No ‘Idol’ Chatter at Milken SpeechContest
Milken Community High School senior Nona Farahnik was named Milken Idol for her stirring pro-Israel speech in the school’s March 10 public speaking finals, with other competitors talking about bullies, cheating, the homeless and Special Olympics in the “American Idol”-inspired contest.
It was the Duke University-bound senior’s call for Zionist solidarity that captured the $500 first-place prize and the Milken Idol title. The contest combined the 800-student school’s contest theme of “Don’t stand idly by,” with judges and audience voting similar to Fox Broadcasting’s popular talent-search show.
“Show Israel that you care,” Farahnik told the 600 Milken students gathered in the school gym. “Israel is fighting a cold and calculating enemy — an enemy who has been trained to not think twice when blowing himself up in a family-filled restaurant, in a disco with dozens of dancing teenagers or on a bus of children on their way to school. Israel is fighting a sick, repulsive enemy and we must empower her to stop him.”
Upon winning, Farahnik, 18, said she would donate her $500 prize to the school’s fundraising efforts to buy bulletproof vests for Israel Defense Forces members.
The second-place $250 prize went to junior David Ashkenazi, who delivered a speech urging fellow students to “not stand idly by” and countenance cheating.
Tied for the $100 third-place prize were junior Matan Agam and freshman Peter Wasserman. Agam gave a highly personal speech about supporting the Special Olympics, which he participates in with his special-needs younger sister, Danielle. Wasserman’s encounter with the poor outside the Staples Center after a Lakers game prompted his speech prioritizing Southern California’s homeless over volatile issues abroad.
“Many times, these situations overshadow the problems that are in our own backyard,” said Wasserman, who told The Journal that he plans to give his prize money to a homeless shelter.
The $100 fifth-place prize went to freshman Lena August, who turned 15 the same day as the competition’s finals. She spoke about bullies, a common problem among students worldwide. August said victims of schoolyard taunts remember not only their tormentors, but also “they will remember all of the faces of the people standing there watching.”
The final round’s judges were Lowell Milken, Milken Family Foundation chairman and president; Nadia Fay, public speaking consultant; Rob Eshman, Jewish Journal editor-in-chief; and John Fishel, president of The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles.
Public speaking consultant Richard Greene, father of Milken junior Chiara Greene, organized the competition. The finalists were selected from 600 Milken students and received coaching from Greene, author of “Words That Shook the World: 100 Years of Unforgettable Speeches and Events” (Alpha Communications).
Greene said he wanted to give students tools for public speaking and enable them to offer persuasive arguments regarding Israel and other issues that affect Jewish life. The Milken competition was a pilot program for a national teenage speech program that Greene plans to launch later this year. — David Finnigan, Contributing Writer
Schwarzenegger to Take Part in MuseumGroundbreaking
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger will participate in groundbreaking ceremonies for the $150 million Center for Human Dignity-Museum of Tolerance in Jerusalem on May 2.
Schwarzenegger will speak at a gala dinner at the King David Hotel to be attended by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, Cabinet ministers and other dignitaries.
Plans for the groundbreaking were confirmed Monday by Rabbi Marvin Hier, dean and founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, who initiated the Jerusalem project.
“Gov. Schwarzenegger has been a friend and supporter of the Wiesenthal Center for 20 years, and we are proud that he will stand with us in Jerusalem,” Hier said.
It will be the first trip outside the country for the former body builder and movie action hero since assuming office. He will also discuss trade relations between California and Israel while in Tel Aviv.
The Jerusalem museum is being designed by famed architect Frank Gehry, who will participate in the groundbreaking. The museum is expected to be completed in three to three and a half years, Hier said.
It will rise in the center of western Jerusalem, on both sides of Hillel Street near Independence Park, and will include state-of-the-art multimedia exhibits, conference center, theater complex, library and atrium.
The museum’s 240,000 square feet of usable space will make it three times larger than the Los Angeles Museum of Tolerance, which is currently celebrating its 10th anniversary. The Wiesenthal Center recently opened its New York Tolerance Center.
Supporters of the Jerusalem project, in particular former Jerusalem Mayor Ehud Olmert, believe that it will revive the center of Israel’s capital and boost tourism.
Concern had been expressed by Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust remembrance authority, that the new museum would duplicate its mission. However, Avner Shalev, chairman of the Yad Vashem directorate, said in a statement last week that following discussions with the Wiesenthal Center, “We reached a mutual agreement that the Museum of Tolerance in Jerusalem will not address the Holocaust. Yad Vashem does not believe there is justification for another Holocaust center in Jerusalem.”
Hier confirmed that the museum will focus on intra-Jewish disputes, relations with other religions and Israeli-Palestinian conflicts. — Tom Tugend, Contributing Editor
Deadline Nears on Filing of HolocaustClaims
A final alert to persons with claims against European insurance companies stemming from the Holocaust era has been issued by California Insurance Commissioner John Garamendi.
The deadline for filing such claims has been extended to March 31, but only for survivors or victims’ families who requested a claim form before Dec. 31, 2003, from the International Commission on Holocaust Era Insurance Claims (ICHEIC).
In addition, the claim forms must be received by the ICHEIC offices in Holland or Washington, D.C., by March 31, warned Leslie Tick, Department of Insurance senior counsel, who joined Garamendi in a phone call to The Journal.
If the claim form is filed and received in time, however, backup documentation can be sent later. However, once the deadline has passed, claimants will have no recourse except for initiating private lawsuits.
Garamendi, a member of the ICHEIC board, has been highly critical of the organization and last fall joined survivors in calling for the removal of its chairman, Lawrence Eagleburger.
There has recently been some improvement in ICHEIC’s operation, Garamendi said, but the organization is still two years behind in processing claims.
Claim forms should be sent to:
Int. Business Reply Service
I.B.R.S./C.C.R.I. Numero 1746
1110 VG Schipol
Claim forms sent to this address are supposed to be postage free but cannot be sent by certified mail.
An alternate address that accepts certified mail, is: ICHEIC, 1300 L St. NW, Suite 1150, Washington, D.C., 20005.
The following organizations will provide help in completing claim forms: California Department of Insurance, (800) 927-4357; Bet Tzedek, (323) 549-5883; ICHEIC, (800) 957-3203. — TT
ADL Assails Hate Crime Targeting CollegeProfessor
The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) has expressed outrage over a recent hate crime committed at Claremont McKenna College against a visiting professor converting to Judaism.
“Hate crimes tear at the very fabric of our society,” said Amanda Susskind, ADL Pacific Southwest region director, in a statement. “It is important and commendable for our law enforcement agencies to demonstrate their commitment to the safety of all citizens by their steadfast pursuit of these crimes.”
On March 9, the vehicle of professor Kerri Dunn was attacked by vandals as she spoke at a forum about racial intolerance. They smashed her windshield, slashed the tires and covered the car with anti-Semitic and anti-African American messages.
A couple days later, hundreds of students at Claremont Colleges rallied to protest the attacks. Administrators canceled classes.
College administrators have offered $10,000 for information about the perpetrators of the crime. Susskind, in her statement, applauded the university’s aggressive stance and the police for their efforts. — Marc Ballon, Senior Writer
Councilman Offers Help in Keeping CenterOpen
Los Angeles City Councilman Eric Garcetti has offered his mediation services to keep the embattled Silverlake Independent Jewish Community Center open.
Garcetti, who attended the JCC growing up and now represents the area, thinks the center is a valuable asset worth fighting for, said Glen Dake, the councilman’s legislative deputy.
“With L.A. growing, we need more of these facilities, not fewer of them,” Dake said. “That’s why he wants a strong, vibrant facility remaining there.”
Garcetti hopes to set up a meeting among officials from the Silverlake Independent JCC, The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles and the Jewish Community Centers of Greater Los Angeles (JCCGLA).
Federation President John Fishel said last week that he was open to a three-party meeting to discuss center-related issues. Nina Lieberman Giladi, JCCGLA executive vice president, said she, too, was amenable to sitting down and working toward a viable solution.
“I appreciate [Garcetti’s] willingness to reach out and look for opportunities that may have not been discussed,” she said.
The JCCGLA, which oversees many of the city’s JCCs, has put the Silverlake center up for sale, partly to pay back its $2.2 million debt to The Federation. The Jewish philanthropic organization has a $550,000 lien on the property.
Officials at the JCCGLA said they have already received an offer for Silverlake, though they declined to reveal the amount.
Janie Schulman, Silverlake Independent president, said she felt optimistic about the outcome of any three-party meeting.
“I am confident that if we could get everyone sitting at the same table speaking openly and frankly, instead of pointing fingers and speaking past each other, that we might make some progress,” she said. — MB
Journalist Attacks Actions of Israel’s PoliticalFringes
Israeli journalist Yossi Klein HaLevi portrayed Jewish far-leftists and far-rightists as mutual failures for their respective attempts at peace with Palestinians and increased West Bank settlements, actions which have ushered Israel into what the author called, “the decade of sobriety.”
In his March 4 lecture to about 100 people at the UCLA Yitzhak Rabin Hillel Center, the Jerusalem Post columnist assailed both of Israel’s political fringes.
“What applies to the anti-Zionist left applies to the super-Zionist right,” he said. “We live in a Jewish reality where there are very few moorings. We are a generation of chameleons; we’re almost a Purim generation in that sense. We’re all wearing masks.”
Far-right Jews, he said, smother themselves with the ancient history of Israel so much that they “are ready to commit any atrocity in defense of that story.”
Jews on the anti-Zionist far left, he said, have embraced, “the genocidal intentions of the PLO” and are ready to “violate the most basic self-understanding of the Jewish people, legitimizing those who are demonizing Israel.”
“Neither Jewish camp has the answer,” Klein HaLevi said. “We were a politically immature people that barricaded ourselves in our political certainties.”
The lecture, sponsored by UCLA’s Bruins for Israel student group and the Burkle Center for International Relations, was not a debate. But Olam magazine editor David Suissa gave a supportive response after Klein HaLevi spoke, asking Jews not to be so judgmental of each other.
“We have to transcend this energy that tries to make us judge,” Suissa said. “Judgment is easy. Curiosity is more difficult.”
Klein HaLevi’s perspective differed, saying that anti-Zionist Jewish academics such as MIT professor Noam Chomsky are as removed from Judaism as the late far-right extremist Baruch Goldstein, who in 1994 killed 29 Muslims praying in Hebron.
“In the end, everyone is not my brother,” he said. “Noam Chomsky and Baruch Goldstein both have very dubious claims to being my brother.”
Klein HaLevi had one bit of advice for both far-right extremists, who accuse their enemies of being akin to Jewish collaborators in World War II, and far-left activists, who routinely use Nazi metaphors to describe Israeli countermeasures against Palestinian terrorists: “Holocaust talk is off limits; no Holocaust invoking in our mutual taunting, because when we get to that, we are in an abyss to which there is no return — the next logical step is civil war.” — DF