Prop H8, gratuitous, immature, Islam

Proposition 8

I have read the articles about how gay couples are distraught at the passage of Proposition 8 (“Where’s the Struggle,” Nov. 21). How about an article from The Jewish Journal about how devastating it is for faithful Mormons to see their temple property trashed? Why not publish pictures showing signs reportedly held by demonstrators that read, “Mormon scum”?

It has been reported that donors to Proposition 8 are being blacklisted, rocks have been thrown through church windows, businesses are being boycotted and a book sacred to Mormons was found ablaze on a front porch.

Hmmm. Scapegoats, temples attacked, book burning. Does this sound familiar to Jews? Many who share these views — the majority of Nov. 4’s electorate — are hiding their yellow signs and bumper stickers supporting Proposition 8 for fear of being outed and attacked verbally and physically. The vocal minority is on the rampage.

John Gable
via e-mail

Although religion plays a significant role in our culture of marriage, it is not an issue of law regarding Proposition 8 (“Where’s the Struggle,” Nov. 21).

For myself, I am fine if gays are able to marry, and I am sure that I would not even notice, aside from the media extravaganza. My interest here is in the surprising dialogue uttered by political leaders, state Supreme Court justices, highly regarded law professors, pundits, journalists and everyone else who seems to have little understanding of the basic nature of law.

The equal protection clause does not mean that all people and things are equal, as in the same. The law does not intend to make all people and things the same, nor is it capable of doing so.

The equal protection clause means that the law will be applied equally to all citizens. My American Heritage dictionary, copyright 2001, defines marriage as the civil union between a man and a woman, as husband and wife. A civil union is a contract by law. In Western culture, marriage has been defined as between a man and woman across continents for centuries, meaning that it has long-standing precedence in law.

Our culture has evolved, and now we recognize a new kind of civil union between two people of the same sex. A union between two people of the same sex is dramatically different than a union between a man and a woman.

I am not saying anything here about one union being better than the other or one is good and the other bad, but I am saying that they are dramatically different, so where in our Constitution does it say that you have a right to legal nomenclature, which has long standing in law, of meaning something other than you wish it to be?

Homosexual couples under civil union and heterosexual couples under marriage, which means civil union, have equal actionable rights, meaning the law is applied the same to both unions. The legal terms applied to the two unions are different, because they are different types of civil unions, not the same in nature, but treated equally in applied law.

A civil union between a man and woman is the only existing union of two people that is capable of producing a child, in and of itself. No other type of union is capable of producing a child within the bounds of the legal union, with the child being of the DNA of the man and woman of the union, which is very unique, different and therefore not the same. No religion is necessary here, as this distinction is a matter of biological science.

The gay activists say that the discrimination is from the stigma of the term and that it is a term that means second-class citizen. People seem to have no understanding of what discrimination in law means.

All humans and government institutions discriminate in the course of daily life. Discrimination means to identify and classify according to difference. If you have a table full of apples and oranges and you identify which are apples and which are oranges, you are discriminating by difference.

Discrimination in law means that classification is used to cause harm by applying law unequally. Where did the legal term, “civil union,” come about this perceived stigma? The term marriage means civil union, so why doesn’t the term marriage carry this perceived stigma?

It is because the perceived stigma is not of the term but of the homosexuality. The law is a series of rules, not an emotional rendering of how people feel. Both unions enjoy equal application of the law, which is all the law is required to administer.

And what about the second-class citizen argument? Well, we have class licenses in law, meaning that different classes of licenses have differing applications of law. The state of California civil union law for homosexual couples is not a class license.

If a gay couple has all the rights of law as the heterosexual couple, and then they have the term marriage, will that make them a heterosexual couple in the eyes of the public and government? Of course not, which is why this debate is so silly and serves as another example of why we the people are really not very sophisticated, even at the highest levels of authority.

Victor Kodiac
Marina del Rey

A Moderate Proposal

Rob Eshman laments not having space to do justice to the views of Christopher Hitchens and Rabbi David Wolpe in their debate at the Wilshire Theatre (“A Moderate Proposal,” Nov. 21). If he would have left out the totally gratuitous description of what Hitchens was drinking, he would have had more space to write something useful.

Jim Freed
Santa Monica

Christopher Hitchens is not a bad guy, but he is immature; he needs to grow up (“A Moderate Proposal,” Nov. 21). I hope some day he does. I’m praying for him.

Irene Dunn
North Hills

Reaching Across Divide

“There are some anti-Jewish attitudes in the Muslim world — Firestone said,” as reported in your article, “Mosques, Synagogues Reach Across Divide,” which gushes over ‘twinning’ under the name of confronting Islamophobia and anti-Semitism together (Nov. 14).

Some? Is the good rabbi deaf or blind? Just get on the Internet for God’s sake, and it is not a pun. “Death to the Jews,” “Death to America,” “Death to the infidel” are broadcast daily on Al-Jazeera and other places.

In these dialogues, the underdog is helping the other side to become even more powerful. Islam is not only a religion but a dictatorial, tyrannical political system. They are not preaching love, understanding, freedom, equality, women’s rights or democracy, only jihad to take over the world. Not my words, theirs.

And we should worry about Islamophobia?

They need to change first; then we sit down to talk.

Dr. Robert Reyto
Los Angeles

Lying to Bubbe

I just read the letter, “Thou Shalt Not Lie,” responding to Teresa Strasser’s column about lying to her grandmother about her husband’s background (Letters, Nov. 14). The letter writer was outraged at Strasser’s deceit, and he only got it half right. The real moral failure here is with the editor-in-chief, Robert Eshman, for running the column in the first place and goading such writers on.

Evidently, he relishes such misadventure and, by publishing the piece, endorses it.

Albert Malevich
Hancock Park

Warrior Mom

I enjoyed David Suissa’s article, “Warrior Mom” (Nov. 14), very much, particularly because I know Esther Kandel personally. Our families have been friends for four generations.

The article reminded me of what happened to Esther Kandel’s great-grandmother, who was also named Esther. Her husband went to America to seek a better life, leaving his wife back in Russia. The First World War broke out before she could join him.

Alone with three young children and also pregnant, there was no way of communicating, let alone get any financial help for five long years. She supported her family on her own, smuggling cigarettes across the border, which was very hard and dangerous work.

Eventually, a year or two after the war, they were reunited in El Paso, Texas. I am sure her namesake would have been very proud of her courageous and fearless great-grandchild.

Hadassah Gourarie
Los Angeles

No Money, No Cry

Yes, it’s time to get creative, but stretching a buck is nothing new for Levantine Cultural Center (“No Money, No Cry,” Nov. 28). For years, we have presented cultural arts programs that bring Arabs, Muslims and Jews together to listen to music, watch films, contemplate the ideas of authors and imagine the Middle East/North Africa not an embattled region but as a constellation of communities with a great deal in common.

And we’ve done it with less than $100,000 a year. Our funding has been strictly grass roots, perhaps because major donors are still scratching their heads, trying to figure out how their Jewish, Arab, Iranian, Armenian or other specific agenda is represented by a pancultural organization that eschews national identities for a shared dialogue of civilizations.

The Levantine Cultural Center is not a Jewish organization per se, although there are several Jews on our board and advisory board. Yet we have managed, with very little money, to prove the viability of a broader agenda that serves the interests of a Jewish community that seeks peace with Israel’s neighbors.

We view the current economic crisis not as a time to retreat but an opportunity to expand our partnerships and welcome new members and supporters to the table.

Jordan Elgrably
Artistic Director
Levantine Cultural Center

Peace Process

Now that a mensch will be moving into the White House, I hope that Judea Pearl’s words are brought to his attention (“It’s Time for Words to Lead the Peace Process,” Nov. 21). In my opinion, Obama must cajole the United Nations into passing a resolution proclaiming that the world body will not allow the State of Israel to disappear.

Then, why must the Palestinians accept Israel as a “Jewish State” if Israel considers itself a democracy? If 80 percent of the citizens are Jewish, isn’t that enough? Eighty-eight percent of Ireland’s citizens are Roman Catholic, but I have never heard democratic Ireland called a “Roman Catholic state”.

The degree of hatred now on both sides may preclude any hope for a peaceful two-state resolution, but I think Pearl’s words could help make a miracle.

Martin J. Weisman
Westlake Village

Like poisoned mushrooms sprouting after a toxic rain, the Nov. 21 edition of The Journal contains two articles urging that more energy be put into the fictitious peace process by Israel and the incoming Obama Administration (“New Administration Must Pursue Mideast Peace“).

Some readers may recall Faisal Husseini, a “Palestinian moderate” who died in 2001. Before his death, Husseini openly said that Oslo was simply a Trojan horse, and that this ruse had succeeded in gulling the Israelis.

Despite all that has happened since the “peace process” openly collapsed in 2000, nothing seems to faze the naifs in the Israeli government or their ideological confreres who write in various Jewish publications. It’s as if the British government had insisted on continuing talks with the Nazi regime, while German bombs were falling on London in 1940-41.

Let’s all clap our hands if we believe in the “peace process” and the “two-state solution!”

Chaim Sisman
Los Angeles

India Deaths

The deaths of Rebbe Gavriel Holtzberg and his wife, Rivkah, as well as the nearly 200 killed in Mumbai, remind us of the perilous nature of zealous terrorism. We’ve seen these enemies before; we will see them again; we will continue to be bombarded, bombed, shelled, shot at and beaten, but we will not be overwhelmed. We hadn’t for centuries; who’s to say we will be.

The events in Mumbai are impossible to grapple with, and we feel impotent, immobile in the face of it. Are we supposed to pray and say, “All is in His hands?”

There is a need to be cognizant of our prayers but more forthright in our steadfastness and strength about what we believe to be right in the midst of tyranny and oppression.

Some find solace in prayer; some find solace in quiet mediation. Words can’t surmise the feelings of loss in this tragedy, but maybe the passage from Psalms help us feel reassured:

“They are brought down and fallen, but we are risen and stand upright.”

Why should we let terrorists win out when we know there are those who are selfless, like the Holtzbergs, who gave their lives to better others?

The lives of Rabbi Holtzberg and his wife will now embolden and inspire their 2-year-old son, Moshe, an orphan. He will learn the nobleness of living a rewarding life in the midst of immorality, chaos and danger.

“Lord, deliver us; may the King answer us on the day we call.”

Fear may be the easiest emotion to feel now, but I feel it should be steward-determined resoluteness in the face of these harsh realities.

The sophistication of evil cannot defeat the simplification of human decency.
Violent terror has killed hundreds, millions, perhaps billions, over centuries of our people.

The rabbi and his wife were giving people. The names we do not know from this massacre were businessmen, locals and tourists who all espoused their freedom.
Let us not extinguish that flame of hope that symbolizes our common core decency.

Jared Feldschreiber
Los Angeles


Rabbi Harold Schulweis of Valley Beth Shalom in Encino was incorrectly referred to in Circuit (“Schulweis Gets ADL Daniel Pearl Award,” Nov. 28) as rabbi emeritus. He continues to serve as an influential and active pulpit and teaching rabbi at VBS, as he has since 1970.

In “Diller Awards Recognize Teens’ Extraordinary Efforts” (The Jewish Journal Giving Guide, November 2008), the correct name of the chair of the Diller Teen Tikkun Olam Awards selection committee is Barbara Rosenberg. The age range for qualified nominees is 13-19. Nominations are due Feb. 17.

Fundraising the Rabbi Hier way

When Rabbi Marvin Hier moved to Los Angeles in 1977 to establish the Simon Wiesenthal Center, he hadn’t had much experience in fundraising. But in creating the Wiesenthal Center, and subsequently the Museum of Tolerance and Yeshiva University of Los Angeles (YULA), he had to learn how to ask for money — and fast.

During the past 30 years, his institution has raised between $600 million and $700 million. Even now, the Wiesenthal Center is involved in two major capital campaigns — a $35 million expansion of the Museum of Tolerance and the proposed $250 million Center for Human Dignity in Jerusalem. That project is awaiting an Israeli Supreme Court decision over its siting.

Although today Rabbi Hier’s staff includes a team of 11 fundraisers worldwide (headed by executive director Rabbi Meyer May), Hier says that during the last three decades he has learned much about how to raise money, how to work with donors of all stripes, and the special characteristics of fundraising within the Jewish community.

Jewish Journal: Is fundraising an art or a science? Is it something that can be taught or something that requires a particular personality?

Rabbi Marvin Hier: Let me tell you something about my background. When I left the Lower East Side in 1962, I got smicha [rabinnical ordination] and went to my first profession as assistant rabbi in Vancouver. I don’t think I would have had the knowledge to solicit from someone $25! I came from a very poor family. I would have been on the shy side …

From Vancouver, I went to a congregation that was very wealthy. I again had nothing to do with fundraising, because whatever obligations the synagogue needed, the synagogue members and the synagogue board were able to raise. But that was an eye-opener, because our synagogue was approached by many outside causes that came from around the world. I was there for 16 years and director of Hillel at the University of British Columbia for 13 years. Slowly, I began to understand the necessity that if you want exciting projects, you have to fund them.

So in 1977, when I decided to come to Los Angeles both to create YULA and the Simon Wiesenthal Center, I knew the fundraising would largely depend on me.
It was suddenly thrust upon me that either you do that or it won’t happen. That’s my job. I created the institution from scratch. We didn’t know anyone here and didn’t have much support.

JJ: What was your first experience fundraising?

MH: The shul in Vancouver was doing an expansion, they were building an auditorium, [I went to] the president of the men’s club for a solicitation. He said, “There are so many people in the shul who will do this, why are you coming to me?

I said, ‘You got yours and your father’s name on the seats in this synagogue. When this synagogue moves, you don’t want people to say that this seat that bears your name is not present. It would not be the right thing to do to memorialize your father who came to shul every single Shabbos, he’s going to want his son to answer the call.’ And this guy gave $25,000 — that was a lot of money at the time!

I said to myself, ‘You know what? You can move people.’

JJ: Are there any rules to fundraising?

MH: It’s something that you learn by trial and error…. First of all, I believe that people give to ideas. If they feel that what you’re proposing really fills a need and is not being duplicated … if it is an idea which really fills a need, then I think it is easier.

But along with new ideas goes the fact that your heart has to be in the idea. If the donor sees that it’s a pro-forma ask, that you don’t even stand behind the product for which you’re asking for a solicitation, the donor is the first one that will be able to see that. When you have an idea, your heart has to be in the idea. When you solicit somebody, they have to really believe what you’re saying, that it’s not for the purpose of your job. That this is an idea whose time has come, and that you really believe it.

JJ: Are there any don’ts for fundraising?

MH: Along the way, people ask me, ‘Rabbi, what do you think of this cause? What do you think of this university, [the] Jewish studies program over there?’ If it is a reliable institution, I only have good things to say about another charity seeking contributions from a layperson. They will always get from me a very high rating, that they should do it. I will encourage the donor. I do not take the position that that will short [my institution].

Every person who knows donors would rather the donor give to their institution; that’s a given. But the truth is there are thousands of worthy and great institutions. They all need support, they’ve all earned the right to support, and the worst thing to do is to undermine somebody else’s cause, because the first person that reads through that is the donor, and the donor says to himself, ‘Aha!, He’s cutting down another good charity just to make sure he can get a bigger check.’ It is the worst faux pas that could be made in fundraising.

JJ: Did you learn this the hard way?

MH: No, that has always been my philosophy. That I learned from my father. There were a lot of shuls on the Lower East Side, and my father had only good things to say about other shuls, about other yeshivas. He sent me to one yeshiva and not to the other and people said to him, ‘How come your son didn’t go to the other yeshiva?’ He did have only good things to say about the other yeshiva.

That I learned from my father.


A Sense of Israel

The Israel Ministry booth opened with a special ribbon-cutting ceremony with Israel’s top ministers and Olympic swimmer Mark Spitz. More than 100 people gathered to watch at the 75th annual United Jewish Communities General Assembly as the ministers cut the ribbon and welcomed visitors into the Israel booth.
The interactive booth stimulated the senses, as videos and music of the country were played. Views of Israel adorned the walls, and guests were invited to taste the country’s celebrated chocolates, wine and cheese.

High Marks to TENS

On a recent Sunday, TENS, Temple Emanuel’s New Sisterhood members and their spouses laced up their sneakers for a great cause. Team TENS joined more than 1,000 participants at the starting line for the second annual Run for Her to raise much needed funds for ovarian cancer research, as well as to raise awareness for the deadly disease.

TENS co-founders Johanna Besterman, Lisa Rosenblatt and Sydnie Suskind welcomed the sisterhood sponsors and said, “Ovarian cancer is an important issue that women need to understand better. TENS is all about educating and empowering women.”

“I’m thrilled that Team TENS raised $4,000 for a cause that touches so many of us in so many ways,” said Suskind, who explained the event was a personal issue, because she was walking in memory of her grandmother, who died of ovarian cancer.

Other TENS members who participated in the event included team organizer Beth Lieberman, Sydney Turk Porter, Nessa Weinman, Bonnie Gottlieb, Lynda Barrad and Temple Emanuel President Sue Brucker.

Brucker was joined by her husband, Beverly Hills City Councilman Barry Brucker, in walking to honor his sister, Linda Dreyfuss, a 10-year ovarian cancer survivor. Brucker’s other sister, Michelle Millstone, and niece, Anna Millstone, flew in from Tucson to participate with Team TENS.

Also joining the lineup were Cantor Yonah Kliger, Noa Kliger and Steve Bell.
Each year, nearly 70,000 women die from gynecologic and breast cancers. Run for Her was created to promote greater awareness of ovarian cancer. Proceeds benefit the Cedars-Sinai Women’s Cancer Research Institute, part of the Samuel Oschin Comprehensive Cancer Institute at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.

Stand for Healthy Hearts

United Hostesses’ Charities (UHC) proved once again that everyone loves a good party when they hosted their 64th annual Dinner Dance at the Regent Beverly Wilshire. The charity donates the proceeds of the evening to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center United Hostesses’ Charities Cardiac/Stroke Emergency Care in the emergency department division of cardiology and the groundbreaking research of Dr. Prediman K. Shah.

The evening was highlighted by the presentation to of the United Hostesses’ Humanitarian Award 2006 to Shah and a wild and outrageous performance by The Village People.

UHC Vice President Sheryl Weissberg co-chaired the dinner Barbara Price. UHC president Marilyn Gilfenbain’s presence in the planning and execution of the affair could be distinctly felt.

Seen enjoying the revelry of the evening and bouncing on the dance floor to the strains of “Macho Man” were UHC supporters Lillian and Stuart Raffel, Nancy and Bernie Nebenzahl, Michelle and Allan Kaye, Nancy Kipper, Claudia Resnikoff and Karen Kay Platt.

TreePeople Spreads Love

It was a night to celebrate the tree huggers at TreePeople’s annual gala fundraiser, An Evening Under the Harvest Moon. The event honored Mr.-Good-for-anyone’s-environment actor, director, producer Peter Horton for his numerous contributions. The eco-friendly celebration held at the Regent Beverly Wilshire raised over $400,000 to support urban forestry programs.

The event was hosted by long-time environmental supporter Ted Danson and attending were such environmental activists as Jimmy Smits, David Zucker and Treepeople president and founder Andy Lipkis.

Proceeds benefit TreePeople’s forestry, environmental education and sustainability programs in Southern California. The evening included live and silent auctions, music and special guests. Also recognized was the Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks.

“We’re grateful to our friends and supporters who have helped TreePeople make major strides in healing our environment,” Lipkis said. “Together we’re taking action to make Los Angeles a healthier place for all of us.”

The organization, started by teenagers in the 1970s, TreePeople has planted more than 2 million trees in the L.A. area with the help of hardworking volunteers and benefits TreePeople’s forestry, environmental education and sustainability programs in Southern California. The group’s latest project is to help Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa in his Million Trees LA Initiative.

For more information, call (818) 753-4600 or visit

Powerful Trio; House is a Home

A Powerful Trio

It was a night to acknowledge accomplished women Nov. 1, when 300 people celebrated the Anti-Defamation League’s (ADL) 12th annual Deborah Awards. This year’s honorees, Louise Bryson of Lifetime Entertainment, Shelley Freeman of Wells Fargo Bank and Monica Lozano of La Opinion, were honored for their commitment to philanthropy, community and diversity. The event, which raised more than $200,000 for the ADL, included a speech from Caitlin Lang, a former ADL intern and Sugihara Fellow, who spoke about the A World Of Difference Institute educational program and how her life has changed through her work with the ADL.

House Is a Home

Los Angeles Family Housing (LAFH) raised $500,000 at its seventh annual awards dinner attended by 400 supporters Oct. 19 at Universal Studios. More than 400 attended the event to fund housing for the homeless and low-income Angelenos. The dinner, chaired by Deborah Kamins Irmas and Matthew Irmas of Santa Monica, honored founding board member the Rev. John Simmons and Los Angeles Business Council President Mary Leslie. Comedian Paul Rodriguez entertained the crowd.

The crowd stood and applauded as Simmons, an 89-year-old Lutheran minister from Burbank received the Sydney M. Irmas Outstanding Humanitarian Award named for LAFH’s original donor. With Irmas’ help, Simmons and a number of clergy and others took a blighted North Hollywood motel and turned it into the organization that today includes 21 facilities in the San Fernando Valley and East and South Los Angeles, and has served 100,000 homeless and low-income families.
Admonishing the audience that “if you care, you must share,” Simmons said LAFH wouldn’t exist without the continuing generosity and commitment of the entire Irmas family.

Emmy-winning actor Edward Asner remarked, “Popular or not, John is always on the side of justice.”

Asner gave money to Simmons’ 1986 and 1988 congressional campaigns.

“Not enough!” Simmons joked, who lost both races.

LAFH board member and president/CEO of Century Housing G. Allan Kingston of Culver City presented the L.A. Family Housing Legacy Award to Mary Leslie of Cheviot Hills. Leslie joked she was “way too young” for a legacy award, saying “whether what’s motivating you is morality or monetary gain, it’s in our best economic interest to provide safe, affordable housing to attract and retain a strong workforce and housing for wage earners at every economic level.”

Guests enjoyed the music of the Oakwood School Jazz Band of North Hollywood and The Pat Longo Orchestra while chowing down on a sumptuous dinner catered by Wolfgang Puck.

For more information about L.A. Family Housing go to

A Bit of a Bite

The food was the star of the evening at Morton’s last week when the Bogart Pediatric Cancer Research Program presented an Inaugural Epicurean Celebration, a dinner to benefit the charity dedicated to supporting research into effective treatments and cures for children’s cancer, leukemia and AIDS. More than $100,000 was raised to help the children, as well as enough to buy them holiday gifts for their annual holiday party.

James Beard award-winning chef Daniel Joly, owner and executive chef of Mirabelle at Beaver Creek, prepared a sumptuous “Trilogy Dinner” accompanied by wines for each course. The evening was co-chaired by Robert Hollander and Pam Morton, along with event committee members Mike Brzostowski, Paula Doherty, Sara Duffy, Bonnie Engle, Dan and Luana Romanelli and I.H. Sutnick.

For more information about the Bogart research program, call (323) 330-0520.

Hadassah’s Unity With Israel

A group of 60 participated in Hadassah’s Unity Mission to Israel, where they traveled throughout the north, visiting with families affected by this summer’s war with Hezbollah, and down to Sderot, the Israeli town on the border with Gaza, that is still being shelled daily. Above, Los Angeles residents Shelly and Bruce Sobol plant a cedar sapling to replace the trees that burned when Hezbollah Kaytusha rockets set forest fires. As one of its responses to the war in Lebanon, Hadassah furnished the Jewish National Fund with a state-of-the-art fire truck with a self-contained water tank, invaluable in areas without ready water supplies, like much of Israel’s northern forestland.

Groups Pitch in With Housing, Tuition

Critics have long derided Jewish federations as functionally outdated and overly bureaucratic — the organizational equivalent of dinosaurs on the brink of irrelevance, if not extinction.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina’s devastation, though, the array of Jewish organizations under the umbrella of The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles have shown that they are far from moribund. They have raised large sums of money, moved critical resources to devastated areas and coordinated Jewish agencies to address victims’ needs.

In a few days, The L.A. Federation collected $600,000 to aid Jews and non-Jews alike in Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi and other parts of the Gulf Coast.

The philanthropic group has also brought local Jewish agencies together to provide therapy, job training and interest-free loans to storm refugees who make their way to the Southland. And it will be trucking supplies donated by area synagogues to Jackson, Miss.

“I’m always impressed how, in a crisis, this community pulls together, how people communicate, how people coordinate, how people cooperate,” L.A. Federation President John Fishel said (see Fishel’s commentary, on page 13). “It’s acting like a community can and should act.”

To the south, the much smaller Jewish Federation of Orange County has raised $110,000. The nonprofit organization is in the process of resettling a married Jewish couple from New Orleans into a Newport Beach house donated and furnished by members of the community, said Kathleen Ron, director of branding and community development. About a dozen Orange County Jews have offered to make available houses or apartments to evacuees, she said.

Much of the money from the nation’s federations and Jewish agencies is going to the United Jewish Communities (UJC), the national umbrella organization. As of Sept. 7, the UJC and affiliated groups had raised $4.3 million to help storm victims, the organization said. Donations are going to Jews and the general community to pay for such basic necessities as counseling, shelter, health care and food.

Like the local federations, L.A. Jewish agencies have reacted quickly and generously.

Several social workers at the Jewish Family Service (JFS) of Los Angeles have undergone emergency training by the Red Cross on the expectation of taking paid leave to provide refugees counseling and other mental health services on the Gulf Coast, said Lisa Brooks, director of communications and donor relations. Closer to home, JFS has begun to offer crisis counseling to newly arrived evacuees.

Jewish Vocational Service (JVS) has helped four freshmen who had been enrolled at Tulane University in New Orleans transfer to UCLA, the University of Wisconsin and elsewhere, said Vivian B. Seigel, the organization’s chief executive. Without the agency’s intervention, these students — all recipients of JVS scholarships for needy Jews — might otherwise have had to forgo their studies this year because of Tulane’s closure.

The Bureau of Jewish Education plans to refer to local Jewish schools any Jewish student refugees relocating to the Southland, Executive Director Gil Graff said. The bureau, which provides educational services to 150 Jewish schools serving 30,000 students, has also disseminated material to local educational institutions on the Jewish response to calamities.

Synagogues have also made important contributions of food, clothes and money. And such efforts will be ongoing, said Rabbi Mark Diamond, executive vice president of the Board of Rabbis of Southern California, the largest rabbinic organization in California with 270 members.

Over the next couple weeks, synagogues throughout the greater Los Angeles area will collect bedding, nonperishable food items — including pasta and cereal — and personal hygiene products, such as soap and shampoo. The donated goods will be consolidated locally and later trucked to a Jewish camp in Mississippi for distribution, Diamond said.

The Board of Rabbis also has called on temple members to contribute Visa gift cards to evacuees, which, he said, helps them preserve dignity, because they can select and pay for their own essentials. Going forward, there is talk of sending volunteers to the battered region to help with the actual rebuilding of homes.

“I am overwhelmed by the generosity, by the humanity and by the willingness across Southern California to respond to the crisis,” Diamond said. “I think this is the highest form of the mitzvah of pikuah nefesh, the mitzvah of saving and redeeming lives.”

To donate to hurricane relief through The Los Angeles Federation, call (323) 761-8200 or visit

For the Orange County Federation, call (949) 435-3484 or visit


A Sporting Chanukah


On the third night of Chanukah my true love gave to me, an Olympic swim cap signed by Lenny Krayzelburg, a game of Horse with the Houston Rocket’s Bostjan Nachbar and a chance to be on the set of ESPN’s Cold Pizza.

Thanks to the Center for Sport and Jewish Life’s online Chanukah auction (, gift giving just got more interesting. Forget about the tired old Gap sweater, the Best Buy gift card or the basket of peach-smelling lotion. Imagine your son opening a baseball signed by the 2002 World Series Champion Anaheim Angels or your daughter having dinner with Survivor: Africa winner (and nice Jewish boy) Ethan Zohn. In a fund-raising effort, CSJL will be offering these and other sports-themed gifts through Dec. 20. Opening bids range from $36-$400. Items up for auction are not only unique (and tax deductible!), but their sale supports a Jewish cause.

As longtime publisher of The Jewish Sports Connection quarterly, SCJL is a charitable nonprofit organization that promotes Jewish identity and Jewish values through sport. SCJL runs the Association of Jewish Student Athletes, a support network focused on mentoring, and created T.E.A.M., a curriculum for youth athletic groups that incorporates traditional team sport principles and Jewish ideals. In addition to the auction, the center’s Web site features articles on Jewish athletes, a youth page with pieces written by readers age 12-16, and stats from the world of Israeli sports. So this year, don’t strike out with your gifts — place a bid on an item that’s sure to score big points with your loved ones. — Carin Davis, Contributing Writer

Merry Chrismukkah to You

Amy Klein, Managing Editor

A menorah is topped with candy canes, a mini Christmas tree adorned with a Jewish star and a spinning dreidel pictures Frosty the Snowman on one side and the tree on another: These are just some of the “interfaith” pictures featured on the mugs on the gift section of the Chrismukkah Web site ( Other images — which also adorn T-shirts and holiday cards — include a reindeer with a menorah for antlers, a zayde-slash-santa and other cute combo sayings like “Oy Joy” and “Merry Mazeltov,” which get across the sentiment of both Judaism and Christianity.

“Chrismukkah is a blend of favorite traditions from both Chanukah and Christmas,” writes site founder Ron Gompertz, a Jew, who is married to a Protestant, Michelle. “Michelle and I deeply respect the religious observances of Christmas and Hanukkah as individual holidays,” he writes. “Chrismukkah is not intended to replace either.”

The Gompertzes began observing Chrismukkah officially last year.

Of course they only started celebrating it last year — that was the first time there even was a holiday called Chrismukkah. While the blending of the two December occasions has been a long American tradition, last year is the first time the combo-holiday got an official name. Lexicographers (and readers of The Journal) will recall that Josh Schwartz, young Jewish creator of Fox’s teen campy drama, “The O.C.,” first coined the term for the lead interfaith poster-child character Seth Cohen (Adam Brody). Cohen pestered his entire family to get into the spirit of both holidays.

A national Jewish population survey, conducted by the United Jewish Communities (UJC) in 2000-01 and corroborated by an American Jewish Committee (AJC) survey, counted 5.2 million adult Jews living in the US and found that of all married ones, nearly one-third are married to non-Jews. The UJC poll further reported that nearly half of all Jewish newlyweds within the past five years had chosen non-Jewish spouses.

But this year, with the eight days of Chanukah celebrated from Dec. 8-15, the Jewish holiday ends way before Christmas begins. So maybe we don’t need Chrismukkah after all.

Why Aren’t Jews Giving to Jews?

Eli Broad, considered by many to be the most influential, public-spirited and generous Jewish citizen of Los Angeles, estimates that he and his wife gave away $350 million last year, of which $2 million went to specifically Jewish causes.

Broad’s contributions put him and his family’s four foundations in the top ranks of America’s biggest donors, according to the Chronicle of Philanthropy, the bible of foundations and fundraisers.

Yet it’s Broad’s proportion of giving between specific Jewish and general community causes that is of particular interest because it reinforces the conclusions of a major new study, which tracked the donations of America’s biggest Jewish and non-Jewish givers over a six-year period.

The study found that between 1995 and 2000, of the $5.3 billion given by Jewish mega-donors ($10 million or above in one year), only $318 million, or a mere 6 percent, went to specifically Jewish causes, including support groups for Israeli universities. The $5.3 billion came from 188 gifts, of which 18 — 9.6 percent — went to Jewish organizations.

So the $64 million question is: Why are the wealthiest Jews, in the aggregate, not giving more to Jewish causes? And there is another question, not as easily answered as it might seem: Is giving to specifically Jewish organizations, more — well — Jewish, than contributing to the uplift of society in general?

"While Jews are remarkably generous givers to the general society … Jewish organizations received a minute proportion of Jewish mega-dollars," said Dr. Gary Tobin, president of the Institute for Jewish & Community Research in San Francisco. Tobin conducted the study, "Mega-Gifts in American Philanthropy," with co-authors Drs. Jeffrey R. Solomon and Alexander C. Karp.

The generosity of American Jews in general, and of the wealthiest ones in particular, is undisputed. While Jews make up 2.5 percent of the U.S. population at best, the Tobin study found nearly a quarter (24.5 percent) of all American mega-donors were Jewish.

The No. 1 American mega-giver in 2002 was Jewish publisher and diplomat Walter H. Annenberg, who died last October. He bequeathed an art collection worth $1.38 billion, with the lion’s share going to the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Mega-donations of $10 million and above are obviously of major importance to the recipients for their sheer monetary heft, but their value extends even further. Checks of that size raise the bar for all subsequent gifts, validate the organizations or causes on the receiving end, create new institutions and initiatives and often point to new paths in philanthropy.

The reasons why the most affluent Jews are not giving in the same ways as in the old days, when they shouldered the charitable burden for the shtetl or its American equivalent, are complex and based more on educated hunches than scientific studies.

One fairly obvious cause is the unstoppable integration of Jews into the general American society. As Jews become active in the broader society, and socialize with their non-Jewish peers, their charitable interests broaden to more universal causes.

Donna Bojarsky, an adviser to major media and Hollywood personalities, notes that a few decades back, non-Jewish fundraisers for major cultural institutions simply didn’t hit up rich Jews. In Los Angeles, this basically social barrier was breached by the legendary Dorothy (Buffy) Chandler in the 1960s, when she wedded Hollywood Jewish money to downtown non-Jewish wealth to fund construction of the Music Center.

In addition, many of the largest givers prefer to start their own projects, rather than write checks to existing institutions. Examples are Steven Spielberg’s Righteous Persons and Survivors of the Shoah Visual History foundations.

Some analysts fault Jewish organizations for garnering such a small slice of the big-money pie.

"Many Jewish institutions are not able to absorb very large gifts," observed Karp, co-author of the "Mega-Gifts" study.

Fellow co-author Solomon asked, "Are we even asking [for the multimillion dollar donations]?"

Mark Charendoff, president of the Jewish Funders Network, says that the biggest donors see their contributions as (social and cultural) investments, not as gifts, and demand solid business plans from the soliciting institutions.

Furthermore, many Jewish groups continue to use old and tried (or tired) methods, such as card-calling, "an aggressive manner of fundraising, whereby a professional fundraiser calls out the name and pledge of donors in public forums and pressures them to make or match the gift," according to the Tobin study. ("Calling cards" and "matching gifts" are among the Jewish contributions to American fundraising techniques.)

By common agreement among the experts, the traditional fundraising pitches may still work among older Jews, but are almost guaranteed to turn off the younger generation. This observation leads to the largest generational divide, the perception of what actually defines "Jewish" giving.

"What’s changing in the Jewish world today," Charendoff said, "is that to younger philanthropists, their giving to any worthy cause springs from their Jewish upbringing and tradition. But to their parents, Jewish philanthropy meant giving to organizations with ‘Jewish’ or ‘Israel’ in the name."

Both the "particularistic" and the "universalistic" approaches to Jewish giving have their advocates. Two of the most articulate spokesmen on opposite sides are Dr. Jack Wertheimer, provost and professor of American Jewish history at the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York, affiliated with the Conservative movement, and Rabbi Irwin Kula, president of CLAL-the National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership.

Wertheimer fears that if Jewish charitable giving keeps flowing predominantly to universal causes, the infrastructure and richness of Jewish community life in America is headed on a downhill slope. He assigns the blame to a number of factors, but aims his sharpest criticism at the current "ideology of tikkun olam [repairing the world] that all you need to be a good Jew is to be a good person. That perception is destructive of Jewish life, cohesiveness and giving."

Such an interpretation of tikkun olam, Wertheimer added, is "a mid-20th century invention … and part of the universalizing concept developed by the Reform movement."

At one time, Jewish giving was fueled by crises, to aid persecuted Jews or fight rampant anti-Semitism. As these issues fade, so is giving to Jewish institutions, representing a real threat to their ultimate survival.

Also contributing to the decline are demographic shifts among American Jews.

"Young Jews intermarry, they live in neighborhoods where there are few other Jews and more of their friends are non-Jews," Wertheimer observed. "Where once high-status universities, medical institutions and museums would not have asked Jews to join their boards, now they are falling all over themselves to invite us."

A more general factor is the shift in giving patterns in American society as a whole. The Depression and World War II generations tended to give to umbrella organizations — in the Jewish case, to federations or United Jewish Appeal — while the baby boomers lean toward more targeted causes, such as research for a specific type of cancer.

Even among the most substantial donors to Jewish causes, far larger sums go to general universities and museums, Wertheimer noted. While he hopes that the younger generation might reconnect to its heritage, he fears that if the present trend continues, the key structures of Jewish life in America will deteriorate.

Wertheimer, who has led a number of research projects on Jewish philanthropy, rejects the charge that Jewish institutions are partially responsible for their plight.

"That’s a form of blaming the victim," he said. "If there is any evidence that Jewish organizations are backward, you have to show it to me."

CLAL’s Kula couldn’t disagree more.

"The idea that Jewish charity means giving to things run by Jews for Jews is a narrow and parochial definition," he said. "If Jewish education and institutions prefer such a narrow way of looking at the universe, they deserve to get only 6 percent of the big donations."

Kula says he resents the implication that there is a split between being Jewish and being human.

"Can you compare the value of a Jewish day school to curing cancer?" he asked. "Is a trip to Israel as worthy as working against illiteracy, poverty and hunger in your community? Perhaps giving to Stanford University is more important than contributing to a Jewish organization."

What riles Kula most is what he describes as "last-gasp efforts" by Jewish fundraisers to scare elderly Jews into giving money to their favorite organizations now, by arguing that if they bequeath their wealth to their descendants, these will not continue to give to Jewish causes.

"Let’s not lie and let’s not be mean," Kula said. "For Jews to become better Jews, let’s not frame our mission in the most narrow way. Let’s speak to our people’s hopes rather than their fears."

Whatever the philosophical arguments, to fundraisers, the practical question is how to up the proportion and amount of money flowing to Jewish institutions and causes.

The answer will become only more urgent over the next two decades as an estimated $3 trillion to $10 trillion pass from the older generation of American Jews to their heirs.

Fundraisers face an even tougher selling job in convincing the new generation of heirs, born well after the Holocaust and the creation of the Jewish State, to continue their support of Israel.

"You can’t do it if Israel is just an abstract concept," Charendoff insisted. "Parents must take their kids to Israel, develop personal relationships with Israelis and, through these, discover a sense of Jewish peoplehood."

Even if such advice is taken to heart, fundraising won’t be easy, if it ever was. Jewish institutions will have to deal with donors who prefer specialized "boutique funding" to catch-all "department store funding," who consider themselves business partners of their designated charities, and who want to be actively involved in the causes their money supports, Charendoff said.

"Those organizations which can inspire the Jewish community will benefit," he noted. "Those which stick with business-as-usual will have a rude awakening."

On the list of the 60 largest U.S. charitable contributions of 2002, compiled by the Chronicle of Philanthropy, are the names and foundations of four Southern Californians, three from Los Angeles and one from San Diego.

The names are those of Angelenos Eli Broad and his wife Edythe, David Geffen and Steven Spielberg and his wife, Kate Capshaw. The San Diego philanthropist is Irwin Jacobs, founder and CEO of Qualcomm, a wireless telecommunications company, and his wife, Joan.

Tracking down the actual amounts given by such major donors in a given year is a tedious and time-consuming job, ripe with opportunities for inaccuracies and misinterpretations.

With this caveat in mind, the starting point for most searches is IRS Form 990, which all tax-exempt foundations are required to file annually, listing both income and distribution of grants. Since most of the 990 forms are apparently submitted in the late summer or fall of the following year, no reports for 2002 were available.

On an ongoing basis, Spielberg turns over most of his donations to his Righteous Persons Foundation, which, in turn, distributes more than 90 percent of its grants to Jewish projects, according to Rachel Levin, associate director.

The foundation has received all of Spielberg’s profits from his 1993 international film hit, "Schindler’s List," which has amounted to approximately $60 million to date.

In 2001, Spielberg gave $4.6 million to the foundation, whose grants for the year came to $21 million. The biggest chunk, $16.7 million, went to another Spielberg initiative, the Survivors of the Shoah Visual History Foundation, which has videotaped the testimonies of more than 50,000 Holocaust survivors and witnesses.

More modest, six-figure Righteous Persons grants went to Brandeis University, Jerusalem’s Martyrs Memorial Yad Vashem, the Israel Experience and the National Foundation for Jewish Culture.

Spielberg’s other personal charitable interests are children’s health, medical research and arts and entertainment, with Jewish causes "ranking first among equals," said Andy Spahn. As part of his DreamWorks SKG corporate affairs portfolio, Spahn administers the charitable giving of the film studio’s three founders, Spielberg, David Geffen and Jeffrey Katzenberg.

According to the Forbes magazine list of the 400 richest Americans in 2002, Spielberg’s wealth stood at $2.2 billion. His partner, Geffen, outranks Spielberg on the Forbes list with a worth of $3.8 billion.

Geffen made news last year with a multiyear $200 million pledge to the UCLA School of Medicine, plus $5 million to the Geffen Playhouse. A more typical year may be 2001, when, according to the report filed by his foundation, Geffen made close to $2 million in charitable contributions.

The grants reflected Geffen’s primary interests in AIDS research and care, the arts, civil liberties and, following Sept. 11, substantial support to the families of firefighters and police officers killed in the World Trade Center terrorist attack.

Smaller donations, totaling $110,000, went to approximately 15 Jewish institutions, ranging from $800 for the gay-oriented Congregation Kol Ami to $25,000 for Aviva Family and Children’s Services.

Broad, who has made two fortunes, one in home building, the other in financial services, is credited by Forbes with a $4.8 billion nest egg, making him the second wealthiest resident of Los Angeles, behind media mogul Rupert Murdoch.

Broad channels his donations through four personal and family foundations, specializing in public education improvement, the arts and medical research. This month, the Eli and Edythe L. Broad Foundation pledged $100 million for a genetics research institute in Cambridge, Mass., and another $60 million to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

Although last year he gave only approximately $2 million to specifically Jewish causes out of a total $350 million budget for charitable giving, Broad told The Journal that philanthropists should balance concern for society in general with support for Jewish and Israeli organizations.

"If I had only a little to give away, my emphasis would be on Jewish and Israeli causes," he said. "Once you get beyond several hundred thousand dollars, you become a better and more respected citizen if you also give to the Music Center and universities. If I would donate only a million dollars, I would split it between Jewish and general community projects."

The 2001 report for the Eli and Edythe L. Broad Foundation lists a $131,000 contribution to The Jewish Federation, $5,300 to University Synagogue, $5,000 each to Bet Tzedek and the University of Judaism and lesser sums to half a dozen other Jewish institutions.

In San Diego, the city’s foremost philanthropists are Jacobs and his wife, Joan. Jacobs, a former engineering professor, founded Qualcomm, a telecommunications firm, whose stock became a Wall Street favorite during the high-tech boom. The stock has since dropped, and the couple’s worth is listed by Forbes as a relatively "modest" $725 million.

Last year, the couple made news by pledging $120 million over 10 years to the struggling San Diego Symphony, the largest single donation ever made to a U.S. orchestra.

The Jacobses also support numerous Jewish organizations, but instead of setting up their own foundation, they have established a charitable fund at the Jewish Community Foundation of San Diego.

The Jewish Community Foundation serves in an advisory and administrative capacity and doubles as a major supporter of the 80,000-strong Jewish community. "Just recently, we have helped build a Jewish community center and a Reform temple," said Marjory Kaplan, foundation executive director.

In Los Angeles, the Jewish Community Foundation has been active since 1954. With current assets of $378 million, it ranks as the 10th largest foundation in Los Angeles.

Though also guided by its clients’ preferences, the foundation gave $35 million to Jewish causes last year, including more than $9 million to The Jewish Federation and its agencies, out of a total $45 million in distributions.

Marvin I. Schotland, foundation president and CEO, is more optimistic than most of his professional colleagues that younger Jewish donors will support their community in the future. "I believe that there is a yearning among younger Jews to understand their Jewishness, which didn’t exist three decades ago," he said.

When The Journal began its research on local Jewish philanthropists, it picked out the names of Broad, Geffen and Spielberg, because last year they made the list of America’s 60 largest charitable contributors. However, there are many other individuals who made similarly generous gifts but did so in earlier years or chose to spread out their large donations over a period of time.

The current Forbes 400 list of richest Americans contains the names of approximately 20 Los Angeles Jews, including such familiar ones as Alan I. Casden, Michael Eisner, Guilford Glazer, Katzenberg, brothers Michael and Lowell Milken, Haim Saban and Gary Winnick.

Universities have always been the main magnet for hefty endowments, and locally, UCLA and USC have benefited in recent years from multiple Jewish gifts of $100 million on down.

On the UCLA campus, the buildings housing the engineering school, business school facilities, medical school, eye research center, world arts and cultures departments and the neuroscience and genetics research center, among others, bear the names of Jewish philanthropists.

Local Jewish educational institutions have had a harder time attracting mega-gifts. However, the pioneer Allen and Ruth Ziegler Foundation funded the University of Judaism rabbinical school bearing their names through a $22 million gift in 1995. In addition, the Milken brothers are recognized for their support of Jewish education, including the Milken Community High School.

The activities of two other Los Angeles Jewish entrepreneurs have been prominent on the business news pages in recent times, namely billionaire TV mogul Saban and ex-billionaire Winnick.

Saban, who grew up in a Tel Aviv slum, has been a very open-handed supporter of the Democratic Party and its candidates in this country and of liberal-centrist politicians, such as Ehud Barak, in Israel.

This month Saban and his wife, Cheryl, announced that they are committing $100 million to local and Israeli causes. Included are $40 million to Childrens Hospital Los Angeles; $12 million to benefit Israeli children, disabled combat veterans and victims of terror, and $3 million to the Los Angeles Jewish Community Foundation, said Shai Waxman Abramson, the Saban Family Foundation’s new program director.

The story of another self-made man, Winnick, is also interesting. In 1997, Winnick founded Global Crossing, which built the world’s largest fiber optics cable communications network on the ocean floor. Only two years later, he was crowned Los Angeles’ richest man, with a net worth pegged at $6.2 billion.

In 2000, Winnick topped a string of donations to mainly Jewish causes with a $40 million pledge to the Simon Wiesenthal Center toward construction of a Frank Gehry-designed Museum of Tolerance in Jerusalem, which was to bear Winnick’s name.

Early last year, Global Crossing, staggering under a $12 billion debt, filed for bankruptcy, wiping out most of Winnick’s paper fortune. However, according to Forbes, he was still worth $550 million at the end of last year. Inquiries by The Journal indicated that the charitable commitments made by the Gary and Karen Winnick Foundation are being met.

The ultimate question facing the Jewish community may lie in how its elders can inspire their children and grandchildren to support Jewish life in the future.

"Children never listen to what they are told, but they absorb what they see," said Charendoff, of The Jewish Funders Network. "The parents need to be actively involved in the community and explain their reasons for doing so. What parents can’t do is dictate to their children from the grave. If the elders want their charity to flow in the traditional ways they value, they would do better to give the money away in their lifetimes."

Help — Don’t Cry

One of the best University Synagogue tours ever was our 2000
trip to Argentina and Brazil. Both countries were physically beautiful and Jewishly fascinating, and the
speakers with whom we met were unforgettable.

Since that time, however, Argentina has been reduced to
terrible economic straits, and its once-thriving middle class is in danger of
disappearing. That middle class made Argentina unique in South America, where
polarization between rich and poor is the norm.

Moreover, the 200,000 Jews of Argentina generally found
themselves in that middle class, and for the last two decades, it afforded them
democracy, security and prosperity. Now, those touchstones of everyday life are
eroding, and thousands of Jews have been forced over the last 20 months to ask
for financial help from synagogues, Jewish centers and local federations.

It would have been unimaginable two years ago to see Jews
eating at soup kitchens or standing in unemployment lines. Some have made
aliyah, but it’s so hard to begin life and language again when you are no
longer young. So most suffer, and they do so silently, because they are ashamed
even to ask for help.

Jewish schools are closing, synagogues can’t afford to even
set out a nice kiddush on Shabbat and everyone feels helpless and demoralized.

Imagine what would happen to us if our earnings and savings
dropped by 75 percent and unemployment rose to 54 percent. We’d be in shock,
unable to cope, afraid of the present and terrified of the future for ourselves
and our children. That’s the situation in which Argentina finds itself.

Six months ago, University Synagogue raised over $60,000 in
a six-week period to donate an ambulance to Israel through Magen David Adom. We
performed the mitzvah of pikuach nefesh (saving lives).

Now, once again, we have launched a life-saving campaign, as
we adopt Buenos Aires’ Congregation Dor Hadash, a synagogue that hosts a soup
kitchen for the Jews and non-Jews of its neighborhood.

That neighborhood, Villa Crespo, is so Jewish that its
nickname is “Villa Kreplach,” but its Jewish future can no longer be taken for
granted as its residents begin to leave, moving into poorer parts of Buenos
Aires or leaving the country completely.

We have asked each University Synagogue adult to contribute
$50 or more and each child $18 or more so that we can send a gift to
Congregation Dor Hadash as soon as possible. We also have a Patron’s category
for $500 to $1,000 or more per adult. Patrons will receive special recognition
from Congregation Dor Hadash.

All gifts of any size are appreciated and necessary. Each
day that we delay means more hunger, more fear, more humiliation and more
desperation. We invite the community to join us by supporting our appeal or
establishing others within their synagogues.

The popular song from “Evita” tells us: “Don’t cry for me, Argentina.”
We’re not crying for Evita, whose Peronist Party is greatly responsible for Argentina’s
economic plight, but for Argentina and its people and our fellow Jews.

In this new year of hope and possibility, let’s show the
same spirit of tzedakah (charitable giving) for our Jewish brothers and sisters
in Argentina that we, as Jews, have shown across the world. As Hillel reminds

Si no ahora, quando?/Im lo achshav, aymati?/If not now,
when? Â

Arnold Rachlis is rabbi at University Synagogue in Irvine. For more information on the fund drive, call (949) 553-3535 or visit

A Call for Support

Few people look forward to being asked for money. But Super Sunday, the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles’ largest single day of fund raising each the year, is the exception.

“It’s the one time of the year when people say, ‘I was waiting for your phone call,'” says David Eshaghpour, community campaign director for the Federation and Super Sunday director.

Super Sunday, which will take place at four locations scattered across Los Angeles, reaches more than 50,000 people through phone calls, mailers and personal solicitations, and raises about one-tenth of the annual total contributions to the Federation’s United Jewish Fund. Last year, $4.45 million was added to UJF coffers. This year’s goal is to increase that figure to $5 million.

The money goes to benefit the Federation’s 17 beneficiary agencies, which combat hunger, disease, disabilities, family violence, alcohol and drug addiction in Los Angeles, and to help Jews in Israel and 58 countries.

Many staff and lay leaders of the UJF’s beneficiary agencies show up to make phone calls on Super Sunday, along with scores of families, teens, young singles and couples, and seniors. There are specially equipped phones for the hearing impaired.

“Super Sunday brings together generations working for a common cause,” says David Aaronson, who is chairing Super Sunday for the second year in a row.

For parents of small children, free baby-sitting is available. Youngsters also can take part in Mitzvathon, a day of making art projects and participating in other activities that help those in need; the children will also learn more about their Jewish heritage.

At the “megasite,” the Westside Jewish Community Center, costumed Power Ranger characters from the Fox-TV Network will show up to amuse the kids.

To volunteer or to contribute, contact one of the following locations: Westside JCC, 5870 W. Olympic Blvd., (323) 761-8319; Valley Alliance Milken Jewish Community Campus, 22622 Vanowen St., West Hills, (818) 464-3200; South Bay Council Jewish Community Building, 22410 Palos Verdes Blvd., Torrance, (310) 540-2631; Jewish Federation West Los Angeles Office, 1950 Sawtelle Blvd., (310) 689-3600.

The Young Leaders

Israel is on its way to becoming a back-burner issue in much of the American Jewish community. Studies show that the younger the Jew, the less connection he or she feels to what is, let’s try to remember, the Jewish homeland. The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, which used to give Israel 50 percent of the funds it raised, has cut that figure by nearly half. One of the Federation’s “old leaders” pointed out to me that Israel isn’t even mentioned any more in Federation advertising — it’s bad for business. Israel has become a wormy apple for many American Jews — all this unpleasantness with the Palestinians and, on top of that, a hot, fuming plateful of disrespect for Conservative and Reform rabbis and the Judaism they practice.

Meanwhile, Israel no longer needs the money of American Jews, and American Jewry is noticing its own needs, especially addressing the ignorance and apathy of its native constituency. So priorities are shifting. That the Federation, despite all this, cares enough to mount projects in Israel and to maintain an Israel liaison office, directed by the indefatigable Marty Karp — well, it makes a person happy.

And, now, here come Los Angeles’ young leaders — aged 25 to 40, the next generation of Jewish Federation movers and shakers, currently still in training. As part of the “twinning” of Tel Aviv with the Los Angeles Jewish community, 14 of them came to Israel to see what has already been accomplished by the partnership, to meet their counterparts in Tel Aviv, and to think up new joint projects.

These young leaders too know all the bad news back home — the great sea of the intermarried; their uneducated children, high and dry out there in America; the great masses of the unreachable unaffiliated; and a dwindling of any sense of connection to Israel or to other Jews. Even anti-Semitism is way down, as if the rats are abandoning the sinking ship. Certainly these are profound issues for their generation to face, but, as one of them asked rhetorically, “How can anyone be a Jewish leader without a connection to Israel?”

Nonetheless, they came with a lot of inaccurate preconceptions — that, for example, your typical Yossi on the street, since he speaks Hebrew, knows all about Judaism. In fact, a surprising number of Yossies don’t know nuthin’, just like in America. Then there’s the surprise that the denominational labels and divisions that are the fabric of American Jewish life mean little in a country that knows only “religious” and “secular.” More confusing still, many “secular” Israeli Jews turn out to be quite religious by American standards.

For this generation of American Jews, Judaism has become, as one of the young leaders put it, “fully optional.” These people have chosen yes, and many of them have set themselves the project, not just of learning about the Jewish community they hope to lead but of investigating Jewish spirituality and Judaism’s classical texts, drawn to texts and observance because that is Judaism’s irreducible core. What one of the group called “mere ethnicity” will not long sustain Judaism in America; in the end, only religion will. That much has become clear.

So what do the young leaders want? One stated ambition is to “change the corporate culture” of the Federation. Another is to get “our generation’s agenda” recognized. They were light on specifics, though — none could name a “cultural” change more far-reaching than not scheduling meetings during workday hours or an agenda item more revolutionary than outreach to the unaffiliated, which the Federation has been trying to do for years, with limited success.

But their tone and style is new, and so is their focus. Maybe it takes fully acculturated American Jews, born in the second half of the century, to draw in others like themselves. “We’re role models,” said one woman, pointing out that Dor Shalom, the Israeli “peace group” founded after the Rabin assassination (whose young leaders our young leaders met with), has been successful in involving apathetic Israeli twentysomethings in a social movement.

But it’s not really so surprising. There’s an old story about a student who asked his rabbi what a person could learn from a modern invention such as the locomotive. The locomotive, his teacher replied, shows us that one hot one can pull along a hundred cold ones. I hope these young Los Angeles leaders can do the same. It seemed to me they were definitely going to try.

David Margolis writes from Israel.