we are all human beings, created in God’s image.

I mustered my courage, tears forming in my eyes – this was a big moment for me – and I said: “I’m sorry about what happened to you.” She nodded sympathetically, and I continued, “Not that sorry is the right thing to say. I don’t know what to say.”

She continued to nod, and I asked her how many children she had. Then she perked up and said: “It was an act!”

“What?” I asked, stupefied.

It turned out that some of the people who gave “testimonies” were actors from the Arab-Hebrew Theater, reciting monologues based on real-life testimonies. Jamilla was not an Arab but an Israeli, because Palestinians generally can’t enter Israel and “play” themselves.

She said she didn’t know whether the exact story she told was true but that similar things have happened.

At that moment, I really wanted to cry. My moment of reconciliation and empathy was killed and with it my open mind – I didn’t want it to be played with.

Waiting at the fake checkpoint actually became strangely enjoyable as I watched thespian “soldiers” in army uniforms dramatize the “humiliation” at the checkpoints. When it was my turn to pass, I went up the steps and they shouted, gruffly: “Don’t move!”

I laughed.

“Don’t smile!” one demanded.

Finally, I showed them my press card and passed through. One of the soldiers eventually smirked, too, and I told him that I write for a Los Angeles paper and joked that I can make him famous. It was all sadly comical, defeating the purpose of the installation, at least for me.

I remained outside and passed by the booth of Combatants for Peace, an organization consisting of IDF soldiers and Palestinian Fatah fighters now working toward peace through nonviolence.

A handsome 28-year-old Israeli student, Yonatan, a former tank officer who refuses to serve in the territories, told me that the organization was founded to bring together the “fighters” of Palestinian and Israeli society, considered the elite of their respective communities.

“Israelis should meet Palestinians and not rely on what they see on television,” he said.

Taking his encouragement, I jumped at the chance to speak with a Palestinian member of Parents’ Circle – Family Forum, which had an adjacent booth. The organization fosters dialogue between Palestinians and Israelis who lost family members in the last round of Israeli-Palestinian fighting.

Dark, thin Ibrahim Halil, 41, spoke fairly good English as we sat on plastic chairs in the courtyard. Finally, I got the chance to meet the “Palestinian future,” the “moderates” with whom we’ll eventually make peace and live side by side.

He joined the organization because he believes that “the most suitable meeting ground for making peace between Israelis and Palestinians are those who are paid the highest price.”

Jamming with the pros at Hamilton High

Kenny G reads Hebrew, knows a thing or two about kabbalah and blows the shofar at shul annually. “Because,” he said, “I am the only one who knows how.”

Looks like Kenny is a model Jew. “We used to be on the road, and Kenny would insist that we celebrate all the Jewish holidays,” recalled Jeff Lorber, renowned keyboardist, composer and record producer. “In 1980 we bought all the food and had a Passover seder in our Holiday Inn hotel room.”

G, in Kenny’s case, is in place of Gorelick. One Kenneth Gorelick, along with musicians Paula Cole, Lorber, Chris Botti, Billy Childs and the horns of Blood, Sweat and Tears, volunteered his talent for an evening of charity at the Academy of Music at Hamilton High School on June 7. The event raised $350,000 for the music magnet school that serves 925 students from 96 ZIP codes in the L.A. area.

A few names at the event: Los Angeles City Councilman Jack Weiss; Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Chair Zev Yaroslavsky; 14-time Grammy Award-winner David Foster; and Bobby Colomby, founder of the rock band Blood, Sweat and Tears.

A long list of Jewish men at the Hamilton High event opened up and grew excited to tell about their roots.

Colomby recalled growing up in New York “without trauma or difficulty” with parents who were Holocaust survivors. Of the eight Blood, Sweat and Tears band members in 1967, he said, five were Jewish.

Norm Pattiz, founder and chairman of radio giant Westwood One and donor to both the Hamilton event and the Norman J. Pattiz Concert Hall at Hamilton High, recalled attending the high school back in the 1950s when it had an all-Jewish student body. Lorber spoke of the Jewish value of fostering the arts in children, recalling his own childhood surrounded by music.

But amid the crowd it was Kenny G, minus the Gorelick, who was most comfortable speaking about his Judaism. Cascading curls and all, Kenny played at the benefit like a proper pied piper, finessing the crowd in the aisles of the auditorium.

The event, featuring remarkable performances by Hamilton’s own jazz vocal and instrumental acts, ended with a grand finale performance featuring, among others, Cole on vocals, Kenny G and Botti on wind instruments, the Blood, Sweat, and Tears horn section, and Lorber on piano.

This is not your ordinary high school.

Lauding Leiweke; Charitable home run; Friedman reappointed

Lauding Leiweke

AEG President and CEO Tim Leiweke recently received the Anti-Defamation League’s (ADL) Humanitarian Award at the ADL Entertainment Industry Awards. Los Angeles Police Department Chief William J. Bratton presented the award at Staples Center.

More than 600 people — including many entertainment industry luminaries, — attended the sold-out event, which raised more than $1 million to help ADL fight bigotry, prejudice and anti-Semitism. American Idol judge Randy Jackson hosted while a laughter slam dunk was handily delivered by comedian Bill Engvall.

Leiweke referred to “our obligation to give our kids a better world,” saying “hopefully ADL will help us do this.”

AEG is a leading presenter of global sports and entertainment programming. As president, Leiweke has formed alliances with more than 40 divisions and companies to produce global live sports and music events in AEG-owned facilities and other venues. He is also president of Staples Center and of the Los Angeles Kings and serves on the Los Angeles Lakers board of directors.

Leiweke formed and directs the Kings Care Foundation, which was awarded the 1999 Pro Team Community Award. Specially designed T-shirts were given in goody bags to stress the importance of ADL’s commitment to battle hatred.

Also attending were Leah Mendelsohn, who with Nancy Parris Moskowitz will co-chair the upcoming ADL Deborah Awards dinner on June 5.

Charitable Home Run

More than 350 charity-minded women gathered recently at the Beverly Hills Hotel for the Sports Spectacular Women’s Luncheon. The luncheon is the annual kick-off event for the upcoming 22nd annual Sports Spectacular dinner gala, which raises funds for the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center Genetics Institute.

Luncheon sponsor, De Beers, treated guests to a stunning fashion show, featuring the fashions of Monique Lhuillier. One lucky winner went home with a pair of ‘wildflower’ diamond earrings, valued at more than $10,000, courtesy of De Beers.

Friedman reappointed

Attorney Andrew Friedman has been reappointed as Judicial Procedures Commissioner for the County of Los Angeles. Friedman has been in private law practice for the past 35 years and is currently serving as Fire Commissioner for the City of Los Angeles and Hearing Officer for the Civil Service Commission. He is President of Congregation Bais Naftoli and lives in Los Angeles with his wife and four children.

Justice advocate

Winners of the inagural Larry Schulner International Social Justice Award, created by the World Union for Progressive Judaism (WUPS) in memory of Lawrence M. Schulner, were feted recently.

Schulner was a resident of the Los “Angeles area and a longtime advocate for Reform Judaism, Reform Zionism, social justice, religious pluralism, philanthropic vision and tikkun olam. The award honors his memory by recognizing individuals or congregations for activities or programs that raise awareness of and support social justice, religious pluralism, or tikkun olam outside of North America.

The 2007 winners are: Wilshire Boulevard Temple of Los Angeles and Rabbi Haim Asa, rabbi emeritus of Temple Beth Tikvah in Fullerton.

The awards were presented at the Union for Reform Judaism’s Regional Biennial in Costa Mesa by Mandy Eisner, regional director of the WUPS, and Rabbi Joel Oseran, WUPS vice president.

The WUPS is the umbrella organization of the worldwide Reform movement.

Rothsteins honored

Chabad of Bel Air used the occasion of its 22nd Anniversary “spreading Judaism with a smile” in the Bel Air area to honor Roz and Jerry Rothstein for their impressive legacy of dedication and service to the Jewish community. During their Black Tie/Masquerade Party at the Beverly Hills Hotel, Chabad of Bel Air honored the Rothsteins for their tremendous work for Israel through StandWithUs. Rabbi Chaim Mentz applauded their dedication and commitment to the Jewish Community and its needs.

Chabad of Bel Air is well known for their energetic Friday Night Services and Torah Entertainment for Shabbat Morning.

For more information, go to StandWithUs.com or ChabadofBelAir.org.

Hirsh hailed

A stellar cast of luminaries delivered an evening of humor at the expense of the legal profession when the Beverly Hills Bar Association (BHBA) Entertainment Law Section honored Barry L. Hirsch, of Hirsch Wallerstein Hayum Matlof and Fishman, as their Entertainment Lawyer of the Year at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel. Comedian Rob Schneider led a hilarious — albeit brutal — attack on such icons as Steven Bochco, Bernie Mac and Richard Gere, but there was no humor in the praise heaped on Hirsh as an attorney, friend and advocate for his impressive client list.

Hirsh, feted for ardently serving his clients as both friend and legal adviser, has been a mainstay in entertainment law for many years. He said his love of cinema led him to his calling, and recounted how proud he was as a young lawyer to represent Bette Davis, after growing up in awe of her talent.

Surrounded by family members, Hirsh greeted friends with his grandson, (who he obviously dotes upon) by his side. Uber-tax attorney Robert Jason said he has always been impressed by Hirsh’s consideration and effective advocacy for his clients. Proceeds from the event benefit the BHBA’s education and community outreach programs.

Class Notes

Deep Thoughts for Teens
Teens searching for meaning and direction — and what teen isn’t? — can find some Jewish guidance at Nativ-Jewish Teen Seminars, a new nondenominational weekend workshop program affiliated with the West Valley’s JCC at Milken with the goal of helping teens navigate big decisions and difficult issues in a Jewish context.

The two-and-half-day or four-day seminars are facilitated by Jackie Redner, rabbi of Vista Del Mar Child and Family Services and former campus rabbi at Kadima Hebrew Academy, and by Beth Freishtat, who developed the program and who has a master’s degree in clinical psychology and adolescent and family therapy.

Through discussions and activities, the groups will explore themes such as peer relationships, family conflict, spirituality, self-image, sex, love, individuality and belonging, anger, discrimination, drugs and alcohol, and hopes and dreams. The semiars take place at the Westside JCC and at the JCC at Milken. Upcoming Nativ dates are April 13-15, May 18-20, June 22-24 and July 6-8.

For more information, visit www.nativseminars.com.

Preschool Teachers Get Basic Training
Close to 1,000 preschool directors and teachers attended a day of Judaic, pedagogic, and child development workshops at the Bureau of Jewish Education’s annual Bebe Feuerstein Simon Early Childhood Spring Institute last month.

Nationally renowned early Jewish educator and author Bev Bos led sessions in her field of expertise — “Memories and Traditions,” “How Children Grow” and “Creative Art, Music and Language.” Forty other presenters led sessions on a range of topics.

The day also featured awards presentations. The Lainer Distinguished Educator Awards for Early Childhood Educators, which include a cash gift of $2,500, were presented to Jeri Dubin, a preschool teacher at the Adat Ari El Rose Engel Early Childhood Center; Miri Hever, a Gesher teacher at University Synagogue; and Hilary Steinberg, a 20-year veteran educator at Valley Beth Shalom Nursery School. Some 15 teachers also received The Smotrich Family Educator Awards, which recognize innovative Judaica curriculum projects.

For more information, visit www.bjela.org.

YULA Scores Diplomatic Coup
For the sixth time in the last eight years, Los Angeles’ YULA yeshiva high school was named best delegation at the Yeshiva University National Model United Nations. Students from more than 40 Jewish day schools from across the United States and Canada participated in the conference, representing 46 countries and international agencies. They spent three days analyzing and developing solutions to such problems as global warming, the distribution of power within the United Nations, gender discrimination in the world community, and the international response to natural disasters.

YULA’s 18-member delegation, led by senior co-captains Ari Platt and Adina Wolkenfeld, represented India, Belarus and Uruguay. The team brought home four best delegate and six honorable mention awards.

For information visit www.yula.org or www.yulagirls.org.

New Educational Leadership at HUC-JIR
Michael Zeldin, professor of Jewish Education a the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR) in Los Angeles, will succeed professor Sara S. Lee, who will retire after 27 years as director of HUC-JIR’s Rhea Hirsch School of Education (RHSOE) on June 30. Lee and Zeldin have worked together as colleagues for the past 25 years.

“The appointment of Dr. Zeldin signals that the distinguished legacy of professor Lee will be carried forward,” HUC-JIR President David Ellenson said. “As a renowned scholar, gifted teacher, and passionate advocate for Jewish education, Dr. Zeldin will sustain the RHSOE as a model of integrated learning and excellence that has inspired others in the field of Jewish education.”

Lee will continue to teach and guide special projects part-time as a professor emeritus. More than 275 graduates of the RHSOE lead Jewish educational programs in Reform congregations and day schools throughout North America.

For more information, visit www.huc.edu.

Hi-Tech Jetsetters
Two students and a professor from the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology visited the Western states last month as guests of the American Technion Society.

Anat-Anna Gileles a third-year student, who studies molecular biochemistry, and Reuven Nir, who is pursuing a doctorate in medicine and conducting research on the neurological mechanism underlying pain and the processing of pain itself, toured with professor Shimon Haber, the Technion dean of students, and a member of the faculty of mechanical engineering. The students met with supporters not only to share their research, but to add a personal element to the connection between Technion and the United States.

For more information, call (323) 857-5575 or visit www.ats.org.

Free Holocaust Workshop for Teachers
Educators are invited to a free workshop that will present “Echoes and Reflections: A Multimedia Curriculum on the Holocaust,” developed by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), Yad Vashem and USC Shoah Visual History Foundation.

The workshop, sponsored by the ADL in partnership with the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust, will take place at the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust, 6435 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 303, May 6, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. R.S.V.P. required by April 20, at (310) 446-8000 ext. 241 or vmorishige@adl.org.

Holocaust Workshop
Last month, 30 educators from across Los Angeles participated in a five-week workshop, “The Relevance of Teaching the Holocaust in the 21st Century,” co-sponsored by the ADL, the Simon Wiesenthal Center Museum of Tolerance and the Center for Excellence on the Study of the Holocaust, Genocide, Human Rights and Tolerance. Teachers from public, private and religious schools learned the historical background of the Holocaust, as well as practical ways to introduce their students to this material.

For further information visit www.adl.org or www.echoesandreflections.org.

College Shabbaton
EdJewCate, a new organization bringing Torah-observant teachers, information and programming to college students and young adults, is holding its kickoff Shabbaton weekend retreat in Los Angeles April 20-22 at the Westin LAX Hotel. Featured speakers include rebbetzin Esther Jungreis, author of “The Committed Life” and “Life is a Test”; Rabbi Yaakov Yisroel Wenglin, author and presenter of “Full Contact Judaism” and Rabbi Alexander Seinfeld, author of “The Art of Amazement.”

For more information visit www.edjewcate.com.

Preteens Get a Taste of the Future
Middle schoolers at Pressman Academy took part in the daylong Total Teen Expo last month. Rabbi Shawn Fields-Meyer was the keynote speaker, and she used a personal story, a Chasidic tale and popular music to help students understand their power to improve the world. The day’s sessions included a police detective, author Dana Reinhardt, screenwriter Ed Solomon and L.A. City Council Chief of Staff David Gershwin, leading sessions on Internet safety, fitness, etiquette, nutrition and budgeting. The day ended with a poetry slam led by Eitan Kadosh and a drumming circle.

Acts of Faith

Prison Chaplain Seeks Biblical Help
This Passover as we celebrate our freedom, many men and women do not have that luxury, as they are in prison. Some still celebrate their spiritual freedom, though, with the help of Rabbi Yossi Carron, a chaplain of the Los Angeles prison system.

Carron helps prisoners by leading weekly Torah study groups and ministering to individual inmates at each of the half-dozen jails in his chaplaincy. But he said he needs help. He needs books.

“I know that all of you are aware of the transformational work I do serving the Jewish inmates in the largest jails in the United States,” he wrote in a e-mail plea to the Jewish community. “These men and women are so inspired by the texts of our tradition as they endeavor to turn their lives around. Unfortunately, we have a big problem. Almost no books: Tanakhim, siddurim, Chumashim, Jewish recovery books. My Christian colleagues are distributing the New Testament by the truckloads and I am in dire need of supplies.”

Carron mentions some of his men who are doing well because of their newfound connection to Judaism while they were in prison. He says that “Ari” has been sober for two and a half years, made restitution for what he did and is now in medical school; “Mike” has enrolled in USC to complete his last semester and is due to graduate in August; and “Steven” is now working in mortgage banking.

More books are needed to help men and women recover, draw meaning from their heritage to improve their lives and prepare them to enter the community as productive members.

“Remember that our tradition tells us that ‘if you save one life, it is as if you saved the world.'”

For a tax-deductible donation, send a check to The Board of Rabbis of Southern California, 6505 Wilshire Blvd. Suite 430, Los Angeles, CA 90049. Write On check: FOR RABBI CARRON’S BOOK/SUPPLYFUND. Or to Rabbi Yossi Carron, Mekom Tikvah: A Place of Hope, 17046 Burbank Blvd. Unit ’11, Encino, CA 91316.
To see the wishlist of books needed go to www.amazon.com/gp/registry/wishlist/17VAWQJ5861X6/ref=cm_wl_rlist_go/105-3566560-5906057
and send the books to Rabbi Carron, Men’s Central Jail, Office of Religious practices, 441 Bauchet Street, Los Angeles, CA 90012.

Pluralistic Bet Din Reopens
The Sandra Caplan Community Bet Din of Southern California, a local pluralistic religious court dealing with conversions, has resumed operation after three months’ closure due to lack of funding.

The beit din has recently raised $5,000 in a challenge grant by George Caplan, the original funder of the court. These funds should last a year or two, as all the rabbis donate their services for free, and only operational costs are necessary.

“It’s the only permanent pluralistic beit din in the United States,” said Rabbi Jerrold Goldstein, who serves as secretary.

The court has performed more than 100 conversions since its inception in 2002. The conversions are acceptable to Reform, Reconstructionist and Conservative movements, in an effort to streamline the process for converts who may choose to belong to one of those denominations.

For more information, visit www.scbetdin.us.

Tasting Judaism, the Reform Way
The Union of Reform Judaism (URJ) has begun its successful “Taste of Judaism” program here in Los Angeles, in 17 synagogue locations from San Pedro to Woodland Hills.

“A Taste of Judaism” consists of three free sessions: Jewish Ethics, Jewish Community and Jewish Spirituality, and is aimed at “beginners, open to anyone, Jewish or not,” as the ad says.

As an outreach tool, “A Taste of Judaism: Are You Curious?” reaches out to unaffiliated adults — Jews, interfaith couples and their families and anyone who is interested in learning more about Judaism. Each class aims to provide participants in three two-hour sessions with a “taste” of what is delicious about Judaism in the areas of spirituality, ethics and community (God, Torah and Israel) in order to whet their appetites for further Jewish learning and to provide opportunities for participation in congregational life.

Since its inception in 1994, when 171 people responded to the first offerings in New Jersey, “A Taste of Judaism” has reached more than 75,000 participants in almost every state and province throughout the United States and Canada. It has been offered in 450 synagogues, both in large metropolitan areas with many congregations offering the program concurrently, as well as in smaller communities with a single small congregation.

According to the URJ, after the program, more than 33 percent of all participants enrolled in “Introduction to Judaism” classes; 34 percent enrolled in other congregational adult education offerings; 13 percent of non-Jews sought out sponsoring rabbis and entered the process of conversion; and nearly 20 percent of Jewish participants joined a synagogue.

“This program throws the doors open of our classes like a gift to the people of Los Angeles,” says Arlene Chernow, regional director of outreach and membership. “Come and meet our Reform rabbis and learn enough about Judaism so you can decide if you want to learn more,” she said.

For more information, visit www.urj.org/outreach/classes/taste.

Taste of Judaism – class dates and locations

April 9:
Northridge – Temple Ahavat Shalom

April 10:
Valley Village – Temple Beth Hillel

Los Angeles – Leo Baeck Temple

April 11:
Tarzana – Temple Judea

Hollywood – Temple Israel of Hollywood

April 12:
Los Angeles – Wilshire Blvd Temple

April 15:
Woodland Hills – Temple Kol Tikvah

April 17:
Brentwood – University Synagogue

April 18
West Hollywood – Congregation Kol Ami

April 19:
San Pedro – Temple Beth El

May 2:
Los Angeles – Wilshire Blvd Temple

The Circuit

Terrorist Expert Feted
Noted terrorism expert Steve Emerson was presented with a special proclamation from Beverly Hills by former Mayor Steve Webb.

Emerson, one of the foremost experts on terrorism, works closely with law enforcement agencies and the intelligence community. He has participated in substantial undercover work to expose the threat from within to the security of the United States.

He heads the Investigative Project on Terrorism and is the author of “American Jihad: The Terrorists Living Among Us.”

According to Emerson, “….This zealous strain of Islam will settle for nothing less than our total subjugation or destruction. It couples its zealotry in pursuit of its goals with patience as to achieving them. An informed American public can confront this threat — not with anxiety and dread, but with intelligence, honesty and courage.”

Women of Vision
The vision was beautiful from every angle at the 2007 Women of Vision Luncheon, honoring Ruth Abramson, Elyssa Kupferberg, Barbara “Bobby” Deane, and Marion Silberberg at the Four Seasons Resort in Palm Beach. Almost 250 women and men attended the luncheon, third in a series of bi-annual affairs in which the Palm Beach Region of the American Committee for the Weizmann Institute of Science recognizes women in the community who have made a difference. Guests viewed a video presentation narrated by the four honorees that discussed the influences that propelled them to become community leaders, their passions and the reason why the work of the Weizmann Institute of Science was important to each of them.

Dr. Margaret McKenna, president of Lesley University in Boston, was the keynote speaker and addressed the impact of women in leadership positions. She commented that Weizmann has been selected by scientists at biomedical research institutions as the most outstanding place to work, and that the percentage of women in its graduate degree program, about 50 percent, is almost unheard of in the world of science.

To learn more about the Weizmann Institute, go to

Briefs: Sacha Borat Cohen scores at Golden Globes; Former Carter Center official at Temple Sinai

‘Borat’s’ Cohen Takes Golden Globe

Sacha Baron Cohen convulsed the Golden Globe audience on Monday evening as he picked up the top award for best actor in a comedy or musical movie, but Cambridge University’s favorite alumnus also showed his serious side.

Addressing all those who still didn’t get the point of “Borat: Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan” (such as the president of Iran), Baron Cohen told Variety and other backstage reporters:

“The movie is mocking Borat’s beliefs. All his beliefs seem laughable — whether he’s homophobic or misogynistic or anti-Semitic, they’re all seen as forms of delusion.

“He doesn’t just think Jews are good with money, he thinks they can change their shape into little insects,” he said. “And the point of that is to show that all prejudice is ridiculous.”

On stage, Baron Cohen verbally reprised the film’s famous nude wrestling match with co-star Kern Davitian.

“I saw some dark parts of America, an ugly side of America,” Baron Cohen deadpanned. “I refer of course to the anus and testicles of my co-star,” pointing to Davitian.

“When I was in that scene and I stared down and saw your two wrinkled golden globes on my chin, I thought to myself, ‘I better win a bloody award for this.'”

“Borat” will gain some momentum from the Golden Globe honors but whether it’s enough to propel him to an Oscar nomination or award is questionable.

Unlike the Golden Globes, which split the movie categories between “comedy or musical” and “drama,” the Academy Awards combine them into a single category.

Baron Cohen would have to beat the entire field of top American and British actors to take the prize.

— Tom Tugend, Contributing Editor

Former Carter Fellow Addresses Sinai Temple

Dr. Kenneth W. Stein, who broke with Jimmy Carter over “inaccuracies and distortions” in the former president’s book, “Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid,” addressed about 600 people at Sinai Temple on Jan. 11. Co-sponsored by Sinai Temple and StandWithUs, the talk was Stein’s first appearance outside of Atlanta since the Emory University scholar resigned his position as Middle East fellow with the university’s Carter Center in December.

Stein’s Sinai Temple address focused on factual misrepresentations in the book dealing with the wording of U.N. Resolution 242, Carter’s Damascus meeting with Syrian President Hafez al-Assad and the Camp David accords. In each instance, Stein said Carter skewed the facts in favor of Israel’s foes.

According to Stein, Carter is “deft, clever and intelligent” but lacking in understanding of the political and social culture of the Middle East. He believes that the “essence of Carter’s anger” with Israel stems from his strained relationship with Prime Minister Menachem Begin whom, Stein said, “never gave Carter a fall-back position” during the Camp David negotiations.

Stein cited Carter’s intelligence and remarkable memory, and said that while not anti-Semitic, the former president believes in the rectitude of his position.

During the question-and-answer session Rabbi David Wolpe asked whether Carter’s dislike of Israel “skewed the acuity of his memory.”

Stein said that Carter “hones in on what he wants to hear and write about. He wants you to conclude that the conflict is Israel’s fault and he believes the end justifies the means.”

On the destructiveness of Carter’s book, Stein said he felt that in the last few years “Israel’s history has been hijacked” and he fears that “American Jews are asleep.” He added that the most important duty American Jews have today is to “teach our history to our children.”

— Peter L. Rothholz, Contributing Writer

L.A. Maccabi, Milken JCC Honor Longtime Organizer

If the Maccabi Games are the Jewish Olympics, then Dr. Jerry Bobrow is the Los Angeles team captain. For the past 18 years, Bobrow has served as chairman of the Los Angeles JCC Maccabi Organizing Committee, leading thousands of young L.A. Jews in a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Maccabi Team Los Angeles and the New JCC at Milken will honor Bobrow at The Night of Maccabi Champions on Jan. 20 at the Universal Hilton, where more than 400 people will gather to celebrate his commitment and contribution to the games.

“He has involved and engaged thousands of Jewish families and their teenagers and helped them to develop strong Jewish identities,” said Michael Jeser, assistant executive director at the JCC at Milken.

Born in Rome to Holocaust survivors, Bobrow moved to California at a young age. He became a track and field star at Fontana High School, a baseball star at Whittier College and pitched semipro baseball for nine seasons. He went on to coach youth and high school baseball for more than 40 years and is now a member of the Southern California Jewish Sports Hall of Fame.

“I’ve always been a passionate sports fan and athlete, and the Maccabi Games are the perfect connection between sports and the community. I love to get Jewish athletes more involved and help bring them into the Jewish community and the Jewish community centers,” said Bobrow, who has been a board member of the Jewish Centers Association since the early 1980s.

The North American Maccabi games began in 1982. Today more than 6,000 Jewish athletes, ages 13-16, participate in the annual summer games. Under Bobrow’s leadership, the Los Angeles delegation has grown to more than 200, the maximum number allowed.

For Bobrow, the games are not just an athletic event, but a place for Jewish youth to make friends for life. “They get to know other kids, and they just make this special connection, which I think is tremendously important,” said Bobrow, who calls the delegation “Team Los Angeles.” “We’re bound as a delegation, to get to know each other, to raise social awareness, and to get kids more involved.”

— Carin Davis, Contributing Writer

At Party Time: Candy is dandy — charity is sweeter

I was struggling to secure a tiny satin kippah with a granny-sized bobby pin when it hit me like a ton of Pampers: One day (assuming we both survive the main event at the bris), this 8-day-old baby will be standing on the bar mitzvah bimah wearing a really big satin kippah!
Determined not to let this postpartum hormonal surge detract from my newborn’s Judaic debut, I tacked on the teeny beanie with some double-sided tape and reassured myself that 13 was still a jillion years away.

Then one day when my son was in fourth grade, I received a letter from my synagogue assigning him a bar mitzvah date. Surely they jest, I cajoled myself. They didn’t. In fact, by the time I’d made my way back from the mailbox the phone was ringing off the hook.

“We got our date, did you get yours?” panted a breathless voice I scarcely recognized as a friend of mine. “The party planner is booking three years out, so you have to call her right away.”

And just like that, a jillion years came to a screeching halt as I was thrown headfirst into the maelstrom of bar mitzvah planning.

As my son’s bar mitzvah day inched closer, I began to see the world in a whole different light — a disco ball light, to be exact — for as my child grew, so did his friends, officially putting us both on the b’nai mitzvah circuit.

And what an elaborately themed circuit it was. From were casino getups that could rival Caesar’s Palace to dance floors flanked with Harley Davidson motorcycles.

How did this happen? My fellow bar mitzvah circuiteers and I would wonder. How did the guests who came to witness our child take part in an age-old Jewish tradition end up playing blackjack and Texas hold ’em? How did our resolve to remain focused on what really mattered evolve into a custom-designed ice sculpture of Shawn Green?

The answer is not difficult. We got lost. Lost in intense societal pressure to follow up our child’s Judaic rite of passage with a killer party. Lost in a secular theme that somehow took on a life of its own. Lost in our child’s insistence that she’s “only been looking forward to having a candy-themed bat mitzvah for her whole entire life.”

But my daughter really has been looking forward to having a candy-themed bat mitzvah for her whole entire life, you may be thinking. We have it all planned out — “Samantha’s Candy Shoppe.” Every centerpiece will be inspired by a different type of candy; we’ll have an 8-foot chocolate fountain in the middle of the room, and the favors will be Hershey bars with all her vital bat mitzvah stats etched on the label in hot pink.

The trouble is that — despite honest parental intentions — following up a meaningful, religious milestone with a glitzy party focusing exclusively on Kit Kats and Jelly Bellies can undermine the entire point of our child having a bar or bat mitzvah in the first place.

That said, I’m not suggesting we bail on our kids’ secular dream themes altogether. I mean while it’s clearly not what the talmudic rabbis had in mind, I think it’s kind of sweet that the bar/bat mitzvah party has evolved into a celebration of the whole child. The trick is in keeping a fluid connection between the morning service and the evening celebration; between Jewish values and kid-defined rules of party cool.

One way to build this crucial bridge is to integrate tzedakah into our party theme.

We added depth to my son’s fun — but admittedly uninspiring — Super Bowl bar mitzvah theme by incorporating an overnight camp for children with life-threatening diseases that was desperately in need of sporting equipment. All the centerpieces were constructed from donatable sports gear, and there was a collection station set up at the entrance to the party room (Brandon had written his guests in advance explaining his cause and providing them a copy of the camp’s athletic supply wish list). The requisite football theme didn’t suffer a smidgen, and the charity received a U-Haul full of brand new sporting goods as a goody bag.

To help you infuse Jewish soul into your child’s dream party, here are some popular secular bar/bat mitzvah themes and sample tzedakah spin-offs:

Theme: Sports

Tzedakah: Jewish National Fund Project Baseball (‘ target=’_blank’>www.specialolympics.org)

Theme: Books (e.g., Harry Potter, Nancy Drew)

Tzedakah: KOREH L.A. (‘ target=’_blank’>www.njcl.net); Jewish Braille Institute of America ‘ target=’_blank’>www.jfsla.org); Jewish Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Los Angeles (‘ target=’_blank’>www.hazon.org); Tour de Cure for Diabetes (‘ target=’_blank’>www.livestrong.org).

Theme: Safari

Tzedakah: COEJL: Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life (‘ target=’_blank’>www.treepeople.org); Los Angeles Zoo (‘ target=’_blank’>www.ecostation.org); Wildlife Conservation Society (‘ target=’_blank’>jfsla.org); MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger (‘ target=’_blank’>www.projectchickensoup.org).

Sharon Duke Estroff is an internationally syndicated Jewish parenting columnist, award-winning Jewish educator and mother of four. Her first book, “Can I Have a Cell Phone for Hanukkah? The Essential 411 on Raising Modern Jewish Kids” (Broadway Books) will be published in 2007.

The kreme de la kreme of kosher kooking mix it up

When Michaela Rosenthal threw some leftover gefilte fish into her potato knish recipe, she never imagined it might be worth $20,000.

“I didn’t want to waste the one piece I had left,” said the Woodland Hills housewife and mother of two grown children.

It turned out to be a good move for Rosenthal, whose whitefish and potato knishes in lemon horseradish sauce took one of two first-place spots at the Simply Manischewitz Cook-Off Western semifinal at the Hilton Orange County in Costa Mesa earlier this month.

The veteran of cooking challenges competed against nine other California amateur chefs at the last of three regional contests sponsored by the nation’s largest processed kosher food manufacturer.

She and co-winner Andrea Bloom of Long Beach, who earned accolades from the judges for her savory pea and fennel soup, will fly to New York in February to compete in the finals for a $20,000 grand prize package, including a GE Profile kitchen and cash.

The first-ever national kosher cook-off is intended to demonstrate to consumers the flexibility, speed and convenience of kosher cooking, while showcasing the Manischewitz label.

“When people think of kosher, they think of a slow process, like briskets,” said David Rossi, Manischewitz vice president of marketing. “We wanted to break that mold and give our core Jewish consumers new ideas about how to use our products.”

Thirty recipes were selected from more than 1,000 entries to compete in semifinals in New Jersey, Florida and Costa Mesa this fall. To qualify, recipes had to be original, kosher, limited to eight ingredients, including at least one Manischewitz product, and preparable in one hour or less. A panel of food experts, including Cooking Light magazine’s executive chef, Billy Strynkowski, selected the semifinalists.

Maintaining Manischewitz’s strict standards of kashrut for the multivenue event was no small task for the Secaucus, N.J.-based company.

“A lot goes on behind the scenes in a kosher cook-off,” Rossi said. “We essentially set up 10 kosher kitchens in the ballroom.”

“All stages of preparation for the event and the actual event itself were in accordance with traditional Jewish law,” said Rabbi Yaakov Horowitz, who supervises kashrut for Manischewitz.

Cook-off co-sponsor GE provided 10 stove-top ovens that were kashered and transported cross-country for the semifinals. New utensils and cookware were cleansed in a mikvah and labeled dairy, meat or pareve, and all ingredients were purchased and supervised by local mashgichim. Judges tasted the dairy offerings first and then the pareve and meat ones.

Inventiveness was on the menu, with offerings ranging from modern twists on traditional favorites, like almond milk-infused simcha sweet potato soup served up by Redondo Beach’s Terry Gladstone, to Mexican-influenced dishes, such as Los Angeles resident Ellen Burr’s “zesty Mexi chicken and matzah ball soup.” Organizers and judges got a literal and figurative kick out of the local zest.

“I love the spirit of the contestants and the creativity we’re seeing,” said Jeremy J. Fingerman, CEO of the R.A.B. Food Group, which owns Manischewitz. “We’re seeing different flavors out here than we saw in other parts of the country, more heat, more jalape?os. ‘Zesty Mexi chicken soup,’ you don’t see that in New York.”

Another south-of-the border-inspiration was Lowell Bernstein’s “matzah-males,” a creative take on traditional tamales. The education consultant and only male competitor developed the recipe after mastering Mexican cooking, because he was looking for something “bready” to eat at Passover.

“I substitute matzah meal for corn meal and wrap it in a banana peel, instead of a corn husk. It’s glatt kosher and kosher for Passover. It’s where a matzah ball and a taco meet.”

Bernstein’s creativity was not lost on the judges.

“Tamales made of matzah is close to brilliant,” said OCR Magazines publisher Chris Schulz.

Joining Schulz on the panel was an eclectic group of foodies and nonfoodies, both Jewish and non-Jewish, including cookbook author and Jewish Journal contributor Judy Bart Kancigor. Some, like Cooking Light magazine’s Kyle Crowner, had limited experience with kosher cuisine but were impressed.

“This food is much lighter for the most part,” Crowner said, noting the consumer trend toward flavor without added calories. The contest was further proof that kosher cooking has become mainstream, she added.

While contestants said they had been making their recipes long before they knew of the cook-off, some admitted having tweaked their ingredients to feature more Manischewitz products.

“After I saw the ad for the contest, I added the lemon horseradish sauce,” Rosenthal said. “It went ‘click’ and all fit together. I’ll be serving it with the sauce from now on.”

Simply Manischewitz Cook-Off Western Semifinal Winning Recipes:

Michaela Rosenthal’s Whitefish and Potato Knish

2/3 cup instant mashed potatoes
2/3 cup boiling water
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1 can (2.8 ounces) french-fried onions
1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley, plus more for garnish
1 jar (24 ounces) Manischewitz whitefish, drained and patted dry
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 box (17.03 ounces) frozen puff pastry, defrosted
2 teaspoons Manischewitz fish seasoning
8 teaspoons Manischewitz creamy horseradish sauce with lemon

Preheat the oven to 375 F. Line a large, rimless cookie sheet with parchment paper or grease with butter. Place instant potatoes in a medium bowl. Add boiling water and stir to combine.

Measure two teaspoons of the melted butter and set aside. Add remaining butter to potatoes and mix well. Stir in fried onions and parsley.

Mash fish and add to potato mixture. Add salt and pepper to taste. Mix well.
Remove both pieces of puff pastry onto a floured board. Unfold and cut along natural folds to form six equal rectangles. Remove two rectangles for another use. With a floured rolling pin, roll remaining four rectangles slightly to flatten.

Spoon one-quarter of potato-fish mixture onto each of the four rectangles and level to within half inch of the edges. Fold edges of dough and roll each piece into a log (like a jellyroll). Pinch seam lightly to seal. Trim unfilled dough ends.

ORT Ovation; Law and Laughter; Stand and Deliver

ORT Ovation

Education and life were celebrated at the Beverly Hilton’s Rodeo Gallery on Dec. 3 for the L.A. Chapter of American ORT’s 26th annual Chanukah Brunch honoring JDate and Sparks Networks founder Joe Shapira. A 1972 graduate of ORT Singalovski Institute of Technology in Tel Aviv, Shapira used his success to benefit ORT by sponsoring fundraising events as a part of ORT’s elite international donor group, 1880 Society. Emceed by KNX 1070 reporter Laura Ornest, the event honored supporters’ efforts over the past year and raised funds for the local technical school and elementary-, high school- and college-level institutions in 60 countries. Regional director Paul T. Owens applauded the L.A. chapter as the only one in 50 years to singlehandedly raise more than $650,000.

— Sara Bakhshian, Contributing Writer

Stand and Deliver

If anything points up the need for StandWithUs’ (SWU) efforts to spread the truth about Israel, it was a short comedy skit presented at its annual Festival of Lights dinner Dec. 3. In the skit, random people on Hollywood Boulevard were asked questions about Israel like, “What is Ramallah?” Most people answered it was cocktail food. Although presented in the “Jewish Way” through humor, it drives home the point like a sledgehammer. Committed to fighting ignorance and hatred through the dissemination of knowledge, the event honored Consul General of Israel Ehud Danoch, and Eshet Chayil Educational Award recipients Wendy Lewis, Roberta Seid and Shannon Shibata.

The dinner was chaired by Siona and Elie Alyeshmerni and Lonnie and Jimmy Delshad.
Roz Rothstein, SWU national director, said “it takes a village to create an organization that is able to accomplish the work of StandWithUs. We are thrilled at the outpouring of support we’ve received and the worldwide growth we’ve experienced in just five years. This is a clear indication that StandWithUs fills a need within the community.”

“We treasure our sponsors, activists and volunteers,” said Esther Renzer, SWU national president. “We were honored to be able to acknowledge Consul General Ehud Danoch and our three women of valor and pay tribute to their invaluable contributions to Israel advocacy.”

Kids Win by a KO

It was a knockout punch at the Beverly Hilton when the Oscar de La Hoya Foundation honored entrepreneur producer Sam Nazarian, actor Antonio Banderas and California Controller Steve Westly at the ninth annual “Evening of Champions” Dec. 6. The evening’s emcee, funnyman George Lopez brought the laughs and Macy Gray delivered a one-two punch with a crowd-pleasing performance.

As a surprise for Banderas, uber-producer Jeffrey Katzenberg presented the Spanish hunk with his award. A spirited live auction raised $80,000 to bring the evening’s total to more than $750,000 raised. The money provides athletic and educational opportunities to the children of East Los Angeles.

Law and Laughter

The Beverly Hills Bar As
sociation celebrated it 75th diamond anniversary in grand style with a black-tie gala Dec. 6, raising the bar with awards and laughter. Comedian Garry Shandling, who served as master of ceremonies, had the crowd roaring with his hysterical quips. The evening featured an elegant four-course gourmet dinner and dancing to the music of Gordon Goodwin’s Big Phat Band, Patti Austin and Motown legend singer/songwriter Lamont Dozier, whose numerous hits include “How Sweet It Is (to Be Loved by You)” and “Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch,” entertained the appreciative crowd.

Special tributes — both humorous and moving — saluted all 32 of the association’s living past presidents, 25 of whom attended and were honored and presented with medallions. The event raised $175,000 to benefit the organization’s community outreach, pro bono and educational programs.

B’nai Brith’s new chief visits L.A.; ‘Messenger’ unites local readers

New B’nai B’rith Head Launches Term in Southland

The new president of B’nai B’rith International will make Los Angeles his first official stop of his presidency when he speaks at Sinai Temple on the evening of Dec. 7.Moishe Smith, a B’nai B’rith veteran with more than 30 years experience at the organization, said he is coming to the Southland to show his respect for and introduce himself to the community. At Sinai, Smith will discuss Israel and the Middle East, reflecting his interest in international relations. During his three decades with B’nai B’rith, Smith has held a variety of positions, including chair of the International Council, senior international vice president, and, most recently, chair of the executive.

Smith, a Canadian and the first non-American to lead 163-year-old B’nai B’rith, replaces Joel Kaplan. He will serve a three-year term.

Smith told The Journal that “making sure Israel is supported from every corner of the world” is a top priority. With the Jewish state under siege from Hezbollah, Hamas, Iran and other enemies, Smith said B’nai B’rith and other Jewish organizations have an obligation to “speak out for Israel.”

Under his leadership, Smith said the organization will continue pressuring the United Nations to reform itself and shed its anti-Israel bias. Toward that end, Smith said organization leaders will “dialogue” with the democratic U.N. members and others.

B’nai B’rith has 100,000 members and donors in the United States and 150,000 worldwide. The organization calls itself a national and global leader in the area of U.N. reform, international affairs and Jewish identity, among other issues.

The event begins at 7 p.m. and is open to the public. For more information, contact Lyndia Lowy of B’nai B’rith at (310) 871-0847, or visit www.sinaitemple.org.

— Marc Ballon, Senior Writer

‘Messenger’ Unites L.A. Readers

“One People One Book” usually refers to the Jews and the Torah, but the in Board of Rabbis of Southern California’s communitywide program it refers to a piece of literature participating synagogue members will read for the next six months.

On Dec. 13, “One People One Book: A Citywide Year of Learning,” will launch its second annual program, this time studying Eli Wiesel’s 1976 “The Messenger of God,” where Wiesel reinterprets biblical figures. Some 21 synagogues will participate.

Last year’s “One People One Book” program, which had 300 people attend the opening, which focused on “As a Driven Leaf” by Milton Steinberg, the novelization of the Talmud’s only heretic, Elisha Ben Abuya.

Why one book for six months?

“The notion is that we pick a book that lends itself to a year of learning,” says Rabbi Mark Diamond, executive director of the Board of Rabbis. He said that last year’s book dealt with powerful themes such as secular vs. sacred, messianism, faith and practice.

For each book, the Board of Rabbis prepares a curriculum for readers to discuss, but there is no particular format to the “One People One Book,” program. Some people will meet in groups like a book club, others will discuss it with their rabbi in synagogue and some will learn with a partner. There will be an opening event on Dec. 13 and closing event on May 9.At the opening session, professor Menhaz M. Afridi and Rabbi Yosef Kanefsky will discuss Moses in “The Passion of Prophet: Moses in the Torah and the Qu’ran.”

The opening session will take place at the University of Judaism’s Gindi Auditorium, Dec. 13, 7-9 p.m. 15600 Mulholland Drive. For more information, call (323) 761-8600.

— Amy Klein, Religion Editor

Students Weigh in on Education Improvements

Students shared ideas for improving education with a panel of public officials at the Museum of Tolerance on Nov. 30. Jasmin Ramirez, 17, took the stage first to present a proposal on behalf of about 100 students involved in the California Association of Student Councils, a student-led organization dedicated to cultivating leaders.

“There’s poor quality of food in our schools and a lack of variety,” said Ramirez, who recommended conducting a widespread survey asking students about the quality of food at school and testing their knowledge of nutritional health.

Listening and taking notes were state Senate majority leader Gloria Romero; Democratic state Assemblymembers Mike Feuer, Paul Krekorian and Kevin de Leon; local district Superintendent James Morris; and Los Angeles Deputy Mayor for Education Ramon C. Cortines.

The officials advised students to think about the costs associated with the proposed survey and consider what would be done with the results. They also commended Ramirez and her peers for thinking creatively about how to solve a real problem.

“What you and the students have done today is absolutely brilliant,” de Leon said.Next, Chris Delgado, 16, suggested that teacher quality could be improved if students were involved in the teacher evaluation process.

“Be careful that your approach is not taken as an attack on teachers,” de Leon cautioned.Cortines added: “I don’t think you realize how powerful you are. I think it’s time that you mobilize yourself and visit with teachers unions.”

After the two proposals were presented and discussed, legislators and students mingled. Feuer congratulated his son, Aaron, who orchestrated the event.

“It was a success,” said Aaron Feuer, 15.

— Sarah Price Brown, Contributing Writer