Interesting that Rabbi David Baron said his invitation to Mel Gibson to speak at his temple on Yom Kippur was not a publicity stunt (“Three Groups Respond to Gibson’s Request for Meeting,” Aug. 11). Why then did I receive a form letter within two hours of sending the rabbi an e-mail expressing my aggravation at that very invitation? The form letter is addressed not to me, but “To Those Who Are Concerned About the Mel Gibson Invitation to Apologize.” Baron obviously hoped, and anticipated, that this handout to Gibson would bring a lot of attention; otherwise, why would he have had a form letter at the ready before there had yet been any response at all? And how was the invitation to Gibson made public in the first place? Baron wanted all the attention, which he got, without having to face the music, so he fled.
Ed Note: See Rabbi Baron’s op-ed column in this issue.
Great article, but you may want to exercise a little more control over your cover art (“Star Power,” Aug. 26).
When did The Jewish Journal decide to “unilaterally” give back the West Bank and the Golan Heights?
It may be a subtle “mistake” in art direction, but the hash marks across the vibrant communities in the West Bank and the omission of the Golan are particularly insensitive as Israel continues its fight for it’s very existence. Recent events should have taught us all that the fight is not about “the territories.”
Hopefully your artist was being “creative” and not putting forth a political opinion that represents the editorial stance of The Jewish Journal.
Barry S. Weiss
RJC’s Israel Ads
I want to compliment the Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC) for their recent ads in The Jewish Journal (Aug. 18 and Aug. 25). The first correctly thanked President Bush for his stalwart support of Israel which was then under vicious attack by Iranian supplied Hezbollah terrorists.
The second pointed out that the Democratic Party has growing and influential leftist voices who not only rejected pro-Israel leader Sen. Joe Lieberman, but are increasingly hostile to bipartisan consensus in support of the Jewish state.Votes and polls do not lie. The vast majority of dissenters from congressional resolutions in support of Israel are Democrats. The majority of anti-Israel voices today on college campuses, in blogs and in our communities are left/liberal, not right/conservative. I have no doubt that American Jews will increasingly reward the GOP.
The ad on your inside cover from The Republican Jewish Coalition disgusts me. Joe Lieberman was not defeated because of his support for Israel, but because of his continuing support of the most incompetent and corrupt president in the history of the United States.
Unfortunately, the Democratic Party supported Lieberman. It was the voting public, fed up with the disastrous war in Iraq and Lieberman’s blind support for it, that led to his defeat.
The “radical left” has hardly taken over the Democratic Party, and Cindy Sheehan is not a spokesperson for party policy.
No Democratic president would stand by and allow Hezbollah rockets to rain down on Haifa. Nor would they have started a war with Iraq that has ended up strengthening Iran and weakening both the United States and Israel.
Finally, it is the Republican Party that envisions the United States as a Christian theocracy. I cannot understand how any Jew could proudly align themselves with these people.
I was at the event where Bill Boyarsky and David Lauter spoke for the Woman’s Alliance for Israel Program (“Needed: Rational Discussion,” Aug. 18). However, Boyarsky is incorrect in his assumptions about us going after Lauter’s scalp.We wanted much more from Lauter. We wanted an explanation on why the Los Angeles Times has difficulty in using the word terrorist, instead of “militant.” Instead of giving us a logical answer, he bored us with his explanation of the “one man’s freedom fighter is another man’s terrorist” jive, and that the L.A. Times assumes that its readers can discern the difference.
We booed because we are not the radical “right-wing” DEBKA readers, as Boyarsky implied. This was a slap in the face to any Republicans that were in the audience. We booed because we are not stupid. We expected an intellectual dialogue, but we were hit with criticisms of the Bush regime, a “not my president” attitude, and the moral explanation that because reporters put themselves in the line of fire they do a good job.
Well, my son is in the army in Israel; he puts himself in the line of fire, and he has no problems distinguishing between a terrorist and a freedom fighter. And to top it off, to make comments about FOX — the one channel that does not make excuses for suicide bombers — and assume this as our only source of information was a slap in the face to the many activists who work hard daily, educating, discussing, working and fighting for Israel. I am one of those people who was insulted by the attacks on the right, the convoluted answers and the lack of respect that Boyarsky gave us that night and in his column.
This is the reason why I find the L.A. Times irrelevant in their reporting. They refuse to listen to more than 400 subscribers and former subscribers, and the stats on their readership should be a wake-up call, not an excuse to use their political bias to win arguments.
Allyson Rowen Taylor
American Jewish Congress, Western Region
Are there any Jews in advertising? It’s a silly question, but given the pathetic state of Israeli public relations, one might wonder. Israel desperately needs a top-notch public relations campaign immediately, to reinforce the support of sympathetic Americans and win over those who are apathetic or ignorant regarding the Jewish state.
Remember the old ad campaign, “Come to Israel, come stay with friends…”? In those halcyon days, Israel just needed tourism; now, Israel needs renewed American commitment to its survival against the dedicated, dug-in Hezbollah and Hamas armies, who threaten its existence like a growing pack of wolves. America is Israel’s only reliable friend in the world, but it might not always be so.Most American Jews take Israel’s righteousness and survival for granted, but our stoic, fatal silence about Israeli greatness and appeal must end; Israel’s very survival may depend on it.
We know that Israel is the only multicultural nation in the Mideast, where all religions are respected (Muslims are elected to Parliament), where women are treated equally to men, and gays enjoy tolerance, but many Americans, and others, do not. Some great Jew, with the talent, influence and connections of, say, a Steven Spielberg or Rabbi Marvin Hier, or others of equal capability, must take the helm and reverse this public relations defeat.
Why is Hezbollah enjoying the laurels of victory for such a ruinous fiasco? Partially, it’s because they did win. Little Israel never before had to fight an army with such a death-wish commitment. What will happen when other young Arabs, anxious to die for their cause, join their ranks? How many rockets can Israeli cities endure before they become unlivable? The northern third of Israel is already a mess. But Hezbollah’s most important victory was in publicity. Israel has failed to make the case against Hezbollah tactics and for its own existence to America and the world! We must convince our fellow Americans that Hezbollah represents Arab terrorism and Israel is the front line against it. I would love to do it myself, and I’m anxious to be part of the team, but I’m just an anonymous high school teacher; all I can do is convince a person of stature to rise to the task now!
It will be a horrible irony if Israel loses in the court of public opinion, if Jews fail to make their case, the one field in which no one denies them proverbial brilliance. Some great Jew must pick up the phone, call the Israeli embassy, and offer their services to establish the team and organize the public relations effort. It is not hyperbole to suggest that this is a call of biblical proportion. All Jews know in their guts that young Israel is existentially threatened like never before.
The great Persian Empire has risen up and told the world its plan. We must rally our fellow Americans now.
We need a leader.
Truth in Media
Josef Goebbels, Nazi minister of information, astutely observed that, if you tell a big enough lie, long enough, people will believe it — for no alternative report is provided. American news media daily bombard us with the nonexistent expertise of journalists and consultants — who concur with the media’s editorial position. They state that it is the very existence of Israel and/or U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East that is the source of Islamist animus to the west. Rudimentary knowledge of history readily dispels such tripe.
The first U.S. interaction with Islamists occurred in 1805, when President Thomas Jefferson dispatched troops to Morocco to stop Barbary Pirate attacks on Americans (“The Pirate Coast” by Richard Zacks, 2006).
The Islamic Brotherhood, founded in 1928 in Egypt by Hassa al-Banna, espouses global Muslim conquest, supports violence against civilians and is the philosophical father of Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda.
This reality long pre-dates the existence of Israel or modern-day U.S. policy in the Middle East, but you will never learn that from our news media. Certainly the media can be a valuable check against the tyranny of the government, but who will protect us from the tyranny of the press?
THE JEWISH JOURNAL welcomes letters from all readers. Letters should be no more than 200 words and must include a valid name, address and phone number. Letters sent via e-mail must not contain attachments. Pseudonyms and initials will not be used, but names will be withheld on request. We reserve the right to edit all letters. Mail: The Jewish Journal, Letters, 3580 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 1510, Los Angeles, CA 90010; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; or fax: (213) 368-1684
Jewish Journal September 1, 2006
New Yeshiva Flying SCY High
Founding board members of the new Southern California Yeshiva High School (SCY High) for boys in La Jolla knew that with a history of failed yeshiva high schools in the area, they had to offer the community something new and innovative. So they, along with headmaster Kevin Cloud, developed a school that utilizes high-tech project-based learning to integrate all disciplines — from science to literature to Gemara.
The school, the only Orthodox boys high school in the San Diego area, attracted 17 boys in ninth and 10th grades last year, its first year of existence, and next year between 25 and 30 are expected to be enrolled in the ninth through 11th grades. One Los Angeles boy boarded with relatives, and next year several families are opening up their homes to students who want to board.
As a school starting from scratch, teachers were able to take novel approaches to study.
The ninth graders, for example, read Goethe’s “Faust,” then rewrote it as short film. They created sets — some using “South Park”-style puppets, some using stop-action dolls and action figures — set it to music, and filmed short movies. The 10th graders read Christopher Marlowe’s “Doctor Faustus,” then rewrote a modernized version then studied and debated the moral implications of making Faustus Jewish.
“What you do in project-based learning is you take the ability the students have in one subject and you bring that enthusiasm into another subject,” Cloud said.
The students also get traditional instruction, but even there things tend to blend.
In Rabbi Moshe Adatto’s Gemara class, students had to present talmudic arguments in a PowerPoint flowchart. Each student is given a Dell laptop when they enter, and the school is wired for high-speed wireless Internet access.
To Adatto, who previously was a teacher at the Valley Kollel, it’s all part of making kids love school and love Judaism.
“We’re trying to create lifelong learners, and to me that has two components: They have to know how to learn, and they have to want to learn,” said Adatto, who organized Shabbatons and other events to build school spirit.
All but one student has reenrolled for next year, and an anonymous survey that all of the parents filled out brought back astonishing results for a Jewish school: No one — not one family — reported being anything less than satisfied.
For more information on SCY High School, contact (858) 658-0857 or visit www.scyhigh.org.
Follow the Fellows to Israel
Three Southern California teens were among 26 selected nationally to visit Israel on a five-week Bronfman Youth Fellowship this summer. Priscella Frank of Calabasas High School and Benjamin and Mitzi Steiner of Shalhevet were selected following a rigorous application process. They will participate in an intensive program of study and travel in Israel designed to develop leaders committed to Jewish unity.
The fellows participate in seminars and dialogues with diverse rabbinic faculty and spend a week with a group of Israeli peers who have been chosen through Amitei Bronfman, a parallel Israeli program. Bronfman Youth Fellows are asked to complete 40 hours of community service when they return home at the end of the summer.
3 Books = 31 Flavors
Students at Temple Beth Am’s Pressman Academy have another reason to pick up a good book — to satisfy their sweet tooth. As part of the Be a Star Reader program, elementary and middle school kids who read three books this spring were awarded a free ice cream cone at any Baskin-Robbins. Arna Schwartz, the school librarian, has run the Be a Star Reader program for several years, purchasing Baskin-Robbins gift certificates. This year, Robert Schwartz, who owns the Baskin-Robbins on Kinross Avenue in Westwood, offered to sponsor the program. Other Schools or youth organizations interested in participating in the Baskin-Robbins Reading Rewards Program can contact Robert Schwartz at (310) 208-8048.
To Bee or Not to Bee
More than 150 boys from Chabad schools across the world gathered in Los Angeles in April for a battle of wits on Maimonides’ Sefer Hamitzvot. Cheder Menachem in Los Angeles was the host school of the chidon, or bee, which attracted 1,000 spectators to the finals held at Emerson Middle School. The girls’ competition was held the week before in New York. Local winners were Sender Labkowsky, first place, older division; Mendel Mishulovin, third place, older division; and Shmully Lezak, third place, younger division.
ADL Reaches 700,000 Students
As part of LAUSD’s Live Violence-Free Day, 35,000 teachers in the district were urged to use materials and activities they received from the Anti-Defamation League’s (ADL) A World of Difference Institute, impacting more than 700,000 K-12 students in one day. The activities and lesson plans were designed to assist educators in addressing issues of bias, discrimination, bullying and violence, and focused on empowering students to become agents of change on their campuses. For more information on ADL education programs, contact Jenny Betz at (310) 446-8000, ext. 233.
Imagine that you live in Latin America and you’re Jewish. Typically, you and your family would belong to a full-service Jewish club with cultural, recreational, educational and athletic activities for all ages. The club is reasonably priced, promotes Jewish identity in a secular manner and is the backbone of your social life.
You spend a lot of time in club-sponsored activities with your nuclear and extended family, and with friends from the club: Friday night dinners, Sunday afternoon barbecues, weekends in the country, vacations at the seashore — a full and active communal life.
Now imagine that — mainly for economic reasons — you emigrate from such a country and come to Los Angeles. You have your nuclear family, but you’re separated from your extended family and friends. You may know enough English to earn a living, but you’re not at ease with the language. As a result, it remains difficult for you to have a social life with English-speaking friends, or participate fully in an American cultural life — whether you’re a new arrival or have been in the country for a number of years.
And even though you have a strong Jewish identity — you may speak Hebrew and/or Yiddish — you’re not really interested in a communal life that revolves around a shul: first, you’re not observant and you don’t want to make a shul the center of your life; second, it would be in English, not Spanish; and third, it would mean spending more than you feel you can afford. The Jewish Community Center (JCC) might be a possibility, but in the last few years there has been a cutback in JCCs in Los Angeles, and what they offer is not exactly you’re looking for.
So what do you do?
What you could do is start your own Jewish organization, using the Latin American model. That’s what happened in early 2005 when the Latin American Jewish Association (LAJA) was founded by several people with exactly that idea.
Omar Zayat, director of LAJA and one of its founders, said the “drive to create this organization came from the fact that after 2001, with the economic crash in Argentina, many Jews left there, and a lot of them came to L.A. Once here, they wanted to recreate the kind of community they’d left behind, and creating their own club seemed a good way to go about it.”
In Argentina, Zayat had worked for Jewish groups, organizing children’s summer camps and programs for seniors and other age groups, so it was logical that he would continue doing that kind of work here. He’s not a hands-off administrator: LAJA presents evening dance workshops that are both energetic and sweat-inducing and where about 20 to 30 people get a good workout in Israeli and other kinds of dance. Zayat himself leads these groups.
“For now,” he said, “we have 85 families signed up and many more come when we have special events. We have the names of 400 families that we contact for these events, like movies that someone has brought from Argentina or casino night or a tango show.”
One of the challenges for LAJA has been to adapt to Los Angeles’ sprawling area, which has meager public transport. Here, a parent needs to drop off and pick up a child, which takes getting used to by Latin American parents whose children were accustomed to using good public transport or cheap taxis to navigate their own way around a city like Buenos Aires. It also means scheduling activities to fit working parents who double as chauffeurs.
LAJA divides its activities into youth, Jewish education, university student programs, adults, sports, arts and drama and marketing. Youth activities are handled by teenage madrichim, Hebrew for guides. Zayat said that “using the Latin American model, older kids are trained to guide the younger ones, encouraging Jewish identity and having fun while doing it.”
LAJA is co-sponsored by The New JCC at Milken in West Hills, which has provided office space and other facilities. Since many of the new immigrants arrived with limited resources, the JCC has permitted them to become members at a discounted price.
If you go to The New JCC at Milken nowadays, you’re as likely to hear Spanish as English. There’s an unmistakable spark of creative, communal energy in the air, whether one attends a workshop that helps new arrivals get oriented to life in Los Angeles or a Latin American-style barbecue or a musical recital.
Michael Jeser, director of development and community affairs at The New JCC at Milken, noted that “one of the most exciting pieces in working with the Latin American Jewish Association is that the JCC, historically, has been a home for new immigrants and a venue for the absorption of new immigrants into American society. And here we are in 2006, and it’s really no different. When the Latin American group came to us and said, ‘We’re looking for a home,’ it was a really natural partnership, and we’ve sort of adopted them, made them into one of our own programs, and have watched them flourish.”
Jeser said that “seeing how the members are interacting with our other JCC members, it’s the extension of a real family, and the feeling of a real international ethnic Jewish community, even beyond Los Angeles’ typical ethnic diversity. The JCC has been home to a large Russian community, a large Persian community, a large Israeli community, and now with the growing Latin American group, it’s just getting larger. And we are very proud to have this community [because] they have a strong history with Jewish community centers in Argentina, which lent itself to this partnership.”
“Having them here is like having a piece that we were missing,” Jeser said. “Now we’ve filled that void in the community and are looking to expand it.”
Kudos for Kuh
Los Angeles culinary expert Patric Kuh was honored recently in New York by the James Beard Foundation for his humanitarian efforts during the the James Beard Foundation Journalism Awards.
Kuh won kudos in the Magazine Restaurant Review or Critique category for his work at Los Angeles Magazine.
A Clear Need
Bob Ralls and Linda Falcone accepted awards from Harold Davidson, chairman of the board for Junior Blind of America, at the nonprofit organization’s gala at the Beverly Hills Hotel. The event was held specifically to recognize the contributions of the couple to Junior Blind of America, where they have served as president and vice president of development for more than 20 years. For more than 50 years, Junior Blind of America has offered unique programs and services to help blind and visually impaired people become more independent.
Farewell to Anat Ben-Ishai
While many Jewish Angelenos gathered to do a mitzvah for Big Sunday or to celebrate Yom Ha’Atzmaut at the Israel Festival, a group of almost 300 Wilshire Boulevard Temple staff and families gathered at the Irmas campus for a cause equally personal. The morning’s event was dubbed a “Farewell to Anat Ben-Ishai,” who retired this year after 15 years as director of the Edgar F. Magnin and Gloria and Peter S. Gold Religious Schools.
“You’ve been an inspiration to our children. We can’t pay any person enough for that,” Rabbi Emeritus Harvey J. Fields told Ben-Ishai via a video message. Fields prerecorded a special goodbye message to Ben-Ishai, knowing he would be out of the country for the event. He said what would be missed most in Ben-Ishai’s absence would be her “poetic soul,” her storytelling, and her “care about each of us.” He also noted the excellence of the synagogue’s religious schools today “is your crowning achievement.”
Indeed, in the time Ben-Ishai served as Hebrew school director, the school grew from less than 400 students attending Hebrew school once a week at one campus, to close to 1,000 students attending three days a week at two different campuses.
The haimishe event, as one attendee described it, included many students, several of whom came with their parents. The day began with the tribute and was followed by Israeli dancing, children’s art projects and lunch, as well as a video station to record personal messages to Ben-Ishai and another station to “Write an Anat-o-gram.”
Students also participated in special art projects in their classes, as well as a video project, in which they bid Ben-Ishai farewell and told her they would miss her friendliness and her stories.
Gil Graff, executive director of the Bureau of Jewish Education (BJE), acknowledged Ben Ishai’s leadership contributions over the years, stating that out of the five outstanding teachers recognized by the BJE last year, two teachers were from Wilshire Boulevard Temple.
“Anat,” he told her, “you are truly a teacher of teachers.”
Ben-Ishai told those assembled that her greatest pride came from seeing her student’s independent participation in acts of tikkun olam and tzedakah.
The Anat Ben-Ishai Religious School Scholarship Fund was established May 3 in Ben-Ishai’s honor.
Those wishing to contribute may call the school at (213) 388-2401. — Keren Engelberg, Contributing Writer
Much About Maller
Hot dogs and happy memories were the recipe for the weekend as Temple Akiba, the Reform congregation of Culver City, honored Rabbi Allen Maller for 39 years of dedication and inspiration. The weekend was filled with events to bring the congregation together to celebrate and reflect on the Maller’s years as their leader.
Friday night a special service was held and representatives of California Assemblywoman Karen Bass and L.A. County Supervisor Yvonne Brathwaite Burke presented commendations. Former Culver City Mayor Albert Vera and Culver City Councilwoman Carol Gross praised Maller’s contributions to the community — the City Council even designated April as “Rabbi Maller Month.” There was a “Potpourri of International Tastes” dinner Saturday night and an original musical review written by Barbara Miller that featured five temple members — performing a “shtetl-flavored” tribute to Maller and Temple Akiba.
Maller will leave Temple Akiba at the end of June. Rabbi Zach Shapiro will become new spiritual leader of the congregation.
Nearly 800 donors, community leaders and public officials gathered May 7 at the Beverly Hilton Hotel for the 17th annual Magbit Foundation gala to raise funds for interest-free loans for Israeli college students and to celebrate Israel’s 58th year of independence. Master of ceremonies and Magbit leader David Nahai, chair of the L.A. Regional Water Quality Control Board, welcomed the guests and the contributions of the local Iranian Jewish community that started the Magbit Foundation.
Keynote speaker, L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, acknowledged Magbit’s nearly $3 million in loans given to almost 7,000 new immigrant Israeli university students during the last 17 years.
“The fact that you have provided a means for the talented students in Israel to get the education that will help better the world is truly remarkable,” Villaraigosa said.
Israeli Consul General Ehud Danoch spoke about the uniquely strong sense of Zionism of Iranian Jews living in Southern California.
“My friends I have known many Jewish communities around the world, but I have grown to admire the Iranian Jewish community for your sense of Israel and love of Israel which is heartfelt,” Danoch said.
Guests also enjoyed the Middle Eastern dancing of the Sunflower Dancers and the singing of acclaimed Israeli Noa Dori. Also in attendance were Israeli Justice Ministry official Shlomo Shachar, and Los Angeles Jewish Federation President John Fishel — Karmel Melamed, Contributing Writer
Los Angeles supporters of Israel’s political parties praised or mourned the results of the Knesset election, but even the winners weren’t entirely in a mood to celebrate.
Shimon Erem, a former high-ranking officer in the Israeli army, said he had planned to fly to Israel to cast his ballot for Kadima (Israel has no absentee voting). However, with pre-election predictions that the centrist party would gain around 40 seats, Erem felt his vote wouldn’t be needed.
Instead, Kadima got only 29 seats out of a total of 120, a showing he attributed to “faulty strategy due to overconfidence, to taking its support for granted.”
Dr. Yehuda Handelsman, a veteran leader of the local Israeli community, also backed Kadima, but had been more realistic.
“I think we did pretty well,” he said. “If Ariel Sharon had remained healthy and had led the party, I think we would have gotten 35-40 seats.”
As a new party, Kadima has not yet organized an American support group, but Handelsman predicted the establishment of such an organization in the next two years.
The Labor Party came in second with 19 seats and Bea Chenkin, regional executive director of Ameinu (formerly Labor Zionist Alliance), said she was satisfied.
“Considering that [former Labor Party leader] Shimon Peres jumped ship to join Kadima, we did as well as could be expected,” she said. “A lot of Israelis feel that the social problems of the country have been neglected, but now these issues are coming to the fore again.”
Rabbi Meyer May, president of the (Orthodox) Rabbinical Council of California, said that the three religious parties had done a good job in mobilizing their base among the generally apathetic electorate.
“Shas, National Union-Religious Party and United Torah Judaism understood that there was a lot at stake for the observant community and managed to retain their strength, May said.
Even among the Orthodox parties, there are strong ethnic and ideological differences, noted Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein, a Loyola Law School faculty member and an Orthodox leader.
At least one of the religious parties, most likely the less ideological United Torah Judaism, will join a Kadima-led coalition, Adlerstein predicted.
Robert Rechnitz, national vice chairman and Western regional president of American Friends of Likud, said he was “obviously disappointed” by the election results.
Likud, led by Benjamin Netanyahu, had been the largest party in the sitting Knesset, but will have only 12 seats in the next one.
Rechnitz blamed the decline on Sharon’s absence at the top of the ticket and defections by many retired and Orthodox voters, who had been hurt by Netanyahu’s past economic policies, as well as by what he called a “vicious” campaign against Netanyahu in the Israeli media.
The leftist Meretz Party managed only five seats, to the dismay of Dr. Isaac Berman, a national board member of Meretz USA.
“Similar to the Democratic Party here, Meretz didn’t seem to have clear message and didn’t make the right kind of noise,” Berman said.
Views on the road ahead in the peace process varied from wait-and-see resignation to cautious optimism among several community leaders interviewed by The Journal.
Roz Rothstein, executive director of StandWithUs, a pro-Israeli advocacy group, said the situation in Israel is so fluid that it is difficult to make predictions about how events will unfold. Given the internal and external challenges Israel faces, though, she said that now is a time for unity.
“This is a time when Israelis need to pull together and work together,” Rothstein said. “You have the potential polarization of the Israeli society on the left and right on the inside and the Hamas threat from the outside.
A more upbeat assessment came from Mark LeVine, associate professor of Middle Eastern history at UC Irvine. He said that despite Olmert’s vow to draw Israel’s final borders unilaterally, a negotiated settlement could eventually emerge. Hamas, he said, despite its refusal to recognize Israel, is not opposed to cutting a deal. And because of its standing in the Arab street, the group has the credentials to do so.
“Assuming Hamas doesn’t engage in too much violence either against military targets or terrorism against civilians, I would assume that in the next couple years there’s going to be a repeat of the negotiations you had at Camp David in 2000 and in Taba,” said LeVine, who wrote the 2005 book, “Why They Don’t Hate Us: Lifting the Veil on the Axis of Evil” (Oneworld). “They’re probably going to be using pretty much the same maps.”
A local Muslim leader weighed in with similarly cautious optimism.
“There’s a recognition by the bulk of the Israeli population that the Greater Israel Project is over,” said Nayyer Ali, past chair of the Muslim Pubic Affairs Council. “Unlike the mood in Israel in 2000 and before, we now have a consensus among Israelis that the end solution is a Palestinian state.”
Ali added that the rise of the terorrist Hamas group on the Palestinian side also should not be viewed as a fatal impediment to peace. Just as the Israeli left cannot make peace without the support of more conservative Israeli parties, Ali said, Palestinian leaders, absent Hamas, also could not make a binding agreement. Despite its vow never to recognize Israel, “like other ideological parties, I think Hamas will have to deal with reality now that it’s in power,” Ali said.
But Sabiah Khan, spokeswoman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, Southern California chapter, said she sees nothing but a stalemate ahead in at least the short term: Israel, on the one side, refuses to negotiate until Hamas renounces terrorism and recognizes its right to exist. The new Palestinian government, on the other hand, won’t engage Israel until the Jewish state ends its “occupation,” recognizes the national rights of the Palestinian people and renounces terror.
“Basically, we have two groups saying the same thing, that they’re not going to talk to each other [until the other side does something that it isn’t willing to do], Khan said. “Outside intervention from the U.S., Europe, the United Nations or Arab governments is needed.”
Some or all of those parties, she said, could break the impasse by encouraging a negotiated settlement based on international law and existing U.N. resolutions.
Regardless of last week’s voting results, the local Israeli consulate was in campaign party mode on Election Day. Consul General Ehud Danoch and his staff festooned the consulate’s Jerusalem Hall with small Israeli flags, and had spread out a generous supply of pita, hummus, techinah and cookies for more than 100 guests who jammed together to watch the results of the first exit polls.
Danoch drew on his own political background for a running commentary on the merging trends and shared the general astonishment at the success of the Pensioners Party, which came out of nowhere to gain seven seats.
GOP ‘Munich’ Event
In his review of the Republican Jewish Coalition’s “Munich” event (“‘Munich’ Still Topic of Debate,” Briefs, Feb. 24), Robert Jaffee feigns surprise when he states, “Even with Republican sponsors and a largely Republican audience, the panelists at a recent discussion on Steven Spielberg’s ‘Munich’ covered most of the spectrum from left to right.”
As moderator, I opened the event by stating the two conditions under which we agreed to co-host the event with Pepperdine. First was that it should be held as a nonpartisan event, since I do not believe there is an established Republican or Democrat position on the movie — nor should there be. As evidence, I cited critics of the movie on the left, such Alan Dershowitz, as well as defenders of it on the right.
My second condition was that I would not allow the discussion to devolve into ad hominem attacks on either Steven Spielberg, for whom I hold admiration (and as a guardian of the memory of the Holocaust, gratitude), or Tony Kushner, whom I do not particularly admire.
To the audience’s credit, they abided by these admonitions. And when two (out of almost 200) participants engaged the panelists with debate from their seats — as Jaffee noted with condescension — I reminded them of our agreement to submit questions on cards, and they also responded respectfully.
It is curious that Jaffee would leave out all mention of these comments by me.
Readers of The Jewish Journal should be reassured that if they choose to sample one of RJC’s thoughtful events, they will be greeted with respect, not with cream pie in the face, a fate that has befallen conservative speakers at some venues.
Dr. Joel Geiderman
Republican Jewish Coalition
Two recent articles in the Los Angeles Times have undermined David Klinghoffer’s impassioned statement on Jack Abramoff (“In Defense of Jack Abramoff,” Jan. 27). One demonstrated that Abramoff used charities as a place to park money, which he subsequently used as if it was his own, and from another, we learned that this self-described Orthodox Jew advanced the interests and facilitated a meeting for the president of Malaysia with the president of the United States. His client had made such well-publicized anti-Semitic statements that they were broadcast throughout the world.
I wonder if Klinghoffer’s op-ed should not be withdrawn by the author or at least by the papers which published it. We now know it was contrafactual and verifiably untrue when it was written.
I do not claim that Klinghoffer knew that his defense — or his attack on the so-called attackers — was untrue, but his failure to withdraw the story leaves such an impression on this — and I presume other readers. If he does not withdraw it, The Jewish Journal should.
Sigi Ziering Institute
University of Judaism
David Klinghoffer responds:
This correspondent missed the point of my article. That Jack Abramoff broke the law, abused the system and the trust of others was the premise of and occasion for the article I wrote. Once again: What I asked was, given that Abramoff has admitted serious criminal activity, that he’s publicly abased himself, that he’s now going to receive a hefty and deserved prison sentence, how appropriate is it for the Jewish community to continue to pour scorn and, indeed, hate upon him?
The lack of pity and compassion from so many of his co-religionists, the venom I’ve seen in numerous e-mails sent to me directly, is the real desecration of God’s name in this case. The fact that the writer of this letter can’t understand such an elementary point illustrates, rather than contradicts, what I tried to say.
On our trips to Israel we have seen Ethiopian Jews in modern dress, integrated into modern Israeli society. It was heartening. Your Feb. 24 cover showing a primitive Ethiopian and questioning whether such a person can be a Jew is a shameful dig or racist bigotry. It would be more appropriate for a Ku Klux Klan publication than for The Jewish Journal.
Not Made Clear
The Bush administration and the Israelis should have made it clear before the Palestinian elections that democracy does not mean that a people has the right to vote for “Nazis” (“U.S. Must Refocus Democracy Building,” Feb. 24). No fair-minded person would deny that Germany is a democracy, but certainly the Allies would never have let the people of (West) Germany govern themselves if they had elected Nazis, and if this happened, the Allies would not be called “hypocritical.
Another point of common sense. Now that everyone is aware how sensitive Muslims are about certain things, should the world not demand not only that Hamas recognize Israel and denounce terrorism, but that it end all hate speech against Jews.
Obviously, Jews certainly have the right to feel more sensitive about Holocaust denial, the blood libel and being called “pigs” and “dogs” than Muslims do about cartoons that truthfully depict their behavior.
I hope someone asked Elias Khoury at his book reading why the people who started the war against Israel with the intent of wiping it and it’s inhabitants off the face of the earth have the chutzpah to call themselves victims, after they lost their attempted genocide of Israel (“‘Gates’ Hold Key to Palestinians’ Pain,” Feb. 24). I hope someone also asked Khoury why the Arab perpetrators of the “nakhba” didn’t take care of there own refugees.
Howard Blume’s piece is precisely the kind of self-righteous equivocating that keeps the Jewish people off course and susceptible to attack (“Shlomo’s World,” Feb. 24). How dare he go on and on about one, count ’em: one person named Goldstein who killed Arabs while over the past five, 50, 100 and more years how many Arabs have killed how many innocent Jews?
Blume demonstrates that he has very little accurate knowledge of the history or purpose of his own people. A child of the civil rights movement, he does not see a religious Jew’s world as [Blume’s] own world — and therein lies the problem.
Blume was raised with the American civil rights movement as his religion. Has he or others like him really taken the time to see what the roots of that movement were and how it relates to Israel? It was and is the heroic story of the people of Israel that fuels and informs the struggle of black Americans for their freedom.
But Blume apparently refuses to see the cold, hard realities of the Middle East. He doesn’t believe it that when someone says they’re coming to kill you, they actually mean it. If Blume knew the history of his own people and understood what is truly his own world, he would have a very different view.
But, alas, he and others wish to remain in their give peace a chance/we are the world cloud, while denigrating the very religious Jews, who by the courage and devotion, continue to live and maintain the land of Israel. Give a thoughtful reading to from time immemorial will ya?
Read about some of your heroic brothers and sisters on israelnationalnews.com. And you are welcome to contact me for a thorough discussion of the real story of Israel in the Middle East.
Kudos to Howard Blume for his article, which clearly states that the fundamentalists of any religion can be quite evil. They believe that anyone who does not believe exactly as they do are fair game.
In 1977, my wife and I gave ourselves a 25th wedding anniversary gift by touring Israel. My first purchase was a blue-and-white Israeli hat that I wore throughout the tour.
Our guide took us through West Bank communities without any fear. There were soldiers around, but we comfortably fraternized with Arabs in their shops and on their streets. I was delighted to witness Arabs and Jews praying simultaneously in different rooms at the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron.
I constantly wonder what the situation would be today if subsequent Israeli governments had chosen to separate synagogue and state and not encourage religious Zionists, like the murderer Baruch Goldstein, to settle in the West Bank and Gaza.
Martin J. Weisman
Blu Greenberg’s eloquent tribute to the late Betty Friedan reminds us how much courage it took for Friedan to stand up against American society’s treatment of women in the early 1960s (“Friedan: Universal Woman, Particular Jew,” Feb 10). Less well known is that more than 20 years earlier, Friedan spoke out for another unpopular cause — bringing German Jewish refugees to the United States.
Friedan was a freshman at Smith College in Massachusetts in the autumn of 1938, when Hitler unleashed the Kristallnacht pogrom. A debate soon erupted on campus over whether the United States should aid Jewish refugees.
On one side stood Smith President William Allen Neilson, a deeply principled humanitarian who believed America should be true to its tradition of welcoming the downtrodden. He urged the students to sign a petition asking President Roosevelt to let German Jewish girls enter the United States outside the immigration quotas, in order to enroll at Smith.
On the other side in the debate were most of the students, whose opposition to the refugees mirrored the bigotry and isolationism that was all too common in American society then. To Friedan’s surprise and dismay, some assimilated Jewish students joined the anti-refugee side.
Each student house held its own discussion on whether or not to sign the petition. “A number of girls spoke against it, about not wanting any more Jews at Smith,” Friedan later wrote.
There were four older, well-to-do Jewish girls in her house — “the type that spoke in whispery voices and became utterly anemic because they did not want to be known as Jews,” as she put it. “I expected them to speak up [in favor of the petition], but they didn’t. Finally, despite being only a freshman from Peoria, I spoke, urging that we open our doors to those girls fleeing persecution.”
Sadly, her plea fell on deaf ears — the petition was rejected by a large margin. But it is to Friedan’s credit that she stood up for what was right, even when it was unpopular to do so.
Dr. Rafael Medoff
David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies Melrose Park, Pa.
To read more letters this week, visit www.jewishjournal.com.THE JEWISH JOURNAL welcomes letters from all readers. Letters should be no more than 200 words and must include a valid name, address and phone number. Letters sent via e-mail must not contain attachments. Pseudonyms and initials will not be used, but names will be withheld on request. We reserve the right to edit all letters. Mail: The Jewish Journal, Letters, 3580 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 1510, Los Angeles, CA 90010; e-mail: email@example.com; or fax: (213) 368-1684
Take some chick lit, throw in a dash of mystery and political awareness — plus some first-timer nervousness — and you have the makings for some thought-provoking panels at the fourth annual West Hollywood Book Fair.
On Sunday, Oct. 2, scores of writers, readers, children and adults will converge at West Hollywood Park for this year’s event. The variety of panels, authors, stages and programs means that anyone can find their niche, for example, Journal Religion Editor Amy Klein will be moderating “The Many Faces of Jewish Creative Writing.” While both genders will make a showing at that panel, many of the others are heavily weighted in favor of the well-read woman, such as “Chewing on Chick Lit: A Quasi-Serious Discussion” and “Gals with Guns: How Female Authors Have Reshaped The Modern Mystery Novel.”
Among the Jewish authors signing, speaking and spanning several genres will be mystery writer Rochelle Krich and novelists Seth Greenland and Jennifer Coburn. There’s also a book signing by Oliver Crawford, one of the last remaining “blacklisted” writers from the 1950s. Crawford, 88, will be signing copies of his newest book, “The Last Generation.” In addition to the authors noted above, Aimee Bender, Lisa Glatt and Lynn Freed — all of whom are scheduled to attend the book fair — spoke to The Journal about their new works.
The Harsh Pain of the Bruised Apple
Lisa Glatt’s “The Apple’s Bruise: Stories” (Simon and Schuster, $12).
The apple’s bruise is its vulnerable spot, the place where all its strength and crunch disintegrates into mealy brownness. It is also hidden by the shiny skin of the apple. The stories in “The Apple’s Bruise” are like that; they are populated by regular people, for whom a regular facade reveals an uglier secret. There is the mother in “Soup,” who finds herself attracted to the boy who, years earlier, bullied her son, and who recently raped a girl. In “What Milton Heard,” a milquetoast neighbor disavows any knowledge of the serial killings happening in the apartment directly above his. A marriage disintegrates in “The Body Shop” after the husband uses his wife’s money at strip clubs and, in a burst of weirdness, carries a stripper off the stage.
But the apple’s bruise (literally) is most poignant in the first story of the collection. In “Dirty Hannah Gets Hit by a Car,” Jewish Hannah bites into that very spot right after her mean, non-Jewish neighbor Erika steals her turkey sandwich. Wanting to appear nonchalant, uncaring about her abuse, Hannah “chewed and chewed, pretending she loved it, pretending that soft brown spot was the very thing she was hungry for, the very thing she craved.” Erika is the girl Hannah has to walk to school with every day, the girl Hannah overhears telling her mother that “[Hannah’s] dirty,” the girl who takes her into the garage, and eats chocolates while pinching Hannah so hard all over her body that Hannah is left with tattoos of bruises. During this little torture session, Hannah is conscious of the smell of gas.
On the day that Erika can’t walk Hannah to school because of a skin infection, Hannah walks herself and gets hit by a car. The accident is debilitating but liberating. Hannah loses “her spleen, half of her calf muscle, the baby toe from her left foot which her father will look for and never find.” But she also gains strength. She is no longer afraid of Erika, no longer worried about being that very-easy-to-squash apple’s bruise.
“Come on in Erika… I don’t bite,” she tells her, thinking that maybe she does bite, that maybe she’s becoming just that sort of girl.”
The story is an autobiographical one for Glatt, who is Jewish and was in a terrible car accident as a young girl that left her in crutches for eight years. It is also Glatt’s most obviously Jewish story, and she plans on continuing the story of Hannah in an upcoming novel.
“When I wrote “Hannah” I had read a series of Holocaust books, and I was really immersed in it for a while,” said Glatt in an interview with The Journal. “I realized, going back over the story [after it was written] that I was conscious on some level of putting those details in [such as the gas]. I was interested in the political and the social become personal.”
“I find trouble interesting,” Glatt continued. “I am interested in human beings with all [their] flaws and complexities, doing terrible things. Some people can do terrible things, and that can be interesting to me.”
Lisa Glatt will be participating in “Women on the Edge: Readings, Discussions From the Dark … and Light Side,” at 3:30 p.m. in the Salon.
A Magical Mystery Tour
Aimee Bender’s “Willful Creatures: Stories” (Doubleday, $22.95).
The emotions in Aimee Bender’s stories are familiar, the characters, not so. While the stories in “Willful Creatures” deal delicately with loss, love, family and pain, the people in them have pumpkin heads, potatoes for children or keys for fingers. This surreal and dreamlike world is simultaneously haunting and tender. In “End of the Line” a man buys a miniature person as a pet, and then tortures him mercilessly, for an enjoyment that is cruel and empty. In the end, he lets the little man go, and the little man returns, broken, to his little community. In “Ironhead,” a family of pumpkinheads have their mettle tested when a child they bore has an ironhead (literally, an iron for a head), and though he is different, and sickly, they love him deeply. In “Dearth” a woman can’t get rid of the seven potatoes in her pot, although she tries, and she eventually comes to love them as her children.
Other stories in the collection are profoundly disturbing. In “Debbieland,” the cool girls lure a nerdy girl (‘Debbie wore the skirt all the girls had been wearing, but she wore it two months too late…) outside, and beat her up knowing she will never tell on them.
“I don’t think I could write the same stories with ordinary people,” said Bender, in an interview with The Journal. “Flannery O’Connor talks about the grotesque as an exaggerated world, where, in the distortion, you see something more clearly that you would not see outside the distortion. If something is too quiet or balanced, or if a quality is more normal, then I am less likely to see it. I am always looking for an access point of feeling, and often I feel liberated by the skewed world. I can find emotions in there that I can’t find elsewhere.”
While Bender says she has only written a handful of stories that directly address Jewish characters or being Jewish — although she did contribute an essay on the guilt she feels when everything is going well to “The Modern Jewish Girl’s Guide to Guilt,” ($24.95, Dutton) — she feels that her style is more Jewish than not.
“There is such a tradition of Jewish storytelling that is a little bit magical and a little bit dark,” she said. “So many of the writers that I look to as inspirations are Jewish, like Kafka. He wasn’t writing about being Jewish but he was a very Jewish writer. I do remember loving the [Torah] stories in Sunday school. I loved the bigness of those stories, and how mythic and exciting and dramatic they were. I mean — [Moses] parts the Red Sea! It is incredible. It is a great image. I think on a visceral level, that is the way my Jewishness comes through in my writing.”
Aimee Bender will be participating in “Women on the Edge: Readings, Discussions From the Dark … and Light Side,” at 3:30 p.m. in the Salon.
A Writer’s Life
Lynn Freed’s “Reading, Writing and Leaving Home, Life on the Page” (Harcourt, $22).
The simple act of putting words on a page is something many writers find arduous, difficult and frustrating. In “Reading, Writing and Leaving Home,” a memoir that is equally raw and sensitive, Freed strips back the mystique of writing. The book is a collection of personal essays that Freed wrote over her 20 years or so as a writer, and while it reveals many tribulations that writers face, it also is an inspirational look at what makes a writer.
In “False Starts and Creative Failures,” Freed writes about her continuously aborted attempts to write a third novel. She becomes stuck on the characters name, and then the novel’s title and then the setting. For years, she fixates, unable to move beyond the 40 pages she has written. Until it is written, the novel is like an albatross around her neck. In “Doing Time,” Freed writes about the frustration she feels in teaching writing, a task that she feels is essentially enigmatic, and for many students, an exercise in futility.
“Despite all my years in creative writing classrooms, I still have no idea how to pretend to unravel the mystery,” she writes. “…I feel like a fraud…. How can I help someone breathe life into a flat and pointless piece of writing? I cannot. If there are teachers who know how to work from the abstract to the concrete, I am not one of them.”
Freed grew up in an artistic, Jewish family in Durban, South Africa. Her mother was a stage actress. Her family was traditional, and Freed attended Hebrew school three times a week.
“One can only write what one is, and as I’m Jewish it tends naturally to come into my fiction,” said Freed, in an interview with The Journal. In addition to “Reading, Writing,” she has written five novels and a collection of short stories. “[Jewishness] comes into my writing all over the place, but not because I put it there, but mainly because that is my experience.”
“When you first start writing, you don’t have an audience at all, and I think it is a blessed event,” said Freed, reflecting on the 20 years she has been a writer. “And when you have an audience, you have to resist trying to please them as you have always pleased them. With age, you have to resist trying to do the same thing again. One gets more careful, and possibly, a little slower.”
Lynn Freed will be participating in “Memoirs Light the Corners of My Mind,” at 12:15 p.m. in the Assorted Lives Pavilion.
OASIS: 1:30-3 p.m. Weekly Yiddish conversation group for seniors. 8838 Pico Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 446-8053.
Brandeis-Bardin Institute: Dec. 21-Dec. 26. Camp Alonim winter experience for kids in grades 2-11. (805) 582-4450.
ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT
Los Angeles Master Chorale: 7 p.m. Latin holiday music celebration featuring jazz and vocal artists. $10-$79. Walt Disney Concert Hall,
|” width=”1″ height=”8″ alt=””>|
Workmen’s Circle/Arbeter Ring:
Workmen’s Circle: 6:30 p.m. “Jewish Vegetarianism” vegetarian potluck and talk with Gene Gordon. Bring a dish or beverage to serve eight to 10 people. Free. R.S.V.P., (310) 552-2007.
Workmen’s Circle/Arbeter Ring:
Shalhevet Middle School: 10 a.m. Open house for grades 5-8.
910 S. Farifax Ave., Los Angeles. R.S.V.P., (323) 930-9333, ext. 230.
|” width=”1″ height=”8″ alt=””>|
Jewish Family Service and Friendship Circle: 7:30-9 p.m. Support group for parents of children with special needs. Meets on first and third Thursdays of each month.
The New JCC at Milken,
22622 Vanowen St., West Hills.
Orthodox Union: Dec. 23-Dec. 26. West Coast Torah Convention. For more information, see article on page 19.
Sunshine Seniors Club: 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m. Weekly meeting at new location. Valley Cities JCC, 13164 Burbank Blvd., Sherman Oaks. (818) 764-4532.
Jewish Family Service and Friendship Circle: 7:30-9 p.m. Support group for parents of children with special needs. Meets on first and third Thursdays of each month. The New JCC at Milken, 22622 Vanowen St., West Hills. (818) 464-3333.
Jewish Outdoor Adventures: 10:30 a.m. Christmas Day Hike to Eagle Rock with the Sierra Club. Topanga State Park, 20825 Entrada Road, Los Angeles. firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jewish Singles, Meet! (30s-40s): “What’s a nice Jewish guy or gal doing on Dec. 25?” party. $10. Sylmar residence. R.S.V.P., (818) 750-0095.
|” width=”1″ height=”8″ alt=””>|
Harbor Jewish Singles (55+): 1 p.m. Lunch and a movie at Metro Point. (714) 633-8878.
Chai Center: 2-5 p.m. “Not a Christmas Party” for all ages at private outdoor location. $10. Hancock Park. R.S.V.P., (310) 391-7995.
|” width=”1″ height=”8″ alt=””>|
Israeli Folk Dancing: 8 p.m.-12:30 a.m. Classes by Israel Yakove meet Mondays and Thursdays. $7. 2244 Westwood Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 839-2550.
|” width=”1″ height=”8″ alt=””>|
West Valley JCC: 8-11 p.m. Israeli folk dancing with James Zimmer. $5-$6. Salsa, swing and tango lessons for an additional $3 (7-8 p.m.). (310) 284-3638.day
|” width=”1″ height=”8″ alt=””>|
Nexus (20s-40s): 6 p.m. Volleyball and
no-host dinner at a local restaurant. End of Culver Boulevard, near court 15,
Playa del Rey. www.jewishnexus.org.
|” width=”1″ height=”8″ alt=””>|
Conversations at Leon’s: 7 p.m. “First Dates, What They Say About You.” $15-$17.
639 26th St., Santa Monica. (310) 393-4616.
|” width=”1″ height=”8″ alt=””>|
New Age Singles (55+): New Year’s Eve party with bus to Glendale, dinner and the play, “Come Blow Your Horn.” $60-$62. R.S.V.P., (818) 347-8355.
Music for hope
Tziona Maman came into Ohr Meir and Bracha Center in Jerusalem crying and very depressed. Her husband Tzion had both his legs badly injured in the Machane Yehuda bombing in 1997, and became addicted to pain killers. Before the bombing he had been a sculptor and was able to support his family through his art, but after the bombing he spent most of his time in a drug-induced stupor.
Ohr Meir and Bracha enrolled Tzion in a drug rehab program that successfully enabled him to be drug-free, and now he has started making sculptures again. His family is on surer footing financially, and Tziona is much happier.
On Sunday, Nov. 14, Ohr Meir and Bracha will be holding a fundraising concert to raise money for terror victims in Israel. In addition to providing counseling and referral services for the victims, Ohr Meir and Bracha, which translates to the light of Meir and Bracha, also gives weekly food baskets to victims in precarious financial situations. They also sponsor a summer retreat for terror victims.
The concert will feature the Moshav Band and will take place at 7:30 p.m. at Congregation Magen David, 9717 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles. $15 minimum donation. For more information, call Sam Saidian at (310) 922-3010.
Jocelyn Tetel, the vice president of advancement at the Skirball Cultural Center, was awarded a commendation from the City of Culver City on Oct. 25 for her contributions to the disabled community.
For more than 12 years, Tetel has served on the board of directors of the Kayne Eras Center, an organization that serves children with various disabilities and operates two group homes for adults with developmental disabilities.
She also introduced art by L.A. GOAL to the general community by installing two exhibits at Skirball’s Ruby Gallery. L.A. GOAL is an organization that empowers adults with disabilities to become independent and productive members of society by helping them to provide “passive education” (i.e., art works) to the community that will enable the community to relate to them and see not just their disabilities, but their abilities.
UJ’s Ugandan Connection
The University of Judaism (UJ) had a special visitor in October – Dr. Gilbert Balikaseka Bukenya, the vice president of Uganda. Bukenya spoke to the students about Uganda’s desire to emerge from the third world, an effort that is hampered by Uganda’s lack of infrastructure. Bukenya also spoke about Uganda’s relationship with Israel, and how Uganda is exploring the use of the kibbutz as a model for collective living and pooling resources for Ugandan farmers.
While at the UJ, Bukenya met with Gershom Sizomu, a rabbinic student at the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies and a native of Uganda. Sizomu is the spiritual leader of the Abuyadaya – the Ugandan Jews. Sizomu plans on returning to Uganda as that country’s first ordained rabbi. Bukenya and Sizomu spoke about Sizomu’s community and its need for fresh water.
At the end of the meeting, Bukenya raised the possibility of student exchange programs between the UJ and Uganda, and the possibility of training Ugandans in the UJ’s Graduate Programs in Nonprofit Management.
Gindlin Sings at Sinai
Cantor Mariana Gindlin was recently appointed to lead the religious service at Temple Sinai of Glendale. Gindlin was raised in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and her father sang in a professional synagogue choir for more than 30 years. Although she grew up singing, it was unthinkable in Argentina at the time for a woman to be a member of the clergy, so Gindlin decided to study psychology while taking voice lessons privately. Times eventually changed and Gindlin enrolled in the Latin American Rabbinical Seminary, where she studied to be a cantor.
“The first time I stepped into Latin American Rabbinical Seminary, I realized I was at home,” she said.
In the upcoming year, Gindlin plans to add a junior choir and build an orchestra to enhance services and other events. She also wants to spread her passion for Jewish music and create a stronger sense of community and a greater joy in congregational worship.
Temple Sinai is located at 1212 N. Pacific Avenue in Glendale. For more information, call (818) 246-8101.
Peter’s New Place
In other UJ news, Peter Lowy was officially named chair of the University of Judaism’s board of directors on Oct. 11 at a ceremony held at the university’s Colen Conference Hall. Lowy is the CEO of Westfield Group, a global real estate investment trust with interest in 124 shopping centers around the world. The Westfield Group was the original sponsor of the UJ’s Department of Continuing Education’s Public Lecture Series.
Lowy, who until recently served as board treasurer, succeeds Dena Schechter, who led the board for five years.
“Building on the work done by my predecessor, Dena Schechter, and others, I want to see the UJ reach its fullest potential,” Lowy said. “The UJ must always strive to provide the highest quality education and to positively influence Jewish life in our community.”
New in Northridge
Two Northridge communities got new leadership over the summer. The Sephardic Congregation of Northridge recently hired Rabbi Moshe Abady to be its new spiritual leader. In 2001, Abady and his wife, Leora, moved to Los Angeles from Israel, where he directed the Sephardic Halacha Program at Yeshiva Darchei Noam Shappell’s, to accept a teaching position at Maimonides Academy. Abady also directed the Youth Minyan at Congregation Torah Ohr and offers bar mitzvah lessons.
Rabbi Eli Rivkin and his wife Tzippi, and their three small children moved to Northridge from Brooklyn, New York to head up Chabad at Northridge. The Rivkins will not only focus on building up the already existing Northridge community, but they are also going to be doing outreach to the 7,000 Jewish students at CSUN.
For more information visit www.chabadnorthridge.com.
A Cop for a Cop
The Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA) held a special lunch on Oct. 20 at the Luxe Summit Hotel to honor Jona Goldrich, who sponsored JINSA’s Law Enforcement Exchange Program (LEEP) Conference in California.
The LEEP conferences, which also took place in Minnesota and Florida, were the largest counterterrorism cooperative training enterprises between the U.S. and Israel. The California conference took place Oct. 18-19 in Garden Grove, where policeman heard from six counterterrorism professionals from the Israeli National Police, the General Security Service, the Mossad and the Israel Defense Forces. The speakers discussed the best counterterrorism practice procedures with an emphasis on preventing and responding to suicide bombings.
The lunch honoring Goldrich was chaired by Lawrence Field and David Justman, and guests heard presentations from Gideon Avrahami, the director of Jerusalem Mall; Yoram Hessel, a retired senior officer of the Mossad; Gen. Shaike Horowitz, a commander of the bomb squad unit of the Israeli National Police; Brig. Gen. Amichai Shai, the commander of the crime investigation unit; Maj. Gen. Mickey Levy, the former commander of the Jerusalem Police Department; Brig. Gen. Shimon Perry, police and law enforcement attachÃ(c) of the Embassy of Israel; Steven Pomerantz, former assistant director of the FBI; and Cmdr. Shmuel Zoltak of Israel National Police’s crisis negotiation unit.
For more information on LEEP and JINSA, visit www.jinsa.org.
This Bud’s For You
Anheuser Busch, the company behind Budweiser beer, donated $100,000 to The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles in October. The donation will go to support a wide variety of education, social welfare and human services provided by The Federation. This is the 12th year that Anheuser-Busch has provided funds to benefit the Los Angeles-area community; they have donated more than $1 million to the Federation since 1994.
Stand with students
About 85 students from 32 universities spent most of Halloween weekend attending Israel in Focus at Ojai’s Camp Ramah, where they developed skills to speak for the Jewish state when encountering college campus hostilities.
“There are a lot of students in the same boat as my school,” said Tal Zavlodaver, 21, president of USC’s Hillel-based group SC Students for Israel.
The event, co-sponsored by StandWithUs and the Israel Consulate, included lectures from the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and Israeli consulate staffers plus pollster Frank Luntz; Gary Ratner, executive director of the American Jewish Congress; Maya Zutler of U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s Los Angeles office; and Aryeh Greene, an adviser to Israel’s Diaspora Minister Natan Sharansky. A Saturday night concert featured hip-hop’s Remedy.
The students, most involved with campus Hillel groups, came from Cal State branches in Northridge, Long Beach and Fullerton plus UC campuses in San Diego, Irvine, Davis and Santa Barbara. Other students came from Ohio, Arizona, New York, Canada and Australia.
While USC has more from campus indifference than antagonism towards Israel, 19-year-old Aaren Alpert said that on her UCSB campus, “Students are mainly apathetic; however the faculty tends to be more of a problem.”
“There is a fight on campus and these are the leaders who go back to their campuses and promote Israel,” said public affairs consul Yariv Ovadia of the Consulate General of Israel in Los Angeles.
“I certainly wish that I had been a student at this conference,” said Ovadia’s colleague, Justin Levi, the consulate’s academic affairs director and a UCLA class of 2003 alumnus. – David Finnigan, Contributing Writer
The music of a lost generation of Jewish composers will come to life when the Los Angeles Philharmonic presents “Silenced Voices,” a series of concerts, operas and panel discussions, from Oct. 19 to Nov. 9.
While mainly honoring the composers who were persecuted or perished during the Holocaust, the concerts will also feature the works of Felix Mendelssohn and Gustav Mahler, whose “degenerate” music was banned by the Nazis.
For conductor James Conlon, bringing the “beautiful and provocative” music of such composers as Erwin Schulhoff, Viktor Ullmann, Gideon Klein and Bohuslav Martinu to international audiences has been a 10-year crusade.
“These men represented an enormous piece of the music and culture of the 20th century,” Conlon passionately declared in a phone call from Montreal.
“Rediscovering their music is equivalent to a museum which suddenly finds 200 great paintings in its cellar — of course, the museum would exhibit them for the public,” he added.
“Silenced Voices” will open on Tuesday, Oct. 19, with the satirical opera “Der Kaiser von Atlantis” (The Emperor from Atlantis), which Ullmann composed while imprisoned in the Nazis’ “model” camp of Teresienstadt (Terezin).
The protagonist is Emperor Overall, who brings such pain and misery to the world that Death arrives to take him, and everyone else, away. The SS apparently sensed some similarity between “The Emperor” and a contemporary dictator and shut down the work during rehearsals.
An L.A. Phil ensemble and Juilliard School singers will perform the staged production at Wilshire Boulevard Temple, 3663 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles.
On the following Thursday, Oct. 21, a discussion on the concept and context of “Silenced Voices” will be led by Conlon, Rabbis Steven Z. Leder and Gary Greenebaum and Dr. Gary Schiller of the L.A. Museum of the Holocaust. The event will be held on the Irmas campus of Wilshire Boulevard Temple in West Los Angeles.
The two temple evenings are sponsored by the Ziegler Family Trust, with additional support from the Jewish Community Foundation. All subsequent events will be at the downtown Disney Concert Hall.
Conlon and the Philharmonic will perform Ullmann’s Symphony No. 2 and Mahler’s Symphony No. 1 on Oct. 23 and 24.
On Oct. 29, 30 and 31, Conlon will lead the Philharmonic in Schulhoff’s Jazz Suite, Mendelssohn’s Piano Concerto No. 2, and Antonin Dvorak’s Symphony No. 7.
Dvorak is the only non-Jewish composer represented in the series, but as a composer and Czech nationalist he had a profound effect on such composers as Schulhoff, who was Dvorak’s protégé, Conlon noted.
Pianist Jonathan Biss will be the soloist in the Mendelssohn work.
Concluding the series on Nov. 9 will be a chamber music concert by the Phil’s instrumentalists of works by Schulhoff, Martinu, Ullmann, Klein and Mendelssohn.
Conlon was first drawn to “silenced” composers of the early 20th century by rediscovering the works of Alexander Zemlinsky, a brother-in-law of Arnold Schoenberg, and the conductor recorded most of Zemlinsky’s works in Germany. Conlon’s “discovery” of other names and composers followed.
“I have been a practicing musician for 30 years, and until 10 years ago, I knew hardly anything about these composers from Berlin, Vienna, Prague and Budapest, whose works represented much of the musical ferment of their time,” Conlon said.
Conlon made his New York Philharmonic debut in 1974 and has since spent most of his time in Europe, conducting leading orchestras and serving as principal conductor of the Paris National Opera for the past nine years.
The “Silenced Voices” program are part of his three-year project on “Recovering a Musical Heritage,” although he fears that “I won’t live long enough to integrate the major works of the ‘silenced’ composers into the standard concert repertoire.
“People tend to be afraid when they see the names of unfamiliar composers on a program, but I want to turn that around,” he said.
Given Conlon’s preoccupation with Jewish composers, he is often asked, “usually as the first question,” whether he is Jewish himself.
“Actually, I am an Irish-Italian-German Catholic, but growing up in New York, I absorbed and loved everything Jewish,” the conductor said.
“What the Nazis did was a crime not just against the Jews, but against every human being,” he said. “We can never redress the injustice against the Jewish composers, but we can do what meant most to them, and that is to restore and play their music.”
For ticket and other information on all the listed programs, call (323) 850-2000, or visit www.LAPhil.com.
FIT FOR AMIT
To inaugurate Debbie Herbst, the new regional president, 30 members of AMIT gathered July 15 at the Luxe Hotel in Beverly Hills for an installation brunch.
AMIT, the Zionist program supporting religious education and social services for Israeli youth, has until now “been largely sustained by the older generation,” said Gail Bershon, Western regional director.
One of Herbst’s goals as president is to integrate younger generations to create a more intergenerational program.
“We want to continue with the AMIT mission, but we also want to create a new generation for Los Angeles,” said Herbst, who will serve as regional president for three years. “We want to expand and focus on bringing in new members…. We want to do more events and want the public to be more knowledgeable about what we do, which is helping the neglected and abused kids of Israel.”
Ex-president Dina Goldstein was honored for her three years of service and “untiring efforts,” receiving a small sculpture representing the AMIT icon. All other ex-presidents in attendance were presented with small Israeli flags. — Lauren Bragin, Contributing Writer
STARS GIVE HOPE
City of Hope’s 2004 national convention July 17-19 at the Beverly Hilton concluded with a traditional black-tie banquet.
The banquet honored former City of Hope head Ben Horowitz and actress Rhonda Fleming for their dedication and commitment to City of Hope, known for its cancer, HIV/AIDS and diabetes treatment and research centers.
Comedian Norm Crosby, who celebrated his 21st year as City of Hope’s national ambassador of good will, introduced Carol Channing who presented the Lifetime Achievement Award to Fleming, her longtime friend.
“I just have to say one thing: I give God all the glory, because he blessed me so,” said an emotional Fleming. “This is one of the highlights of my life, to have this happen tonight.”
Chairman emeritus Mike Hirsch introduced special honoree Horowitz, who was greeted by a standing ovation.
“I have been sharing the most significant aspects of my life with the City of Hope,” Horowitz said.
“May the light you shine bring hope to the world and to all mankind,” he added, speaking to the more than 1,000 delegates in attendance, at which point he was surprised with a cake to celebrate his 90th birthday.
Among those present at the convention were actor Efrem Zimbalist Jr., with his daughter, actress Stephanie Zimbalist; unmerciful fashion critic Mr. Blackwell; and former game show host Monty Hall, who emceed the Roll Call of the Nation, at which volunteers turned in the money they’d raised on behalf of City of Hope, among others.
JOURNEY OF A LIFETIME
Aish L.A.’s sold-out Journey of a Lifetime dinner at the Beverly Hilton June 8 attracted a crowd of more than 1,100 guests to raise money for Aish programs.
Aish, which became popular with its SpeedDating program, now has more than 25 branches in eight countries. Aish provides “outreach for the unaffiliated Jew to reconnect as a young adult,” said Chana Heller who is in charge of women’s outreach programming. Besides social events, Aish L.A. offers everything from weekly study classes and discovery seminars to low-cost trips to Israel.
At the dinner, speakers shared personal stories about their trips to Israel with Aish.
“Jews and Israel are tied together — it recharges your soul when you go there,” said Lauren Kest, recalling her trip to Israel with her family through Aish L.A.
Following dinner, more than 400 young professionals in their 20s to early 40s attended the after-party upstairs in the penthouse suite, with refreshments and drinks and mingled until the wee hours of the morning
“Aish L.A. aspires to be the No. 1 place in Los Angeles for young Jews to meet, network and learn more about their Jewish heritage,” said Rabbi Aryeh Markman, Aish L.A.’s executive director.
For more information on Aish’s programming and next trip to Israel, call Rabbi David Ordon at (310) 278-8672, ext. 503. — Mihal Peretz
New jewelry stores are always welcome additions to Los Angeles’ shopping landscape. In June, designer Hilary Druxman opened Hilary Druxman Design, her flagship store at 1413 Montana Ave., Santa Monica.
More than 500 people filled the sanctuary at Temple Etz Chaim in Thousand Oaks July 25 for a free preview performance of “The Ten Commandments: A New Musical,” sponsored by The Jewish Journal, BCBG and Max Azria Entertainment.
Rabbi Richard Spiegel of Temple Etz Chaim opened the evening, followed by “The Ten Commandments” director Robert Iscove, who discussed the success of the musical abroad, which opens in Los Angeles on Sept. 18. He introduced two of the original cast members, Kevin Earley and Nick Rodriguez.
Earley and Rodriguez each sang a selection from the original score, then concluded with the duet, “Brothers Still.”
The performances were followed by a panel discussion about the Ten Commandments and pop culture, moderated by Spiegel. Panelists included Rabbi Isaac Jaret, president of Brandeis-Bardin Institute, Rabbi Daniel Bouskila of Sepharadic Temple Tifereth Israel and Rabbi Morris Rubenstein of Valley Beth Israel in Sun Valley.
At the event’s conclusion, guests viewed original artwork by artist Melissa Blatt, while they enjoyed a catered dessert reception donated by Delice Bakery in Los Angeles.
The successful event was the second in a series of free community events sponsored by The Jewish Journal and Jewish Families of Conejo and the West Valley.
For more information on free Jewish Journal-sponsored events in the Conejo Valley or your area, call (213) 368-1661, ext. 246. — MP
OSBOURNE’S CANCER SHOW
People who know the Osbourne family from their eponymous MTV reality show will probably know that matriarch Sharon Osbourne had a not-so-wonderful reality of her own — cancer.
Following her struggle with colon cancer, Osbourne decided she wanted to get involved by providing support for the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, where she was treated. The establishment of the Sharon Osbourne Colon Cancer Program was announced July 28.
“The program will focus on three main components,” said Dr. Edward Phillips, director of the Center for Minimally Invasive Surgery. “It will provide financial assistance and sponsored care to those who might not otherwise be able to afford treatment, it will give all patients access to state-of-the-art treatment protocols and at the same time, it will research new treatments and elevate public awareness about colon cancer.”
“Colon cancer is a particularly insidious disease that strikes both men and women,” Osbourne said. “If caught in time, the treatments can be highly effective — but they are not fun for anyone and can be out of reach financially for too many. When I saw people taking the public bus after a chemotherapy treatment, I knew I had to get involved.” — LB
The Israel Cancer Research Fund (ICRF) is an organization that does a lot of fundraising in America so that scientists in Israel can continue seeking a cure for cancer.
In Los Angeles, the ICRF held its ninth annual Women of Action luncheon at the Beverly Hills Hotel June 23. The luncheon bestowed the Women of Action award on actress-dancer Debbie Allen, artist and ICRF board chairman Jacqueline Bell, internist and cardiologist Debra R. Judelson and investment banker Lauren B. Leichtman.
Other guests included Robin Broidy and luncheon chair Norma Fink. There was also a surprise visit from mayoral candidate Robert Hertzberg who stopped in to give the awardees city proclamations.
ICRF has contributed nearly $28 million to underwrite 1,413 research grants at all the major hospitals, universities and cancer research institutions in Israel. art of giving
“Out of the Darkness…. Into The Light” was the official theme of the evening when the Echo Park-based institution Gateways Hospital & Mental Health Center celebrated its 50th anniversary at the Regent Beverly Wilshire. Since 1953, Gateways has helped thousands of people shed the darkness of depression and restart their lives as productive citizens.
Gateways chose to celebrate the occasion by honoring two of this city’s most productive citizens — Los Angeles County Sheriff Leroy “Lee” Baca, and his wife, Carol Chiang Baca.
“Life is fragile,” Sheriff Baca said. “None of us here can make it here without each other.”
Like City of Hope and Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Gateways sprang out of Los Angeles’ Jewish community. The independent, nonsectarian organization’s mission has been to provide facilities, programs and treatment for the mentally ill, emotionally disturbed and otherwise maladjusted individuals of all ages. In addition to pioneering new methods of treatment, the center has united on educational programs with law enforcement and the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health.
Gateways’ CEO Mara Pelsman told The Circuit about the organization’s current endeavor to add 30 beds to its facility and a 12-bed emergency shelter for the homeless.
Gateways Chair Myles Weiss stressed how important it is for the hospital to continue its outreach to the emotionally troubled.
“If we can help them before they get into that position, it will help law enforcement and taxpayers at large,” Weiss said.
Louis Ziskind, founder of Gateways Hospital with his late wife, Dr. Esther Somerfield, and brother, Eugene Ziskind, said that he “didn’t have two nickels to rub together” when he started Gateways while head of psychology at USC Medical School. Ziskind credited the late Rabbi Edgar Magnin, influential spiritual leader of Wilshire Boulevard Temple, for helping to attract support from the community to establish Gateways’ original 437 N. Hoover facility when Ziskind was servicing incarcerated Jewish prisoners with pyschiatric treatment.
“I can’t think of a nicer thing than to come back 50 years later,” said Ziskind, 95, accompanied by his son Gregg Ziskind. “It’s fulfilled a life dream for me.”
Also feted at the event with a Lifetime Achievement Award was 93-year-old Pauline Ledeen, founding director of the Jewish Committee for Personal Service, a Gateways’ program that provides counseling and spiritual succor for the incarcerated.
Special guests included Ford Roosevelt, grandson of Franklin D. Roosevelt and Eleanor Roosevelt, who dedicated Gateways’ primary facility in 1961.
Young Judaea Mission
Ten students from the Los Angeles and Orange County area left for Israel at the end of August, courtesy of Hadassah Southern California’s Young Judaea. They will spend 10 months living, studying and working in Israel while earning college credits, as part of Young Judaea’s Year Course program. This year’s Young Judaea Year Course is the largest to date for Hadassah International, with 240 participants coming to Israel from the United States and Great Britain.
For more information about Year Course call (310) 709-8015 or visit on the web at www.yearcourse.org.
Reflections on a Big Screen
The Jewish Home for the Aging (JHA) and its fundraising arm, The Guardians, both staged high-profile events.
JHA supporters returned to the Ballroom at Hollywood and Highland for its annual Reflections gala, this year honoring Paul Goldenberg; Lisa and Ernest Auerbach; and Lenore and Fred Kayne and Suzanne and Ric Kayne were on hand to honor their father, Jerry Kayne and his late wife, Ida, who provided the inspiration for the Ida Kayne Transitional Care Unit.
Comedienne Rita Rudner had audience members rolling with laughter and women at the gala high-fiving over her observations on the differences between men and women in relationships. She also joked about growing up in “the typical middle-class Jewish home — we were rich,” and kidded that her family was so hoity-toity that “we used to read the Torah in French.”
It was so apropos that Goldenberg’s face was televised on giant screens inside the Ballroom. Goldenberg, the self-proclaimed King of Big Screen TV’s (“I am the King!”), stepped down from his throne to knight last year’s Reflections honoree Monty Hall as the “King of Hearts” for personally inspiring Goldenberg to give to JHA and start him on his road to tzedakah. Goldenberg — who with Richard and Daphna Ziman partnered on a JHA building, and whose 96-year-old cousin, Izzy, lives on the Reseda JHA campus — also “thanked God for my parents. They were the best parents anybody could ever have. The most loving parents anybody could ever have.”
“We are proud that they are following in our path,” Ernest Auerbach said of his children. He also sized up the common trait among all the honorees: “We all seem to come from the same background of hard work.”
Attendees at the packed Ballroom included major JHA supporter Joyce Eisenberg Keefer, City Councilman Dennis Zine and Los Angeles City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo.
The Guardians, meanwhile, met the evening before at the Beverly Hills home of the Zimans, who opened up their garden to a fundraising party topped off by a performance from Al Jarreau, who began his set with an Elton John song and topped it off with his own composition, the theme from “Moonlighting.” Guests included Karl and DeeDee Sussman.
2003: A Literary Odyssey
Concurrent with The Guardians’ Beverly Hills fundraiser was a reception kicking off the Literary Odyssey Dinners in neighboring Bel Air at the home of Dody Booth. Actor Kirk Douglas, author Michael Crichton, screenwriter Larry Gelbart and “Everybody Loves Raymond” star Doris Roberts are among the guests of this year’s dinners, which will raise money for the Los Angeles Public Library. Spotted at this affair: Annette Kaufman, chief librarian Susan Kent, Jim Svejda of KUSC and Los Angeles Craft and Folk Art Museum Executive Director Peter Tokofsky.
The Library Literary Odyssey Dinners will take place on Nov. 3, 2003, with all proceeds benefiting reading programs for children and teens at the Los Angeles Public Library’s Central Library and its 67 branches.
For reservations to the dinners, please contact Jackie Frame at (323) 466-8977.
“When we were growing up, no one considered Venice to be a Jewish area,” said Rabbi Ben Geiger, who nevertheless departed last month after five years as a part-time assistant rabbi at Irvine’s Congregation Beth Jacob for a tiny, 25-year-old Venice boardwalk synagogue.
Geiger, who met his wife in Los Angeles’ Pico-Robertson area where he grew up, is the first full-time rabbi of the Pacific Jewish Center, known as the “Shul on the Beach.” The Orthodox shul of 50 families is on the fringe of Venice’s gentrification, which is drawing younger families into an area known for densely packed, low-cost beach cottages. “We’re hoping to increase that growth,” Geiger said.
In the past, the congregation’s size was consistently undercut by relocations to the city’s more established Orthodox neighborhoods. “That will take time to reverse,” said Geiger, who will start by creating programs and developing relationships. His wife, Karen, who administered and taught Beth Jacob’s Hebrew school, eventually hopes to start sisterhood classes. The couple has two young children.
Beth Jacob is now considering hiring a part-time youth director, but will not rehire an assistant rabbi, said Paul Vann, president of the 265-family shul. “We’re not that large,” he said.
Geiger had also helped establish an adult education program, Torah Outreach, with the assistance of Basil Luck, a Beth Jacob congregant. “The idea was to reach people who were intimidated by studying at synagogue,” said Geiger, who taught in a Placentia office Luck provided. Most participants lived in Irvine, Newport Beach or Tustin.
Geiger is uncertain about the program’s continued existence.
Rabbi’s Dealings Jeopardized Wife’s JurySeat
Is the rabbi’s wife telling a fib? Or more likely, are they, like many couples, often oblivious to what goes on in each other’s lives?
The issue was seriously debated halfway through a federal loan-fraud trial against a Wall Street firm and an abusive Irvine mortgage lender founded by Brian Chisick. The lead plaintiff’s attorney discovered a troubling fact that raised questions about potential prejudice by juror Robin Einstein.
Einstein is married to Stephen J. Einstein, rabbi of Fountain Valley’s Congregation B’nai Tzedek. Before the lengthy class action lawsuit was tried in Santa Ana, potential jurors were asked about their familiarity with Chisick, a philanthroper in the Jewish community.
Einstein, 57, declared she didn’t know him. Yet her husband was serving on the board of the Jewish Federation of Orange County between 1993-94, when Chisick made a major gift exceeding $500,000 and an auditorium at the Costa Mesa campus was named after him.
“It was the answer to the jury questionnaire that threw us,” said Richard F. Scruggs, the plaintiffs’ lead lawyer. “It seemed hard to believe she didn’t know him, but my wife doesn’t know half of what I do, either.”
Some members of the plaintiffs’ legal team internally suggested Einstein might be prejudiced in Chisick’s favor, which could have led to her removal from the jury. Scruggs disagreed with them, explaining his decision after the June 16 verdict. “We took her at her word,” he said.
The unanimous jury awarded the plaintiffs $50.9 million in damages, deciding that Lehman Brothers had aided and abetted First Alliance Corporation’s systematic deceptions of 4,500 borrowers between 1999 and March 2000. In a blow to the plaintiffs, however, the jurors determined Lehman should bare only 10 percent of the damage award. First Alliance, Chisick and other executives were held responsible for 85 percent. The remainder was awarded against an insurer.
Last March, Chisick and the firm settled their liability in a previous class action suit brought by numerous plaintiffs and led by the Federal Trade Commission.
Einstein and her fellow jurors self-imposed a gag order on their 19 day deliberations. “I learned a lot,” she said afterwards. “The experience was very positive.”
Seasoned Rabbi Turns Temp
A veteran pulpit rabbi, Robert G. Klensin, will take his second job as a temporary spiritual leader when he succeeds Rabbi Michael Mayersohn at Westminster’s Temple Beth David beginning Sept. 1.
Klensin, 55, is among a growing cadre of seasoned rabbis filling unexpected job openings that allow congregations to conduct a full-scale search for a permanent replacement, said Mark Sklan, president of the 370-family Reform congregation.
The post-holiday fall season is when rabbinic job-shopping reaches its peak and the most candidates are circulating resumes. “If you’re not looking at that time, the pool is smaller,” he said.
In February, Beth David’s 13-year rabbi unexpectedly announced his intention to resign and change career directions, effective Aug. 31. A search committee considered 10 candidates and in June settled on Klensin, who had taken a previous interim post at Temple Beth Israel in Scottsdale, Ariz.
“It takes some healing for a congregation to stop looking back and start looking forward,” said Sklan, adding that “it’s not easy work” and takes someone sensitive to the emotional undercurrent of anger and hurt among some congregants.
Klensin, who spent 28 years at a Maryland synagogue, and his wife, Francine, will take up residence in Seal Beach early in August. He is unsure whether he will seek the job at Beth David permanently. His 10-month contract does not preclude his seeking the position. “It’s the kind of congregation I’d hope to be with in the future,” he said.
Two send-off events are planned for Mayersohn. The synagogue’s brotherhood is planning a farewell brunch Aug. 3 and its sisterhood is planning an Aug. 15 Shabbat dinner tribute.
UCLA Hosts Conference on ItalianJews
When Guido Fink was growing up in Ferrara in the late 1930s,the northern Italian city had 1,000 Jews and a German synagogue — where hisgrandfather served as cantor — an Italian one, a Spanish one and a fourth ownedby a private family.
After a pogrom in the city on Nov. 15, 1943, the young boyand his mother went into hiding on a farm and survived the Holocaust, whichclaimed his father and 14 other relatives.
Today, Fink represents the Italian government as director ofthe Italian Cultural Institute, located in Westwood, during a leave of absenceas professor of English and American literature at the University of Florence.The animated scholar accepted a four-year assignment at the institute,partially because he missed UCLA, where he had spent a year in the 1960s, andpartially because “I asked myself what it means to be Jewish.”
He frequently drops in at Valley Beth Shalom, welcomes manyJewish patrons at the institute’s varied cultural events, and hopes to co-sponsor a program with the Israeli consulate.
To his considerable amazement, his son, Enrico, afterteaching astrophysics at Cornell, gave it all up and became a professionalklezmer musician. Currently, he is featured on the Italian stage in “Fiddler onthe Roof,” in which the dialogue is in Italian and the songs in Yiddish.
As an Italian Jew, “I am not an outsider,” said Guido Fink,”but when I see an anti-war rally in Italy and notice signs equating Israeliswith Nazis, it makes the situation difficult.”
Currently, he is readying for a scholarly conference onApril 4, 6 and 7 on “Acculturation and Its Discontents: The Jews of Italy fromEarly Modern to Modern Times.” Sponsored by UCLA, Clark Library and the ItalianCultural Institute, speakers from Europe, Israel and North America will examinethe “complex process of Jewish interaction with non-Jewish Italians,” focusingon the 16th to 19th centuries.
Advance registration is required and closes March 28. Forinformation on registration, fees and location, call (310) 206-8552. — Tom Tugend, Contributing Editor
CAMERA Puts Anti-Israel Bias inFocus
“National Public Radio [NPR] has an Israel problem,” saidAndrea Levin, executive director of the Committee for Accuracy in Middle EastReporting (CAMERA), to a crowd of 100 people at Sinai Temple on Sunday, March23. “While the network continually emphasizes what a superior, enlightened anddistinctive news source it is, in fact NPR is one of the most unremittinglyskewed, shoddy, and unresponsive outlets we’ve ever encountered.”
NPR was only one of the media outlets under fire at CAMERA’sannual Los Angeles conference, where various journalists and media experts fromaround the country addressed concerns and provided guidance for combatinganti-Israel bias.
Throughout the conference, speakers offered explanations forthe prevalence of skewed reporting.
“In most cases it’s probably not anti-Semitism. In mostcases it’s probably a tendency of the press to root for the perceivedunderdog,” said Dr. Alex Safian, adding that ignorance, successful Palestinianpropaganda and a lack of vigilance by the Israeli government toward fightingmedia bias, are also factors.
Jeff Jacoby, a columnist for the Boston Globe, blamedphysical intimidation.
“Journalists don’t have to fear that the Israeli governmentis going to punish them or kill them if they don’t print exactly what theIsraelis want to hear,” Jacoby said. “But that wasn’t true for journalistscovering the PLO in the 1980s and it’s not true for journalists covering thePLO now.”
Levin gave examples of the current work that CAMERAvolunteers and staff are doing to combat the problem, including writing lettersand Op-Eds; speaking out on radio and giving feedback on television toproducers, hosts and reporters; suggesting story ideas; and encouragingbalanced reports and challenging false reports.
We are positive because we see progress as a possibility ofmore progress,” Levin said. — Rachel Brand, Staff Writer
Conservative Rabbinical Assembly Comes toL.A.
More than 300 Conservative rabbis from around the world willgather at the Sheraton Universal hotel next week for the annual RabbinicAssembly (RA)convention to explore such issues as the war and how it affectsIsrael, the message of Conservative Judaism and how God fits into therabbinate.
“The day to day rabbinate can be pretty highly stressful,and you need a few days with colleagues to discuss ideas, to talk about whatworks in your place and doesn’t, find out what works for others and to learnfrom each other and get strength from each other,” said Rabbi Steven Tucker ofRamat Zion in Northridge, who is chairing the convention. “I think it makes usbetter rabbis and ultimately better Jews.”
Rabbi Joel Rembaum of Temple Beth Am will receive an awardfrom Israel Bonds, and Rabbi Elliot Dorff, rector at the University of Judaism,will be honored by the Jewish Theological Seminary and the Masorti movement inIsrael for distinguished service.
While the schedule includes some study sessions on humansexuality, there are no major sessions where the question of homosexuality willbe examined, despite the fact that the movement is currently engaged in ahigh-profile discussion over whether to ordain gay rabbis or perform same-sexcommitment ceremonies.
Tucker said that RA executive vice president Rabbi JoelMeyers believed that the question should remain within the private andscholarly realm of the law committee, where it is currently on the agenda andis expected to be resolved next year.
“We are not putting our heads in the sand. We know it’s abig issue and a hot-button issue,” Tucker said. “Our leadership has decidedthere is nothing effective we can do with it at the convention, so we’releaving it for the law committee to handle.”
Sessions and plenaries are open to registered rabbis only. Afair featuring Israeli vendors and publishers is open to the public, Wednesdayfrom 2-10 p.m. at the Universal Sheraton, 333 Universal Terrace, UniversalCity. For more information, call Shira Dicker at 917-403-3989. — Julie Gruenbaum Fax, Religion Editor
Now that the war has turned messy, unpredictable, bloody andcruel (i.e., into a war), it takes no special insight to assume that its violence will spill over onto our shores.
Our public safety officials in Los Angeles have identified549 sites as high-risk targets, among them Los Angeles International Airport,ports, movie studios and synagogues.
Why movie studios, I asked Steven Pomerantz. Pomerantz, whowas in Los Angeles last week, served 27 years as an FBI counterterrorism agent.He now runs his own security consulting firm near Washington, D.C., and servesas a terrorism expert for the American Jewish Committee (AJC). He said moviestudios are targets for the same reason synagogues are, and for some of thesame reasons the World Trade Center was. The terrorists perceive all of these,in varying degrees, as Jewish institutions.
“They define Jewish targets differently than we do,” hesaid. “What keeps me up at night is the thought of an attack on a Jewishtarget.”
Since Sept. 11, our day schools, synagogues and institutionshave increased security measures, adding security guards and surveillencecameras.
But Pomerantz, whose own children attend Jewish day school,has even tried to convince his rabbi that we need to do more. He admits towanting his children’s school turned into “a fortress.” One shot at a securityguard and the terrorists have an all-access pass; temples and schools that abutbusy streets are ripe for car-bombings, and their leaders should consider relocating — seriously.
Don’t forget, he said, terror comes in waves, and sinceSept. 11 we have been in somewhat of a trough.
“But maybe the war will arouse them,” he said. “If anythingcan do it, this can, and whatever the threat level is for the general population,it is higher for the Jews.”
So why don’t we take such dire warnings and recommendationsmore to heart? Either we dismiss experts like Pomerantz as alarmists — and somepeople do — or we gamble. That is, the cost of higher security, both in terms ofmoney and disruption, are beyond what we consider worth paying now. So we hopethat nothing will happen. And if it should, we figure the odds are it willhappen to another shul, another school. Maybe then the money and will to fixour own problems will easily materialize. Ever since an attack on Rome’scentral synagogue by PLO terrorists in 1982, synagogue security there is paidfor by the Italian government.
But there might be other ways of increasing our securitywithout bankrupting our institutions or ginning up fear and pandemonium.
In London, an organization called the Community SecurityTrust (CST) uses trained volunteers and full-time paid professionals to providethe 195,000-strong Jewish community there with physical security advice andtraining, security volunteers at communal events, assisting the police andmonitoring communal threats.
“There is no other country of which I am aware that has sucha developed and disciplined community-based security organization,”said SirPaul Condon, commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Service of London.
Here, The Jewish Federation and the Anti-Defamation Leagueoffer Jewish institutions a broader approach to issues of security, but the range and diversity of L.A. Jewry make centralized solutions much morechallenging.
“There is some coordination,” said Federation President JohnFishel, “but it’s very difficult given our scope and geography.”
The CST model may not be a perfect fit, and it wouldn’treplace increased help from the local and federal governments, but a closerlook at it may provide a new and improved way to address the increased securityneeds of our community.
“If the [CST] didn’t exist,” said David Veness, assistantcommissioner of London’s Metropolitan Police, “we would have to invent somethingvery much like it.”