Golems, schlemiels, reporter for a day

Things That Go Bump in the Night

We’re getting into the “spirit” of things this month. YeLAdim loves a good scary story, so we asked our friends at the Jewish Community Library of Los Angeles to suggest some of their favorites.

“Golem” by David Wisniewski (Clarion Books, 1996)

This book, which won the Caldecott Medal, tells the story of a rabbi in Prague who made a man from clay (think Frankenstein’s monster) to protect the people who lived in the ghetto. But what happens when the Golem comes to life? Lots of pictures help tell this story of good vs. evil. (Ages 4-8)

“Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins” by Eric Kimmel (Holiday House, 1994)

Every year, nasty hobgoblins ruin Chanukah for the villagers by blowing out the candles on the menorah, destroying dreidels and making a mess of the latkes. But Hershel of Ostropol has a plan to get rid of the little creatures. Find out what it is in this award-winning book full of warmth, humor and really cool illustrations. (Ages 4 to 8)

“Shlemiel Crooks” by Anna Olswanger (NewSouth Books, 2005)

Wonder what happened to Pharoah after the Israelites left Egypt? He moved to St. Louis. Well, sort of. His ghost tries to get two thieves to steal Reb Elias’ special Passover wine and ruin the holiday. Will Elijah come to the rescue? Yiddish humor, history, colorful pictures and a bit of magic make this a fun tale for the whole family. (Ages 9-12)

Off the Page

kids@jewishjournal.com and you could find your article on next month’s YeLAdim page.

Noah is full of animal crackers

Animal Crackers

This week’s Torah Portion is Noach. We learn that Noah had to build a massive ark (aka a really BIG boat) because the floods were coming. Two of every animal (one male, one female) had to make it onto the boat, otherwise there would be no more of that animal in the world — the story goes that that’s why we don’t have unicorns today. Pretend you are Noah or his wife and you are making a list of animals. Put what the animal is called in the right blank. To check your answers, visit scroll to the bottom of this page.

1) Male Cat ______
2) Female Cat ______

3) Male Deer ______
4) Female Deer _______

5) Male Fox______
6) Female Fox _______

7) Male Goat _______
8) Female Goat ______

9) Male Horse ______
10) Female Horse ________

11) Male Sheep _____
12) Female Sheep _______

13) Male Swan _____
14) Female Swan _____

Words to choose from:

a) Billy, b) Buck, c) Cob, d) Doe, e) Dog, f) Ewe, g) Mare, h) Nanny, I) Pen, j) Queen, k) Ram, l) Stallion, m) Tom, n) Vixen

Kein v’ Lo:


This section of the page is a way for you as kids to sound off about an issue. While some Jews do not participate in Halloween because of its Christian and pagan origins, at this time of year it’s hard to ignore that there are a lot of monsters, witches and pumpkins all over town. This month’s Kein v’ Lo looks at ghosts and spirits and examines whether we believe in such things.

The Kein Side:

  • It is believed that the souls of our loved ones continue to watch over us after they have died. This is why sometimes if you go to the home of someone who has died, you can still feel his or her presence.
  • If ghosts and evil spirits weren’t real, then why would some people be so superstitious about protecting themselves from the “evil eye” by wearing a hamsah (amulet), saying “kein ayin hora” or breaking a glass at a wedding to scare off evil spirits?

The Lo Side:

  • When people say they “see” a ghost, that cannot be. It is the soul that is supposed to remain, so there is nothing to see. Basically, ghost sightings have never been proven.
  • Science disputes the existence of ghosts. They are not the spirits of the dead, but traces that have been left behind because of really strong emotional connections.

Discuss your opinions in your classroom or around your dining table with your family. We aren’t saying which is right and which is wrong. We want to know what you think. Send your thoughts to Kids@jewishjournal.com with Kein v’Lo in the subject line.


1m, 2j, 3b, 4d, 5e, 6n, 7a, 8h, 9l, 10g, 11k, 12f, 13c, 14i


Real Intelligence?

I was very disturbed that you chose to publish the letter by Sabi Israel stating that “to believe in evolution takes just as much blind faith as believing in intelligent design” (“Letters,” Aug. 19). This is simply not true. There is no dispute among scientists that there is overwhelming evidence for evolution. Evolution is the fundamental process underlying biology.

There is a difference between publishing opinion and publishing falsehood. If I write how I think traffic flow could be improved, that is an opinion. If I write that there is a four-way stop at Wilshire and Westwood boulevards, that is a falsehood. If you are going to publish falsehoods, you might as well publish letters stating that the earth is flat and the Holocaust did not happen. Given our history, The Journal should be particularly sensitive to the dangers of publishing falsehoods.

Michael Lubic

To the extent President Bush associates the concept [of intelligent design (ID)] with the “origins of life,” one may suppose it has something to do with science or religion (“Junk Science,” Aug. 12). My understanding is that science is based on empirical evidence in support of a postulated theory. It seems the proponents of ID wish to call it science in advance of the empirical evidence substantiating the theory. As well, the National Academy of Science and the Center for Scientific Education have stated that ID is not science.

As a religious concept, ID is also suspect. It is pejorative and anthropocentric to call the origins of life “intelligent design.” These are words associated with the work of man. To the extent one would wish to associate these terms with God, it is an attempt to explain our existence in human terms, at best, or an attempt to make God like man, at worst. Further, it is not altogether irreligious to consider that we are here simply due to a fortunate mistake.

Daniel Hurwitz
Los Angeles

Tisha B’Av’s Future

Thank you for your insightful article on some of the attitudes that Jews hold toward observance of Tisha B’Av (“Marking Tisha B’Av Takes Many Forms,” Aug. 12). A number of synagogues, I suspect, used the opportunity to discuss the current “tragedy” taking place with Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza.

I find curious, however, your observation that some communities have moved away from Tisha B’Av observances because “they don’t want to imply a desire to return to Temple practices, such as animal sacrifice or a priestly caste system.” I believe that a more basic problem with the observance is with the reading of the book of Lamentations. The book recounts, with depressing repetition, how the sins of Jewish people caused God to turn away from “His People,” and leave them to their fate.

It is a mystery to me as to why we continue to read anything that expounds such an untenable belief. I seriously doubt that any modern Jew agrees with the idea that our “sins” are responsible for major disasters like the destructions of the holy Temples; I cannot believe that anyone would seriously use Lamentations to explain “other tragedies that have befallen the Jewish people…”

What then is the point of Tisha B’Av? Is it to blame the victim (in this case, ourselves) for tragedy?

Les Amer
North Hollywood

Pullout’s Wake

Rabbi Harvey Field and David Pine are absolutely correct when they call for Jewish unity and support for Israel in this difficult time of the Gaza Disengagement (“We Must Show Unified Pullout Support,” Aug. 12). But they don’t go far enough.

Jewish Americans should not only support Israel, but we must pressure Israel to make the Gaza pullout a success. A success will mean that both Israelis and Palestinians are ready to renew negotiations. The Gaza pullout will be a failure if it is so difficult for the Israelis, and/or if the Gaza Palestinians find themselves in a region that has no economic opportunity, so that either side is soured to renewed negotiations.

If the Gaza disengagement is a failure then the opponents of disengagement will be correct — that Prime Minister Ariel Sharon gave away land and the Israelis got nothing in return. As Jewish Americans we must work to assure that that does not happen, and that means pressuring the Israel government to follow the Golden Rule by treating the Gaza Palestinians as Jews wish they had been treated in anti-Semitic Europe.

If Gaza is a success, then Israeli and American Jews can look forward to peace.

Jeff Warner
La Habra Heights

Parent Punchline

I read Annie Korzen’s article and found one punchline not particularly funny:

“The day after the show airs, I hear my son talking to one of his friends on the phone: “No way, that wasn’t my mother. I mean, not my real mother. Duh, you didn’t know I was adopted?” (“Death by Oprah” Aug. 19).

I hope there will be a time when some people in the community, including Korzen, realize that adoptive parents are “real” parents. The birthparents or biological parents are a part of our world as well, but we adoptive parents have the joys and responsibilities in celebrating everyday the lives of our precious children. We raise our kids, just like everyone else who has biological children, and love them and stand by them. Duh, we are the real parents….

Delaine W. Shane
Sherman Oaks

Rewriting History

The mock Palestinian academic in “History Happens,” is not the inoffensive character that Tom Teicholz describes (“History Happens,” July 8). She spews venom at the audience in her diatribe against Israel. I was galvanized by her volcanic hatred and rose to my feet to exit the theatre. There in the hall stood two actors ready for their entrance. I commented to them that the Palestinian was as real as the weapons of mass destruction. With anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism rampant around the world, I do not see supporting a play or a theater promoting that hatred and the lies on which it is built.

Fana Spielberg
Santa Monica

Hope in HOUSE

As the Director of Adult Programs for OUR HOUSE, I would like to clarify an inaccurate statement made in last week’s article in Lifecycles featuring the H.O.P.E. Foundation (“H.O.P.E. For Los Angeles’ Bereaved, Aug. 5). Please note that OUR HOUSE groups are led by highly qualified, trained and supervised para-professionals, not by peer counselors as mentioned in the article.

Since 1993, OUR HOUSE has offered grief support groups for thousands of children, adolescents and adults when someone close to them has died. Our groups in West Los Angeles and Woodland Hills are age and loss specific after the death of a parent, sibling, child or spouse/partner. We additionally provide professional and community education, school-based grief support groups, and post-crisis grief interventions.

Fredda Wasserman
Los Angeles

A Scary Ghost Story

I read the David Samuels article (in the September issue of The Atlantic) and even though I knew about Arafat’s incredible corruption and strangeness (who didn’t), it was still pretty horrible to realize the extent of it. As suggested by Rob Eshamn (“Arafat’s Ghost,” Aug. 19), the money that actually could have built Palestine was wasted on favors and bribes and terror or stashed away! What came as no surprise was Arafat’s disinterest in a state while all he really wanted was to destroy the sate of Israel. Since he sabotaged every opportunity to make peace with Israel it became clear that peace is not what he wanted. The question now is — is Abbas any different? He did not give us any sign whatsoever that he is interested in a Palestinian state more then in the destruction of Israel. When he says “today Gaza, tomorrow Jerusalem and the West Bank,” the immediate thinking is: And Tel Aviv after that? He is not talking about a million shaheeds marching to Jerusalem, but rather about slowly but surely, slice after slice. He is expecting the U.S. president and the European Union to help and he has a reason to be optimistic — they are working on his behalf as if he never was a terrorist, a confidant of Arafat and his disciple. He already invited terrorists from Damascus to settle in Gaza. We have every reason to be afraid of the man who speaks softly and does not wear a kafia but says what his mentor used to say.

Batya Dagan
Los Angeles

Settler Uncertainty

Many Israeli police are also in tears as they compassionately evacuate the settlers and the protestors from their homes of up to 20 years in Gaza (“Evacuees Face Life of Uncertainties,” Aug. 19). The resistance is almost passive as it is done with muted prayers to god. It is a very different scene, absent of the violence that one expects in the Middle East.

The lack of a Palestinian homeland has not been the fault of the western democracies nor the fault of Israel. Their grievance should be with Jordan and Egypt who could have alleviated the Palestinian squalor while these territories were under their domination before 1967. When Israel entered Gaza in 1967, financial aid was pumped into the building of homes, schools and hospitals for Gaza residents, as never done by their previous landlords.

In June ’67, Israel was attacked by its neighbors: Jordan, Egypt and Syria. In its counterattack, Israel occupied Western Jordan, the Sinai Peninsula and Gaza as a protective buffer zone. Israel fought the armies of her neighbors and not a Palestinian army.

When Israel withdraws from Gaza this week, neither the Egyptians nor the Ottomans will rule over the Gazans. When these lands were under Egyptian and Jordanian control, the Palestinians were not given independence. Now that they have attained this independence after hundreds of years, can they rule themselves without a one-sided symbiotic relationship or will they still need a foreign body to leech on to or will the terrorist machine of Hamas take control?

The State of Israel has been instrumental in the creation of this new nation, Palestine. Will it remain so, or will the multinational Islamic panacea rule Gaza?

Harry Grunstein
Hampstead, Quebec, Canada