Let kids rule the land


Kids get a bum rap. They can’t vote, they can’t drive, they can’t call up and order things off the TV without a parent’s permission and they have no say in the way their schools are run. But all is not lost. They can influence how their families handle the growing global warming issue, at least according to Laurie David and Cambria Gordon, co-authors of “The Down-to-Earth Guide to Global Warming” (Scholastic, $15.99).

The friends decided to write the guide two years ago, when Gordon, a former advertising copywriter, was writing fiction books for children, and David, producer of the Oscar-winning film, “An Inconvenient Truth,” was writing about global warming, but for adult readers.

“We knew there was something needed for younger kids,” Gordon said. “The nonfiction format was inspired by an old book I had seen called, ‘EarthSearch.’ It was like a children’s museum in a book, with all sorts of tactile parts, like a spinner to show which way the Earth rotates and a real bag of rice to show world hunger.”

In the end, Gordon said, the publisher opted for a more traditional, less expensive format — printed on recycled paper, of course.

The illustrated, easy-to-read book is divided into four sections: the science of global warming, the effects of global warming on weather, how plants and animals are affected and, finally, ways and resources to help reverse the problem — all in a way kids can understand.

“In speaking to kids on their level and trying to relate the science to their everyday life, we tried to strike a balance between truth and hope,” Gordon explained.

However, Gordon said even she was shocked by some of the things she learned while writing the guide.

“What surprised me the most was the fact that the polar ice cap, the Greenland ice sheet and our many glaciers are melting at a rate faster than scientists had predicted,” she said. “And the fact that everything is related. Someone driving an inefficient car in California can contribute to someone else’s drought in India.”

The book seems to be working on its young readers, who are helping to get their families involved with repairing the world.

“I think some parents are already on the bandwagon about this issue, but others are slower to change,” Gordon said. “For them, a nagging child can be an effective motivator. One mother told me that after I spoke at her daughter’s school, her daughter wouldn’t let her cut the tree down in the backyard to put in the pool.”

And Gordon, a mother of three, does practice what she preaches.

“We’ve installed solar thermal panels and about 90 percent of our lightbulbs are compact fluorescents,” Gordon said. “[My kids] are also very good about unplugging their chargers and taking shorter showers.”

The guide takes dull facts and figures and turns them into fun pictures and kid-friendly information (one section is called “Extinction Stinks”), complete with a handy glossary, Web sites and awesome photos.

“Our book empowers kids,” she said. “This is the message for the adult world, as well. We can solve this problem.”

Cambria Gordon will speak at University Synagogue about “How to Speak to Your Kids About Global Warming,” on Friday, Feb. 1, at 7:30 p.m. during Shabbat services. 11960 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 472-1255. For more information on “The Down-to-Earth Guide to Global Warming,” visit ” target=”_blank”>www.unisyn.org/

The whole megillah: Ten reasons to love Purim


So what is Purim about? This short guide explains the various holiday traditions and celebrations, as well as a few suggestions of unique and fun ways to partake in the festivities.

1. Megillah Reading

One of four mitzvot, or commandments, on Purim is listening to the reading of Megillat Esther, the Book of Esther, at night and in the morning. In the tale, Esther, the new Persian queen, saves the Jews from destruction by the evil Haman. When reading the name of Haman and his family — symbols of all the Jews’ enemies — it’s customary to drown it out by making noise, often using groggers, or noisemakers. It is also customary to repeat the happy ending of the story: La’Yehudim hayta ora v’simcha (And the Jews had joy and light).

In conjunction with the community-building initiative Be’chol Lashon (In Every Tongue), Congregation Beth Chayim Chadashim hosts its annual multilingual megillah reading, featuring Afrikaans, Klingon and Luganda, among others on March 3. In addition, Ugandan Rabbi Gershom Sizomu and his family will attend as special guests. A noisemaker and mask-making workshop, a pizza dinner (reservations needed) and Havdalah precede the 7:45 p.m. Megillah reading, followed by skits and Israeli dancing.

Beth Chayim Chadashim, 6000 West Pico Blvd., Los Angeles. (323) 931-7023, www.bcc-la.org.

Making the joy of Purim accessible to the deaf and hard of hearing, Temple Beth Am is introducing a special PowerPoint presentation of Megillat Esther at their 8:15 p.m. sanctuary service on March 3. At the service, geared for children in the lower elementary grades to adults, sixth- and seventh-graders from Pressman Academy will read the megillah, which will be projected in Hebrew and English, along with graphics, onto a large screen. The program was developed by the Orthodox Union’s National Jewish Council for Disabilities and is also suitable for the elderly and individuals with learning disabilities.

Temple Beth Am, 1039 S. La Cienega Blvd. (310) 652-7353, www.tbala.org.

For more information about the Orthodox Union program, call Batya Jacob at (212) 613-8127 or visit www.ou.org.

2. Costumes

After the Jews were saved in the eleventh hour from Haman’s evil decree (implemented by King Ahasuerus), the megillah says their world was turned from sorrow to joy: “As the days wherein the Jews rested from their enemies, and the month which was turned unto them from sorrow to joy, and from mourning into a good day.” And so Purim is topsy-turvy day, where people — kids especially — dress up in costume. Many wear costumes of characters in the Book of Esther, but others have made it into a generic “Jewish Halloween.”

Adele’s of Hollywood offers a 10 percent discount on all Purim costumes. Choose from hundreds of children’s outfits from newborn to size 14, from $25 to $65. Adult costumes are also available, for sale or rent, from $65 to $150. Open Purim day by appointment.

Adele’s of Hollywood, 5034 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood. (323) 663-2231. www.adelescostumes.com.

Ursula’s Costumes has 2,000 costumes for purchase or rent. Adult costumes, mostly one of a kind, rent for $50 to $300 (the latter for an elaborate Venetian ball gown). They retail for $30 to $300. Children’s costumes sell for $20 to $60.

Ursula’s Costumes, 2516 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica. (310) 582-8230. www.ursulascostumes.com.

Etoile offers a plethora of Purim guises, along with hats, shoes, makeup and other accessories. Rent an adult costume from $21 to $400 or more, or purchase one for about $45. Children’s costumes sell for $20 to $60.

Etoile, 18849 Ventura Blvd., Tarzana. (818) 343-3701. www.etoilela.com.

3. Shpiels

One of the ways to celebrate the joys of Purim is the shpiel, a comedic performance planned for months in advance that ranges from satires of the original Purim story to skits parodying Jewish or communal life. Some synagogue shpiels use broad humor while others are roasts of the rabbi, president and congregational politics.

At Malibu Jewish Center and Synagogue, Cantor Marcelo Gindlin adds an Argentine twist to “The Megillah According to Broadway” by New York shpiel-meister and accountant Norman Roth. Featuring synagogue members and fifth- and sixth-grade religious school students, the musical will be presented March 2, following 7 p.m. Shabbat services and a megillah reading.

Malibu Jewish Center and Synagogue, 24855 Pacific Coast Highway, Malibu. (310) 456-2178. www.mjcs.org.

Boogie with Congregation Kol Ami at “Uptown Shushan, Esther in the Big City,” a full-scale, original Motown Purim production on March 3. The evening begins at 7 p.m. with Havdalah and a megillah reading in Hebrew, English and Spanish, followed by the musical with its cast of 25. Afterward, dance to the cool spinning of DJ Groovy David.

Congregation Kol Ami, 1200 N. La Brea Ave., Los Angeles. (323) 606-0996. www.kol-ami.org.

Come to “Avenue P” at Temple Isaiah on March 3, where Mr. Rogers narrates the Purim story. Esther, Mordecai and the usual cast of Purim characters appear as puppets, along with three sunglasses-wearing, Haman-conspiring camels. Religious school students, with handmade sock puppets, serve as a Greek chorus. “Avenue P,” free and fun for the whole family, follows the 7 p.m. megillah reading.

Temple Isaiah, 10345 West Pico Blvd., Los Angeles. (310)277-2772. www.templeisaiah.com.

4. Carnivals

Purim is made for children. And so are Purim carnivals, which feature raffles, games, costume contests, food and fun. But carnivals are not just for kids. Adults can enjoy a little bit of cotton candy, too. While carnivals in the city often are held before the holiday, Purim falls on a weekend this year, and so do many carnivals.

Learn about organizations that tackle poverty, AIDS, illiteracy and other social ills at IKAR’s second-annual Justice Carnival at the Westside JCC and have fun at the same time. The Justice Carnival for Adults on March 3, 8:30 p.m., also features blackjack, Scotch tasting and dancing. For families, the Justice Carnival offers a moon bounce, face painting and spin art, as well as games and food on March 4, 1:15 p.m. $5-$25 (members), $10-$35 (non-members).

IKAR, Westside Jewish Community Center, 5870 West Olympic Blvd., Los Angeles. (323) 634-1870.

The Jewish Journal’s handy guide to Jewish Tehrangeles


Los Angeles has one of the largest populations of Persian Americans in the United States, which is why some refer to the city as Tehrangeles. There are roughly 30,000 Persian Jews among the 300,000 or so Persian Americans living in the City of Angels, according to USC’s Center for Religion and Civic Culture, making Southern California also the site of one of the largest concentrations of ex-pat Persian Mizrahim.

Most of the Persian Jewish community can be found on the Westside and in the San Fernando Valley. Persian synagogues, organizations, markets, restaurants, pharmacies, hair salons and other service-oriented businesses have taken root in these Southland areas, providing a cultural connection for the refugee generation, which arrived between 1977 and 1980, and their American-born children.

The following guide includes synagogues, businesses, agencies and services frequented by the L.A. Persian Jewish community.

Santa Monica/Brentwood

Brentwood and Santa Monica’s ocean-adjacent living is gradually luring families from Beverly Hills and West Los Angeles, and this has added a significant Persian Jewish population to Chabad of Brentwood.

Beauty

Nahid Beauty Salon
2925 Santa Monica Blvd., Santa Monica
(310) 828-9545

Markets

Tehran Market
1417 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica
(310) 393-6719

Synagogues

Chabad of Brentwood
644 S. Bundy Drive, Brentwood
(310) 826-4453
www.chabadbw.com

Maohr HaTorah
1537 Franklin Ave., Santa Monica
(310) 207-0666
www.maohr.com

Westwood/West Los Angeles

Signs in both English and Farsi stretch along Wilshire and Santa Monica boulevards in West Los Angeles, but the city’s largest variety of Persian-owned businesses are found along Westwood Boulevard.

Bakeries

Rex Bakery
1659 Sawtelle Blvd.
(310) 445-8799

Star Bakery
11628 Santa Monica Blvd., No. 6
(310) 207-0025

Beauty

Mahnaz Beauty Garden
1410 Westwood Blvd.
(310) 475-0500

Books

Ketab Corporation
1419 Westwood Blvd.
(310) 477-7477
www.ketab.com

Pars Books & Publishing
1434 Westwood Blvd.
(310) 441-1015

Carpets and Rugs

Damoka Persian Rug Center
1424 Westwood Blvd.
(310) 475-7900

Hardware

Boulevard Hardware
1456 Westwood Blvd.
(310) 475-0795

Markets

Santa Monica Glatt Kosher
11540 Santa Monica Blvd.
(310) 473-4435

Star Market
12136 Santa Monica Blvd.
(310) 447-1612

Music

Music Box
1451 Westwood Blvd.
(310) 473-3466
www.musicboxla.com

Restaurants

Darya Restaurant
12130 Santa Monica Blvd.
(310) 442-9000
www.daryarestaurant.com

Shahrezad Royal Persian Cuisine
1422 Westwood Blvd.
(310) 470-3242

Shamshiri Grill
1712 Westwood Blvd.
(310) 474-1410
www.shamshiri.com

Synagogues

Ohr Hashalom
10848 Missouri Ave.
(310) 441-9938

Sephardic Temple Tifereth Israel
10500 Wilshire Blvd.
(310) 475-7311
www.sephardictemple.org

Sinai Temple
10400 Wilshire Blvd.
(310) 474-1518
www.sinaitemple.org

Stephen S. Wise Temple
15500 Stephen S. Wise Drive, Los Angeles
(310) 476-8561
www.sswt.org

Travel Agencies

Amiri Tour & Travel
1388 Westwood Blvd.
(310) 475-8865
amiritravel.com

Video

Prestige Photography & Video
1561 Westwood Blvd.
(310) 312-1221

L.A. Color Studio
1461 Westwood Blvd.
(310) 478-8883
www.lacolorstudio.com

Pico-Roberston

Pico-Robertson Persian grocers sell almost everything, including music and movies. No matter the time of day, the store aisles are likely to be lined with the carts of fervent shoppers. Some business signs in this observant neighborhood are written in Farsi with “glatt kosher” added in English.

Bakeries

Elat Pastry
8721 W. Pico Blvd.
(310) 385-5993

Groceries

Elat Market
8730 W. Pico Blvd.
(310) 659-7070

Eliass Kosher Market
8829 W. Pico Blvd.
(310) 278-7503

Livonia Glatt Market
8922 W. Pico Blvd.
(310) 271-4343

Pars Market
9016 W. Pico Blvd.
(310) 859-8125

Sinai Kosher Market
8680 W. Pico Blvd.
(310) 657-4447

Pharmacies

Century Pico Discount Pharmacy
8722 W. Pico Blvd.
(310) 657-6999

Restaurants

Elat Burger
9340 W. Pico Blvd.
(310) 278-4692

Kolah Farangi
9180 W. Pico Blvd.
(310) 274-4007
Synagogues
Chabad Persian Youth
9022 W. Pico Blvd.
(310) 777-0358

Netan Eli
1453 S. Robertson Blvd.
(310) 274-2526

Ohel Moshe
644 W. Pico Blvd.
(310) 652-1533
www.ohelmoshe.com

Ohr HaEmet
1030 Robertson Blvd.
(310) 854-3006

Torat Hayim
1026 S. Robertson Blvd.
(310) 652-8349

Beverly Hills

Beverly Hills is home to one of the most politically active communities, featuring three Persian Jewish candidates currently running for two City Council seats. As for places people tend to visit, there is an elegant bakery, beauty salon and supply shop, and the Laemmle Music Hall, which occasionally features Farsi-language films. Nessah Educational and Cultural Center is popular among Persian Jews who observe the traditional form of Judaism practiced in Iran. The congregation is led by Rabbi David Shofet, whose father, Rabbi Hacham Yedidia Shofet, was the late spiritual leader of Jews in Iran and in Southern California.

Bakeries

Nahid La Patisserie Artistique
421 N. Rodeo Drive
(310) 274-8410

Beauty

Jacky Hair Design
215 S. La Cienega Blvd.
(310) 659-6326

Yafa Hair Salon & Beauty Supply
818 Robertson Blvd.
(310) 659-6366

Charitable and Nonprofit Organizations

Iranian Jewish Women’s Organization
1855 Loma Vista
(310) 472-5261
www.ijwo.org

Restaurants

Beverly Hills Colbeh
9025 Wilshire Blvd.
(310) 247-1239
www.beverlyhillscolbeh.com

Senior Citizens Service Organizations

Iranian Jewish Senior Center
8764 W Olympic Blvd.
(310) 289-1026

Synagogues

Nessah Educational and Cultural Center
142 S. Rexford Drive
(310) 273-2400
www.nessah.org

Theaters

Laemmle Music Hall 3
9036 Wilshire Blvd.
(310) 274-6869

West Hollywood

Hollywood Temple Beth-El was once known as the “Temple to the Stars,” featuring such celebrities as Edward G. Robinson, Eddie Cantor, Universal founder Carl Laemmle and “Wizard of Oz” director Mervyn LeRoy. The building was sold in the late 1990s. The space is now home to the Iranian-American Jewish Federation and is a favorite place to celebrate a wedding or other simchas.

Carpets and Rugs

Mehraban Oriental Rugs
545 N. La Cienega Blvd.
(310) 657-4400

Synagogues

Hollywood Temple Beth El/Iranian American Jewish Federation Center
1317 N. Crescent Heights Blvd.
(323) 656-3150

Downtown

Many Persian Jewish entrepreneurs in the jewelry, clothing, fabric and upholstery industries work downtown. The area features two kosher restaurants and a new synagogue, Ohr HaShalom, popularly known as the Downtown Synagogue, which is located in a storefront between fabric shops and is open only on weekdays.

Restaurants

Afshan Restaurant

Book review: The Divorce Lawyers’ Guide


Divorce attorneys. Are there two dirtier words in the English language? Thoughts of them conjure up images of circling human sharks, cold-blooded assassins and profiteers feasting on the misery of others. Turning to them for suggestions on how to stay married would seem about as useful as seeking out Donald Trump for tips on humility or former New York Times reporter Jayson Blair for advice on journalistic ethics.
 
Sometimes, though, the conventional wisdom misses the mark. Drawing on interviews with 100 prominent divorce attorneys nationwide, author and former practicing attorney Wendy Jaffe has written an interesting and illuminating work called, “The Divorce Lawyers’ Guide to Staying Married.” Apparently, those with ringside seats in divorce court, a place where couples venture to shred their wedding vows and one another, have a special insight into how not to behave in marriage.
 
In her book, Jaffe outlines how to diagnose and treat myriad union-killers, ranging from no-sex marriages to infidelity to unrealistic expectations. Beyond that, she argues that many couples who end up in divorce court could have, and should have, worked harder to save their unions.
 
In Jaffe’s view, marriage, except in cases of physical or verbal abuse and untreated drug and alcohol addiction, is worth fighting for. She argues that the fact that about half of all marriages in the United States don’t last is less a reflection of widespread incompatibility than an indictment of a disposable American culture that encourages folks to trade in their old-but-perfectly good cars, computers and, yes, even spouses for newer, fresher models. All too often, Jaffe argues, mates in the process of shedding their significant others come to realize too late that they’ve made a terrible mistake, especially when children are involved. The grass might appear greener elsewhere, but that, like a waterhole in the desert, is often only a mirage. The proof: Two of three second marriages end in divorce.
 
Jaffe’s starts her book detailing all the ways sex can kill a marriage. Why start with sex?
 
“It is rare that someone who is having good and regular sex will come to me for a divorce,” says Miami family law attorney Maurice Kutner, one of several lawyers Jaffe quotes.
 
Couples having infrequent intimate relations should beware, Jaffe warns. Sex, she writes, is an integral part of most marriages, and its absence augurs poorly for their survival. There are myriad reasons why married couples’ love lives can cool, including familiarity and the exhaustion of parenthood. Still, a no-sex marriage is far from the norm. As Jaffe notes, just because married spouses have stopped making love with one another doesn’t mean they have stopped making love.

Take the case of Steve and Linda, one of several case studies Jaffe sprinkles throughout her book. The couple married in their mid-20s, had three kids in six years and moved to the ‘burbs. To the outside world, they appeared to have the perfect union. However, behind the smiles, Linda felt increasingly disconnected from her spouse, and her interest in intimacy dwindled markedly with the birth of her children. Over time, Steve also became more disenchanted, especially after his wife rejected repeated requests to discuss her waning drive with a gynecologist. Steve eventually left a “shocked” Linda for a work colleague.
 
So what to do if sex begins to vanish from the bedroom? Jaffe suggests the road to recovery begins with recognition.
 
“Even if sex is not important to you,” she writes, “you have to realize that it might be extremely important to your spouse, and that it is a significant cause of divorce.”
 
Throughout the book, Jaffe encourages readers to consult a therapist. She also offers a helpful list of reference books readers might want to peruse.Infidelity is another sex-related marriage-killer with which Jaffe grapples. On the upside, she argues persuasively that many marriages can withstand cheating. If both spouses figure out what caused the straying and address the problem; if the victim spouse can forgive the affair; and if the adulterous husband or wife truly recommits to the marriage — a lot of ifs — the couple might salvage the union. On the downside, Internet chat rooms and dating services have made it easier than ever for bored spouses to find a playmate.
 
Many marriages, Jaffe writes, are in trouble even before they begin. That’s because one or both partners bring unrealistic expectations to the altar.
 
Couples who expect the romance and fires of passion to burn indefinitely set themselves up for their marriage to flameout. Similarly, men and women who believe marriage will magically transform their significant other are deluding themselves. Her insane jealousy won’t suddenly vanish, just as his verbal abuse and alcoholism won’t disappear. The bottom line: What you see is generally what you get. A caveat, though: People often do change over the course of a marriage, for better or for worse, Jaffe says.
 
Even those who’ve never married, as well as people considering getting hitched for the second or third time, could benefit from “The Divorce Lawyers’ Guide.”
 
Jaffe and the attorneys she interviewed counsel against getting married at a young age. A little life experience, they argue, allows a person to grow up and figure out what they want from themselves and from a prospective spouse. It is no surprise, Jaffe writes, that Oklahoma, despite its location at the heart of the Bible Belt, has the second-highest divorce rate, according to 1990 stats. The reason: One of the lowest average ages for first marriages, at 22 for women and 24 for men.
 
As for remarriage, Jaffe warns against the “clone syndrome.” That is, finding a new spouse with a similar personality to the person just left behind. To avoid making the same mistakes again and again, such as repeatedly hooking up with alcoholics, Jaffe suggests seeing a therapist to “understand why your marriage broke down and how your selection of your spouse played a part in it.”
 
Jaffe’s book makes a surprisingly good read, considering that many lawyers tend to write in a turgid, tangled legalese. Still, Jaffe does trip up a few times.The lawyer in her devotes an entire section to prenuptial agreements. She argues that men and women with substantial assets need to protect them. Rational?

David Karp: A Guide for Unity in Scouting


 

When attorney David Karp reminisces about his time in the Cub and Boy Scouts, the good memories come flooding back. He remembers taking long nature hikes, making close friends and fashioning a pinewood derby car from a block of wood, four nails and four wheels. The Scouts, he said, taught him how to work well with others, play fairly and know right from wrong — qualities that have served him well as an adult.

After the birth of his son, Samuel, in 1990, Karp decided that he would one day introduce the boy to the joys of scouting. But Karp wanted to touch more lives than just Samuel’s. Through the Western Los Angeles County Council Jewish Committee on Scouting of the Boy Scouts of America, he has found a way successfully to combine his two great loves: scouting and Judaism, both of which shape his ideas, values and conduct. In the process, Karp, a Reform Jew, has done more than perhaps anyone in Southern California to bring local Orthodox Jews into the world of scouting.

“Once I accepted that I wanted to make a place for Jews in scouting, it was only a matter of time before I decided we had to be inclusive of all Jews,” said Karp, who headed the Council Jewish Committee from 2002 to 2004 and remains treasurer.

Under his direction, Karp said he and other council members helped oversee the creation of a Boy Scout troop and later a Cub Scout pack at Shaarey Zedek Congregation in Valley Village. Subsequently, Karp’s efforts have helped lay the foundation for other shuls to form scouting units.

“David Karp made it possible for us to have this program,” said attorney Yacov Greiff, scoutmaster of Troop 613 at Shaarey Zedek. “Aside from personal kindness and modesty, exemplary menschlichkeit and tireless efforts on behalf of the Jewish community, he deserves particular recognition for going out of his way to reach across sectarian lines.”

Karp also helped make it possible for Orthodox Jews to participate in the Kinnus weekend, an annual committee-sponsored event that attracts hundreds of Jewish scouts and their families from the Southland and beyond. At the suggestion of several religious Jews, Karp and others approved the serving of strictly Kosher meals, offered Orthodox Shabbat services and set up an eruv, or boundary, which permits the carrying of supplies and other goods during the Sabbath. The result: Orthodox Jews now account for more than half of Kinnus, participants, up from zero in 2001.

“David’s been instrumental in uniting the three Jewish denominations into one identity as Jewish scouts,” said Jeff Feuer, cubmaster of an Orthodox pack sponsored by Beth Jacob Congregation in Beverly Hills. “In my personal opinion, it’s best if we work together and understand and learn to celebrate our differences.”

As a professional mediator, bringing together Jews under the banner of the Scouts has come naturally to him.

“I suppose I’m a facilitator,” said Karp, who is now a Boy Scouts of America district chairman for the East Valley. “I like to find common ground.”

 

David Karp

MORE MENSCHES


Avi Leibovic: Guardian Angel of the Streets

Jack and Katy Saror: Help Knows No Age

Joyce Rabinowitz: A Type Like No Other

Saul Kroll: Healing Hand at Cedars-Sinai

Jennifer Chadorchi: The Hunger to Help

Karen Gilman: What Makes Her Run?

Steven Firestein: Making Magic for Children

Yaelle and Nouriel Cohen: Kindness Starts at Home

Moshe Salem: Giving a Voice to Israelis

Joyce Rabinowitz: A Type Like No Other


 

Look at Joyce Rabinowitz’s computer keyboard and you will see six blank keys in the middle row. They are actually the letters SDF and JKL, but the identifying marks have been worn off from use.

In fact, those are only keys Rabinowitz uses, with the exception of the space bar. And she uses them five or six hours a day, five or six days a week, often starting at 5 a.m., before breakfast. She has been doing this continuously for 30 years, though not always on a computer.

Rabinowitz, 76, is a volunteer Braille transcriber. She takes the printed word and, using a special computer program called Braille 2000, transforms it letter by letter into a prescribed set of dots that she saves to disk and gives to the Braille Institute. Each disk, with the help of an embossing machine, is used to produce a book written in raised dot text that a blind person can read with his or her fingers.

Rabinowitz herself doesn’t read Braille by touch.

“You have to have very sensitive fingers,” she said.

But she reads it with her eyes.

She’s transcribed many books over the years, recording the titles, date completed and number of Braille pages in a small notebook. (One average page of text translates into two to three Braille pages, 11 by 11.5 inches.) Her first book, in December 1975, was “Stories by Chekov,” clocking in at 310 Braille pages. Last year, she completed a total of 4,400 Braille pages.

Always an avid reader, she loves doing children’s books and currently is transcribing the young adult nonfiction book “Code Talker” by Joseph Bruchac. She reads each book twice, once while transcribing it and once while proofreading it. She also enjoys transcribing math books.

“I don’t have to work out the problem or know the answer,” she said.

Originally looking for new volunteer work, Rabinowitz began by taking a Braille class at Temple Beth Hillel in 1974, when transcribing was done on the much more labor-intensive Perkins Brailler. Of the 12 students in her class, she was one of only two who completed the course and the only one who became certified through the Library of Congress to transcribe literary works. Later she took additional classes to become certified in textbooks and math books.

She generally works from her Encino home, in one hour to one and a half hour time slots, but goes down to Los Angeles’ Braille Institute on Vermont Avenue every Wednesday and sometimes on Mondays. Her current task there is transcribing a set of complex math tests.

Carol Jimenez, the Braille Institute’s transcribing coordinator, has worked with Rabinowitz for the last 20 years and is impressed with her skill, especially in transcribing complicated math and science books.

“There’s a big need for people to do textbooks,” she said, pointing out that studies have shown that only blind children who read Braille, and not just listen to tapes, are considered literate.

“They’re the ones who grow up to be educated and go on to college and jobs,” she said.

As for Rabinowitz, she plans to keep doing this until she’s no longer able.

“I love it,” she said. “My only answer is I love it.”

Joyce Rabinowitz

MORE MENSCHES

Avi Leibovic: Guardian Angel of the Streets

Jack and Katy Saror: Help Knows No Age

Saul Kroll: Healing Hand at Cedars-Sinai

Jennifer Chadorchi: The Hunger to Help

Karen Gilman: What Makes Her Run?

Steven Firestein: Making Magic for Children

Yaelle and Nouriel Cohen: Kindness Starts at Home

Moshe Salem: Giving a Voice to Israelis

David Karp: A Guide for Unity in Scouting

Saul Kroll: Healing Hand at Cedars-Sinai


 

“Our rabbis speak of yetzer hara and yetzer hatov, man’s dual inclination toward evil and toward good, and what you make of your life depends on which you follow,” Saul Kroll observes.

Kroll is a firm believer in yetzer hatov, and the 87-year-old Westside resident translates it into practice six days a week as an emergency room volunteer at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.

Although “retired” for almost 20 years, Kroll puts in a full workweek doing whatever needs to be done.

“People come into the treatment area and I greet them, help them fill out forms, check what rooms are available and help them undress,” he said in a phone interview.

“I always try to encourage them, to tell them that they are in the best of hands, to lift their spirits,” he said. “That’s the greatest mitzvah.”

Sometimes the work is physically difficult for an octogenarian, as when “you push a 250-pound woman going into labor up a ramp in a wheelchair,” he said.

But Kroll believes in putting his aches and pains, including spinal injuries, aside.

“Either you let your medical problems control you, or you control them,” he philosophizes.

To Dr. Joel Geiderman, co-chair of the hospital’s emergency department, Kroll’s dedication “is unbelievable. He never asks anything for himself. He is selfless, truly one of the righteous.”

While the typical Cedars-Sinai volunteer puts in four to eight hours per week, Kroll’s norm is between 35 to 40 hours. Barbara Colner, director of the medical center’s almost 2,000 volunteers, has calculated that Kroll has worked 24,400 hours since starting his stint in 1987. She isn’t sure whether or not this represents an all-time record.

When Kroll does miss work, it’s often to drive a 90-year-old neighbor with breast cancer to her medical appointments.

He is just as conscientious in his religious observances. “I’ve gone to shul three times a day since my bar mitzvah,” he said, and during High Holiday services at the hospital he is the unofficial greeter, kippot and tallit dispenser, and also chants the memorial prayer.

“Saul is amazing, he conducts his life with the energy of a 20-year old,” noted Rabbi Levi Meir, the hospital’s chaplain.

Kroll also unfailingly shows up at the daily morning minyan at nearby Temple Beth Am.

“He is one of our stalwarts and we take great pride in him,” commented the temple’s Rabbi Joel Rembaum.

The one period during which Kroll missed his minyans was World War II, when he served with a B-29 bomber squadron in the Pacific. But even there, he organized High Holiday and Passover services for Jewish servicemen on Guam.

Kroll was born on the day following the World War I armistice, Nov. 12, 1918, grew up in a small town near Pittsburgh, and started managing a sporting goods store at age 17.

After the war, Kroll went to work rebuilding auto engines and, in the 1950s, he and a partner opened an automotive and body shop.

His wife, Selma, died in 1994. Kroll proudly cites the professional careers of his two children and four grandchildren.

His parting advice: “Don’t tell someone, ‘OK, call me if you need any help.’ Just go on over and help.”

Saul Kroll

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Joyce Rabinowitz: A Type Like No Other

Jennifer Chadorchi: The Hunger to Help

Karen Gilman: What Makes Her Run?

Steven Firestein: Making Magic for Children

Yaelle and Nouriel Cohen: Kindness Starts at Home

Moshe Salem: Giving a Voice to Israelis

David Karp: A Guide for Unity in Scouting

Everything You Always Wanted to Know About the High Holidays


Goodbye summer; hello High Holidays. While Rosh Hashanah falls later in the calendar than normal this year (Oct. 3-5), it’s never too early to get ready for the Jewish New Year. Besides, preparations traditionally begin in the Hebrew month of Elul, which started Sept. 4.

If you didn’t know that — and were too afraid, too preoccupied or too unknowing to ask — then we have just the thing for you: this handy guide to get your mind, body and soul in the spirit, so to speak, for the Days of Awe.

We’ve included Frequently Asked Questions about the High Holidays; a how-to on finding a synagogue (no, it’s not too late); a music and book list for inspiration and explanation; and a primer for those new to the faith.

We also have prepared our special Congregation Directory (pages 40-47), a comprehensive listing of Los Angeles congregations sorted by neighborhoods.

Stay tuned next week for a delectable Food Issue with some of Los Angeles’ top chefs. For now, read on and prepare to be a little more in the know for the High Holidays.

 

Like Some ‘Guilt’ With Your Chick Lit?


“The Modern Jewish Girl’s Guide to Guilt” edited by Ruth Andrew Ellenson (Dutton, $24.95).

When Ruth Andrew Ellenson achieved the writer’s milestone of selling her first book, her father responded in classic Jewish parental fashion.

“He was thrilled and said, ‘Honey, that’s wonderful.’ Then there was a long pause,” Ellenson recalled. “And he said, ‘I guess this means I have to wait longer for grandchildren.'”

As the editor of the newly released “The Modern Jewish Girl’s Guide to Guilt,” Ellenson now has both the professional and personal credentials to speak on behalf of any Jewish woman who struggles with the notion of “letting my people down. I’ve always been interested in what’s complicated about being Jewish and how you balance the different parts of life,” said the 31-year-old freelance journalist. “Jewish women have been given opportunities they never had before. We live in a time of choice and so there are myriad new ways to feel guilty.”

Ellenson’s anthology, which consists of 28 essays by some of America’s most prominent Jewish female writers, presents itself as a kid-in-the-candy-store experience for the angst-ridden Jew. Got guilt about marrying a German? Overeating on the holidays? Not thinking about the Holocaust enough? Joining the Israeli army to please your father? Pore through this collection and there’s bound to be an essay that will resonate. Consider the reviews of the book, which range from Publisher’s Weekly to the Los Angeles Times and have been consistently positive — yet far from homogenous. Each critic, it seems, has his or her own favorite group of essays.

“I didn’t want people to only write about the guilt they have because of their non-Jewish boyfriends,” said Ellenson, who’s kicking off a book tour of readings at the Skirball Cultural Center Sept. 15. “I wanted to veer away from stereotypes and I really looked for a diversity of experiences.”

Daphne Merkin in “The Yom Kippur Pedicure” and Tova Mirvis in “What Will They Think,” for example, both explore the legacy of growing up Orthodox and how they continue to embrace and/or struggle with that identity. Kera Bolonik recalls the time she came out to her mother, who divulged her daughter’s lesbianism to her Yiddish club. Rabbi Sharon Brous ruminates on why “she’s a living breathing trigger for other people’s guilt” because of her status as a spiritual leader.

Mothers, grandmothers and boyfriends, however, certainly do not escape scrutiny and they take center stage in some of the funnier and more poignant essays. Cynthia Kaplan’s “American Express” chronicles the writer’s relationship with her ailing grandmother and deftly straddles that fine line between hilarious and heartbreaking. Lori Gottlieb writes about the failure to screen her mother’s calls, while Binnie Kirshenbaum figures out how to honor her mother’s memory without having children. Then there’s Amy Klein, The Journal’s religion editor, who provides a play-by-play account of her online romances in “True Confessions of a JDate Addict.”

In addition to Klein, Gottlieb and Brous, other L.A. contributors include fiction writers Aimee Bender, Gina Nahai and novelist/TV reporter Francesca Segre. What links the anthology together “is the issue of how everyone seeks to incorporate Judaism into their lives even if they don’t fit a traditional Jewish mold,” Ellenson said. “Some use humor, some use introspection, but everyone’s trying to be honest about how they connect or don’t connect to being Jewish.”

Born in Jerusalem and raised in Los Angeles and New York, Ellenson has spent years reconciling various contradictions and complications of identity. The daughter of Rabbi David Ellenson and of a convert mother, Ellenson, in her book’s introduction, writes about attending a church in Virginia to watch her grandmother sing in the choir.

“So there I sat, a rabbi’s daughter in the church of her forefathers, bathed in the ruby light of stained-glass windows depicting Jesus,” she said. “And paralyzed by guilt.”

Ellenson describes growing up in “a practicing Conservative Jewish home with an emphasis on the intellectual. I was always very connected Jewishly, even when I was rebelling,” she said. “Like during the time I was yelling at my father about why can’t we be Buddhists, I was involved in Young Judea and going on trips to Israel. Or how about this? I love Shabbos lunches, but I hate going to services.”

For Ellenson, who received her master’s in fine arts from Columbia University, “rejecting my Judaism has never felt right, nor has trying to be more observant than I actually am. The question of where people find their happy mediums has always fascinated me,” she said. “And that’s what I loved about creating this book. It made me appreciate that through my own guilt, I have been searching for the truth and trying to embrace what I love and what I struggle with.”

Currently at work on her first novel, Ellenson says “an anthology is the best way to explore a question you’re deeply curious about because you’re dealing with a variety of opinions. It allows you think about things in a way that you haven’t before.”

So will there be a sequel to “The Modern Jewish Girl’s Guide to Guilt?” Ellenson laughs before answering. “The thought of saying no to that question fills me with guilt.”

Ruth Andrew Ellenson appears with Aimee Bender, Gina Nahai and Lori Gottleib, Sept. 15, 7:30 p.m., Skirball Cultural Center, 2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd. $20. To R.S.V.P., call (310) 335-0917 or visit www.writersblocpresents.com.

On Sept. 25, at 2 p.m., Ellenson, Amy Klein, Rabbi Sharon Brous, Lori Gottleib and Francesca Segre will be at Dutton’s Brentwood, 11975 San Vicente Blvd. For more information, call (310) 476-6263.

 

Shavuot – Ruth’s Tale Provides Contemporary Guide


“Second Chances: Transforming the Bitterness of Hope and the Story of Ruth,” by Rabbi Levi Meier (Urim Publications, $19.95)

Rabbi Levi Meier is fond of saying that we are all on a journey, whether or not we know it. Of course, he is referring to life itself, and in his latest book, Meier illuminates that journey by looking at the compelling and sometimes tragic life of the biblical figure of Ruth. His book, “Second Chances: Transforming the Bitterness of Hope and the Story of Ruth,” is at once a rich source of biblical scholarship and a guide designed to help readers deal with their own personal difficulties.

The Book of Ruth, which will be read during the coming holiday of Shavuot, tells of Ruth, a Moabite princess, who marries the son of a wealthy Jew who had taken his family to Moab to avoid a devastating famine in Israel — and, more importantly also to avoid sharing his wealth and food with fellow Jews in their time of need.

Ruth and her mother-in-law, Naomi, suffer a catastrophe when Ruth’s husband, her husband’s only brother and her father-in-law die precipitously. Naomi is left with two young childless daughters-in-law, neither of whom is Jewish.

Naomi urges Ruth and Orpah, Ruth’s sister-in-law, to remain in Moab, with Naomi returning to Israel to put the pieces of her life together. Orpah decides to leave Naomi, but in a stunning gesture, Ruth declares that she has decided to stay with Naomi. In an act of pure loving-kindness, she states, “Do not urge me to desert you, to turn away from you. For wherever you go, I shall go; wherever you rest, I will rest; your people are my people, and your God is my God.”

This is Ruth’s classic statement of conversion, which is used to this very day when non-Jews convert to Judaism.

As Meier points out, Ruth is not just taking on the form of Naomi’s faith, she is becoming one with it. There is nothing tentative in her action. She is taking on the very journey of Abraham, the founder of Judaism, when God instructed him in Genesis 12:1, “lech lecha — go forth from your land, your father’s house, your birthplace to the land I will show you.”

The parallels between the two are stunning.

Meier notes further, “Any person who would undertake such a difficult, dangerous and frightening journey requires special divine protection. That is what was promised to Abraham when he became the first convert.”

The relationship of Ruth and Naomi is full of compassion and kindness.

“Even when Naomi is confronting her inner bitterness, she extends kindness to Ruth, and Ruth reciprocates in the same manner,” Meier writes. “Kindness as a response to pain, suffering and tragedy is one of the overriding themes of the Book of Ruth.” It is also one of the main themes of “Second Chances.”

Meier states that individual acts of kindness have repercussions well beyond themselves, as when Ruth accepts the generous offer of Boaz (whom she will later marry) to follow his harvesters and glean the grain that they leave behind.

“She leaves some food uneaten, intending to take it home to share with Naomi,” Meier writes. “In this way, Ruth takes advantage of an opportunity to repair the past — she demonstrates how different she is from her selfish Moabite forebears, who wanted to sell bread and water to Israelites wandering through the desert.”

Ruth is ultimately rewarded for her great kindness by becoming the progenitor of King David, from whom the Bible states the Messiah will come.

As a contemporary analyst of the Bible, Meier contributes the insightful perspective of his own experience as chief chaplain at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and as a clinical Jungian psychologist.

His book is both an informative retelling of the story of Ruth and an ongoing extrapolation from it: Throughout his account, Meier will tell about an incident in Ruth’s life and then relate it to common life problems.

The way to transform bitterness and pain to hope, Meier writes, is through personal acts of generosity and kindness. The most important, and the hardest, are acts of kindness within one’s own family.

Some ideas in this profound book came to Meier while he was teaching a monthly Torah class to Hollywood writers. I was privileged to be among them; Rabbi Meier is a gifted teacher.

“Second Chances,” like his teaching, is full of readily applicable observations. Using anecdotes from his clinical and life experiences — and relating them to the story of Ruth — Rabbi Meier personalizes his insights, giving encouragement and strength to those readers who would make the most of their own second chances.

David Brandes wrote and produced the award-winning film, “The Quarrel,” and created and served as executive producer of the Showtime series, “My Life as a Dog.” He can be reached at at quarrel@pacbell.net.

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A Traveler’s Guide to Tel Aviv Nightlife


 

If the Cinderella story had been set in Tel Aviv, her raggedy slipper would have turned into a magical glass pump at the witching hour, instead of the other way around.
New York may be the city that never sleeps, but life in Tel Aviv begins at midnight. There are dozens of nightclubs and about 200 bars in this mini-metropolis, each with its own flavor and theme. Yet they all share a determination and dedication to having a good time.
Think of this list of diverse venues as a starting point to explore Tel Aviv’s nightlife, since whole new worlds can open up within a two-block radius.

Abraxas
The only Tel Aviv bar with an art director, Abraxas attracts an artsy, sophisticated and intellectual crowd, thanks in part to Monday and Tuesday nights, in which Abraxas headlines a different Israeli singer, artist, musician, writer or chef as the DJ for the night. These celeb DJs give Abraxas an eclectic musical menu and a clientele consisting in large part of Israeli “industry people.”
Address: Lilienblum 40
Phone: 03-510-4435
Music: eclectic; live bands on Sundays
Hours: From 9 p.m.

Allenby 40
Allenby 40 is known as the sleaziest dance bar in Israel; but if you ask the owner, an Orthodox Jew named Mendy, he would say it’s not sleazy but liberating. So, what would a Jew who grew-up Chabad know about liberation? A lot, it seems. At Allenby 40, Orthodox men can gulp a beer and three chasers with their kippah on — guilt-free. And if the religious feel that way, you can imagine how the secular Jew gets down at Allenby 40. The decor is minimalist — just some walls painted flesh and a few dangling disco balls, but the DJs and overly gregarious bartenders get Jews of all streams dancing together, which, of course, would make the Lubbavitcher Rebbe proud.
Address: Allenby 40
Phone: 052-892-9218
Music: R & B, hip-hop and MTV hits
Hours: From 10 p.m.

Dixie
A Tel Aviv landmark, Dixie feels like a gourmet Denny’s. Open 24 hours and lined with leather booths, this is where you land with friends at 3 a.m. to digest the night’s events along with eggs, hash browns, pancakes and American coffee refills.
Address: Yigal Alon 120
Phone: 03-696-6123
Web: www.dixie.co.il
Hours: 24/7

Dungeon
Dungeon is where you mix pleasure with pain. The first and only S&M club in Israel, equipped with a stage for live shows, Dungeon is where almost anyone — freaks, geeks, doctors and lawyers — can transform themselves into masters and slaves for the night. Surprisingly, Dungeon is not as sleazy as you might think. It attracts many vanillas (sexually conventional people), curious to watch, but too inhibited to actually participate.
Address: Kikar Kedumim 14, Old Yaffo
Phone: 054-443-2195
Web: www.dungeon.co.il
Music & hours: Tues from 11 p.m.: dark electro, industrial, dark ’80s; Thurs from midnight: house, trance; Fri, from 11 p.m.: metal, gothic
Cover: Tues., 40 NIS; Thurs., 80 NIS; Fri., free (member discounts)

Fetish
Blame it on the name, but almost anything can happen at Fetish, and pretty much everything is allowed. A mini-nightclub hosting the finest local house DJs, Fetish merges partiers of all classes, professions and nationalities. This encouraged amalgam of energies and lifestyles, achieved through a rigorous selection process, helps break down boundaries, cultural and mental.
Address: 48 King George St.
E-mail: Maxim55@bezeqint.net
Music: House (and all sub-genres)
Hours: Thurs., Fri. (ages 25+) and Sat. from midnight
Cover: 70-90 NIS

Haoman 17 Tel Aviv
Haoman 17 is the Starbucks of Israeli nightclubs. The only nightclub chain in Israel, Haoman first opened its coveted doors in Jerusalem in 1994, and has been conquering the Holy Land ever since, with a branch in Haifa and now one in Tel Aviv. At a time when nightclubs were considered passé in Tel Aviv, the owners promised to educate the metropolis. The sound system, design, decor and DJs are all world-class, but it’s those intangible qualities (not to mention a few tax troubles) that have made Haoman a national legend and, ironically, a brand name: energy, sensuality, grandeur. Now they just need a branch in Be’er Sheva.
Address: Abarbanel 88
Phone: 052-560-6661
Web: www.haoman.com
Music: House, techno; usually MTV hits in the small room
Hours: Thurs. from midnight (ages 23+); Friday from midnight (ages 19+)
Cover: 70-100 NIS

Lanski
Known as the largest bar in the Middle East, Lanski’s four massive bars zig-zag like a tic-tac-toe board, allowing for some serious games of eye contact.
Address: Montefiore 6 (Shalom Towers)
Phone: 03-517-0043
Music: Mostly ’70s, modern hits
Hours: Sun.-Thurs., Sat.: from 9 p.m.; Fri. from 10 p.m. (ages 27+)

Mike’s Place
It’s no wonder that Mike’s Place of Jerusalem opened their Tel Aviv branch right near the American Embassy. Despite having been the victim of terrorism in 2003, Mike’s Place is still an escape from Israel. Split into a sports bar and music diner, Mike’s Place feels more like an American tavern. With English as its first language, Mike’s Place understands that tourists and immigrants sometimes need to take a break from the abrasiveness of Israeli life with an ice-cold beer in a relaxed, open, English-speaking environment.
Address: Hebert Samuel 86
Web: www.mikesplacebars.com
Music: Live rock and blues bands nightly
Hours: From 11 a.m.

Minerva
Minerva opened its doors eight years ago as a lesbian bar, but now they consider themselves “multisexual” with a gay and lesbian orientation. A different DJ pumps sensual beats throughout the bordello-style bar every night, providing the perfect atmosphere for female flirtation, and any flirtation for that matter. On most nights there is a higher female-to-male ratio, except Tuesday night, which is for men only.
Address: Beith Ha’Shoeva 1 (Allenby 98)
Phone: 03-560-5595
Music: Electro, freestyle, alternative; live rock cabaret shows on Sunday
Hours: From 9 p.m.

Mishmish
Mishmish, apricot in Hebrew, is the only American cocktail lounge in Israel, with each cocktail meticulously prepared down to its historic ingredients. The American cocktail lounge gathered steam in the 19th century to offer the growing upper class an alternative to the loud saloon, and Mishmish is an alternative to the rowdy Israeli pub. With its sleek wooden decor, dim lights, cushioned sitting areas and soothing jazz in the background, Mishmish provides an elegant yet down-to-earth atmosphere, where attractive single yuppies can mix spirits in drink and in company.
Address: Lilienblum 17
Phone: 03-516-8178
Hours: From 9 p.m.

Molly Bloom’s:
The Irish owner opened this first traditional Irish pub in Israel because he needed a place to drink. The green wood, antique pictures, Irish paraphernalia and Irish tunes give Molly Bloom’s an authentic Irish atmosphere where people freely mix and mingle. Guinness, Kilkenny and Irish whiskies contribute to the Irish feel — inside and out.
Address: 2 Mendele St.
Phone: 03-523-7419
Web: www.molly-blooms.com
Hours: Sat.-Thurs. from 4 p.m.; Fri. from noon.

Move
A mini-club in the old port compound with intimacy, music, prices and a generally clean-cut crowd that make it a sane alternative to the heavy house/techno parties at major Tel Aviv nightclubs.
Address: Hata’arukha 3
Phone: 052-665-5001
Music: Hip-hop and dance hits
Hours: Mon. from 11:30 a.m. (ages 19+); Thurs. from midnight (ages 25+); Fri. from midnight (ages 23+); Sat. from 11:30 a.m. (ages 23+)
Cover: 30-60 NIS

Nonotschka
A Georgian restaurant-bar, Nonotschka has imported the republic’s warmth, effusiveness and roughness, in addition to its cuisine. Nana, its mysterious Georgian owner, sought to create a homey place where people could enjoy mama’s Georgian cooking with a quantity of drinks of which mama would not approve. The local Georgian “circus” begins at around 2 a.m., and you may find some visitors — and maybe even yourself — jovially trapezing on the bar.
Address: Lilienblum 28
Phone: 03-516-2254 (reservations recommended)
Music: Eclectic
Hours: From noon.

Powder
Powder is the hot spot for gay men. The owner, Shirazi, a colorful figure in the Tel Aviv gay nightlife scene, wanted to find a stationary home for his steaming mobile party line, FFF (Friendly Freedom Fridays). The warehouse-style club is named Powder in part for the old flour factory that once operated on the premises.
Address: Shonzino 9
Phone: 03-624-0094
Music and hours: Fri. from midnight (flagship gay night): house, techno; call for other parties.

Scores
At Scores you can hit on your neighbor and the eight ball, and hopefully succeed at both. Scores fits two spacious pool halls and a New York-style lounge bar, which opens a dance bar on weekends. Scores attracts a diverse crowd, from local celebrities to Orthodox Jews to tourists, and they pride themselves on being a spot where women can feel comfortable with a cue stick.
Address: Yehuda Halevi, corner of Allenby
Phone: 03-566-2010
Music: Rock, MTV hits, classics.
Hours: From noon.

Shesek
Next-door neighbor to Mishmish, Shesek, Hebrew for cumquat, is an alternative fruit for an alternative bar. Shesek has an East Village vibe with bohemian types and bar bums enjoying the eccentric atmosphere and the DJs underground sounds.
Address: Lilienblum 17
Phone: 03-516-9520
Music: Groove, rock, funk, drum ‘n’ bass, electronic, free style and hip-hop.
Hours: From 9 p.m.

Velvet
The newest “in” spot in Tel Avivis filled with poza (“posers,” or people trying to look pretty). This all-in-one restaurant-bar-lounge-nightclub was created by one of Israel’s leading designers, Arik Ben Simhon. Go on a night when it’s not too packed so you can actually see the place.
Address: Hamasger 66
Phone: 03-624-1204
Music: Thurs: hip-hop, dance; Fri: house; Sat: ’70s-modern hits; Sun: house
Hours: From 9 p.m.
No cover

Vox
Voted No. 1 nightclub of 2004 by Time Out Tel Aviv, thanks in part to its flawless design and intimate atmosphere. The dance floor is cozily surrounded by two bars, a balcony and a DJ station upon which international DJs pump energy through the stylish club.
Address: Yegia Kapaim 2
Phone: 03-687-0591
Web: www.vox-telaviv.com
Music and hours: Mon. from 11:30 p.m., hip-hop and dance hits; Thurs. from midnight, house, techno, trance (flagship party for ages 24+); Fri. from midnight, house (gay night); Sat. from 11:30 p.m., hip-hop and dance.
Cover: 60-100 NIS.

 

Rogov’s Puts Israel on Oenological Map


 

At a seder last year, the host put out a few bottles of Israeli wine.

“Oh, kosher wine,” one of the host’s relatives observed with flared nostrils and a raised brow, “Yum.”

The topic of Israeli wines — not all kosher wines are Israeli, not all Israeli wines are kosher — can seem like a meeting place that’s made specially for snobs and rubes to share. To paraphrase a certain White House Cabinet member, a lot of people don’t know what they don’t know or don’t know what they think they know. “Kosher” triggers associations with Manischewitz, the syrupy, sacramental stuff found in the fruit and jug wines section.

In fact, Israel has followed the global trend of crafting quality wine and is now regarded by wine experts as an up-and-comer. The industry is technologically modern, with state-of-the-art facilities and know-how. It’s also growing aggressively, with more than 120 wineries, an implausibly high number given Israel’s small population. To put that in perspective, if Israel were a U.S. state, it would rank fifth.

“Israeli wines are on a steep upward curve,” said wine writer Rod Smith. “The country has the conditions, especially in the Golan Heights with its cool high-altitude sites, varied exposures, and volcanic soils. Israeli growers and winemakers are among the most progressive and cosmopolitan in the world. They have the financial backing, too, so all the parts are in place.”

The latest part is “Rogov’s Guide to Israeli Wines 2005,” the first comprehensive English-language book on the subject.

Rogov has long played the role of food and wine ambassador for Israeli tourism, and readers have consulted him for wine and restaurant choices for more than 35 years in his columns in Ha’aretz and the International Herald Tribune and on his Web site. He has, and is, a big personality, who knows the skinny on seemingly every chef, restaurateur, supplier and wine expert in Israel.

The guide aims to put Israel on the oenological map a la John Platter’s South African Wine Guide or annual Pocket Wine Guides by Britain’s Hugh Johnson and Australia’s Oz Clark. Rogov’s endeavor is handsomely published, and its portable format underscores its usefulness for wine-travelers.

The book includes a fine introduction with a history and an overview of the subject, then reviews vineyards and their varietals using the convention of stars and the 100-point ratings system, with evaluations according to the flavor wheel. Although wine talk can be generally hard to understand even for experienced wine drinkers (What, after all, is the difference between an 86 and an 87? What is an 87, anyway?), Rogov can be amusing. Of one lowly regarded bottle, sarcasm overflows.

“Drink up,” he writes, proving how brevity is wit.

The introduction, though, is worth the book’s $14.95 price. For all the effete and inaccessible talk that wine sometimes seems to invite, wine is fundamentally about the land. Wines’ roots in the Land of Israel extend back to ancient times, and they laid the foundation for the Zionist enterprise. The Torah notes that Noah planted the first vineyard, and how Moses’ spies in Canaan brought back immense clusters of grapes. Deuteronomy lists wine among the blessings the Promised Land will yield. Ezekiel even makes reference to wine-growing methods, specifically trellises winemakers used to train vines. There’s a considerable archeological record to back up the Bible, too, with remains of ancient wine presses and other wine-making paraphernalia across the entire Land of Israel. The only interruptions of wine production were during certain periods of Muslim rule, since Islam forbids alcohol.

That vines, like people, need strong roots was a metaphor that wasn’t lost on the earliest pioneers in Palestine, the Chalutzim, who saw a prospect to meet the Jewish world’s demand for kosher wine. In 1882, with backing from the Baron Edmund de Rothschild, who owned the Chateau Lafite, one of the most esteemed wineries in Bordeaux, the early settlers planted vineyards in Rishon LeZion. Rothschild sent experts, supplies and grape varieties from Europe and funded wineries in Rishon, as well as in Zichron Ya’akov, which opened in 1890. Heat killed the first harvests, followed by a plague of insects, and the ventures failed. Even so, Rothschild subsequently organized a collective to manage the two wineries in 1906 called, Carmel Mizrahi — and that entity dominated the Israeli wine industry through the 1980s.

Quality improved dramatically in the 1990s and early 2000s, especially with the rise of dozens of boutique and artisanal producers. Some produce fewer than 1,000 bottles, some more than 100,000 bottles. The challenge for small wineries is distribution, and various efforts are under way, including one by Carmel, to organize boutique producers and help them reach a wider market. The big producers, notably Carmel and Golan Heights Winery, dominate shelf space in the metropolitan Philadelphia region. In New York, selection is somewhat better.

The question now is the future, and where, given the competition, Israeli wine will go from here. Because it’s Israel, wine also faces political pressures, especially because some of Israel’s best wine-growing lands are in disputed areas, most notably the Golan Heights but also in the hills of Judea.

That aside, Rogov looks to the niche success of places such as Sicily and the Penedes region of Spain, which succeeded by appealing to wine drinkers in search of novel, high-quality wines, as examples Israeli winemakers should look to for guidance. As niche wines, Rogov writes, Israelis wines “will move off those shelves limited only to kosher holdings and begin to appear in a special Israeli section. Their appeal to the broader population will come form their unique qualities, reflecting their Mediterranean and specifically Israeli source…. Those that prove their excellence will find themselves in greater demand by both Jewish and non-Jewish audiences.”

“Rogov’s Guide to Israeli Wines” is available online at ” target=”_blank”>www.tobypress.com/rogov.

 

Perfect Gadgets for Jetsetter, Homebody


When it comes Chanukah, you’ve got eight nights to get your gift giving right. Our Gift Guide points you toward a cornucopia of categories for every evening of the Festival of Lights. From low- to high-ticket pricing, we’ve got your loved ones covered, including frequent fliers, adventurers, techies and homebodies of all ages. Last-minute shoppers never fear. With online and phone-in orders, you won’t have to battle holiday traffic.

Bon Voyage

Breathe right with the ionic 1.5 oz. Ultra-Mini Air Supply ($125). Bless your car with a compact version of “Baruch HaCar” ($20), the traveler’s prayer. Surprise your favorite road warrior with a collapsible flashing orange Pack-A-Cone ($25). And supply travelers with Eagle Creek’s astonishing Pack-It Compressors, Two-Sided Cube and other well-priced, smart ideas, such as the Flat Pack Organizer, Jewelry CarryAll and waterproof Splash Caddy ($10 and up). Magellans.com, (800) 962-4943.

Streamline laptop travel with an action-packed lightweight Vertical Computer bag ($85). Awesome convertibility, with a removable computer sleeve for quick getaways. REI.com, (800) 426-4840.

Retrieve luggage with the Victorinox’s astonishing Global Track I.D. Tag ($15). You lose it, they send it back — gratis. SonomaOutfitters.com, (800) 290-1920.

Lux

Cuddle up with a scrumptious F horseshoe head pillow ($25), Brookstone.com, (866) 576-7337.

Eshave’s rich shaving creams, in floral for her and cucumber for him, complement a his/her kit with pink and blue Lucite-handle razors ($195). The picture is complete with a T-shaped chrome stand. Plumparty.com, (800) 227-0314.

Top-of-the-line, foldable “noise canceling” stereo headphones are pricey. Save with NoiseBuster ($69) from Pro Tech Communications.com. Amazon.com (free shipping).

Brew full-bodied gourmet coffee or tea anywhere in the unbreakable, portable Bonjour French Press Carafe ($15). Add romance with a totally flat, packable plastic WonderVase (three for $15) that you mold under warm water. Or create ambiance with a flickering, battery-operated CandleSafe made of real wax ($25). Magellan’s.

Oprah loves a shimmery lime and powder blue silk throw ($100). Will you? PlumParty.com, (800) 227-0314.

Washable suede shirts, sweater jackets and “cashnear” knits are equally yummy ($89 and up). Travelsmith.com.

Techno

Save money and the planet with a Dual-Voltage Battery Recharger ($35). Complete with four AA NiMH batteries, this practical gift runs on both 110 or 220 volt current. Magellan’s.

Shape up with a digital pedometer ($30), loaded with a panic alarm and calorie counter. Or tune in with Orion’s AudioView AM/FM radio binoculars ($90). Travelsmith.

Navigate 20 reversible routes with a wrist-mounted GPS receiver/personal navigator from Garmin Foretrex ($130 to $170). In under three ounces, compute speed, track trips and calculate distances, all while telling time. REI.

Countdown

The flip-top, analog Dakota Mini Travel Clock ($35), features sleek stainless steel in a charming wooden box. Or keep time here and in Israel with easy-to-set dual-time tank style watches ($79 each) for him and her. Magellan’s.

Wake up to shortwave with Grundig’s ultra-compact Mini Radio ($40). Draws in seven bands of shortwave signals, plus AM, FM. With a digital clock, sleep timer and earphones, it’s good to go. Or indulge and download news, weather and calendar dates on the Suunto Web Watch ($299). Includes stopwatch, alarm and date. Subscribe to MSN Direct for stock quotes, sport scores and more. Travelsmith.

Call of the Wild

Prepare for all-weather winter adventure with outdoor gear. Add breathable warmth with soft, moisture-wicking Performance Wool separates ($95 and up). Fast drying and machine washable. Bundle up with 650-fill-power goose down jacket ($99) with a water-repellent, breathable finish that resists light moisture. Doubles as a zip-in liner for REI parkas and packs small for the space conscious. And hydrate with the REI Runoff Pack ($60 and up). The women’s version boasts super comfortable shoulder straps for women-specific contouring. REI.

The ultimate camping mat, the self-inflating Therm-A-Rest Dreamtime Sleeping Pad ($199) includes a cushy pillow top and washable fleece cover. Campmor.com, (800) 525-4784.

His

The classic calfskin Taxi Wallet ($49) or the Cash InCase key ring ($20) stash cash for all occasions. Magellan’s.

Gift gentlemen with the English Butler Shoe Shine kit ($80), includes a distinctive leather case. Delight amateur astronomers with the Night Navigator digital electronic compass ($99). And help Zayde fight off chills and spills with a stylish “Teflon” Stain-Free Cardigan ($99). Travelsmith.

The Gerber Nautilus Flashlight Tool ($69) packs a four-mode LED light with Fiskars scissors, a fine-blade knife, Phillips and flathead screwdrivers, with a bottle opener. REI. Or cut loose with Leatherman’s “high-wattage” Charger Ti multitool. It boasts interchangeable bits, perks galore and lightweight titanium handles. Cabelas.com, $100.

Hers

Classic equestrian-style boots ($160) combine comfort and fashion. Bornshoes.com. Or prep her for wet weather with a 100 percent waterproof, packable microfiber Balmacaan raincoat ($179), optional lightweight liner ($70) and plenty of rain-worthy boots ($89 and up). Travelsmith.

For the perfect shoulder bag on the road or at home, Hobo’s women-designed, microfiber Essential Traveler ($69) hides travel documents and organizes pens, travel guides and more. Attach a handsome leather phone tote ($25) that doubles as an eyeglass case. Magellan’s.

Wrap her in a cultural souvenir from the Himalayan region of Kashmir. This black merino wool shawl ($89) features colorful hand-embroidered flowers. ShopNationalGeographic.com, (800) 437-5521.

Kids

Wooly mammoths and saber-toothed cats, hornless rhinos and giant sloths hold court in NatGeo’s Prehistoric Mammals book ($30). Ages 8 and up.

Or explore the “Atlas of the World,” eighth edition ($125). Hard copy purchases include online access to customized maps, satellite imagery and downloadable updates. National Geographic.

Little ones beam in super-bright blue light with a tiny Microbeam flashlight keychain ($20). Brookstone.

A responsible teen ready for a pocketknife? A miniature Jewish version of Victronix’s “Star of David” model ($15) features a bright blue case and white Magen David. SwissArmyExpress.com, (877) 289-2769.

Little Robosapien ($100), a carefree “pet,” combines robot technology with personality. Command Robo with a remote or speech to fetch books and perform 65 other functions. Ages 6 and up. SharperImage.com, (800) 344-5555.

Lisa Alcalay Klug is a former staff writer for The Associated Press and the Los Angeles Times.

How-Tos by Jews


There’s something very American about a book that claims to be a “guide to life.” There’s also something very Jewish about it. From Ben Franklin to Henry David Thoreau, the goal of self-improvement has enjoyed a distinguished history in our country — and currently enjoys extensive floor space in your local Barnes & Noble. But in a culture that values the scholar above all, Judaism clearly trumps American culture in esteeming the know-it-all. Consider the title of kabbalist Michael Berg’s latest book: “Becoming Like God.” Lucky for us, two other Jewish writers set the bar a little lower this month — and also inflect their self-help books with a little fun.

Jane Buckingham’s “The Modern Girl’s Guide to Life” (Regan, $25.95) offers survival tips for the things your parents neglected to teach you, from throwing a killer dinner party, to dealing with impossible bosses, to changing a tire, to getting good credit. Undoubtedly, there are tricks every “modern girl” has mastered, but some, too, that she has not.

“It’s all the tips that I wish I had had when I was younger, when I was single and that I wish I didn’t have to go discover by myself,” said Buckingham, who cites her own incompetence as the inspiration for writing the book.

“I feel like so much of the lifestyle stuff that’s out there is sort of above our heads … or a little beyond our means. If I had three hours I could make a meal like Martha Stewart,” she said.

Stewart is one celebrity who did not contribute to Samantha Ettus’ “The Expert’s Guide to 100 Things Everyone Should Know How to Do” (Clarkson Potter, $19.95). But 100 others do. Rather than researching and writing the book in her own voice, like Buckingham did, Ettus gathered essays from experts on the subjects they know about. Larry King writes about “How to Listen,” Donald Trump discusses “How to Negotiate” and Bobbie Brown explains “How to Apply Lipstick.”

From Buckingham’s general overview of the big stuff we can’t manage, to Ettus’ guide to doing specific everyday things expertly — like sleep, or read the newspaper — the true Jewish overachiever will find room for both on her bookshelf.

Buckingham will sign her book on Nov. 18 at Barnes & Noble at The Grove.

Give Your Sukkah a Shot of Style


After the high of the High Holidays, twice-a-year Jews hang up their kippot for another 354 days, or so, and in the process miss out on the lesser-known treat of Sukkot. While not a "High" holiday anymore, Sukkot used to be one of the big three back in the time of the First Temple. The harvest festival was one of the shalosh regalim, or three pilgrimage holidays, when Jews would bring offerings to the Temple. While this ritual has changed, the main one — that of dwelling in a sukkah, or booth, as our ancestors did in the wilderness — remains. It’s a commandment from Leviticus — we’re required to eat our meals in the sukkah, to actually live in it as much as possible, for eight days.

Besides it being a mitzvah, the idea of living closer to the natural world for a period can have spiritual resonance. And with stars visible through the foliage of your roof, and endless possibilities for festooning your sukkah with lights, flowers and traditional fruits, bringing family and friends together for an elegant outdoor dinner party only adds to that. For those of us who are used to thinking of the sukkah as something that more resembles a hut with Hebrew school decorations thrown on the walls haphazardly, here we offer tips for what is decidedly not your momma’s sukkah — and it turns out, it only requires a little more planning to create.

Theme-ing the Cube

Deciding on one thematic element is the first step to creating a cohesive design for your sukkah, according to interior designer Miriam Montag, owner of Memphis Lily Interiors in Los Angeles.

Floral, fruit or harvest themes are all good choices, according to Montag. Last year, she said, she used plastic grapes.

"I draped the grapes … and clustered them down each pole and then linked them around the sukkah with vines," she said.

A friend of Montag’s chose a different unifying element: "She draped tulle from the center out, kind of like a tent feeling, and tulle draped down the sides," Montag said.

Rita Milos Brownstein, author of "Jewish Holiday Style" (Simon & Schuster, 1999) goes one step further. Her book offers suggestions for three very disparate sukkot: a "garden sukkah," a "sukkah by the sea" (which needn’t literally be seaside) and "the penthouse sukkah." From the materials she uses to build the sukkah, to the booth’s interior, each design is customized according to theme: lattice and pine and floral bounty for the garden variety, bamboo and canvas for the seaside sukkah and silvery beads and corrugated fiberglass for the penthouse.

"The biggest key is the more the better. You need to make it bold … and stick with one theme," Montag said.

Schach Talk

Impossible to pronounce, but essential to your sukkah is the schach, or roof covering. While the walls of your sukkah can be made of just about any material — the only directive is that they should be solid enough to inhibit the wind from blowing out a candle — the schach, by contrast, must be porous enough to be able to see the stars from inside the dwelling. It also must be made of items that grow from the ground, and cannot become tamei (ritually unclean), but can no longer be attached to the ground, either. Only organic materials may be used on the roof, which means no staples or nails.

Brownstein offers various suggestions depending on the theme. A roof of aromatic young pines or branches accented with bunches of dried herbs or hydrangeas is perfect for a garden feel, she writes. Roll-up mats, which are a traditional choice, "have a clean, uncluttered, almost Japanese-screen flavor," as is bamboo, which "gives your sukkah a rustic, island look," she writes.

Here in Los Angeles, palm fronds abound and are another attractive way to crown your sukkah, and Montag stresses that any of these choices work beautifully.

"It’s all preference, and what’s easiest…. Whatever it is, you have to work it into your theme and it’s you," she said.

Wall Flowering

Your walls, unlike your ceiling, are literally a blank canvas. Both Montag and Brownstein suggest splatter painting canvas walls for a kind of modern art look as one option — one the kids will no doubt want to help out with, as well.

Montag again stresses practicality as the essential guide in choosing the material for the walls of your sukkah, which can be the same material as your roof. (Jewish law only requires that there be between two and a half and four walls.)

Brownstein suggests various options for different effects. For a Japanese-inspired look, she writes, opaque fiberglass walls give "the look of shoji screens," while "clear plastic sheeting is inexpensive and gives your sukkah a greenhouse look."

Woven lattice is Brownstein’s choice for the garden-themed sukkah, with plastic sheets stapled to the outside of the walls to block the wind, and canvas or ripstop nylon for the "sukkah by the sea."

"If you use white nylon sides," she writes, "tie back your entrance flap for a look of casual elegance."

Decorations and Centerpieces: Be Fruitful and Multiply

Building on the theme through decorations is essential. For a harvest motif, Montag suggests placing wheat stocks on either side of entry, and then around the sukkah.

As many florists have taken to doing these days, Montag suggests incorporating fruit like grapes or pomegranates — which are two of the sheva minim (seven species of fruit associated with the land of Israel in the Bible) — with flowers, for distinctive centerpieces.

Hanging fruit and spice garlands, flanking your entryway with appropriate potted plants or flowers, or decking the ceiling with silvery beads are some of Brownstein’s suggestions for adding atmosphere.

Night Light

Lighting, of course, adds the final touch of ambiance. In some sukkot she’s visited, Montag said, "sometimes you have this ugly bulb," but "run twinkle lights all around the sukkah and you don’t even need other lights."

She also suggests Moroccan lanterns, which come in all shapes and sizes.

"You can get one big one, or you can do three" she said. "They’re fun to mix and hang at different heights. They’re not cheap, but it’s an investment you use in your sukkah forever."

Brownstein suggests a romantic candelabra, "taking care to use short votives that won’t place the flames too near the greenery," or seaside, Chinese bamboo lanterns inside and tiki torches outside as "a dramatic way to welcome your guests at night."

Kids Stuff

There is, of course the question of what to do about the children’s decorations. Montag is quick to emphasize that the kiddie art doesn’t have to be trashed to achieve a look of elegance.

"You should have your kids’ stuff hanging there. That’s the beauty of Sukkot," she said.

Of her mother’s sukkah, Montag said, "The whole thing is decorated with things that we made over the years," and added to avoid a messy, haphazard look, a unifying element once again does the trick. "You can run ribbon around. You can use gold ribbon … to hang all the same little decorative things."

Brownstein notes that with all of the decorations you make to hang in your sukkah, "most important, share the fun and creativity with the ones you cherish. These are the rituals that create the memories."

B’nai Mitzvah Planning Guide


At Birth

When the child is born, start saving! It’s not a bad idea to start two savings accounts; one for college and one for the bar or bat mitzvah.

One to three years ahead

  • Set the date.

  • Set a budget.

  • Reserve the synagogue.

  • Reserve the hall for additional receptions.

  • Arrange for caterer, party planner and band or DJ.

  • Buy a loose-leaf binder or start a filing system on index cards.

Ten to 12 months ahead

  • Begin b’nai mitzvah lessons.

  • (Continue to) attend weekly Shabbat services as a family.

  • Arrange for photographer and videographer.

  • Book hotel accommodations and investigate transportation for out-of-town guests.

Six months ahead

  • Plan colors and theme.

  • Arrange for florist and make guest list.

Four to five months ahead

  • Order invitations and thank-you notes, imprinted napkins and personalized party favors.

  • Shop for clothing and shoes.

  • Purchase a tallit and tefillin, if applicable.

  • Choose a calligrapher.

Three months ahead

  • Plan Sunday brunch, if applicable.

  • Order printed yarmulkes.

Two months ahead

  • Meet with photographer and videographer.

  • Meet with florist and/or decorations coordinator.

  • Mail out-of-town invitations.

Six weeks ahead

  • Order tuxedos.

  • Take care of clothing alterations.

  • Order wine for Kiddush.

  • Mail in-town invitations.

Four weeks ahead

  • Prepare speech.

  • Finalize reservations and transportation.

  • Meet with caterer.

  • Make welcome gifts for out-of-town guests.

  • Arrange aliyot.

  • Send honorary gift to synagogue.

  • Meet with rabbi.

  • Make seating charts for reception (and dinner).

Two weeks ahead

  • Give final count to caterer.

  • Check with florist.

  • Meet with rabbi.

  • Order cake, cookies and pastries for Friday night oneg Shabbat.

A few days ahead

  • Have rehearsal and take bimah photographs.

  • Make copies of speeches, room and table layouts, and give them to a friend to hold for you.

Special day

  • Enjoy your simcha!

Personal Liberation


How does one prepare for freedom?

One Jewish answer is found in the reading of the four special portions read along with the regular Torah portions in the weeks before Passover. This coming Shabbat, for example, not only do we read Torah portion Tetzaveh, but we also read three verses from Deuteronomy (25:17-19).

Each of these four special portions is known by a unique name. The four special readings are:

Shekalim, which means "shekels" or "weights," is where we read about the census of the Israelites conducted through each one giving a half shekel to the sanctuary (Exodus 30:11-16). We read Shekalim along with Torah portion Mishpatim on Feb. 21.

In Zachor, meaning "remember," we are bidden to remember what Amalek did to us when we left Egypt (Deuteronomy 25:17-19). We read Zachor on the Shabbat before Purim.

Parah, meaning "cow," is where we read of the purification ritual of the parah adumah, the red heifer, from Numbers 19:1-22. This year we read Parashat Parah on March 13 with Torah portion Ki Tissa.

In HaChodesh, meaning "the month" or "this month," we read of the actual Exodus from Egypt (Exodus 12:1-20) on March 20.

I have used these parshiyot as a guide to one aspect of a Jewish view of liberation. This Jewish idea of liberation starts with the notion that we do not seek individual salvation but communal redemption. It is often times in those relations with others, family, friends, community, that we find ourselves in the shackles of anger and disappointment, and it is in the realm of our connections to each other, and not only with God, that we ought seek redemptive lives.

On Shabbat Shekalim, we are counted in the community by giving one half shekel. Several notions are significant here. First, if we want to find liberation, we must connect with a community. Second, the act of connecting with a community is an act of generosity. Synagogues and other spiritual communities are often commodities that people consume; once a Hebrew school education has been consumed, for example, people often leave. From the perspective of Shekalim, we join by giving, not by taking, and the primary thing we give is generosity of spirit. We try to bless each other with our presence, not just meet our own needs. And when we slip, we bless each other through forgiveness and working through. We recall that we do not arrive whole; we give a half shekel to recall that we seek to complete ourselves in relation to others.

On Shabbat Zachor, we remember Amalek, the nemesis of Israel. In traditional literature, Amalek is usually figured as the enemy without — the haters of Israel. From the spiritual perspective, however, Amalek can be "the enemy within." (See Rabbi Elijah Schochet’s book by that name.) On this Shabbat we recall those many things that can destroy those spiritual communities, from the family on up, that we do join and create. We often find that anger, resentment, grudges, hurts and slights that we do not deal with in mature ways can fester and cause us to act destructively. We cannot find our way to liberation if we do not combat our own Amalek-like behaviors.

On Shabbat Parah we learn of the purification rituals regarding one who has come into contact with the dead. From the point of view of liberation, we learn that we cannot find true spiritual liberation if we do not allow certain parts of us to die. In the Chasidic tradition, this "death of ego" is sometimes referred as bitual ha-anochi, the effacement of the self. It is ego-self that can stand between us and the experience of the divine. It is usually the ego- self that often stands in the way of forgiveness, empathy, understanding, patience and mindfulness. If we want liberation, we must be willing to let go of destructive aspects of the ego, and be purified of aspects of the self that enslave us.

On Shabbat HaChodesh, we find that the time to move is now. We often move ever so slowly in our work with ourselves and others. The night of the Exodus tells that the time to move is now — the freedom train is leaving the station and baggage limit is strict. We hold on to our excess baggage from inertia, from laziness. Those less-than-noble thoughts, emotions and behaviors do not become us. We can let them go, and lovingly encourage others to let theirs go as well.

Liberation and redemption have many forms. I’ve touched on only one scheme here. I know from my work and work with others that sometimes the greatest redemption we can achieve is with other people. And the time to work is now.


Rabbi Mordecai Finley is rabbi of Ohr HaTorah congregation and provost of the Academy for Jewish Religion, California campus.

Freewheeling Around D.C.


When Stephen Marks and his wife, Janna, acquired Bike the Sites in December 2002, they didn’t realize how their two-wheeled tours of Washington, D.C., would translate to a Jewish audience.

“We put together some talking points to generate discussion and thought from a Jewish perspective at the different sites,” says Stephen, who took over the company from its founder, Gary Oelsner, who began offering professionally guided bicycle tours and rentals in 1995.

The Markses, recreational bikers until purchasing the company, also started providing customized programs for Jewish organizations such as B’nai B’rith, Jewish camps, federations and synagogue groups.

Bike the Sites, a smart solution to the challenges of sightseeing in heavily trafficked D.C., allows visitors to enjoy Washington’s history and architecture in an environmentally friendly way. It is among a handful of unique ways to explore the capital and enjoy local Jewish culture, kosher restaurants and community resources.

On a trip to Washington in 2003, a friend and I opted for the Marks’ Sites@Nite tour — a warm-weather option. March 1 through Dec. 30, the Bike the Sites menu features its flagship outing, the Capital Sites Tour, an easy three-hour ride around the National Mall and the Potomac’s Tidal Basin. Guides share the scoop on more than 50 of the nation’s most popular attractions, including the presidential monuments, as well as a few lesser-known sites that may have more meaning to Jewish visitors, such as the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum and the Einstein Memorial.

After adjusting our seat height on our 21-speed comfort mountain bike (a more upright ride and a larger seat) and helmets, we began our tour with a brief orientation on safety tips and hand signals from a CPR-trained guide. We took off from the Bike the Sites headquarters at the Old Post Office Pavilion (near the offices of the Internal Revenue Service) and rode on the sidewalk up busy 12th Street to the Mall.

In a picture-postcard setting, we rode past locals playing ball on the green open spaces in the shadow of landmarks. We cruised toward the Smithsonian Castle on a level, gravel path toward a number of top-billing destinations: the National Gallery and Sculpture Garden, National Archives, Air and Space Museum and the future American Indian Museum, which is slated to debut in September 2004.

From time to time, our energetic guide Mark, who earned a bachelor’s degree in American history at George Washington University in D.C., would roll to a stop and tell us more about our capital.

As we looked on at the Capitol building and munched on kosher Clif Bars (provided gratis for hungry guests), we learned how President Abraham Lincoln ordered tons of iron to be used for the construction of the Capitol dome — a message of strength and determination to the rest of the world that the North would win the Civil War.

Pedaling onward, we noted the increased security around the majestic Washington Monument and the White House. At the Vietnam Memorial, Mark told us an Israeli visitor pointed out that the soldiers on a statue that looks on at the poignant wall of victims’ names are equipped with authentic models of the M-16 rifle.

At the Einstein Memorial, we took a water break and marveled at the beautiful execution of this memorial to the 20th century’s most legendary scientist. A larger-than-life statue combines Einstein’s thoughtful gaze with the body of a child to evoke his childlike wonder of the world and his unique ability to see it anew.

At the foot of the statue, a fascinating star map depicts the skies on the night of what would have been his 100th birthday. As you stand in the apex of converging rays and say a few words to Einstein, you hear yourself speaking to him in the most perfect echo. It’s a whole new theory on relativity.

Bike the Sites is at 1100 Pennsylvania Ave., NW, behind the Old Post Office Pavilion in the historic Penn Quarter. Prices for the Capitol Sites Tour are $40 for adults and $30 for children under 13. The fee includes the use of bikes and helmets, professional tour guides, bottled water and snacks.

Summertime Beat the Heat trips and customized tours for
Jewish groups are also available. All groups of riders receive a 15 percent
discount for a post-bike ride meal at Stacks, a nearby kosher delicatessen.
Bike, tandem, trailer tandem, burley (a buggy that attaches to bikes for young
children) and stroller rentals are also available. For group reservations, call
(202) 842-BIKE; e-mail, Stephen@bikethesites.com; or visit,

A Desert High in Palm Springs


While nearby flatlands warm under perfect 60-degree winter weather, the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway transports visitors to a pristine snow-covered forest. In just 10 minutes, this aerial tram carries passengers nearly 6,000 feet. The beautiful 14,000 acres of Mount San Jacinto State Park and Wilderness area are among the most visit-worthy in this heavily tourist destination.

As you ride in the world’s largest rotating cars of the Aerial Tramway, the flora and fauna include everything one would see driving from the hot Sonora Desert of Mexico to the Transitional (alpine) Zone of Alaska. The highlights read like entries from a naturalist guide. From the main road nearest the tram, Highway 111, to the tram station, this green cienega, or Spanish marsh, nurtures cottonwood, sycamore, wild grape, mesquite and native Washingtonia filifera palm trees. Barrel cactus, cholla, prickly pear and yucca grow amid springtime wildflowers, including lupine, Canterbury bells and sunflowers.

Desert bighorn sheep, kit and gray foxes, bobcats, coyotes and ringtail raccoons also make their home here. As the tram climbs, wild apricot trees stand amid metamorphic rock, gneisses and schists. Deer and mountain lion roam among chaparral. And as the elevation rises, evergreens, firs and oaks thin as the peak approaches.

At the top of the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, there are a host of trails — including a three-quarters of a mile loop through picturesque Long Valley, just behind the Mountain Station that introduces visitors to regional plants and animals. A much longer path, at 5.5 miles, leads to the peak of Mount San Jacinto, the second-tallest mountain in Southern California at 10,834 feet.

The ideal tram departure time is just before sunset. The reversible 80-passenger cars revolve slowly from within, making two rotations and offering spectacular views. One popular option: capping off the day with a drink in the Top of the Tram Restaurant and the Elevations Restaurant while admiring the city lights below.

Erected in 1963, nearly 30 years after its inception, the tramway was named an engineering “wonder of the world” for its ingenious use of helicopters in erecting four of five support towers; 23,000 flight missions were required to carry workers, supplies and materials for the towers and the Mountain Station.

During the summer, the mercury reaches well into the 100s in Palm Springs, but the mountain offers more than 54 miles of hiking trails, camping and guided nature walks, at almost 40 degrees cooler.

Another day, my father and I opted to hike closer to sea level at nearby Palm Canyons. This ancient home of the band of Cahuilla (Agua Caliente) Indians boasts palms that are 200 years old, many of them with the natural foliage skirts that are removed on commercial palms. These layers of dried branches encircle the trunk-like structure of these trees, which technically are massive grasses rather than trees.

We learned these facts and more by joining a guided tour with Rocky, a native Hawaiian who turned tribal ranger after serving 20 years in the Marine Corps and 10 volunteering with the San Bernadino Police Department as a rescue tracker. His desert survival skills make him a perfect guide. Rocky showed us all the edibles and how the native peoples prepared acorns, made their homes and harvested the sweet date palm fruit growing high overhead.

We wandered amid giant palms, verdant grasses and a warm, picturesque creek that smelled of sulfur due to a high mineral content. Rocky pointed out one tiny, creek-side impression where a native family would have once ground their acorns (five such mini-ditches appear in rocks throughout the canyon).

In contrast to our inspiring, mellow days of hiking, one evening we attended the raucous “Palm Springs Follies,” a Rockette-style music and dance of the 1930s and ’40s with performers old enough to have lived it. Amazingly youthful seniors age 56 to 86 strut their stuff in between international vaudeville acts from November through May.

Jewish impresario Riff Markowitz, a former television producer, serves as emcee for this three-hour extravaganza, leading the audience through a show peppered with Jewish jokes — even a few relating to travel.

At one point he turned his attention to the holiday of Thanksgiving, saying no Jews were aboard the Mayflower.

“Do you know why?” he asked. “There were no first-class seats.”

The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway is located at One Tramway
Road. The cost is about $20. Tramcars depart every half hour from 10 a.m. to 8
p.m. For more information, call (888) 515-TRAM or visit “>www.psfollies.com .

Navigating Aid


By the time she reached the third grade, Aliza Sokolow’s teachers could plainly see that she was a bright, articulate child. But something was interfering with her learning. It took seven more years — until her sophomore year in high school — before Sokolow was finally diagnosed with a learning disability and given some strategies to cope with it.

Once the nature of her problem was clear, however, Sokolow exhibited her trademark determination, working tirelessly with an educational therapist to gain new skills and relearn old ones. After a year and a half of intensive effort, she said, "I have learned how to study efficiently and which study environments are best for me."

Sokolow was loath to draw attention to herself, but she agreed to follow certain recommendations, such as having extended time for test taking, to compensate for her learning disability.

Now a successful senior at Milken Community High School, Sokolow is the executive editor of her school’s newspaper, sits on the student government’s executive board and student judiciary and is a competitive swimmer. This summer, she participated in a journalism program at Columbia University.

So when she started thinking about college, Sokolow naturally wanted to know what kind of programs existed for students with challenges like hers. College and universities are prevented by law from discriminating against applicants with physical disabilities, such as an inability to walk, see or hear. Nor can they discriminate against candidates with learning disabilities or conditions like ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder). But the degree to which the latter category of students are accommodated can vary greatly.

Last January, Sokolow attended a college conference that featured a session for students with disabilities. Students were querying one representative from a prestigious private school about his institution’s program, but he couldn’t answer their questions.

"He didn’t know anything," Sokolow said. "It was a rude awakening."

She decided to do her own research, scouring Web sites of institutions around the country to see what types of programs they offered to students with physical or learning disabilities. Many of the applicable sections were under construction or buried deep within the Web site. "I found it fascinating that the disability departments at some schools made the disability sites difficult to find, thus making the disabled more disabled," she said.

Books were even less help than the Internet, as their information grew quickly outdated.

Sokolow realized that if she was having difficulty accessing this information, other students surely were as well. Since she had already done so much research, she decided to create a Web resource guide that could help other students. The guide would contain a comprehensive listing of colleges with direct links to the disability sections of their Web sites.

"People of my generation are always on the Internet, and also things can be updated a lot faster. So students would be able to use this resource very easily," she said.

Hundreds of hours later, and with the help of the Technology Department at Milken, Sokolow produced the "College Guide to Learning Disability Programs," a CD-ROM featuring links to disability programs at community colleges and universities throughout the country. With sites ranging from Abilene Christian University to Youngstown State University, the CD-ROM contains more than 1,600 links.

The nature of the programs listed varies. UCLA, for example, has an Office for Students with Disabilities, and offers such services as note taking, taping, providing sign language interpreters, adjusting time allowed for exams or giving priority registration for those students who qualify. At the University of Arizona in Tuscon, the Strategic Alternative Learning Techniques (SALT) Center is dedicated specifically to students with learning and attention challenges.

"I just really want to get this resource out there because I realized there were a lot of students who were in the same position as I was when I went to that conference, and students with disabilities really do have a lot of resources out there," Sokolow said. (This year, Sokolow will be a speaker at the conference.)

Students aren’t the only ones to find the CD-ROM helpful.

"This product really streamlines the process of getting information [about disability programs], which can be cumbersome," said Vicky DeFelice, partner at DeFelice & Geller, an educational consulting firm in Westwood. "It’s useful for students, but also for counselors, independent consultants like me or anyone who needs to look up this kind of information."

"It doesn’t really matter where you go to college or what you study," Sokolow said, taking a philosophical view of her project. "If you’re a mencsh and an ish tzedek [a righteous person] and a good person, you can do great things no matter where you go to school. But if there are great programs out there that can help you, more power to them."

The "College Guide to Learning Disability Programs 2004" is available at Amazon.com for $24.95.

Eleven Things to Know Before You Go


Congratulations! You have been invited to the bar/bat mitzvah of a friend or family member. Now what? What are you supposed to do there? How do you act? Whether you are Jewish or not, the following is a brief guide to help you feel more comfortable at the worship service and enjoy the events as they unfold. It includes appropriate synagogue behavior, major sections of the service, the synagogue environment and service participants. Because customs vary from community to community, please contact the host family for further clarification.

General expectations for synagogue behavior include:

1. Dress

Guests at a bar/bat mitzvah celebration generally wear dressy clothes — for men, either a suit or slacks, tie and jacket; for women, a dress or formal pantsuit (depending on the congregation where the ceremony takes place). In more traditional communities, clothing tends to be dressier.

2. Arrival Time

The time listed on the invitation is usually the official starting time for the weekly Shabbat service. Family and invited guests try to arrive at the beginning, even though the bar/bat mitzvah activities occur somewhat later in the service. However, both guests and regular congregants often arrive late, well after services have begun.

3. Wearing a Prayer Shawl

The tallit (prayer shawl) is traditionally worn by Jewish males and, in liberal congregations, by Jewish females. Because the braided fringes at the four corners of the tallit remind its wearer to observe the commandments of Judaism, wearing a tallit is reserved for Jews. Although an usher may offer you a tallit at the door, you may decline it if you are not Jewish or are simply uncomfortable wearing such a garment.

4. Wearing a Head Covering

A kippah (head covering) is traditionally worn by males during the service and also by females in more liberal synagogues. Wearing a kippah is not a symbol of religious identification like the tallit, but is rather an act of respect to God and the sacredness of the worship space. Just as men and women may be asked to remove their hats in the church, or remove their shoes before entering a mosque, wearing a head covering is a nondenominational act of showing respect. In some synagogues, women might wear hats or a lace head covering.

5. Maintaining Sanctity

All guests and participants are expected to respect the sanctity of the prayer service and Shabbat by setting your cell phone or beeper to vibrate or turning it off, not taking pictures, not smoking in the synagogue or on the grounds and not writing or recording.

6. Sitting and Standing

Jewish services can be very athletic, filled with frequent directions to stand for particular prayers and sit for others. Take your cue from the other worshipers or the rabbi’s instructions. Unlike kneeling in a Catholic worship service — which is a unique prayer posture filled with religious significance — standing and sitting in a Jewish service does not constitute any affirmation of religious belief; it is merely a sign of respect. There may also be instructions to bow at certain parts of the service, and because a bow or prostration is a religiously significant act, feel free to remain standing or sitting as you wish at that point.

7. The Service: Try to follow the service in the siddur (prayerbook) and the Chumash (Five Books of Moses), both of which are usually printed in Hebrew and English. Guests and congregants are encouraged to hum along during congregational melodies and to participate in the service to the extent that they feel comfortable. During the Torah service (described below), the entire congregation is encouraged to follow the reading of the weekly Torah portion in English or Hebrew.

Major sections of the Shabbat morning service include:

8. The “Shema”

“Hear O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is One.” This passage from the Book of Deuteronomy and the three passages that follow constitute a central part of each morning and evening Jewish prayer service. Probably the most important single sentence in the liturgy, the “Shema” is not a prayer but rather an affirmation of the unity of God.

9. The “Amidah”

“Standing Prayer.” The “Amidah,” a series of prayers recited while standing in silent meditation, is the major liturgical piece of every synagogue service throughout the year. On a weekday, the “Amidah” contains prayers for the physical and spiritual well-being of the one praying as well as of the entire community of the people of Israel; on Shabbat we praise God for the joy of the Shabbat and the rest that we enjoy. It is perfectly acceptable and even desirable that people recite the “Amidah” in English, and worshipers are also encouraged to pray from their hearts if the printed words do not speak to them.

10. The Torah Service

Following the “Shema” and the “Amidah” is a transition from prayer to study. The primary study text is from the Pentateuch, or Five Books of Moses. This text has been written on the parchment of the Torah scrolls by a specially trained scribe.

The Torah is divided into — and read in — weekly portions, according to a prescribed calendar, so that the entire Torah is read in the span of one year. The cover and accouterments of the Torah scrolls recall the priestly garb of ancient Temple times.

Usually the rabbi, and sometimes the bar/bat mitzvah child or another congregant, delivers a d’var Torah, a word of Torah, that comments on the weekly Torah reading.

Once the Torah reading is over, another person — usually the bar/bat mitzvah child — chants a portion from the prophetic writings of the Torah. The haftarah (concluding teaching), is usually chosen to reflect a theme or literary allusion in the Torah portion. The purpose of the haftarah is not only to provide an opportunity to teach from a different section of the Bible, but also to assert that prophecy serves to reinforce the laws of the Torah.

11. Mourner’s “Kaddish”

Although there is no mention of death in this prayer, the “Kaddish” is recited at the end of all worship services by family members who have lost a loved one in the past year or who are observing the anniversary of a death in years past. Despite sorrow and pain, the mourner rises to declare continuing commitment in praising God’s name, to which we all respond, “Amen.”

Reprinted from

Balance With ‘One Foot’


Has a question or statement about Israel ever caught you so off guard and tongue-tied that you wished you could just reach into your back pocket to pull out an answer? Well, now you can.

Dr. Mitchell G. Bard, author and executive director of the American-Israel Cooperative Enterprise, has written a pocket-size guide to the Middle East.

Titled "On One Foot," the resource is the brainchild of Los Angeles movie producer Tom Barad, who contacted Bard after observing the extreme anti-Israel sentiment last year on his son’s campus, UC Berkeley, and his niece’s campus, University of Colorado.

"I knew that kids were leaning on bars at parties and sitting in their dorm rooms and hearing people make claims and accuse Israel of certain misdeeds that they were completely unprepared to defend," Barad said. "I had a concept of a product they could pull out of their pocket at a moment’s notice and have three simple responses."

"On One Foot" is a more concise version of Bard’s previous book "Myths and Facts: A Guide to the Arab-Israeli Conflict." Divided into eight sections, such as "Refugees," "Human Rights" and "Disputed Territories and Settlements," it includes various "myths" about the conflict, followed by his succinct factual and historical responses that dispute the myths.

Additionally, each section is introduced by a biblical passage — an element that Barad felt was an essential addition to the text.

"I felt it was important that at least laced into ‘On One Foot’ there would be something that would touch our tradition … a continued expression about why we’re in this struggle to begin with," Barad said. "How can you deal with your relationship to Israel if you’re completely ignoring your relationship to your religious heritage?"

The book’s title, "On One Foot," refers to the talmudic story of Hillel the Elder who is confronted by a man demanding to learn Torah. He wants the knowledge fast and demands to have it "while standing on one foot." Hillel responds, "What is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow man. This is the entire Torah, all of it; the rest is commentary."

Bard further explains in the introduction of the book: "In our hyperspeed world, we, too, need to get some fast learning, often while we are on one foot, struggling for balance, seeking the truth."

Due to its brief nature, Bard recommends that "On One Foot" should be read as a reference guide. "It’s not necessarily the final word, but at least it is a brief word on the topic," Bard said. "I encourage everyone to do more in-depth research."

To order a copy of "On One Foot" ($10), call (310) 364-0909 or e-mail ononefoot@earthlink.net. Discounts are available for bulk orders and for organizations.

BJE Selects ‘Leaf’ for Reading Initiative


Assimilation. How Jewish children should best be educated. Oppression against Jews and the Jewish State. Whether faith can provide meaningful answers.

Those topics lead to unexpected plot turns in “As a Driven Leaf,” a historical novel selected by Orange County’s Bureau of Jewish Education (BJE) for “To Read as One,” its first communitywide reading initiative, which began last month.

Written by Milton Steinberg, the book is based on a historical character, a renegade rabbi who lived during the Roman conquest of Judea and was excommunicated. The novel provides a context both historical and cultural for many dilemmas confronting contemporary Jews, said Howard Mirowitz, of Newport Beach, the BJE’s treasurer.

“It makes us realize where our own reactions are coming from,” said Mirowitz, who with his wife, Ellen, co-chaired a group that organized “Driven Leaf”-themed events. “To Read as One” aimed to reach a segment of the Jewish population that is unaffiliated, Mirowitz said.

“If nothing else, they read a book that’s really worth reading,” he added.

The age-old conflict between contemporary standards and
tradition that confront the book’s characters will be discussed by Rabbi Claudio
Kaiser-Bleuth in a final “To Read as One” event, May 4, 10:30 a.m. at Tustin’s
Congregation B’nai Israel. A study guide for the book is posted online at www.bjeoc.org.

Assembly Yiddish


For the benefit of the 90 percent of Assembly-members who are not Jewish, and for other Yiddish-challenged lawmakers, Assembly Speaker Robert Hertzberg (D-Van Nuys) has published a 36-page booklet, appropriately titled "Yiddish for Assemblymembers."

It contains a selection of words drawn from the mameloshen, with examples of their use in the legislative process, as well as a brief guide to Jewish holidays.

Hertzberg succinctly explained the purpose of the literary effort in a press release. "I want to make sure members don’t get farblondjet when us alte kahkers of the Assembly make a megillah about our bills," Hertzberg wrote. (A sanitized translation would read: "I want to make sure members don’t get mixed up when us fussy old guys make a long story about our bills.")

Hertzberg told The Journal that he owed his own Yiddish vocabulary to his maternal and paternal grandparents, who came to America from Latvia and Odessa. He said that he had received numerous thank-you notes from fellow legislators, who can finally figure out what the speaker is talking about and have begun using selections from the vocabulary in their own speeches.

Another enthusiastic reader has been ex-vice presidential candidate Sen. Joseph Lieberman, who has been known to drop a Yiddish exclamation here and there to good effect.

Here are a couple of excerpts from the booklet.

Klutz: Clumsy person.

Example: I’m such a klutz; I smashed my finger when I banged the gavel for order.

Mitzvah: commandment; a meritorious act.

Example: You did a mitzvah when you passed the family health insurance bill.

Hertzberg credited his assistant Barbara Creme and community activist Jonathan Zasloff for much of the research on the publication, which was funded with campaign, not public, money.

While Hertzberg’s booklet signals the advance of Yiddish in the legislative branch, its increasing use in the judiciary was noted some years back in the August Yale Law Review in an article titled "Lawsuit, Shmawsuit."

The authors, Judge Alex Kozinski of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals and UCLA law professor Eugene Volokh, noted, for example, the growing use of the word "chutzpah" in legal pleadings and opinions.

"There are two possible explanations for this," state the authors. "One is that during recent years there has been a dramatic increase in the actual amount of chutzpah in the United States — or at least in the U.S. legal system.

This explanation seems possible, but unlikely.

"The more likely explanation is that Yiddish is quickly supplanting Latin as the spice in American legal argot," they add.

Kozinski and Volokh append an illustration of chutzpah:

"A man goes to a lawyer and asks, ‘How much do you charge for legal advice?’

‘A thousand dollars for three questions.’

‘Wow! Isn’t that kind of expensive?’

‘Yes, it is. What was your third question?’"

With the legislative and judicial branches thus increasingly attuned to Yiddish, it remains for the executive arm to weigh in. In a hopeful sign, Hertzberg reports that he gave a copy of his booklet to Gov. Gray Davis, who shortly thereafter declared publicly that he needed the state’s energy crisis like a "loch in kop" (a hole in the head).

Eating and Praying Near Downtown


Where to Pray

There are no established synagogues serving the immediate downtown area, but among the major movements, the shuls closest to Staples Center are:

ReformWilshire Boulevard Temple 3663 Wilshire Blvd.Los Angeles, CA 90010Phone: (213) 388-2401(Large and grand, built during and for the era of movie palaces)

Beth Chayim Chadashim6000 W. Pico Blvd.Los Angeles, CA 90035Phone: (323) 931-7023(Small and haimish, with an outreach to the gay and lesbian community)

ConservativeTemple Beth Am1039 S. La Cienega Blvd.Los Angeles, CA 90035Phone: (310) 652-7353(Offers daily morning and evening minyans, plus multiple Shabbat services)

OrthodoxA large concentration of Orthodox shuls not far from downtown Los Angeles is in an area radiating from the intersection of La Brea Avenue and Beverly Boulevard. To find a congenial Orthodox worship service, start with these organizations:

Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations: (310) 777-0225Chabad Lubavitch West Coast headquarters: (310) 208-7511

Where to Eat

Kosher Restaurants

The Persian, Moroccan and Tunisian Jewish influx into the garment industry has given rise to a crop of good kosher meat restaurants in the downtown area. Most of these places close on weekends, so call ahead for precise hours. There are numerous kosher restaurants about 15-20 minutes west of downtown on Pico Blvd. between La Cienega and Doheny and on Fairfax between Beverly Blvd. and Melrose Avenue. Check www.jewishjournal.com for listings.

Afshan Restaurant306 E. 9th St.Los Angeles, CA 90015(213) 622-1010

Classic Restaurant108 E. 8th St.Los Angeles, CA 90014(213) 623-6234

Cohen Restaurant316 E. Pico Blvd.Los Angeles, CA 90015(213) 742-8888

Pasha Café112 W. 9th St.Los Angeles, CA 90015(213) 622-7578

Sharon’s II306 E. 9th St.Los Angeles, CA 90015(213) 622-1010

Solomon’s Place934 S. Los Angeles St.Los Angeles, CA 90015(213) 623-0094

And while downtown, don’t neglect Langer’s Deli at Alvarado and 7th, home to what many consider the best (non-kosher) pastrami sandwich in America, or Brooklyn Bagel at 2217 W. Beverly Blvd. near Alvarado for some of LA’s best bagels.

A Teacher’s Guide to Parents


What do Jewish educators think about Jewishparents? To get the inside scoop, I turned to “Jewish Parents: ATeacher’s Guide.” It’s a recent co-venture by Joel Grishaver and Dr.Ron Wolfson, both veteran teachers and observers of the Jewisheducational scene. The irrepressible Grishaver, who publisheshundreds of books through his Torah Aura Productions, has designed achatty little volume that made me feel I was eavesdropping onconversations in the faculty lounge. Though most of the text is byGrishaver with contributions by Wolfson, the book is chockful ofinput (lesson plans, suggestions, e-mailed quibbles) from scores ofteachers nationwide who’ve played a part in its development.

The starting point is the assumption thateducators and parents need to join forces to achieve their mutualgoal of imparting Jewish knowledge to the younger generation. AsGrishaver tells his readers, “You may not be Mr. Chips, the world’smost beloved teacher. They may not be Tevye and Golda, quintessentialauthentic parents, oozing Judaism with every step. But, you need eachother. This book is a guide to finding that cooperation andunderstanding.”

Grishaver makes clear that good parent-teachercollaboration does not come about automatically. In fact, manyreligious school and day school teachers dread their encounters withthe parents of their pupils. In an opening chapter entitled “ParentsAre Not the Enemy,” Grishaver carefully explains why Jewish parentscan be so prickly in one-on-one sessions with their child’s teacher.Their attitude stems largely from their own ambivalence about thevalue of Jewish education.

On the one hand, parents demand a lot from theirchild’s Jewish studies. In an increasingly complicated world, they’relooking to Judaism to provide what Grishaver calls “a shared bond, afamily process — A RITUAL — which against all the odds, can holdtheir family together and give their children the stability neededtobuild a good life.” On the other hand, parents themselves are oftenproducts of a hit-or-miss Jewish education that stopped abruptly atage 13. (“When it comes totheir Jewishness, most Jewish adults arestill teenagers — and just barely teenagers at that.”) Thisexperience has left them with memories of dreary classrooms, and hasinstilled in them a bitter sense of their own religious inadequacies.Parents want their children to be proudly Jewish, and they hope thatJudaism will magically help their kids steer clear of life’spitfalls. But these adults — so frequently overachievers in theirprofessional lives — remain defensive about their own lack ofsuccess as educated Jews.

Still, even the most ambivalent parent who sendshis or her child to religious school has made a commitment that ahuge number of Jewish parents no longer choose to make. (Someresearchers believe that less than 50 percent of today’s Jewish kidsreceive any substantive Jewish education at all.) Grishaver andcompany argue that the trick is to involve the parent in the child’seducation in a positive, unthreatening way that increases theparent’s own body of Jewish knowledge. The book’s epigraph comes fromMordecai Kaplan: “To educate the child without educating andinvolving the parents and the entire family can be compared toheating a house while leaving the window open.”

But teachers who try reaching out to parentsthrough family education days and family homework assignments shouldrecognize there are pitfalls that must be avoided. It’s never safe toassume that a child’s mom and dad are married to one another, northat both partners in a marriage are Jewish. Parents may not readHebrew; they may be in the dark about even the most commonplaceJewish rituals. Though there’s much to be gained by bringing parentsand children together for a special learning experience, it’s wise toavoid educational games that are highly competitive in nature. One ofGrishaver’s collaborators, educator Sharon Halper, bluntly warnsteachers to “be careful with competition. Parents do not needdemonstrations of what they do not know!”

Given all this, it’s remarkable that more teachersdon’t throw in the towel. Yet some of the best minds in Jewishcommunities across the nation have dedicated themselves to makingJewish education work. This book is filled with innovative ideasabout how to go beyond “shabbat-in-a-sack” and the standardmodel-seder where the kids perform and the parents watch. It’s clearthat the educators cited by Grishaver feel deeply about theimportance of what they’re doing. The extent to which they care andthe energy they put into developing new approaches may come as asurprise to parents, who tend to regard religious school instructorsas well-meaning but basically ill-equipped amateurs.

Ron Wolfson tells me this little book has been abest seller among educators. He and Grishaver are discussing acompanion volume, a work intended for Jewish parents that gives thelowdown on Jewish teachers. The theme? How to get the best out ofyour child’s Jewish education. Until that book sees print, parentswho seek a better understanding of their children’s teachers — andof themselves — will find much to ponder in “Jewish Parents: ATeacher’s Guide.” If nothing else, it will help them regard Jewisheducators with new respect.

Since I began writing this column, I have beenimpressed with the number of experimental programs being launched inour local Jewish classrooms. The Journal would like to spotlight someof these exciting new programs. Schools that are moving beyondbusiness-as-usual are welcome to contact me with news of theirspecial events. Mailings should be sent to me in care of the Journal;I can also be reached via e-mail at bc027@lafn.org.

Beverly Gray writes about education from SantaMonica.

All rights reserved by author.