November 13, 2018

Fareed Zakaria’s Analysis of the State of the World

Photo by Tom Moorehouse.

Should American democracy ever vanish, it will end — like the world in T.S. Eliot’s poem “The Hollow Men” — “not with a bang but a whimper.”

That somber warning was sounded by one of America’s top journalists, Fareed Zakaria, while delivering the Daniel Pearl Memorial Lecture at UCLA last week.

Zakaria, 54, born in India and a self-described “nonpracticing Muslim,” is the host of the eponymous Sunday morning CNN television program, frequent contributor to The Washington Post, and, in the judgment of Esquire magazine, “the most influential foreign policy advisor of his generation.”

The annual Pearl lecture, usually given by a top journalist or veteran public figure, commemorates the life and brutal murder of the young Wall Street Journal bureau chief by Islamic extremists in Pakistan in 2002.

The remembrance of Pearl’s death melded with the gist of Zakaria’s warning that this country’s and the world’s democratic values are endangered not by the “bang” of a fascist or communist takeover, but rather the “whimper” of a gradual erosion of long-held standards and ideals.

The erosion is a worldwide phenomenon, but if anyone currently embodies the threat, said Zakaria, it is Donald Trump by virtue of his position as president of the United States and his gradual chipping away of various traditions of behavior and civility.

The world’s democratic values are endangered not by a “bang” but by a “whimper” of a gradual erosion of long-held standards and ideals.

What we are seeing under Trump, he observed, is the collapse of the Republican Party as a gatekeeper of democracy, and the question is whether government agencies will be able to preserve their independence.

Markers in the erosion of standards are the nondisclosure of Trump’s tax returns and an almost daily demeaning of the media, Zakaria said. He warned that future presidents would now find it much easier to ignore past standards and taboos.

During some 90 minutes of stand-up analysis, one-on-one interview with professor Kal Raustiala, director of the UCLA Burkle Center for International Relations, and questions from the audience, Zakaria displayed a preternatural grasp of international affairs.

On China: Through a “Make China Great Again” policy, the country’s leaders are raising China’s global standing through economic, rather than military, power.

On Russia: It is now a “spoiler state,” which feels that it gave away too much after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Nevertheless, the country also has an interest in economic stability, which, for instance, affects the price of its oil exports.

On North Korea: Its regime is playing a clever game of deterrence. It will take serious work, not flippant insults, to strike a balance with Kim Jong Un’s regime.

In a rare note of optimism, Zakaria said that despite some chaos at the top, American institutions were still robust, although he particularly deplored the decline of a vibrant local press on the state and municipal levels.

There are, however, also worrying signs elsewhere. Turkey “has become the world’s leading jailer of journalists,” he observed; Hungary and Poland are slowly destroying a free press through economic and financial pressures; and even in England and Israel, there are attempts to limit press freedom.

Zakaria was introduced by Rabbi Aaron Lerner, director of the co-sponsoring Yitzak Rabin Hillel Center for Jewish Life and by UCLA professor Judea Pearl, who with his wife, Ruth, heads the Daniel Pearl Foundation, commemorating their slain son.

Judea Pearl is also a world authority in computer science and artificial intelligence, and even showed his biblical chops by quoting, in Hebrew and English — from the biblical Prophet Zechariah (no relation to the evening’s speaker).

What’s Happening in Jewish L.A. Feb. 16-22

FRI FEB 16
“LINCOLN AND THE JEWS”

On Presidents Day weekend, join Rabbi Lisa Edwards for coffee, dessert and a wide-ranging conversation about Abraham Lincoln’s relationship with Jews. Using as a guide the 2016 book “Lincoln and the Jews” by Jonathan Sarna and Benjamin Shapell, as well as other publications, Edwards will discuss the mutual affinity between Lincoln and Jews. Whether battling the anti-Jewish sentiment common in his time or insisting that there be Jewish chaplains for the first time in the U.S. military, America’s 16th president became known as a friend to Jews. 8-9 p.m. Free. Beth Chayim Chadashim, 6090 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles. (323) 931-7023. bcc-la.org.

SAT FEB 17
“JOACHIM PRINZ: I SHALL NOT BE SILENT”

Joachim Prinz was a young rabbi in Berlin who spoke out against the Nazis until he was expelled in 1937. After arriving in the United States, he witnessed racism against Blacks and realized the American ideal was not a reality. He became a leader in the civil rights movement and a friend and confidant of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. After the screening of a documentary on the rabbi, there will be a discussion with Rabbi Aryeh Cohen, professor of rabbinic literature at American Jewish University; Rev. D. Najuma Smith Pollard, founding pastor of Word of Encouragement Community Church; and Wolf Gruner, who holds the Shapell-Guerin Chair of Jewish studies at USC. 7:30 p.m. $12. Temple Beth Am, 1039 S. La Cienega Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 652-7353. tbala.org.

SUN FEB 18
MEET KNISH

Get ready to meet the hottest Jewish singles in Los Angeles. Queue up the jukebox. Kick back with a crafted cocktail. Dress to impress. From the team that presents the annual Christmas Eve MatzoBall. 9 p.m.-2 a.m. $30 general admission, $199 VIP annual membership. The Parlour Room, 6423 Yucca St., Los Angeles. eventbrite.com.

NOA

Noa

Achinoam Nini, known internationally as Noa, makes a rare Southern California concert appearance showcasing the most popular songs from her 26-year recording career, spanning 15 international albums and several Israeli releases, including her latest recording, “Love Medicine.” Selections will be sung in English, Hebrew and Arabic. One of Israel’s leading singer-songwriters, Noa wrote lyrics to and recorded the hit theme song for the 1998 Academy Award-winning film “Life Is Beautiful.” She sings in six languages and has collaborated with symphony orchestras around the world. She also is involved in the Israel Peace Initiative, Yalla Young Leaders and IsraAid. 7 p.m. $20 for Cal State Los Angeles students, staff and faculty; $25 for other students; $30, $40, $50 for others. The Luckman Fine Arts Complex, 5151 State University Drive, Los Angeles. (323) 343-6600. luckmanarts.org.

MON FEB 19
MANY VOICES, ONE SONG

Gindi Maimonides Academy celebrates its 50th anniversary with a Jewish music festival featuring Avraham Fried, Shlomi Shabat, Cantor Yitzchak Meir Helfgot, Baruch Levine, Simcha Leiner and a 60-piece orchestra. Food available for purchase during the show. Seating, other than VIP tickets, is first come, first served. Tickets start at $25. Doors open at 5:30 p.m., show at 6:30 p.m. The Wiltern, 3790 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 659-2456. maimonidesla.com

TUE FEB 20
“THE CHALLENGES OF TRUMP’S AMERICA”

Washington Post conservative columnist Jennifer Rubin discusses “The Challenges of Trump’s America: A Conservative’s View on Trump,” a conversation with former U.S. Congressman Mel Levine and former Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky. 7:30 p.m. Free. Temple Israel of Hollywood, 7300 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles. (323) 876-8330. tioh.org/rsvp.

ILIZA SHLESINGER

The Jewish funny lady performs her irreverent brand of stand-up comedy, examining friendship, singlehood and relationships. 8 p.m. $25. Flappers Comedy Club, 102 E. Magnolia Blvd., Burbank. (818) 845-9721. flapperscomedy.com.

BARAK LURIE

Conservative radio show host Barak Lurie discusses “Atheism Kills,” his new, nonfiction book that attacks atheism and the dangers of a world without God. Lurie, who regularly speaks about politics and matters of God on KRLA-AM (870), is a member of many conservative and pro-Israel boards, including Prager U, StandWithUs, the Jewish National Fund and the American Freedom Alliance. 7:30-9:30 p.m. $18 presale, $25 door. IAC Shepher Community Center, 6530 Winnetka Ave., Woodland Hills. (818) 451-1201. israeliamerican.org/los-angeles/baraklurie.

WED FEB 21
FAREED ZAKARIA

Fareed Zakaria

CNN’s Fareed Zakaria delivers the 2018 Daniel Pearl Memorial Lecture, an annual event celebrating the life of the late journalist. The host of CNN’s “Fareed Zakaria GPS,” the network’s flagship international affairs program, is respected for his analysis, his ability to spot economic and political trends, and his good humor, wit and unique approach to international relations. Kal Raustiala, a professor at the UCLA School of Law and the UCLA International Institute, moderates. 4:30 p.m. $35. Schoenberg Hall, Room 1100, UCLA, 445 Charles E. Young Drive, Los Angeles. (310) 206-6365. tinyurl.com/pearlzakaria.

THU FEB 22
“AMY”

Amy Winehouse

Before her 2011 death from alcohol poisoning, Jewish singer-songwriter Amy Winehouse garnered critical acclaim for her vintage R&B-blues sound, jazz-influenced vocals and personal lyrics, as displayed on singles like “Rehab.” A screening of “Amy,” the Oscar-winning 2015 documentary about Winehouse’s brief life and career, features archival footage and personal testimonies. After the screening, Andy Besser, former executive director of the Jewish rehabilitation organization Beit T’Shuvah, leads a discussion. Popcorn and dessert served. 6:45 p.m. seating, 7 p.m. screening. Free. Kehillat Israel, 16019 W. Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 459-2328. ourki.org.

AYELET GUNDAR-GOSHEN

Acclaimed Israeli novelist Ayelet Gundar-Goshen discusses her latest thriller, “Waking Lions.” The book — winner of the 2017 Jewish Quarterly-Wingate Prize and one of The New York Times’ 100 Notable Books for 2017 — grapples with the influx of African migrants into Israel. Its story follows an Israeli doctor who, while driving one night, hits an Eritrean refugee and leaves him for dead on the side of the road. An exploration of the tension between the privileged and the unseen follows. 7:15 p.m. Free. UCLA Fowler Museum, Lenart Auditorium, 308 Charles E. Young Drive, Los Angeles. writersblocpresents.com/main/ayelet-gundar-goshen.

“BAD RABBI AND OTHER STRANGE BUT TRUE STORIES FROM THE YIDDISH PRESS”

Eddy Portnoy

Eddy Portnoy, who received his doctorate from the Jewish Theological Seminary with a dissertation on Yiddish cartoons, discusses his book, “Bad Rabbi,” an underground history of downwardly mobile Jews from the seamy underbellies of New York and Warsaw, the two major centers of Yiddish culture before World War II. The book features stories of drunks, thieves, murderers, wrestlers and poets plucked from Yiddish newspapers. Sarah Abrevaya Stein, a Sephardic studies professor at UCLA, moderates. The UCLA Klezmer Ensemble performs. 4-5:30 p.m. Free. 314 Royce Hall, UCLA, Los Angeles. (310) 267-5327. cjs.ucla.edu.

RABBI STEVE LEDER

Wilshire Boulevard Temple Senior Rabbi Steve Leder teaches about how to live a life worthy of one’s suffering as he discusses his latest book, “More Beautiful Than
Before: How Suffering Transforms Us,” with Sarah Brokaw, daughter of television journalist Tom Brokaw. The 2017 book guides readers through pain’s stages of surviving, healing and growing. Meanwhile, Leder draws on his years of experience counseling others through life’s difficult moments, including the death of a loved one, divorce or illness. Light bites and validated parking provided. 6-8 p.m. Free. Tower Cancer Research Foundation offices, 8767 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 401, Beverly Hills. RSVP required at brooke@towercancer.org or (310) 299-8470. towercancer.org/events.

AVRAHAM BURG

Avraham Burg, a prominent Israeli opinion maker, the son of a Holocaust survivor and former speaker of Israel’s legislature, has spent much of his life shaping Israel’s story. He discusses his new book, “In Days to Come: A New Hope for Israel,” which chronicles Israel’s highs and lows over the past five decades and weaves in his personal journey from a child in the world of religious Zionism to a paratrooper in the Israeli army, to the speaker of the Knesset. 6:30 p.m. VIP wine and cheese reception with the author, 7:30 p.m. lecture. $10 lecture only, $30 includes VIP reception. AmericanJewish University, Shapiro Synagogue, 15600 Mulholland Drive, Los Angeles. (310) 476-9777. aju.edu.

“PASSING THE TORCH — FROM SELMA TO TODAY”

Former U.S. United Nations Ambassador Andrew Young, Bernard Lafayette Jr. and Clarence B. Jones, three pivotal figures of the 1960s civil rights movement, along with James Perkins Jr., Selma’s first African-American mayor, and moderator Jessie Kornberg, president and CEO of the Jewish legal aid agency Bet Tzedek, discuss lessons learned from the civil rights movement. They reflect on how the Selma-to-Montgomery march and other key actions led to the Voting Rights Act of 1965, then consider strategies that can transform racist and unjust public policy today. 7:30 p.m. $12 general, $10 Skirball members and full-time students. Skirball Cultural Center, 2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 440-4500. skirball.org.

TONY KUSHNER

Tony Kushner

The acclaimed Jewish playwright and screenwriter, who wrote the screenplay for Steven Spielberg’s Oscar-winning “Lincoln,” discusses “The Lincoln Legacy: The Man and His Presidency.” He appears in conversation with best-selling author Sarah Vowell as they examine the 16th U.S. president’s life’s work and legacy. 8 p.m. $29–$59. Royce Hall, UCLA, 340 Royce Drive, Los Angeles. (310) 825-2101. cap.ucla.edu

Noteworthy sessions and events at the G.A.

SUNDAY, NOV. 12
10 a.m.-1:30 p.m.
Tour of the Skirball Cultural Center
Note: Tour leaves from Westin Bonaventure and returns to the L.A. Convention Center.

2:30 p.m.
Opening Plenary: “One People, One Destiny, One Great Day in November”
Greetings: L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa
Keynote Speaker: Israel Foreign Affairs Minister Tzipi Livni

4:30 p.m.-5:45 p.m.
Breakout Session: “We Are Not Alone: Allies in Making the Case for Israel”
Speakers: Joe Hicks, vice president of Community Advocates, Inc., and former executive director of the Los Angeles City Human Relations Commission; Randy Neal, California regional director, Christians United for Israel; and Nancy Coonis, superintendent of Secondary Schools for the L.A. Archdiocese

4:30 p.m.-5:45 p.m.
Breakout Session: “Jewish Learning: Activism and Social Justice”
Speaker: Rabbi Miriyam Glazer of the University of Judaism

MONDAY, NOV. 13
8:30 a.m.-9:45 a.m.
Plenary: “The Jewish Future: Where We Are as a People”
Moderator: Dr. Beryl Geber, associate executive vice president of policy development, the Jewish Federation of Greater Los AngelesSpeakers: Rabbi Norman Cohen, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion; Dr. Arnold Eisen, chancellor-elect of the Jewish Theological Seminary; and Richard Joel, president of Yeshiva University in New York

10:15 a.m.-11:30 a.m.
Plenary: “Emerging Global Realities and the Challenge of Radical Islam”
Speakers: Fareed Zakaria, editor of Newsweek International; and Bernard-Henri Lévy, author of “Who Killed Daniel Pearl?” and “American Vertigo: Traveling in the Footsteps of Tocqueville”

2:15 p.m.-3:30 p.m.
Breakout Session: “Media Lessons Learned From the War”

Speakers: Aviv Shir-On, deputy director general for media and public affairs, Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs; Jeffrey Goldberg, New Yorker staff writer and author, “Prisoners: A Muslim and a Jew Across the Middle East Divide;” and Irit Atsmon, former Deputy IDF spokesman

2:15 p.m.-3:30 p.m.
Breakout Session: “Anti-Zionism as the New Anti-Semitism”
Moderator: Rabbi Marvin Hier, dean and founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center
Speakers: Steven Emerson, executive director of The Investigative Project; Aviva Raz-Shechter, director, Department of Anti-Semitism & Holocaust Issues, Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs; and Charles Small, director, Yale Initiative for the Interdisciplinary Study of Anti-Semitism, Yale University

3:45 p.m.-5 p.m.
Plenary: “Challenges of the Jewish People at the Beginning of the 21st Century”
Speaker: Likud Chairman and former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and Dr. Irwin Cotler, Canadian MP

8:15 p.m.- 10 p.m.
Event: “A Once in a Lifetime Evening at Walt Disney Concert Hall”

Background: The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, the Jewish Community Foundation of Los Angeles and the Milken Archive of American Jewish Music will co-host a concert of Jewish music at Walt Disney Concert Hall. The program will include selections by Leonard Bernstein and Kurt Weill. Performers include Theodore Bikel, Leonard Nimoy, Cantor Alberto Mizrahi, an 85-member chorus and members of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra, led by conductor Gerard Schwarz.

TUESDAY, NOV. 14
8:30 a.m.-10 a.m.
Plenary: “Challenges and Opportunities: Israel 2006”
Moderator: Judge Ellen M. Heller, president, American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee
Speakers: Israel Tourism Minister Isaac Herzog and Israel Education Minister Yuli Tamir
Special Guest: Moshe Oofnik, Sesame Street Workshop

2:30 p.m.-4 p.m.
Breakout Session: “Understanding Islam: Current Trends”
Speakers: Menahem Milson, professor of Arabic studies, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and chairman of The Middle East Media Research Institute; Norman Stillman, professor and chair of Judaic history, University of Oklahoma; Irshad Manji, author, “The Trouble with Islam Today: A Muslim’s Call for Reform in Her Faith”

2:30 p.m.-4 p.m.
Breakout Session: “Working to Save Darfur”
Speakers: John Fishel, president, Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles; Rabbi Harold M. Schulweis, co-founder, Jewish World Watch; and Ruth Messinger, president/executive director, American Jewish World Service

4:15 p.m.-5:45 p.m.
Plenary: “The New Frontlines: Facing the Future Together”
Keynote Speaker: Israel Prime Minister Ehud Olmert

WEDNESDAY, NOV. 15
8:30 a.m.-Noon
Meeting: “Translating the GA Into Action: Open Board of Trustees & Delegate Assembly Forum”
Goal: Coming up with an action plan based on issues addressed at GA.