MUSIC VIDEO: Gad Elbaz and Alon de Loco in ‘Ha layla ze haz’man’ — ‘Tonight’s the Night’


Two Israeli cliques— cool kids and Yeshiva students—somehow manage to ‘just get along’ in this hiphop music video from rappers Gad Elbaz and Alon de Loco in ‘Ha layla ze haz’man’—‘Tonight’s the Night’

More West Los Angeles Shootings Leave Residents Outraged


Dotted by temples, community centers and parks, the largely Orthodox Jewish Crestview neighborhood and its adjacent areas in West L.A. don’t seem to be a typical battleground for gang bangers. But residents say that is exactly what it’s become.

Little more than a month ago, Crestview’s peaceful aura was shaken by a drive-by shooting that left at least a dozen bullet holes in the second story of a duplex on Wooster Street, which neighbors said they believe is inhabited by a gang member.

The ball dropped again last week when three fatal shootings occurred in a three-day period in La Cienega Heights (LACH), the neighborhood just south of Crestview. On July 11, 16-year-old Hamilton High School student Ana Interiano was shot in the head on her way home from summer school near Robertson Boulevard and Cadillac Avenue, succumbing to her wounds later that evening in a hospital.

Two days later, two young Latino males were killed by gunfire just blocks away.
Outraged residents of Crestview, La Cienega Heights and its neighbor to the south, Reynier Village, have been spurred to action since last week’s bloodshed. They gathered Monday in Palms Westminster Presbyterian Church to discuss the escalating violence with representatives from the LAPD, City Council and mayor’s office.

“We will not stand for it anymore. We will not live in fear. We are having to exit one way out of our neighborhood to avoid certain areas,” said Connie Collins, president of the La Cienega Heights Community Group.

Although the Jewish presence in the area has increased in recent years, the area east of Robertson Boulevard in West Los Angeles remains a hodgepodge of races and religions. Its lingering pace of demographic change has failed to root out gang violence — residents suspect gang members still reside within the neighborhoods. They also believe the poor standards maintained by landlords in local apartment buildings have contributed to the problem.

At Monday’s meeting, residents demanded that the city engage in prosecuting nuisance landlords who have failed to reign in rowdy tenants.

“We do not feel that the city is willing or has the resources to partner with us in the manner that is needed to stop this problem. We need prosecutions. We need landlords to understand that they must uphold community standards to stop our children from being killed,” Collins said.

Residents also volleyed questions at LAPD Capt. Carol Aborn Khoury, demanding to know why the department has not diminished crime in the area despite the many specific reports on gang activity logged by residents.

Collins said she knew of at least six that had occurred in the La Cienega Heights in the past four years, including last week’s three. However, police were unable to confirm an exact count of homicides by the time The Journal went to press.

In March, an off-duty Culver City police officer was shot in the jaw by gang members in Crestview. Residents say the area suffers from constant graffiti tagging and is a favorite loitering place for gang members.

According to a neighborhood press release, “Residents of LACH are chased by gang members, told they cannot park in their personal driveways or parking space because they are now owned by gangs, regularly hear gunshots, have bullets flying into their homes, witness drug deals, have resorted to making citizen arrests, wisely select the streets on which they walk and drive, are selling their homes at a rapid rate, and continuously live in fear.”

Police Capt. Khoury estimated that five to six gangs consider the three neighborhoods to be their turf, but noted that new gangs are constantly forming and replacing one another.

Although she assured residents that the department’s gang unit spends the majority of its time in La Cienega Heights, in addition to deploying 80 percent of its additional resources to the area since the surge in crime six weeks ago, Khoury identified the real problem as the shortage of police officers across Los Angeles. She said the LAPD does not attract enough qualified applicants to fully staff all of its sectors.

She implored the neighborhoods to take the initiative despite the efforts of the police.

“The solution to the gang problem is not arrest and prosecution,” Khoury said. ” We have lost the gang battle if that is what we’re working with. I can tell you we cannot have successful prevention and intervention programs without a holistic approach with the community, the business community, parks, recreation, schools … everybody has to be fully involved in trying to find a place for these kids to be other than out on the streets congregating … that’s going to lead to criminal behavior.”

Our First Cover: Bobbi Fiedler


Bobbi Fiedler, who rode an anti-school busing platform to political prominence, stood out as the potential vanguard for Jewish conservatives when The Jewish Journal profiled her as its first cover story in February 1986. Fiedler had served on the Los Angeles school board (1977-1981) and won election to Congress (1981-1987). In The Journal’s first year, she was running for the U.S. Senate, a campaign that fell short.

The Journal recently caught up with the still-active Fiedler, 69, between civic activities. She’s a member of the San Fernando Valley Coalition on Gangs, the LAPD’s Devonshire Division advisory council and the community enhancement committee that works with the Mission Hills police station. A registered Republican, the Northridge resident has two children and five grandchildren.

Jewish Journal: Tell us about some of your current work with law enforcement agencies.

Bobbi Fiedler: The San Fernando Valley Coalition is trying to prevent gang membership and drug use. We’re assisting a variety of agencies in trying to find and help the at-risk kids before they actually get into gangs or involved with drugs.

The enhancement committee is trying to improve the quality of life in North Hills — recommending various locations that have problems with lighting, with the broken-window syndrome, with homeless encampments. These are the sort of community problems that tend to deteriorate a community if not attended to.

JJ: You came to prominence through your opposition to mandatory busing. Would Los Angeles be better off if the fight over busing had never happened?

BF: Yes, unquestionably, because a large number of mothers, as an example, had to go back to work to pay for their kids in private school. And a large number of families would not have left the city and would have continued to enhance its economic base. Yes, it would have been a lot better had we not had to fight that fight. But we did, and ultimately we were successful in court and in creating magnet programs with voluntary busing, which meant expanded educational opportunities for students.

JJ: How do you feel about possible mayoral control of the Los Angeles Unified School District?

BF: I understand the public’s frustration with the quality of public education. The school district has problems — no question about it — and I think Mayor Villaraigosa’s very well meaning. But the mayor has a big challenge on his plate as mayor, and he also has another big challenge in having a leadership post with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. I don’t think it’s feasible for one person to be able to control those two things and the school district.

JJ: What would you suggest as far as amending who’s in charge?

BF: I would let everyone in the city vote for all seven school board members, instead of just the one in their area, as it is now. At-large elections were how it used to be. Going back to that would make it more difficult for the teachers union to be in control.

The school district is on the right track as far as pushing for achievement levels that are much higher than they’ve been in the past. I would say the worst thing that happens in the school system is the lack of expectations for children who come from a minority background.

JJ: How has Congress changed since you were there?

BF: There are always a lot of good people in elected office, but there is much more partisanship. Today there are Americans who are abject enemies because they are in opposing parties, and the whole country is terribly polarized as a result of their bad example.

Howard Blume is the former managing editor of The Jewish Journal.

 

Shots Fired in Pico-Robertson


A gang-related drive-by shooting in the heart of the Pico-Robertson neighborhood late Sunday night left members of the Jewish community rattled and shocked.

No one was injured when 13-15 shots were fired on the 1600 block of Wooster Street, which is one block east of Robertson Boulevard and two blocks south of Pico Boulevard. The heavily Jewish neighborhood has seen a rise in gang activity recently, with graffiti tagging popping up on buildings and signs and a shooting at a neighborhood park last year.

Neighborhood activists organized a candlelight vigil at the park Thursday night, and are working to galvanize rabbis and members of the Jewish community to help stop the infiltration of violence.

For a full story and update, visit www.jewishjournal.com on Friday, June 9.

 

Iranians Facing Up to Drug Abuse Taboo


Three years ago, Raymond P., a 28-year-old Iranian Jew, was a full-fledged member of a notorious Los Angeles street gang. He sold drugs and suggests that he may have participated in violent crimes. He doesn’t want to talk about specifics but explains by saying he was desperate to pay for his drug habit.

Raymond P., who asked that his real name be withheld, is among an uncertain but significant and possibly growing number of Southern California Iranian Jews who have been using and selling illegal drugs. It’s the sort of problem you wouldn’t typically hear about within the Iranian Diaspora community, because the topic embodies cultural shame for family members. Experts say that silence has aided and abetted the problem.

However, now there are efforts under way both to end the silence and help these families.

“I came from a very good family, but I didn’t care who I was hurting, as long as I was getting high,” said Raymond P., who is now in recovery.

He told his story to nearly 200 Iranian Jews gathered recently at the Eretz-SIAMAK Cultural Center in Tarzana. The gathering late last year was the first of its kind for the community.

Since their arrival in great numbers in the United States more than 25 years ago, Iranian Jews — numbering an estimated 30,000 in Southern California — have become one of the more educated and financially successful Jewish communities. But this has not made them immune from a side effect of the American dream: drug abuse, especially among the young.

Leaders of the Eretz-SIAMAK center have decided it’s time to shatter the long-standing taboo of not publicly discussing the drug abuse plaguing Iranian Jews. It began an open dialogue on the issue late last year by gathering a panel of experts to educate families about drug abuse.

“For years, we’ve been quietly helping addicts in the community to [recover from] their drug use,” said Dariush Fakheri, co-founder of Eretz-SIAMAK. “But we finally decided to go public and try to fix this problem when we noticed it has really become widespread among our young people.”

The Eretz-SIAMAK leadership has made a mission of taking on serious and sometimes discomfiting issues within the Iranian Jewish community, including poverty, premarital sex and new Jewish immigration from Iran. It went forward with the drug-abuse awareness event after an anonymous donor provided funding. More seminars and other events are planned this summer after the same anonymous donor recently contributed $5,000 to Eretz-SIAMAK.

There’s no official or reliable data on illegal drug use among Iranian Jews, but psychologist Iraj Shamsian, who specializes in treating addicts of Iranian heritage, said that nearly half of his Iranian patients are Iranian Jews. He and other specialists say they are convinced that, based on their own practices and anecdotal evidence, the problem is growing.

Yet some families are hesitant even to seek help.

“Our culture is the type that wants to keep everything secret and not talk about it, because it’s embarrassing, and people put a label on you,” said Dara Abai, a longtime youth mentor and community volunteer who helps Iranian Jewish drug addicts. “In Iran, I remember that if someone told you to go to a psychologist, they thought you were crazy and had a serious mental problem.”

Cultural attitudes toward alcohol haven’t helped either, he added.

“In our community, we have a lot of alcohol use,” Abai said. “I go to parties and see married people half drunk. Their kids see this, and they think it’s fun. So they try alcohol at a young age, and sometimes that leads them to try drugs.”

Experts said, too, that young Iranian Jews, just like many other young people, experiment with different drugs out of peer pressure or to fit in with friends.

In working with young addicts, psychologist Shamsian draws on his own experience as an addict from 1983 to 1993.

“During those years, I never said no to any drugs I saw,” Shamsian said. “I shot heroin. I used cocaine. I used different downers and uppers — even tried acid and mushrooms.”

Shamsian said his addiction was so intense that he wasted away his savings, as well as family funds brought over from Iran, ultimately ending up on the streets of downtown before finally seeking help.

After becoming drug free, Shamsian obtained professional credentials. Besides his private practice, he works as program coordinator for Creative Care, a respected drug treatment facility in Malibu. He also hosts “Ayeneh,” a Persian-language television program, available on satellite systems, on which he seeks to educate Iranians about the dangers of drug use.

“We answer phone calls from Iranians around the world — even in Iran,” Shamsian said.

Three years ago, Shamsian, along with non-Jewish Iranians, helped found the Iranian Recovery Center (IRC) located in Westwood. The nonprofit offers seminars and education about substance abuse, as well as referrals to those seeking treatment.

“The services of the IRC are totally free and open to the public,” Shamsian said. “We help Iranians of all different religions.”

Other community resources include the Chabad Residential Treatment Center, a treatment facility run by the Chabad organization in the Miracle Mile area, where many Iranian Jews seek help for their addictions. It emphasizes Jewish values and spirituality.

However, the drug problem is not only among the young. Shamsian noted that a significant number of older Iranian Jewish men are using opium on a regular basis, because of their past use and familiarity with the drug from Iran.

Drug use frequently leads to legal difficulties, as well as financial, health and emotional problems, said Dariush Sameyah, an Iranian Jew and Los Angeles Police Department sergeant.

“I was in court recently with this person from a very prominent Iranian Jewish family, and she was heavily involved in credit card fraud to support her narcotics habit,” said Sameyah, who works in internal affairs. “This issue is prevalent in our community. If you look at the court records every day and see the cases coming up, you will see Jewish Iranian names quite frequently.”

“They get a very very rude awakening once the handcuffs go on,” Sameyah said. “Back in the day if a very well-respected Iranian person got arrested in Iran, they wouldn’t get handcuffed or strip searched the way they do here. It’s such an insult and slap in the face for an Iranian person when they are told to bend over for a cavity search, but that’s the law and public policy in the United States.”

Sameyah said a joint investigation led by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency and Los Angeles police resulted in the arrests last summer of nearly a dozen Iranians in Southern California — many of whom were Jews — for allegedly selling and importing opium, as well as laundering money generated from the sale of opium.

Besides opium and marijuana, heroin has recently made a comeback, said Sameyah.

He added that it’s almost never too soon for parents to begin discussing the drug issue with their children.

“If you want to start talking about narcotics to a 15-, 16- or 17-year-old, you’re about 10 years behind the curve,” Sameyah said. “Because that kid has spent the last 10 years in school with God knows who having glorified narcotics use for them. Education about narcotics starts at the age of 3 and 4.”

He said parents should talk about “what drugs can do to you and what they look like.”

But when children do stumble, make bad decisions and have problems, the taboos must be discarded to leave the path clear for recovery.

“We have to try not to judge people with drug addictions,” said Shamsian. “We have to look at drug abuse as a disease and not from a moral point of view.”

 

Should Tookie Die?


Just about one month from now, at 12:01 a.m. on Dec. 13, the State of California will execute Stanley Tookie Williams. He will die by lethal injection in the death chamber of San Quentin State Prison, home to the nation's largest death row. At every execution, small crowds gather outside the prison, some to protest, some to applaud. This time, thousands of people across the country — far more than is usual for an American execution — will be paying attention. Williams' story has reignited a conversation about capital punishment, galvanizing people — many of whom have never been outspoken opponents of the death penalty — to spare his life. Their ranks include a growing numbers of Jews. Indeed, the Williams case ought to force on Jews a hard look at what, exactly, our tradition says about the death penalty.

For the past 24 years, Williams, 51, has lived on death row in San Quentin. He started down the path that put him there early on. In 1971, at the age of 17, Williams, who grew up in South Central Los Angeles, co-founded the Crips. It quickly became Los Angeles', and then the nation's, most notorious street gang. In 1979, authorities charged Williams with the brutal murders, during two separate robberies, of four people who had no gang connections whatsoever: Albert Lewis Owens, a Whittier convenience store clerk in one incident; and, in the other, Tsai-Shai Yang, Yen-I Yang and Yee Chen Lin — a husband and wife and their adult daughter, owners of a Los Angeles motel. All were gunned down, execution style, in cold blood.

Williams claimed that he did not commit the crimes, but two years later, a jury convicted him and a judge sentenced him to die. While it is not uncommon for capital defendants to claim innocence, serious questions about the testimony and evidence that convicted him were raised — and rejected — on appeal. Among them, Williams alleges that his trial was unfairly moved from Los Angeles to Torrance, where all African Americans in the jury pool were dismissed, and the case was heard by an all-white jury.

But even if Williams is, as he claims, innocent of the crimes for which he was convicted, let's be clear: He was, at the time of his arrest, a dangerous criminal who had done more than his share of reprehensible things. By all accounts, he had been involved in or connected to the kinds of terrible crimes for which he was tried.

But Williams' story doesn't stop there. And what followed is not merely the familiar tale of a convicted killer trying to avoid execution through legal maneuvers. In prison, Williams began to rehabilitate himself. He publicly left the Crips, a position that involved risk to his family and to himself, even behind bars. He then apologized for creating the gang and perpetrating “black-on-black genocide” stating, “I pray that one day my apology will be accepted. I also pray that your suffering, caused by gang violence, will soon come to an end as more gang members wake up and stop hurting themselves and others. I vow to spend the rest of my life working toward solutions.”

This was no ordinary jailhouse conversion. Williams devoted himself to fighting gangs. He spoke out. He wrote nine children's books to steer children away from gang-banging, which he describes as “banging on your own people.” One of these books, “Life in Prison” (Seastar, 2001), received an award from the American Library Association and is used in schools, libraries, juvenile correctional facilities and prisons throughout the country. Williams also recorded anti-gang public service announcements, and began meeting with young people from at-risk communities to tell them to stay away from gangs, and to describe for them the horrors of prison. He also started the Internet Project for Street Peace, which encourages gangs to stop fighting each other. He created a “Protocol for Peace,” a model agreement to end gang feuds, and last year, the Crips and the Bloods in Newark, N.J., signed it, ushering in a truce that has remained in effect.

This work led a three-judge panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to state, in 2002, that Williams' anti-gang initiatives made him a strong candidate for clemency from the governor. This sentiment was supported by a deputy mayor of Newark, who, in a letter supporting clemency, cited a dramatic reduction in gang-related crime in his city following the signing of what is referred to as “Tookie's Protocol for Peace.”

His was too good a story for Hollywood to miss. In last year's made-for-TV movie, Jamie Foxx played Williams in “Redemption: The Stan Tookie Williams Story.” Williams serves as an inspiration for a generation of vulnerable young people in our inner-cities, kids who are listening when he tells them not to throw away their lives like he did.

But the story of Williams also speaks to us as Jews. Our tradition teaches that within every person, even the worst criminal, there exists a nekudah tovah, a point of pure goodness. The Jewish obligation is to work to uncover that point of goodness, in ourselves and in others, so that it can transform us through the process of teshuvah, the radical idea that we can change, that we can always be better than we are. The concept of teshuvah holds the promise that even the most wicked cannot be defined solely by their worst acts. The divine spark always contains within it the potential for change. This is, of course, the promise of the High Holidays, and just last month, many of us sat in shul on Yom Kippur, affirming our own capacity for transformation and listening to the Book of Jonah, which teaches that no matter how terrible our acts, we are capable of changing for the better, just like the inhabitants of Nineveh.

But what about the death penalty specifically? Many American Jews, if they think about capital punishment at all, don't consider it a Jewish issue. Yet within Judaism, there's significant consensus: All major denominations of Judaism have taken stands opposing the death penalty or supporting a moratorium on executions. Getting to this point, however, has required a long, nuanced and fascinating evolution.

Biblical law mandates capital punishment for no fewer than 36 offenses, from murder to the desecration of Shabbat to talking back to your parents. Of course, neither the letter nor the spirit of this law reflects current Jewish values. More broadly speaking, Jewish tradition offers three basic rationales for a death penalty: deterrence, retribution and the restoration of balance to a social fabric torn by a terrible crime-like murder. But how do these principles apply today?

First, there is simply no evidence that capital punishment serves as a deterrent. In fact, in each year over the past decade, states without the death penalty have had lower murder rates than states that have capital punishment. And we now live at a time and in a society where retribution can be achieved by means other than capital punishment. Long prison sentences — especially life without parole — unavailable in biblical and talmudic times, can now fulfill the retributive inclination of Jewish law. At the same time, it guarantees that the ultimate nightmare — the execution of an innocent — does not occur. Finally, long prison sentences also serve to remove the murderer from society, allowing for the restoration of the social fabric that would be at risk if dangerous criminals were returned to the streets. In the Williams case, those calling for clemency are arguing that he should be spared, not freed.

The very things that make so many of us uneasy about the death penalty today also concerned the rabbis 2,000 years ago. While they could not write the death penalty out of the Torah, they erected almost insurmountable procedural and evidentiary safeguards and obstacles that essentially ensured that a Sanhedrin, a Jewish court, would never hand down a death sentence. For example, the rabbis ruled that two witnesses were required to testify not only that they witnessed the murder for which a criminal was being condemned, but also that they had warned the perpetrator beforehand that, if he carried out the offense, he would be executed, and that he accepted this warning and nevertheless stated his willingness to carry out the act.

Jewish unease with the capital punishment also informed the decision of the State of Israel not to have a death penalty except in the case of convicted Nazi war criminals. To date, despite its ongoing battle with terrorism, only one person, Adolph Eichmann, has been tried and executed by the Jewish State.

In the United States, despite decades of trying, the justice system has proven unable to create a foolproof death penalty. In Jewish tradition, this alone would be reason enough to oppose capital punishment. But the rabbis make an even more profound claim. Mishna tells us that those appearing as witnesses in capital cases were instructed: One who destroys a single soul, it is as if he has destroyed an entire world. And one who sustains and saves a single soul, it is as if that person sustained a whole world (M Sanhedrin 4:5). In other words, even when confronted with a person who is accused of horrendous crimes, we are still obligated to recognize the value and inestimable worth of every human being. We are compelled to consider the potential contribution the condemned might make if spared. Who, at the time of his conviction in 1981, would have thought that Williams would be capable of work that, in 2001, led to him being nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize?

Judaism also abhors an inequitable dual system of justice, especially in capital cases. The Levitical demand for “one standard for the stranger and the citizen alike” is reinforced in the Talmud (B Sanhedrin 32a) to ensure procedural fairness in capital proceedings. The fact that the death penalty in the United States disproportionately impacts the poor and people of color serves to underscore its incompatibility with Jewish values. Whether or not Williams received a fair trial and sentencing, it is horribly clear that many people, who, like him, are poor and black, do not.

My Jewish values convince me that the capital punishment system in our state and in our country is beyond repair. I could cite the example of Illinois, where a Republican governor, a man who is a conservative Christian and once ardently supported the death penalty, ordered a halt to executions. He then commuted all death sentences to life sentences. Ethically, he had little alternative after students at Northwestern University discovered that more people on Illinois' death row were innocent of the crimes for which they'd been sentenced to death than the number of people Illinois had executed since the death penalty was reinstated in the 1970s.

More recently, the state of Georgia apologized for what it now acknowledges was the “grievous error” of executing Lena Baker, a black woman, in 1945. And a Missouri prosecutor just reopened an investigation to determine whether, as many now fear, the state mistakenly executed Larry Griffin in 1995. And the Supreme Court, as far back as 1987, acknowledged what we all know — that if you are poor or a person of color — you are far more likely to get the death penalty than you are if you are white or a person of means. And California's system of justice is as overburdened and flawed as that of many other states where such problems arise. So if we begin in December a Texas-style run of executions (in addition to Williams, two other death row inmates have received their execution dates) we, too, will risk killing innocent people. We, too, will create dual systems of capital justice: one for the poor and blacks and Latinos, and one for those privileged by having white skin or money.

But even death-penalty supporters are speaking up to save Williams. They, too, recognize that something is terribly wrong when a state can execute a man who is literally saving the lives of others every day that he lives.

Innocent or guilty, victim of a flawed trial or not, Williams is set to die in one month's time: a young criminal who evolved into something more, someone more than even the sum of some truly horrible crimes.

Was his transformation entirely sincere?

I believe it was. But in the end, the worth of his contribution does not depend on how much of him is truly redeemed versus how much his pursuit of good works is spurred on by his fear of death. He is now a force for good in the world, keeping others from making the same mistakes he made.

His appeals have been exhausted, and time is almost up. The only way Williams' life will be saved is if Gov. Schwarzenegger decides to spare him.

If we believe the things that we pray and the things that we say, if we are committed to the values that we claim to treasure, we do not have the luxury of complacency when confronted with what we are about to do to Tookie Williams. Because let's be clear: if the State of California executes this man, it will do so in our name. We will stand as his executioner in the death chamber next month.

Whether you are for or against the death penalty, there are two questions that we — as Jews, Californians and Americans — have to answer: Does the man deserve to die? And do we want to be the ones to kill him?


Daniel Sokatch is the executive director of the Progressive Jewish Alliance and part of a multifaith coalition seeking to stop the execution of Stanley Tookie Williams.

List, Muslim Gangs Prompt Terror Probe


An investigation into alleged home-grown Muslim extremists has yielded another arrest and prompted law-enforcement agencies and Jewish institutions to tighten security as the Jewish High Holidays approach.

The probe by the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force has apparently broadened with last month’s arrest of Hamad Riaz Samana, a 21-year-old Pakistani student at Santa Monica College. Samana was taken into custody with no fanfare and information about him did not appear in published accounts for about two weeks.

In all, more than 200 federal and local counter-terrorism agents are probing for links between possible planned attacks on local Israeli and Jewish targets and the activities of Islamic gangs in California prisons.

Reflecting a heightened focus on security, the regional chapter of the Anti-Defamation League, working with federal and local authorities, will hold a security briefing for Jewish institutions on Sept. 15.

Samana and the two other men previously arrested attended the same mosque in Inglewood. Authorities are looking into whether one or more of the suspects planned a shooting spree at Jewish targets allegedly included on a list found in the possessions of one of the suspects.

So far, the lengthy and highly secretive investigation has led to the arrest of a Pakistani national and two Black Muslim converts.

The case started mundanely in mid-July when Torrance police arrested Levar Haney Washington, 25, and Gregory Vernon Patterson, 21, as suspects in a string of gas station robberies.

A search of Washington’s apartment turned up what police described as “jihadist” literature, bulletproof vests and an address list of some two-dozen Jewish and non-Jewish Los Angeles sites.

Two separate entries referred to the “headquarters of Zion,” listing the address of the Israeli consulate and the El Al ticket counter at the Los Angeles International Airport, the site of a shooting rampage in 2002 by an Egyptian immigrant who killed two Israeli Americans.

Also listed were two synagogues and a number of California National Guard recruiting stations.

The Los Angeles Times reported that the probe also is targeting California’s New Folsom state prison, where Washington converted to Islam while serving a term for assault and battery.

A particular focus is a group called Jamiyyat Ul Islam Is Saheeh (JIS), roughly translated as the Assembly of Authentic Islam.

According to gang specialists, JIS has operated at the Old and New Folsom prisons for five years and is the smaller of two Islamic gangs active in California prisons.

Counter-terrorism officials have long seen prisons as likely breeding grounds for homegrown Islamic extremist groups, who could plot attacks in the United States without any direct links to overseas networks.

Earlier this year, FBI Director Robert Mueller told the Senate Intelligence Committee that “prisons continue to be fertile ground for extremists who exploit both a prisoner’s conversion to Islam while still in prison, as well as their socioeconomic status and placement in the community upon their release.”

Authorities also are looking into the circumstances surrounding Patterson’s work at a duty-free gift shop at the airport’s international terminal, which also houses the El Al ticket counter, the Times reported. Although he’s a suspect in the alleged gas station holdups, Patterson has no criminal record.

All parties in the investigation have been extremely tight-lipped. The FBI declined comment, prison authorities said they could not speak about “disruptive groups,” and the Israeli consulate did not “wish to elaborate at this time.”

At a recent Los Angeles press conference, heads of local Islamic organizations and Islamic prison chaplains complained that FBI leaks to the media on unproven allegations were eroding the cooperative relationship between themselves and law-enforcement agencies.

These Muslims leaders included representatives of the Muslim Public Affairs Council, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, and the Islamic Shura Council of Southern California. They stressed the peaceful nature of their faith and asserted that Muslim chaplains working in prisons were among the best lines of defense against extremists who might be recruiting behind bars.

Representatives of Jewish organizations and institutions interested in attending the ADL security briefing on Sept. 15 should respond by Sept. 8 to Lucinda Inganni at (310) 446-8000, ext. 261, or e-mail linganni@adl.org.

 

Turmoil Grows as Withdrawal Nears


With Israel’s withdrawal from the Gaza Strip scheduled to begin on Aug. 15, escalating right-wing and settler protests threaten to plunge the country into anarchy and could provoke a strong anti-settler backlash.

Protesters last week blocked major highways, poured oil and scattered spikes across a busy road; occupied buildings in Gaza, and threw stones at Palestinians and Israel Defense Forces soldiers. The army and police responded by temporarily declaring the Gaza Strip a closed military zone, ejecting the extremists from occupied buildings and making dozens of arrests.

In an unprecedented spate of interviews and public statements, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon condemned what he called the “hooliganism” of the far right, and vowed that he would not be deterred by it.

However, will authorities be able to maintain law and order in the face of even more extreme protest plans?

Even if they do, Sharon faces other serious challenges. Right-wing soldiers have begun refusing to obey orders, a phenomenon that some fear will spread. There also is talk among rebels in Sharon’s own Likud Party of a move to replace him as prime minister with the more hawkish finance minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. (See related story on Netanyahu’s visit to Los Angeles on page 20.)

On the other hand, there are signs that the settlers and other withdrawal opponents may have gone too far and have seriously undermined their cause. The media is rife with angry anti-settler columns, and the latest polls show a dramatic increase in support for withdrawal.

The last week of June may prove to have been a turning point. The repeated blocking of traffic on major thoroughfares has incensed ordinary Israelis, and the cat-and-mouse games that anti-withdrawal teenagers played with police trying to keep the roads open have exasperated authorities.

But more devastating for the settler cause have been the images of violence: the near-lynching of an 18-year-old Palestinian by right-wing extremists, and an Israeli soldier injured after being hit by a boulder. It was also feared that the oil and spikes on the highways could cause fatal accidents.

Right-wing leader Moshe Feiglin said that the possibility of a few Israelis dying now as a result of the protests pales in significance next to the large numbers of Israelis, he says, “will surely die” if the withdrawal goes ahead.

The oil and spikes prompted outspoken attacks on the protesters in the press. The most vehement came from crime correspondent Boukie Naeh in Yediot Achronot: “If the police don’t break your bones, I will.”

“The Israeli army and the police should kill a few members of your criminal Jewish gangs and stop the anarchy,” Naeh wrote. “Because if they don’t deal with you today, tomorrow you’ll burn down my house just because I don’t agree with you.”

Avi Bettelheim, deputy editor of the rival Ma’ariv newspaper, was more sanguine. He argued that the mayhem of the past few weeks has done much to discredit the settler cause, and said he now believes the withdrawal will go through more smoothly.

A July 1 poll in Yediot Achronot seemed to bear Bettelheim out. After a steady decline to 53 percent at the start of June, the poll showed support for the government’s withdrawal plan climbing back to 62 percent.

However, other observers aren’t convinced police will be able to handle future protests.

Writing in Ha’aretz, Amos Harel asked, “If the police deploy a 6,000-strong force throughout the country but are unable to prevent roads from being blocked, what will happen during the pullout, when a larger number of police will be busy evacuating” the Gaza Strip?

There is another looming threat that could compound the manpower issue: soldiers refusing to carry out evacuation-related orders. Three soldiers already have refused to participate in withdrawal-related operations, and have been sentenced to up to 56 days in jail.

Moreover, Orthodox soldiers, serving according to a special arrangement with their yeshivas, known as hesder yeshivas, are asking to be exempted from having to evacuate settlers.

The army does not intend to make it easy for soldiers who refuse orders. Lt. Gen. Dan Halutz, military chief of staff, has warned that if hesder rabbis continue telling students to refuse evacuation-related orders, the IDF may reconsider the whole hesder project, which mixes religious study with army service.

Sharon, clearly disturbed by the threat of anarchy and refusal, gave brief interviews to all the major Hebrew dailies. He told Ha’aretz that “under no circumstances can we allow a lawless gang to take control of life in Israel.”

In Yediot Achronot, Sharon declared, “What we are witnessing is not a struggle over the withdrawal from Gaza, but a battle over the character of the state.”

He told Ma’ariv, “This wild behavior will stop. Period.”

Despite all the opposition, Sharon is determined to go through with the withdrawal.

One thing that could still stop Sharon would be a Likud Party coup to oust him and install Netanyahu in his place. Addressing a major economic conference in Jerusalem, Sharon declared that he was aware of how his opponents “are planning my political ouster.” Although Sharon didn’t mention him by name, everyone knew he meant Netanyahu.

Netanyahu’s moves will be crucial. He is under pressure from the far right to put himself at the head of the Likud rebels and move to topple Sharon. But as a would-be prime minister himself, Netanyahu needs to be careful not to ally himself too closely with the far right.

Netanyahu voted Sunday to delay the withdrawal by three months, although the Cabinet defeated the proposal by an 18-3 vote.

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A Normal Israel, in Agoura


About two months ago, Dr. Mark Capritto, the tough-minded vice principal of Agoura High School, came face-to-face with one of Zionism’s most unusual developments: a nice Jewish gang.

It began, as many of these things probably do, with an unkind crack in the schoolyard, and before you could say (God forbid!) Columbine, the vice principal was on the perpetrator’s back. Somebody had mentioned that the alleged culprit had claimed to belong to a clique called the Jew Crew. That got his attention. The 10 or so youngsters said to be associated with this adolescent posse got the call to muster in his office.

Mostly sophomores, the crew was composed of the sons of affluent and generally well-educated and well-adjusted Israeli immigrants. The boys had written a crass and bluster-filled song titled "Got Bagels," whose lyrics, in hip-hop style, managed to demean non-Jews, women and blacks (‘Got chrein like us, got brain like us? Ah no, you goy, you’ll never be like us"). The song was posted on Napster.

Why, Capritti asked the boys, did they feel the need to ape the comportment — and lyrical conventions — of homeboys? Agoura High was remarkably bereft of ethnic tensions and gang violence. Who needed a Jew Crew?

The kids hemmed and hawed and looked at their feet. The song, some would later tell friends, had been tongue-in-cheek. And any connection between the so-called Jew Crew and the regrettable schoolyard altercation that triggered this flap was incidental.

As far as Capritto was concerned, the flap revolved around the ill-considered remark of a single, now properly admonished and contrite young man. For the most part, however, these kids struck him as impressive, and as outgoing, as confident and capable, as bright and chipper and well-adjusted a group of youngsters as he’d ever encountered. "They really are swell, every one of them," he said.

So ends a uniquely Israeli story in this town of 21,000, situated a scant 18 miles west of the junction of the 101 and the 405. During the last two decades since incorporating, Agoura, first settled by the Chumash Indians, has evolved into a haimisch refuge for an unusual and accomplished community of Hebrew-speaking émigrés. But rather than ending in disaster, which is what generations of Israeli functionaries and Zionist pundits have predicted for those unfortunates enticed by the fleshpots of America, the 750 or so Israeli families who have settled here have, in fact, done quite nicely. Swell, indeed.

The unusual nature of the Israeli enclave in Agoura goes well beyond the emergence, or perhaps reconstitution, of an ersatz ethnic gang. Rather, these people can be said to reflect an Israeli riff on the American frontier experience. For these newcomers, the physical journey out of the Israeli enclaves of Fairfax or North Hollywood toward points west like Agoura, Calabasas and Westlake marks a psychic odyssey every bit as transformative as the decision that brought them to or caused them to remain in the United States.

By the time they settle here, for instance, many expatriate Israelis appear to have shed their compatriots’ widely observed propensity for straddling their suitcases. Rather than pining for the day when they can forsake the Land of Promise for the Promised Land, many of them, like longtime resident Raya Saggi, who runs the local public library, now believe that Agoura is the home they would be hard put to regain if they ever returned to Israel.

"It reminds me," Saggi told The Journal, "of Nes Tziona, as it was when I was growing up. And not just me. When they visit, my relatives all mention it."

No one knows why the first Israeli arrivals found themselves attracted to Agoura. Perhaps the rolling hills directly south of the freeway beckoned, offering ample space for annual Lag BaOmer bonfires and bow-and-arrow contests, Israeli customs and activities no longer feasible in the San Fernando Valley.

Or maybe there is just more space here for Israelis, who react poorly to some facets of organized Jewish life in this country, to devise a lifestyle more to their liking. In that sense, of course, they are not that different from earlier waves of Jewish immigrants from the East Coast. Rabbi Harold Schulweis, of Valley Beth Shalom in Encino, has often said that he came to the Valley because New York was simply too rigid and set in its ways to accommodate new approaches.

The Jew Crew notwithstanding, the children of these Israelis, in particular, have managed to avoid many of the confusions and pitfalls predicted for the offspring of people straddling two cultures. They might not think of themselves as American Jews per se, or, for that matter, as Israelis, in the classic sense of their parents or cousins. But their ties to the Jewish homeland, expressed not only at home through the presence of Hebrew but through participation in various extracurricular programs like the parent-run and -funded Alonim Hebrew school, remain sources of strength, not diffusion. And they show every sign not only of enduring, but of eventually transferring their heritage to succeeding generations.

The current Israeli Agourans not only retain their Hebrew but, as college approaches, hone it further for foreign-language college credit. Each summer, meanwhile, and for some, during spring break and Passover, planeloads of kids are whisked off to Israel, where the transition has become almost seamless. Clad in Sabra sandals and armed with the latest slang, the kids quickly look and talk and behave as if they own the place.

Their parents quickly realize, moreover, that MTV is everywhere, and that baggy pants and trashy talk have become universal affectations or afflictions even in Israel — especially in Israel.

Adolescents in Israel have been known as well to experiment with Ecstasy and other worrisome substances, behavior their parents believe will taper off once they begin their military service. Compared to them, and certainly to the offspring of other, perhaps less fortunate, ethnic communities in Los Angeles, the Hebrew-speaking youngsters of Agoura come across like fresh-scrubbed Jaycees even as some of them, lamentably, to be sure, try to put on homeboy airs. Small wonder, then, that some parents of the Jew Crew may have been slow to share Mark Capritto’s initial consternation.

Here, thanks largely to Chabad, Israelis can observe the holidays without having to join a synagogue or temple. The centrality of the synagogue, says Siggi Cohen, director of the 14-year-old Alonim afternoon school, otherwise remains the biggest impediment to local Israeli participation in American Jewish life.

"It just bugs the hell out of them," she says. "In Israel, if you want to pray, you walk down the street to the closest synagogue, and you pray. Here you have to commit thousands of dollars a year to an agenda that doesn’t reflect your values or priorities. They can’t understand it or accept it; it angers them, and so they turn away from the established, temple-going community."

They turn — insofar as their religious needs are concerned, at least — to Chabad, which is interesting, in light of the professed secularism of the community.

According to Cohen, though, this misses the point. In Israel, she says, most religious institutions are run by the Orthodox, who, in appearance and manner, are often indistinguishable from the Chabad emissaries they encounter here. In Israel, though, religious practices are often shoved down one’s throat. In America, they are extracted through synagogue-imposed tariffs. Here in Agoura, as indeed elsewhere, Chabad takes in all comers without running a credit check.

If Israelis are less than eager synagogue-joiners, it doesn’t mean that their commitment to Jewish life is inconsequential. Many Israeli residents of Agoura, for instance, funnel their children through a costly regimen of pre- and after-school programs. Preschoolers attend programs at the local Jewish community center, while elementary-schoolers frequently join Alonim, which supplements public schooling with a twice-weekly, quasi-secular Israeli curriculum.

The school has also evolved into a venue for parents, who frequently organize family activities centered on Sukkot, Simchat Torah, Purim, Lag BaOmer and other holidays that are observed somewhat less assiduously within the mainstream American Jewish community. Tuition per student runs from $90 to $135 a month, and each of these family-oriented shindigs, kumsitzes and other spectacles, many of which used to be held at the now defunct Fantasy Island banquet facility, can run up a substantial bill.

Once in middle school and high school, moreover, these kids often join Tzofim, the Hebrew scouting program still headquartered at the Valley Cities Jewish Community Center in Van Nuys, a commitment not only in money but in travel time. Others enroll in the University of Judaism’s Hebrew High School program, which maintains a campus on grounds rented by a local church. At a cost of several thousand dollars a year, the kids here supplement their Hebrew skills (which often don’t extend to fluency in reading and writing) with instruction in Jewish scripture, history, ethics, philosophy, and even film.

The high cost not only of living here but of maintaining an authentic Israeli lifestyle does not seem to have put a damper on newcomers, although local statutes limiting development have put a premium on housing stock. Indeed, the ability to live here without the hustle and bustle of Fairfax or the congestion, crime and decay afflicting some parts of North Hollywood may well be one of the main attractions.

Take Itamar Harari. A doctoral student in education at UC Santa Barbara, Harari and his American-born wife just bought a home in Agoura and plan to move in with their children during the summer.

In Santa Barbara, Harari said, the Israeli presence is limited, so that the arrival of a single family becomes an event. In Agoura, he hopes that the ubiquity of people sharing his language, culture and socioeconomic background will make for more normal and extensive interactions.

With other Israelis, that is.

Of course, the quest for normalcy has always been what Zionism is about. It will strike many of us now celebrating the Jewish state’s 53rd birthday as odd that some Israelis would have to travel halfway around the world and then another 45 miles up the road to find their own preferred brand of normalcy.

And yet the ability of émigrés to retain and pursue their connection with Israel attests to Israel’s own increasing normalcy. The Jewish state is sufficiently established, its economy more vibrant than that of many European countries, and its place in the world more assured than at any time in its history. Those who choose to leave, as a result, may do so without facing ostracism. And if, for many such people, Agoura represents the end of the road, that may be just the way they like it.

The Jewish Cop


3:45 a.m. I am walking down a very dark, silent alleyway in Oakwood, a two-square-mile, mostly low-income community in Venice, behind police officer Robert Eisenhart. A 16-year-old boy, a member of the Venice Shoreline Crips gang, has been shot in the shoulder and in the middle of his back by a member of the same gang. Eisenhart is looking for the shooter, who may be at a party in a nearby darkened house. The silence is almost surreal. I am afraid of what may appear, or explode, out of the darkness. We arrived at the scene minutes before, and I see the boy wheeled out on the stretcher and placed in the ambulance as his brother, his sister and other gang members watch without overt emotion, in dazed silence. I am surprised at the dewy youth of the gang members, and by their glazed faces and darting eyes. The scene has the hopeless, listless feel of the ghetto: some lawns with piled-up rusted machinery, nails, weeds, tubs, broken bicycles, old porcelain, busted mattress springs. An old mattress is stuffed into the window of one house to keep out the cold and prying strangers.

After the ambulance leaves, Bob Eisenhart notes that the victim’s brother appeared to be going about his business. “Don’t you want to be with your brother at the hospital?” he asks him.

“Yeah,” the boy replies. “I just got to make a phone call.”

“I hope your brother gets better,” Eisenhart says.

“Thanks,” the brother answers. It is the only human note at the scene. By this point I have already come to expect it of Eisenhart.

I am on a ride-along with Eisenhart and Officer Steve Fahrney, Eisenhart’s partner that night, on the graveyard shift. I am wearing a bulletproof vest. I had asked to meet a Jewish cop, to find out what it felt like to be a Jew in the L.A.P.D.

At 9:45 roll call, the captain tells the men and women: “Things are heating up with the gangs. Two shootings with kids in a week. We know Culver City is active.” As we drive, Officer Eisenhart points out street memorials to shootings composed of “all kinds of flowers and little Virgin Mary candles.”By 3 a.m. we have already dealt with a couple falsely accused of child abuse (they were in fact rescuing the child from the woman’s alcoholic sister), a woman in a hotel stranded by a lover whose dreadlocks she had pulled in anger, and a domestic abuse case in which a husband literally kicked his wife out of bed after she refused to have sex with him.

As we approach the area of the shooting, Eisenhart and Fahrney fill me in on the three major gangs of the area: the Shoreline Crips, the Culver City Boys and V-13 – V for Venice. “They fight back and forth,” Eisenhart explains. “Here in Oakwood the Shorelines are for some reason killing off some of their own people. They do a lot of drug dealing, and there’s the possibility someone might be holding out money on the main dealer. Basically they may get rid of their own personnel and recruit new personnel.”

Nearing the shooting scene, Eisenhart turns off the car lights. “When we approach them,” he says, “you don’t want to backlight any officers. So we kill our lights. Also at night you don’t want a blast of light; it screws up your night vision. If anybody popped out to possibly confront us, we wouldn’t see them right away because we have a glare in our eyes.”

Within the intimacy and camaraderie of the police car in the still of the night, I am suddenly pulled into a world of split-second alertness, military precision and scrupulously observed rules and procedures. At each stop, we lurch out of the car. A second cannot be lost. Whatever the shambles of the Rampart case, it is clear that cops like Bob Eisenhart and Steve Fahrney are still putting their lives on the line for the community.

Before the police academy, a life

Bob Eisenhart is, without doubt, a true mensch and a wonderful cop. The man’s had a life, and he knows who he is. He has a gentle, soft-spoken, strong way about him – a “bedside manner learned when he was a chiropractor,” says his father, Al. Now 48, he hails from East Flatbush, Brooklyn.His first love was songwriting. He started hanging out at Folk City in Greenwich Village at 13, performing his own songs. He was once the opening act for Tim Hardin.

The highlight of those years was a letter from the legendary head of Columbia Records, John Hammond. “He wrote me the nicest letter saying he thought my songs were delightful,” Eisenhart recalls. “He said some songs sounded a little bit like Springsteen, but he said stick with it. He was right; I don’t think my songs were quite ready. But he recognized that there was something there, and I was thrilled, and I kept that letter.”

Realizing he could not make a living with his songs, Eisenhart went on to get his B.A. in English from State University of New York at New Paltz and got a job on a CETA federal grant teaching writing at Borough of Manhattan Community College.

After Eisenhart’s parents moved to Los Angeles, he decided to migrate here himself in 1978. He became an ESL teacher at night. “I loved it. I worked with a lot of El Salvadoran students, Farsi, Iranian, Vietnamese boat people.” During the day Eisenhart went to chiropractic school.

“My mother kvelled when I opened my office,” Bob said. He was a chiropractor for 10 years. Then his mother died, the earthquake hit and his house burned down. Those events propelled him to quit chiropractic, run a marathon, learn the saxophone, and write six novels in three years. Running low on money, he looked around, wondering what to do next.

Attending a martial arts class, Eisenhart met many people from law enforcement. “I saw they were happy with what they were doing.” At 42, he applied to become a cop. He graduated from the police academy at 43. He is stationed at the Pacific Division.

His father, a retired postal superintendent, notes that “Bob picks the lousiest hours and the worst areas. I asked him why. He said, ‘It’s good experience.’ But it’s just like when he was a chiropractor and chose the lousiest neighborhoods. Because he said the people needed it, even when they couldn’t pay.””Are you close with Bob?” I ask.

“We are now,” Al Eisenhart says. “We have a deal. He’s through at 7:30 in the morning. I said, ‘When you get home, give me a call.’ He said ‘Why? You worried about me?’ I said, ‘No way. You can take care of yourself. But I have nobody to talk to. So you give me a call and we’ll chat for a couple of minutes. And then you can go to sleep or have your breakfast or whatever you want. I look forward to talking to you.’ So that’s how it works out. He calls me every single day when he’s finished with his tour of duty.”

The rules of the game

Back in the alleyway, we don’t find the shooter. He is apprehended the next day. Why the shooting? The victim’s sister was dating a gang member who had just been released from prison because of being a jailhouse snitch on another Shoreline Crip. Eisen-hart explains, “So apparently in retribution they put out a hit on the snitch or anyone he was associated with. It was a jailhouse hit.”

“They thought this kid was the snitch?” I ask him.

“No. They knew who he was. But the sister and the brother and the boyfriend are all staying together. So they were all designated as targets. And the brother stands on the street and sells coke at night, so he’s an easy target. The girlfriend I.D.’d the shooter.”

When Eisenhart and I talk the next day, I also learn that on the same night we were out together, a Long Beach officer was ambushed and killed.

In the course of the night I spent on patrol with Bob Eisenhart, I learned about a Jewish cop and I learned about the life of the police officer in general. There are endless possibilities for misunderstand-ings of police behavior. When we said goodbye to the black couple earlier that night, the Nigerian man held out his hand and Eisenhart shook it. It was an exception.

Later, he explained, “Generally I try to be polite to everybody, but on the street I don’t like to shake hands. You want to
keep your right hand free – I’m right-handed and my gun’s on my right side. I try to make it like, don’t take offense; I don’t shake hands on duty. There are a lot of ways where if people want to fight and they have a handshake, they can then pull you in and suckerpunch you. People can turn. They can seem happy but underneath be very hostile.”

Implicit in some of the remarks of Eisenhart and other officers, although they do not mention it, is the shadow of the Rampart investigation and criticism of the police. These are good men with a sense of shame about what others may have done to tarnish their image. About racial profiling, Eisenhart comments in the locker room, “First of all, we have to have reasonable suspicion to stop anybody. When we stop people, half the time we might not even know who it is, whether Black, Asian or Hispanic, until we’re up on top of them.”

A Hispanic officer joins in. “A good case in point: we stop a guy. Tinted windows, black Volvo. A crime had just occurred. We’re looking for any suspicious vehicles that might be taking off. A guy’s parked in a driveway, just sitting there, suddenly backs out and takes off. We decide we’ll check his plates, see what’s going on.

“We started getting behind him. He sees us behind him. We followed him for maybe half a block. He pulls over. First thing he did was whirl down the window and stick out his hands. A black guy. We run the plates, walk up next to him. We said, ‘What’s going on? You got any problems?’ He replies, ‘No, you stopped me because I’m black.’ I said to him, ‘A crime just occurred. You don’t even fit the description. Just keep on going. How in the heck are we gonna know you’re black? Your windows are tinted out and they’re rolled up. And it’s night time.’ “

Later, Eisenhart says, “I try to think I’ve developed some skills of diplomacy out here. Sometimes you’ll work with people – and I haven’t run into it for a while – but officers can actually exacerbate a situation, depending on how it is. The tone you use.”

But Eisenhart loves the job. “With some jobs,” he relates, “it’s like being a dishwasher. There’s always an endless supply of dishes. Here you handle a particular call. An entity unto itself. You never know what you’re going to run into with the call. And you always learn something from it.”

‘You can’t go back’

The camaraderie of the job reminds him of his old neighborhood in Brooklyn. “I’m not all that social,” Eisenhart says. (In fact, he seems almost monastic.) “I like the fact I can go to work and people will say, ‘Hey Bobby, how you doing?’ It’s like walking around the projects when I was a kid in Brooklyn and everybody would look out their window.”

He remembers that neighborhood with tenderness. “There was a vacant lot across the street from my house. We had junkyards, junkyard dogs, lots with rats and real bums, hobo-type bums. Canarsie was first being developed at the time. But to me, that was like – the woods! We would build treehouses in there. We would come home so dirty. We were lucky we didn’t step on rusty nails. That was our going off into the wilds; that was my ‘country.’ “

Eisenhart had a Bar Mitzvah, but his parents were not overly observant. He is certainly a proud Jew. His father was a forward observer behind enemy lines with the Third Armored Division in World War II and helped liberate two concentration camps. Bob has rarely encountered anti-Semitism. “People respond to authority mainly. They see blue.” Eisenhart’s mother died nine years ago. “She was a beautiful woman,” he says. “I put on her tombstone: ‘Beauty, Wisdom, Strength.’ Just those words. Three qualities I think she possessed a lot of.

“My life has been a circuitous route, but it’s taken me finally to something that I enjoy. Once you do this, you can’t go back to a regular job. And I think I have somewhat of an advantage, coming on the job later in life, in that I know my personality already. I know how I handle things. I’m not suddenly going to develop a drinking or gambling problem. I know my parameters. I’ve worked in jobs that had authority: the doctor, the teacher. The source. My job entails a lot of teaching. As a training officer now, I work with new recruits and try to teach them the ropes. You get a lot of cases where I find the old bedside manner comes in handy when talking to people. Whether it’s talking to a suspect and trying to find out what happened, or talking to a victim and having him calm down. But it doesn’t always happen that way. There’s somebody who can push everybody’s buttons. If you run across a person who you right away sense there’s too much friction – for whatever reason – you usually count on your partner to step in and say, ‘Okay, Bob, I got this one.’ And he’ll talk to them.”

At 7:30 a.m., Bob Eisenhart, Steve Fahrney and I wind things up at a coffee shop. I am almost dizzy with exhaustion. Fahrney has his daily chocolate milk, Eisenhart has blintzes. Fahrney shyly shows me a bracelet he wears in memory of his friend, Officer Brian Brown, killed in the line of duty. Brown had heard automatic gun fire, saw a car squealing out. The gunfire had killed a child standing on the corner of Venice and Centinela. Brown gave chase to the gunman, who shot and killed him.I am sure that 24 hours before, the officer would not have shown me the bracelet. I could not have understood its meaning as I do now.

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