Delijanis put historic theater district back in the spotlight


The classic Los Angeles Theater at Broadway and Sixth Street is not much to look at from the outside—situated alongside a host of busy retail shops, its sidewalk is lined with street vendors selling toys and trinkets. But upon entering the theater’s French Baroque-style lobby, with its 50-foot ceiling, grand staircase, plush red carpet, detailed fresco paintings, ornate marble fountain and crystal chandeliers, one is immediately transported to a bygone era of opulent, glamorous movie palaces.

Yet the newly renovated 2,000-seat Los Angeles Theater has come a long way after falling into disrepair over the decades and facing near demolition by its previous owner nearly 25 years ago. Luckily, the theater was saved from the wrecking ball in the early 1980s after former Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley asked the late Iranian-Jewish real estate magnate and philanthropist Ezat Delijani to purchase the historic property. Since then, Delijani’s Delson Investment Co. has gradually poured millions of dollars into renovating the Los Angeles Theater as well as purchasing and renovating three other historic movie houses—the Palace, Tower and State theaters—in downtown Los Angeles’ historic Broadway Theater District, the largest concentration of movie palaces left in the United States.

“My dad was always very grateful to this country for taking us in and giving him the opportunity to rebuild,” said Shahram Delijani, Ezat Delijani’s youngest son. “So, for him it was of the utmost importance to give back. The preservation of the Los Angeles Theater and our other theaters was one way in which he did.”

The Delijani family, which is private and typically avoids media attention, offered The Journal a rare and exclusive tour of the remarkable renovations they made to return the historic sites to their former glory.

“My dad knowingly and willingly made a great financial sacrifice purchasing, holding and preserving these theaters,” Shahram Delijani said. “He had the vision that these historic monuments would once again be used for something special, and we are seeing his vision coming to life with the transformation of Broadway.”

The Delijanis have also been actively involved in Los Angeles City Council member José Huizar’s Bringing Back Broadway, a public-private initiative focused on revitalizing the historic Broadway district, located between Second Street and Olympic Boulevard, by 2018. At the same time, Ezat Delijani’s eldest son, Michael Delijani, along with other local properties owners, helped found the Historic Downtown Business Improvement District (BID) to fund street cleaning and increase security patrols in the Broadway Theater District, which features 12 movie palaces.

Since the Delijanis’ acquisition of the four theaters, the family has used them sparingly in an effort to maintain their prestige and beauty. In addition to permitting major television or film productions, including “Chaplin,” “Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle,” “Cinderella Man” and “CSI: NY,” to use the sites, the family has also allowed select nonprofit organizations, such as the Friends of the Israel Defense Forces, to host its events at the Los Angeles Theater.

Designed by Jewish architect S. Charles Lee (born Simeon Charles Levi) and built for independent theater operator H.L. Gumbiner in late 1930 and early 1931 at a cost of more than $1 million, the Los Angeles Theater was the most expensive and elaborate movie palace built at that time. When a lack of funds threatened construction, silent-film star Charlie Chaplin stepped in to provide the funding necessary to complete the theater in time for the January 1931 premiere of his film “City Lights.”

Three months after the theater’s opening Gumbiner declared bankruptcy, and the courts eventually transferred ownership of the theater to Fox Film Studios executive William Fox, who owned the land on which the Los Angeles Theater was built. After 50 years, the Fox family trust sold the historic building to Delijani’s Delson Investment Co.

The Palace Theater. Photo by Gary Leonard

The nearby 1,000-plus seat Palace Theater, also owned by the Delijanis, was built in 1911 as a vaudeville venue hosting famous performers, many of whom were Jewish, among them Harry Houdini and Sarah Bernhardt. Late last year, Delson Investment completed a $1 million renovation of the Palace Theater to bring the property back to its past glory. Restorations were made to the lighting fixtures, seating, massive wall murals, moldings, original tiles, carpets and wall coverings, Shahram Delijani said.

While final renovations to the Los Angeles and Palace theaters should be complete within the next six months, Shahram Delijani said more work is needed to properly restore the family’s Tower Theater, which is located two blocks north.

No major work is being done on the nearby State Theater, the fourth movie palace owned by the family. The property is currently occupied by the Iglesia Universal church under a lease signed by the building’s previous owners.

Prior to his death at age 83 last August, Ezat Delijani was able to see photos of the major renovations made to the historic theaters he had purchased during the last three decades, Shahram Delijani said.

Shahram Delijani said his family is proud to be involved in the preservation of the city’s historical landmarks and, more important, a part of the local Jewish community’s rich historical connection to downtown Los Angeles.

Local Iranian-Jewish businessmen first flocked to the downtown area in the late 1970s and early 1980s following their immigration to Los Angeles from Iran to work in the garment and jewelry districts. In addition to the Delijani family, nearly 40 Iranian-Jewish real estate developers have purchased or built buildings and other properties in downtown Los Angeles over the years, further solidifying the community’s influence in the area.

Many local Iranian Jews credit Ezat Delijani with not only transforming downtown Los Angeles’ different business districts but, more important, for his bringing a new sense of pride to Iranian-Americans of all faiths living in the city.

“Ezat Delijani defined what it meant to be a mensch and an honorable human being,” said David Rahimian, the Iranian-Jewish former special assistant to Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. “He tore down walls to give people a voice and gave many Iranian-Americans in our city the opportunity to earn a living through hard work and determination.”

Ezat Delijani was highly respected by the local Iranian-Jewish community for his philanthropy to Jewish causes and for helping to negotiate the purchase of Hollywood Temple Beth El in 1999 during his tenure as president of the Los Angeles-based Iranian American Jewish Federation. For his longstanding involvement in helping to transform the historic Broadway Theater District, Ezat Delijani was also honored in 2009 when the city named the intersection of Seventh Street and Broadway after him.

City officials have long praised the Iranian-Jewish community’s entrepreneurial efforts in the revitalization of various areas within downtown and, in particular, the Delijani family’s focus on saving the four theaters on Broadway.

The Los Angeles Theater’s lobby, as featured on the cover, includes a marble fountain, crystal chandeliers, fresco paintings and a grand staircase. Photos by Gary Leonard

“The Delijani family’s investment in preserving the historic downtown theaters demonstrates their clear sense of civic pride and responsibility,” Los Angeles City Controller Wendy Greuel said. “Their acquisition and repair of the theaters not only contributes to the economic development in the downtown area, but also protects historic buildings which will be enjoyed and appreciated by visitors and residents for years to come.”

City officials also said an array of entertainment companies, high-end hotels and new restaurants are looking to join the Delijanis by setting up new businesses in the district’s properties.

For their part, the Delijani family has plans to offer their two newly renovated theaters in the Broadway Theater District for various live events, such as music concerts, plays and pared-down operas, as well as leasing some spaces within the theaters for high-end restaurants and bars. At the same time, the venues will also host live events produced by the Broadway Theatre Group, an entertainment company headed by Shahram Delijani.

“Our primary goal is to reactivate these theaters so that people can experience them regularly and be proud that such monuments exist in our city,” Shahram Delijani said.

With their substantial real estate holdings in Los Angeles, Shahram Delijani said his family has a tremendous amount of reverence for the four historic theaters and will continue to maintain the buildings in the best possible condition for the benefit of the entire city.

“The interesting thing about owning a historic landmark is that you never quite feel like you own it; you are just a steward for the next generation,” he said. “It’s very humbling when you think of all the effort that went into developing these treasures, and because of my dad’s efforts, they will live on for future generations.”


For more information about the life of Ezat Delijani, visit Karmel Melamed’s blog, Iranian American Jews.

Teriton tenants win battle to stay in historic apartment complex


After a three-year battle with alleged religious nonprofit Or Khaim Hashalom, tenants of the historic 28-unit Teriton Apartments in Santa Monica have won the right to remain in or return to their apartments for up to seven years under their former rent-controlled leases, according to a settlement made public Dec. 4. Jurisdiction will be returned to the Santa Monica Rent Control Board.

Tenants have also received monetary restitution from Or Khaim Hashalom, negotiated individually and confidentially. Additionally, the nonprofit must adopt a comprehensive, written fair-housing policy and provide training for property managers. In addition, its IRS status, donations and applications and rental agreements must be monitored for three years by the Santa Monica City Attorney’s Office.

“This is really a wonderful outcome,” said Dan Zaidman, whose mother, Nathalie, 93, has lived in the complex for 40 years and has become both physically and mentally impaired. “To move her right now would have been very traumatic.”

Approximately 10 of the tenants affected by the ruling, including Zaidman, are currently living at the Teriton. Another, Kaveh Zal, has returned to the building.

The controversy began in November 2005, when owners Rouhollah Esmailzadeh and others, who had purchased the building in April 2005 for an estimated $10.5 million, obtained a demolition permit. The action triggered a routine review by the Santa Monica Landmarks Commission of the three-story garden apartment building designed by architect Sanford Kent in 1949, which sits on almost an acre at 130-142 San Vicente Blvd.

The following April, in a scheme Santa Monica Deputy City Attorney Gary Rhoades described as “odd, complicated and, hopefully, one of a kind,” tenants received notice that religious nonprofit Or Khaim Hashalom, which had incorporated only three months earlier, had purchased the building.

The organization, under spiritual head Rabbi Hertzl Illulian, sought to evict the tenants, demolish the building and build up to 40 luxury condominiums, as well as provide housing for Jewish refugees from the Middle East.

Multiple hearings and lawsuits ensued, with the tenants claiming that the mission of the nonprofit violated their civil rights according to 42:405 of the Fair Housing Act. They were represented by attorney Christopher Brainard.

The Santa Monica city attorney’s consumer protection unit concurrently filed a lawsuit against Or Khaim Hashalom; its legal representative, attorney Rosario Perry; and others for alleged discriminatory practices, including “terminating their tenancies because of their race, religion and national origin.”

Meanwhile, the Teriton was unanimously declared a historic landmark by the Landmarks Commission on Nov. 13, 2006. That decision was upheld by the Santa Monica City Council on June 12, 2007, when the council rejected an appeal by Or Khaim Hashalom, claiming it was exempt from landmarking under California Government Code Section 3736(c), which allows an organization to alter or destroy historical buildings under certain conditions, including economic hardship or hindrance of religious mission.

Eventually, after Or Khaim Hashalom failed to have the discrimination lawsuits dismissed, a series of negotiations with parties from both cases followed, with retired Judge Robert Altman mediating.

Separately, Or Khaim Hashalom filed suit against the city of Santa Monica, challenging the City Council’s designation of the Teriton Apartments as a historic landmark. On Oct. 15, 2008, Judge James C. Chalfont denied that claim.

Or Khaim Hashalom has appealed the judgment, with a ruling expected in about a year, according to the group’s legal representative, Perry, who also serves as secretary of its board of directors. Tenants’ attorney Brainard believes the designation will not be overturned.

The building was put up for sale on Nov. 15, 2008, at an undisclosed price. Any potential buyer would be obligated to honor the terms of the settlement, according to Brainard.

Or Khaim Hashalom’s Rabbi Illulian remains optimistic. “We lost a lot of money, a lot of time, energy and hopes, but we don’t give up,” he said.



For previous stories on the Teriton:

Teriton ‘landmark’ status upheld but residents still face eviction

Santa Monica apartment building at center of battle receives ‘landmark’ status

Fate of Santa Monica apartment building embroils rabbi and residents in legal battle




Jewish-Black Ties Loosen Over Years


 

The storied tale of Jewish Northerners heading South in the 1960s to fight for blacks’ voting rights has taken its place as one of the most distinctive cross-cultural relationships in U.S. history.

Until now, the 1964 murders of three civil rights campaigners has been unresolved. The recent arrest of a suspect in the Mississippi murders of Andrew Goodwin and Michael Schwerner — both Jews — and James Chaney, a black man, has re-focused attention on a relationship once bound in blood.

As Jews prepare to mark Martin Luther King Day, however, to what extent have black-Jewish relations shifted from their historic marriage?

A long way, academics and Jewish community officials say.

The black-Jewish relationship began in the 1920s and 1930s as blacks moved into neighborhoods Jews were leaving. Still, Jewish businesses often remained, serving the black community.

A common bond rose in response to anti-Semitism and racism in the United States, culminating in the civil rights movement. But black riots against Jewish-owned businesses in the mid-1960s and the rise of black nationalism that carried undertones of anti-Semitism often polarized the groups.

Today, many of the flashpoints in the relationship, like Jesse Jackson’s 1984 reference to New York as “Hymietown” and the 1991 Crown Heights riots — when blacks rioted against Jews after a Lubavitch-driven vehicle accidentally hit and killed a black child in Brooklyn — are in the past. Reports of anti-Semitic remarks by black nationalists such as the Nation of Islam’s Louis Farrakhan also have tapered off.

Now, a new phase has dawned as both groups focus their energies on internal issues, and quieter ties have emerged. Whether the new phase will lead to a new, strengthened relationship or a cooler approach to one another remains in question.

“We’ve passed through a period of hostility and animosity,” said Murray Friedman, director of Temple University’s Myer and Rosaline Feinstein Center for American Jewish History and author of “What Went Wrong: The Creation and Collapse of the Black-Jewish Alliance” (Free Press, 1994).

“The black-Jewish alliance as it once was is dead,” he said. But “it has moved in the direction that has been normal in American life, where groups join together on certain issues and break apart on certain issues.”

Rabbi Marc Scheier, president of the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding, and Russell Simmons, the foundation’s chairman, said in a statement that the recent arrest in the Mississippi murder case calls to mind the historic black-Jewish alliance and challenges members of both groups “to continue the ongoing struggle for human justice.”

In fact, blacks and Jews continue to come together to advocate for political issues ranging from civil rights legislation to Israel.

“There isn’t a day that goes by that the Black and Jewish caucuses on Capitol Hill don’t work together,” said Rabbi David Saperstein, director of the Reform movement’s Religious Action Center, who is also on the NAACP board.

Saperstein said young, black NAACP board members also show an increasing interest in the Jewish community.

According to Saperstein, collaboration among blacks and Jews is strong across the country, and his own group’s black-Jewish activities are as robust as he can remember. Because of that, when tensions do arise, “there’s much greater disappointment and sometimes anger than when either of us has similar kinds of problems with other ethnic or religious minorities,” Saperstein said.

Sherry Frank also says that in her 24 years as director of the Atlanta Chapter of the American Jewish Committee (AJCommittee), black-Jewish relations have grown stronger.

A black-Jewish coalition initiated by the American Jewish Committee has a mailing list of about 400 people, with approximately equal numbers of blacks and Jews, she said. Top black leaders in Atlanta invite local rabbis to speak at their pulpits, and Atlanta’s black mayor has helped raise funds for the local Jewish federation’s Super Sunday.

But Ann Schaffer, director of the AJCommittee’s Belfer Center for American Pluralism, said national relations aren’t so rosy. In comparison to Jews’ relations with other groups, “we’re not seeing the kind of reciprocity that we would like to see in the relationship” with blacks, she said.

Many black leaders are consumed with internal issues, such as job discrimination and lifting their people out of poverty, Schaffer explained. In addition, the black community “is not forthcoming” in defending Israel and condemning anti-Semitism, she said. In part, that’s because blacks identify with the Palestinians, who they see as disenfranchised like themselves, Schaffer added.

An AJCommittee 2000 study showed that few blacks feel much in common with Jews.

Yet anti-Semitism has never been as strong among blacks as among the mutual enemies of blacks and Jews, said Marshall Stevenson Jr., dean of social sciences and director of the National Center for Black-Jewish Relations at Dillard University in New Orleans, a black college heavily endowed by Jews. Anti-Semitism among black Muslims, for example, rarely is translated into action against Jews, he said.

Academics say the turning point in the black-Jewish relationship was the 1967 Six-Day War, which they say prompted Jews to turn inward and focus on Israel and the Jewish community’s concerns. In subsequent years, the Soviet Jewry movement occupied the energies of Jews who once had worked for civil rights, Temple University’s Friedman explained.

Around that time came the rise of black nationalism, which as part of its quest for black empowerment aimed to muster internal strength and resources and rejected Jewish outreach.

“Would Jews allow blacks to run their organizations?” was the rationale of the time, Stevenson said.

Both groups largely turned inward, a trend that continues today. The relationship is “more or less neutral today,” Stevenson said.

It takes a common threat to revive the relationship, he said — citing, for example, former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke’s runs for the U.S. Senate and the Louisiana governorship.

“For there to be any kind of serious dialogue, there would have to be a major kind of racial backlash in this country that would affect African Americans and Jews,” Stevenson said.

Renewed relations also could come about as a result of efforts to strengthen the Democratic Party, he said. In the 2004 presidential election, about 75 percent of Jews voted Democratic. Among blacks, the proportion was even higher, 89 percent.

Friedman, who views the landscape of relations as a “return to normalcy,” frames Jews’ civil rights agenda as a Jewish quest for identity. Jewish civil rights workers would cite the Jewish values of social justice, but “they didn’t know a blessed thing about Judaism.” Goodwin and Schwerner were even buried as Unitarians, he said.

“We were finding our own identity by working through another group,” said Friedman, who himself labored for civil rights until a growing sense of Jewish identity landed him squarely in the field of Jewish studies.

Jewish groups also are less involved in race relations today than they once were, focusing now on buttressing Jewish causes and identities.

“Saperstein believes both agendas are intertwined.

“In America, the treatment of the black community remains a symbol of the hope for equality and justice for all people in America, and we who have been persecuted so often as a minority have a deep feeling that we have to stand by those who are persecuted more than we are today in America,” Saperstein said.

“What we do on behalf of a group like the African American community and with the African American community,” he continued, “is a test of whether or not we’ll live up to the values and the lessons of our history.”

 

Jews Note Role in Historic School Case


Esther Swirk Brown wasn’t the Brown for whom the landmark U.S. Supreme Court case desegregating schools is named — but she is the Jewish woman who helped find Oliver Brown, no relation, to be the lead plaintiff in the historic case.

As a young woman in Kansas, Esther Brown was horrified by the conditions of the school that black children, including the children of her housekeeper, were forced to attend. The one-room schoolhouse in South Park had dilapidated walls and missing light bulbs.

"She went to a school board meeting to press for equal education and was told to go home and mind her own business," said Miriam Katz, who impersonates Brown as part of a one-woman show honoring historic American women that is touring the Midwest.

Instead, Esther Brown stopped black children from attending the school, choosing to home school them in her own house and getting friends to serve as other teachers.

When she took her fight statewide to the capital in Topeka, she met Linda Brown, a young girl, and raised money so that Linda Brown’s father, Oliver, could sue the city’s board of education.

"She just wanted rights for everybody," Katz said. "Maybe she felt like she had to make things right."

As the nation marks the 50th anniversary of the Supreme Court decision in Brown vs. Board of Education, which changed the face of the civil rights fight, Jews are noting the historic role their community played in pushing the movement forward.

"It was disproportionately black and Jewish lawyers that were fighting the civil rights cases," said David Saperstein, director of the Religious Action Center for Reform Judaism and a board member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).

Charles Black, a member of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund team that argued Brown, used to joke that he was the only non-Jewish name on many of the briefs in that case.

Several Jewish groups are marking the anniversary and the Jewish community’s participation in the landmark case.

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) has created a six-part educational program for schools on Brown’s legacy, including a section on key alliances, which tells the story of Esther Brown.

At its annual Washington meeting last week, the American Jewish Committee (AJCommittee) showcased a video about the group’s role in the civil rights movement. It featured several television advertisements the AJCommittee funded to promote tolerance.

A predominantly liberal community, Jews felt empathy for the plight of black Americans.

"In the fight for the rights of African Americans, Jews were also in a fight for the rights of all minorities in America," Saperstein said. "There was implicit recognition that Jews wouldn’t be safe in America until they created a country with no room for discrimination."

Jewish organizations lent their names to the civil rights cause, filing amicus briefs for the plaintiffs and funding some of the legal efforts. In fact, the AJCommittee funded research by Kenneth Clark on the effects of prejudice and discrimination on personality development that Chief Justice Earl Warren cited in his unanimous Supreme Court decision handed down on May 17, 1954.

Many individual Jews, like Esther Brown, were part of the effort as well — perhaps none more than Jack Greenberg. As an associate counsel for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, Greenberg was one of several who argued Brown vs. Board of Education in front of the Supreme Court. He later succeeded Thurgood Marshall as the fund’s director and counsel for more than 20 years.

"Being Jewish can lead you in any direction," said Greenberg, now a professor at Columbia University’s School of Law. Greenberg said he wasn’t driven by his religion but more by his upbringing in the socialist Zionist movement of Jews who had immigrated from Eastern Europe.

"We were social activists," he said. "Back then, we’d call them socialists; now you’d call them liberals."

Several other Jews who aided the NAACP went on to distinguished legal careers, including Judge Jack Weinstein of the U.S. District Court of the Eastern District of New York in Brooklyn and Judge Louis Pollack of the U.S. District Court for the East District of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.

But, Greenberg said, not all Jews were "on the good side."

"Some of the lawyers in the South who led the opposition were Jewish," he said.

The Brown case led to a partnership between blacks and Jews that helped herald the civil rights era.

"It was a landmark in what the relationship could achieve," Saperstein said. It led to the drafting of civil rights legislation.

"This really did prove to them that they could use the political legal system to achieve integration and stop legal discrimination in America," he said.

But blacks and Jews have not enjoyed an entire half-century of friendship. Most significantly, many Jewish organizations broke with black groups in 1978, coming out against the affirmative-action policies for which many blacks were fighting.

The ADL’s leader at the time, Nathan Perlmutter, was one of the leading spokesmen against race-based criteria for admission to colleges and universities. Leaders of Jewish groups said the rejection of quotas for affirmative action came largely in light of numerical limits on Jewish enrollment in European and American universities in the 1920s.

Even last year, when the University of Michigan’s affirmative-action policies came to the Supreme Court, the Jewish community was split. The ADL opposed Michigan’s standard of giving minority applicants 20 extra points on a 100-point admission-scoring scale, while the AJCommittee reversed course from 1978 and backed Michigan.

The court ruled last June that affirmative-action programs are legal but struck down the point system Michigan used for undergraduate admissions.

More recently, black and Jewish groups have sparred over policy priorities, each seeking more support than the other for key legislative agenda items. In addition, anti-Israel and anti-Jewish comments by some blacks have fueled tensions.

The black community was angered by Jewish groups’ call for a boycott of the 2001 United Nations Conference on Racism in Durban, South Africa, because of the conference’s vehement anti-Israel rhetoric.

But black and other non-Jewish groups chose to back the Jewish community last month when it worked to minimize European anti-Semitism at a conference in Berlin.

The Leadership Conference on Civil Rights joined Jewish leaders in Germany, providing information to European states on tools to combat discrimination.

Sharon Wins Big With Bush


One historic concession deserves another. Just four months after Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon — the father of the settlement movement — stunned Israelis by pledging to evacuate some settlements, he got his payback from President Bush, who reversed decades of U.S. policy by recognizing Israel’s claim to parts of the West Bank.

It was compensation, with interest: Sharon had scored perhaps the most stunning diplomatic triumph in the U.S.-Israeli alliance in a generation.

"In light of new realities on the ground, including already existing major Israeli population centers, it is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final-status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949," Bush said Wednesday at a White House appearance with Sharon after the two leaders met. "It is realistic to expect that any final-status agreement will only be achieved on the basis of mutually agreed changes that reflect these realities."

The statement, reiterated in a letter to Sharon, represents the first time the U.S. government has provided a formal commitment to Israel’s claim on parts of the West Bank.

Bush’s commitment came without any mention of land from Israel and was widely seen as a significant shift in U.S. policy in the region. It was a soaring historical moment fraught with grinding political realities.

Bush needs a Middle East success to bolster a reputation as a bold foreign policy leader that flags with each U.S. casualty in Iraq.

For his part, Sharon needs to show Israelis that his leadership through some of the nation’s most traumatic years is resulting in a diplomatic breakthrough.

In addition, Sharon faces a May 2 Likud Party referendum on his plan to withdraw from the Gaza Strip, and other Likud figures have vowed to challenge any uprooting of settlements.

When talks on the dimensions of a withdrawal began in February, the Americans rejected out of hand any recognition of Israeli claims in the West Bank. Subsequently, U.S. officials said they would consider such a recognition depending on the breadth of the withdrawal.

According to a senior Israeli official, the disengagement plan Sharon presented to Bush calls for an Israeli withdrawal from all of the Gaza Strip and four settlements in the West Bank.

The settlements, encompassing 500 settlers, include Ganim, Homesh, Kadim and Sanur, all in the northern West Bank. The withdrawal from these settlements would provide contiguity for the Palestinians between Jenin and Nablus, a major Palestinian concern.

The official said any future withdrawal would depend on how the Palestinians respond to this proposal and whether they live up to their commitments.

No one expected Bush to so explicitly bury years of U.S. policy, which traditionally said all the land Israel captured in 1967 was up for negotiation.

At best, Bush was expected to recognize vague "demographic realities." Instead, he said it was "unrealistic" to expect Israel to return to its pre-1967 lines.

Bush moreover threw in an endorsement of Israel’s controversial security barrier as it is now routed.

"The barrier being erected by Israel as a part of that security effort should, as your government has stated, be a security rather than political barrier," he said.

Finally, Bush expressed his most emphatic rejection to date of the Palestinian demand that Arab refugees and their descendants be allowed to return to land in Israel that they left in 1948.

"It seems clear that an agreed, just, fair and realistic framework for a solution to the Palestinian refugee issue as part of any final-status agreement will need to be found through the establishment of a Palestinian state and the settling of Palestinian refugees there rather than Israel," he said.

Sharon gave very little in return. Against Bush’s repeated assurances that the Gaza withdrawal would spur forward the U.S.-led "road map" peace plan and its goal of a Palestinian state, Sharon referred only obliquely to "your vision" in his public remarks Wednesday.

The biggest political loser Wednesday appeared to be the Palestinians, who were paying the price for a leadership that refused to stop terrorism and never successfully engaged Bush.

"He is the first president who has legitimized the settlements in the Palestinian territories when he said that there will be no return to the borders of 1967," Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei was quoted as saying by Israel’s Ha’aretz newspaper.

Qurei’s outlook was bleak.

"We as Palestinians reject that, we cannot accept that, we reject and refuse it," he said.

Senior Bush administration officials, however, said the Palestinians should view the letters as an opportunity.

"What we want is a situation where Palestinian leaders, committed to democracy and fighting terror, have a chance to take control of that territory as a down payment on the way toward a Palestinian state," one said. "And we propose to engage very vigorously with the Palestinian Authority to try and create the institutions that will allow them to do that."

Artifacts of a Survivor


In 1949, 16-year-old Ernest Michel never dreamed that the very belt and pants he wore at Auschwitz would become treasured relics in a special exhibit. At the time, the young labor camp inmate was more concerned with survival. Now at age 79, the former executive vice president of the United Jewish Appeal (UJA) is proud to present "Birth of Two Democracies," a historic exhibit which will make its West Coast premiere in Los Angeles this month.

The collection includes over 130 items focusing on historical Judaica. Highlights include Michel’s admission papers to Auschwitz; a letter from an SS officer, which was transcribed by an inmate; an autographed photo of David Ben-Gurion signing the Israeli Declaration of Independence; a speech that Albert Einstein delivered to the UJA in 1952; and a photo of the Peace Treaty signing between Egypt and Israel, which was autographed by Anwar Sadat, Menachem Begin and Jimmy Carter.

Also part of the display is the Kaller family exhibition, a collection of historical documents related to birth of the United States. Items include a rare copy of the U.S. Declaration of Independence and original documents signed by George Washington, John Hancock and Benjamin Franklin.

"This [collection] has become a lifelong obsession for me because I survived the camps," said the native of Mannheim, Germany, who was arrested by the Gestapo two days after Germany invaded Poland. After spending over five years at labor and extermination camps, he escaped from the last death march in April 1945.

Michel has visited Auschwitz several times over the years. Three years ago, he went with family and friends for what he deemed his final pilgrimage to the former concentration camp. "My feeling is that [Auschwitz] should be preserved as long as humanly possible. It should not be beautified or rebuilt," the survivor said, "but it should be preserved."

Eulogies:Ira Yellin


Ira Yellin, recognized throughout Los Angeles as an urban pioneer for his tireless efforts to rebuild the city’s historic core, and most recently a principal of real estate development company Urban Partners LLC, died Sept. 10 at his home in Los Angeles from lung cancer. He was 62.

Yellin, the son of the founding rabbi of Temple Mishkon Tephilo in Venice, was a major philanthropist and activist on behalf of Jewish causes.

When few developers and entrepreneurs cared about downtown Los Angeles’ historic and urban landmarks, Yellin was the exception. From the restoration of the legendary Bradbury Building to the renovations of Union Station and the dilapidated Grand Central Market, Yellin’s vision of Los Angeles helped transform the city during his 27 years of urban development.

“Los Angeles owes him a debt of gratitude,” said California State Librarian Kevin Starr. Yellin is “unique for what he wants for the city, and what he has helped build.”

Although born in Springfield, Mass., Yellin developed a deep love for Los Angeles, when his father, the late Rabbi Isaac Yellin, moved his family here in 1948.

Yellin’s contributions to the city of Los Angeles included running the international design competition to pick the architect for the new Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, one of the city’s new cultural centers.

As a community leader, his commitment to the city of Los Angeles extended to include significant cultural, religious and philanthropic involvement. Yellin served on the board of trustees of the J. Paul Getty Trust; the board of trustees of the California Institute of the Arts; the board of governors and former president of the American Jewish Committee; the board of directors of the Los Angeles Police Foundation; the executive committee of the Central City Association; the board of advisers of the Rand Institute of Education and Training; and the board of advisers of the WATTS Health Charities. He was also active on behalf of Bet Tzedek Legal Services.

Yellin graduated with a degree in history from Princeton University in 1962 and received his law degree from Harvard Law School in 1965. After completing his master’s degree in law at UC Berkeley in 1966, he served in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve, returning to Los Angeles in 1967 as a partner at the law firm of Rosenfeld, Meyer & Susman. In 1985, he started The Yellin Co., overseeing some of the best-known development projects in Los Angeles. From 1996 to 1999, he served as senior vice president of Catellus Development, focusing on complex, mixed-use projects with a community and urban significance.

Yellin founded Urban Partners with real estate professionals Paul Keller and Daniel Rosenfeld. Their current projects include the Del Mar Station in Pasadena, the Los Angeles County Hall of Justice, the California Department of Transportation District 7 Headquarters, the Herald-Examiner Building, the University Gateway, the Wilshire/Vermont Station and the Ambassador Hotel site.

In a 1994 interview with The Jewish Journal, Yellin summarized his motivation to help others and the city he loved as, “an obligation to give back and begin the endless process of healing the world. I believe that more than I believe in anything.”

He is survived by his wife, Adele; daughter, Jessica; son, Seth; mother, Dorothy; and brothers, Dr. Albert and Dr. Marc.

The Yellin family asks that donations be made in his name to the American Jewish Committee: Western Region, 9911 W. Pico Blvd., Suite 1602 Los Angeles, CA 90035, (310) 282-8080.

Meet Me at Third and Fairfax


These days, Third and Fairfax is pure traffic mayhem. Bulldozers, big rigs and construction workers jam the city streets and block available driveways. Trying to park at Farmers Market, the historical market and eatery that has drawn locals and tourists for 68 years, is like entering a revolving door and not stopping. Not only is the Market going through a $45-million revival, but a new outdoor shopping mall, The Grove at Farmers Market, is being erected, for a projected March 15 opening, amidst a flurry of dissension and exhilaration.

The Grove, a 575,000-square-foot exterior mall costing $160 million, sits on 20 acres of land, with an eight-level, 3,500-space parking structure, over 54 stores and restaurants, and a 14-screen multiplex theater. With the Farmers Market to the west, CBS to the north, Pan Pacific Park to the east and new residential development to the south, across Third Street, The Grove will offer prospective customers the most elegant shopping this area has ever seen: Nordstrom, Abercrombie & Fitch, J. Crew, The Gap, Banana Republic, Nike Goddess, Victoria’s Secret and FAO Schwarz, to name just a few. Restaurants will include Madame Wu, Maggiano’s, The Farm of Beverly Hills and Morels French Steakhouse.

The project is being developed by Caruso Affiliated Holdings, whose executive director, Rick Caruso, is president of the Police Commission and developer of some of the most successful shopping malls in southern California.

Concurrently, Farmers Market, owned and operated by A.F. Gilmore Co. (which owns the land that the Grove sits on), is changing. For the first time, merchants will be expanding their store hours to be in line with the Grove’s — from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., (10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday); valet parking and new Epicurean shops will be added. The Gilmore Bank and office spaces, part of the North Market expansion, will open in October. Weekend entertainment is scheduled for a new plaza, and "The Red Line" tram will link Farmers Market and the Grove — the old and the new — along a single trolley track.

If "the new" is The Grove at Farmers Market, then "the old" is the Fairfax district, center of Los Angeles’ Jewish community. A generation ago, Jewish families moved west from East Los Angeles (Montebello, City Terrace and Boyle Heights) to Fairfax Avenue, which runs from Wilshire to Santa Monica boulevards, and set up shop. Kosher restaurants, butchers and bakers populated the area. As more Jewish families moved into the Fairfax district in the 1950s, religious schools, synagogues and a Jewish Community Center sprang up. Recently arrived Jewish emigrants from Israel and Russia gave the area a cosmopolitan air.

With its Old World atmosphere and open-air vegetable stalls and eateries, Farmers Market was an instant draw. Many Jewish residents of the area can’t remember a time when Farmers Market wasn’t part of their shopping or kibbitzing routine. Today, the Farmers Market retains a home-away-from-home allure for many seniors and immigrants in the Fairfax neighborhood.

As much as these regulars would like Farmers Market to remain the same, The Grove, with its many retail options and restaurants, signals a welcome change for many in the Fairfax neighborhood. CBS employees, who stumble out of work at 7 p.m. with no place to get a drink or a bite to eat will now be able to go to Farmers Market and the upscale restaurants and shops at The Grove. The young singles, couples and artists who populate West Hollywood, as well as the tourists, say they will benefit from the expansion of Farmers Market and the Grove.

President of A.F. Gilmore Co., Hank Hilty — whose great-grandfather bought the original 30 acres that Farmers Market and the Grove occupy in 1860 — observes that "people’s reactions are very mixed" about the project. But he believes that this stems from current conditions. "There’s the confusion of parking, construction, concern with the change of character of the market environment," he says. "But this whole project is to preserve and enhance Farmers Market, which is the bedrock of the entire project."

When development-minded Hilty first thought about expanding Farmers Market in the late 1980s, he met with a contentious community. "A lot of community groups were very active at the time, having seen their neighborhoods change, with little input from the people who lived there," he explains. He sought a developer and worked with the community, but due to the recession of the early ’90s, the project ultimately failed. Hilty put the idea on the back burner until 1996, when he decided to try again, and chose Caruso Affiliated Holdings for the project.

"Rick Caruso has earned the respect of each and every community in which he has worked, even among those who traditionally oppose development. His responsiveness to community concerns has led to some of the most popular retail centers in the region," Hilty states on the Caruso Affiliated Web site.

This time around, the community offered little resistance to Farmers Market expansion and the Grove, except, Hilty says, from one community group that questioned the number of liquor licenses requested. That number was modified, and a compromise was reached through a hearing process with the city.

For many regular customers, who have been coming to the storied corner of the Farmers Market for the last 40 years, the idea of a new shopping mall going up next-door has hit them hard. Their main concern is retaining the quaint character of the market: Why do they need another shopping mall in Los Angeles? Isn’t there already enough shopping?

"I think the Grove is a positive thing," says Kathy (who declined to give her last name), one of six seniors sitting around a table in the east plaza at Farmers Market. "But where in the heck are we going to park? We can’t come here and pay $10 a day; we live on a fixed income."

"They’ve really broken up the entire area, with more high-rises and department stores, and the traffic is horrible," says Beverly Baker of the mid-Wilshire district, who sits at the same table and has been coming to Farmers Market for the past 35 years. "Older people need to have a connection [with other people] on a human level, and instead, it’s more and more about commercialism and a world full of objects," she said.

For the Boren brothers, Jack, Morris and Herman, the prospect of a new shopping mall is a positive, except for the parking." It’s going to hurt them if people have to pay for parking," says Morris, 88, who has been coming to Farmers Market for 40 years. "If you have to look on the clock how long you’ve been sitting here, there will be no business."

Despite customer opposition, merchant Paul Sobel, 45, owner and operator of two newsstands at Farmers Market, welcomes the change., saying, "I think it is a fabulous project…. If you’re not moving forward, you’re standing still. This area needed to become more relevant and vital, and the only way to do that is developing, and they’re doing a wonderful job."

Sobel, like many of the merchants at Farmers Market, endured a difficult past two and a half years. Many buildings, including one of his own, were demolished to make way for The Grove. He moved to the other side of the market and almost immediately had a front-row seat to the construction outside his door. One of Sobel’s newsstands, Sheltams, sits at Gate Two, which will be the end of the line (or the beginning) of "The Red Line," and where a replica of an old Gilmore Gas Station will be erected.

With the confusion and inconvenience of construction, some vendors left the market, but the loyal ones stayed behind.

"What Rick Caruso and Hank Hilty have done is impressive," Sobel says, voicing no regrets. "These guys have a lot of integrity. This is more than just a business, more than just a shopping center. They’ve created a sense of place that relates to Farmers Market, a place that has survived time and is still relevant."

"There’s a lot of apprehension, apprehension of the unknown," Hilty says. "But we’re fully confident that [The Grove and Farmers Market expansion] is going to be a great success and benefit to all. It’s like when we announced that we would be open on Sunday, everyone was concerned, but today, Sunday at Farmers Market is one of our most popular days."

"Of course we’ll still come," says Paula Levine, a regular for 42 years, "This is our home."