Holocaust memorial to gays to be built in Tel Aviv

A monument to gays persecuted by the Nazis will be built in Tel Aviv.

The monument, the first of its kind in Israel, will be constructed in Meir Park, near the Tel Aviv Gay and Lesbian Association Center in the central part of the city, Haaretz reported.

It will include a concrete pink triangle along with a bench and a plaque providing information on the persecution of gays during the Holocaust. Gays were forced to wear an identifying pink triangle on their clothing in the same way that Jews were forced to wear a yellow star.

The inscription on the memorial will read: “To the memory of those persecuted by the Nazi regime for their sexual preference and gender identity.”

Attorney Eran Lev, a member of the municipal council from the Meretz party, came up with the idea for the memorial.

“This will be the first and only memorial site in Israel to mention the victims of the Nazis who were persecuted for anything other than being Jewish,”  Lev told Haaretz. “As a cosmopolitan city and an international gay center, Tel Aviv will offer a memorial site that is universal in its essence. As far as I’m concerned, it’s not a monument but a place  — a place of quiet that will invite visitors to sit, contemplate, reflect and be in solitude.”

Memorials to the gay victims of Nazi persecution exist in Berlin, Amsterdam, Barcelona, Sydney and San Francisco, according to Haaretz.

Lift The Ban on Gay Blood Donors

When students arrived at Milken Community High School on the morning of Jan. 10, they were confronted by a large banner reading: “Did you know homosexual males cannot give blood?”

That was the start of a student-led Equal Blood Campaign to press the FDA to lift its blanket ban on all gay blood donors.

Day One of the campaign sparked some initial shock. The ban came as news to many, and the campaign rapidly gathered more and more supporters. In addition to posters around campus, the school’s bulletin, which is read daily in small advisory groups, featured campaign related statistics and facts.

The FDA developed its initial policy regarding gay men in 1983 because at that time there was no technology to screen blood for the HIV virus, which was then known as GRID (Gay-Related Immune Deficiency). Since the ’80s, the disease GRID has been renamed AIDS and is seen as an epidemic affecting millions of people of all ethnicities and sexual orientations.

Yet today, in 2006, when all donated blood is tested for the HIV virus, the policy remains the same — excluding homosexual males from donating blood.

The campaign ended with a bang when on the day of the blood drive, Jan. 12, more than 250 students and faculty sported stickers reading: “I don’t discriminate against blood.”

The petition to the FDA was signed by 270 people — almost half of the high school student body. It is important to understand that the nature of the Equal Blood Campaign was in no way against the blood drive. The campaign in fact was in association with the blood drive.

Students decided to support the Equal Blood Campaign because they agreed that the FDA policy is outdated and reveals the stigma that AIDS is a “gay disease,” and until this policy changes, the dangerous assumption that all homosexuals have the HIV virus will remain. In addition, we feel that the FDA is ruling out a source of potentially life-saving donated blood.

Blood products in short supply, and many favor lifting the ban. According to the FDA, an estimated 62,300 homosexuals would donate blood if the ban was lifted.

The FDA policy arises out of a fear of passing on infected blood. Of the 12 million units of donated blood each year, 10 HIV infected units slip through, accounting for two to three cases of donor transmitted HIV infections per year.

The main reason that HIV positive blood slips through is because there is a window of up to three months after a person contracts HIV where the virus is not always detected.

But while banning gay men, even those in long-term monogamous relationships, the policy says nothing about heterosexual men and women who have unprotected sex with multiple sex partners and who have unknown HIV status (rigorous questionnaires at blood donor sites do take these factors into account).

We feel even if not completely abolishing the gay ban, the FDA should change the policy from banning all men who have had sex with men, to banning any person who has had unprotected sex with any person within the past three months. Not only would this weed out promiscuous and more likely infected individuals from giving blood, but it gives the opportunity for gay men having safe sex to give blood.

In its most recent evaluation of the issue, the FDA narrowly voted to maintain the ban on blood donations from homosexual men. The vote was 7-6 to maintain the ban, which states that any man who has had sex with another man since 1977 may not donate blood.

I, along with my campaign co-leader, Amanda Meimin, truly feel the Milken Equal Blood Campaign — one of the first of its kind in a high school — was a success. We turned heads and not only changed views but also helped people to find a view. Ultimately we would like to see other schools adopt the Equal Blood Campaign and we’d like to see the FDA change its policy.

The past has taught us that we can generate tolerance through destroying generalizations. Our battle begins with the stereotype that AIDS is a “gay disease.” We want to make people understand that just because they may not be gay, the issue still pertains to them. Discrimination exists everywhere and has touched everyone at one point or another. The Milken Equal Blood Campaign is about raising awareness, making change, and empowering youth to make their peers aware of homophobia in our society.

Lisa Hurwitz is a sophomore at Milken Community High School. To get involved in the Equal Blood Campaign, contact her at lhurwitz@mchs.mchschool.org.

Your Letters

Friedman’s Plan

Never mind that Israel has followed the prescription of Thomas Friedman and Peace Now, letter by letter, since 1993 (“Half the Kingdom,” Feb. 22). The result has been an Israel that is challenged more than anytime since her War of Independence.

Rather than take responsibility for leading Israel to its current morass, Friedman runs to Saudi Arabia, the paragon of justice in the Middle East, and comes back with this simple solution: Israel should withdraw from more territory and achieve yet another conference and pledge from the Arab world. Never mind that this withdrawal would now abandon over 10 percent of Israel’s Jewish population behind the new border. “East” Jerusalem, with a majority Jewish population, today would be ceded to the Arab world.

Jerusalem’s walled Old City would become Arab and all of Israel’s remaining neighborhoods would be less than a softball’s throw from the new Arab authority. Jane Harman notes that there could be some “border modifications.” Never mind that even the most “reasonable” Arab Palestinian, Sari Nusseibeh, says that Israel will have to leave all its eastern Jerusalem neighborhoods in such an agreement.

Friedman might get a new book deal, but as history has already shown, his ideas will not bring one day of peace to Israel.

Bennett Zimmerman, Santa Monica

Special Education

Thank you for highlighting the importance of special education (“Leave No Child Behind” Feb. 22). While the challenges in the field remain great, much has been accomplished in the past decade. With the generous support of the Harold and Libby Ziff Foundation, the Bureau of Jewish Education (BJE) has been able to direct more than $1 million to help support the work of resource specialists at 12 Jewish day schools. A number of the community’s day and religious schools use part of the $1.6 million of The Jewish Federation’s financial support distributed annually to schools through the BJE to provide services in support of students with special education needs. In addition to the BJE’s growing Lomed L.A. initiative referenced in The Journal, the BJE, through a grant from the Jewish Community Foundation, is working to establish a special day class for students with moderate disabilities. Information about this class can be obtained by calling Dr. David Ackerman, director of BJE educational services, at (323) 761-8606. This is a time of significant strides toward addressing a continuing, compelling need.

Dr. Kenneth Schaefler, Director, Special Education and Psychological Services Bureau of Jewish Education

A recent issue of The Journal cited the “stunning” and rather alarming statistic that 30 percent of Jewish children suffer from significant learning problems, including attention-deficit (hyperactivity) disorder (ADD/ADHD). Nothing could be further from the truth.

The incidence of mental retardation in the general population is 1.5 percent, that of ADD with or without hyperactivity is about 3 percent, and that of other assorted learning disabilities ranges from 6 to 8 percent. Thus, the total disability load in the general population falls between 10 to 12 percent, and that number includes many children whose problems resolve with fairly minimal treatment. The number of children with learning problems requiring prolonged remediation is most likely closer to 6 or 7 percent. There is absolutely no reason to believe that Jewish children suffer from higher rates of psychological and educational disabilities than non-Jewish children, and, in fact, the mean IQ score of Jewish kids is nearly one standard deviation (12-16 points) higher than that of the general population.

Those who raise funds for the treatment of disabled kids may, unfortunately, be tempted to buttress their cause by exaggerating the vulnerabilities of our children. However, during these troubled times, raising kids is tough enough and there’s no need to alarm parents needlessly.

Let’s focus our remedial attentions upon those youngsters who need them and avoid pathologizing the rest of our children.

Dr. Jonathan Kellerman, Clinical Professor of Pediatrics and Psychology, USC School of Medicine

“Trembling Before G-d”

Ivor Davis made a dangerous mistake when he reported that Agudath Israel’s Rabbi Avi Shafran saw homosexuality as “mental illness” (“‘Trembling’ Truth,” Feb. 15). Fortunately, readers can see for themselves, since The Jewish Journal printed Shafran’s piece in its entirety the following week. What he did say was that with prodigious effort, some homosexuals are sometimes able to alter their orientation through therapy.

I’m not sure who should take greater offense — Shafran, for being unfairly accused of a position he would never endorse, the entire Orthodox community which was maligned by extension or the millions who see therapists without ever considering themselves mentally ill. Confusing mental illness with seeking therapy is dangerous, because it implies that only people who are seriously ill seek the help of therapists. It thereby discourages the many who could benefit from a bit of support, guidance or crisis intervention from seeking it.

The position of the Orthodox community will continue to be one of unqualified compassion for homosexuals, while rejecting active homosexuality. Our thanks to The Jewish Journal for allowing the record to speak for itself.

Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein, Los Angeles

I am a Jewish, married, heterosexual woman who has just saw” Trembling Before G-d,” and then I read Rabbi Avi Shafran’s article, (“Dissembling Before G-d,” Feb. 22), which he obviously thought was a cute play on words. For shame, rabbi, using the article as a platform for your beliefs and plugging the organization to do away with homosexuality. The purpose of the film was to portray the plight of homosexuals. It was not to give equal time to the Orthodox rabbinate. There was nothing incomplete and distorted.

The film portrayed the deep anguish and pain experienced by Orthodox gay and lesbians inflicted upon them by their parents, rabbis and communities. They are abandoned and humiliated. The film showed one man who struggled for over 10 years with his homosexuality because of advice given to him by a rabbi in Israel, advising him to be in therapy, to pray … anything to remove his stigma. It did not work. I do not believe Shafran is an example of the “thoughtful Orthodox Jews who show compassion,” as mentioned in his article. Where are they?

Iris Chayet, Los Angeles

Chief Bernard Parks

You have to be hands- on involved with the LAPD and community crime prevention to understand the damage Chief Bernard Parks did (“Should We Join the Fray?” Feb. 15). No division has the vice, anti gang, narcotics or traffic staffing to insure safety and quality of life. Graffiti runs rampant. Wait times on 911 are too long.

Parks decimated community-based policing by eliminating senior lead officers (SLO). Only former Mayor Richard Riordan’s arm twisting got some efforts restored; SLOs still do not get the time or department resources to solve neighborhood problems. Suggestions and complaints from the public to Parks are ignored.

Write to your councilmember and to the police commission. Los Angeles deserves a chief who will respect civil rights, listen to and work with the law abiding public, discipline officers fairly and fight crime.

Neal Berke , Police Community Co-Representative LAPD Reporting District 948 Neighborhood Watch

Jewish Porn Star

As a member of Temple Beth Ami, I would like to say that a sizable number of members were not happy with the invitation to a porn star to speak to our congregation. Seeing your rabbi on Comedy Central may be good for a few laughs, but the honored speaker at Temple Beth Ami’s adult education program was a poor choice on many levels.

Perhaps it was naive to think that Nina Hartley would use her podium to examine her involvement in the porn industry in a meaningful way.

Hartley failed to express remorse, and took no responsibility for damage caused by her “profession.” Her banal advice could have been given more competently by a marriage counselor or therapist. Her mantra was, “make friends with your body,” but she also declared that she had gotten breast implants for her “scrawny chest.” Hartley and her fiancĂ© declared their love for each other, but then announced that they still enjoyed multiple partners. More meaningful discussions of sexuality can be found on MTV. Her appearance as an honored guest of Temple Beth Ami was — dare I say it — wrong.

Sandy Hack , Valencia


The Feb. 22 calendar included an incorrect phone number for the Fountain Theatre’s production of Arthur Miller’s “After The Fall.” The correct number is (323) 663-1525. The play runs through March 31.