Jerusalem, Tel Aviv on new Google project

Jerusalem’s Old City and parts of historic Tel Aviv are featured in Google’s new “World Wonders Project,” although Jerusalem is not included under the Israel category.

The project allows visitors to take a virtual tour of the 132 historic and heritage sites from 18 countries and is presented in six languages including English and Hebrew.

The Asia category includes Israel, Japan and Jerusalem. “White City of Tel Aviv” is under the Israel category. Jerusalem, in its own category separate from Israel, is made up of views of the Old City, including the Western Wall.

The project was launched May 31 and uses Street View, 3D modeling and other Google technologies. Partners in the project include UNESCO and the World Monuments Fund.

Yom HaAtzmaut special: California on Hebrew [VIDEO]

California on Purim [VIDEO]

Community Briefs

Prime Minister ToutsMuseum

If there was any doubt that the Polish government is takingseriously plans to build a Museum of Polish Jewish History in Warsaw, they wereput to rest Feb. 5 in Beverly Hills.

That’s when Leszek Miller, prime minister of Poland, metwith about 100 area Jews to reaffirm his commitment to the long-plannedproject. “We want to reach beyond the image of Poland as a place of martyrdomfor the Jews,” said Miller in his brief prepared remarks. “The museum will be agreat educational project, and a symbol of our new approach to the history ofthe Jews.”

Miller’s appearance before the gathering of Jewish religiousand communal leaders, including Holocaust survivors and elected officials, wasorganized by the Consulate General of Poland in cooperation with the AmericanJewish Committee (AJCommittee). It took place during the first visit by aPolish prime minister to the West Coast, according to Consul General KrzysztofW. Kasprzyk.

Miller announced the establishment of the Museum of theHistory of the Polish Jews in Warsaw last January. The multimedia museum, to bedesigned by Frank Gehry, is to be completed in 2006.

Polish officials, who say that as many as 80 percent of Jewsacross the world can trace their roots back to Poland, hope the museum willspur Jewish tourism to their country. They are also hoping that Jewish donorsabroad will help fund some of the museum’s estimated $63 million cost.

Among other exhibits, the museum will recreate the homes andstreets representing 1,000 years of Jewish civilization in Poland. The Naziinvasion and deportation to death camps claimed the lives of the majority of Poland’s3.5 million Jewish population, which had been the largest in Europe.

Miller said the museum is part of an agenda ofreconciliation between Poland and world Jewry that includes the restitution forJewish property, restoration of Jewish cemeteries, commemoration of victims atdeath camps throughout Poland, and increasing ties between young Jews and Poles,and between Polish and Jewish entrepreneurs. The museum itself will demonstrate”how important a place was occupied by Jews in the history of Poland,” saidMiller.

AJCommittee Los Angeles chapter President Peter Weil saidMiller’s appearance, amidst high level visits with high-tech entrepreneurs anda previous state visit with President George W. Bush, was a clear indication ofthe value the Polish government places on its relations with world Jewry.

Along with Miller and the consul general, guests heardremarks from Rabbi Gary Greenebaum, AJCommittee’s West Coast regional director;County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky; Adrien Brody, star of “The Pianist,” andmuseum director Jerzy Halberstadt. 

For more information the Museum ofPolish Jewish History in Warsaw, go to . — Staff Report


Media “Blitz”New Israel Fund Cuts Back

The New Israel Fund will centralize and scale back its U.S.offices in the hopes of pumping $1 million more toward peace and social justiceefforts in Israel. The Washington-based group, which promotes peace and civilrights programs in Israel, will close regional offices in Los Angeles, Bostonand Chicago, and expand hubs in New York and San Francisco, the group announcedFeb. 6.

For the three-person Los Angeles staff who will soon faceunemployment as a result of consolidation, the recent news brings mixedreactions.

“I still strongly believe in the importance of theorganization and the value of its work in Israel, and I understand that theinternational board that made the decision took a lot of issues intoconsideration in reaching its conclusions,” said Los Angeles New Israel FundDirector David Moses. “At the same time, I’m deeply disappointed in the closingof this office. We’ve had 4 years of continuous growth and increased visibilityin the Los Angeles Jewish community and I’m very proud of what we’veaccomplished here.”

The move was aimed at lowering the group’s overhead andconsolidating operations, and should largely fund the additional $1 million for Israel, officials said. The fund said it has awarded $120 million to 700Israeli groups since 1979. — Rachel Brand, Staff Writer

UJC Launches Campaign

The umbrella of North American federations is set to unveil a multipronged, $4-million solidarity campaign titled "Israel NOW — and Forever."

The United Jewish Communities (UJC) project — which should receive final approval by late July — combines various advocacy, education and fundraising activities and will last until winter, said Gail Hyman, UJC’s vice president for marketing and public affairs.

"We understand there’s a great desire for a national program," Hyman said. "We have a responsibility to listen to our community and to offer the kind of program that will resonate from coast to coast. And unfortunately, that takes a little time. But now we have the support, and we’re ready to act."

The first step will be this weekend’s "Solidarity Shabbat" of UJC leadership in Jerusalem, where the group will meet with Israeli leaders and hammer out final details of the campaign.

Among the other campaign highlights:

  • Heavy promotion of solidarity missions to Israel.

  • Advocacy- and media-training for campus and community activists, in conjunction with local Hillels and Jewish community relations councils, "to train their leadership to become strong advocates on behalf of Israel," Hyman said.

  • A fundraising initiative to assist all Israeli families directly affected during the violence by death, injury, property destruction or psychological damage — and perhaps even economic support for small-business owners. "We understand there are lots of children having great difficulty," Hyman said.

  • A media tour that will take Israeli spokesmen and U.S. Middle East experts — scholars, journalists and other opinion-shapers — into key communities across North America to meet with local media.

  • A major mission to Israel, called "Journey to Solidarity I," to be held Sept. 9 to 14.

  • Production of 1 million leaflets, to be distributed Sept. 17 in all synagogues during Rosh Hashanah, to remind Jews of the need for solidarity. "As we sound the shofar this year, it will also be a call to action for every Jew in North America," Hyman said.

  • A Solidarity Shabbat on Sept. 22 and 23 that will reach out to synagogues, churches and university campuses to show that "support for Israel extends beyond the Jewish community," Hyman said.

  • A major outdoor rally in New York on Sept. 23, with a concurrent rally possible in Los Angeles. New York was chosen not only because of its huge Jewish community but because it is America’s media capital, Hyman said. The UJC also "wants our voices heard by members of the United Nations," which will be convening their General Assembly just days later.

A Hands-On Holiday

Teachers have known for a long time that hands-on projects can bring a message home better than any lecture or study session.

And perhaps there’s no holiday on the Jewish calendar that better lends itself to creative manual labor — for kids and adults alike — than Sukkot, which comes this year on Sunday night, Oct. 4, and extends through Tuesday, Oct. 13.

Jews around the world observe the biblical fall harvest festival, which commemorates Israel’s sojourning in the desert, by spending a week eating in — or even living in — huts with vegetation as a roof. In addition, four species of plant — palm, myrtle and willow branches, and the citron, or etrog — are used in synagogue and home rituals.

The holiday is often a time when families and friends gather to build and then enjoy the sukkah, sharing meals and parties in the highly creative and individualized structures.

Here are the stories of a congregation and a family who took the opportunity to invest themselves physically and spiritually in the fall festival that ends the month-long High Holiday cycle.

It May Be Small, But It’s Kosher

Like many, Esther and Avraham Brander designed and built their own sukkah, decorated it and invited friends over to share in the holiday.

What makes their sukkah unique is that it is 5 feet high, and Esther is 7 years old and Avraham is 8.

The brother and sister, with help from their 4-year-old brother, Yaakov, used 3/4-inch plastic pipes with connectors for the frame, and fabric for the walls.

“They get very excited about things that are their own,” says their mother, Batyah Brander, assistant English principal of Ohr Haemet, a girls high school on Robertson Boulevard, and wife of Asher Brander, rabbi of the Westwood Kehilla.

Batyah helped the children puzzle the pieces together and secure the connectors to make sure the structure was steady. She estimates that the youngsters, who attend Toras Emes day school on La Brea Avenue, did 80 percent of the work on their own.

They also chose a kosher spot in the yard, where no trees hang over the 4 1/2-x-10-foot structure — and where the sukkah is out of sight of the family’s full-size sukkah.

Esther and Avraham are accustomed to these types of projects. They make their own challah and recently started making grape juice, stomping on the fruit (through plastic bags) and bottling it with their own labels.

“I never have to yell at them to come to the table for kiddush, because it’s their own grape juice,” Brander says. And on sukkah-building day, they got their homework done in a flash.

“They learned a lot more than if we just built it ourselves and let them sit in it,” Brander says.

His Summer Vacation

Brad Sherman easily remembers what was the most enjoyable time hespent during his week-long visit to Israel. “It was,” he says, “thehour I slept.”

The first-term congressman from the 24th District spent the restof his time in briefings with Israeli and Palestinian officials,touring sites of strategic importance to both sides, and listening tothe opinions of settlers, peaceniks, soldiers and terrorism’svictims. In other words, there were “no perks, no lollygagging” andnot a lot of fun — unless your idea of fun is a public confrontationwith Yasser Arafat.

The purpose of the trip, organized by the American JewishCommittee’s Project Interchange, was to reacquaint Sherman with thefacts on the ground, and to provide him an opportunity to see forhimself the principal players and issues. As a member of the HouseInternational Relations Committee, he is “just steeped in” thepolitics of the Middle East.

For most of Sherman’s constituents, Israel is hardly some vagueforeign policy objective. His district, which runs from Sherman Oaksto Thousand Oaks and from Malibu to Northridge, includes what isprobably the largest expatriate Israeli population in the UnitedStates, as well as tens of thousands of American Jews. Whether theyare twentysomething or eightysomething, they take a keen, knowinginterest in Israel.

So Sherman marched. He visited with Binyamin Netanyahu; Cabinetministers; Hebron settlers; Esther Waxman, the mother of murderedsoldier Nachum Waxman; and Yasser Arafat, whom he had met previouslyin Washington. This time, when Arafat protested against an anti-Arabcartoon distributed in Hebron by a fanatic Jewish settler, Shermantalked back. “He wanted sympathy over the actions of one racistwoman,” said Sherman, “when Syrian textbooks still containanti-Jewish caricatures and statements.”

Sherman also extracted a promise from the Palestinian leader thatthe murderer of Waxman, if ever found in areas under Palestiniancontrol, would be arrested. Sherman said that he intends to readArafat’s promise into the Congressional Record and hold him to it.

After a week, Sherman, a 42-year-old Monterey Park nativeand UCLA grad, returned to Washington, then to his field office inWoodland Hills. His take: Israelis, Palestinians, the U.S. governmentand American Jews have a “hidden consensus” on most of the thornyissues, except Jerusalem. The trick, of course, is getting from hereto there. — Robert Eshman, Associate Editor“Classic on Collins,” by Alan S. Maltz, from his newbook, “Miami: City of Dreams.”

Miami Nice

The last book I read about Miami was called “The Corpse Had aFamiliar Face.” It’s by Edna Buchanan, the legendary former policereporter of The Miami Herald, and it features true tales of gore (andcrooks such as “Murph the Surf”) in the drug capital of the world.

You won’t find any gore, or criminals, or anything even remotelyunpleasant in Alan S. Maltz’s new, gorgeous and slick coffee-tablebook, “Miami: City of Dreams” (Light Flight Publications, $60).

You won’t find much that is Jewish either, although South Floridahas roughly 645,000 Jews, 64 synagogues and 14 Jewish day schools(Maltz does throw in the occasional image of the local Holocaustmuseum or Orthodox Jews debating at Miami Beach).

What you will find is lots of rosy sunsets, translucent,turquoise seas, and vast, downtown cityscapes. You’ll see thecolorful, bustling streets of Little Havana; the fancifulfaçades of Miami Beach’s art deco district (onepink-white-and-yellow building towers like a wedding cake); and thegarishly cheerful storefront of Wolfie’s coffee shop. Thelily-covered reflecting pool at the Holocaust museum shimmers like aMonet.

For 16 months, Maltz rose before dawn to wander the area with his35mm Nikon, snapping images from dawn to 10 a.m. and from 4 p.m.until after dark. It’s no wonder the quality of his light is subtle,ethereal, perfect.

But Maltz, who won the 1995 award for best coffee-table book fromthe National Association of Independent Publishers, makes noapologies for his persistently pretty, upbeat vision of Miami. As hetold The Miami Herald, “I feel there’s enough negativity out there inthe world…that’s not my focus.”

To order “Miami: City of Dreams,” call (800)329-7297. — Naomi Pfefferman, Senior WriterThomas Elias and Mary Jo Siegel

Defending the Good Doctor

Out of Jewish holiday workshops come many wonderful things:challah and charoset recipes, knowledge of Jewish history, lastingfriendships. But an investigative book about “the century’s mostpromising cancer treatment, and the government’s campaign to squelchit”? Not usually.

However, the topic, which is the subtitle of a fascinating andextremely readable new book from General Publishing Group, “TheBurzynski Breakthrough,” was suggested by a woman the author, ThomasElias, had first met 18 years ago in a workshop he took at hissynagogue, Kehillat Israel in Pacific Palisades.

When Mary Jo Siegel first brought the idea to him two years ago,Elias was busy covering the O.J. Simpson criminal trial for ScrippsHoward News Service and loath to take on what appeared to be adubious story about a miracle cancer cure.

Still, since he knew Siegel, he decided to look into her claimthat the government was trying to jail the doctor who Siegel said hadsaved her life, and those of many others, through the infusion of anunusual mixture of enzymes and peptides called antineoplastins.

The procedure had led to the disappearance of a huge tumor on herneck, Siegel said, and her apparent victory against non-Hodgkin’slymphoma, a slow-growing but almost always fatal type of cancer.

But Dr. Stanislaw Burzynski, the Polish-born, Houston-basednon-Jewish doctor who had discovered the medicine, was likely to losethe ability to treat his many patients, and he faced the prospect ofspending the rest of his life in prison.

Elias, who co-authored a highly praised book on the Simpsoncriminal trial, began to lose his skepticism after he talked toofficials with the major cancer organizations and the Food and DrugAdministration. None said that Burzynski was a quack or that hisanti-cancer regimen didn’t work. “All said simply that it was anexperimental, unproven treatment,” Elias writes. And when the authorinterviewed Burzynski’s patients and the relatives of some who haddied, he heard “not a single negative word.”

Ironically, while in the process of commuting to Houston to coverBurzynski’s grand jury trial, Elias’ ongoing problem with kidneydisease worsened, leaving him in need of a transplant. He was touchedwhen many members of the chavurah to which he and his wife, Marilyn,belong, as well as Rabbi Steven Carr Reuben, his wife, Didi, andCantor Chayim Frenkel of Kehillat Israel volunteered to donatekidneys.

Elias has since found a donor and is awaiting surgery. The book,just published in the last month, chronicles Burzynski’s David-andGoliath fight to gain approval for his drug, and offers severalheart-wrenching case histories, including Siegel’s.

The dynamic mother of three college-age children, who now saysthat she’s cancer-free, founded an organization with her husband,Steve, that has raised $600,000 for Burzynski’s legal defense andthat is seeking FDA approval for the anti-cancer therapy.

“I am very sure that without [Burzynski] and his drug,” Siegelsays in the book, “I would be dead right now, like the people I knewwho were diagnosed with the same disease at the same time I was.”— Ruth Stroud, Staff Writer