Stamp of Approval


 

A picture may be worth 1,000 words — but it will only cost you 37 cents. This month the U.S. Postal Service is issuing American Scientists commemorative stamps honoring two of the keenest Jewish minds of the 20th century: physicist Richard P. Feynman and mathematician John von Neumann.

Feynman, a free-spirited scientist, musician, linguist and bon vivant, shared the 1965 Nobel Prize in Physics for his contributions to quantum electrodynamics.

A native of Far Rockaway in Queens, New York, Feynman helped develop the atomic bomb during World War II, while still in his 20s. For nearly 30 years, he was a professor at Caltech, where he was equally famed for his path-breaking research as his spellbinding classroom lectures. He was also the subject of the movie “Infinity” and the play “QED.”

Caltech will celebrate the stamp issue on May 20 by screening a documentary featuring Feynman, who died in 1988 at the age of 69, and display his memorabilia and books, including his popular “Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman.”

Feynman was honored in Far Rockaway on May 11 when the Postal Service released his stamp in a ceremony featuring drumming (one of his favorite recreations), readings from his popular works and the “renaming” of Comaga Avenue to Richard Feynman Way.

Von Neumann, born into a Jewish family in Budapest, was an innovator in quantum mechanics and game theory and is considered a chief architect of the computer age. He joined the Princeton Institute for Advanced Study in 1933 as one of its original faculty and led the team that developed the pioneer IAS computer in the late 1940s.

A secular Jew, Von Neumann — who married his first wife, a Catholic, in 1930, and converted to her faith to placate her parents — passed on the specifications for his creation to the Weizmann Institute of Science, allowing it to build the first computer in Israel and the Middle East.

He played influential roles in the development of the atomic and hydrogen bombs, and died in 1957 at the age of 53.

Also being recognized with his own stamp is lyricist E.Y. (“Yip”) Harburg, who is being honored in a separate Art series for “writing the lyrics to more than 600 songs distinguished by their intelligence, humanity and inventiveness,” according to the citation.

Born on New York’s Lower East Side of Russian Jewish immigrant parents, Harburg is best known for his lyrics to “Cabin in the Sky,” “Bloomer Girl,” “Wizard of Oz” and “Finian’s Rainbow.” Among his most memorable songs are “Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?” “April in Paris” and “It’s Only a Paper Moon.”

Each of the stamps features a portrait of the honoree and drawings illustrating his or her major contributions.

 

High Marks for Jewish Swimmers


 

“Watermarks” is a life-affirming documentary that celebrates the constancy of courage and grace, from youth to old age.

Its setting is the waltz-loving Austria of the 1920s and ’30s, where the lithe young swimmers of the fabled Hakoah (“the strength”) Vienna sports club are beating their “Aryan” rival clubs year after year.

Freestyler Judith Deutsch alone breaks 12 national records in 1935 and is the toast of the town, until she refuses to compete for Austria at Hitler’s 1936 Olympic Games. As punishment, she is barred from competition for life and all her marks are erased from the official record books.

After the Reich’s takeover of Austria in 1938, the swimmers scatter to Palestine, the United States and England, marry and establish professional careers.

Some 65 years later, Israeli director Yaron Zilberman decided to track down eight of the swimmers, now in their 80s, in their adopted countries.

He persuaded them to return to Vienna for a reunion and one final lap, in custom-fitted swim suits, in the swimming pool of their glory days. One is Annie Lampl of Los Angeles, who didn’t let her blindness keep her away.

The reunion has its bittersweet remembrances, but few moviegoers are ever likely to encounter as feisty, feminine and fun-loving a bunch of octogenarians.

In 1995, the Austrian swimming federation invited Deutsch to travel from Israel to Vienna to have her medals and records restored in an official ceremony.

Deutsch declined, so the Austrian delegation traveled to Israel to do the honors.

“Watermarks” opens April 1 at Laemmle’s Music Hall in Beverly Hills (310) 274-6869, and on April 8 at the Fallbrook 7 theaters (818) 340-8710 in West Hills.

 

Just One Voice


It’s nice to honor Righteous Gentiles when they’re dead. It’s even nicer to acknowledge them while they’re still alive.

Which brings me to the Rev. Doug Huneke, pastor of the Westminster Presbyterian Church in Tiburon, Calif.

Over the summer, the Presbyterian Church (USA) passed a resolution calling for divesting from companies that do business in or with Israel. Despite outrage from Jewish groups, the 3-million-member organization stuck by its decision, which was passed by a lopsided 431-62 vote at the group’s General Assembly.

Just in case you thought this action was a momentary lapse of good sense, be aware that last Sunday a 24-member U.S. Presbyterian Church delegation traveled to Lebanon and met with the south Lebanon commander of Hezbollah. After meeting with the terror group, the leader of the delegation came out with a strong condemnation — of Israel. He reiterated his church’s threat of divestment from Israel.

That’s where Huneke comes in.

In the September issue of his church newsletter, a letter to his congregants in he excoriated his church leadership for its moral myopia. The letter is titled, “A Personal Reflection on General Assembly (GA) Actions on Israel, and the Practice of Conversion.” Here’s an excerpt you should read:

As [do] most of my friends in the rabbinic community, I struggle with many of the decisions of the Israeli government. Like most people in the world, I do not see an easy solution to the crisis that besets the Palestinians and the Israelis…. [But] the debate rhetoric at GA resounded with ignorantly dangerous and inflammatory comparisons of Israel to apartheid South Africa — there is no truth in such rhetoric, but the damage was done even though the final resolutions did not use such language. This denomination carefully divested its portfolio during the crisis in South Africa, but it has done little else of such magnitude in this risky venue since. For instance, it has not called for divestment of firms doing business in China, one of the world’s worst offenders of human and religious rights, and we’ve not taken divestment actions against nuclear N. Korea or Iran, and not against Sudan for Darfur (with one exception before Darfur reached the headlines). We have not divested ourselves of firms doing business in Saudi Arabia (remember where the 9/11 hijackers came from and where the bin Laden funding has found favor and laundering). The action against Israel is selectively discriminatory, provocative and harmful. One does not need to do more than scratch the surface to determine the animus of those who promoted this action. This denomination has consistently and mildly decried violence in the Middle East. It has not, to my knowledge, however, forcefully and publicly condemned Mr. Arafat, the arguable leader of the Palestinian Authority (arguable given the displeasure of the Palestinian population with his style of corrupt, violent and dishonest leadership) nor the heinous crimes of the various terrorist groups operating in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza. What our leaders have done is offer weak support of Israel’s right to exist and expressed concern for refugees but remained frail in its stand against the genocidal, anti-Israel, anti-United States terrorists.

Most of our leaders and our denomination, generally, are not anti-Semitic, however, the effect of these kinds of actions is anti-Semitic. Such actions encourage the evil terrorism of Hamas, Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad and most certainly the likes of groups supported by bin Ladin that exist only to annihilate Jews and Israel….This GA has given aid and comfort to terrorism and encouraged it with gutless resolutions that satisfy the bureaucracy’s need to appear to be politically correct.

At the end of his letter, Huneke put his dues where his heart is, and pledged to withhold his congregation’s annual contribution to the various arms of the church.

The letter is a model of moral clarity from a man who has long been at the forefront of Christian-Jewish rapprochement, “a courageous Christian friend,” in the words of Rabbi Harold Schulweis of Valley Beth Shalom in Encino.

We can only be thankful for such courage. In September, Rep. Howard L. Berman (D-Van Nuys) and 13 of his colleagues sent a bipartisan letter to the leader of the GA, deploring its divestment resolution and urging that it be rescinded. That is an important statement, but Huneke’s letter, coming from within the movement, is an even more vital corrective. Last week, an internal Israeli security report forecast an increase in attempts, both in Europe and the U.S., to isolate and punish Israel in the coming years.

In walking away from the Oslo accords, Arafat gambled that the more he internationalized the issue, the better deal he could eventually get. Church leaders have fallen for his trick, casting their lot with a man whose own critics within the Palestinian movement credit him with untold bloodshed on both sides.

Huneke’s voice is, to my astonishment, a dissident one. But it is the gospel truth.

See the entire text of Huneke’s missive href=”http://www.jewishjournal.com/home/preview.php?id=13132″ target=”_blank”>by clicking here where you can also send him a personal e-mail.

Remembrance


Did your school do anything in honor of Sept. 11? America will have that date stamped on its memory forever. Because of the way the Jewish calendar works, Sept. 11 will often fall near Rosh Hashanah.
Begin this New Year with thoughts about how to make this a world of peace. What can you do to make this happen?

Good Kids, Bad Revenge


At the Humanitas Prize awards luncheon in Universal City earlier this summer, Jacob Aaron Estes picked up a $10,000 cash prize honoring the screenplay for his Paramount Classics film, "Mean Creek," which opens this weekend.

When asked what he would do with the money, the Chicago-bred writer/director told The Journal, "Pay rent."

The "Mean Creek" script depicts what happens when a teenage prank goes horribly wrong on a rafting trip. Such unexpected cruelty, Estes said, is based on "a whole accumulation of childhood experiences that I borrowed from."

The experiences utilized include the one summer Estes, who was raised in a Russian Jewish home, spent in California at Camp Tawonga, a Jewish summer camp near Lake Tahoe. He was 12 years old and overweight.

"I was tortured at Jewish camp, absolutely," said Estes, who at 31 could be mistaken for a relation of actor Vincent D’Onofrio.

But summer camp taunting makes up just a small part of the "Mean Creek" DNA. Set in Oregon, the film’s main character, Sam (played by Macaulay Culkin’s sibling, Rory), tells his older brother about being harassed daily at school by bully George (Nickelodeon’s "Drake & Josh" star Josh Peck). Seeking revenge, the brothers invite George on a river raft trip with several other kids, with plans to abandon the bully in the wilderness. During the trip, Sam learns how lonely George is and, out of pity, tries to abort the planned revenge, but the river’s harsher course changes their lives.

"The story is about good kids who get caught up in something that gets much more ugly than they ever intended to create," said Estes, who wrote and directed the short film "Summoning" in 2001.

"It’s launched by a revenge fantasy that goes horribly wrong," he said.

The R-rated "Mean Creek" was an official selection at the Cannes, London and Sundance film festivals. Aside from the raft trip’s blonde girl Millie (Carly Schroeder) being called a "JAP" by the other kids, the film’s religious references are minimal and only in passing.

"It’s about the conflict of different backgrounds," Estes said. "It’s a very tough age."

"Mean Creek" opens this weekend at Laemmle Sunset 5 and next weekend at the Playhouse 7 in Pasadena. For more information, visit www.laemmle.com.

7 Days In Arts


Saturday

They’re breakin’ out the fine china for two big Jewish entertainers today. As if seven Emmy’s and five Golden Globes weren’t enough, Ed Asner racks up another award “for his tireless contributions” to FirstStage Theatre, an organization dedicated to helping writers refine and develop their work for theater and film. You can attend their 20th anniversary gala honoring Asner for the bargain price of $75, proceeds from which will benefit FirstStage. Those with more to spend may consider dropping a cool $300 (or as much as $1,000) for the chance to see another legend. Burt Bacharach gets the “Mr. Wonderful” award and sings for his dinner at the 48th annual Thalians Ball tonight, too. Proceeds from this one benefit the Thalians Mental Health Center at Cedars-Sinai.

FirstStage Theatre Gala: 8 p.m., United Methodist Church, 6817 Franklin Ave., Los Angeles. (323) 850-6271.Thalians Ball: 6 p.m. (cocktails and silent auction), 8 p.m. (event). Century Plaza Hotel, 2025 Avenue of the Stars, Los Angeles. (310) 423-1040.

Sunday

You might’ve missed the celebrity elbow-rubbing Thursday night, but for those whose budgets don’t afford $150 cocktail receptions, there’s still time to check out the main event this weekend. Eighteen bucks gets you into Barker Hangar for the run of the ninth annual L.A. Art Show. Promising 60 vendors and dealers from the United States and Europe — and more than $50 million worth of works by “Old Masters to cutting edge contemporary, including photography” — it’s a veritable flea market of fine art. Israel Hershberg’s works will be among those displayed at the show. Those taking a liking to it should consider Forum Gallery’s “Special Exhibition of Paintings and Drawings by Israel Hershberg,” which remains on view through Oct. 18.

L.A. Art Show: Oct. 10, noon-8 p.m.; Oct. 11, noon-7 p.m.; Oct. 12, noon-6 p.m. Barker Hangar, 3021 Airport Ave., Santa Monica. (800) 656-9278.Forum Gallery: 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. (Tuesday-Saturday). 8069 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles. (323) 655-1550.

Monday

Seven Days’ wacky event of the week award goes to the Australian aboriginal art auction taking place today. Milking the Aussie thing for all it’s worth, the event planners have booked a kangaroo — to do what, we’re not sure; Outback Restaurants will provide the catering; and John Olsen, consul general of Australia, is scheduled to attend. With the restrictions the Australian government places on the exportation of native treasures, it’s rare that pieces like these are up for sale. Holocaust survivor Simonne Levi-Jameson, whose life story is being made into a movie, is the owner of this collection, from which 18 paintings will be auctioned off. Proceeds partially benefit UNICEF and Doctors Without Borders.Fax invitation requests to: (310) 657-1761.

Tuesday

Tuesday brings you more very fine art. Painter Kamran Khavarani’s big and vibrant “Color of Love: My Dreams and Visions” exhibit at the Gallery on Lindbrook is a blending of impressionism, expressionism and abstraction inspired by the poetry of 13th-century Persian mystic philosopher Rumi. See the pretty pictures alongside works by fellow celebrated Iranian expat artist Jalal Sousan-Abadi through Nov. 1.Noon-6 p.m. (Tuesday-Thursday), noon-8 p.m. (Friday and Saturday). 10852 Lindbrook Ave., Westwood. (323) 656-2000.

Wednesday

Shimon Peres is back in town this week, stepping up to the podium to help kick off the new season of the Distinguished Speaker Series of Pasadena. The speaker has distinguished himself in various ways, including being a former Israeli prime minister and Nobel Peace Prize winner. Hear what he’s got to say for himself tonight.8 p.m. $38-$50. Pasadena Civic Auditorium, 300 E. Green St., Pasadena. (626) 449-7360. Peres will also be speaking on Nov. 12 at Stephen S. Wise Temple, Nov. 13 in Thousand Oaks and Nov. 14 in Redondo Beach. www.speakersla.com.

Thursday

Had your fill of Down Under? Head downtown to the Central Library today to see some treasures from our side of the globe. Currently on view is “American Originals: Treasures From the National Archives,” an exhibition of 25 historically significant documents. Included in the show are Germany’s surrender in World War II, a complaint by Levi Strauss for infringement of his patent and the Louisiana Purchase Treaty. Head back Dec. 5-8 to see the Emancipation Proclamation, which will be displayed only briefly due to its fragile condition.10 a.m.-8 p.m. (Monday-Thursday), 10 a.m.-6 p.m. (Friday and Saturday), 1-5 p.m. (Sunday). Getty Gallery, 630 W. Fifth St., Los Angeles. (213) 228-7506.

Friday

Richard Kline of “Three’s Company” fame proves he’s not just a gigolo in his performance as a very different Larry in “Boychik.” The acclaimed one-man show, written by Richard W. Krevolin, tells the story of a secular son who must come to terms with the death of his Orthodox father. It plays through Nov. 16.8 p.m. (Friday and Saturday), 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. (Sunday). $15-$18. The Actors Forum Theatre, 10655 Magnolia Ave., North Hollywood. (818) 787-0300.

Big-Hearted Giver’s Crowning Moment


Paul Goldenberg avoided playgrounds and sports while he was growing up, because he lacked athletic prowess. He spent hours in the cool darkness of a movie house.

In the central Los Angeles of the ’30s, where his parents had little money to spare, Goldenberg scrounged for pop bottles, collecting enough deposits to pay for weekend film marathons. From Friday to Sunday, he lived vicariously, absorbed in the characters portrayed by Clark Gable and Groucho Marx.

Several cousins also lived in his parents’ modest home. Its backyard was shaded by fruit trees, enriched by a flock of 40 chickens. He was 16 when his father, Joe, a one-time attorney toiling as a shipyard accountant, died. While sitting shiva, nearly every man in the neighborhood shared an anecdote with the teenager about his father’s open heart that freely dispensed advice or a sack of avocados.

Goldenberg’s private passion for film would play a formative role in his later financial success as proprietor of Paul’s TV and his alter-ego, “The King of Big Screen.” But his father was equally influential in Goldenberg’s evolution into one of the state’s largest political contributors and as a major donor to numerous nonprofit groups.

On Sept. 10, the Los Angeles Jewish Home for the Aging (JHA) in Reseda will honor Goldenberg at a gala, along with Lisa and Ernest Auerbach and Jerry Kayne. Goldenberg helped fund the home’s newest $13 million building, its design reflecting the latest research on Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, and pledged another $2 million toward a $52 million nursing-home expansion, which will trim the facility’s 350-person waiting list by 40 percent.

“I can’t think of anything more worthwhile than the home in Reseda,” said Goldenberg, whose cousin, Israel Murstein, is a resident, as was another cousin, the late Betty Klein.

“It is nicer than any hotel you’ve ever been in,” he said of the Alzheimer’s home for 96 residents, known as the Goldenberg-Ziman Special Care Center.

“He gets it,” said Molly Forrest, chief executive of the Jewish Home, which was singled out in March by state licensing authorities for its perfect certification survey. “The elderly in our community have to have a quality facility.”

Goldenberg’s gold mine is Paul’s TV & Video in La Habra; far-better known throughout Southern California is Goldenberg’s advertising boast as the self-proclaimed champion of big-screen television sales.

“I am the king,” he declares in newspaper, billboard and radio spots that tout big-screen sales of more than 100,000 units.

For the 19th straight year, Japan’s Mitsubishi Electric Corporation named Paul’s as the biggest single-store seller of its big-screen TVs.

Goldenberg won’t say how much business he does. The store’s modest size and appearance often surprise first-time visitors. Equally surprising is its staffing. On a recent weekday, five salesmen manned a showroom smaller than the typical suburban home. To keep its pledge of four-hour delivery, Paul’s maintains a 30-truck fleet for installers that travel from Ventura to Carlsbad.

“I’m very dedicated to the idea that customers should get what they pay for,” Goldenberg said. “With a chain of five or 10 stores, it’s very hard to know what’s going on with customer satisfaction.”

The late Jack Lawlor, who owned an advertising agency and believed Paul’s could attain regional prominence, created the trumped-up title.

“He was like an Olympic coach who pushed me to go farther than I ever would have,” said Goldenberg, who got his start by borrowing $1,000 from his cousins to open a TV repair shop in Los Angeles.

In 1979, when Mitsubishi introduced the first big-screen TVs, Paul’s was one of the first takers, a confidence buoyed by Goldenberg’s own love for cinema.

“I was among the first to recognize their potential for bringing a movie-like experience into the home,” he said.

TVs aren’t the only things on display at Paul’s. Alongside the king’s crown, under an acrylic cube, are photos of Goldenberg with former Presidents Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan. It keeps company with the 138-page bound script for “Terminator 2,” signed by Arnold Schwarzenegger; commemorative plaques for La Habra firefighters; a letter of thanks from Cardinal Roger Mahoney; and a signed Kobe Bryant jersey. More signed celebrity photos line two walls.

Goldenberg, 75, is divorced. His son, Doug, is a botanist-biologist for the federal Bureau of Land Management. If there is a Paul’s succession plan, Goldenberg is unwilling to share it.

“I wouldn’t have any challenger,” he deadpanned.

“The store has allowed me to fulfill some of my dreams to help people who are less fortunate than I,” said Goldenberg, who’s also backed candidates with views similar to his own. (His personal self-indulgences include a red Ferrari and Dodger seats behind home plate.) He supports the California Highway Patrol 11-99 Foundation and chairs its scholarship committee, which awarded $1.2 million to 700 students this year.

“He has a big heart,” said Pam Anspach Colletti, a counselor at La Habra’s Sonora High School, where Goldenberg personally hands out $500 student scholarships. He’s awarded 40 between two schools last spring. He also underwrites an annual trip for 10 students to Washington, D.C., from Los Angeles’ Dorsey High, his alma mater.

“He has a wonderful spirit of giving in that he recognizes how blessed he is,” said Juan M. Garcia, La Habra’s mayor. “It makes him feel good. He has more than he’ll ever need.”

A recent recipient of Goldenberg’s charity is Duarte’s City of Hope, a cancer research and treatment center. Last year, Goldenberg observed the facility firsthand during a friend’s illness.

“He stepped up to the plate and said he wanted to help,” said Richard Leonard, a senior development officer at City of Hope, where Goldenberg is funding an elevated walkway. “He’s got a sense of tzedakah; he knows what’s just in his heart.”

Though he considers himself Jewish, Goldenberg acknowledges his synagogue attendance is irregular.

“In Torah, it says God loves the just man. There’s nothing about God loving the man who goes to synagogue. I’ve tried my best to be a just man.”

For more information on Jewish Home for the Aging, call
(818) 774-3000 or visit www.jha.org .

The Jewish Side of…


There was no red carpet or Hollywood glitz, but the first Jewish Image Awards, honoring outstanding work reflecting Jewish heritage in film and television, proved a lot shorter and funnier than the more celebrated Oscar ceremonies.

Veteran director Arthur Hiller ("Love Story," "Plaza Suite," "The Man in the Glass Booth") received the Tisch Lifetime Achievement Award. It was presented by the multitalented Carl Reiner, who spent most of the introduction pointing out why Hiller didn’t deserve the award.

The Cross-Cultural Award went to "Backstory: Gentleman’s Agreement," Kevin Burns’ documentary on the making of the groundbreaking 1947 film on American anti-Semitism, which aired on American Movie Classics.

Master of ceremonies Jeffrey Tambor revealed that he had auditioned for an alleged remake of "Gentleman’s Agreement," but was rejected as "too Jewish."

"They’re going for Denzel [Washington]," Tambor deadpanned.

The award ceremony, in the form of an early evening cocktail reception at the Beverly Hilton, was originally scheduled for Sept. 12, but was postponed to last week after the Sept. 11 terrorists attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon.

Howard Bragman and Alan Kannof served as the evening’s co-chairs.

Other winners at the event, sponsored by the Los Angeles Entertainment Industry Council of the National Foundation for Jewish Culture, were:

  • Outstanding Achievement Awards: "Rugrats 10th Anniversary."
  • Network Television Award: ABC miniseries "Anne Frank."
  • Cable Television Film Award: "Varian’s War" (Showtime).
  • Documentary Film Award: "Into the Arms of Strangers" (Warner Bros.).
  • Television Series Award: "The West Wing" (Warner/NBC)
  • Female Character in Television: Hannah Taylor Gordon in the title role in "Anne Frank."
  • Male Character in Television: Richard Schiff, who plays the president’s Communications Director Toby Ziegler in "The West Wing."
  • Female Character in Film: Rachel Weisz in "Enemy at the Gates" (Paramount).
  • Male Character in Film: Steven Weber in "Club Land" (Showtime).
  • MorningStar Commission’s Woman of Inspiration Award: Entertainment attorney Patti Felker.

Wonder Women


Last year Hollywood unleashed woman of action Erin Brockovich, and won the Academy Award for its star, Julia Roberts.

Next month, the Israel Cancer Research Fund (ICRF) will honor the real Brockovich at the Sixth Annual Women of Action 2001 luncheon banquet on Aug. 8. Brockovich’s boss, attorney Ed Masry, will present the woman who valiantly took on an entire corporation with ICRF’s “Woman of the Year” award.

In addition to honoring Brockovich, ICRF will celebrate the achievements of four other individuals who have contributed to the betterment of both science and society.

The award ceremony will salute Dr. Alexandra Levine, medical director of USC/Norris Cancer Hospital and chief of the hematology division, who worked with Dr. Jonas Salk in the development of an AIDS vaccine; California Real Estate Commissioner Paula Reddish Zinneman, the first woman in the state to hold the position; Superior Court Judge Marsha Revel; and Israeli singer Hedva Amrani Danoff (wife of Dr. Dudley Danoff, an ICRF board member). The luncheon, along with an annual racetrack event and winter ball, is a major fundraising opportunity benefiting ICRF’s cause. Overseeing the event will be Jacqueline Bell, chairwoman of the board of ICRF’s L.A. chapter, and Dorothy Chitkov, its vice president.

The achievements of the ICRF itself are worth countless accolades. Since its inception in 1975, the New York-based ICRF, an organization with branches all over North America, has supported research at the 20 major institutions in Israel, including Bar-Ilan, Ben Gurion and Tel Aviv Universities, Hadassah, the Weizmann Institute of Science, Sheba Medical Center and the Technion. Over almost three decades, ICRF has raised $24 million toward cancer research.

Just this year, doctors supported by ICRF developed Gleevic, a wonder drug for leukemia and rare stomach cancers.

Past achievements have included the application of the p53 protein as an inhibitor of the proliferation of disease cells; the hepatitis B vaccine for the treatment of liver cancer; and Doxil, which helps patients with cancer and AIDS.

ICRF relies on a board of 100 doctors who meet and review applications presented by Israeli scientists to determine who will receive research money. Last year, more than $50,000 was raised toward two fellowships. Chitkov, who herself once suffered from Hodgkin’s disease, said that 100 percent of the contributions sent to Israel by ICRF is spent purely on research.

Right now, ICRF has an eye toward propelling its work into the next millennium. The L.A. Chapter recently formed Visions – the Next Generation, a new fundraising group composed of young professionals, ages 20-40, and headed by attorney, and ICRF board member Greg Bell. Visions’ first outing will be a Monte Carlo Night on Sept. 8 at the Park Plaza Hotel in the Wilshire District.

And this year, the L.A. Chapter plans to double the $1-million tally raised last year.

“I’m a former cancer patient, and I came to this because my doctor told me to get involved. I was told to do it for four weeks, and that was eight years ago,” Chitkov said with a laugh.

For more information on Israel Cancer Research Fund and Visions – The Next Generation, call (323) 651-1200.

Favorite Son


It was a proud moment for Sam Kermanian when his West Hollywood-based organization, the Iranian-American Jewish Federation (IAJF), welcomed Israel’s President Moshe Katzav last week.

“To us, he’s more than just a president of the State of Israel,” said Kermanian, 46. “He is truly a modern-day hero and a shining example of the reawakening of the Iranian-Jewish community.”

Some, including members of the Western Region of the Federation of Jewish Men’s Clubs, would say the same about Kermanian himself. The group will honor him with its Distinguished Service Award on Sunday, June 17.

After last year’s imprisonment of 13 Iranian Jews in Shiraz on trumped-up charges of spying, Kermanian was crucial in raising international awareness about it and putting political pressure on the Iranian government for the prisoners’ release. It was a matter so sensitive that Kermanian won’t comment on details of his efforts.

“Sam has bettered the Iranian Jewish cause on many levels,” said Solomon Rastegar, who has known Kermanian since their Tehran days. “He knows what buttons to push. He has had the biggest impact on the life of Iranian Jews internationally. He brings different Jewish organizations — Iranian and non-Iranian — together for the interest of Iranian Jews.”

Dr. Iraj Tabibzadeh, chairman of IAJF’s Foreign Relations Committee, said he is proud to work alongside Kermanian. “He has devoted his life to these activities. He’s a very honest man, a family man.”

Kermanian, his wife, Betty, and their children — Celine, 10, Cody, 8, and Riley, 7 — are members of Sinai Temple.

Just as Katzav (along with Israel’s chief of staff and its air force leader) embodies the post-World War II emergence of Iranian Jews after centuries of persecution and cultural oppression, Kermanian is representative of the rising Persian Jewish population in Los Angeles, which contains the largest such population in the world (an estimated 35,000, roughly 10,000 more than believed to be living in Iran today).

An increasingly succesful sector in the community, Persian Jews are facing challenges familiar to previous generations of jewish immigramts; among them, dilution of traditional values and assimilation. “There is no question there is an influence of materialism,” Kermanian said. “Some of the old values are still holding the community together, but, obviously, this is something that will not last forever. We know that within a generation or two, we will assimilate into a larger landscape. Our goal is to make sure that we assimilate into the American Jewish community rather than the secular American landscape.”

Kermanian believes that American Jewish strategies to counter escalating rates of intermarriage and divorce, such as education and programs in Israel, are just beginning to penetrate the close-knit Persian community.

“We’re not waiting for assimilation to happen before we try to correct [these lapses],” he said.

Raised in Iran, Kermanian earned his civil engineering degrees from Technion University in Haifa and Polytechnic University of New York before coming to Los Angeles in 1979 to start a real-estate company with his father, Moussa Kermanian, who died of a heart attack in 1980 at the age of 58. His death devastated Kermanian, who not only lost his father but his role model. (In pre-revolution Iran, Moussa Kermanian was a pillar in the Jewish community and among the first wave of Iranian Jews who were able to openly express Jewish ideals.)

After Jewish leader Habib Elghanian’s execution in 1979, Moussa became politically active, organizing Iranian Jews to pressure Iran not to persecute its Jews. When Moussa died, Kermanian picked up where his father had left off. “If one day I can claim that I have filled his shoes, I would be very proud,” Kermanian said.

While Kermanian is appreciative of the Men’s Clubs’ honor, he downplayed it: “I don’t deserve it, because what I’m being awarded for took a lot more people than me to accomplish.”

“We have a lot of unfinished business,” he said. “However, we are fortunate to enjoy extremely close relationships with the larger Jewish community that we feel partner to.”

Sam Kermanian will be honored by the Federation of Jewish Men’s Clubs Western Region at Valley Beth Shalom, Encino, where the keynote speaker will be Yuval Rotem, consul general of Israel. For more information, contact Myles Berman at (310) 273-9501.

Leading With His Left


Rabbi Leonard I. Beerman’s art-filled home on a quiet, verdant Brentwood street is a world away from the gritty industrial world in which he lived as a child during the Depression and again as a young man on the cusp of World War II. But it’s his experiences in that world of assembly-line workers that led him to the rabbinate and to his 52 years in Los Angeles.

Leo Baeck Temple will honor the man who became its first full-time rabbi in 1949 at Friday night services May 4, celebrating Beerman’s 80 years of life and his boundless commitment to social justice and liberal Judaism.

"We grew up together," Beerman said of the Reform synagogue, which had been founded the year before he arrived, newly ordained, from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati. It was the only congregation he served during the 37 years before his retirement in 1986.

Beerman was outspoken on issues such as civil rights, workers’ rights, the war in Vietnam and Mideast conflict. "Our synagogue became known as a place where these issues were engaged and openly discussed," inviting speakers that included Daniel Ellsberg and Cesar Chavez, Beerman said.

Under his leadership, the temple radiated "a wholesome atmosphere of ideas," he said. "Not everyone agreed with my views, but I think we established a relationship of basic trust."

"He was speaking against the Vietnam War before I even knew what the Vietnam War was," said John Rosove, senior rabbi of Temple Israel of Hollywood, who grew up at Leo Baeck. When Rosove took positions that could be controversial, he said, "I knew [Rabbi Beerman] had stuck his neck out long before I did."

Beerman said his Jewish identity was "nurtured by my experiences, being a child of the Depression, seeing my father cut down by the Depression." He was also a witness to the struggle of local workers to unionize and improve their lot in life, and he came to see being a Jew as carrying a responsibility "to enhance life for the least of God’s children as well as the greatest."

Beerman spent most of his childhood in Owosso, Mich., about 20 miles west of Flint; his was one of seven Jewish families in town. Owosso had an active Ku Klux Klan — black folks couldn’t stay in town overnight — and, growing up, Beerman heard the occasional anti-Jewish epithet or remark.

But, he said, "growing up in a small town was a magical experience…. You felt yourself embraced, part of a definable community."

In 1941, several months before Pearl Harbor, Beerman took a break from his studies at Pennsylvania State University and returned to Michigan to work in an auto-parts factory that had been retooled to produce machine guns. That’s where he met up with a more virulent anti-Semitism: Some co-workers with whom he’d become friends dropped him when he mentioned that he was Jewish, and as word got out, other workers picked fights with him. "It was the experience of anti-Semitism that prompted me to think about the rabbinate as a place for me, because [prejudice] deprived me of this circle of friends," Beerman said in a television interview.

Curious about what caused hatred against Jews, Beerman began to read through the books on Jewish history and philosophy in the local public library; this research, in turn, sparked a desire for more formal Jewish study.

The current situation in Israel causes him great pain. "I’ve been accused of being overly sensitive to the rights of the Palestinians, [but] I have always believed that Israel accepted a basic contract, and the basic condition of that contract was that this land was meant to be shared," he said, calling Israel’s occupation of the disputed territories "destructive of the values that had gone into the making of Israel."

Nor does he sound particularly optimistic about how the conflicts will be resolved. "It’s tragic what these two peoples feel compelled to do to one another," he said. "It brings out the worst excesses of nationalist thinking on both sides. The only thing to hope for is that something is happening that none of us knows about."

But only an optimist signs up for as many causes as Beerman does. He’s involved with Jewish and interfaith organizations opposing the death penalty and supporting sweatshop workers, the anti-nuclear movement, medical ethics — and peace in the Middle East. He protested the Persian Gulf War and has fought for affordable housing and protection for the homeless.

Sanford Ragins, who was Beerman’s associate rabbi during the tumultuous 1960s and is now senior rabbi at Leo Baeck, told The Journal that Beerman’s passions informed Ragins’ own activism. "He knew Judaism was not something you kept locked up in the ark," Ragins said.

"At an early age, I remember being spellbound by his sermonizing," said Rabbi Carla Howard, who grew up at Leo Baeck and currently serves Metivta, a Jewish contemplative center on the Westside. "I was coming of age in the late ’60s, in the middle of this cultural explosion of values, and he was a voice that helped shape my values."

Beerman has known tragedy during his later years, having lost his first wife just after his retirement and an 8-year-old granddaughter to a sudden, undiagnosed ailment. But he says he looks forward to each new day with his second wife, Joan, and his children and grandchildren, with whom he regularly shares Shabbat.

And he still inspires congregations. "He is a rabbi’s rabbi," Rosove said. "[Listeners] melt under his words, even when they don’t agree with everything he says, because he speaks from a deep, prophetic place."

Leo Baeck Temple will honor Rabbi Leonard Beerman at services May 4, 7:30 p.m., 1300 N. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles. For more information, call (310) 476-2861.

‘Neighbors’


Responding to widespread debate over Poles’ participation in a 1941 massacre of Jews, Poland’s political and religious leaders are calling on Polish citizens to confront their past.

“We have an obligation to honor the memory of the victims and to establish the truth,” Prime Minister Jerzy Buzek said Tuesday of the massacre in the small town of Jedwabne in northeastern Poland. “We need to confront the darkest facts in our history.”

Buzek and other leaders have pledged to commemorate the victims and urged a thorough investigation of the case.

Debate has raged in Poland since the publication last year of Polish-born American scholar Jan Gross’ book, “Neighbors.” In the book, Gross says that Polish villagers of Jedwabne — not the Nazis — murdered some 1,600 of their Jewish neighbors in July 1941 by herding them into a barn and setting it on fire.

The revelations in the book, which is due out soon in English, have sparked a reexamination of the Poles’ role during the Holocaust.

Some 3 million Polish Jews died in the genocide. A similar number of non-Jewish Poles were killed by the Nazis.

There have been numerous conferences, articles in the media and heated round-table discussions. A documentary on the case will be released next week.

An investigation launched last year by the Polish National Remembrance Institute has not yet been completed.

“There is no doubt that Poles participated in the crime,” Buzek said. “But the murder was done neither in the name of the nation nor in the name of the Polish state.”

“We object to the use of the Jedwabne case to spread false statements about the Polish co-responsibility for the Holocaust or on innate Polish anti-Semitism,” Buzek said. Nor, he added, “should all inhabitants of Jedwabne of today be reproached for a murder committed 60 years ago.”

Most of Jedwabne’s current 2,000 residents settled there after the war. Townspeople this week prepared an open letter that condemned the wartime atrocity but also said today’s residents should not bear the blame.

“You have to realize that asking the town to make peace with its past is tantamount to desecrating its deepest beliefs of patriotism and Catholicism,” Jedwabne’s mayor, Krzysztof Godlewski, told Reuters. “And this is difficult, especially since our town was probably not an isolated incident.”

President Aleksander Kwasniewski last week pledged to apologize publicly for the massacre.

“This should be done by the authorities of the Polish Republic,” he told Polish television. “The anniversary” of the massacre “on 10 July is a good day, and Jedwabne, because of the tragedy that took place there, is a proper place for that,” Kwasniewski said.

In an interview with the Israeli newspaper Yediot Achronot, which was quoted in the Polish media, Kwasniewski called the Jedwabne case “an act of genocide which Poles from Jedwabne carried out against their Jewish neighbors,” adding that it was “an exceptionally bestial killing of innocent people.”

Kwasniewski, however, drew fire in the media for announcing the apology before a full investigation of the case was completed.

Poland’s leading Roman Catholic cardinal, Josef Glemp, called for a thorough investigation of “the causes of such barbaric and hateful attitudes of Poles toward Jews.”

He said that, after receiving a letter from Warsaw Rabbi Michael Schudrich, he would eagerly participate in “common prayers of Poles and Jews, either in front of the Ghetto Heroes’ Monument, in one of the churches or in the synagogue” to mourn the victims on the 60th anniversary of the massacre this summer.

At the same time, however, he also said he awaited the publication of Gross’s book in English “with anxiety, because the truth thereby revealed to Americans is expected to unleash Jewry’s sharp attacks on Poles.”

Jewish Journalism


Last week the American Jewish Press Association held its 19th annual conference in Washington DC. Part of the proceedings always include a closing night dinner where reporters and their newspapers are honored for Excellence in Jewish Journalism. These are known as the Simon Rockower Awards.No room for immodesty here. There are 10 different categories for awards, each of which includes first and second place prizes and one honorable mention (presumably third place). The Jewish Journal submitted stories written in 1999 by members of our staff, for six of the 10 categories. We won five prizes, the largest number given to a Jewish weekly this year.

Julie Gruenbaum Fax was awarded two first place prizes, one for Excellence in Personality Profiles (“Gay, Orthodox and a Rabbi”), and one for Excellence in News Reporting (“A Day in Shul with the Dalai Lama “). The entire staff took first place for Excellence in Comprehensive Coverage of a story – the sad occasion being our “Coverage of the North Valley JCC Shootings.”Naomi Pfefferman took a break from her entertainment beat and received an Honorable Mention for Excellence in Feature Writing (“Crypto-Jews Unmasked”), and I was awarded second place for Commentary and Editorial Writing (“Jewish in Europe”). To anticipate your question, receiving all these awards, it feels great.

Farewell to J.J. Goldberg

I hope you have read J.J. Goldberg’s column on page 5. It’s smart, savvy and humane, all at the same time. It is also, alas, his farewell column for us.

J.J. Goldberg, 50, has been selected to be the new editor at the (English language) Forward newspaper in New York, succeeding founding editor Seth Lipsky. It is both a natural and an inspired choice. But it also means that his writing will now appear in that newspaper, probably in the form of editorials.

Under Lipsky, the Forward took an aggressive stance towards the Jewish establishment, not because of its bureaucratic fumbling so much as for its (perceived) liberal ideology. Goldberg, who is the author of “Jewish Power: Inside the American Jewish Establishment,” says “I want to tell the truth, but I don’t want to humiliate anyone.” We wish him well.

Good for the Jews

Early this week, I received a telephone call from one of our readers who wanted to know if the Supreme Court’s decision on California’s blanket primary law was “good for the Jews.”

I started to hedge, to explain that it wasn’t a Jewish issue, but then caught myself and halted. Hung for a sheep, hung for a goat, I told myself. Yes, I said authoritatively, the Court’s ruling that the law was unconstitutional and therefore void was “good for the Jews.” Satisfied, the caller broke the connection. No further explanation seemed necessary. But the more I thought about it, the more convinced I became that – ideology aside – in fact I had provided the generally correct answer.

In our state’s blanket primary, you may recall, there is only one ballot and every voter can cast his or her ballot for any one candidate, regardless of political party. Everyone has the opportunity to jump parties or to claim a party affiliation, even for this one occasion alone. It sort of converts the primary into a general State election.

Not surprisingly, Republican and Democratic party leaders dislike the open primary and are pleased with the Court’s ruling. They want the political parties to be more cohesive, to reflect something akin to party loyalty and discipline. They want more control.

The Court’s back of the hand to the blanket primary appeared to second their objection when it called the law “a stark repudiation of freedom of political association.” Political parties should be free to determine their candidate and even to carve out their own identity, the Court was saying. How is this particularly good for the Jews?

Our voices in both parties count far beyond our numbers. So party discipline and party control generally works to our advantage, whichever party we favor. The blanket primary, however, seems to me only half a step away from populism. It is a second cousin to cyberspace chat rooms. Single issue groups of voters who want to exercise a determining role in a party’s local election – whether it be over banning books, abortion, prayer in school – can theoretically affect the choice of a party candidate… and then disappear.Historically, populism in America has championed the underdog against the oligarchs; called for a more equitable sharing of wealth and power. At the same time, populism has often been nativist, anti-immigrant, narrow in its acceptance of Jews and Catholics and blacks, and anti-intellectual. This was true for George Wallace of Alabama as well as for 19h-century founding populist leader William Jennings Bryan.

Politics of course is anything but static. Ask the same question – Is it good for the Jews? – 20 years from now, maybe even within the decade, and you might receive a different answer. But for now, I’m with the Supreme Court.

New Israel Fund Honors Rabbi Susan Laemmle


Last week, Rabbi Richard Levy, executive director of the Los Angeles Hillel Council, introduced to the Central Conference of American Rabbis in Pittsburgh a new Reform movement manifesto. And according to Rabbi Susan Laemmle, that’s not his only contribution to Reform. For without Rabbi Levy — her mentor and former superior — there may never have been a Rabbi Laemmle.

But it is the former English teacher who is now being recognized for her community devotion. On Sunday, June 6, New Israel Fund (NIF) will honor Laemmle during its seventh Tzedakah Dinner at Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel.

For the past three years, Laemmle has been dean of religious life at USC, before which the Reform rabbi served four years as the university’s Hillel director. If Laemmle’s name sounds familiar, it may be because her father, the late Kurt Laemmle, and her uncle Max, founded the Laemmle Theatres chain, years after creating and selling what is now Universal Studios. While the home of her youth was always a source of cultural and Zionist pride, Laemmle did not become observant until her 20s.

Laemmle’s history with NIF goes back to 1987, when her recommendation helped lead to the hiring of the nonprofit organization’s first Los Angeles director. NIF, through its subsidiary Shatil (“seedling” in Hebrew), provides funding and training for hundreds of organizations that address Israeli social issues, including National Council for the Child; Association for Civil Rights in Israel; Center for Jewish-Arab Economic Development; Interns for Peace; and outreach and support groups throughout Israel.

While studying at the rabbinate in New York, Laemmle became acquainted and impressed with NIF’s presentations.

“The programs were not pat…they looked at issues honestly. I don’t like hype, and they didn’t look at Israel like it was some sort of [infallible] icon,” says Laemmle.

Says David Moses, NIF’s Los Angeles Regional Director, of Laemmle: “She has been a vocal advocate [and has helped] raise the profile of NIF and the community…. She continues to believe strongly in the mission of the fund and the work that we do…building bridges between communities.”

Laemmle is very candid about her early 1990s failed attempt to make <I>aliyah<$>. Although she ultimately could not carve out a life in Israel for herself, that doesn’t mean that she will ever give up investing in the Jewish state’s future.

Says Laemmle, “I do what I can from where I am.”

For more information on New Israel Fund, contact the Los Angeles office at (310) 282-0300.

Young Israel Matures


Had Elazar Muskin not locked himself out of his uncle’s house while on his honeymoon here 13 years ago, he might not today be rabbi of one of Los Angeles’ most vibrant Orthodox shuls.

Fortunately for Young Israel of Century City, Muskin didn’t wait around for his uncle to return. Instead, he took a self-guided tour of Los Angeles’ shuls and, confusing Pico for Olympic Boulevard, stumbled into Young Israel. Add that to the fact that his uncle knew someone who knew someone who could set up an interview that afternoon, and some might call it a sign of divine intervention.

And so, after a two-year search, Young Israel finally had its first full-time rabbi; the search committee took just a few days in 1986 to offer the position to Muskin.

This week, the shul is honoring Muskin and his wife, Ruhama, for 13 years of service to the shul and to the greater Los Angeles community.

“I didn’t know if the shul would survive when I first came,” says Muskin, a warm smile shining through his trim red beard. Sitting in a meticulously organized home study, where books and family photos line the walls, Muskin, 43, pulls out a yellow Western Union telegram that apprised him of the offer to lead the “200-family” congregation. “If there were 50 families when I got here, we were lucky,” he says with a laugh.

But, he adds, he took the job because he knew the Orthodox community and the fledgling synagogue were both on the verge of a growth spurt. Muskin’s gamble was successful, and, today, he has helped build the shul into a 280-family venue of haimish prayer, high-caliber Torah study and bountiful tzedakah.

He was also right about the growth of the Orthodox community, which now wields significantly more influence than it did just 13 years ago. And Muskin is proud to have among his members some of the most successful doctors and lawyers in town, as well as many leaders of the greater Los Angeles Jewish community.

“We have a responsibility to the community,” says the rabbi, who recruited 30 of his members to man the phones on Super Sunday. “We cannot be people with our heads in the sand, only interested in our own Shabbos. Our members are successful young people committed to Torah and mitzvot, who can have enormous impact upon commitment to Jewish life.”

Like many shuls in the Pico-Robertson neighborhood, Young Israel was spawned at Congregation Beth Jacob, the largest Orthodox synagogue west of the Mississippi River. The founders of Young Israel of Century City had a vision of a more intimate and participatory, less formal service, with a philosophy that cut right down the center of Orthodoxy.

After 10 years with a part-time rabbi, shul leaders were ready for a full-time leader in 1986. They decided on Muskin, whose father was a rabbi in Cleveland for 40 years, and whose grandfather, a scholar from the renowned Slabodka yeshiva in Lithuania, led a congregation in Chicago.

“Rabbi Muskin is a visionary,” says Dr. Mark Goldenberg, a past president and co-chair of the tribute dinner committee. “Because of him, the shul is a citywide model of programming, we do incredible chesed [good deeds], and the amount of tzedakah he extracts is unbelievable.”

There were some rough spots when Muskin first arrived, fresh from five years’ experience at a small, mostly elderly congregation in New York’s Washington Heights.

Shul leaders told Muskin that they weren’t satisfied with his speaking style, so he worked to change it. Today, he is one of the most dynamic speakers in the Los Angeles rabbinate.

He told them there was too much talking. Now, you can hear a pin drop during services, according to Muskin.

The building, on Pico, a few blocks east of Beverly Drive, has changed, too. In 1996, three new storefronts were added to the former dry cleaners, purchased in 1983; seats were added to the main sanctuary, and a youth wing was created for Shabbat morning children’s groups.

A marble-and-glass-and-brick facade allows light to filter in to the rustic main sanctuary, where dark wood beams hang overhead, and pearly tapestries adorn the brick walls.

“My balabatim [members] live affluent lives; why should shul be any different than the way we live at home?” Muskin asks. “This is God’s home, our home away from home. It should be beautiful.”

Throughout the years of growth, the challenge has been to maintain the intimacy the founders envisioned. Muskin makes sure to know each member, to keep track of their personal lives. He prides himself on the details he covers, from sending a mazel tov cake and card to every family with a simcha, to the calls he makes every Friday afternoon to his list of widows, widowers and the ill — something he learned from his father.

He and his wife and their two daughters, Gila, 11, and Dina, 9, have a tableful of guests every Shabbat. Ruhama, who is the assistant principal for girls’ Torah studies at Yavneh Hebrew Academy, also heads up the shul’s chesed committee, arranging meals for the bereaved, the ill or for families who just had babies.

“They are a fantastic team,” says Rebekah Jalali, an administrator who is the only other full-time staff member at Young Israel. “There is not one little detail they don’t take care of, and everything is done with a tremendous amount of warmth and love.”

Honor Bestowed


Joel Grishaver, everybody’s favorite hip Jewish uncle, had been up half the night, schmoozing with a rabbi’s son who was visiting from England. So when Grishaver answered the phone at 6:30 a.m., he was hardly prepared for the voice that said, “You and I have a date for lunch in Washington on Sept. 15. You’ve just won the Covenant Award.”

Once the words sank in, Grishaver realized that he’d been given a high honor. The Covenant Foundation, a national group dedicated to the betterment of Jewish education, hands out three awards annually to community leaders, synagogue educators and others who have made a significant impact.

Grishaver thinks he qualified primarily because of the 25 weekends a year he spends on the road, presenting seminars and Shabbatons. In such unlikely outposts as Odessa, Texas, Altoona, Pa., and Fargo, N.D., Grishaver has brought his own puckish slant on Jewish values and the joys of Jewish study to learners of all ages.

The Covenant Award is more than a fancy plaque. Grishaver will receive what he calls “a nice chunk of change”: a $20,000 cash award. In addition, a check for $5,000 goes to the institution with which each winner is affiliated; since Grishaver has long been a freelancer, he plans to combine this sum with $5,000 of his personal award and create a special endowment. He’ll dip into this fund for annual scholarships, enabling the teens who contribute to his weekly electronic newsletters, Bim Bam and C.Ha, to make trips to Israel and spend their summers at Jewish camps.

Grishaver created Bim Bam (for high school students) and C.Ha (geared toward youngsters in grades five through seven) to give young people the opportunity to debate Jewish topics with their peers. Thanks to the Internet, the newsletters allow youngsters from across North America to exchange views with their counterparts elsewhere. (There have been participants from Israel, France, New Zealand and even Cuba.)

Recently, in C.Ha, a battle has raged over a newly issued Superman comic book, which features the Warsaw Ghetto uprising but makes no mention of Jews. Meanwhile, Bim Bam readers have been mulling over a new Midwestern fad: ID bracelets with the initials WWJD, which stand for “What would Jesus do?”

Though both newsletters also feature staff-written essays and a summary of the weekly Torah portion, their focus is always on what Grishaver calls “the kind of things real Jewish kids talk about in real life.”

Teens who want to join the debate are welcome to e-mail Grishaver at gris@torahaura.com.

Singing the Composer’s Praises


“Air Force One.” “Basic Instinct.” “Poltergeist.” “Planet of the Apes.”

Just a sampling of the more than 175 motion pictures bearing the distinctive imprimatur of master film composer Jerry Goldsmith, (left) who was recently honored by the Beverly Hills Chamber of Commerce. The Regent Beverly Wilshire reception was part of the Chamber’s 75th-anniversary Diamond Jubilee.

Looking hip in thin-framed glasses and long, white hair that was tied back in a tail, the tuxedoed Goldsmith could not be missed as he worked the room with the vim of a pro at the peak of his creative powers. Indeed, the Oscar-winning composer (for “The Omen”) was nominated last year for “L.A. Confidential.”

Director and past Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences President >Arthur Hiller, who worked with the composer on last year’s Oscar telecast, shared with the Circuit his esteem for the artist.

“Jerry has made an individualistic contribution to the music score,” Hiller said. “He gives you something you weren’t expecting.”

Also honored at the banquet was a man who makes the front page of the >Beverly Hills Courier every single week: high-profile Editor and Publisher March Schwartz, > known for his front-page columns.

Goldsmith’s candid remarks no doubt spoke for Schwartz as well.

“Any honor is important, especially from your own community,” the composer told The Circuit. “I like being honored, let’s face it!”

B’nai B’rith Salutes Entertainers

So there’s this organized bus tour in Israel. And the tour guide directs everyone’s attention to some famous landmarks — the Knesset , the Hadassah hospital…and the Irving Lefkowitz building.

Confused Tourist: Who’s Irving Lefkowitz?

Tour Guide: A writer.

Tourist: What did he write?

Tour Guide: A very big check.

Ba-dum-chhh!

Comedian Dave Barry’s monologue set the Borscht Belt-flavored tone for the B’nai B’rith Salute to Israel, recently held at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium. Hosted by Israel Today’s Phil Blazer, the show was a tribute to the memory of musician/comedian >Mickey Katz and The Barry Sisters.

Co-sponsored by >Mount Sinai Memorial Park and Mortuary and >Jewish National Fund, the lively mix of Catskills comedy and old-school Jewish music catered to a lively senior set.

There was no lack of entertainment. Among the highlights: A high-energy set by >The Golden State Klezmers > and the bizarre, albeit captivating, histrionics of bluebeard Russian vocalist >Yacov Yavno (who, in his strange black garb, resembled a villain from “Superman II”).

A remembrance of Katz by his widow, Grace Katz, > was punctuated by the unbilled appearance of their son, “Cabaret” song-and-dance legend >Joel Grey. (Grey and Katz, pictured at right) Grey praised his father — a tailor’s son who left his Orthodox Jewish Cleveland, Ohio, home by age 15 to hit the road as a working musician. Gushed Grey, “One of the greatest things in my life was being, and is being, the son of Mickey Katz.”

Ventriloquist act >Rickie Lane and Velvel (right) > capitalized on Grey’s surprise appearance. Velvel, a well-coifed dummy, claimed that he was “wearing Mickey Katz’s >sheitel (“toupee”), but now that I see Joel Grey….” The duo then launched into a routine loaded with racy, unprintable double-entendres, handily winning over the audience.

The evening culminated with a strong performance by surviving Barry Sister >Claire Barry, who opened with a >Yiddishkayt version of “My Way,” followed by a repertoire that yielded poignant memories of her late sibling, >Merna.

But it was little Velvel who imparted the audience with some parting words of wisdom: “If at first you don’t succeed, skydiving is not for you!”

Vienna Opens


The new Arnold Schoenberg Center occupies onefloor of the Palais Fanto in downtown Vienna. A recital auditorium isamong its features.

With a week-long celebration to mark theopening of the Arnold Schoenberg Center, Vienna heaped honors on theseminal composer of 20th-century music, while visibly agonizing overthe sins of its Nazi past.

The tone was set on opening night, when 1,800 ofVienna’s political, cultural and social elite gathered in the gilded19th-century Musikverein for three of Schoenberg’s major works –“Transfigured Night,” “Peace on Earth” and “Expectation.”

(Zubin Mehta, the scheduled conductor, had tocancel due to illness and was replaced by Giuseppe Sinopoli, who wasrewarded with six curtain calls by the enthusiastic audience.)

Before the Vienna Philharmonic sounded the first note,Viktor Klima, the federal chancellor of Austria, struck the mixedmotif of pride and shame that marked the festival.

Turning to Nuria, Ronald and Lawrence Schoenberg,the three children of the composer (1874-1951), who decided totransfer their father’s legacy to his native city, Klima said: “Whilewe are proud and thankful on this occasion, we cannot forget theshameful years of the 1930s, which saw the dispersion and extinctionof our fellow Jewish citizens.”

This apologia, which was re-emphasized by ViennaMayor Michael Haupl at the following evening’s concert, was not asautomatic and self-evident as it would be at a similar event inGermany.

For decades, Austrians preferred to think ofthemselves as “the first victims” of Nazism, glossing over thehysterical reception they gave Hitler in 1938 and their ardentsupport during the war.

The fact that the opening of the Schoenberg Centercoincided with the 60th anniversary of the Anschluss was taken as acue by the Austrian media to grapple with the country’s World War IIrole, including the brutal persecution of its Jews.

The Schoenberg Center, located near the city’smajor museums and concert halls, displays the astonishing variety oftalents possessed by the creator of the 12-tone scale, not only ascomposer but as painter, inventor, model builder, author and eventennis player.

A section is devoted to Schoenberg’s last 15years, spent in Los Angeles, and another to his Jewish identity.After converting to Lutheranism as a young man, the composer returnedto his ancestral faith in 1933.

Even while still nominally a Christian, he wrote aneo-Zionist play on which his opera, “Moses and Aron,” is based, and,early on, he foresaw the fate awaiting European Jewry withastonishing clarity.

For the last 25 years, the composer’s legacy hasbeen housed in the Schoenberg Institute on the USC campus. Afterprolonged and bitter clashes between USC administrators and theSchoenberg heirs, the decision was taken to move the institute’slarge collection of compositions, manuscripts, books, paintings,photos and memorabilia to Vienna.

Berlin and The Hague also vied to become thecenter’s new home, but, in the end, the heirs decided in favor oftheir father’s birthplace.