Cleveland kidnappings: We must be our brother’s keeper


It is not our place to judge the neighbors of Ariel Castro. We don’t know enough about the particular circumstances of those who lived near this man who allegedly held three women hostage for a decade to be able to judge whether things could have been different had they been paying closer attention. But a story like the one that developed in Cleveland over the past 10 years compels every one of us to ask the following questions: “Could such a thing have happened on my block? Do I have a Jewish ethical obligation to familiarize myself with my neighbors and their lives so that I can know if something is awry? Or is this degree of precautionary vigilance beyond the reasonable limits of ethical responsibility? And what of the revered Jewish principles of granting people the benefit of the doubt, and of not being reflexively suspicious of others?”

As I thought about these questions, I realized that it would be disingenuous and inaccurate to assert that Jewish law demands that we proactively sniff out trouble. The numerous mitzvot that require us to remediate or at least diminish the travail of suffering of others are all reactive in nature. We must visit the sick of whom we are aware, but have no specific obligation to seek the sick out. The same holds true for the mitzvah to ransom captives, to feed the indigent, to comfort the bereaved. We mustn’t stand idly by the blood of another. But this mitzvah, too, presumes that we have already become aware of the difficult circumstances that another is facing. 

At the same time, though, in numerous different ways, the Jewish ethical tradition recognizes the stark reality that when we are purely responsive and not proactive, we will invariably drop many vulnerable individuals right between the proverbial cracks. Yes, it is necessary to be responsive to people in trouble, but necessary is not always the same as sufficient. 

Three young women were kidnapped and held hostage in Cleveland for a decade. From left: Amanda Berry, Georgina DeJesus and Michelle Knight.

The most dramatic expression of this recognition comes in the form of a story told in Avot of Rabbi Nathan, a compilation of wisdom and teachings from the period of the Talmud. The story is that of the young Eliezer ben Hyrcanus, who is born into a wealthy, land-owning family but whose heart is captured by the voice of study that is emanating from the beit midrash of Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakai, the great master of that generation. Eliezer’s father, who foresees Eliezer’s future in conducting the affairs of the estate, is displeased by his son’s interest in study. The text relates what happens next:

One day, Eliezer announced, “I am going to learn Torah from Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakai.” Said his father to him, “You will eat not a morsel today until you plow an entire furrow.” Eliezer arose early, plowed the furrow, and set off. It is said that this occurred on a Friday and that he ate that night at the home of his father-in-law, but others say that he did not eat at all. Instead, he placed rocks in his mouth, and some say the excrement of cows. He took up residence in an inn, and came to study before Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakai. At some point Rabbi Yochanan noticed that a bad odor was emerging from Eliezer’s mouth. “My son, have you eaten at all?” the sage asked. Eliezer was silent. Rabbi Yochanan summoned the innkeeper and asked him, “Did you feed Eliezer?” “I thought that perhaps he had eaten with you,” the innkeeper replied. “And I thought he had eaten with you!” replied the sage. “Between me and you, we lost Eliezer in the middle!”

By the time anyone realized Eliezer was in trouble, it was late, almost too late. What was missing and what was needed was the initiative to inquire, to ask questions, to uncover the circumstances by which this young man had appeared in the beit midrash, and to be in position to help before the trouble began. Simply responding to need is necessary, but not always sufficient. 

The value of being vigilant and proactive is also expressed by one of Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakai’s students who, when asked by his master, “What is the most important quality a person can have?” responded by saying, “That of being a good neighbor” (Pirkei Avot 2:13). He did not say “a good friend,” rather specifically a “good neighbor,” because it is the neighbor who is the set of eyes and ears able to detect even small changes in the daily routines of those immediately around him, and who can inquire and intervene at the first hint that something is amiss. And this very same value is almost certainly imbedded in the mitzvah to “love the other as yourself.” As is clear from its context, this mitzvah is intended to transcend the long list of response-type mitzvot that precedes it. It is the mitzvah to see and to feel broadly and expansively, including taking the time to wonder what that scream was that came from the house down the block. 

And, yes, at the same time, we are to give others the benefit of the doubt and to avoid being reflexively suspicious. But halachah strenuously sweeps these — and all Torah laws — aside whenever there is even the possibility that human life is at stake. 

I am the first to admit that I am not the neighbor I should be. And I can offer all the same excuses that so many of us can make. But in light of what has been revealed in Cleveland, it’s clear that our religious tradition would identify this particular moment as one when we are required to ask, “Could this have happened on my block”?

Suspected kidnapper Ariel Castro


Rav Yosef Kanefsky is senior rabbi at B’nai David-Judea (bnaidavid.com), a Modern Orthodox congregation in the Pico-Robertson neighborhood.

Dr. David Leo Lieber z”l: To know him was a privilege


A big part of my adult life has involved trying to live up to what Dr. David Leo Lieber expected of me. Trying to emulate his wisdom, his learning, his kindness, knowing all the while that it would be impossible.

It is told in the Book of Kings that the prophet Elijah announced to his disciples that his life would soon be at an end. His principal disciple, Elisha, asked his mentor to bequeath to him a double portion of prophecy. According to Jewish law, a first-born son inherits double the portion of the other sons, so Elisha asked his teacher, Elijah, to grant him double the spiritual portion of the other disciples.

In so many ways, I feel that I was given that double portion by David Lieber. I don’t say this as a matter of hubris but rather as a matter of my good fortune. For 30 years, I worked side by side with him. What a remarkable privilege that was. To be in his presence each day, to listen to him, to learn from him, to love him.

David Lieber was part of a generation of rabbis who were raised in Orthodox homes in which observance was taken for granted but rarely explained. In some ways, his was a religiously rebellious generation. They tended to appreciate Judaism more for its wisdom and values than for its ritual requirements.

Having said this, however, I cannot imagine anyone who was more profoundly spiritual than David Lieber. His spirituality did not have any of the external manifestations that are more common today. Rather, it was apparent in his quiet acceptance of God’s plan for him and for the world.

There are so many things I will remember about David Lieber that I could never hope to recount them all. I quote him often, and I smile whenever I use what I consider to be a “Lieberism.”

One of his favorite sayings was, “You can always tell someone to go to hell later.” Any of us who are prone to occasional flashes of anger can benefit from that bit of wisdom. Lieber used to claim that he borrowed this one from Rabbi Isaiah Zeldin of Stephen S. Wise Temple.

Another phrase he used often actually comes from the Talmud: “Sof ha-kavod lavo.” It’s a little difficult to translate into English. It is similar to “All good things come to those who wait.” But it really says that good things come to those who work hard and don’t try to force things before their proper time.

His most insightful saying is pure, original David Lieber. He often observed to me that human beings can “foresee” things but they cannot “fore-feel” them. In other words, we can often use our intellect to figure out what the future will bring, but we really don’t know how we are going to feel about something until it actually happens to us.

Whatever words of wisdom Lieber had for others, he certainly applied them to himself. He accepted whatever life had to offer, and he was one of those rare individuals who followed the rabbinic dictate: “We are required to bless God’s name when bad things happen, just as we so willingly bless His name when we enjoy the good.”

For years, David Lieber struggled with serious illness. It was not easy for him, but he did so without complaint and with true gratitude for the many productive years that were granted to him.

We all admired Dr. Lieber for his achievements, but that’s not why we loved him. We loved him for who he was as a person and the special position he occupied in each of our lives.

Even the most cynical among us yearns to believe that there is real goodness in this world, but often it’s a challenge to accept. We read about such terrible things, and we regularly encounter people who shake our faith in humanity.

But every so often, if we are very fortunate, we find a person who reminds us that human beings are truly formed in the image of God. We find someone of such extraordinary goodness that we say to ourselves, “This must be what God had in mind when He created the world.”

To know David Lieber was to know kindness. To know David Lieber was to know wisdom. To know David Lieber was to experience a quiet, steadfast faith in God and in the divine potential of all human beings.

And so we loved him. We loved him for who he was. And we loved him for seeing the good in us.

Dr. Robert Wexler is president of the American Jewish University (formerly University of Judaism) in Los Angeles.




Dr. David Leo Lieber, rabbi, scholar and president emeritus of the American Jewish University (formerly University of Judaism) died Dec. 15 at 83 after a lengthy battle with a lung ailment.

“Rabbi David Lieber was a dear friend,” said Rabbi Harold M. Schulweis of Congregation Valley Beth Shalom. “In every one of his conversations, there was a compassionate and caring soul. He leaves a remarkable legacy, not only in the public arena, in his scholarship and leadership, but in the personal relationship that he had with everyone — colleagues, congregants, students and contributors.”

Born in Poland, Lieber came to the United States at the age of 2. In 1944, he graduated magna cum laude from the College of the City of New York and earned a degree in Hebrew literature from the Jewish Theological Seminary of America (JTS).

In 1948, he was ordained at JTS. He earned his doctorate in Hebrew literature from JTS in 1951. In addition, he completed a master’s and all but dissertation from Columbia University. He pursued post-graduate studies at the University of Washington and at UCLA.

At JTS, Lieber studied under Talmudist Saul Lieberman, Jewish Bible scholar H.L. Ginsberg and philosopher Mordecai Kaplan, whose groundbreaking vision led to the creation of the University of Judaism, which was renamed American Jewish University last year after a merger with Brandeis-Bardin Institute in Simi Valley.

Following retirement in 1993, after 29 years as AJU president, Lieber continued to teach. He also began focusing on a project he had first proposed in 1969, a new commentary on the Torah. The resulting “Etz Hayim: Torah and Commentary” sought to provide laity with a contemporary interpretation of the text and a commentary that embraced both tradition and change, ancient teachings and modern scholarship.

As a young man, Lieber was a leader of Shomer Hadati, the religious Zionist movement that is now B’nai Akiva. An early pioneer in the establishment of the Ramah camps, he was also the founding head counselor in the first of the camps in Wisconsin, a director in Maine and the founding director in California. Furthermore, Lieber was the founding director of Mador, the national training camp for Ramah counselors.

A former spiritual leader of Sinai Temple in Los Angeles (1950-1954), Lieber served as a U.S. Air Force chaplain, and as university chaplain for the B’nai B’rith Hillel Foundation at both the University of Washington (1954-1955) and Harvard University (1955-1956).

In 1956, when Lieber was appointed dean of students of the nine-year-old University of Judaism, the college was a Hebrew teachers institute, which also offered adult education classes, art exhibits and drama programs. The institution, today replete with an undergraduate college, graduate programs, seminary, think tanks and a large library on a 25-acre campus in Bel Air, was developed with Lieber’s help.

In recognition of his work, Lieber was awarded the Doctor of Humane Letters degree, honoris causa, by the Hebrew Union College in 1982 and the Torch of Learning award by the Hebrew University in Jerusalem in 1984. Between 1996 and 1998, he served as the first West Coast president of the International Rabbinical Assembly.

Over the years, Lieber has authored some 50 articles, which appeared in a variety of journals.

Lieber is survived by his wife, Esther; sons, Michael and Danny; daughters, Susie and Debbie; and 11 grandchildren.

A service was held Dec. 18 at American Jewish University. In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be sent to the university’s Ostrow Library at American Jewish University, 15600 Mulholland Drive, Bel Air, CA 90077.

A self-proclaimed Zionist, Joe Biden is a friend of Israel


I returned from the Democratic National Convention in Denver with the announcement of Sen. Joe Biden (D-Del.) as the Democratic vice presidential nominee, the memorable acceptance speech by Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) and the announcement of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as the Republican vice presidential nominee.

It was the most momentous week of this or, perhaps, any election cycle.

Yet with all the excitement, I must admit that it has left me disappointed with our level of political discourse — particularly in the Jewish community. When the Biden vice presidential nomination was announced on Aug. 23, Republican voices in the Jewish community called his selection by Obama “risky” and talked about his inconsistent support for Israel and his “wrong” views on Iran.

These people must be talking about a different Biden than the one I know.

I have known and worked closely with Biden for more than 36 years, and the caricature that is being painted of him by some who value partisanship over truth is truly astounding. Perhaps even more distressing than the attacks on a good friend of the Jewish community is the use of the U.S.-Israel relationship as a partisan wedge issue.

Biden publicly labels himself a Zionist. He has stated that “I do not accept the notion of linkage between Iraq and the Arab-Israeli conflict,” according to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. “[Biden] has a sterling voting record on pro-Israel issues and as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee has helped shepherd through key pro-Israel legislation.”

He has worked cooperatively with every Israeli prime minister since Golda Meir. His knowledge of the wider Middle East, as well as the Arab-Israeli conflict, is unsurpassed by any other member of Congress.

Republicans have not let these facts get in the way. They use votes not related to Israel in an effort to besmirch Biden in the Jewish community. Supporters of Biden can readily go to the voting record files and show that he has a significantly higher percentage of pro-Israel votes than Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.).

We, too, could take some obscure issues to try to argue that the GOP nominee is insufficiently pro-Israel. The fact of the matter is that McCain is pro-Israel. Obama is pro-Israel. Biden is pro-Israel. These attempts to use the U.S.-Israel relationship for partisan purposes distorts the truth and weakens the bipartisan consensus behind support for Israel in this country.

Moreover, it is not just Israel upon which we should judge Biden. Perhaps no politician in America, Jew or non-Jew, has a better rapport with Jewish leadership and Jewish audiences. He is a strong supporter of the separation of church and state, and he has opposed Republican attempts to return prayer to the public schools. Biden also has opposed teaching intelligent design alongside evolution in the public schools and is pro-choice.

Biden’s profile in the Jewish community is starkly different from that of McCain’s nominee for vice president. Palin has no foreign policy experience and has never visited Israel. She is against a woman’s right to choose, even in cases of rape and incest. She favors teaching intelligent design in the public schools and believes climate change is not caused by human activity.

I have long believed that the game of trying to show that friends of Israel are really enemies is destructive to our community’s interest. But it really hits home when a close friend like Biden is vilified after all these years of friendship with our community. In these times, it seems that some people would charge Yitzhak Rabin with being anti-Israel if he ran for office as a Democrat.

It would be far healthier for American democracy, as well as for our community, if we would reject the use of Israel as a partisan issue and look at the policy areas where candidates from the two major parties truly do differ.

Michael Adler is the immediate past chair of the National Jewish Democratic Council and was the national finance chair of Sen. Joe Biden’s last presidential campaign.

Courtesy of Jewish Telegraphic Agency

VIDEO: In 2006, Lieberman calls Obama ‘Baruch’ and himself Obama’s mentor


Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn)  on his hopes and dreams for Barack Obama, March 2006:

“As far as I’m concerned [Barack Obama] is a ‘Baruch,’ which means a blessing. He is a blessing to the United States Senate, to America, and to our shared hopes for better, safer tomorrows for all our families. The gifts that God has given to Barack Obama are as enormous as his future is unlimited. As his mentor, as his colleague, as his friend, I look forward to helping him reach to the stars and realize not just the dreams he has for himself, but the dreams we all have for him and our blessed country.”

Creating a new community


When I moved from Miami to Los Angeles four months ago with a tenuous plan and a lofty dream, I packed my car with all the things I thought I would need to survive on my own: 600 thread-count Calvin Klein sheets (because a gal’s gotta dream), a Proust novel (intellectual sustenance to counterbalance tabloid shallowness), Villeroy and Boch silverware (a reluctant gift from my mother, who relinquished her extra set for my alimentary benefit), a portable navigation system (from my dad, who knew that without it I’d wind up in Mexico on the way to my first job interview), my Artscroll Tehillim (for times of gratitude and times of duress) and three journals my grandmother gave me the night before I left (in which to deposit the contents of my experience).

I was ready.

These are hardly the items to ensure safety and security for this 23-year-old woman leaving home for Hollywood. But upon arrival in the second-largest city in the country, I quickly had to discern between things needed to keep me happy and things needed to sustain viability here. I started shopping at South Coast Plaza — fabulous retail, ethnic food court, isolated anonymity — a comfortable destination. But soon enough pressing needs like, say, having an income, a residence and a California auto insurance policy (which my first car accident efficiently expedited) took precedent over bric-a-brac intended to furnish an abode I did not yet have.

What I needed was some help. What I needed was my family.

Every Shabbat for three months, I ached for their presence; the laughter tumbling through the hallways, the Friday afternoons spent cooking with my mother and sipping sauvignon blanc, kneading challah dough with my 15-year-old brother, who is quite deft at leveraging his religiosity for a day off from school. Most of all I missed the frustrating commotion of our time together: the competitive commiserating at the table, my father’s completely ridiculous jokes, my sister’s hurried recitation of the blessings so we could eat the raisin challah — already — and my grandmother’s prolific and endless anecdotes about everything from King David to President Bush.

When the grind of settling in subsided, I leased a studio-with-a-view in pristine Santa Monica and acquired a job in the film industry to foot the rent; I also regained the luxury of longing. Three thousand miles divided me from comfort and companionship, and though I was determined to forge ahead and establish my independence, I needed a community.

I spent weekends strolling down Main Street, eyes transfixed and ears abuzz with the Sunday morning bustle of Santa Monicans walking their dogs and carting their strollers, holding their babies and eating their brunches, sporting their iPods and donning couture — how do they put that much effort into early morning regalia? Now and then I’d make an acquaintance — in the Starbucks line (“Oh you love soy? I know — it tastes so rich!”) or at The Omelette Parlor (“Slather your muffin with apple butter … di-vine!”), but recreating the role of family takes more than casual conversation.

In order to integrate myself into the community here, I committed myself to two things: I would accept any invitation and seize every opportunity, either finding friendship or business connections, or at worst, acquiring fodder for amusing my editors and colleagues at the Journal. And if I turned on the television because I had nothing else to do, I resolved to leave the apartment.

I enrolled in a Jewish history class, which sounded very romantic, with its “4,000 years in four weeks cruise through the ancient world” motif. The age gap between me and the others in the class ran the gamut from 40-or-so years to 60.

Although it was not quite Saturday-evening fare, I was thoroughly embraced by peer and professor alike as the chronically late 20-something who hops over the desks for a discreet seat in the back and then countermands her carefully styled privacy by posing provocative questions. After all, connecting with your elders is a crucial threshold in community building and since my grandmother’s footfalls are a tough act to follow, it was going to take a village.

Another tool emerged vis-a-vis the Miami neighborhood of yore, as I endured an almost daily barrage of phone calls and e-mails from community members proffering their connections to help me put down roots. I was apprised of who to meet and where to go, and in typical Jewish fashion, heard a good deal of, “This one’s sister and that one’s brother knows someone, who knows someone, who knows someone living — somewhere — in Los Angeles.”

With nothing to lose but sleep, I complied with every insistence to connect.

Thus began a programmed routine of breakfast with film producers, sushi with television executives, coffee with Jewish musicians and, finally, a temple not to call home, but to recall home.

On Shabbat, I attended Friday Night Live, which brought me closer to the friend back home who recommended the event, while strengthening my bond to new friends, who came to the service because they knew how much it meant to me. With familiar melodies reverberating throughout the crowd, this was the moment I first felt the force of belonging — and challah never tasted so sweet!

As the days pass, the deep longings for my home and family, my temple, my rabbi, my mentors and friends, do not wane or wither.

But a different yearning forms and festers; an unfamiliar place gives birth to a new destiny, and my mind whirls with possibility — the dream of creating my own family begins to unfold.

The Candy Man Can



If you’ve ever tried to split a Big Hunk candy bar — the kind made out of brittle white nougat and peanuts — then you understand a typical breakup. It’s usually not
neat, like a Kit Kat, two for you, two for me, let’s go our separate ways and we’ll run into each other in three years at the Whole Foods with a good-natured hug in front of a platter of cubed cheese.

No, it’s usually more of a messy and twisted divide, with a few peanuts falling on the floor and someone always getting less than his or her fair share.
While everyone knows the “clean break” is the way to go, it’s rarely possible. Two people who were once in love are just not a Twix.

In fact, I will postulate that if you have ever succeeded in a truly clean break on the first try, you are most likely a sociopath. Not to be judgmental, but you’re not capable of real love.

To be honest, I would assume the “clean break” was an urban myth, if I hadn’t experienced one, against my will, at the cruel hand of an episodic television writer who had a lingerie model on the back burner.

He had no interest in my desperate plea to “just be friends while we figure things out.” In fact, he never wanted to speak to me again, and he never did. In fact, he once ducked out of a coffee shop after noticing me inside — with a theatrical sprint toward his BMW, years after we broke up. I would like to say I admire his sanitary approach to people-leaving, but I would like even more to point out that his mode is out of reach for all but the most disciplined or emotionally crippled among us.

Instead, the majority of us face a few agonizing days alone before launching into a despair-fueled effort to shove the pieces back together again. In my experience, there is usually the mini-reconciliation, the second break up, the third mini-reconciliation and the final coup de grace when one or both of you inevitably remembers why you broke it off in the first place.

Alternatively, if you are gifted at conning yourself, you may set up a series of spectacularly delusional relationship “experiments” to be played out before the final curtain comes down.

These experiments may include any of the following: Let’s try seeing other people, but only sleeping with each other. Let’s go back to “dating” and recapture the “honeymoon phase.” Let’s only see each other once a week. Let’s move into separate rooms of the house. Let’s take some “time off.” Let’s avoid ever mentioning: that girl from the office you cheated with, your mother who insulted me at your nephew’s bar mitzvah, the job you quit because it was “boring,” or any other topic that always leads to a blow-up. Let’s up the couples counseling to twice a day. Let’s only communicate via e-mail or sonic vibration and echolocation. Let’s come up with a cute code word for every time you do that thing that drives me nuts, maybe “Octopus.”

You know how it goes. For a couple of weeks, you’re both on your best behavior. You say “Octopus” and giggle at the relationship’s former infirmity. Those few tear — or bourbon — soaked nights of being apart are still so fresh in your memory, you will give any farkakta plan a try just to avoid being alone and truly accepting that a thing which was once viable is now on the slag heap.

I am now six weeks past a second faux break-up and mini-reconciliation and into the real Break Up. The talking, texting and doomed plans are all behind me.
It’s over, and I knew it would be, but I loved the guy, and after almost three years we were intertwined (think Nestle 100 Grand Bar), so I did the human thing and sunk my teeth into a few squares of denial and pain postponement. I don’t have a new boyfriend or any new addictions, I’m just feeling sad now like I’m supposed to, and that’s the best idea, as far as I know.

My friend Cammy says if you don’t feel ripped up after a break up, if you don’t try some idiotic plan to make it work again, you didn’t do the relationship right. If you don’t hurt, your heart wasn’t in it and that’s why you can walk away neatly with your half of the Almond Joy, leaving nary a crumb on the floor.
All these candy bar metaphors, while hopefully evocative, have made me hungry. And break ups make me hungry. So while I couldn’t manage it in “real life,” I can now pay a buck for two great tastes that taste great together. And a confection that’s easy to split.

Teresa Strasser in an Emmy Award- and Los Angeles Press Club-winning writer. She can be heard weekday mornings on the syndicated Adam Carolla morning radio show and is on the Web at www.teresastrasser.com.

‘Talk to You Soon’


For the record, not all men are creeps. Sure, some creep along to get things done, but most don’t mean harm, and there are some really, truly terrific guys out there.

And get this: Not all men (particularly those who dump you) are idiots.
In fact, they know exactly what they’re doing or not doing.

A short time ago, in a galaxy all too familiar, a smart, adorable guy I’d been chatting with for months faded — like one too many others — into oblivion. The red flags were raised from day one.

It started with one great conversation and ended with an….

There were an intense series of exchanges: He’d IM, I’d text. He’d leave a message apologizing for not calling every … say … week and a half; I’d return the call shortly thereafter, maybe send an e-mail response. We’d call at odd hours, occasionally meet up and enjoy our rendezvous.

We were both very, very busy people (apparently), and our relationship was ill-defined. But, at least it was ongoing, which is occasionally better than nothing (I had thought). Plus, I liked the guy.

The strangely intriguing interactions lasted about two months, until I actually noticed the waving red flags as he’d inevitably close our conversations with “talk to you soon….”

I’d sort of say, “OK,” and trail off, left to ponder.

I suppose I could have been pumped that “I” and “talk” and “you” and “soon” were in the same sentence, since to me, soon means soon.

As it turns out, though, “talk to you soon” meant “buh-bye.” Period.
Now, I do realize that stupidity runs rampant in the journey to Loveland — we hear what we want, anticipate what we shouldn’t and expect — perhaps too much. It’s also difficult to bid adieu — sometimes you don’t want to speak soon (or ever) but don’t have the cojones to admit it; sometimes you shouldn’t speak soon. And sometimes things are best left as is.

But with all our advanced means of communicating efficiently (if only occasionally effectively), courtship coding is still way off.

Today, a blind date is never blind — you’ve met them on Google. Calling may mean an IM or text; making plans may mean meeting up at a mutual friend’s party or after hours; goodbye often means you’ll still e-mail for weeks/months/years until someone finally puts his or her keyboard down. And, I guess tomorrow may mean “soon,” while soon may apparently mean never.

I should get this stuff (I think). After all, I have a Treo I can sort of work.
Dating, however, is primal. Regardless of how you hear it, there’s something nice about: “I will call you on Tuesday to see what’s cooking for the weekend.”
Meaning: I am interested in seeing you again to pursue the notion of dating you. I. Will. Call. You. Tuesday. Easy.

Not interested? Click unsubscribe. No mentions of future contact. No “Let’s be friends.” No random texts (unless you’re really, really drunk or have a friend to set up). It’s rough, but the wishy-washy, unsure, flip-flopping that’s plagued even our country’s leaders is simply a waste of time. And, it’s annoying.

Admittedly awful at severing ties, I’m also increasingly challenged to find something less frustrating, irritating and uncomfortable than unmatched expectations.

Was a time, after my now-ex-boyfriend and I had split, we would (stupidly) chat for hours — laughing, catching up and flirting (I thought, dumbly) harmlessly. Habitually, he’d sign off with “Talk to you soon.”

Note: I didn’t want to get back together. Also note: Boys and girls cannot — I repeat — cannot be just friends.

Still, I’d bite my tongue and hang up/leave feeling befuddled and agitated (see above for severing ties habits.)

This silly game continued for months. We spoke often, until after a long, flirty brunch, he mentioned his “new” girlfriend (we’ll save his tactics for another time). He tilted his head, claiming he wanted to remain friends — for brunch and whatnot.

“Of course,” I said, clenching my teeth, and sort of meaning it (as soon as I poked his eyes out and got a new boyfriend). We joked about never being able to replace me, and as we parted ways, he hugged me. Then, per usual, he said, “Talk to you soon.”

No, I haven’t heard from him since.

I guess for all the communication mayhem of my smart, adorable guy, his lack of clarity was actually quite clear.

Yes, “talk to you soon” is a bit smoother than “best of luck” or, worse, “have a nice life.” But losing faith in people — or a gender as a whole — seems even worse than hearing the truth.

Because, ultimately, making no plan means having no intention. And no call/text/e-mail means he’s not thinking about you.

Not now, not tomorrow and not soon. Period.

Scheduled Relaxation


Last Sunday afternoon I was standing in my shower scrubbing my tile. It suddenly occurred to me — in the midst of Ajax and scouring pads — that the man who was ruling my fantasies was on a plane coming back from a sure-it’s-professional junket in Las Vegas.

Something was wrong with this picture. I dropped my sponge and ran to call my girlfriend: “Hey. You gotta help me. All of this straight-and-narrow is getting to me. I need to have some fun.”

We met at a local restaurant reminiscent of the hip, urban San Francisco eateries of our 20s, had a drink, stayed late, and laughed as the waiter batted his lashes.

“Listen,” I told her over martinis. “I think I’ve forgotten how to play.”

She looked at me with the knowing eyes of a friend and said, “Me too. I feel like all I do is work on myself. Where’s the friggin’ fun part?”

What occurred to me as I started thinking about it is that I used to rely on my relationship life to have fun. I’d fly to New York, run around the city, eat passionately with my boyfriend for 10 days and come home. I’d rush home from work, throw all my clothes on the floor, don a slinky dress and feverishly drive to the beach for a drink date. I’d hike up Runyan Canyon in the middle of a storm with my dating man, laugh uproariously and kiss in the rain. It was flash and dash, delight and joy — and sometimes even love. What is was was fun.

I relied on my relationship life for downtime, too. It was the time I hung out in bed, took the slow walk around my neighborhood, had the morning-after breakfast made sloppily and slowly between intimacies.

But lately all of that has been different. I stopped dating for a while altogether (no need to go into the now-mercifully distant reason why), and in the wake of a more careful re-entry into dating life, I’ve become a project girl. Creative things that I’ve been longing to express my whole adult life I’ve taken on like a conquest. I write, I paint, I sing, I cook and I songwrite. It’s rich and it’s full and it’s fulfilling.

But what it also is is busy. And beyond my projects and an involved social life, there seems to be no genuine relaxation time. There are no goof-off, just-for-fun days where there’s nothing to do but play. I’m not sure I even remember what play-time looks like anymore.

Yet — to be totally honest — when I think back on some of those play-time, nostalgia-inducing boyfriend experiences, I have to admit that as sweet and easy as those encounters could be, they were just as often peppered by the nervous tension of “being together” when we weren’t all the way there, or by the dodging and ducking of using our intimate connection to mask other, bigger incompatibilities. That wasn’t relaxing.

As the years have gone by, I realize I’d just as soon be alone than continue to go through cycles of head-spinning effort with someone in exchange for a couple of moments of grace. So I don’t do that anymore. And though this kind of spiritual honesty has created an ease in my nervous system (and a welcome death to that horrible intimate uncertainty of giving myself where it’s not appreciated), I have to stop and wonder, have I become overworked and underplayed?

I don’t want to say that getting rid of the -isms has gotten rid of the fun part. That’s not it. But there’s something here about playing and free-falling joy that I’m missing. Something in the enjoyment of what is already here, versus the pregnant push of needing to create it. To observe, appreciate, enjoy, relax, and receive. That’s what I’m missing. And now that I’m officially dating, it seems kind of imperative to bring this ethic back onto the playing field.

I was on my cell with my wise girlfriend yesterday — the one who gives me that uncannily timed girl-advice that saves me from giving in to my idiotic post-second-date fears — and three times in row she cut out at a pivotal word.

“What?” I intoned. “On my cell. You cut out.”

She laughed outloud: “Receive, sweetheart. It kills me that you missed that. Relax and receive!”

Oh, that.

If I’ve forgotten how to have downtime, if I’ve joined the ranks of the over-diligent in my efforts to not fall into wary paths of love, then it’s time to loosen the reigns a bit. Underplaying means I have to let go of my project-queen, art-making cottage-industry, and just be done for a while.

So, with the grace of personal discovery, I’ll be amending that busy behavior, whether I’m accompanied or not. It’s time to enjoy whoever I’m seeing, and have fun on my own. It’s time to let go, go slow, play, hang out and take some time to do absolutely nothing.

Even if it means I have to schedule it.

JoAnneh Nagler is a freelance writer living in Los Angeles. She writes articles, philanthropic proposals and has recently been at work on Fox’s telenovellas “Table for Three” and “Fashion House.” Her newly completed folk-pop CD “I Burn” is online at

Obituaries


Leonore Arvidson died April 26 at 80. She is survived by her daughter, Enid; son, Dean; grandson, Ben; sisters, Bea (Max) Perlberg and Char Goldberg; and brother, Stan Charnofsky. Mount Sinai

HERMAN BRAGER died April 23 at 76. He is survived by his wife, Betty; son, Steven; daughter, Rhonda; one grandchild; and sister, Estelle Singer. Hillside

Rodman Rubin Cohen died April 27 at 82. He is survived by his wife, Rose; sons, Jeffrey (Judie), Paul (Kathy) and Mark (Maribel); daughter Joan (Steven) Soltz; 12 grandchildren; and brother, Herman (Terry). Mount Sinai

SONDRA SHAMES-COHEN died April 27 at 73. She is survived by her husband, Morton Cohen; children Mickey (Steven) Lewis and Brad (Julie) Shames; 11 grandchildren; and one great-granddaughter. Hillside

Nettie Condon died April 26 at 91. She is survived by her sons, John (Cyd) and Frank; and granddaughter, Chloe. Mount Sinai

SUSAN COOPER died April 29 at 62. She is survived by her husband, Steven; son, Todd (Alexandra); and three grandchildren. Hillside

Morris Farkas died April 26 at 93. He is survived by his son, Morris. Groman

Jerry Freeman died April 30. He is survived by his wife, Aviva; daughters, Leslie Aaronson and Nili Ovsiwitz; one grandchild; and sister, Judith Kahn. Groman

MAX GEFFNER died April 26 at 86. He is survived by his wife, Valerie; sons, Sandy (Ellen) and Bob (Ellen); daughters Nola (George) Geffner-Mihlsten ; stepson, Steve; and eight grandchildren. Sholom Chapels

Zena Gold died April 30 at 90. She is survived by her daughters, Judith (David) Rosenthal and Maxine (Lloyd) Kouri; grandchildren, Greg (Barbara) Rosenthal and Tina Kouri; and sister, Ina Gruman. Mount Sinai

Mae Goldberg died April 8 at 98. She is survived by her son, Maurice; daughter, Marcia Gomberg; six grandchildren; and seven great-grandchildren. Mount Sinai

Bertha Goldstein died April 24 at 80. She is survived by her husband, Julian; son, Steve (Judy); daughter, Ellen (Stephen) Goldstein-Tersigni; three grandchildren; brother, Irving (Arlene) Shapiro. Mount Sinai

DOROTHY SARA HOFFS died April 22 at 94. She is survived by her sons, Dr. Josh (Tamar) and Dr. Malcolm (Ellen); six grandchildren; and seven great-grandchildren. Hillside

JACK JOSEPH JACOBSON died April 26 at 93. He is survievd by his wife, Libbie; children, Annee Tara (Tom Rumpf) and Tom Jacobson; grandchildren Ethan Jacobson and Leah (Jake) Schug; and great-grandchild, Alexander Joaquin Schug. Hillside

Arnold Kaplan died April 28 at 63. He is survived by his wife, Sheila; children, Alison (Jan) Kelleter, Howard and Lorn; two grandchildren; and mother, Mildred. Mount Sinai

Charlene Karwoski died May 2 at 74. She is survived by her daughters, Marcy Brenner and Rose Arellanes; sons, Sanford (Lena) Brenner, Frank (Kim), Vince (Mary) and William Arellanes; 10 grandchildren; three great-grandchildren; and brother, Howard (Bea) Block. Mount Sinai

Morris Katz died April 24 at 92. He is survived by his sons, Martin and Carl; brother, Nathan; and sister, Gertrude Linder. Mount Sinai

Dr. Gregorio Kazenelson died April 24 at 71. He is survived by his wife, Barbara; and daughter, Debra (Jeff) Dean. Malinow and Silverman

Rose Kravitz died April 30 at 89. She is survived by her sons, Sheldon (Denise) and Herbert (Eleanor); and four grandchildren. Mount Sinai

MATTHEW CAMERON LEWIS died April 26 at 18. He is survived by his parents, Adena Berger and Robert; grandparents, Sheldon and Venita Berger; and sisters, Rachel, Lilly and Olivia. Hillside

EMANUEL LIGHT died April 24 at 90. He is survived by his wife, Celia; sons, Jeffrey (Francine), Donald (Jane) and Dennis; four grandchildren; and two great-granddaughters. Hillside

Carol Love died April 25 at 56. She is survived by her sons, Bellaamy Mitchell, and John Brink; daughter Maydee Mitchell; and three grandchildren. Groman

Evelyn Magid died April 29 at 92. She is survived by her daughter, Bonnie (Barrett) Bearson; son, Jerry; three grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren. Mount Sinai

RICHARD NEAL NORTH died April 26 at 53. He is survived by his father, Milton; and cousin, Don Preston. Hillside

LISA BLOCH OLSHANSKY, died April 29. She is survived by her husband, Richard Olshansky; children, Amy Rose, Chaysen and Max; parents, Richard and Nancy Bloch; and brothers, Andrew and Jonathan Malinow and Silverman

Teresa Perchuk died May 1 at 88. She is survived by her daughters, Felica Lopez and Silvia; and two grandchildren. Mount Sinai

MAC RAFF died April 29 at 86. He is survived by his son, Mitch; and sister, Sally Springer. Sholom Chapels

Nat Regenstreif died May 1 at 89. He is survived by his wife, Vivian; sons, Ron (Roxann) and Allan (Adele); three grandchildren; five great-grandchildren; and sisters, Irene (Martin) Travis and Marlene Semel.

Rebecca Rosen died April 29 at 91. She is survived by her son, Albert Rosen; daughter, Elissa Berzon; five grandchildren; and eight great-grandchildren. Groman

Judy Rothstein died May 2 at 75. She is survived by her sons, Ron, Glen and Kenny; daughter, Gail Ream; two grandchildren; brother, Leonard Abraham. Groman

MARY ANN SACHERMAN died April 21 at 82. She is survived by her daughters, Lynne (Dennis) Fliegelman and Lynda (Michael) Rubenstein; grandchildren, Natalie and Alex; and sister, Sally Cole. Hillside

EDWARD SARROW died April 24 at 82. He is survived by his companion, Phyllis Ames; son, Ron; three grandchildren; brother, Arnie.

Marion Schneider died April 24 at 82. She is survived by her husband, Martin; children, Ronald (Terry), Avery (Barbara) and Wendy; granddaughter, Juliette; and brother, David (Gina) Tepper. Mount Sinai

ALAN SCHULTZ died April 21 at 61. He is survived by his wife, Harriet; sons, Randy (Jill) and Rob; mother, Bella; brother, Steven; sisters, Gail and Joy; and friend, Elaine Saller. Hillside

John Bruce Sills died May 1 at 62. He is survived by his wife, Patricia; mother, Edythe Fahringer; and brothers, Steven and Mickey. Groman

Henry Silver died April 27 at 94. He is survived by his nieces, Miriam (Asher) Harel and Jean Priver. Mount Sinai

Howard Sookman died April 30, at 80. He is survived by his wife, Shirley; daughters, Barbara (Cantor Edwin) Gerber and Sheryl; and four grandchildren. Mount Sinai

SHERRI LEE STONE died May 1 at 59. She is survived by her husband, Michael; children Aaron (Lisa) and Joshua; mother, Rebecca Orinstein; sisters Carol (Jon) Swinnerton and Harriet Orinstein; parents-in-law, Oscar and Shirley; brothers in-law, Bruce (Susan) and Hal (Lynda Stone); and eight nieces and nephews. Hillside

Adele Strauss died April 28 at 93. She is survived by sons, Dr. Ronald (Susie) and Stephen; granddaughter, Valerie; and niece, Helen Kurtz . Mount Sinai

Shirley Venger died April 27 at 81. She is survived by her daughter, Paula (Ed) Albert; and three grandchildren. Mount Sinai

RANDY LEE WEIL died April 25 at 52. She is survived by her mother, Ruth; sister, Sharon (John) Aaron; and friend, Rabbi Judith Halevy. Hillside

SPENCER JAY WILLENS died May 1 at 78. He is survived by his wife, Harriet; children Douglas, Donald, Michael, Damon and Stacey; six grandchildren; and one great-grandchild. Hillside

Gazella Yaffe died April 24 at 89. She is survived by her son, Richard; daughter, Barbara Feinberg; and two grandchildren. Groman

Obituaries


MIRIAM MOLAY ALBIN died April 10 at 89. She is survived by her son, Dr. David; daughter, Judy (Dan) Platus; five grandchildren; and one great-grandchild. Hillside

Hanriet Shalom Barlava died March 31 at 80. She is survived by her son, Ezatollah; and brother, Jacques. Chevra Kadisha

Arthur Beer died April 8 at 87. He is survived by his son, Edward; daughter, Linda Fisher; three grandchildren; and one great-grandchild. Groman

MARVIN NELSON BIRKEN died April 10 at 83. He is survived by his wife, Mickey; children, Jim (Lois Courtney), Maxine (Richard) Eisenberg and Leonard; step-children, Carrie (Bob) Grodin-Vehling, Donna (Richard) Trubo and Marty (Elaine) Grodin; 12 grandchildren; and six great-grandchildren. Hillside

Betty Bledy died April 9 at 77. She is survived by her sons, Leslie and Mark; and four grandchildren. Groman

David Boder died April 9 at 83. He is survived by his son, Steve; daughter, Adrienne Azouz; and two grandchildren. Groman

SYLVIA BRAHINSKY died April 5 at 97. She is survived by her daughter, Sunny Deutschman; son, David (Linda) Brahinsky; five grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren. Hillside

Evelyn Cooper died April 15 at 84. She is survived by her husband, Nathan; daughter, Barbara Azar; four grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren. Groman

Dr. William Copen died March 27 at 76. He is survived by his wife, Phyllis; son, Dr. Stephen (Naghmeh); and one grandchild. Mount Sinai

Ashraf Farahi died April 3 at 91. She is survived by her son, Mousa; and daughter, Angela Faradin. Chevra Kadisha

Beatrice Feldman died April 9 at 82. She is survived by her husband, Leonard; sons, Steven and Robert; daughters, Freddi Ann Horowitz and Deborah; seven grandchildren; brothers, Murray, William and Albert Balopole; and sister, Sylvia Tetenbaum. Groman

MARILYN FELT died April 4 at 68. She is survived by her husband, George; daughter, Laura (Steven) Baker; and grandchildren, Jed and Lucie Baker. Hillside

Dorothy Finestone died April 15 at 92. She is survived by her sons, Alan and Bill; and six grandchildren. Groman

WALLACE FISCHMANN died April 5 at 83. He is survived by his wife, Madelyn; daughter, Dr. Laura Havstad; sons, Scott and Steve; seven grandchildren; and brother Harvey. Hillside

ARTHUR FRANCAVILLA died April 8 at 89. He is survived by his son, Michael (Gayle); daughter, Melodie; five grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren. Hillside

DONNA GLICK died April 12 at 57. She is survived by her husband, Marshall; daughters, Marni and Heather; brother Marvin; sister-in-law, Laura; and three nieces.Hillside

LEON GOTTDANK died April 6 at 83. He is survived by his niece, Sandy Bogin. Hillside

Richard Groff died April 8 at 85. He is survived by his sons, Vaughn, Carl and David; daughters, Lorraine Brake and Paula Pearlman; seven grandchildren; brother, Ray; and relative Eddie Hendricks. Groman

Melvin Jay Guthman died April 7 at 86. He is survived by his wife, Laura; son, Mitchell; daughter, Dr. Julie; one grandchild; and sister, Ruthe Pearlman. Groman

Sol Hauptman died April 8 at 87. He is survived by his wife, Adeline; son, Leslie; daughter, Dale Schneider; brother, Jack; seven grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren. Groman

Ann Hausman died April 10 at 84. She is survived by her son, Donald; daughter, Sheryl; sister, Dorothy Zettler; and five grandchildren. Groman

Boris Ibragimov died April 15 at 57. He is survived by his wife, Julia; and daughter, Angela. Chevra Kadisha

Justine Sophie Jaffe died April 7 at 84. She is survived by her son, Robert; daughter, Lisa Richards; three grandchildren; brother, Lawrence Wild. Groman

David Lou Kass died April 13 at 74. He is survived by his daughter, Michelle Meyer. Chevra Kadisha

Franklin Lewis Kent died April 14 at 85. He is survived by his son, Thomas; and brother, Edward. Groman

LOUIS LEMBERGER died April 10 at 92. He is survived by his wife, Sylvia; and seven grandchildren. Hillside

BARBARA LEVENTHAL died April 8 at 49. She is survived by her sons, Chad and Aaron Penny; brothers, Robert, Marvin and Brian; and sister-in-law, Dorothy Leventhal. Hillside

Ina Allene Levine died April 7 at 72. She is survived by her sons, Jeffrey and Jon; daughters, Jodi Levine and Jill Butterbaugh; mother, Myra Dorshkind; nine grandchildren; and one great-grandchild. Groman

ROBERT LIVINGSTONE died April 6 at 81. He is survived by his son, Keith (Nancy); daughter, Patti (Todd Finkle); grandson Joseph Ritzo; and sister Sharon, (Ted) Asnis. Hillside

Ray Evelyn Lowenstein died April 15 at 99. She is survived by her daughter, Barbara Davis; and grandson, Howard Davis. Chevra Kadisha

Maurice Mazer died April 14 at 86. He is survived by his nephews, Claudio Balter and Laurence Balter; and nieces, Amy Friedlander, Lily Holland and Lucy Kihm. Groman

Iraj Manshoory died April 7 at 89. He is survived by his wife, Berokha; and son, Mike. Chevra Kadisha

Yaghoub Mehdian died April 11 at 52. He is survived by his wife, Guillermina; and son, Shahnum Josh Mehdian. Chevra Kadisha

Annette Miretsky died April 16 at 79. She is survived by her daughters, Nina (Simon Asheroff) and Pamela; son, Donald (Bonnie); grandchildren, Izaah and Noah; sister, Linda Prosk; and brother, Marty (Hillary) Kamenir. Mount Sinai

Herbert Martin Newman died April 6 at 83. He is survived by his wife, Livia; and sons, David and Sam. Chevra Kadisha

Anita Bernstein Phillips died April 15 at 75. She is survived by her sister, Rosalind (David) Spielsinger; cousin, Judith Hyman; nieces; nephews; and friend, Naomi Mark. Pinelawn, N.Y.

Larry Rabkin died April 15. He is survived by his wife, Eleanor; daughter, Leslie (Mark); sons, Richard (Gloria), Mark (Randi) and Michael (Chip); five grandchildren; and sister, Fruma. Malinow and Silverman

Bess Raskin died April 6 at 95. She is survived by her daughters, Jo Anne Brosnahan and Gloria Rosenthal; three grandchildren; and nine great-grandchildren. Groman

Margaret Rose died April 17 at 99. She is survived by her nieces, Jackie (Reuben) Alvy and Linda; nephews, David and Michael; great-nieces; and great-nephews. Mount Sinai

Maurice Rosenson died April 10 at 84. He is survived by his wife, Bella; sons Bernard and Charles; daughter, Sylvie Deutsch; and eight grandchildren. Groman

ANNE SAKS died April 8 at 95. She is survived by her daughter, Yonetta (Leonard) Asin. Hillside

Allan Rothenberg died April 9 at 81. He is survived by wife, Harriet; son, David; daughters, Marsha Kendall and Carol; four grandchildren; and sister, Luba Small. Groman

Mildred Sheanin died April 16 at 90. She is survived by her daughter, Carol (Philip) Cramer; son, Stephen (Jackie Applebaum); three grandchildren; two great-grandchildren; and sister, Henrietta (Irv) Levine. Mount Sinai

Beverly Rita Solomon died April 16 at 74. She is survived by her daughter, Fran; son, Michael; and stepbrother, Joseph Weissbard. Mount Sinai

Irma Templer died April 8 at 106. She is survived by her niece, Joanna Grun. Groman

Sylvia Miller Tishk died April 14 at 83. She is survived by her sons, Todd, Garth and Rex Miller; 11 grandchildren; sister, Ida Kofsky; and niece, Joan Gesson-Jacobs. Groman

Sura Vainberg died April 9 at 78. She is survived by her son, Yaakov Grinblat; daughter, Marianna; and grandchildren, Diana and Michelle. Chevra Kadisha

Phyllis Wiesenberg died April 17 at 82. She is survived by her son, Mark; daughters, Randi Chazan and Wendy Weisenberg; and one grandchild. Groman

Houshang Yadgari died April 17 at 70. He is survived by his wife, Jilla; and son, Allen. Chevra Kadisha

 

Obituaries


Ruth Adler died April 8 at 85. She is survived by her daughter, Michelle (Gevik) Bachoian; son, Frank (Karen); five grandchildren; and sister, Bella Cohen. Mount Sinai

Elana Belinkoff died March 13 at 80. She is survived by her husband, Adar; daughters, Dalia (Ira), Alisa (Howard), Dena (Sol); seven grandchildren; and sister Rama Zamir. Hillside.

Betty Bledy died April 9 at 77. She is survived by her husband, Arthur; sons, Mark and Leslie; four grandchildren; and two great- grandchildren.

Blanche Bloom died April 11 at 87. She is survived by her son, Noel (Susan); daughter, Maggie; three grandchildren; brother, Hal (Pat) Alexander; and nephew, Rob (Lisa) Miller. Mount Sinai

Israel David Borenstein died April 8, at 84. He is survived by his sons, Larry (Laurie) and Jeff (Judy); daughter, Blanche (Mark) Kraveitz; six grandchildren; and sister, Anna Gutwillic. Mount Sinai

Harriett Cherney died April 3 at 87. She is survived by her brother, Victor Bochacki; and sisters, Annette Bafo and Majorie Adamski. Malinow and Silverman

Allan Davis died April 13 at 77. He is survived by his wife, Beryl; sons, Gary (Victoria) and Paul (Ginnie); five grandchildren; and brother, Cyril Davis. Mount Sinai

Betty Ducat died April 7 at 92. She is survived by her daughter, Shirley Laderman. Malinow and Silverman

Shirley Mae Epps died April 4 at 81. She is survived by her daughter, Lorry (Mate) Greenblatt; son, Jack (Cynthia); and four grandchildren. Mount Sinai

Emanuel Finkel died April 7 at 94. He is survived by his son, Ted; and daughter, Irene Landsberg. Malinow and Silverman

Rose Fisher died April 4 at 94. She is survived by her sons, Arnold and Robert (Ofra); daughter, Verna Erez; six grandchildren; and sister, Ida Chisvian. Mount Sinai

LARRY GOLD died April 4 at 52. He is survived by his wife, Cindy; children Andrew, Olivia, Ian and Madeline; mother, Beverly; siblings, Donna (Bruce) Rothstein, David Ross and Lisa; sister-in-law, Penny (Jerome) Madden; and three nephews. Hillside

Mae Goldberg died April 8 at 98. She is survived by her son, Maurice (Arline); daughter, Marcia (Jerome) Gomberg; six grandchildren; and eight great-grandchildren. Mount Sinai

Florence Goldstein died April 3 at 91. She is survived by her daughter, Elsie (Jack) Hunn. Malinow and Silverman

Henry Goldstein died April 4 at 94. He is survived by his daughter, Beverly Cohen. Malinow and Silverman

Jack Greenberg died April 14 at 98. He is survived by his son, Anthony. Malinow and Silverman

Clifford Harris died April 7 at 58. He is survived by his wife, Ellen; sons, Kevin (Joanna) and Scott (Sierra); daughter Meggan (Adam Miller); and three grandchildren. Mount Sinai

Florence Kauffman died April 11 at 88. She is survived by her husband, Richmond; sons, Andrew and Richard; four grandchildren; and brother, George Hausman. Malinow and Silverman

Rosaline Klein died April 5 at 92. She is survived by her daughters, Roberta Thompson and Francine Denmeade; six grandchildren; 12 great-grandchildren; and two great-great-grandchildren. Groman

Anne Ladon died April 3 at 90. She is survived by her daughter, Carol Alpert; and granddaughter, Julie Alpert. Mount Sinai

Michelle Ann Leve died April 2 at 34. She is survived by her mother, Deborah. Malinow and Silverman

Marian Le Vine died April 6 at 86. She is survived by her daughter, Marsha Krieger; son, Jerry (Carole); six grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren. Mount Sinai

Harold Milton Lewis died April 11 at 95. He is survived by his wife, Harriet; son, Steven; daughters, Lynn Alschuler and Babette Walter; sister, Jean Remar; 14 grandchildren; and eight great-grandchildren. Malinow and Silverman

Sam Lereya died April 14 at 100. He is survived by his daughters, Rachel Aflalo and Zaava. Malinow and Silverman

Max Lipshultz died April 9, at 84. He is survived by his children, Diane (Tony) and Michael; two grandchildren; brother, Fred; and sisters, Sara Agata and Eva. Mount Sinai

Mindla Majdat died April 3 at 94. She is survived by her stepson, Percy (Natalie) Cooper. Mount Sinai

Louis Marder died April 9 at 84. She is survived by her son, Sheldon; and granddaughter, Jennifer. Mount Sinai

Monroe Miller died April 7 at 90. He is survived by his sons, Kenny (Martha) and Jeffrey (Rich); and daughter, Marsha. Mount Sinai

Linda Barbara Moffa died April 6 at 58. She is survived by her husband, Philip; daughters, Sharon (Dr. Andrew) Horodner and Dr. Allison; and one grandson. Malinow and Silverman

Yetta Newman died April 9 at 88. She is survived by her sons, Dale (Carolee) and Jeffrey (Lila); six grandchildren; 10 great-grandchildren; sister, Helen (Sam) Weingard; and brother, Marvin (May) Berman. Mount Sinai

Dorothy Nissenson died April 10 at 92. She is survived by her son, Bernie (Marcia) Labowitz; grandchildren, Paul Labowitz and Shannon (Michael) Coleman; great- grandchildren, Kyle and Rachel Coleman; and cousin, Fern. Mount Sinai

Yoram Pourtavosi died April 10 at 48. He is survived by his wife, Shadi; children, Cobby, Elliot and Kevin; mother, Nosrat; sisters, Mehri (Hooshang) Davdodpour and Minou (Yoel) Eshagian; brothers, Yahiah (Dina Asheghian) and Joseph (Sohila); and cousin, Abbey Tabariai. Mount Sinai

Molly Rael died April 6 at 90. She is survived by her husband, Irving; son, Michael; and sisters, Eileen Phinney and Frieda Uretz. Mount Sinai

Beatrice Weisstein Ridgley died April 4 at 91. She is survived by her husband, Paul; son, Larry; daughter, Renee’ (Linda) Perez; three grandchildren; and sister, Thelma Sundick. Malinow and Silverman

Gloria Rudolph died April 4 at 78. She is survived by her son, Randy. Malinow and Silverman

Judith Sandler died April 12 at 87. She is survived by her son, Barry (Naomi); and two grandsons. Malinow and Silverman

Stuart Seidner died April 12 at 57. He is survived by his wife, Roxane; son, Daniel; daughter, Erin; mother, Ruth; brother, Gary (Luciano); and sister, Sandra (Robert) Rosenstein. Mount Sinai

Esther Shapiro died April 4 at 89. She is survived by her daughter, Susan; son, Alan (Pearl); four grandchildren; and four great- grandchildren. Mount Sinai

Betty Ann Silver died April 3 at 88. She is survived by her daughter, Rosalind. Malinow and Silverman

Nancy Sollish died April 10 at 98. She is survived by her son, Melvin; daughter, Pauline; three grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.

Philip Solomon died April 3 at 88. He is survived by his wife, Claire; son, Barry (Linda); four grandchildren; and one great-grandchild. Mount Sinai

Leon Harold Specktor died April 5 at 83. He is survived by his daughter, Denyse; and brother, Dr. Marshall (Marlene) Spector. Malinow and Silverman

Martin Stiller died April 6 at 67. He is survived by his wife, Barbara; sons, Neil (Kimberly) and Gary (Vicki); three grandsons, David, Jonathan and Wesley; and sisters, Elaine (John) Bush, Beverly Setser and Leslie Steiner. Mount Sinai

David Tamarin died April 5 at 87. He is survived by his daughters, Adreen DuBow, Judy and Faith; three grandsons; two great-grandchildren; sister, Anna (Glen) Popperwell; and brother, Carl. Mount Sinai

Randolph David Thornton died April 6 at 50. He is survived by his wife, Kim; daughters, Sean and Michelle; mother, Elizabeth; sister, Cindy; and brother, Michael. Malinow and Silverman

Irving Willner died April 5 at 82. He is survived by his wife, Ruth; son, Paul (Lynn Clancy); daughter, Julia (Scott) Parker; granddaughter, Erin Alyssa; and sisters, Shirley (Sol) Matzkin and Phyllis (Jonas) Herskovitz. Mount Sinai

Margaret Zelson died April 7 at 83. She is survived by her daughter, Carol Miller. Malinow and Silverman

 

Fit L.A. – The Birthday Party Crasher: Dr. Atkins


Over the past few months, I have relished the apparent collapse of the low-carb industry. Low-carb specialty stores and magazines arrived with much fanfare but soon crumbled like a tired soufflé.

Good riddance to them, I thought — especially the magazine that tried to bilk me after I wrote an article for them. Low-carbism was just another sorry scheme to part consumers from their hard-earned bucks and their bagels.

And who could afford the stuff? I tried an insanely expensive low-carb pasta once. It was heavy, gummy and tasteless — and those were its finer qualities.

But I realized my satisfaction was premature, when I was confronted with the ghost of Dr. Atkins. She was draped in a Size 2 dress and toting a sorry slice of flourless bread between scrawny fingers.

The timing couldn’t have been worse. I was happily toting a batch of homemade bread and a broccoli quiche to a pot-luck birthday party, eager for some good fun and good eats. But I had barely crossed the threshold, when Sandy, the hostess and erstwhile birthday girl, announced that she had lost another 10 pounds on the Atkins plan.

Sandy had always been as slim as an asparagus spear. Why she felt compelled to whittle down to as thin as a blade of wheat grass was beyond me. And telling me bordered on the cruel. I forced a smile at her “achievement” as I placed my culinary contributions on the table.

“Mmmm, smells good,” Sandy said, leaning over to inhale the bread.

If she were still Atkinizing herself, could I blame her for wanting a little inhalation therapy of a wheat product?

“This is home baked, isn’t it?” I detected a plaintive quality to her question.

“Yes, and I made the broccoli quiche, too.”

Hope returned to her voice: “Is it crustless?”

“Uh, no, I’m sorry. I didn’t realize you were still no-carbing it.”

“I’m not no-carbing it; I’m low-carbing it,” she clarified.

“But Sandy, it’s your birthday, for crying out loud. Can’t you allow yourself a measly 50 or 60 carbs today? I mean, look at you. When you turn sideways you disappear.”

Sandy was saved from answering by a knock at the door. Linda and Rachel had arrived, the heavenly aroma of something Italian wafting in after them.

Soon, all the guests had settled around the table. I sliced my bread and passed the basket around. Sandy immediately passed the basket to Linda. Meanwhile, I saw her stealthily uncover a very dark, very thin slice of bread filled with sprouty-looking things from under her napkin.

“What is that?” Linda asked.

It appeared to have been made from at least 40 percent recycled paper products.

“It’s flourless protein bread,” Sandy explained. It was called Ezekiel 4.9, “as described in the Holy Bible,” according to the package, made from lentils, barley and spelt, whatever that was.

Just what we all needed: a “friend” seemingly bent on becoming skinnier than Lindsay Lohan and a loaf of bread that quoted scripture. Sandy offered us all a piece, and we each took polite little bites.

“Who says there’s no truth in advertising?” I asked. “This actually tastes biblical.”

“I thought the Atkins thing was over,” Linda chimed in helpfully, washing down her Ezekiel 4.9 with an eight-ounce cup of H2O.

“Not for me,” Sandy said. “I’m almost at my high school cheerleading weight, which is my goal. You may think it’s silly,” she admitted, ejecting a carrot curl from her salad as if it carried the avian flu.

Rachel was busily serving up a nice portion of the broccoli quiche and some low-fat manicotti: “My sister-in-law is going one better than you, Sandy. She’s only eating raw foods.”

“That sounds exhausting,” I said. “Who has that much time to chew?”

“She says it makes her feel light,” Rachel answered.

“If I want to feel that light, I’ll float in the Dead Sea,” I said.

Was I sounding a tad snarky? I couldn’t help it. I had been looking forward to this birthday party, and the guest of honor was ruining it for me. If only Sandy had warned us all in advance, we could have saved ourselves a lot of trouble and prepared a meal that she could have eaten without picking out half the ingredients, such as a plate of cheese slices and broiled zucchini. Rachel had made her famous Big Fat Greek Salad, but I was distracted by the sight of Sandy making a little hill of the croutons and shunting aside all the tomatoes, as well. What a waste of all that Vitamin C.

I didn’t say so at the time, but it didn’t seem to me that Dr. Atkins’ dietary brainstorm helped him very much, either. After all, he died after taking a fall. Seems to me that if he had had a little more padding on him, he probably could have just gotten up, dusted himself off and went on his merry way.

Of course, the Atkins people like to keep this quiet, but I also heard his cholesterol was higher than the Dow Jones Industrial Average. Despite all his efforts, you still never hear anybody say, “That’s the greatest thing since sliced celery.”

Inevitably, dessert time arrived. We all sang “Happy Birthday” to Sandy, but I wasn’t feeling so happy anymore. The unspoken pressure during lunch had made me peel off the pasta from the manicotti, and even I was reduced to foregoing the croutons on the Greek salad. It’s amazing how fast mass hysteria can spread.

Rachel served her luscious carrot cake, and Sandy blew out the candles before eating a piece. But no matter how long she sat there, no way could Sandy pick out all the microscopic pieces of carrot from a slab of carrot cake.

However, it all worked out in the end. While the rest of us ate the actual cake, we scraped off the cream cheese frosting and gave it to Sandy.

Judy Gruen (www.judygruen.com) is the author of two award-winning humor books, including “Till We Eat Again: Confessions of a Diet Dropout” (Champion, 2002).

 

A Single Problem


I have a perfect record in setting up my friends on dates: I have struck out every single time. I am 0 for 20, maybe worse. Only one relationship that I tried to initiate made it past the first date. That one lasted for four years and ended in tears, anguish and confusion. The only thing those two friends agreed on in the end is they would never accept my offer to set them up again with anyone, ever.

Two years ago, the last time I tried to set a friend up, I called her Sunday morning to see how Saturday night went. There was a pause on her end of the line. “Do you,” she said, “even know me?”

Ouch.

The problem is, I know far more wonderful Jewish single women than men. They are in their 30s and 40s, ready and eager to marry and start a family. They are smart, accomplished professionals. They have good senses of humor. They range from attractive to drop-dead gorgeous, from economically independent to loaded. And this is all they want: a nice, eligible Jewish guy in his late 30s or 40s.

No big deal? Judging from their experiences, such a creature is as rare as a Narnian efreet.

I know that on a sociological level, this oft-discussed problem has consequences far beyond one woman’s thwarted desires. The Jewish population is in decline, and our inability to breed at least at a replacement level is the usual suspect.

The 2000-2001 National Jewish Population Survey, conducted by United Jewish Communities, revealed that more than one-half of American Jewish men and more than one-third of American Jewish women ages 25-34 are not married.

Even among Orthodox Jews, who are far more likely to marry younger and bear more children, the numbers of unmarried Orthodox adults today are far higher than they were several decades ago.

Compared to other Americans, Jewish women marry later, and are more likely to be childless. In all, 42 percent of the Jewish adult population is single, and 30 percent of Jewish households are single-dwellings.

These statistics are the fodder for so much expert debate and the inspiration for every kind of singles outreach from SpeedDating to Friday Night Live to the upcoming round of holiday-themed “young single” parties. (Ten years ago, those parties were advertised to 20- and 30-somethings. Now I see the age has crept up to 40- and early 50-somethings.)

But I see the problem on a much more personal level every week. My friends want to find someone. The dating game gets old. The war stories, like all war stories, are better savored from the vantage point of the victor. At a certain point, the Howard Stern factor kicks in. A successful Jewish man in his 50s can date 20- or 30-year-olds. So the options for a Jewish woman in her early 40s grow ever more narrow.

I don’t know why that is. My sense is that finding the right mate has always been difficult: see any Shakespeare comedy, see all chick lit, read any Singles column in this paper any given week.

Being Jewish makes it more difficult — naturally — because the pool is smaller (I didn’t say “more shallow”).

But that is the dilemma, and it is not going away on its own, or through holding fast or promoting orthodoxies that, in this day and age, have built-in limitations on their appeal.

My suggestions?

One way to expand the pool is to pursue conversion. Numerous studies have shown that religion in the home is the woman’s domain: if she wills it, it is no dream. Synagogues, community and educational centers and Jewish leadership should offer all the resources and support at their disposal to a woman committed to Jewish life who enters into a relationship with a non-Jew. The acceptance and joy she finds in her faith will embrace her children and her spouse as well. Free counseling, loads of useful materials on the Web, even drop-in centers will help turn what we are conditioned to think of as loss into opportunity. The Reform movement’s new emphasis on conversion in interfaith relationships (see page 18) is a major and welcome step in this direction.

As for the rest of us, in this season of giving, resolve to give a single friend the gift of one blind date this year. One good fix-up for each person on your list. Do it –because Lord knows I can’t.

Last month I attended a wedding in Westwood. The bride and groom met on JDate. Evidently, on JDate, you get messages from people who read your online profile and are interested, but you also see the e-mails of people who’ve checked you out and passed. The bride read the profile of one such man. He had read about her, seen her picture, and decided she wasn’t the one.

“I saw you saw my profile,” she e-mailed him soon after, “and decided not to contact me. You’re making a big mistake.” By waiting for some fantasy digital woman to drop into his inbox, he was missing out on an opportunity to get to know someone real and terrific.

Impressed by her chutzpah, he e-mailed her back. They went to Hawaii on their honeymoon.

The moral of this story is twofold. One: Jewish men should realize they are missing out on plenty of wonderful women. And two: Amid the dry and bleak statistics, there’s can still be a happily ever after….

 

He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Dated


You know how Harry Potter has a scar emblazoned on his forehead from He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named? Dan has a big T for Trouble on his, marking him as He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Dated.

Let me start in the middle: I go to this party at an awful place in Santa Monica, in some dark and crowded and loud basement bar, and I feel like I’ve accidentally, anachronistically stepped into a college party circa 1992 except that everyone here is old — by old I mean my age — and it’s hard to have a proper conversation.

Of course you don’t go to a bar for proper conversations — I’m not that old — but you can hardly see anybody or anything except the mosh pit of bodies swaying in 2-by-2 dancing/flirting/making-out duets. Maybe it’s just one of those nights when I feel terribly left out of everything no matter where I go. (I’ve just come from a Shabbat dinner with lots of married couples and kids — try finding an outfit that fits both these occasions.) Or maybe it’s Dan.

I met Dan a few weeks ago at an awesome party downtown. It was held on the entire floor of an industrial building on Spring Street, where a dozen or so artists were showing their work — mostly photographs and paintings but with a couple of jewelry and clothing designers interspersed. The lighting and the ceilings were low in a way that made everyone look more scintillating than they might in a retro basement bar in Santa Monica. Of course, it could have been the flutes of wine or the chocolate truffles. Or could it really have been Dan?

I wasn’t even looking to meet someone. I was actually dating someone else.

Which is why Dan and I could talk like normal people, and not single people on the make, dressed up in our best costumes and our most sparkly personalities, working furiously to obfuscate our skeletons beneath endless layers of jaunty jingles. So we talked about — what else? — relationships.

My one-two analysis: Dan has commitment-phobia, candy-store syndrome, and/or model rocket-scientist disorder. The thing is, like with milk or eggs, he can predict the exact shelf life of his relationships, but he goes for it anyway, pretending it’s real because he wants the comfort. He’s the guy that, out of the blue, when things were going perfectly well, says that things are not going well at all and disappears like he’s in the FBI Witness Protection Program. Dan is like many of my male single friends — friends I swear I’m going to dump because of the pain and torture they subject on womankind.

On that particular night, Dan’s problems didn’t bother me, because I had someone else. But then a little while later, I didn’t.

So when Dan called a few weeks later to invite me to this party in Santa Monica. I remembered his periwinkle eyes and his scruffy brown hair and the way he constantly touched my arm for punctuation. I said yes.

I finally locate him among the throngs, and we start talking. The problem is, we continue our conversation where we left off a few weeks ago: He regales me with his dating problems. How this one girl in Northern California is outdoorsy and smart but she lacks passion. How this other girl in Los Angeles is an aerobics instructor with an awesome body but not an intellectual.

“I want someone who is smart and challenging and has interests and is Jewish,” he says. “Is that too much to ask for?”

“Me!” I want to say. “Me! I’m smart, I’m Jewish, I’m passionate, I’m outdoorsy, I’m cool. What’s wrong with me?”

But I know: We’ve entered the friend zone. I’m like the fat girl in high school that boys confided in but never dated. Except that in high school I was the girl that everyone dated and didn’t confide in. So, I don’t know what to say when Dan points out the hot waitress. Okay, it’s hard to ignore her: fake boobs, butt tattoo, nimble waist that is so out of place in this dump — but am I such stuffed cabbage that I have to hear about the next entrée?

I’ve always heard stories of couples who were friends before they started dating, or people who claimed to have married “their best friend.”

But how is that possible? How can you see a person stripped of all their games, their pretensions, their public face, and still go through with it anyway?

Even in the darkness of this alcohol-drenched room, I can see Dan clearly: I’d never get anything more than an extended one-night stand that seemed like a romance. And he’s told me way too much about his technique and the endgame.

So I said my goodbyes and left Dan to go after the hot waitress. That’s what friends are for, right?

 

A Face in the Internet Crowd


As soon as incoming freshman Chana Ickowitz received her UC Berkeley e-mail address, she registered on the online directory facebook.com. There, on her personal profile, she described herself as someone with moderate political views who likes sushi, rainy days, Urban Outfitters and “Jane Eyre” … and who is a member of a group called Jew Crew.

Yes, college is about learning. But it is also about establishing new social relationships. And this class of freshmen — the largest ever with almost 2 million students, according to the U.S. Department of Education — has been crisscrossing cyberspace for most of their lives, existing as comfortably in the virtual world as in reality. So it’s not surprising that, before even setting foot on campus, they are using facebook.com to make new friends, scrutinize roommates and search for potential romantic interests.

And for many of those freshmen who are Jewish — approximately 90,000 according to Hillel: the Foundation for Jewish Campus Life — they are using the site not only to scope out fellow members of the tribe, but also to announce their own allegiance to Judaism by joining Jewish-related groups. These groups, created by students, exist exclusively on facebook.com and are particular to each campus.

“The first thing I did when I was searching groups was put in ‘Jews’ and there were a lot of them,” explained Ickowitz, 18, a graduate of Milken Community High School in Los Angeles. She joined Hillel’s online group. She also joined Jew Crew, a virtual group whose description reads, “There’s nothing better than Jewish pride! … well, there is, but Jewish pride is really cool! Hooray for Jews!”

Many of these students may never actually step foot into Hillel or other brick-and-mortar Jewish organizations, but they want their profile to show that they are members of such groups as USC’s For the Love of Mensch Club or Jew Crew (unrelated to the UC Berkeley group). It serves as the virtual equivalent of wearing a Star of David.

“I think this is about trying to find people, in this sea of people, that are just like me,” explained Ickowitz, who, growing up in Sherman Oaks and attending Jewish day schools, never had to work at finding Jewish friends.

“It’s what we all do, just as adults moving to a new city will look up synagogues and associations that interest them,” said psychology researcher Elisheva Gross, a doctoral candidate at UCLA. “Imagine moving from a setting where you know [almost] everyone … to a new, utterly unfamiliar, probably much larger and quite possibly daunting setting where you likely know few people.”

Perhaps that’s why facebook.com, launched by three Harvard University sophomores in February 2004, reports 6 million registered members at 2,027 colleges across the country. Additionally, about 15,000 new users are signing up daily, according to facebook.com spokesperson Chris Hughes. (The privately held company also opened a high school network on Sept. 2 that already has more than 500,000 members.) Currently, about 67 percent of Facebook’s members check in daily, while almost 90 percent check in weekly.

With only a school e-mail address and no fees, students can register on facebook.com, creating their own profiles by posting photos and personal information, including relationship status, favorite music and movies and contact information. They can also join online groups, send mail to their friends and post messages on their friends’ “walls,” which serve as a kind of public bulletin board on individual profiles. Anyone in their school community can view their profile, but those on other campuses need to send a request asking permission to become their Facebook “friend,” which the receiver can accept or reject.

For Jewish students, facebook.com is a non-threatening way to identify as Jewish, says Kim Rogoff, assistant director of student affairs at USC Hillel. “All they’re doing is clicking a button and saying, ‘I’m Jewish.'”

USC junior Alexis Kyman, 20, in fact, created Jew Crew a year ago as a way for students to demonstrate their Jewish pride.

“Personally, I started it because I went to a Catholic school in Phoenix, and I’ve gotten more in touch with my Jewish identity,” she said.

But she doesn’t envision Jew Crew, which currently has 445 members, as a way for Jewish students to meet in person.

Instead, those students who want offline Jewish friendships generally show up for Shabbat dinners or other activities sponsored by established organizations such as Hillel or Chabad. But they may also join the organizations’ virtual groups as a way to receive announcements or talk about upcoming events.

Freshman Veronica Renov, 17, a graduate of Marlborough High School in Los Angeles, for example, joined an online group created solely for FreshFest 2005, a Hillel-sponsored overnight orientation for incoming Jewish USC students, which helped her prepare for the trip.

“We posted messages like, where’s everybody from and what are we supposed to bring,” she explained. Of the 59 freshmen who attended FreshFest 2005, 55 had already connected on Facebook, according to Hillel’s Rogoff.

Facebook is also way for college faculty and other organizations to reach out to students who might not otherwise self-identify as Jews. Anyone with an e-mail address ending in “edu” can join Facebook.

For Rabbi Dov Wagner of Chabad Jewish Student Center at USC, it’s a way to connect with students who, for whatever reason, might be averse to attending a Chabad event or approaching him directly.

For her part, Rogoff sees the service as something that also works for Hillel: “It’s a nice way — certainly one we don’t exploit — to interact and stay in touch with students on terms they’ve set for themselves.”

 

‘Love With Noodles’ Rife With Canoodles


“Love With Noodles” by Harry I. Freund (Carroll & Graff, $25).

Consider the curious case of Dan Gelder: 60 years old, Jewish, paunchy, bad back. Yet it seems every bejeweled Park Avenue matron is after the investment counselor for love, for money or maybe for just a quick roll in the hay.

That’s the cute and quirky premise of “Love With Noodles,” the debut novel by 65-year-old Park Avenue investment counselor Harry I. Freund. The novel’s subtitle is, “An Amorous Widower’s Tale,” and just how true to life it is, we may never know. But whether or not art imitated life is irrelevant, especially when the ride is as much fun as “Love With Noodles.”

What Freund sorely lacks in literary style, he more than makes up with heart and humor.

Narrated in the first person, present tense (always risky), “Love With Noodles” follows Gelder’s canoodling with a string of women who enter his life just as he emerges from mourning his late beshert, Ellen. Gelder lives alone. His grown son, Eric, faces financial ruin. What’s worse, Eric is planning to marry a non-Jew.

Though all Jewish, Gelder’s women vary widely — from Charlotte, the wife of a friend off on a gay fling, to Maya, a Palestinian rights activist with a knack for lovemaking so vigorous it puts her partners in traction.

He nearly finds beshert No. 2 in Violet, a stinking-rich widow who loves adventure, diamonds and sticking it to those she detests. Gelder nearly steals her heart, and the two are off to Israel to visit Violet’s Orthodox daughter.

But soon, Gelder meets Tatiana, a 43-year-old Ukrainian widow with a 9-year-old piano prodigy son. She is gorgeous, lonely and seemingly angelic. Gelder falls for her hard. But does she love him for who he is or for his bank account?

The last third of the novel chronicles Gelder’s efforts to weed out all the meaningless sexual encounters and settle on choosing between the women that matter: Violet and Tatania. How about both?

Freund has trouble setting the tone of his story. Is it farce? Comedy of manners? Social satire? He isn’t sure, and that trips up his writing.

Moreover, though the book is filled with sex scenes, Gelder/Freund approaches them so gingerly, so squeamishly, they end up less than erotic. One almost feels embarrassed for the author, who doesn’t seem to want to shine a light into the bedroom.

As with many first-person narratives, the main character/narrator is often the most poorly drawn. That is the central problem with “Love With Noodles,” as Gelder ends up frustratingly two-dimensional. A novelist is required to reveal characters, not cover for them.

However, the women are delightful, especially Violet. She has all the color and brashness of a Tennessee Williams heroine. If they ever make a movie adaptation of this book, the Shirley McClaines and Meryl Streeps of the world will be fighting for the part.

There’s plenty of Jewish content here, from the pair of Orthodox Jewish weddings, to Gelder’s anguish over his son’s intermarriage, to the sojourn across Israel.

Like all good fiction, “Love With Noodles” expands its borders beyond the parochial. Anyone past the halfway point of life, hurtling forward with unease, will see something of himself in Gelder, paunch or no paunch.

Freund has a long way to go if he wants to join the ranks of great American novelists. But if there was a Pulitzer Prize for understanding the subtleties of life, Freund would have his on the mantel by now.

Kids Page


Hey Kids! The Help Goes On

Los Angeles Jewish schools continue with their efforts to help the hurricane victims. The students from Temple Emanuel donated money, wrote letters, drew pictures and collected shoes for the victims.

This Sukkot, which begins at sundown, Monday, Oct. 17, think about shelter and shoes: What would it be like not to have either? How can we continue to be generous and loving, not only to the victims of Hurricane Katrina, but also to the people around us?

Look around your classroom. Is there someone new in your class? Walk over to him or her and introduce yourself. Who knows — you might make a new friend.

The Students of Emanuel Academy expressed their caring to children evacuees of Hurricane Katrina in words and drawings.

drawings

 

He’s my …


 

The term “boyfriend” is like the knee joint on someone who is morbidly obese. It is being asked to do way more than it was designed

to do. It is buckling under the pressure. Where it once could do the job, it is now carrying too much weight.

Example: My grandma had a companion with whom she would converse and play bridge after my grandpa died. They had long phone conversations, saw movies together. He accompanied grandma to certain family events. He was over 90, he used a walker, but, technically, Roy was grandma’s boyfriend.

Something about the word is just so precious. And misleading. Unless you’re safely within the confines of a sorority house or discussing someone you met in a chat room last week, that word just doesn’t work. No matter how serious or long-standing the relationship is, once you refer to him as your boyfriend, it sounds all fluffy and insignificant — and gives me the distinct sense a pillow fight is going to break out any second.

So what should you call him if “boyfriend” doesn’t seem right to you, as it never has to me?

Let me help you avoid a mistake I recently made: do not say “my friend” when referring to your romantic partner. If you refer him simply as a friend, you might as well take him for a salt scrub followed by a matinee of “Miss Congeniality 2”; that’s how emasculated he will feel. This is because, sadly, “friend” is also the word used to describe male friends with whom you have no intention of having sex, so you see the problem here. It may be satisfyingly vague and pretty much accurate, but it’s also eunuch-izing.

Moving on. Let’s get into the novelty options: there’s “my old man” and “the old ball and chain.”

I like the former, as it seems to conjure a Hell’s Angels clubhouse and leather pants. Although it’s nice to use the argot of an extra in the movie “Mask,” it can seem somewhat out of place if your “old man” drives a Camry and invests regularly in his 401(k).

“The old ball and chain” has some camp value. But like “my old man” it can be tricky using a term to refer to your partner that contains the word “old.” If he actually is old, that’s uncomfortable. If he’s much younger, in the Demi/Ashton sense, no need to bring that into relief. I’ll throw in “my main squeeze” here as another troubling novelty term. The modifier “main” suggests you have numerous other “squeezes.” Is it just me, or does that sound like “Meet Joe, he’s my main squeeze. I have so many ‘squeezes’ I have to break them down into main, secondary and auxiliary”?

Above, I used the word “partner,” which I will lump in with “companion” as totally useless if you happen to be straight, because everyone associates these expressions with same-sex couples.

Here we head into the category of sugary terms: my sweetie, my honey, my cutie pie. These make me long for the relative class of “my baby daddy.”

A nickname that is used privately is one thing, but I’m talking about the need for a public term. He can be monkey, puppy, bobo or baby in private, but when it’s time to introduce him at a party, you will need a descriptor.

“This is my little puppy pants” is just not going to do when introducing him to your boss. Here is where “my honey” nauseates anyone within earshot, “my friend” pisses him off, “my old man” is trying too hard and “my baby daddy” only works if you have kids. You are stuck with boyfriend, which will make you feel like you’re in the 1950s. Or you’re 15. Or you just wrote his name on your sweatshirt in puffy paint.

If there’s one good reason to get married, it is simply to be able to use the dignified moniker “my husband.” Even “my fiancé” has limited appeal, but husband is solid, works for all ages (except maybe under 15, like in Appalachia, when it’s creepy).

This brings me to “my man,” which has a certain twangy charm. If you can pull it off, good for you and Tammy Wynette, but it’s a bit country for most of us. There’s always “beau,” which is old-fashioned and sweet, but also cloyingly French. “Lover” barely rates a mention, because even in the 1970s it was way too ’70s.

This is where I’m left. Lucky to have the guy, but wishing I had something better to call him.

Shakespeare asked, “What’s in a name?”

But I notice he didn’t call his play “Ralph and Bertha.”

Teresa Strasser is a TV host and Emmy Award-winning writer. She’s on the Web at teresastrasser.com.

 

Pope’s Jewish Legacy


Though a staunch conservative on most Catholic issues, Pope John Paul II made bettering Jewish-Catholic relations a centerpiece of his policy and took revolutionary strides toward this goal during his more than 26-year reign. The pope repeatedly condemned anti-Semitism, commemorated the Holocaust on many occasions, presided over the establishment of diplomatic relations with Israel and met frequently with Jewish religious and lay leaders.

To be sure, lingering tensions and unresolved issues remained. But most Jewish observers say the Polish-born pontiff, who died Saturday night at age 84 after a lengthy illness, will be remembered as the friendliest pope ever toward the Jews.

“Pope John Paul II was a man of peace, a friend of the Jewish people, who worked to bring about historic reconciliation between the peoples and to renew diplomatic ties between Israel and the Vatican at the end of 1993,” Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon told his Cabinet on Sunday. “Yesterday, the world lost one of the most important leaders of our generation, whose great contribution toward reconciliation, unity among peoples, understanding and tolerance will remain with us for many years.”

The Anti-Defamation League noted in a tribute, “It is safe to say that more change for the better took place in his … papacy than in the nearly 2,000 years before.”

Rabbi Jack Bemporad was one of more than 100 rabbis and cantors who met with the pope in January to thank him for his commitment.

“No pope has done as much or cared as much about creating a brotherly relationship between Catholics and Jews as Pope John Paul II,” Bemporad, director of the Center for Interreligious Understanding in Secaucus, N.J., said at the time.

“For me, it’s simply revolutionary,” added Bemporad. “I believe Pope John Paul II will be considered a great healer in the relationship between Catholics and Jews.”

Karol Jozef Wojtyla, then the 58-year-old archbishop of Krakow, was elected to the papacy in October 1978. The first pope from Poland and the first non-Italian to sit on the papal throne in more than 450 years, he took the name John Paul II to honor his immediate predecessor, who died after only three weeks in office.

Wojtyla assumed the papacy just 13 years after the Vatican’s historic Nostra Aetate declaration opened the way toward Jewish-Catholic dialogue. The declaration, issued in 1965 by the Second Vatican Council convened by Pope John XXIII, condemned anti-Semitism, and for the first time, officially repudiated the age-old assertion that the “perfidious Jews” were collectively responsible for the crucifixion of Jesus.

John Paul’s papacy built on this, and in Jewish terms, it was marked by dramatic firsts, starting with the pontiff’s own personal history. Born in 1920 in the town of Wadowice, near Krakow, he was, in short, an eyewitness both to the Holocaust and to the oppressive and often anti-Semitic policies of communism.

Wojtyla grew up at a time when Poland was the heartland of European Jewry. The country’s 3.5 million Jews represented 10 percent of Poland’s overall population. Wadowice itself was more than 25 percent Jewish, and the future pope had Jewish friends, neighbors and classmates.

Half of the 6 million Jews murdered in the Shoah were Polish, including the future pope’s friends and neighbors. Wojtyla himself worked in a Nazi slave labor camp and studied for the priesthood in secret.

After World War II, the discovery of what had happened at Auschwitz, only a few miles from his hometown, marked Wojtyla for life.

As pope, John Paul referred to the 20th century as “the century of the Shoah,” and it was highly symbolic that in 1979, on his first visit back to Poland after his election, he knelt in prayer at Auschwitz-Birkenau to commemorate the Jews killed there.

Throughout his reign, John Paul repeatedly recalled the Holocaust and condemned anti-Semitism as a sin against God and humanity. On his more than 100 trips around the globe, he sought to meet with Jewish leaders. He also issued unprecedented expressions of contrition for past Christian hostility and violence toward Jews.

The most dramatic of the pope’s many meetings with Jews took place in April 1986, when he crossed the Tiber River to visit the Great Synagogue in Rome, becoming the first pope to visit a Jewish house of worship since Peter. After warmly embracing Rome’s chief rabbi, the pope spoke of the “irrevocable covenant” between God and the Jews.

With Judaism, he said, “we have a relationship that we do not have with any other religion. You are our dearly beloved brothers, and in a certain way, it may be said that you are our elder brothers.”

At the end of 1993, the pope took another unprecedented step, overseeing the formal establishment of full diplomatic relations between Israel and the Holy See, 45 years after the founding of the Jewish state.

“The pope has both understood what Israel means to the Jewish people, and thus the importance of the establishment of full relations between the Holy See and the State of Israel, to which he lent his personal weight,” Rabbi David Rosen, the American Jewish Committee’s (AJCommittee) international director for interreligious affairs, has said. “It is no exaggeration to say that the successful conclusion of those negotiations were thanks to his personal involvement and even intervention.”

The pope’s historic visit to Israel in March 2000 marked a culmination of these policies. His visit was formulated as a pilgrimage to the Holy Land to mark the beginning of Christianity’s third millennium, but it brimmed with significance for Jews, as well.

He visited Yad Vashem, and at Jerusalem’s Western Wall, he bowed his head in prayer and slipped a typed, signed note into one of the cracks between the stones.

“We are deeply saddened by the behavior of those who in the course of history have caused these children of yours to suffer, and asking your forgiveness, we wish to commit ourselves to genuine brotherhood with the People of the Covenant,” the note read.

Since that historic visit, the world has been rocked by terrorism and war, and the eruption of the Palestinian intifada plunged the Middle East into violence. Also, what some observers call a “new anti-Semitism,” linked to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, has erupted in what the pope liked to call “Christian” Europe.

But several issues still dog Catholic-Jewish relations and continue to provoke clashes from time to time. These include differences over what can be called “historical memory” — for example, over the wartime role of Pope Pius XII, whom the Vatican wants to beatify, but whom critics accuse of failing to speak out to save Jews during the Shoah.

There also is a continuing internal debate within the Catholic hierarchy about whether the church as an institution is responsible for anti-Judaism and anti-Semitism, or whether responsibility rests with individuals.

Outstanding differences on bilateral issues, as well as broader differences over Middle East politics, also have clouded relations with Israel and are the focus of protracted negotiations. These matters include taxes and the legal status of church institutions, as well as questions of visas and residency permits for Christian clergy in Israel.

Looming above all is the question of whether John Paul’s proactive teachings about Jews will endure, and whether they will trickle down to the world’s 1 billion Catholics.

During his audience with the rabbis and cantors in January, John Paul noted that 2005 marks the 40th anniversary of the Nostra Aetate declaration and urged “renewed commitment to increased understanding and cooperation.”

But Jewish observers have expressed concern that John Paul’s successor may not have the same commitment.

“You’re not going to get anybody with his sensitivity,” Rabbi Joseph Ehrenkranz, director of the Center for Christian-Jewish Understanding at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, Conn., said in January. “The fear is, whatever you’ve got done can be undone.”

Rabbi A. James Rudin, the AJCommittee’s senior adviser on interreligious affairs and a visiting professor at St. Leo University in Florida, also considers the perpetuation of John Paul’s policies on Jews as “a major challenge for the post-John Paul II church.”

“To have his church retreat from the gains John Paul II has achieved in building mutual respect and understanding between Catholics and Jews would represent a huge setback and an insult to this remarkable pope, who will be remembered in Jewish history as the ‘greatest’ pontiff in the 2000-year history of Christianity,” said Rudin, who has met with John Paul 10 times.

For their part, Vatican officials say the pope’s legacy should be safe, noting that the sea-changes wrought by Nostra Aetate in 1965 and by Vatican documents and pronouncements issued throughout John Paul’s papacy are enshrined as official church teaching.

“The whole Catholic church stands for these changes, not only Pope John Paul II,” the Rev. Norbert Hofmann, secretary for the Holy See’s Commission for Religions Relations with the Jews, told JTA in 2003. But, he added, “it remains the task of the whole church to continue these efforts, and we must do everything so that the course will trickle down to all levels.”

Related Stories

John Paul II and the Jews

Milestones in Pope’s Relations With Jews

L.A. Rabbis Voice Praise for John Paul II

Flee to Be Me


What is a friend? When I was a kid, the requirements were none too stringent. Is he in my class? Can I ride my bicycle to his house? Do his parents have any insane “not too much candy before dinner” rules?

As I got older, other factors became more important. Do we root for the same team? Are we willing to lie to our parents for each other? Does he have a bong?

Now that I’m one half of a couple (actually, 49 percent when it comes to decision making, 51 percent when it comes to heavy lifting) friendship is trickier. Are our children the same age? Do our families have comparable incomes? Do they have a bong?

I have come to realize that not everyone I hang around with is a friend. Some of them are acquaintances, sidekicks, chums and cronies. At this point in my life, there is only one criterion that determines if someone is a true friend: Would he hide me from Hitler?

I am, of course, referring to the metaphorical Hitler. The actual Hitler is dead. Or is he? (That was for the paranoid among you. You know who you are. And we know who you are. OK, I’ll stop now.)

It says a lot about Jewish history that I would even entertain this line of thought, but it’s hard to refute the fact that people are, with alarming regularity, trying to wipe Jews off the face of the earth (unless you happen to belong to one of the many groups who are, with alarming regularity, trying to wipe Jews off the face of the earth, in which case it’s easy to refute the fact that people are, with alarming regularity, trying to wipe Jews off the face of the earth). And, with anti-Semitism at its highest level since … minutes ago (let’s face it, hating Jews is kind of like chronic pain — even on days when it doesn’t seem so bad you know it’s still there) it’s a necessary way to think. Non-Jews don’t have to think this way. There is no Scandinavian word for “pogrom.”

That’s why, to me, the ideal friend is a non-Jew (in the event of another Hitler, Jews are no good to me — even the blonde ones) who likes baseball, has an 11-year-old boy who plays computer games the way fish swim, has a wife who loves to talk on the phone — and has built a large, hidden shelter under the floorboards of his living room.

I come by this way of thinking honestly. My grandparents fled Poland in the early 1930s. Before that, you can trace my family back to Spain, where we fled the Inquisition. And, although I have no proof, I’m pretty sure that we’ve also fled the Egyptians, Babylonians and Canaanites. My family has a long history of fleeing.

We’re also proof of Darwinism. At 5-foot-8-inches tall (if you can use the word “tall” following 5-foot-8), I would play center on the Nemetz Family basketball team, a relative giant among Nemetzes. We are an example of survival of the shortest. My family was bred for hiding — in a crawl space, behind a sofa, under an ottoman — we fit anywhere.

Unfortunately, it’s a skill that may come in handy sooner rather than later. When I see the passage of The Patriot Act, which broadens the scope of the government’s powers while limiting the rights of certain individuals; when I see people voting in record numbers, partly to implement a ban on gay marriage, it sets off alarm bells on my “flee-dar.” Because if history teaches us anything (and if you had some of my history teachers, it didn’t) it teaches us that whenever a group of people exhibits any kind of intolerance toward another group of people, the intolerant group will eventually turn on the Jews.

You may think this a touch paranoid. However, my family has outlasted both the Roman and Greek empires. You don’t run into a lot of Mesopotamians or Assyrians at the mall. But you may see some Nemetzes (most likely my wife, buying shoes). We’re still here because, when it comes to the “fight or flight” instinct, we’re not so good at fight but we’re Hall of Famers when it comes to flight.

So next Saturday while you’re in shul, I’ll be at The Home Depot. They’re giving a class on how to build a shelter, and I’m going to buddy up to the teacher.

Howard Nemetz is almost as good looking as his picture.

Grampa’s Advice: Pass on ‘First-Tell’


It took me six years of being a grandfather to accept the fact that my grandchildren may not be more brilliant or athletic than everyone else’s.

Here’s how I realized it. There’s this thing between grandparents I like to call “first-tell.” Say you meet your friend, another grandparent, and are the first to tell some amazing stories about your grandchildren; if he or she responds by telling you stories that make their grandchildren out to be as talented or more-so than yours, you have every right to assume the grandparent you are talking to is lying. And vice versa: they’ll assume you’re lying if they have “first-tell.” Or, in both cases, you could assume, with great difficulty, that your grandchildren are not above and beyond all others.

What impresses us so much about the abilities of our grandchildren? In my case I must admit it was the comparison of them to me. Ross, at age 3, hits a wiffle ball with a plastic bat better than I could hit a softball with a wooden bat at age 12, even though the bat had Joe Dimaggio’s signature on it. And Max, 6, throws a hardball accurately from third base to home plate. I couldn’t do that until I was in summer camp at age 14 — and then not consistently, costing my green team the championship game against the blues in color war.

But in my defense, I didn’t have a grandfather to drive crazy and exhaust with pleas to “catch with me, grampa,” “pitch to me, grampa.”

One grandfather had passed away before I was born, and the other had lost a leg in some war for or against Russia prior to my birth in 1932. My own father was on crutches from polio he acquired at age 3, and while he could throw very well, since I couldn’t, a game of catch meant him throwing, me catching, me throwing and me chasing the errant ball that I threw back.

The only ball I ever threw both strongly and accurately was a snowball I threw at a target, drawn with chalk on the side door of my synagogue, which was the entrance to the Hebrew school in Englewood, N.J. The snowball would have hit the bull’s-eye had not the rabbi opened the door at that instant to call us all in to class. I lived with guilt for many years — not for hitting the rabbi, but for Sammy Wides’ getting blamed for it (although he took it well and enjoyed the celebrity). In that neighborhood, in those times, I would have been looked down on by the “gang” if I stepped forward, hero-like and said, “It wasn’t him, rabbi, it was me.” (I would have been a total outcast if I said “It wasn’t he.”)

It was less than a week ago that I bumped into a friend with his 6-year-old grandson at the park. Ross and Max were wearing their mitts and I was carrying a bag containing 10 wiffle balls and a bat. It is easier pitching 10 balls and then retrieving them all at once rather than pitching and chasing one ball at a time.

My friend quickly jumped in with “first-tell,” — an unnecessary move, since we were about to see exactly what our grandchildren could do.

“You won’t believe how far Amos can hit a ball,” he said.

“Great”, I replied, deciding I would have my satisfaction when he saw how much better Max and Ross could hit and throw a ball.

“Do you want to pitch?” I offered. He did. I became the catcher.

We all agreed that each child would have five swings, and the other two would play the field. We also agreed that Ross would be the first batter, then Amos and finally Max, who didn’t mind being last when I told him he would be batting “clean up” — a spot usually reserved for the best batter on the team. Max and Ross knew the lingo because they went to many Dodgers games and watched even more on TV. Ross hit two of his five pitches beautifully and although my friend was properly impressed he mouthed, “Wait till you see Amos.”

Amos got up and hit five balls very well, but no better or worse than Max did. Did my friend see what I saw?

Our grandkids are great — but not any greater than each other. I wonder, though, if he was more disappointed than me. He’d bragged about Amos, and I didn’t brag about Max. We both had to learn that our grandsons are special; not because they can throw well or run fast or bat hard, but because they are ours.

Hopefully, Amos’ grandfather will also learn that sometimes it’s good to pass up “first-tell.”

Obituaries


Ronald Abelson died July 23 at 75. He is survived by his wife, Shirley; daughter, Kerry Zymelman; and two grandchildren. Sholom Chapels .

George Alexander died July 20 at 74. He is survived by his sons, Gerald, Robert and Lance; seven grandchildren; and sister, Frances. Groman

Richard Alexander died July 21 at 68. He is survived by his wife, Ann; and daughters, Debra, Karen and Kim. Malinow and Silverman

Marvin Bank died July 21 at 86. He is survived by his daughter, Gina. Malinow and Silverman

Burton Eugene Becker died July 23 at 88. He is survived by his wife, Barbara. Hillside

Allen Berliner died July 24 at 65. He is survived by his sons, Isaac and Kevin; brothers, Myron, Irving and Henry; sisters, Alice Mink and Rosalie Blackman; and companion, Carmen Moreno. Malinow and Silverman

Roy Bokhoor died July 20 at 24. He is survived by his mother, Zoya; and uncle, Maurice Neri. Groman

Mary Chaiken died July 20 at 92. She is survived by her daughters, Elaine (Jocko) and Joann Golden; six grandchildren; and five great-grandchildren. Mount Sinai

Arthur Chase died July 21 at 67. He is survived by his ex-wife, Charlene Haughey; and cousin, Leon Raskin. Groman

Irving Cohen died July 22 at 89. He is survived by his sisters, Terry Freedmond and Anne; seven nieces; two nephews; and many great-nieces and great-nephews. Mount Sinai

Irene Miller Curcio died July 24 at 67. She is survived by husband, George; son, Rob Miller; stepdaughters, Lisa Murphy and Linda (Albert) Shigemura; stepson, Vincent (Toni); and six grandchildren. Mount Sinai

Robert Gerschner died July 22 at 87. He is survived by his sister-in-law, Celeste (Hal) Erdley. Sholom Chapels .

Lola Goffman died July 21 at 95. She is survived by her sons, Sam (Darilyn) and Hirsch (Debbie); and four grandchildren. Hillside

Frieda Handschu died July 7 at 93. She is survived by her son, Dr. Sylvain (Linda) Silberstein; six grandchildren; and 21 great-grandchildren. Sholom Chapels .

Donald Carl Hoffman died Aug. 6 at 65. He is survived by his wife, Sheila; son, Lee; daughter, Eileen Gannaway; and one grandchild. Groman

Samuel Hoffman died July 24 at 80. He is survived by his sons, Stuart and Rabbi David; and sister, Ida Sachs. Groman

Dorothy Esther Jonesi died July 23 at 88. She is survived by her daughter, Gloria and Rochelle Cohen; three grandchildren; three great-grandchildren; great-great-grandchild, Brianna; and sister, Frances Rouse. Hillside

Roselle Lynn Kahn died July 20 at 88. She is survived by her niece, Patricia Robitaille; great-niece, Charlene Valli; cousin, George Gluck; and friend, Margit Herman. Chevra Kadisha

Esther Karnes died July 21 at 94. She is survived by her granddaughter, Vicki; sister, Dorothy Mallin; and niece, Tobey Silverstein. Mount Sinai

Belle Kosasky died July 22 at 88. She is survived by her son, Melvin; daughter, Doreen Rosen; three grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren. Groman

Judith Carol Levi died July 23 at 61. She is survived by her son, Darryl. Mount Sinai

Bessie Mandelblatt died July 21 at 89. She is survived by her son, Alvin; daughter, Diane Schwarz; and three grandchildren. Groman

Rachel Leah Marcus died July 23 at 90. She is survived by her grandson, Jan (Sandy) Lankin; three great-grandsons; sister, Marilyn (Nat) LeTraunik; nieces; nephews; and friends. Mount Sinai

Shoshana Mehrabanian died July 22 at 102. She is survived by her sons, Mansour and Yahya; grandson, Samuel. Chevra Kadisha

Salim Morad died Sept. 25 at 82. He is survived by his wife, Hanna; children, Shoshana Cohen, Rena (Bill) Martin, Ovadya, Adela and Osharat; seven grandchildren; sisters, Simcha (Shalom) Shemis and Haviva Zion; and brother, Nissim (Dalia) Morad. Mount Sinai

Faye Fortess Mortel died July 21 at 88. She is survived by her sons, Karl (Tihla) and Victor (Denyce). Chevra Kadisha

Rose Edna Newmark died July 24 at 93. She is survived by her daughter, Carole Wood; one grandchild; one great-grandchild; and sister, Jane Wynhoff. Hillside

Lana Esther Pimbley died July 21 at 62. She is survived by her daughter, Jennifer Rubenstein; sister, Linda Rubenstein; and brother, Bernard Rue. Hillside

Harriet Punim died July 22 at 78. She is survived by her husband, Norman; son, Jeffrey; daughter, Patrice Levin; four grandchildren; sister, Frances Miller; and brother, Henry Safer. Hillside

David Rose died July 23 at 81. He is survived by his wife, Elizabeth. Groman

Sybil Scheffler died July 24 at 89. She is survived by her sons, David (Dina), Steven (Rose) and Stan (Dora); granddaughters, Irene and Brittney; great-grandchildren, Bridgette and Tyler; and sister, Sally Smith. Mount Sinai

Lily Abdullah Shad died July 23 at 57. She is survived by her husband, Jamil; and sons, Eddie and Charles. Chevra Kadisha

Phyllis Shano died July 22 at 61. She is survived by her husband, Jack; son, Jason; daughter, Hallie; and brother, Steve (Karen). Malinow and Silverman

Irving Spiegel died July 21 at 93. He is survived by his wife, Miriam; sons, Henry and Philip (Jana); daughter, Deborah (Jeffery) Sweitzer; stepson, David; stepdaughter, Susan; five grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren. Hillside

Dorothy Stein died July 21 at 79. She is survived by her son, Eric. Malinow and Silverman

Stephanie Lynn Susman died July 20 at 45. She is survived by her parents, Arnold and Norma; and sister, Valerie Goldfine. Hillside

David Tourqeman died July 22 at 83. He is survived by his wife, Marcella; and sons, Raymond and Jaime. Chevra Kadisha

Cele Troyan died July 20 at 88. She is survived by her brother, Jeff Lewis; and niece, Andrea (Brad) Polak. Mount Sinai

Lucille Victor died July 23 at 84. She is survived by her son, Michael Shulem; daughter, Lyn Greene; 11 grandchildren; four great-grandchildren; and relatives, Barton Shulem, Deborah Davis and Harold Ross. Groman

Harold Wasserman died July 20 at 74. He is survived by his wife, Heidi; son, Mark (Debra); daughter, Beth (Chuck) Samuel; five grandchildren; and brother, Leonard (Marge). Malinow and Silverman

Herman Weintraub died July 21 at 92. He is survived by his sons, Larry (Barbara) and Ronald (Marilyn); daughter, Renee; two grandchildren; and sister, Ruth Eskow. Mount Sinai

Libbie Winograd died July 23 at 91. She is survived by her son, Cary; daughter, Deborah; two grandchildren; and niece, Beth Cohen. Groman

Irene Zenker died July 21 at 95. She is survived by her son, Arnold (Barbara); and daughter, Carol. Malinow and Silverman

Obituaries following our October 8th issue, have been archived and can be found in our archives section.

Twinning Makes for Double Mitzvah


A surplus of 13-year-olds and a shortage of Shabbat mornings often means sharing the bar or bat mitzvah experience with a partner. While “sharing” customs vary from synagogue to synagogue, the b’nai mitzvah typically co-lead many of the prayers, divide the Torah and haftarah readings and each deliver a d’var Torah.

When Hannah Marek shared her Shabbat Sukkot bat mitzvah at Congregation B’nai Jacob in Woodbridge, Conn., with “partner,” Marion Pritchard, it was Hannah alone who lead the entire service, including Shacharit, Hallel, the Torah service, Torah and haftarah readings, d’var Torah, Musaf and the Hoshanot. Pritchard said only a few words. But these words lead to unprecedented clapping, tears and even a standing ovation — for both 13-year-old Hannah of New Haven, and for 82-year-old Pritchard.

“When Marion came up to the bimah and gave her little talk, I was biting my lip not to cry,” Hannah admitted.

Who is Marion Pritchard and why would a Jewish girl choose to share her special day with a non-Jew more than six times her age?

Pritchard is a soft-spoken psychotherapist living in Vermont. She is also a “Righteous Gentile.” For her bat mitzvah, Hannah wished to recognize and honor the work of such people as Pritchard, who helped save and rescue Jews during the Holocaust.

Pritchard grew up in the Netherlands. When the Nazis occupied her country, she witnessed such horrifying acts as children being tossed on to trucks. These events affected her deeply. In 1944, when a friend (a member of the resistance) asked her to find a hiding place for a Jewish man and his three children (including a baby), she agreed. She hid them in a space underneath the living room floor in a house in the Dutch countryside, about 20 miles from Amsterdam. On one occasion, two Nazi officers came to her home, searched, but found nothing. On a second visit, this time by only one officer, he heard a baby crying and discovered the hidden family. Pritchard immediately took a gun, which was hidden behind a bookcase, and killed the officer. She even arranged for the body to be taken away and buried.

Hannah learned of Pritchard’s work in several ways: First, her older sister, Miriam, had shared her bat mitzvah with Pritchard two years ago. And even then, Pritchard was no stranger to the Marek household. Mother Deborah Dwork, a professor at Clark University and founding director of the Strassler Family Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies, had met Pritchard at an academic conference. And she invited Pritchard eight years ago to co-teach a course at Clark. The two now co-teach four separate courses on a rotating basis.

“I am an analyst historian; she is a participant historian/rescuer,” Dwork noted. “When [Pritchard] sits at the top of the seminar table each fall and speaks, the 18 students in the class are totally silent.”

Dwork speaks with great admiration about colleague and friend Pritchard. And she describes the accomplishments and qualities of her daughters in the most glowing terms. Dwork was pleased when daughter, Miriam, naturally stood up and went up to the bimah at Hannah’s bat mitzvah to help the somewhat frail Pritchard down the stairs (“The entire congregation stood up and applauded while Miriam escorted Marion,” Dwork said). And Miriam has kept in touch with the director of the Jewish Foundation for the Righteous since her bat mitzvah and will serve as an intern there this summer.

Dwork is proud of the extensive role Hannah chose to have in the Shabbat Sukkot service. But she is especially pleased with Hannah’s motivation — and with Hannah’s ability to articulate the meaning of the bat mitzvah to B’nai Jacob’s Rabbi Richard Eisenberg, in a private pre-bat mitzvah meeting in his study. He was so moved that he felt compelled to share with the congregation some of Hannah’s profound observations and insights.

“Being able to recite the entire service — that’s what religion is to me,” she said. “It’s important to me to know all of it. If I was the last Jew alive, I’d be honoring my people and culture to be able to lead the service and to teach others. I loved learning at the Ezra Academy [Solomon Schechter Day School in Woodbridge] for six years and I plan to send my children there in the future.”

Eisenberg noted, “For Hannah and her family, the service was not only about Hannah, but about the legacy and heritage of Israel and the Jewish people, and about honoring the memory of the victims and the heroism of the Righteous Gentiles who risked their lives to save Jews. The twinning is a testament to this theme. Marion’s presence in shul was a most powerful complement to Hannah’s coming of age, because this is all about memory, history and, God-willing, a bright future.”

For more information about the Jewish Foundation for the
Righteous, including their Twinning Program and the Rescuer Support Program,
visit

Not Another Teen Movie


Seventy-four percent of all evangelicals feel the mass media are hostile to their moral and spiritual values. — Religion and Ethics Newsweekly/U.S. News and World Report Poll, April 2004.

With its satiric take on the zeal of the Christian youth movement, and more broadly, religious extremism, the movie "Saved!," which opens May 28, seems to validate the above poll.

The film centers on Mary (Jena Malone), a popular girl at a Christian high school, and her queen bee best friend, Hilary Faye (Mandy Moore). They’re both devout believers, but Mary begins questioning her faith when she becomes pregnant after trying to save her gay boyfriend’s soul. She is soon ostracized by Hilary Faye and embraced by the other school misfits, wheelchair-bound Roland (Macaulay Culkin) and Cassandra Edelstein (Eva Amurri), the token Jew.

Predictably, the film was not an easy sell for co-writers Michael Urban and Brian Dannelly (who also directed the film). There was concern over the potential controversy of a religiously flip teen comedy, especially with all of the "Passion" fervor.

"It was naivete, I guess, but we thought, ‘Oh, this is a big commercial movie … it’s a teen comedy, of course everybody will want to make it.’ Little did we know," Urban said.

Indeed, most of the jokes are at the expense of the ultradevout: A sign in a classroom reads, "Jesus is watching," and the school principal tries to make Jesus hip and accessible to his young flock by injecting street slang into his sermons: "Let’s get our Christ on!" "You down with G-O-D?"

Eventually, the script landed in the hands of producers Michael Stipe and Sandy Stern, who got United Artists on board.

They’ve screened the heck out of it since then "to religious groups, gay groups, teen groups, Christian groups, tastemakers, cinephiles, really any kind of audience you think of," Dannelly said.

One aspect that might prove controversial is the role of Cassandra, the Jewish girl, who, it could be argued, "saves" the Christian kids at the end of the film.

Whether the whole thing comes off as subversive or sweet will certainly be up for debate. But so far, Dannelly said, "the only people that really freak out over the movie are evangelical fundamentalists…. My mom brought a nun to the screening in Maryland and she loved the movie."

Where You Stand


We are standing before God and God is standing before us — especially during this particular time, when certain fundamental liberties are being denied individuals and when justice is being withheld from specific groups — all in the name of "homeland security." This week’s Torah portion, Shoftim, comes to teach us — all of us without exception — that we are obligated to build a just society not only for ourselves but for all people.

Thus, our reading, studying and thinking about the essential lessons found in Shoftim are of great importance right now.

Meanwhile, this parsha reminds me of a very strange personal experience that occurred many years ago. It’s one that I’ll never forget.

While I was away from University Synagogue one afternoon, visiting a hospitalized congregant, a very well-known Catholic priest called me. When he realized that I wasn’t there, he left a message on my voice mail asking that I contact him as soon as possible, because a situation required an immediate collaborative interfaith response.

For reasons that I can’t technologically explain — but it may have been God’s handiwork — something extraordinary happened: Although my caller terminated his call, my message device recorded what happened next.

Once he hung up, he telephoned a prominent rabbinic colleague of mine. During their ensuing conversation, the non-Jewish leader indicated that he had tried to reach me, found that I was away from my desk, left a message asking that I contact him without delay and he said that he was certain that he’d hear from me as soon as I learned that he had reached out to me.

In turn, the rabbi expressed his doubts about my dependability and without hesitation he conveyed his feelings of disdain toward me by using that occasion to utter some very derogatory comments.

These unflattering remarks were instantly rebuffed by the priest, but they lingered in the air nevertheless.

Naturally, when I listened to their recorded discussion, I was deeply hurt and terribly confused because I couldn’t recall any incident that would have inflamed the rabbi’s emotions and cemented his negative opinions about me. And throughout the years we have worked together in the community, he had never led me to believe that we were anything but the best of friends.

A few days later, he and I happened to see one another at a public gathering where he greeted me with a bright smile, open arms and some affectionate remark.

"Oh," I thought to myself, "if he only knew that I was aware of his genuine feelings about me, which make this display of supposed fondness reek of hypocrisy."

As a result of a mechanical error — or did God provide me with an opportunity to hear words that would never have been uttered in my presence by someone who posed as a friend? — I had a chance to encounter the authentic nature of a relationship instead depending on some false pretense.

Now, what has all of this to do with our reading five particular chapters found in the Book of Deuteronomy this Shabbat?

Within Shoftim, we are instructed: "Zedek, zedek tirdof" ("justice, justice shall you pursue").

When we dig deeply into the parsha, we come to realize that not only are sacred and secular laws to be faultlessly carried out by government officials and interpreted by appointed and elected judges — all of them are expected to be unrelentingly fair and impartial — but you and I are instructed to treat everyone we encounter in our own lives in a similar fashion.

You see, it is not only justice that keeps chaos away and society afloat, but it is steadfast righteousness that should be ever-present in every interpersonal relationship we have — be it a casual contact or one which is intimate and enduring .

This is why Rashi taught: "Consider what you do and conduct yourself in every judgment as if the Holy One, Blessed be He, were standing before you."

Had the rabbi known that I would hear his candid opinion of me, or had he imagined that God was standing in front of him when he spoke in such a hateful way about me in one instance, and then so lovingly in my presence very soon thereafter, to what extent would he had been anxious to render harsh judgment?

And, that prompts me to ask: Do any of us have the right to be judgmental? Maimonides didn’t think so, because he observed that all of us are obligated (actually, he wrote: "commanded") to give each person the benefit of the doubt.

So, as we demand that ours must always be a "just society," and when we attempt to individually "pursue justice," it is necessary that we also rely upon that same concept to temper our own words and actions.

Much will be accomplished individually and collectively when we remember this lesson at all times, because we do stand before God and God stands before us. Under these circumstances, there simply is no room for injustice in any of its many forms — be it in our society at large or in the way we relate to one another.


Allen I. Freehling served as University Synagogue’s senior rabbi for 30 years before becoming that congregation’s first rabbi emeritus a year ago. He is now serving as the executive director of the Human Relations Commission of the City of Los Angeles.

For the Kids


We Are All Kings

We are told in parshat Shelach to wear tzitzit, a fringed garment. This is so central to Jewish identity, that the white-and-blue tallit became the model for the Israeli flag. Wearing fringes on the edge of your garment was, in ancient times, a sign that you came from nobility. So, why are the Jews instructed to do this?

Everyone wears certain clothes based on where they are going or what they are doing, such as going to school, temple, parties or the beach. Jews who wear tzitzit always remember that they are like the holy priests, always striving to act like noble and generous kings and always remembering their relationship with God. You, too, can wear or imagine yourself wearing the holy fringes.

Over the next few weeks, we will be publishing essays and poems by children who won the San Fernando Valley fifth-grade writing contest. The theme of the contest was: My Special Friend. Awards were given out on Sun., May 25, at the Encino Community Center, by the California Writers’ Club. Here are a few excepts of a third-place essay by Jacob Rooks, 10, of Woodland Hills.

Happy, My Imaginary Stuffed Dog
Friend

My stuffed dog, Happy, is always going on adventures with me. For example, I remember the time Happy and I went to Shambam Waterfall (which is really the back of my bed). He almost fell off, but made it back in the end. Another time, we went to Hinkytwink Forest (which is under my bed). Cocoa Volcano is located near my night table and the Himper Pits are in front of my bed.

Happy is happy, energetic and playful. Sometimes, Happy gets lonely when I’m at school. Recently, I bought a stuffed tiger that I named Hobbes. Now Happy has someone to play with.

How did I get Happy? The neighbors gave him to me after their dog bit me! So now I have my very own dog, and he doesn’t bite!

I want to tell you what happened at Shambam Waterfall. We decided to visit the waterfall because the other stuffed animals said it was really pretty. Happy wanted to climb it. At first I said no, but in the end he talked me into letting him climb. When he got about halfway up, he found a cave behind the fall, where he sat for a few minutes. The he climbed all the way to the top. He tripped on a rock and fell, but I caught him.

I hope that soon Happy and I will go on another adventure!

Creating a Picture of Unity

Here is something exciting for all of us to participate in:

The Jewish Dream Network (JDN) would like Jewish children worldwide to send in Prayers for Peace, accompanied by a digital photo of themselves. These will become part of a photo mosaic, which will be sent to the Western Wall next Chanukah. It will also be housed online and reproduced as posters and cards. Tobey Herzog, founder of JDN, says that “this is a way to create a picture that shows that we [Jews] are a family, and we take care of one another.”

Please send your prayers and photos to: tobey@jewishdreamnetwork.org .

Another Oil Miracle


Chanukah, the Festival of Lights, is a time to recall the miracle that occurred more than 2,000 years ago, and celebrate the discovery of the small amount of oil that burned for eight days, the amount of time needed to prepare pure oil from the local olive trees to rekindle the flame. That miracle is the focus of the Chanukah celebration that begins at sundown Friday, Nov. 29. Was it also a miracle that this event occurred at this time, since the months of November and December are the usual time for the olive harvest?

In early November this year, we joined Faith Willinger, our Florence-based food-journalist friend, on a trip to Naples and the Campania area of Italy. One of the highlights of our trip was spending several days at the hotel-restaurant La Caveja, located in the small village of Pietravairano, just a one-hour drive north of Naples.

At our first meal, La Caveja’s owner, Berardino Lombardo, placed a bottle of olive oil on the table and directed us to use it on almost every dish. The olive oil was bright green, fruity and delicious. When we asked him when the olive oil had been pressed, his answer was “early this morning.” The next day, he invited us to join him to pick olives and watch the crush at the local frantoio (olive oil mill). We were delighted and accepted his offer.

This small olive mill custom crushes olives from the nearby area for small local growers. Families had brought their olives and were waiting with their children, huddled in the cold, while their olives were pressed into oil.

Then every shape container possible was filled with this liquid gold. It was exciting to see all the activity.

When we arrived at the olive oil mill, our olives were in a large wooden container ready to be processed. The olives were first washed, then crushed into a paste. The paste was then pressed to produce organic extra virgin olive oil. As the flow of newly pressed olive oil began to glow, a small amount was poured into a pitcher, and Berardino brought out fresh bread to dip into the oil. It was the first time we had ever tasted olive oil that was only minutes old and it was absolutely delicious!

On my return from Italy, I was inspired, during Chanukah, to serve our family several of the dishes that were introduced to us by Berardino. They are perfect for the holiday as all these dishes use either olives or foods fried in olive oil. Included are Potato Gnocchetti, Olive Fritte, Fried Zucchini Sticks and Frittelle.

One of our family Chanukah traditions is to exchange gifts, and this year we are giving each of our guests a bottle of fresh Italian olive oil to take home.

Olive Fritte (Cicchetti)

36 pitted green olives

1 cup flour

2 eggs, beaten

1 cup fine dry bread crumbs (try mixed with Parmesan)

Olive oil for deep frying

1. Place the olives in a bowl, cover with cold water and allow them to soak for at least 15 minutes to remove some of the salt. Rinse the olives and dry them well.

2. Roll the olives lightly in flour, then dip in beaten egg, and roll them in bread crumbs to coat. Transfer to a paper towel- lined plate and refrigerate one hour.

3. In a skillet or deep fryer, heat 2-to 3-inches of oil over medium heat. Place the olives in the oil and fry them, rolling them around to brown evenly.

4. Remove the olives with a slotted spoon and spread on paper towels to drain. Serve while still warm. They can be held for a few hours, then reheated in a 250 F oven. Makes 36.

Fried Potato Gnocchetti

1 large potato (about 1 pound)

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

4 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1 egg

Salt to taste

Freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon minced parsley

1 cup fine dried bread crumbs

Olive oil for frying

1. Peel potatoes and cut in cubes. Place on steam rack over boiling water. Cover and simmer until the potatoes are tender when pierced with a fork. Transfer to a large glass bowl, mash with a potato masher and let cool slightly. Add butter, cheese, egg, salt and pepper and mix well. Cover and refrigerate until cold. Add additional grated Parmesan or bread crumbs if potato mixture is too moist.

2. To shape potato mixture, oil the palm of your hands and roll a tablespoon of the mixture between your palms into an egg shape. Spread crumbs on a shallow dish and coat gnocchetti lightly with crumbs. Place on a paper towel-lined platter and refrigerate until ready to fry.

3. Heat about 1-2 inches of oil in a medium skillet. When oil is hot, fry a few gnocchetti until they are golden brown on all sides, about two minutes. Remove with the slotted spoon and place on paper towels to drain. Transfer to a large dish and serve hot.

Fried Zucchini Sticks

4 medium zucchini, unpeeled

1 cup flour

1 cup bread crumbs

2 garlic cloves, peeled

6 fresh basil leaves, or 1 teaspoon dried basil

Salt

Freshly ground black pepper

2 to 3 eggs

Vegetable oil for frying

Grated Parmesan cheese

1. Slice the zucchini lengthwise into quarters; cut in half, crosswise, and set aside.

In a small, brown paper bag, place the flour and set aside. In the bowl of a processor or blender, blend the bread crumbs, garlic and basil. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Place this mixture in another small, brown paper bag and set aside. Place the eggs in a bowl and beat well.

2. Drop four to six zucchini sticks into the bag containing the flour, shaking the bag to coat. Transfer to a metal strainer and shake off the excess flour. Dip the flour-coated zucchini into the beaten egg and then coat with the bread-crumb mixture. Place on a baking sheet lined with paper towels. (You can hold them at this point for at least one hour.)

3. Preheat the oil in a deep-fryer or wok to 375 F.

4. Drop the coated zucchini sticks into the heated oil and fry until golden brown. Drain on paper towels. Transfer them to a napkin-covered basket or platter; sprinkle with grated Parmesan cheese. Serve immediately.

Frittelle (Fried Ribbons)

11¼2 cups flour

11¼2 tablespoons sugar

Pinch salt

Grated zest of 1 orange

11¼2 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature

3 tablespoons milk

1 large egg

1 tablespoon orange juice

1 teaspoon vanilla

Olive oil for frying

Powdered sugar for garnish

In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the flour, sugar, salt and orange zest. Add the butter and blend until crumbly.

In a small bowl, beat the milk, egg, orange juice and vanilla together. Pour the milk mixture into the flour mixture all at once and blend until the dough comes away from the bowl. Place wax paper on work surface and sprinkle with flour. Knead the dough into a ball, and divide in half. Using a rolling pin, roll each half of the dough out very fine on the prepared work surface until it is 1¼8-1¼4-inch thick. Using a scalloped ravioli cutter or a knife, cut the dough into ribbons about 4-inches long and 1-inch wide.

Heat oil in a heavy deep-sided frying pan to 350 F, and fry a few of the ribbons at a time very quickly — 20 seconds — until golden. Drain on plates lined with paper towels, cool slightly and sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar.

Variations: Twist the ribbon twice and pinch it closed in the center. Or cut the dough into rectangles and make two parallel small cuts in the center.


Judy Zeidler is the author of “The Gourmet Jewish Cook” (William Morrow & Co, 1999), “The 30-Minute Kosher Cook” (William Morrow & Co, 1999) and the “International Deli Cookbook” which is available at the Broadway Deli in Santa Monica. Her Web site is members.aol.com/jzkitchen.

Circle of Friends


Growing up in Orange County, Rebecca Rona did not have a single Jewish friend. While her family practiced Judaism, her parents also encouraged a deep appreciation for other cultures. Her mother was a foreign language teacher, and her whole family was intrigued with languages. Rona still treasures a copper sculpture of an African woman that her parents displayed in their house when she was a child.

“It just really shows you how my parents thought of African people as beautiful,” she says. After exploring her own religion as a young adult, Rona became committed to improving relationships between Caucasians and people of color.

Today, Rona, now living on the Westside, founded Together, a nonprofit group dedicated to countering prejudice and racism and encouraging people of various backgrounds to understand one another and form friendships.

At a time when cultural tensions are running high, Together is one group that promotes multicultural understanding. Three times a year, Together sponsors a free five-week Friendship Circle program that attracts people of various religions, races and cultures interested in finding a connection with one another.

The spring Friendship Circle met at the Culver-Palms Family YMCA in Culver City on Saturdays. It was Together’s 11th circle since the program’s inception three years ago. Circles usually consist of 12 to 14 people. Recent participants include people from Ethiopia, Canada, El Salvador, Austria, Syria and the United States.

“I want people not only to accept each other, but to enjoy one another,” Rona says. “In the past, a lot of people came to me privately and admitted that they’d come to the circle to rid themselves of a certain prejudice.” A few years ago, a woman thanked Rona for helping her to work through her feelings of anti-Semitism.

At each meeting, participants play games and have discussions about their identities, similarities and differences, and finding solutions to help erase discrimination. During the first meeting, an introductory game demonstrated the incorrect assumptions people make about others based on appearances, which sparked a discussion on stereotypes. Sessions also focus on ideas for confronting prejudice. In another exercise, someone in the group acts as a bigot and the others must try to turn that person around in some small way.

“We talk about this to encourage people to not just hear something and remain quiet,” says Rona, who participates in every circle. “We model a certain way of dealing with these prejudicial statements.”

At the end of every meeting, a different member presents an interesting aspect of their culture to the group, be it a fact, an object or a custom.

Erbie Phillips, an African American, has been involved with Together from early on. Phillips, 45, participated in just about every circle and is now a facilitator.

“The best thing is that I’m able to communicate to my children more effectively when it comes to being tolerant of difference,” he says. Phillips says the meetings have influenced him in various parts of his life. As the new director of ancillary services for the Los Angeles County Probation Department, he feels that “my experience [with the Friendship Circle] will assist me, because it’s a multiethnic department. I’ll try to have a fresh approach to the people I meet.”

Ammar and Lobna Kahf, a young Muslim couple, are also part of the recent Friendship Circle. Ammar, an office coordinator for the Islamic Center of Hawthorne, says, “[The meetings] have helped me, because I got to a chance to know more people. Sometimes, as much as you try to know your neighbors, you don’t get much of a response. We all share the same human defects and problems and good things, too. The circle also gives me more strength in my belief in diversity.”

Rona brings her own background and beliefs to the mix. “I often share about myself, so I tell stories from my past,” she says. “I feel very strongly about tikkun olam, which means ‘repairing the world.’ When I was working to create this and to plan it, I really thought of it as my contribution and my mitzvah.”

The next Friendship Circle will begin in October. For
more information on Together, call (310) 285-3616 or e-mail TogetherCA@hotmail.com .

Hey Kids


In these portions, the borders of Israel are drawn in two different ways. Unfortunately, they conflict. Mattot indicates Israel’s borders extend from the Nile River to the Euphrates River. But Maseh is much more moderate and reports Israel’s borders are between Dan and Beersheva.

Israel is, to this very day, in a dispute over her borders. Maybe the Torah is trying to tell us something about borders. Maybe the Torah is saying: borders can be changed — and it is up to us to decide how to use them. Will we use them to shut other people out and call them our enemies, or will we expand them to include as many people as we can? Think about this next time you need to decide who you want to include as part of your group. You might see that when you open the border gates to someone you thought was your enemy, you will find that he or she has become your best friend.

Happy Campers


Norman and Lela Jacoby are talking about Camp Ramah again.

They are playfully finishing each other’s sentences, aiming for the right adjectives, the right phrasing to describe a place in Ojai that they say has meant so much to their family.

Their words burst out like a riot of campers elbowing their way onto the gaga court after lunch.”A fabulous place,” Norman tries.

“Special,” Lela counters on her way to defining a summer camp that mixes recreation, Jewish learning and prayer in four-week sessions. “So rewarding,” Norman offers.

“A jewel in the crown of Conservative Judaism,” Lela says finally. “It serves such a fabulous purpose and is so enlightening for children. It unlocks their Jewish lives in such a profound way.”

Such testimony comes easy for the San Fernando Valley couple who have sent more children to Camp Ramah of California than anybody else – their own three daughters, plus scores of kids who have received the annual Merit Scholarship Award the Jacobys have endowed since 1989.

Through the program, one deserving fourth-grade student picked by teachers and principals at each of the six Conservative Jewish day schools in Los Angeles receives a full scholarship to attend the camp – an award worth $2,500. At times, two children at a school will split the award.

By targeting 8- and 9-year-old children for the award, Norman, a retired optometrist, and Lela, a “professional volunteer,” say the scholarships become a precious investment in the future of the Jewish community.

They saw it with their own daughter, Taren Jacoby-Metson, back in 1962. The then 8-year-old spent a summer at Ramah and returned to the family’s traditional home with songs, Jewish understanding and such ruach that “the Shabbat table seemed to take on a life of its own,” Norman said.

“She came home and really taught us,” Lela added, a refrain repeated by parents of other Ramah campers.The experience also launched friendships, Jewish discovery and Jewish traditions that have extended through Taren’s life, and the lives of the Jacobys’ two other daughters, Susan Jacoby-Stern and Judy Jacoby-Chiel.

Consider: The daughters were camp counselors. They married former campers. Their children attend camp. The Jacobys’ cousins and their children attend or attended camp, some of them traveling from as far away as Massachusetts.

Last summer, a record 21 Jacoby cousins attended the Ojai camp, which now also boasts the Jacoby Performing Arts Amphitheater, a new 600-seat outdoor stage near the hilltop bunks.

Brian Greene, executive director of Camp Ramah in California, said the camp’s executive board’s decision to honor Norman and Lela Jacoby this year for their continuing support of the camp was, well, a no-brainer.The Nov. 30 event at Sinai Temple will link families and friends touched by the Jacobys’ philanthropy, Greene said. It has also led to the creation of a new endowment fund supported by more than a dozen families and “inspired by the Jacobys’ leadership.”

“The fund will ensure that kids, based on financial need, can come to camp,” Greene said. Last year, the camp provided more than $100,000 in financial assistance in addition to the assistance provided through the Jacoby awards.

“The financial need in the community is great,” said Norman Jacoby, who chairs the camp’s scholarship committee. “We get letters requesting assistance; some of them are heart-rending.”

The Jacobys also get many letters of thanks.

“We got letters from one camper before camp, during camp and after,” Lela said, “more than from our grandchildren.”

,P>”Somebody who really shines in classes deserves something special,” Norman added, “and I think that going to Ramah is special.”

For more information about Camp Ramah of California or its scholarship funds, call the camp office at (310) 476-8571.