Calendar: July 8-14, 2016


FRI | JULY 8

ONE-ACT FESTIVAL

Jewish playwrights Jennifer Maisel, Stevie Stern and others are featured in EST/LA’s One Act Festival. A total of 14 new plays are presented through three programs, with stories that are moving, challenging, enlightening and sometimes laugh-out-loud funny. One of the plays centers on a flirtation among people in the art world; its set includes a couch owned by David Hockney. Directed by Tom Lazarus. 8 p.m. $25; $30 at the door. Atwater Village Theatre, 3269 Casitas Ave., Los Angeles. (818) 839-1197. SAT | JULY 9

MOSTLY KOSHER

The Los Angeles–based indie-global collective and revival band Mostly Kosher combines jazz, Latin, rock, hip-hop, world and folk music, bringing a modern twist to American and Judaic music of the past, including klezmer. Bandleader Leeav Sofer recruited violinist Janice Mautner Markham out of the folk-rock scene; Eric Hagstrom lays the beat over Adam Levy’s soulful bass; Mike Bolger plays accordion and trumpet; Mike King plays trombone; and Will Brahm plays guitar. The band will be joined by dance leader Bruce Bierman. Noon and 2 p.m. Included with museum admission. Skirball Cultural Center, 2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 440-4500. ” target=”_blank”>theautry.org.

SUN | JULY 10

RUNNING CLUSTER: OCEANFRONT TRAIL JOG

Join YALA’s Running Cluster for a 4-mile coastal run between Santa Monica and Venice. Enjoy the sights along the Santa Monica and Venice Beach Boardwalk portions of the route, which also lure walkers, bicyclists and skateboarders, and nearby Muscle Beach sculptors. Followed by brunch at True Food Kitchen (395 Santa Monica Place, Santa Monica). 9:30 a.m. Free. Big Dean’s Ocean Front Cafe, 1615 Ocean Front Walk, Santa Monica. ” target=”_blank”>chabadsimi.org.

GENEALOGY IN THE ROUND: SUCCESSES, FAILURES, ARTIFACTS AND BRICK WALLS

Come and share a genealogical success, failure, brick wall or artifact. This meeting is an opportunity to share your story, ask questions and learn from one another. If you’d like to participate in the program, please contact Jan Meisels Allen at president@JGSCV.org. Each participant will have 5 to 10 minutes, depending on the number of presenters. Hosted by The Jewish Genealogical Society of the Conejo Valley and Ventura County (JGSCV), co–sponsored with Temple Adat Elohim. 1:30 p.m. Free. Temple Adat Elohim, 2420 E. Hillcrest Drive, Thousand Oaks. (818) 889-6616. MON | JULY 11

SUMMER CABINET EVENT

Join the Real Estate and Construction Division of the Jewish Federation for an evening of networking and cocktails on the beach. 6:30 p.m. $100; free for cabinet members and first-time guests of cabinet members. The Annenberg Beach House, 415 Pacific Coast Highway, Santa Monica. (323) 761-8152. WED | JULY 13

BLOOD READ LIVE

Come enjoy the first in a series of one-night-only, live-stage readings of unproduced horror and genre screenplays featuring legendary screenwriters and movie villains. Tonight’s reading is of indie film legend Larry Cohen’s “The Man Who Loved Hitchcock,” directed by Christian Ackerman, produced by Jack Bennett and Ackerman. Presented by The Group Rep. 7:30 p.m. $20. Lonny Chapman Theatre, 10900 Burbank Blvd., North Hollywood. (818) 763-5990. THURS | JULY 14

“WEST SIDE STORY”

The emotional and powerful music of this time-honored story comes to the Hollywood Bowl. Taking us back to 1950s New York on the Upper West Side, “West Side Story” reminds us of a time when racial and social tensions were at a high. Los Angeles Master Chorale will perform many of the classic songs: “Maria,” “America,” “Somewhere” and “Tonight.” Conducted by Gustavo Dudamel, based on a conception of Jerome Robbins; book by Arthur Laurents; music by Leonard Bernstein; and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim. 8 p.m. Tickets starting at $8. Additional performance at 8 p.m. July 19. Hollywood Bowl, 2301 Highland Ave., Los Angeles. (323) 850-2000.

Can Universal Care Cure State’s Ills?


Retired cardiologist Dr. Robert Peck remembers the 40-year-old uninsured patient who was admitted to the emergency room of a local hospital with severe chest pains. The patient was stabilized, but required further treatment. Since he had no insurance, he was to be transferred to one of the county hospitals that serve the uninsured. But the patient died while awaiting transfer.

Another patient, who did have insurance, was awaiting tests after being stabilized for chest pains.

"The gatekeeper for that HMO … not a cardiologist … decided that this man didn’t need an angiogram or even to be in a hospital," Peck recounted. "And so he sent him home."

Three months later, the patient returned to hospital with chest pains and died in the ER.

Peck’s examples and a litany of statistics clearly demonstrate the failure of California’s health care system: Of the nation’s 43 million uninsured Americans, 6.5 million are Californians. That equates to roughly one of every five state residents. Within the last decade, 15 percent of the state’s emergency rooms have closed due to skyrocketing costs. Nationally, Health insurance premiums rose almost 14 percent last year alone.

State Sen. Sheila Kuehl (D-Los Angeles) believes she has a cure for the health system’s ills. Kuehl authored SB 921, a bill that would establish a single health plan for every resident in California. Under the proposed single-payer universal health care system, individuals would choose their own health care provider and everyone would be entitled to the same benefits. But instead of being paid by insurance companies or individuals, providers would be reimbursed by the state. The state fund would be financed by a tax on employers and individuals, who would no longer pay insurance company premiums, co-payments or deductibles. Medicare, Medi-Cal and other public monies spent on health care would be rolled into the fund.

"Our health care system in California is very fragmented and grossly ineffective. There is more than enough money to provide every Californian with benefit-rich health coverage without spending any more money," said Kuehl, speaking March 18 at an event hosted by Zay Gezunt, The Jewish Coalition for Healthcare for All, sponsored by the Workmen’s Circle/Arbeter Ring, Progressive Jewish Alliance, The Sholem Community, Health Care for All, Jewish Labor Committee, The National Council of Jewish Women — Los Angeles, The Kalsman Institute on Judaism and Health HUC-JIR, Kehillat Israel, Society for Humanistic Judaism — Los Angeles, Jewish Reconstructionist Federation and Leo Baeck Temple.

"We spend about $150 billion per year on health care in California…. No new spending would be required to cover everyone if we get administrative costs down," Kuehl said.

Kuehl’s office estimates that there are more than 10,000 health benefit plans in California. And a study by Harvard researchers, reported in The New England Journal of Medicine, found that administrative costs acounted for 31 percent of health care expenditures in the United States.

Proponents of SB 921 say consolidation of administrative costs alone would save an estimated $14 billion in the plan’s first year. They also project a savings of $4 billion in prescription drug and durable medical equipment costs, which would be generated by the state’s bulk purchasing power. Further savings are anticipated from a decrease in emergency room visits, which would be curtailed once uninsured individuals had access to preventive care.

Kuehl points out that other countries with universal health care systems have better health outcomes. For example, the United States is ranked 37th in health outcomes and consumer satisfaction by the World Health Organization, despite spending more than $4,000 per person — more than any other nation — on health care annually. No. 1 ranked France spends about half that amount.

"This approach has some real legs," said presenter E. Richard Brown, director of the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research, speaking at the health care forum. He believes the bill represents "the opportunity to make some real change in this state and set a model for the United States."

Not everyone agrees.

"To someone who hasn’t been in health care or administered health care programs, it sounds attractive, but I’ve never yet seen a case where the government can run any health care service successfully," said Dr. Joel Strom, a dentist and the president of the Los Angeles chapter of the Republican Jewish Coalition. "After years of participating in the paper-filled and heavily regulated state-run Denti-Cal program, I elected to deliver free care to some patients rather than continue in the heavily regulated program. When you have a program that’s paid for by the government, they’ll go back to taxpayers all the time.

"The promise of unlimited health care for everyone just cannot be kept," added Strom, who sees insurance reform as a preferable option.

In the meantime, the Legislature has passed SB 2, a bill phasing in requirements for employers with more than 50 employees to provide health insurance or pay into a fund to finance it. However, a November ballot initiative seeks to repeal the new law before it has a chance to go into effect.

Kuehl’s bill faces a formidable set of obstacles, including the requirement of a two-thirds vote for passage. It has a natural opponent in the health insurance industry, which is well-financed to fight the bill. In addition, Anthony Wright, executive director of advocacy group Health Access, notes that the notion of a tax could prove problematic. "Even though people will save money … opponents of health reform will demonize it as a tax increase," he said.

While experts on both sides agree it is unlikely that the bill will pass this year, supporters remain optimistic.

As Kuehl staffer Emily Gold told The Journal, "It will pass. It’s just a matter of when…. Its time is coming."

Entering the New World


Brave New World, here we come.

A Worcester, Mass., biotech company reported this week that it had created a human embryo directly from human cells. A cell implanted with adult DNA split into six cells, then died, stopping far short of the 150-plus needed to create viable stem cells, critical for gene therapy.

Though the experiment by Advanced Cell Technology was considered a failure, it was immediately regarded as a breakthrough, for good or ill. Governments may stamp their feet, refusing to fund the cloning experiments. But a free science won’t put its laboratories behind bars.

Maintaining free science is up to us. President Bush, responding to what The New York Times called a "storm of protest" and a Congressional call for cloning to be outlawed, promptly called cloning immoral. "We should not as a society grow life to destroy it," he said. "And that’s exactly what’s taking place."

Not to me. Exactly what I think is taking place is the grand possibility that life can be preserved and health enhanced through human ingenuity. I hope you see it that way too.

Didn’t Aldous Huxley have it wrong? Don’t you know someone whose family was enhanced by fertility drugs, let alone test-tube babies? Would you really close science down now, at the very portal to the healing world?

We must say no to the pessimists, the religious and political negativists who would use anything — the Bible, Frankenstein and fables of the Golem — to keep humankind in the grip of pain and fear. Science can be for the good. The human spirit of creativity is something to praise, not fear. A clone does not an evil Golem make.

What’s taking place, to me, is that scientists are continuing appropriate scientific inquiry into the beginnings of life. As Jews, we understand that humanity is permitted to learn from nature, and encouraged to use our knowledge to save lives. We’re getting there fast, but scientists as of this week have developed only a few cells equivalent to the first day or two of fertilization. Bush would close down the lab even before it creates a blastocyst large enough to be implanted in a uterus.

But Bush is wrong: The goal here is not to destroy life, but to save it. Though cloning may be controversial, the basic science upon which it is based is not new. Similar experiments into the origins of human life, and the capacity of embryos, were conducted in the preliminary stages of in vitro fertilization. Many failed embryos were created on the way to what is now routine: test-tube conception. Half a million test-tube babies have been raised in loving families — a testimony to how science aids the human heart.

I spoke on Monday with Laurie Zoloth, director of the Jewish Studies Program at San Francisco State University and an associate professor of social ethics and Jewish philosophy. Sounding quite astounded by the news of the newly cloned embryo, she said, "It gives one pause how fast we are crossing into the new era."

Many observers speak of cloning as a "slippery slope." Zoloth, however, believes it is possible — and necessary — to draw a boundary between "reproductive" cloning and "therapeutic" cloning to save lives. "I don’t believe we should ever implant these early embryos into a human," she said. "I don’t believe we should try to duplicate human life."

At the heart of the matter is what we think religion — and life — is for: a tool to liberate the spirit, or a way of controlling the future. In December, Zoloth will convene a panel of leading American and Israeli Jewish scientists and ethicists, including Los Angeles’ own Rabbi Elliot Dorff, to study problems of human genetics.

Stand strong. Defend pekuach nefesh. Save the living, not six cells. Free science and scientists. Pass it on.