Sculpture in San Diego sun


Downtown San Diego is home to plenty of famous attractions — including the San Diego Zoo and The Old Globe Theatre — but, for art lovers, the city also boasts an impressive collection of post-World War II works by internationally recognized Jewish artists like Sol LeWitt, Louise Nevelson and Richard Serra. 

Beyond pleasing the eye, these works tell multilayered stories of Jewish artists’ roles in shaping contemporary American art movements, narrating the immigrant experience and expressing a sense of in-your-face, post-Holocaust survival.

Where to begin? 

“Two of the great works by prominent Jewish artists in San Diego are sculptures: Louise Nevelson’s monumental work in San Diego Museum of Art’s Sculpture Court Café, and Sol LeWitt’s large open-cube sculpture in the main entry of the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego Downtown,” suggested University of San Diego art history professor Derrick Cartwright.  

Al fresco art makes sense in this seaside city — especially in the summer — so off I went to the San Diego Museum of Art (SDMA, sdmart.org), located in beautiful Balboa Park and home to a wide-ranging permanent collection that includes works representative of the Italian Renaissance, Post-Impressionism and pre-20th century America, among others. 

Nevelson’s welded, Cor-Ten steel work “Night Presence II,” of 1976, presides over the hubbub of the museum’s tented-courtyard café. The 13-foot-tall, rust-colored piece, referencing architectural forms like columns and finials, appears as an oversized Cubist collage sprung to 3-D life.  

Amy Galpin, the museum’s associate curator for art of the Americas, described “Night Presence II” as an homage to Manhattan, where Nevelson lived and worked as an artist for 50 years.  

Born in 1899 in Czarist Russia, Nevelson immigrated to Maine with her family in 1905. She learned English in school and spoke Yiddish at home. A strong, independent woman, she left her wealthy shipping magnate husband in 1933 to pursue her art. Calling herself “the original recycler,” Nevelson was at the forefront of using found objects — furniture legs, chair backs, architectural ornaments — to create monumental pieces of art. 

“The rise of feminism in the 1960s and ’70s pushed Nevelson to the forefront as one of the most important American sculptors of the 20th century. Her work is in museum and private collections all over the world,” Galpin said. 

“Night Presence II” incorporates a figurative representation of a bird. As I sat in the sun-drenched SDMA café sipping an aranciata, I imagined Nevelson as that bird flying from the old country to the New World, and from the conventions of suburban married life to her identity as a world-renowned, bohemian artist (who had a brief affair with Diego Rivera). 

Tearing myself away, I eventually headed two miles southwest to the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego’s (MCASD, mcasd.org) downtown location. (MCASD also has a stunning, oceanfront branch in La Jolla.) The downtown space, dedicated to works created after 1950 across a spectrum of media and genres, straddles Kettner Boulevard, with one space right next door to San Diego’s historic Santa Fe train depot. That building once served as the train station’s baggage storeroom. Famed minimalist architect Richard Gluckman elegantly repurposed the storeroom as a showcase for contemporary art by retaining the large, Spanish-style arched window frames and using bare concrete floors to create an airy, open space, with loads of natural light and no visual distractions.

Being adjacent to the terminus of Amtrak’s Pacific Surfliner makes the museum easily accessible by train from downtown Los Angeles’ Union Station. 

LeWitt’s sculpture “Six-Part Modular Cube” (1976) looks perfectly at home in MCASD’s minimalist space. The gleaming white, open cube structure, prominently displayed in the museum’s foyer, invites the visitor in to view art free from preconceived restraints of what art “should” be. Constructed of aluminum, each cube sits at eye level – enabling the viewer to interact with the piece on a human scale. 

LeWitt was born in 1928 to Russian-Jewish immigrant parents in Hartford, Conn., and is considered a founding father of both the conceptual art movement — in which the idea is the most important part of the work — and minimalism. Minimalist art sets out to expose the essence of a subject by eliminating all nonessential forms. LeWitt’s cubes demonstrate this, allowing natural light and open space to define their essence. 

“He often referenced how his Jewish cultural background influenced his work and gave him a mystical sense of connection to the larger world,” said Kathryn Kanjo, MCASD’s chief curator. The clean lines of LeWitt’s “Six-Part Modular Cube” might evoke a sense of spiritual purification and possibility for redemption.

Located just outside the museum’s wall-length, glass-paneled back doors is Serra’s monumental, site-specific sculpture installation, “Santa Fe Depot.” The world-famous artist was born in 1939 to a Russian-Jewish mother who emigrated from Odessa to San Francisco. 

When MCASD commissioned the work in 2004 with a generous gift from longtime patrons, it gave California native Serra the freedom to decide where to install it. He chose to place the sculpture, consisting of six individual blocks of forged weatherproof steel, just yards away from the train tracks. Each of the six blocks weighs 25 tons. 

As I approached the blocks, lined in two rows, I asked Kanjo, “Am I allowed to touch them?” 

“Oh, yes — they are solid and see a lot of action,” she said, laughing.

Serra’s works — like “T.E.U.C.L.A.,” in the plaza of UCLA’s Broad Art Center, the mammoth “Snake” at the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao and “Sequence,” which was on view for three years at the Broad Contemporary Art Museum of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art — encourage movement around them. “Santa Fe Depot” exemplifies Serra’s in-your-face work. Passengers must move around and between the blocks to catch a trolley or train. 

“Serra’s blocks suggest a kind of repetition and inevitability — like the comings and goings of train after train,” Kanjo said.

When contemplating Serra’s installation in a Jewish context, his choice of location struck me. Those 25-ton steel cubes sited alongside railroad tracks just outside a train station, considered in light of Holocaust concentration camp transports, suggest permanence, immovability, solidity and survival. 

While I gazed out the museum window, I saw a man waiting for a trolley deposit a plastic grocery bag full of trash on top of one of the cubes. A city janitor came by a minute later, picked it up with a trash-grabber and put it in his garbage bag. Again, the survival analogy came to mind: “Sure, you can dump garbage on us, but we’ll find a way to carry on.” 

This really moved me. I’m not sure if Serra intended anything close to this type of reaction, but art can be what we make of it, right? Go, and see for yourself.

Romney tours site of future Polish Jewish museum


Mitt Romney toured the site of the future Museum of the History of Polish Jews in Warsaw.

The presumptive Republican presidential nominee, completing the third leg of a three-country tour that also included Britain and Israel, on Tuesday met with museum chairman Piotr Wislicki, deputy chairman Marian Turski, interim director Waldemar Dabrowski, exhibition director Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, and representatives of the museum’s two largest benefactors, the Taube Foundation and the Koret Foundation, Helise Lieberman and Yale Reisner.

Also present during the tour was Romney’s wife, Ann.

The museum, which is to open in 2013, is near the site of the city’s Holocaust-era ghetto.

Polish billionaire Jan Kulczyk donates $6 million to Jewish museum


Poland’s richest person, Jan Kulczyk, has donated about $6 million to the Museum of the History of Polish Jews.

The billionaire’s gift is the largest to the museum by an individual donor, according to the Warsaw Business Journal. The $96 million museum is set to open next year.

The money for Kulczyk’s donation will come from his company, Kulczyk Holdings.

“Life is not just a business, not just economics. We must remember what was,” Kulczyk said in a statement, according to the Warsaw Business Journal.

Forbes magazine listed Kulczyk, 62, as the world’s richest Pole, with a net worth of $2.7 billion.

Ed Koch wants Prager out — will ask him to resign from Holocaust Memorial Council next week


(WASHINGTON, D.C., Dec. 12) The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council faces
continuing questions over recent statements by
one of its members, local commentator and writer Dennis Prager.

But the panel, which oversees the Holocaust
Museum on Washington’s Mall, has no answers,
since it had no role in appointing Prager and no
way of removing him. Prager was appointed to the
Council in September, but has not attended any
meetings since it has not met since then, and has
not been appointed to any committees.

Prager generated protests from across the
political spectrum when he wrote that Keith
Ellison, elected to the U.S. House on November 7,
shouldn’t be allowed to take the oath of office on a Quran.

In January Ellison will become the first Moslem
in Congress; although members do not get sworn in
on any holy book, he has said he would bring a
Quran to the private ceremony that many members use as a swearing-in photo op.

That offended the conservative Prager, who wrote
that allowing congressional oaths on a Quran
“undermines American civilization. “If you are
incapable of taking an oath on (the Bible), don’t serve in Congress.”

A long list of Jewish leaders quickly condemned
his comments, and former New York Mayor Ed Koch
demanded that he quit the Council.

Koch is also a Council member, and in an
interview he said he will seek Prager’s
resignation at the December 18 Council meeting.

“If they permit it, I will introduce a motion to
condemn him,” Koch said. “I am hopeful he will
resign, because I think he can’t do anything
other than discredit the Museum with what he has said.”

Koch said Prager’s comments undermine the basic
message the Museum was created to disseminate.

“I believe it is the duty of members of the board
to spread the message that attacks on people as a
result of their religion, ethnicity, race, are
all to be condemned wherever we have an
opportunity to raise our voices,” he said.

Prager, he said, is doing just the opposite by
“creating such an attack on a Muslim.”

Koch — a former member of Congress himself —
said he would have “no objection if sacred books
were used” for swearing in purposes — including the Bible or the Quran.

One Council member expressed frustration at the
position Prager’s comments have put the Museum in.

“We are caught in an impossible situation,” this
source said. “Because the controversy has gone so
public, it is hurting the Museum and its mission
— but we have no control over who is on the
board, we have no way of getting Prager to resign
other than simply asking him to.”

This source said that far from resigning, Prager
has asked fellow Council members to support him.

The White House has declined to comment on the
Prager controversy, and several Council members
said this week that they do not believe any of
their colleagues are lobbying the administration to remove him.

One of the Museum’s founders said Prager was
probably a poor choice for the panel.

“A pundit’s job is to stir up controversy,” said
Holocaust scholar Michael Berenbaum, a former
Council member and Museum official. “Prager
views himself as a great ethicist, as a moral
voice, but on this issue he has gone off on a
profoundly alienating tangent. He sure doesn’t help the Council.”

Berenbaum said Prager’s comments suggest a
“religious test for public office. And that’s
wrong; it goes against the whole thrust of Jewish activism in this country.”

The issue is especially nettling because the
Museum, caught up in several explosive
controversies in its early years, has largely
steered clear of public flaps under the
leadership of Fred Zeidman, a Bush confidante and the current Council chair.

Prager won’t apologize after slamming Quran in Congress


Conservative pundit Dennis Prager has come under fire from Muslim and Jewish groups after he attacked an incoming Muslim congressman who plans to bring a Quran to the House swearing-in ceremony on Jan. 4.

But Prager said he stands by statements made in his column published Nov. 28 on the Townhall.com Web site and has no intention of apologizing to Rep.-elect Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) or his critics.

“I called on [Ellison] not to break a 200-year tradition,” Prager, who is also a radio talk show host, told The Journal. “He thinks it’s important, and I think it’s important.”

“If you are incapable of taking an oath on [the Bible], don’t serve in Congress,” Prager wrote, adding that if Ellison brought a Quran to the ceremony, it would do “more damage to the unity of America and to the value system that has formed this country than the terrorists of 9-11.”

Ellison’s decision to carry a Quran into the ceremony has infuriated some conservatives, who draw a fine line between constitutional rights and American tradition. However, Ellison has some defenders in the GOP. Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-Colo.) told McClatchy Newspapers that Ellison’s ability to hold the book of his choice while he takes his oath embodies freedom of religion.

Prager is also being taken to task for equating Ellison’s proposed use of the Quran at the swearing-in ceremony with a racist toting a copy of Adolf Hitler’s “Mein Kampf.” “On what grounds will those defending Ellison’s right to choose his favorite book deny that same right to a racist who is elected to public office?” he wrote.

Prager defends the Quran-“Mein Kampf” parallel in his Nov. 5 column, saying he was presenting a slippery-slope argument and was not defaming Islam. He writes thatpeople who draw such conclusions are “deliberately lying to defame me rather than respond to my arguments. A slippery slope argument is not an equivalence argument.”

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) has called for Prager, who broadcasts locally on KRLA-AM 870, to be removed from his recent appointment to the United States Holocaust Memorial Council, which oversees the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. Prager’s five-year term as a presidential appointee to the council expires on Jan. 15, 2011.

CAIR Executive Director Nihad Awad wrote in a letter to Fred S. Zeidman, council chair: “No one who holds such bigoted, intolerant and divisive views should be in a policymaking position at a taxpayer-funded institution that seeks to educate Americans about the destructive impact hatred has had and continues to have on every society.”

The Anti-Defamation League labeled the Nov. 28 column as “intolerant, misinformed and downright un-American,” adding that Prager’s recent appointment to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council holds him to a higher standard.

Rabbi David Saperstein, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, wants Prager to apologize directly to Ellison, who converted to Islam from Catholicism as a 19-year-old college student. “The notion that the exercise of your first amendment rights should be banned because someone else might misuse your words or misinterpret your actions violates two centuries of Supreme Court rulings,” Saperstein said.

Prager is a popular speaker among Jewish groups around the country,
commanding appearance fees upwards of $10,000.

While most of these groups, contacted this week by The Forward newspaper,
declined to comment on Prager’s remarks, several said they would reconsider
inviting Prager barring an apology from him.

“There’s lines you draw, and Dennis probably crossed the line,” Stephen
Hoffman, president of the Jewish Community Federation of Cleveland, said in
an interview with the Forward. “Just because we can get by with the first
Five Books and some people say it’s okay doesn’t mean it’s okay for the next
guy to stand up and say if they can’t swear on a Christian Bible, they’re
not qualified. He’s pandering… [and] I wouldn’t want the Muslim community to
bring in a panderer. So that’s what we’d have to think about.”

In his Nov. 28 column, Prager claimed that all members of Congress, including Jews, use a Christian Bible for the swearing-in ceremony.

However, members of Congress are sworn in together in a simple ceremony that only requires that the representatives raise their right hand. Individuals may carry a sacred text, but its presence isn’t required. Representatives can bring in whatever they want, said Fred Beuttler, House of Representatives deputy historian.

In his column, Prager also claimed that no “Mormon official demanded to put his hand on the Book of Mormon.” In 1997, Sen. Gordon Smith (R-Oregon), a Mormon, carried a Bible that included the Book of Mormon to his swearing-in ceremony.
But Ellison’s use of a Quran isn’t without precedent. In 1999, Osman Siddique became the first Muslim to serve abroad as a U.S. ambassador, and he took his oath using both a Quran and a Bible.

Prager told The Journal that he would have no problem if Ellison brought along a Bible in addition to the Quran. And while he agrees that Ellison has the constitutional right to use only the Quran, Prager thinks the incoming freshman should consider the cultural and historic implications of his act.

“It’s an unbroken tradition since George Washington, and he wants
to substitute it with his values,” he said.

Prager said he will not take Saperstein up on his call for an apology to Ellison. Instead, he believes groups like the ADL and the Religious Action Center have wronged him.

“I think Saperstein owes me an apology,” Prager said. “It’s chutzpah … arrogance on his part.”

To read Dennis Prager’s column on Ellison, click here.

Pick a cause


When I was in eighth grade, I went on a school field trip to the Museum of Tolerance. My grandmother being a holocaust survivor, I had learned much about the Holocaust and took an interest in it. At the Museum of Tolerance, however, I learned about other things as well.

At an exhibit called the Millennium Machine, the last stop, I was in shock at all the horrible things that are still happening to children today. I couldn’t believe that in the world I lived in, kids were being enslaved and starved. I had always been involved with community service, but at the sight of this exhibit I knew I had to do something to help these children.

It was only a couple of weeks later that I was shopping at a jewelry and clothing boutique, when the owner noticed my necklace — which I had made. She offered to sell it at the store. That very day I brought in a tray of my work, and my guitar-pick jewelry was an instant success at the store.

This was right before summer started, and before I knew it I would be spending my summer days making jewelry. When I realized how much money I could make, I remembered that exhibit at the Museum of Tolerance and how much those children needed the money — much more than I did.

So I decided to give all of my proceeds to these unfortunate kids, and I began looking up charities that benefit kids. The first charity I donated to was UNICEF, because I knew that the money I gave would directly help youths in other countries that I had seen in the video at the museum. Ever since, I have given all of my proceeds to various charities, amounting to about $10,000.

In addition to my business, I always take on the opportunity to help in my own community. I believe that it is important to help out whenever you can, whether it’s picking up trash at the beach or working at a charity benefit, as well as taking on new challenges.

I love art and jewelry making, but giving to charity is the heart of my business. I might not be making jewelry forever, but I know I will always be charitable, because I have a love for helping those less fortunate than I am. Since I am a creative person, I’m glad to know I can use my talents to help others.

I also realize how fortunate I am to live in a nice house and to have food to eat, something that is easily taken for granted. I have also learned that we fortunate kids hold the responsibility to help children who are in desperate need for simple things that we have an abundance of. I believe that one person can make a difference, and with my charitable business I would like other young people to see that they, too, can use their talents for a good cause.

Amanda Martin is a junior at Viewpoint School in Calabasas. Her jewelry can be purchased at www.pickmejewelry.com.


The this essay was written for the Service Learning awards given out by the Bureau of Jewish Education’s Sulam Center for Jewish Service Learning (julief@jewishjournal.com.

British theater group Stan’s Cafe uses piles of rice to bring statistics to life


It’s nearly impossible to comprehend very large numbers. Take the 6 million Jews who died in the Holocaust. How does one go about understanding the magnitude of 6 million?

One way would be to visit the Skirball Cultural Center, where the British theater company, Stan’s Cafe (pronounced “kaff”), will perform its latest piece, “Of All the People in All the World,” from Sept. 26 to Oct. 1.

Upon entering the museum, visitors will receive a grain of rice, representing themselves. Then, they will walk into a room filled with 300 million grains of rice – one for every person in the United States. The rice will be divided into piles, each one illustrating a statistic, such as the number of people who have walked on the moon or the millions of immigrants who passed through Ellis Island. One grain of rice will stand for one person.

And there it will be, among all the piles: a large mound with 6 million pieces, representing each individual Jewish life lost in the Holocaust.

The performance piece will take place during the period between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, a time of reflection known as the Days of Awe.

“We specifically chose to do it in the Days of Awe,” said Jordan Peimer, director of programs at the Skirball. “What better way to understand your place in the world, your role in life, than to begin to understand the fabric of life on earth?”

The piece will open with 150 labeled piles of rice, illustrating serious statistics, such as the millions of people with HIV in Africa, as well as pop culture trivia, such as the number of people who watched the last episode of “Cheers.”

Over the course of the show, five actors, dressed as factory workers, will manipulate the piles to illustrate various truths, including the number of passengers on the Mayflower and the number of people per police officer in Los Angeles.

Visitors will be encouraged to interact with the actors, to share their own stories and discuss the demographics to which they belong. Occasionally, the performers will measure statistics suggested by visitors on the spot.

Peimer said he had been following the innovative Stan’s Cafe troupe for a while, waiting for the right time and the perfect piece to bring to the Skirball. When he saw the rice performance at a festival in Edinburgh, Scotland, last year, he knew he had to bring the show to Los Angeles.

The performance will be the second stop, after Portland, on the troupe’s first U.S. tour. Since premiering in Coventry, England, in 2003, the show has toured throughout the United Kingdom. It has also traveled to Ireland, Canada, Italy, Spain and Germany, whose daily newspaper, Süddeutsche Zeitung, praised the show, saying “The knowledge gained is astonishing.”

The actors tailor each performance to the country, city and building in which they perform. They decided the Holocaust representation would be just right for the Skirball.

“To hear the statistic of the number of people who died in the Holocaust is one thing,” Peimer said. “To see all of those people represented and to have you [represented as a single grain of rice] in relation to them is a very potent thing.”

The troupe will also lead workshops for students from Brawerman Elementary School, Robert Frost Middle School, La Ballona School and Thomas Starr King Middle School. The children will research statistics and build mounds of rice to illustrate their findings.

James Yarker, artistic director of Stan’s Cafe, who co-founded the group 15 years ago, said he came up with the idea for the piece when he was on tour with another performance in 2002.

“Each time we touched down, we found another city full of people bustling about their business, for whom it would be no appreciable loss if the U.K. and its 59 million inhabitants, including Stan’s Cafe, didn’t exist,” Yarker wrote in an essay on the group’s Web site.

“This parochial small island boy was beginning to get a sense that the world was far, far bigger than he had ever imagined it to be,” Yarker continued, speaking about himself in the third person, “and he was starting to wonder if he would ever be able to understand how many people he shared the planet with.”

After considering sand, sugar, salt, pebbles, peppercorns, spices and more as a way to represent large numbers of people, Yarker settled on rice. “We needed grains that were small, cheap, robust and which wouldn’t roll around,” he said on the Web site. Rice “also has powerful resonance, being a staple food for much of the world and looking vaguely humanoid in close up.”

For piles with fewer than 200 grains, the group typically counts each grain. For larger piles, it weighs the rice. The Skirball will provide not only the scales for weighing the five and one-half tons of rice that will be used during the performance but also the rice, which it bought for less than $2,000 from local wholesalers. The grains will be recycled for animal feed when the exhibit concludes.

“We’ve never done anything like it,” said the Skirball’s Peimer. “I hope it makes people think about their place in the world, and I hope it makes people pause to remember the grain of rice that they are.”

The exhibit will be open during regular museum hours (12 to 5 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday; 12 to 9 p.m. Thursday; 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday). Admission will be free on Thursday and Sunday. Other days, general admission will be $8, $6 for seniors and free for members, students and children under 12. For advance tickets call (866) 468-3399.

Now hear this: cool Jewish music


The second annual Jewish Music Awards were given out on Sept. 11, before a sparse but enthusiastic crowd at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York.

 
It was a big night for Pharoah’s Daughter, with the band winning awards as Best Middle Eastern Blend and Best World Music Group. Local label Modular Moods also had a great night as its founder, DJ Handler, was pronounced Best DJ while his label mate Y-Love received the Best Hip-Hop act nod. JDub Records also enjoyed the evening, with victories for Golem (Best Rock Band) and SoCalled (who tied with Idan Raichel in the Best New Approach category). Ironically, JDub’s former star, Matisyahu, won the Best Cross-Over artist award, but wasn’t present to receive it.

Chasidic rapper wasn’t the only famous absentee. Bob Dylan (Best Singer/Songwriter) and John Zorn (Best Jazz and Heritage Blend) weren’t around to pick up their awards, either. But Lorin Sklamberg was happy to accept the Best Klezmer Band award on behalf of the Klezmatics, joking,

 
“It took 20 years for a Jewish organization to give us an award. We won a gay and lesbian music award 10 years ago already.”

 
Although the evening was sparked by the high-energy, irreverent wit of hostess Jackie Hoffman and live performances by Rachel Sage, Soulfarm, Y-Love and Benny Bwoy (who threw down the reggae-rapper gauntlet to Matisyahu during his act), a more somber note was struck by Steve Reich, whose remarks in accepting the Lifetime Achievement Award made pointed reference to the malicious Internet-fed rumor that “no Jews died in the World Trade Center on Sept. 11.”

 
He noted that in 2001, that day fell during the Selichot period and “Jews who were saying penitential prayers were late [to work] and they lived.”

 
The Jewish Music Awards are part of the Oyhoo Jewish Music and Heritage Festival, produced by Michael Dorf. The nominees were selected by a panel of 25 journalists (including this reporter) and then voted on by that panel.

 

George Robinson is the film and music critic for Jewish Week. His book, “Essential Torah: A Complete Guide to the Five Books of Moses,” will be published by Shocken Books in October.

Circuit


The Reagan Library was the setting when more than 500 Jewish Republicans gathered to pay tribute to U.S. and Israeli armed forces.RNC Chairman Ken Mehlman, and Sen. Norm Coleman (R-Minn.) set a powerful model of the necessity for firm resolve at this time of international crises.

Guests also heard from California Secretary of State Bruce McPherson, Jewish Republican statewide candidate for insurance commissioner, and Tony Strickland, statewide candidate for controller.

After touring the library and taking photos on the impressive Air Force One at the musuem, guests enjoyed a kosher cocktail party and dinner.

Larry Greenfield, Republican Jewish Coalition’s California regional director, says what is motivating their membership is the quality of the conversation.”RJC members and guests consistently value an honest appraisal of the international situation and a realistic approach to a dangerous world that the Jewish community respects,” he said. “Support for a beleaguered Israel, concern about a UN that has broken its promises, and moral clarity about Islamo-Fascism all resonate with American Jews today.”

According to Greenfield, under RJC CA Chairman Joel Geiderman, the RJC would continue to focus on supporting Jewish college students and the need for “fair play.” The RJC has been working with other Jewish groups to confront anti-Semitism, anti-Zionism and anti-Americanism at universities.

“We have begun to mature as a Jewish political community. Those in attendance included current White House Chief of Staff Josh Bolton, past and present Federal Reserve Chairmen Alan Greenspan and Ben Bernanke; and former White House spokesman Ari Fleischer.

“Many thoughtful Jewish Republicans are making a strong contribution rooted in Jewish values, both as, and with senior access to, American policymakers,” Greenfield said.

The Great Statesmen

Van Nuys High School American government students enjoyed an informative Q-and-A with Stanley Sheinbaum and Mike Farrell on June 8. The event, titled “14th Amendment Equal Protection Under the Law,” was the first in a series of discussions produced by California Safe Schools.

The two celebrated statesmen in the social justice community have been recognized for their humanitarian efforts: Sheinbaum for the protection of constitutional rights, education, public justice, human rights and international peace efforts; Farrell for his opposition to the death penalty and children’s rights. Farrell is also well-known for his portrayals of B.J. Hunnicutt on the long-running series “M*A*S*H” and as veterinarian Dr. James Hansen on the NBC drama “Providence.”

“It was inspiring to see the students so well versed in national, international and environmental issues. We look forward to replicating these programs for other students throughout the State and Country,” said Robina Suwol, executive director of California Safe Schools.

Both men were honored at the event with the California Safe Schools Humanitarian Award for their decades of service. The office of Rep. Howard Berman (D-Van Nuys) and Assemblymember Lloyd Levine (D-Van Nuys) joined in the celebration presenting additional awards to each. The event as moderated by David Allgood, Southern California director of the state’s League of Conservation Voters.

Fond of the New Rabbi

Native Angeleno Rabbi Devora Fond became the spiritual leader of Congregation Shaarei Torah in Arcadia in July, following her recent ordination by the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies at the University of Judaism (UJ). Fond received her bachelor’s degree in psychology from UC Santa Cruz in 1991, and a master’s degree in rabbinic studies from the UJ in 2002. She has served in a variety of capacities, including hospital chaplain at Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center in Burbank, rabbinic intern at the Brandeis-Bardin Institute in Simi Valley and educator and rabbinic intern at Temple Beth Am in Los Angeles.

Fond feels called to serve God by helping Jews connect with themselves, others, God and Torah, and through working with people of all faiths to make this world a better place. Fond says she is enthusiastic about having the opportunity to build relationships with the people in her community: to touch other people’s lives and be touched by others. She is committed to reaching out to new members, leading spiritually meaningful and innovative services, and making Judaism come alive through creative programming and thought-provoking teaching.

All About Ethics

Los Angeles City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo nominated Helen Zukin, a lawyer in private practice and an active member of the State Bar of California, to the City of Los Angeles Ethics Commission.

“Helen’s skill as a lawyer and commitment to the highest ethical standards will be tremendous assets to the Ethics Commission,” Delgadillo said. “Her counsel and insight will serve the Commission well as it takes up the challenge of interpreting and implementing changes to our campaign finance laws, as well as maintain its critical role as city watchdog.”

Zukin, who also serves as a temporary judge in the Los Angeles County Superior Court system, served on the State Bar’s Commission on Judicial Nominees Evaluation for nearly a decade. She has a long history of community and professional involvement, including membership on the Board of Governors for the Consumer Attorney’s Association of Los Angeles and as a trustee of the Jewish Community Foundation.

A civil litigator, Zukin’s practice has an emphasis on toxic torts, product liability and environmental property damage.

In addition to the city attorney, the mayor, controller, city council president and council president pro-tem each nominate one member to the five-member Ethics Commission. Commissioners serve staggered five-year terms, and are subject to review by the City Council’s Rules and Elections Committee, and to confirmation by the full L.A. City Council.

The commission was established in 1990 as part of a comprehensive package of local government ethics and campaign finance laws.

Briefs


Presbyterian Church Fixes Divestment Damage
Two years after it angered Jews by passing a resolution calling for divestment from Israel, the Presbyterian Church (USA) is trying to undo the damage.

At this year’s General Assembly in Birmingham, a church committee agreed Saturday night to ask the full assembly to replace its 2004 resolution calling for “phased, selective divestment in multinational corporations operating in Israel” with a policy of “corporate engagement” that would restrict investments in Israel, the Gaza Strip and West Bank to peaceful pursuits. The full assembly was to vote on the resolution Wednesday.

The committee overwhelmingly agreed to the motion after days of deliberation in which it held open hearings and heard dozens of proposals.

Although the resolution does not formally rescind divestment, most took it to mean that the drive toward divestment had been stopped, and that the call for “corporate engagement” shows a more balanced approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The resolution approved by the church’s peacemaking and international issues committee:

  • Calls on the church to restrict its investments that relate to Israel, Gaza, eastern Jerusalem and the West Bank to peaceful pursuits;
  • Urges peaceful cooperation among Israelis, Americans and Palestinians, and Jews, Muslims and Christians;
  • Calls for dismantling Israel’s West Bank security barrier where it ventures beyond the pre-1967 boundary;
  • Aims to submit these proposals to U.S., Israeli and Palestinian politicians and religious leaders.

Klimt Paintings to Leave LACMA
Los Angeles’ loss is New York’s gain, with the sale by local resident Maria Altmann of an iconic Gustav Klimt painting to the Big Apple’s Neue Galerie, owned by Jewish cosmetics heir and philanthropist Ronald Lauder.

The gold-flecked 1907 portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer, Altmann’s aunt, was sold for a reported $135 million, the highest known price ever paid for a painting.

In addition to the portrait, four other Klimt paintings were recently returned to Altmann and her family by the Austrian government, after a seven-year legal and diplomatic battle waged by Los Angeles attorney E. Randol Schoenberg.

The art works were seized from the Bloch-Bauer family by the Nazis, after their takeover of Austria in 1938.

Sale of the “Golden Adele” is a cultural blow for Los Angeles, and especially the L.A. County Museum of Art (LACMA), which is currently exhibiting all five Klimt paintings.

LACMA tried hard to keep the collection intact and permanently on home grounds, but was unable to come up with the necessary funds.

Altmann, a lively 90-year-old Cheviot Hills resident, is now planning a trip to Europe with her grandchildren, but doesn’t plan to change her lifestyle.

“I’ll stay in the house where I’ve lived for 30 years, keep driving my ’92 Ford, and I don’t need any new clothing,” she told The Journal in an interview earlier this year.

Angelenos have one more week to view the Klimt collection at the LACMA exhibit, which closes June 30. — Tom Tugend, Contributing Editor

Ethiopian Immigration to Israel to Remain Flat?
An Israeli ministerial committee recommended that the government postpone a decision to double the number of Falash Mura allowed into Israel from Ethiopia. The Falash Mura are descendants of Ethiopian Jews who converted to Christianity and who are now returning to Judaism. The government decided several years ago to increase the number allowed into Israel each month, from 300 to 600. However, the decision was never implemented, and the committee said the move should be postponed further because of financial considerations. The recommendation comes as Israel’s High Court of Justice is set to hear a petition next week on the government’s failure to expedite the aliyah.

Reform Movement Center Opens in Jaffa
The Reform movement in Israel inaugurated a $12 million cultural center in Jaffa on Sunday. The facility, to be opened officially in October, will be called Mishkenot Daniel. The decision to put it in Jaffa was part of the movement’s efforts to reach out to middle- and working-class families in Jaffa and Tel Aviv. The inauguration coincided with the first annual convention of the Association of Reform Zionists in Israel to be held in the Jewish state. The center is to include a youth hostel, auditorium, classrooms and a synagogue. Some prominent American Jews have donated to its building, and Israeli Reform movement officials hope local Reform congregants will help raise additional funds for the complex.

Israel Expands Residency Law
Israel expanded a law granting residency to children of non-Jewish foreign workers. On Sunday, the Cabinet approved a proposal by Interior Minister Ronnie Bar-On to ease the minimum age requirement for children whose parents work legally in Israel and who want to become citizens themselves. Previously, only children who were born in Israel or arrived before age 10 were eligible, but the bar has now been raised to 14. Other requirements for candidates are that they speak Hebrew and have lived in Israel for at least six years. After completing mandatory military service, they will become eligible for citizenship. The amendment was opposed by Cabinet ministers from the Shas Party, which said it would threaten Israel’s demographic balance. But Bar-On argued that it applied to only a few-hundred potential candidates.

Kosher Restaurant to Open in Turkey
Yediot Achronot reported Tuesday that Silence Park, a new holiday resort to be launched in the city of Antalya next month, includes a glatt kosher restaurant, the first in Turkey. The restaurant will serve both meat and dairy meals, using both local fare and products imported from Israel. Antalya is especially popular with Israeli vacationers given its geographical proximity and cheap prices.

Briefs courtesy Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

 

9/11 Museum Head Uses Shoah Lessons


Alice Greenwald vividly recalls touring the Auschwitz concentration camp with a Holocaust survivor and watching how the woman shared her story with her children and grandchildren.

It was as if she was trying to instruct her heirs as to the kind of people she wanted them to become, Greenwald remembers.

“What struck me about that experience was that in a world that exists after something like Auschwitz happens, every one of us is her grandchildren,” she said. “We all are obligated to understand what it means to be a human being and the kind of people our parents and grandparents want us to be.”

For more than two decades, Greenwald has been helping to give people a palpable understanding of the Holocaust through her work with the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington.

Beginning this month, she will turn her attention to another terrible atrocity: Greenwald was named in February as the first director of the World Trade Center Memorial Museum in New York, which will commemorate the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and their nearly 3,000 victims.

“Where the two [events] intersect for me in my professional life is in the area of memorialization,” she said recently in her Holocaust Museum office in Washington. “We deal with great loss here at this museum, incomprehensible loss. And we deal with trying to integrate that loss into our collective understanding of history, our personal history of what it means to be a human being.”

Greenwald was a member of the Holocaust Museum’s original design team, working from home as a consultant after stints with Jewish museums in Philadelphia, Los Angeles and Chicago. She joined the museum full-time in 2001 as its associate director for museum programs.

Gretchen Dykstra, president and CEO of the World Trade Center Memorial Foundation, said Greenwald immediately understood the memorial’s goals.

“What struck us so quickly was how immediately she understood the sensitivity of what we were doing,” she said. “She’s not somebody who comes knowing a lot about 9/11, but she knows a lot about memorializing and education.”

The hardest part in designing the New York museum, Greenwald said, is that “there isn’t a human being on the face of the planet who doesn’t have a 9/11 story.”

Greenwald herself was unpacking boxes in her new Washington home on that day, having just moved from Philadelphia. Her husband, on an Amtrak train bound for New York, had called to ask if she knew why he and his business associates weren’t moving.

The carpenter working in her home heard her gasp when she turned on the television. They watched the second tower fall together, and immediately embraced.

“This was a man I knew for 10 minutes,” she said. “And we hugged each other in an embrace, watching the television in complete disbelief, because we needed to be with another human being in that moment.”

Emotions are still very raw for those who survived the Sept. 11 attack, and for the families of those who died. But Greenwald has experience dealing directly with survivors and families who may visit the museum.

“Other museums have other constituency issues, but I don’t think they have to deal with the sensitivities we have [at the Holocaust Museum],” she said. “We are immensely fortunate to have the voice of authentic witnesses.”

The proximity in time to the event will be one of her biggest challenges in New York, she said.

“The institution will have to be flexible, because the world will keep moving forward and we don’t know what events will re-characterize our understanding of 9/11,” she said.

She has watched the Holocaust Museum evolve, noting that it was built before “Schindler’s List” and other mass-media portrayals of the Shoah.

The Sept. 11 museum will be part of several structures planned for the area where the World Trade Center stood. The foundation is constructing the museum and a separate memorial, Reflecting Absence, that will honor those killed on Sept. 11 and in a previous attack at the World Trade Center on Feb. 26, 1993.

A visitor’s center and performing arts building also are being planned. Half the site has been zoned for new office buildings, which are being erected separately.

The museum will highlight the magnitude of the attacks, as well as the global response and civic rebuilding.

“You are dealing with a site that is a burial site. People died there. That gives it a sacred quality one has to respect,” Greenwald said.

She compared it to the Holocaust Museum, which she said garners its power from its proximity to other memorials and buildings of power in Washington.

Dykstra said she has been struck by the Holocaust Museum’s impact on visitors, and hopes to replicate that.

“I think what the Holocaust Museum does so beautifully is it takes a historic series of events and personalizes them in a way that universalizes them,” she said. “It’s overwhelming but not didactic.”

The Sept. 11 museum is slated to open on the eighth anniversary of the attacks, in 2009. Greenwald said there is much to be done before then, and she is excited to be a part of this “thrilling” stage of a museum’s birth.

“Each stage will have its own challenges and its own rewards,” she said. She calls it a “Dayenu situation,” saying that if she can at least advance the plans, it would be enough — although she hopes to see the museum built and operating.

“We have to remember that it’s about people,” she said. “There’s a tendency to want to memorialize the building, and there is some significance to that. But this is not a memorial to a building; it’s a memorial to people.”

 

Community Briefs


Jewish Candidate Drops Out of Insurance Chief Race

One of two Jewish candidates seeking the Republican nomination for California insurance commissioner has pulled out of the race.

Dr. Phil Kurzner, a Westside urologist, told supporters at a Feb. 21 fundraiser that he is withdrawing from the commissioner’s race, according to Dr. Joel Strom, a Santa Monica dentist who served as Kurzner’s campaign chair. The event took place at the Regency Club in Westwood and was attended by Sen. Norm Coleman (R-Minn.), who had come to help raise funds for Kurzner.

The likely front-runner for the Republican spot in the June 6 primary is Steve Poizner, who is also Jewish. Poizner is a Silicon Valley entrepreneur who has made millions creating global positioning technology. Los Angeles businessman Gary Mendoza is the only other Republican in the race.

“The Republican establishment was lining up behind our opponent, Steve Poizner, and we felt that for the party and for party unity, we would withdraw from the race,” said Strom, former president of the Republican Jewish Coalition of Los Angeles.

In a campaign statement after Kurzner’s withdrawal, Poizner praised him, saying, “I am grateful that we will not have to face him in this primary.”

Strom said Kurzner’s campaign had raised more than $400,000 and Kurzner had made 200 campaign appearances over the past two years. At a Jan. 25 fundraiser at the Pacific Palisades home of former gubernatorial candidate Bill Simon, Kurzner told guests, “I’m not afraid to lose, and I’m not afraid to win.”

Poizner’s campaign funds are estimated to be at least $4.6 million, making him more financially potent than Kurzner might have been against Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante, the Democratic front-runner for insurance commissioner. John Garamendi, the current commissioner, is running for lieutenant governor this year.

“The larger purpose is to defeat Bustamante,” Strom said. — David Finnigan, Contributing Writer

Two Officials Back Halted Jerusalem Museum Project

The Los Angeles-based Simon Wiesenthal Center has the full support of Jerusalem Mayor Uri Lupolianski to continue construction on its new Center for Human Dignity-Museum of Tolerance in the heart of Jerusalem, despite Muslim concerns that the museum would be built atop a former Islamic cemetery, Gidi Schmerling, Jerusalem municipality spokesman, told The Jewish Journal Feb. 24.

Construction of the $200 million project was halted Feb. 15, when lawyers for two Muslim organizations sent a petition to the Israeli High Court of Justice. The petition asserted that thousands of Muslims who died during the Crusades of the 12th and 13th centuries are buried at the site where the center is being built. They also argued that in the seventh century, associates of the Islamic prophet Mohammad were interred at the site.

Last week, the High Court appointed former Chief Justice Meir Shamgar as a mediator. Shamgar has a month to find a resolution.

Lupolianski, the spokesman said, recently sent a letter to the Wiesenthal Center applauding the building of the museum.

“For the past three decades, this land has been utilized as a public car park, and it is commendable that it will now serve as the site for this important museum,” the mayor wrote.

The office of acting Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert also confirmed that Olmert has given his support for continued construction of the Wiesenthal museum at the current site. Olmert called the museum “an essential project for Jerusalem, a landmark that will change the face of Jerusalem forever.” — Yaakov Katz, Contributing Writer

 

Feminist Desktop Revolution


Don’t have time to shlep to a museum? Too tired to remember if the free museum day is the first or second Tuesday of the month? Want to conquer a large, overwhelming exhibit in small, 15-minute intervals? Then bring the museum to your desktop and browse at your own pace.

The Jewish Women’s Archive has launched “Jewish Women and the Feminist Revolution,” an inspirational and evocative online exhibit. It’s an innovative way to introduce today’s generation of Jewish women to the pacesetting leaders who paved the way before them.

“‘Jewish Women and the Feminist Revolution’ brings the story of Jewish feminism into the story of American feminism for the first time, connecting their histories in a landmark project,” curator Judith Rosenbaum said.

The brightly colored site is easy to use and fun to surf. Complete with video clips, documents, posters, flyers, photographs, art, radio news reports and first-person statements, the exhibition explores Jewish women’s significant contributions to the American and Jewish feminist movements of the 1960s and 1970s. How did these times change the lives of Jewish women, and how did Jewish women create change during the times?

The site organizes material by themes, timeline, people and medium and covers topics like women’s health, female rabbis, sexuality, arts, education and spirituality.

The exhibition features artifacts from the private collections of 74 notable women, including Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg; Gloria Steinem, pioneering activist and founder of Ms. Magazine; and feminist artist Judy Chicago.

Also featured are three Los Angeles women: Rachel Adler, feminist theologian and professor of modern Jewish thought and Judaism and gender at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion; UCLA history professor Ellen DuBois, feminist author and scholar of 19th century women’s history; and Reform Rabbi Sue Levi Elwell, director of the Pennsylvania Council of the UAJC and founding director of the American Jewish Congress Feminist Center in Los Angeles.

The exhibition can be found at

Nation & World Briefs


Israeli Mystic Was 104, 106 or 112

To many Jews, he was the celebrity of the century, a mystic with mystique.

No one knows exactly the age of Rabbi Yitzhak Kadouri, who died of pneumonia late last month. The official statements of the Israeli religious party Shas, for which he served as charismatic figurehead and sage, said he was 106 years old. But other accounts spoke of 104 or 112.

Neither was it precisely possible to quantify Kadouri’s contribution to the Orthodox canon. Unlike other leading rabbis, he left no great writings and never specialized in founding yeshivot.

Yet, close to a quarter-million mourners, including Israel’s chief rabbis and political notables, attended Kadouri’s funeral in Jerusalem on Sunday, Jan. 29, bringing the capital to a halt as his coffin was borne through the streets.

Israeli President Moshe Katsav eulogized him as “one of the outstanding leaders of the Jewish people in the past generations.”

Kadouri was the first name in kabbalah — a discipline which, almost by definition, fits those who seem more ethereal than others.

Well before the Kabbalah Centre in Los Angeles began recruiting superstars like Madonna, well before kabbalah was well known outside the secretive circles of Jewish mystics, Kadouri was studying it, prognosticating and even concocting his own talismans.

The Iraqi-born rabbi was an icon to Sephardic Jews, who attributed special powers to even the most mundane items — such as chairs and food — that he touched. Kadouri contributed to this image with a lifestyle at once virile and ascetic. A resident of Jerusalem’s impoverished Bukhari Quarter for most of his life, he chain-smoked cheap cigarettes with little apparent impact on his health, and was married twice — the second time when in his 90s, to a woman half his age.

Katsav called him “a symbol and example to all of the repudiation of materialism.”

His influence was important to the hordes of politicians who would seek Kadouri’s counsel, especially around election time. In 1996, Shas leader Aryeh Deri persuaded Kadouri to endorse the party, and it went on to major gains in the Knesset.

Kadouri’s support also helped Benjamin Netanyahu, a Shas ally, win the premiership in 1997.

“What interested him was that the religious parties would help the people of Israel and the Torah world,” Deri said.

Israel Continues PA Contacts

Israel’s acting prime minister said ties to the Palestinian Authority would continue as long as it is not led by Hamas. Ehud Olmert said the monthly transfers of taxes levied on behalf of the Palestinians by Israel would continue, but on a case-by-case basis, as long as Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas remains independent of Hamas, the Islamic terrorist group that won parliamentary elections last month. Addressing a Tel Aviv economic conference, Olmert said that withholding the tax transfers, which he had considered, would only “play into the hands of the extremists.”

The Palestinians have several weeks to form a new Palestinian Authority government. Abbas has tried to assuage international concerns by proposing that he keep control of security forces even if Hamas ministers are appointed.

Gaza Farmers to Get Retraining

The Hebrew University of Jerusalem plans to retrain evacuated Gaza Strip settlement farmers. The university announced this week that around 100 farmers evacuated from Gaza would receive advanced training at its Faculty of Agricultural, Food and Environmental Quality Sciences. The government-funded studies begin March 5 and will last between six and 24 months. The project is intended to give the evacuees high-level professional training and help them return to work and re-establish farms.

Settlements Are Really Expensive

Settlements have cost Israelis more than $14 billion, not counting military expenditures, an independent Israeli study said. The study, released last Friday by the Research Institute for Economic and Social Affairs, also said the government spends twice as much on settlements as it does on local authorities inside Israel. The institute, funded by a German group that backs Israel-Arab dialogue, took 18 months to calculate the costs of four decades of settlement in areas claimed by the Palestinians. The government refused to provide assistance. There are about 250,000 settlers now living in the West Bank.

New Genealogical Center Opens

An institute devoted to Jewish genealogical research and study opened this week in Jerusalem. Described as the only one of its kind in the Jewish world, the International Institute for Jewish Genealogy at the Jewish National and University Library, is headed by Yosef Lamdan, a former Israeli ambassador to the Vatican. According to Lamdan, the institute will focus on teaching, research and collaborative projects of practical benefit to family historians. Jewish genealogy has gained immense popularity across the Jewish world over the last two decades, and especially since the rise of the Internet.

Emma Thompson Backs Anne Frank Site

Actress Emma Thompson helped launch a new Web site connected to the Anne Frank museum. Thompson placed her name on a leaf at the Amsterdam museum last week. Visitors to the Web site www.annefranktree.com can attach a story or a poem about what Anne Frank means to them to a cyber “chestnut tree,” a replica of the tree that sat outside her attic.

Briefs courtesy Jewish telegraphic Agency.

 

Curtain Rises on Mozart’s Jewish Tie


On Jan. 27, Austria is marking the 250th birthday of its favorite son, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. In honor of this sesquibicentennial, the city of Vienna is planning an impressive program of more than 1,000 events, including 350 public concerts and performances of the composer’s operas and sacred works.

But for the first time, the Viennese are doing something that has never been done before. After more than 200 years of silence — felt most deeply during Hitler’s rule — Austria is finally talking about Mozart’s Jewish connection.

“Mozart does not belong to any nation. It would be a total misunderstanding for anyone to lay claim to Mozart,” said Peter Marboe, Vienna Mozart Year artistic director. “That makes it obscene that the Nazis should claim him as an example of a great German artist and all the while hide his Jewish collaborators.”

In celebration of Mozart Year, which is being marked throughout Austria, the Jewish Museum of Vienna is presenting a look at the composer and his greatest collaborator, the Jewish-born Lorenzo Da Ponte, the librettist best known for “The Marriage of Figaro” (1786), “Don Giovanni” (1787) and “Cosi Fan Tutte” (1790), long considered the composer’s greatest operatic masterpieces. The exhibit, “Between Tolerance and Aryanization–Lorenzo Da Ponte, Mozart and Vienna,” which opens mid-March and ends Aug. 31, illuminates the effects of Nazi propaganda on our perceptions of both Mozart and his librettist.

Da Ponte was born Emanuele Conegliano in the Jewish community of Ceneda, Italy, in 1749. He converted to Catholicism, along with his entire family, shortly after his bar mitzvah, when his widower father remarried a Christian woman. He and his brothers were immediately sent off to a seminary to study for the priesthood, where he describes himself as an “inmate.” He later complained that “at that time, I intended to perfect my knowledge of Hebrew, which in my youth I had studied assiduously.”

According to his memoirs, Da Ponte became a Catholic priest at 20 in response to his father’s bidding. Da Ponte writes with great bitterness about his fate, which he blames for leading him to “embrace a way of life opposed to my temperament, character, principles and studies, thus opening the door to a thousand strange happenings and perils.”

Within two years, Da Ponte escaped to Venice, where he worked as teacher and poet. During that time, he had affairs with three society women. His exploits eventually caught up with him, and scandal forced him to flee Italy in 1782.

That year Da Ponte ended up at the imperial court in Vienna, where he met Mozart, who had just been kicked out of the service of the prince-cardinal of Salzburg. The collaboration of these two refugees from the church was to produce monumental results.

Their first collaboration, “The Marriage of Figaro,” was an enormous success.

But it was in their second collaboration that Da Ponte’s Jewish roots began to show. The tragic opera, “Don Giovanni,” is punctuated throughout with a sense of humor that was unheard of at the time. Commissioned for the Prague Opera, the so-called “perfect opera” reaches its climax when a huge statue comes to life to exact vengeance on a murderer. The oblique reference to the Yiddish legend of Der Golem was not lost on Czech audiences — in Prague “Don Giovanni” was an immediate hit. But in Vienna, it closed after 13 performances.

Da Ponte and Mozart collaborated once more on what would prove the composer’s final comic opera, “Cosi Fan Tutte.” The following year, Mozart died and Da Ponte was exiled to England for his scandalous affairs. The librettist eventually made his way to New York, where he founded the chair of Italian literature at Columbia University.

More than a century later, Nazi Germany annexed Austria and instituted the policy of Aryanization. Under the Nazi regime, Da Ponte’s Jewish identity was stolen by Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s minister of propaganda, who banned all music by Jewish composers, including Gustav Mahler, Felix Mendelssohn, Jacques Offenbach and Erich Wolfgang Korngold. But Mozart’s music was too valuable to the Third Reich, so like Johan Strauss, Mozart’s collaborator was “Aryanized.” Hitler reportedly told critics: “I decide who is Jewish.”

After the war, Viennese city government worked closely with the Jewish community to help rebuild a society devastated by the Holocaust. Their projects included the funding of the Vienna Jewish Museum and the Holocaust Memorial. This year’s Mozart celebrations provide the perfect opportunity to openly discuss Da Ponte and his contribution to Mozart’s greatest works.

The Vienna State Opera has performances of all three Da Ponte-Mozart collaborations slated for this season, running from January to April. If seeing Mozart’s operas in Vienna has ever been on your to-do list, now is the time. And when viewed in concert with the Vienna Jewish Museum’s new exhibition, you’ll see them in a whole new light.

 

Vienna Glories in Past and Present


Sixty years after the end of World War II, Vienna has reclaimed its roots as a city of culture. Not the culture of stoic monuments to faded glory or landmarks illuminated by historical plaques, but in a living, breathing, heart-still-pumping way. Grand-yet-graceful music, art and architecture are the lifeblood of this city and those fortunate enough to live here.

Strolling along the wide pedestrian mall of the Kartnerstrasse, you cannot help but feel swept up in the art and culture of this elegant city. The impressive architecture rises up and surrounds you as the beauty of the city embraces you.

As the sun sets on the Kartnerstrasse, Viennese girls window shop Euro chain stores for platform shoes and designer scruff denim, shadowed by elegant palaces that line the cobbled street. A girl plays Strauss on a grand piano. Down the street, a man plays a symphony on crystal glasses of water, as students in black tie and spiked hair saunter past with cellos. The street comes to life with people who seem to not be in a hurry to go anywhere in particular.

Music is at the heart of Vienna, and since 2006 is being celebrated as the Mozart Year in Austria, the most rewarding Mozart experience is the city that inspired him. By all means, visit Mozart’s statue and the house he lived in, but to really experience Mozart’s Vienna, wander the cobbled lanes like the Blutgasse, where Mozart lived and worked. While away a morning by lingering over café and strudel in a plush coffee house (complete with charmingly polite tuxedoed waiters).

The best way to discover Mozart here might be a night at the Vienna Opera. I was lucky enough to attend a performance of “The Magic Flute” during my visit, which was sponsored by Austria Tourism. This was classical Mozart through and through in terms of the music, but the performance was strikingly modern.

A minimalist industrial set was the backdrop for bearded ladies painted blue and dressed in 18th-century industrial corsetry, while the priests of Sarastro were done up in white, minimalist hazmat suits. Not everyone’s cup of tea, I’ll concede, but that completely sums up a city that glories in its past but revels in its modernity.

Lets remember that Mozart was cutting-edge cool in his day. It’s fitting that this city still pushes the artistic envelope while embracing its artistic history. Vienna is a place where the elegant Hofburg Palace can stand alongside stunning Hundertwasser House.

Vienna’s influence as a cultural center also drew such Jewish composers as Gustav Mahler, Arnold Schoenberg and Alexander Zelimsky, in addition to numerous Jewish writers, actors, artists and doctors. And while the city’s Jewish history has been a tumultuous one — only 2,000 of the city’s pre-World War II population of 183,000 Jews survived the Shoah — Vienna today boasts a very active community of about 7,000 Jews.

The city features 15 synagogues (including a Sephardic congregation), a yeshiva, a Jewish museum and an office of Jewish Welcome Service. Most of Vienna’s Jews live in the city’s Second District, where you’ll find kosher supermarkets, butchers and restaurants.

The other must-see on any Austrian Mozart tour is the quaint city of his birth, Salzburg, where the Hohensalzberg fortress looms over the Salzach River, and the pastel shades of the shops in the Aldstadt are undeniably photogenic.

In Salzburg, you’ll have the opportunity to see the house where Mozart was born and visit the Mozart museum, which struggles to understand the composer’s genius. Both are worth a look, but the truly hot ticket in Salzburg is the Marionetten Theater, which regularly stages Mozart’s operas.

Appreciating the preservation of a centuries-old art is the key to enjoying Salzburg, a town that seems content to linger in its past. And provided that a look into a time capsule is all you expect, you may not be disappointed.

Jewishly speaking, Salzburg never fully recovered following the Holocaust. Only about 100 Jews inhabit the city, which features a single synagogue at Lasserstrasse 8. But despite its anti-Semitic reputation, the city was host to such Jewish luminaries as dramatists Max Reinhardt and Carl Zuckmayer, who were drawn to its Salzburg Festival and its cultural scene.

However, Mozart himself preferred the energy and vibrancy of cosmopolitan Vienna. Like a deep breath of fresh air, it’s a city that will make you sigh.

 

Iranian Muslims Brush Up on Shoah


The Simon Wiesenthal Center hosted more than two-dozen representatives from local Iranian Muslim news outlets this month to provide them with information about the Holocaust that they can, in turn, use to educate their readers, listeners and viewers.

“We are looking to introduce the Iranian media to the Wiesenthal Center and to respond to the hatred of Jews in Iran,” Rabbi Abraham Cooper, the center’s associate dean, said in remarks to the group. “We want you to expose the lies and hatred coming from the Iranian government.”

Cooper was referring to recent statements by Iran’s new president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The Iranian leader has implied that the Holocaust is a myth; on another occasion he asserted that Israel should be obliterated and that a homeland for Jews could be located instead in Europe or America.

Ahmadinejad’s comments have recently energized the Southern California-based Persian-language media to support Israel publicly and to speak out against anti-Semetic remarks made by Iranian government officials for the first time in the 26 years since the Islamic revolution. A pro-Israel rally in Westwood drew nearly 2,000 Iranians from various religions last November.

At the weekend gathering, Iranian journalists talked of a duty to learn more about the Holocaust so they could properly relay the full extent of Nazi atrocities to their audiences.

“It is our responsibility to give people in the Iranian community the correct information about this issue,” said Parviz Kardan, a Persian-language media personality and host of the radio program “A Spoonful of Sugar” on KIRN 670 AM. “We must be a window for young Iranians everywhere to show history in the proper light.”

Those in attendance were given an electronic card with the name and photograph of a child who lived during the era of the Holocaust. At the end of the tour, they discovered what happened to that child.

“I was aware of the Holocaust, but not to the extent of what I learned from this visit,” said Assadollah Morovati, owner of Radio Sedaye Iran (KRSI), a Persian-language satellite-radio station based in Beverly Hills that broadcasts news into Iran and worldwide. “In Iran we have a dictator like Hitler who is behaving like him and speaking like him.”

The journalists’ tour guide was Holocaust survivor Peter Daniels, who had his own perspective on Ahmadinejad.

“We’ve dealt with Holocaust deniers for years,” Daniels said. “The president of Iran is not anything new. It’s a way for them to be heard and get attention. I try not to take it personally.”

In a question-and-answer period following the tour, Cooper noted that Ahmadinejad’s statements may be an attempt to divert attention from Iran’s alleged pursuit of nuclear weapons. But he urged the Iranian media representatives to respond to them nevertheless.

“The average American thinks the president of Iran speaks for all Iranians,” Cooper told them. “They don’t know the region well, so you need to have a core message.” He also urged them to reach out to U.S. elected officials “to voice your concern for the safety of your friends and family in Iran.”

Local Iranian Jewish leaders George Haroonian and Bijan Khalli were involved in setting up the Museum of Tolerance event. They said they felt a responsibility as Jews to inform their non-Jewish Iranian compatriots about the truth of the Holocaust.

“Forgetfulness about the Holocaust is like committing a crime,” Haroonian told the crowd of Iranian journalists in Persian. The Iranian government is “trying to teach hatred for Jews. We hope this tour will be a step to awaken the Iranian people.”

 

Bye Bye Diaspora, Hello ‘New Jews’


“New Jews: The End of the Jewish Diaspora” by Caryn Aviv and David Shneer (New York University Press, 2005).

Earlier this month, I participated in a consultation on “Jewish community in an era of looser connections.” Despite the presence of various paradigm-shifting luminaries, more than one reference was made to three absent influences, specifically, two people and a book. The people: Aaron Bisman and Matisyahu; the book: “New Jews: The End of the Jewish Diaspora.” Bisman’s JDub Records seeks “cross-cultural … dialogue” through music indigenous to just about anywhere except Israel; Matisyahu, JDub’s breakout idol, is a baal teshuvah Lubavitcher who sings “Chasidic reggae.” They are the New Jews to whom the book’s authors, Caryn Aviv and David Shneer, refer.

Aviv, a sociologist, and Shneer, a historian, are both native Angelenos who now teach at the University of Denver. They argue that the bipolar models of home and exile, center and periphery, Israel and Diaspora, no longer apply to contemporary Jewish life. “What,” they ask, “does … an upper-middle-class professional, secular Jew in Los Angeles have in common with a working-class Israeli Sephardic religious Jew in Bnei Brak except the fact that each one calls herself a Jew?”

The authors propose a new map with “multiple homelands” that displaces Israel from “the center of the Jewish universe.” They point out that since the mid-19th century, most Jewish religious innovation has originated in the United States, rather than in Europe or Israel. As of 2003, more people emigrated from Israel to Russia than vice versa, and New York is the communal and philanthropic center of Jewish life. Ultimately, the authors find, contemporary Jews are at home wherever they live. “New Jews,” they argue, “connect emotionally and culturally with multiple places and traverse routes across national boundaries but are nonetheless rooted in a specific place they call home.”

In five case studies, Aviv and Shneer explore the implications of their argument. In Moscow, they find an increasingly vibrant Jewish urban center where Jews want to live, not leave. An examination of organized youth tourism to Poland and Israel uncovers a manipulative identity-building agenda that reveals the desperation of late 1990s “continuity” campaigns — but also points toward a future in which Jews crisscross the globe to explore their diverse cultural heritage. Two other chapters complement one another. A minisequel to their previous book, “Queer Jews,” considers collective identities that connect across geopolitical boundaries, and an ethnographic meditation explores the deep diversity cohabiting within the boundaries of New York City.

Finally, Los Angeles stars in a study of the Museum of Tolerance and the Skirball Cultural Center. Aviv and Shneer provide long-overdue histories of the creation of these two institutions — and important critiques of their respective programs. At the Museum of Tolerance, the authors highlight the tension between the universalistic message of tolerance and the particularistic focus on the Shoah, a tension that leaves the visitor “suspicious of the comforts of America.” At the Skirball, they find a deeply assimilationist message in which Jewish values explicitly are presented as indigenously American. Even as the Skirball upends the logic of Diaspora and exile, the authors observe, it remains “intolerant of difference” when such difference might divide Jews from other Americans.

Religion largely is absent from the discussion, though this appears to be by design. Freed from the theological bonds of Klal Yisrael — though by no means dismissing its importance — the authors make no apologies for their challenge to the political centrality of Israel in secular “Jewish geography, culture, and memory.” They question the sociological utility of thinking about some entity called The Jewish People.

“The only thing that Jews have in common,” Aviv and Shneer conclude, “is the fact that they self-identify as Jews.”

To those who grew up within the narratives of the Holocaust and the return to Zion, this will be distressing; to those in Aviv and Shneer’s generation, like Bisman and Matisyahu, as well as to Chabad emissaries no less than Conservative and Reform outreach advocates — it is old news.

“New Jews'” greatest strength — that it is an open-ended introduction to a conversation, rather than a self-contained argument — also may be its primary weakness. Although I agree with Aviv and Shneer’s assertion that contemporary Jews are at home where they are, rather than in exile from an imagined homeland, I would have liked to see them explore some of the more dynamic implications of Jewish cultural transnationalism, or what scholars call “flows.” To study flows is to follow the movement of ideas, money, even music. Debbie Friedman tells of a Polish youth group’s request to hear the “traditional” melody for “Havdalah” (they meant her own, of course); I have sung Adat Ari El Rabbi Moshe Rothblum’s “V’Shamru” at a Czechoslovak Shabbaton. The late Pakistani Sufi musician Nusrat Ali Fateh Khan wrote a qawwali called, “Allah Hu”; a group of Americans and Israelis living in Israel adopted, adapted and exported the chant to the United States, where it was popularized by Debbie Friedman, Danny Maseng and New York’s Congregation B’nai Jeshurun as the liturgical song “Hallelu.”

The authors also do not contend with the sporadic but serious conflicts over Jewish being-at-home, whether in Paris and Brussels or on “Bill O’Reilly” and MSNBC. In the United States, controversies last year over Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ” and this year over “Christianization” and the “War on Christmas” paradoxically juxtapose cultural complacency and communal insecurity. In Western Europe, anti-Semitic attacks by immigrant Arabs reflect both anti-Israel political violence and the jealous rage of the socially marginal against those perceived to have made it “inside,” those who are “at home.” These, too, are the experiences of “New Jews.”

Still, one hardly can fault the authors for provoking the reader to respond. And this is Aviv and Shneer’s greatest achievement with this book: to force us, gently but insistently, to consider the global implications of a world where Zion is a given and not a proposal; where perfectly respectable Jews emigrate from Jerusalem and make pilgrimages to New York; where, indeed, Los Angeles is the center of a Jewish universe.

J. Shawn Landres is the director of research at Synagogue 3000 and a visiting research fellow at UCLA’s Center for Jewish Studies.

 

Holy Toledo!


My husband’s family hails from Toledo, Ohio, a city that proudly claims kinship with Toledo, Spain. That’s one reason I didn’t want to miss this Castilian hill town 42 miles southeast of Madrid. There’s also the fact that El Greco’s “View of Toledo,” a spectral view of the city’s spires by moonlight, has long been one of my favorite paintings.

What I didn’t know until recently is that Spain’s Toledo contains — along with spires, damascene jewelry and scrumptious marzipan — a treasure trove of Jewish memories.

Back in 1200, under the benign rule of a Catholic king, Toledo housed some 12,000 Jews, who contributed mightily to the city’s dynamic intellectual life. Of the many synagogues that once dotted the winding lanes, two have survived. Both were converted into churches following the expulsion of Jews from Spain, but they now have been preserved as national monuments.

The 14th century house of worship built by the wealthy and powerful Samuel HaLevi is known today as the Transito (Assumption) Synagogue. Its grandly carved bimah and magnificent ceiling are still intact.

Equally impressive in its way is the Sephardic Museum located in what was once the women’s gallery. It contains Jewish antiquities, many borrowed from Israeli collections, and there’s also heartwarming video footage of modern Jews celebrating holidays and life-cycle events: proof for Spanish visitors that Judaism lives on.

This is worth underscoring, because the guards on the premises have little sense of exactly what they’re guarding. When I asked in my best schoolgirl Spanish if there were any modern synagogues in Spain, all I got was a shrug.

The second surviving synagogue on the street now called, Reyes Catlicos (Catholic Kings), is the austerely beautiful Santa Mara la Blanca, dating from the late 12th century. It was built in the Moorish style, with stately rows of white columns reaching upward into rounded arches. High off the ground, above the archways, long-ago artisans etched lacelike patterns into the plaster.

I had heard that when this synagogue became a church, the Jewish symbols among the plaster adornments were obliterated. But there remained, I was told, a single Magen David as a token of what once had been.

Naturally, I set out to find it. Again, the guards and other employees were of little help. One acknowledged that the star existed but wouldn’t budge from her post at the gift shop cash register to point it out.

Finally, persistence paid off. Above the first pillar to the right of the doorway, and some 25 feet off the ground, we saw the faint but visible six-pointed star representing our people.

As we strolled along Reyes Catlicos, a bilingual sign promising information about Jewish Toledo led us into a narrow alley, Calle del Angel. Here we found Casa de Jacob, a spacious, modern store selling Jewish ritual items, kosher foods from Israel and serious Jewish texts in Spanish, Hebrew and English. It also offers a map detailing the archaeological remnants of Jewish life within Toledo’s ancient walls.

According to David, the pleasant young man behind the counter, Casa de Jacob is unique in Spain. It’s lovingly operated by David’s family, most of whom believe they descend from Jews forced to accept Catholicism at the time of the Inquisition. (He said his father’s brother, however, is still in denial.)

Our chat with David allowed us, as we moved on to Toledo’s magnificent cathedral, to feel a little more at home in this very Catholic place.

Later, as we watched the sun set over the city from the spot where El Greco had painted his masterpiece, I was feeling profoundly affectionate toward my surroundings. Holy Toledo, indeed!

The map can be viewed on the Web at www.jewishtoledo.com, and the store’s informative and wide-ranging site can be found at www.casadejacob.com

 

Still Strong in Westchester


In a strong statement that the Jewish presence in Westchester has not disappeared, families of B’nai Tikvah’s nursery school took to the streets in December for the annual Westchester Holiday Parade. Wearing homemade dreidel and menorah headbands, 30 children marched for one mile along Manchester Boulevard handing out chocolate Chanukah gelt and plastic dreidels.

In September, B’nai Tikvah sold the Westchester building it had occupied since 1959 and moved services to Temple Beth Torah in Mar Vista and to a Westchester church, while keeping the nursery and religious schools in Westchester on Sepulveda Eastway.

The expanding airport and white flight had reduced the once thriving synagogue to a skeletal congregation.

At the parade, Rabbi Jason van Leeuwen joined the kids and parents behind a banner, followed by an SUV with a rooftop speaker playing Chanukah music by Doda Mollie Wine, song leader at the nursery school.

For more information, call (310) 649-4051 or visit www.bnaitikvahcongregation.org.

Back to the Beach

College students are invited to a four-day celebration of the strange mix of irreverence and Jewish pride that have combined to create Jewlicious @ The Beach 2, or JTB2, this President’s Day Weekend in Long Beach.

“Other student leadership conferences organize a parade of politicians, funders and scholars to impress participants,” says Rabbi Yonah Bookstein, director of Beach Hillel and conference coordinator. “But JTB2 welcomes the involvement of grassroots, down-to-earth people who are as passionate about being Jewish as they are about their creativity.”

JTB2 has on its roster artists, writers and performers who will explore fashion, henna tattooing, print and online journalism, improv, activism, wine-making, bronze-casting, podcasting, Indie music, spoken-word, unorganized religion and blogging.

The event is sponsored by Beach Hillel –which serves campuses in Long Beach and Orange County — along with the blog site Jewlicious and SoCal Jewish Student Services. Jewlicious @ The Beach 2 hopes to attract more than double the hundred students who attended the first conference last year.

Jewlicious @ The Beach takes place Feb. 17-20 at the Alpert Jewish Community Center in Long Beach. Registration before Feb. 3 is $36, including kosher meals and on-site accommodations (bring a sleeping bag). Register at www.JTB2.com, e-mail jewlicious@beachhillel.com or call (866) 539-5474.

Scholar Search

The Milken Family Foundation is looking for graduating high school seniors whose academic performance, community service and triumphs over financial and other obstacles mark their potential to make a difference in the world.

Students will be selected to become Milken Scholars, which entitles them to financial assistance, access to career-related counseling, assistance with internships and opportunities for volunteerism. A scholarship fund also allows recipients to pursue wide-ranging academic and career interests.

All nominations must be made by college advisers in Los Angeles County by Jan. 20.

For specific qualifications and more information, visit www.mff.org/scholars.

Mini Peace Conference

Through art projects, conversation and food, Muslim and Jewish students got to know each other at a daylong program at Temple Israel of Hollywood Day School in November.

The sixth-grade class at Temple Israel hosted fourth- and fifth-graders from the New Horizon Islamic center, after sixth-grade teacher Orley Denman at Temple Israel initiated a connection between the two schools. As the children interacted in the library, they discovered who plays basketball, who loves math and who has pets. They exchanged greeting cards and projects they had made in preparation for the meeting.

Rabbi John Rosove, senior rabbi of Temple Israel of Hollywood, asked the group which countries their families came from. The answers included Turkey, Afghanistan, Israel, India and South America.

Reflecting afterward, the Temple Israel sixth graders said that, above all, they “had fun.” They also were impressed by how much the New Horizon students enjoyed prayer and derived discipline from it. They no longer doubted that the “Muslim kids” were “just like them.”

Musical Pajama Party

Stephen Michael Schwartz of the award-winning children’s recording group, Parachute Express, will appear in concert on Saturday, Jan. 14, for his ninth annual “Musical Pajama Party” to benefit Temple Beth Hillel in Valley Village, where Schwartz and his family are active members.

Children are invited to come dressed in their pajamas to enjoy Schwartz perform favorites including the theme song from “Jay Jay the Jet Plane.”

The Musical Pajama Party is Sunday, Jan. 14, at Temple Beth Hillel, 12326 Riverside Drive, Valley Village. 5:15 p.m. (pizza), 6 p.m. (concert). $10 (in advance); $12 (at the door). For information, contact Wendei Spale at (818) 769-4844.

Groups Host Shoah Seminar

Educators are invited to attend a four-session seminar on “The Relevance of Teaching the Holocaust in the 21st Century,” presented by the Anti-Defamation League, the Simon Wiesenthal Center Museum of Tolerance and the Center for Excellence on the Study of the Holocaust, Genocide, Human Rights and Tolerance. The seminar will introduce Echoes and Reflections, a curriculum that integrates eyewitness testimony collected by the Shoah Foundation.

“Teaching the Holocaust” seminar takes place at ADL headquarters, 10495 Santa Monica Blvd. on Thursdays in February, 4:30-8:30 p.m., with an optional fifth session March 2. To R.S.V.P. or for information, call (310) 446-8000 or visit www.adl.org.

 

Buckeye State Gets a Jewish Museum


Stroll in the shadow of Jewish-owned factories like Glick Neckwear and Favorite Knitting Mills in Cleveland’s long-vanished garment district. Take a seat in an art deco theater where Ethel Merman belts out a song. Round a corner to see Superman bursting through a wall. These are among the sights, sounds and experiences visitors encounter in the new Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage.

Using state-of-the-art audio, visual and computer technologies, the museum illuminates Jewish history, both local and worldwide, setting these traditions and achievements against the backdrop of U.S. and world events. Within its walls, one meets a host of colorful characters whose personal stories are brought to life in film, interactive activities and exhibits of precious artifacts.

Cleveland media mogul Milton Maltz and his wife, Tamar, pledged $8 million toward the construction of the Beachwood, Ohio museum, and to begin an endowment. The Jewish Community Federation of Cleveland contributed the remaining $5.5 million to the museum, which opened Oct. 11. Research support was provided by the Western Reserve Historical Society, and many of the historical documents and artifacts in the museum came from its Jewish Archives.

“Although this is seen through Jewish eyes, it is really an American story,” said Maltz who, with his wife Tamar, was the visionary behind the museum. Beyond chronicling Jewish history, the museum pays homage to the immigrant spirit that, nourished by freedom, built Cleveland and this country.

Although it illuminates large themes, the Maltz Museum is compact. The permanent exhibit occupies 7,000 square feet of the 24,000-square-foot minimalist building, which is faced in luminous Jerusalem limestone. Elsewhere, exhibits throughout the meandering rooms and alcoves engage and inform museum-goers.

The museum experience begins in a light-filled, high-ceilinged lobby hung with eight huge iconic images representing the museum’s major themes. These include dramatic photos of Cleveland Rabbi Arthur Lelyveld, his head bloodied during the 1964 civil rights march in Mississippi, and the smiling face of astronaut Judith Resnick, an Akron native, paired with the Challenger space shuttle in which she lost her life.

Superimposed on these, a multilevel timeline shows the history of the Jews from Abraham onward, placing it in the context of world civilizations and historical events.

In the 60-seat Chelm Family Theater, a short film sets the tone — literally — for the visitor’s tour. A hazy close-up of a man blowing a shofar on a deserted hillside gradually dissolves into a sharply focused shot of the Cleveland Orchestra’s principal clarinetist, Franklin Cohen, playing Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue.” Actor Peter Strauss narrates this film, which provides an overview of the museum.

Exiting the theater, one encounters a floor-to-ceiling photo of immigrants disembarking on Ellis Island. They hold tightly to their children, bundles and valises. Anxiety, loneliness and hope are etched on their faces. This tableau ushers one into “They’ve Arrived!” — the first section of the core exhibit, which focuses on Cleveland’s first Jewish families and the immigrant experience.

Prominently displayed is the Alsbacher Document, the handwritten “ethical will” addressed to the small band of villagers from Unsleben, Bavaria, who settled here in 1839. In it, their rabbi urges the immigrants to remember their Jewish faith amidst the temptations of the New World.

To better understand the experience of those setting out for a new land, an interactive station allows a visitor to assume the identity of an immigrant, faced with numerous decisions and problems. Further along, exhibits show how schools and settlement houses enabled Americanization. Here, an interactive display challenges visitors to try to pass the citizenship test.

“Building a City” transports museum-goers to Cleveland at the turn of the 20th century. One side of the “street” looks back at the mom-and-pop shops that dotted the old Jewish neighborhoods. The other highlights Cleveland’s once-thriving garment district and pays tribute to Jewish-owned commercial firms like Forest City Enterprises, Rose Iron Works and American Greetings Corp., which all got their start here.

At the end of the street, “To Serve” focuses on the military experience of Jewish servicemen and women from the American Revolution to the war in Iraq.

A film loop shows a re-enactment of a seder held during the Civil War. Photos of soldiers appear on screen, narrated by excerpts from their poignant letters home. A Marine reservist who served in Iraq, Josh Mandel, also speaks.

Other multimedia exhibits highlight the last century of Jewish history. Dark events such as the Holocaust and the 1972 Munich Olympics massacre are covered, as is the creation of the State of Israel. Lighter trends are not ignored — in one section, a larger-than-life Superman bursts through a wall into the gallery, drawing attention to the story of the comic book superhero’s creation by local artists Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster. Even Jewish gangsters have their stories told.

The final area, “From Generation to Generation,” showcases Jewish achievements from 1950 to the present in science, medicine, business, industry, literature and the arts. Alongside photos of contemporary Jewish landmarks, filmed interviews address the question on of what it means to be a Jew today.

Off the main lobby is The Temple-Tifereth Israel Gallery, which showcases treasures drawn from the collection of The Temple Museum of Religious Art. The Temple’s collection includes ancient ritual objects, sacred books and scrolls from around the world, textiles dating from the 18th century, Holocaust art, Israeli stamps, paintings, lithographs and sculpture by renowned Jewish artists such as Marc Chagall, Jacques Lipschitz and Isidor Kaufmann.

While the museum has generated much initial excitement in the Cleveland Jewish community, its success will depend on drawing a wider audience and offering reasons for visitors to return. Maltz and Carole Zawatsky, the museum’s executive director, say they expect the museum to have regional appeal, drawing 45,000 to 75,000 visitors a year.

The changing exhibition space should be a magnet for repeat visits. The first of these temporary exhibits is “The Jewish Journey: Frederic Brenner’s Photographic Odyssey” which opens Nov. 12.

Just as he hopes people from other ethnic backgrounds will see some of their own stories reflected in the museum, Maltz also hopes they will want to use its open space to mount exhibits showcasing their own heritage.

Special events and ongoing activities will also bring people to the museum, said Zawatsky, who was formerly director of education at the Jewish Museum in New York. She and her staff have created a full schedule of activities for museum-goers of all ages.

“It’s wonderful to have this in our own backyard,” said Cleveland-area resident Ruth Mayers, who attended the Oct. 11 preview gala. “This will bring an understanding of our history to Jew and non-Jew alike; it is a gift to our children.”

For more information about The Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage, visit

Spectator – Scene of the Shot


In New York City of the 1930s and ’40s, Arthur “Weegee” Fellig often worked all night, shooting the latest murder, fire or urban melee with his Speed Graphic camera. An unshaven, fedora-wearing, tough-talking, cigar-smoking loner, Weegee renamed himself after the popular Ouija board game and shamelessly cultivated a reputation for his “psychic” ability to sniff out breaking news.

Although he became famous for graphic, sensationalist and emotionally raw photographs that simultaneously exaggerate and illuminate human folly, Weegee never forgot his Lower East Side roots as an immigrant Jew.

Currently on display at the Getty Center, “Scene of the Crime: Photo by Weegee” focuses on the photographer as tabloid journalist and New York City-style Toulouse-Lautrec — for his documenting of urban nightlife, particularly the clubs of Greenwich Village. But according to Judith Keller, the exhibit’s curator, Weegee also had an interest in “shooting synagogues, life-cycle celebrations and other scenes of Jewish life.” And like other secular, socialist-leaning Jews of his time, Weegee “was adamant about racial and social prejudice,” she said.

Born at the turn of the century in Austria, Weegee immigrated to New York with his family in 1910 and grew up in various cold-water tenements on the Lower East Side. His father eked out a living as a pushcart peddler and later, became a rabbi. A high school drop out, Weegee became interested in photography around age 15. An entrepreneur, he shot passport photos and children on rented ponies. He eventually found work in the darkroom labs of Acme Newspapers.

The Getty exhibit features some 60 photographs from 1937 to 1959. In the 1950 print “Tenement Sleeping,” a large man slumbers without covers on a fire escape, clearly seeking refuge from his sweltering digs. Weegee himself had spent many nights on fire escapes in cheap tenements. Mundane and almost peaceful, this photograph intriguingly stands out in a body of work that often emphasizes the dramatic and lurid.

“Scene of the Crime: Photo by Weegee,” is on display through Jan. 22 at the Getty Center, 1200 Getty Center Drive, Los Angeles (310) 440-7300 or visit www.getty.edu.

 

Rhodesli Keep the Faith in L.A.


As a student at Cal State Northridge more than 30 years ago, Aron Hasson wrote a paper about the Sephardic synagogues of his ancestral homeland, the Greek island of Rhodes. His professor was so taken with Hasson’s research that it ended up in a history journal.

Hasson paid his first visit to Rhodes in 1975, after a stint in an Israeli kibbutz. In 1997, he returned with his teenage children. Standing in the 400-year-old Kahal Shalom Synagogue, where three of his grandparents had once worshipped, he realized that the tourists who gaped at the Judeo-Spanish wall plaques had no knowledge of Rhodes’ rich and complex Jewish history.

Hasson’s first response was to create a pamphlet, “The Jewish Quarter of Rhodes,” for distribution in Kahal Shalom. Next he turned the synagogue’s women’s prayer rooms into the Rhodes Jewish Museum, in which old photographs and artifacts document the thriving Jewish community of pre-World War II Rhodes, once some 4,000 strong. Now, through his nonprofit Rhodes Jewish Historical Foundation, the Westwood attorney works toward the restoration of other old synagogues and holy sites that can be called “Rhodesli” (or “pertaining to Rhodes”). Hasson has also sponsored the visit of an 800-year-old Sefer Torah — which had long ago been carried from Spain to Rhodes before ending up in Buenos Aires — to Sephardic synagogues across the United States. Although not a religious man, he feels great pride when other Rhodeslis acknowledge his efforts with a heartfelt “Kol Ha Kavod.”

Hasson’s obsession with Rhodes mirrors that of an earlier generation of Angelenos. Cousins Art Benveniste and Shirlee Peha, now both in their 70s, remember growing up in South Los Angeles when the area was a magnet for Jews from Rhodes. Their immigrant parents and relatives, all of whom left the island before World War II to improve their economic prospects, spoke Ladino (also known as Judeo-Spanish) in the home. They helped found the Sephardic Hebrew Center, a Ladera Heights congregation that merged in 1993 with Sephardic Temple Tifereth Israel, as a way of preserving Rhodesli religious practices. They also instituted the custom of group visits to Catalina Island, whose location resembles that of Rhodes in relationship to Turkey.

“It was natural to them to take a boat across the water to an island nearby,” Hasson said of the immigrants,

By the time Benveniste and Peha reached adulthood, members of the close-knit community were starting to scatter. The annual Catalina trips, which currently attract about 40 of the 900 Rhodeslis now living in the L.A. area, could not fully satisfy their desire to meet and mingle. Since then, they’ve inaugurated regular luncheon gatherings at a local restaurant, and their yearly picnics bring together 200 people representing several generations: on the menu are all-American hot dogs and hamburgers, along with more exotic treats. Benveniste, who also participates in a Ladino-speaking havurah, has made numerous sentimental journeys to Rhodes. His last visit came in 2002, when a group of 20 Rhodeslis traveled from Los Angeles for the dedication of a Holocaust memorial in Rhodes’ Square of the Martyred Jews.

If Benveniste and Peha represent an older generation of Rhodeslis, Rachelle Hasson stands for the future.

At 21, Aron Hasson’s daughter feels increasingly connected to her roots. Having inherited from her Rhodesli grandparents a love for baking, she takes pride in the flaky bourekas, boyos and masas de vinou (Passover wine cookies) that have her family begging for more. In school she elected to study Spanish, because “in the back of my mind I always wanted to learn the language of my ancestors.”

Now, at UCLA majoring in world arts and cultures, she has just returned from a junior year in Spain. She chose the University of Granada partly because it offered courses touching on the Sephardic tradition. Since she’s come home, she delights in chatting with her grandparents in Ladino and said one day she will be the keeper of their memories of Rhodes: “I feel it’s my duty to continue the tradition and keep it alive.”

 

7 Days in The Arts


Saturday, October 1

Ditch the stuffy fundraising dinners in favor of two benefits this weekend that actually sound fun. Today’s “Hugs for Ari” is a carnival-style dinner-dance at the Santa Monica Pier. Huge auction prizes like tickets to Pearl Jam in Buenos Aires, plus roaming magicians and clowns and free rides on the giant carousel make the event adult and kid-friendly, all while helping the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. (See Sunday’s listing for our other benefit “pick.”)

6:30 p.m. $125 (adults), $50 (children). Santa Monica Pier Carousel, Santa Monica. R.S.V.P., (323) 655-8525.

Sunday, October 2

The Los Angeles Conservancy makes the bold attempt of “turning Los Angeles into a living museum,” starting today with “Curating the City: Wilshire Boulevard.” The one-day, self-guided architectural tour of L.A.’s historic street includes docent-led tour sites along the route, including one at Wilshire Boulevard Temple.

$12.50-$35. (213) 623-2849. ” width=”15″ height=”1″ alt=””>

Monday, October 3

A timely CD for the High Holidays recently released by the Milken Archive of American Jewish Music is an all-Leonard Bernstein recording of “Kaddish, Symphony No. 3,” a deeply personal and reflective work that is the last version of several Bernstein rewrote over the years, and “Chichester Psalms,” a setting of Psalm texts performed by chorus, boy soloist and orchestra.

$5.99. ” width=”15″ height=”1″ alt=””>

Tuesday, October 4

Your favorite red-headed “hard-knock life” orphan returns to Los Angeles for just two weeks beginning tonight. “Annie” runs through Oct. 16 at the Pantages, starring the miraculously still ticking and working Mackenzie Phillips as Lily St. Regis. The show also features a new song by original songwriters Martin Charnin and Charles Strouse, “Why Should I Change a Thing?”

$25-$68. 6233 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles. (213) 365-3500.

Wednesday, October 5

For those who never quite got what all the fuss was about with classical music, Robert Kapilow is here to answer, “What Makes It Great?” Hallowed for his Leonard Bernstein-esque ability to make classical music accessible to the masses, Kapilow dissects Mozart this evening at the Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts, with the help of the New Hollywood String Quartet.

7:30 p.m. $18. 12700 Center Court Drive, Cerritos. (562) 916-8510. ” width=”15″ height=”1″ alt=””>

Thursday, October 6

Jew and Latino find a meeting place at the Casa del Mexicano, a Boyle Heights synagogue-cum-Latino community center, thanks to Collage Dance Theatre’s latest production, “The Entire World Is a Narrow Bridge.” The site-specific dance performance explores the history of the Boyle Heights neighborhood.

$40. Oct. 6-9, and 21-23. ” width=”15″ height=”1″ alt=””>

Friday, October 7

Her name is Allois+. (Yep, there’s a plus sign in there.) And as intriguing as the plus sign, for which we’ve been given no explanation, is her art, for which we have. To quote the quixotic artist on her figurative paintings, “Painting is like breathing to me, an escape from reality to my own private world. I imagine this world like a small submarine, my Nautilus, where I am captain. I stake everything on the unusual and on surpassing the real,…” “Allois, Works on Metal, Canvas and Paper” runs through Oct. 15 at Lev Moross Gallery.

962 N. La Brea Ave., Los Angeles. (323) 512-0151.

A Picture of Hate


Quite possibly the curators missed it entirely. Or maybe they noticed it, and included it without comment as a quiet reminder that we, and they, are perhaps not entirely different after all.

I always try to go to Mass on the anniversary of my mother’s untimely death 26 long years ago. But this year I decided to do something different. I attended the “Liberation!” exhibit at the Museum of Tolerance — photos and objects and footage from the moments in the spring of 1945 when the doors of the Nazi concentration camps were thrown open to the world, and when those few remaining within were set free.

I was immediately drawn to a photograph of a couple dozen dazzling young Jewish women … in prison stripes, in Bergen-Belsen, liberated by the British on April 15. I did some quick arithmetic, and concluded that my mother had been a dazzling young Irish Catholic woman in Brooklyn on that day, busily tormenting the young Irish Catholic men of Brooklyn who hadn’t yet been sent off to war. Most of the young women in this photo, I suspected, had only been in the camps a short while — they looked too healthy, too well-fed, too unbowed to have been there very long. And all were flashing the most glorious, breathtaking, resplendent smiles — saved, miraculously, from certain and immediate doom. Now, suddenly, they had decades not hours of life ahead; their fates were so different from the unfortunate Anne Frank and her sister, Margot, murdered in this very charnel house only a few weeks earlier.

I poked around the exhibit, looking at letters home from liberators, a huge Nazi flag autographed by American soldiers, photos of Gens. Eisenhower and Bradley and Patton — all rather pale and sickly as they toured the Ohrdruf camp on April 12, 1945 (the day Franklin Roosevelt died).

I moved on to a set of nine pages from one soldier’s personal photo album, delicately laid out inside a glass case, taken by “a U.S. Army medical officer” at the Gusen and Ebensee camps. Somehow these seemed more real than the official historical photographs enlarged on the walls — pictures snapped by an ordinary GI with a cheap camera who happened to be in the presence of history.

The medical officer clearly had sympathy for victims of Nazi cruelty. “A very pathetic case,” he wrote. “A 24-year-old German lad [half-Jewish] died of tuberculosis.” “A previously wealthy Hungarian businessman — gone berserk in concentration camp.”

My eyes moved on to four U.S. soldiers posing side by side — hale, hearty, on the side of the righteous and embarked on the adventure of a lifetime.

Then, suddenly, I stopped. I wasn’t sure I had seen what I thought I had just seen. I rubbed my eyes. I looked again.

The medical officer’s caption read: “Abe — Myself — Nigger — Stanislaus.”

I peered more closely at the tiny snapshot. Indeed, the third soldier from the left did appear to be African American. An African American, apparently for the medical officer, with no name. An African American, apparently for the medical officer, who was not so much a man as a thing. An African American, apparently for the medical officer, whose primary characteristic was not his individual identity, but his racial origin.

Why could this man so plainly see the Nazis for what they were, yet so utterly miss the roots of the same attitudes in his own heart? How could he be so eager to remove the log from his brother’s eye, yet be so oblivious to the speck in his own eye? And shouldn’t this stunning incongruity cause us to ask ourselves whether we, in other times and other places, might find ourselves lured down a similar road?

The late American diplomat and historian George F. Kennan, posted to Moscow in 1944 and watching a long column of haggard, hungry and humiliated German POWs on forced march through Red Square, felt compassion for the young captives (likely destined to starve to death in Soviet camps) and observed that “they are no more responsible for the accident of birth that brought them to this place than are the young Russians who fight against them.”

What if I’d been born in Dresden in 1920, rather than in Detroit some decades later? By 1937 I would have been young, impressionable and desperate to prove my manhood. Hitler would have whispered to me that I was the vanguard of a master race. He would have implored me to eradicate the subhuman elements from our superior civilization. He would have demanded that the humiliations suffered by the fathers in 1918 now be avenged by the sons.

Would I have been able to view what was going on from the perspective of some detached, universal morality? Or would I instead have devoured the führer’s demagoguery, fallen under his spell … and found myself seven or eight years later sporting an SS Death’s Head insignia, and shoving a pregnant teenage Jewish girl that I myself had raped into a cage filled with ravenous dogs?

I’d very much like to believe that had I been born at that place at that time, I would have mustered the courage to at least ask some hard questions of Hitler’s foul henchmen before joining them on their one-way excursion to the gates of hell.

But I really don’t know.

Do you?

Tad Daley (tad@daleyplanet.org), issues director for the 2004 presidential campaign of Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio), is now peace and disarmament fellow in the Los Angeles office of Physicians for Social Responsibility, the Nobel Laureate anti-nuclear organization.

 

Wiesenthal’s Work Beyond Words


Simon Wiesenthal devoted his life to tracking down Nazi war criminals, and his life and that effort unfold in a new exhibit at Los Angeles’ Museum of Tolerance.

Wiesenthal died last week at 96 at his home in Vienna, and this exhibit was quickly but lovingly put together at the museum, which is part of the L.A.-based Simon Wiesenthal Center. The center, though named for Wiesenthal, was not founded nor run by him. Yet there’s an indelible connection between the center’s work and Wiesenthal’s own mission — and he donated many personal effects to the museum.

The exhibit’s powerful collection of photographs, awards and artifacts is a virtual walk through history with Wiesenthal, seemingly, as your personal guide. There are his personal pencil sketches of the camp as well as photos and handwritten notes.

One photo is of an American flag, fashioned by the prisoners from scraps of clothing, before American soldiers liberated the camps. The flag contains 56 stars because the prisoners were unsure how many states were in the United States.

“They handed the flag to the American soldiers when they walked into the camps as a gift for setting them free,” exhibit curator Eric Saul said.

Wiesenthal and his wife, Cyla, were among the camp survivors, though they lost dozens of family members. By the end of the war, the couple had been forcibly separated, and each believed the other was dead. The exhibit’s treasures include notes written by Wiesenthal and his wife after the war, but before they were reunited. There’s also archival material from each of their childhoods. Cyla died in 2003.

Wiesenthal, who was barely alive when liberated, began his Nazi-hunting quest as soon as his health permitted. He first began the process of gathering and preparing evidence on Nazi atrocities for the War Crimes Section of the U.S. Army. He worked for the Army’s Office of Strategic Services and Counter-Intelligence Corps and headed the Jewish Central Committee of the U.S. Zone of Austria, a relief and welfare organization.

As the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union intensified, both sides lost interest in prosecuting Germans, and Wiesenthal’s volunteers, succumbing to frustration, drifted away to more ordinary pursuits. In 1954, the office in Linz was closed and its files were given to the Yad Vashem Archives in Israel, except for the dossier on Adolf Eichmann, who, as chief of the Gestapo’s Jewish Department, had supervised the implementation of the “Final Solution.”

Wiesenthal never gave up on tracking down Eichmann or others, determined that the world wouldn’t forget those who died. He worked out of a small office in his home using telephone books to track down war criminals, many of whom hadn’t even bothered to change their names after the war.

According to Museum of Tolerance Director Liebe Geft, when Wiesenthal found a Nazi criminal — and no one would pursue the suspect — he would hold a press conference to shame the world into it.

His efforts paid off in the apprehension of some 1,100 war criminals. Through Wiesenthal’s work, Israeli agents eventually captured Eichmann and brought him to Israel to stand trial. He was ultimately convicted and executed. The exhibit includes a rogue’s gallery of the war criminals he helped to expose and bring to justice.

Wiesenthal wanted everything to proceed according to law. He opposed the hit squads formed by some survivors who sought to kill Nazis after the war.

“He didn’t believe that was right,” exhibit curator Saul said. “He believed becoming murderers wasn’t the answer, but bringing them to trial would better serve the memories of the dead.”

Saul recalled Wiesenthal’s explanation that he was out for justice rather than revenge, and an assurance the world would never forget: “Wiesenthal would often say, ‘Every day is remembrance day for me.'”

A refusal to bequeath collective guilt on the entire German nation made Wiesenthal a popular speaker among German youth.

The exhibit, Geft said, is a poignant reminder of a time the world would have chosen to forget, if not for Wiesenthal and a few others.

According to Saul, although Wiesenthal only achieved a 10 percent success rate on convictions, he was not daunted. It was all about the process of justice for him.

“When people view this exhibit, they should realize that not all, but a little justice was done,” Saul said.

Wiesenthal refused a salary for his work and lived instead off royalties from his books.

The 12 books he authored are displayed, along with honorary diplomas and certificates from various universities. Numerous magazine articles chronicling his work are prominent throughout the exhibit.

He was as little concerned with honors as with money. Saul recalled visiting Wiesenthal’s home and finding that he kept his medals and awards under his bed, collecting dust.

“He was however, proud of his distinguished award from the Polish government, the highest they could bestow on a citizen. It meant something to him because Poland was his homeland,” Saul said.

Some of these medals also are shown in the exhibit.

Not everyone was a fan. On display, among the letters from dignitaries and admirers, is hate mail. At least twice, bombs were placed at his doorstep.

The exhibit also portrays a private side of Wiesenthal, including his stamp collection. But this hobby found its way into his work.

“It was the stamp collecting that led him to Eichmann when he realized he could track war criminals through postmarks,” Saul said.

Geft said she hopes to create a permanent Wiesenthal exhibit as part of the Museum of Tolerance.

“Maybe some child will visit this exhibit and step forward to become another Simon Wiesenthal,” Geft said. “We encourage everyone to come and sign the book and write a message to keep his work and the memory alive.”

Saul said Wiesenthal once told him, “When I go to heaven and they ask what I did on earth, some will say ‘baker, laborer, doctor.’ I will say, ‘I never forgot you’ to the 6 million I will meet there.”

But the photos and archives also underscore Wiesenthal’s service to future generations. He once said, “The only value of nearly five decades of my work is a warning to the murderers of tomorrow, that they will never rest.”

Simon Wiesenthal Exhibit at the Museum of Tolerance, 9786 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles. Free with museum admission. For more information, call (310) 553-9036 or visit

Circuit


Cardinelli Couture Shines

Fashionistas noticeably gasped as each model paraded down the runway recently at the incredibly perfect United Hostesses’ Charities luncheon at the Beverly Hills Hotel. The annual fundraiser for the cardiac unit at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center featured a spectacular fashion show of vintage designs from Marilyn Lewis, who worked under the name Cardinelli. Lewis’ new book, “Marilyn, Are You Sure You Can Cook? He Asked,” is a memoir of her illustrious career when everyone from Nancy Reagan to Marlo Thomas donned her exquisite creations; Thomas even selected Lewis as her designer for her classic “That Girl” television series.

Each design was more beautiful than the one before and the sighs were audible as it became more and more apparent Lewis was eons ahead of her time as the styles reflected the au courant look of fashion today. Sumptuous fabrics, silks and drop-dead designs only brought home her incredible genius.

Fashion icon and Giorgio owner Fred Hayman, who featured Lewis’ sportswear in his chic Rodeo Drive Giorgio boutique, sang her praises.

“She is a timeless and magnificent designer of couture whose designs have passed the test of time and are still relevant and exquisite today,” Hayman said.

The room, decorated to perfection by floral designer Yonelli, was the ideal backdrop for the stunning runway show.

United Hostesses President Marilyn Gilfanbain, unfortunately under the weather, nevertheless outdid herself this year, and everyone turned out to enjoy this wonderful effort including Nancy Sinatra, Eva Marie Saint, Simone Friedman, Michelle Kaye and former Beverly Hills Mayor Donna Garber.

Glickman’s Pix at UCLA

The Dortort Center for Creativity in the Arts at UCLA Hillel held a reception to celebrate the opening of Judy Ellis Glickman’s photography exhibit titled “Resistance and Rescue in Denmark.”

The event featured Dr. David Myers, professor of Jewish history and director of the UCLA Center for Jewish Studies.

The exhibition, sponsored in part by the Royal Danish Embassy in Washington, D.C., the German Consulate General in Los Angeles and Villa Aurora, features Glickman, whose photography has been an integral part of her life since early childhood. Her father, Irving Bennet Ellis, was a recognized early California pictorialist photographer of the 1930s and 1940s. Glickman has been photographing and exhibiting extensively since the late 1070s. Her work has been shown in over 100 exhibitions nationally and internationally since 1992. In January 1993, Judy Ellis Glickman was honored as a fellow of the Royal Photographic Society of Great Britain, the highest honor bestowed by this prestigious organization.

The show will run through June 30 at UCLA Hillel, located at 574 Hilgard Avenue. For more information, call (310) 208-3081, ext. 125.

New Young Professionals

A new nonprofit for young professionals held its inaugural soiree May 14 at a private estate in Beverly Hills and raised $40,000 for three Jewish charities.

The Society of Young Philanthropists (SYP), an organization that targets professionals between 21 and 40, attracted 475 revelers to its fundraiser gala. Guests made a minimum donation of $150 a ticket to feast on sushi and other delicacies, quaff their thirst at an open bar and take in the Latin beats of The Gypsy Boys and the sounds of indie rockers Paramount. A DJ spun hip-hop and dance beats until 5 a.m.

“We definitely met our expectations,” said SYP founder and president Elishia Shokrian, a recent graduate from Cornell’s Hotel School who now works at Califco Inc., a real estate development and management company in Beverly Hills.

Although not a Jewish organization, all 22 of The Society of Young

Philanthropists’ current founding committee are Jews, including some Israelis, said Jessica Kimiabakhsh, media relations director. Leveraging their personal and professional networks for financial and other support, the group chose to donate the proceeds from its first event to three Jewish causes: Magbit Foundation, which provides interest-free loans mostly to Israeli university students; IMA Foundation, a nonprofit that gives money to poor Israelis and for relief efforts; and Beit T’Shuvah, a rehabiliation center for Jewish ex-criminals and addicts. Future beneficiaries of the SYP’s largesse could include other Jewish charities as well cancer research, orphanages and tolerance education.

Going forward, the SYP plans to hold equally high-profile, trendy and enjoyable fundraisers. Among the ideas under consideration is a battle of unsigned bands or a fashion show, Kimiabakhsh said.

“We want to create really fun and appealing events. Young people already spend so much money on entertainment, and it just makes sense to raise money for important causes at the same time.,” Kimiabakhsh said. “We feel that is the best way to motivate this age group.” – Marc Ballon, Senior Writer

A Tribute to Tolerance

The Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Museum of Tolerance held its annual National Tribute Dinner at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on May 4. The evening honored Bob Wright, chairman and chief executive officer of NBC Universal and vice chairman and executive officer of General Electric. Wright was presented with the center’s highest honor, its Humanitarian Award, for his lifelong dedication and commitment to philanthropic efforts.

“The Tonight Show” host Jay Leno served as master of ceremonies, Academy Award-winner Jamie Foxx provided the entertainment for the evening and “NBC Nightly News” anchor Brian Williams delivered tribute remarks to Wright. Chairmen for this year’s dinner were Universal Studios President Ron Meyer, DreamWorks SKG’s Jeffrey Katzenberg and NBC Universal Television Chairman Jeff Zucker.

The Wiesenthal Center also presented Medals of Valor for individual acts of heroism, which included Pastor Carl Wilkens, who remained behind after the forced evacuation of Americans from Rwanda, and is responsible for saving hundreds of lives; Devorah Schramm, an Israeli woman, who transcended the bitter divide of the Middle East conflict to teach music to a blind, autistic Palestinian girl; the untold story of a young Jewish lieutenant, Jerome Shapiro, who arrested Hitler’s second in command, Hermann Goering (the last surviving member of the platoon, Alfred Frye, accepted the medal); and Japanese American veterans of World War II who, as members of the most decorated unit in the history of the Army – themselves victims of discrimination in the U.S. – liberated the Dachau concentration camp death march.

Museum of Tolerance board of trustees chair Larry Mizel thanked the entertainment community for its support at the dinner, which raised $1.5 million.

Bicyclists Raise Funds

Five men from Southern California took part in Riding4Reform, a five-day, 300-mile bike ride through the Negev to Jerusalem, raising more than $40,000 in funds for the Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism, the Reform movement in Israel.

Howard Kaplan, executive director of Wilshire Boulevard Temple, Los Angeles; Cantor Evan Kent, Temple Isaiah, Los Angeles; Charlie Niederman, president of Temple Beth David, Westminster; Mickey Rosen, Los Angeles; and Rabbi Ron Stern, Stephen S. Wise Temple, Los Angeles, were joined by 25 other riders from the United States, Canada and Israel. Together they made the trek from Reform Kibbutz Yahel to Jerusalem, stopping to visit with other Progressive communities in Ashkelon, Modi’in, and Tzur Hadassah along the way. Rabbi Ron Stern decribed the ride as “a terrific trip-by far one of my best experiences in Israel.”

The Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism oversees 25 Reform congregations, 46 preschools, the Noar Telem youth movement, the Young Adult Leadership Forum and the Mechina post-high school/pre-military leadership program in Israel.

For more information, call Mandy Eisner at (818) 907-8740, ext. 28, or e-mail meisner@urj.org.

Magbit Celebrates Israel

More than 500 guests, including local and state government officials and Iranian Jewish leaders, celebrated Israel’s 57th Independence Day at Magbit Foundation’s annual gala event held at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on May 22.

Beverly Hills City Councilmember and outgoing Magbit President Jimmy Delshad welcomed some of the evening’s guests, which included L.A. County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, Beverly Hills Vice-Mayor Steve Webb and California State Assemblymember Paul Koretz. Newly installed Israeli Consul General Ehud Danoch praised the Magbit’s directors and contributors for having provided nearly $5 million in interest-free loans to Israeli university students in the last 16 years.

“Over the years, Magbit has given a new hope to the students of Israel that would otherwise not had a chance to receive an education,” he said.

The event’s keynote speaker, Walid Shoebat, a former Palestinian Jihadist turned Christian Zionist, surprised those in attendance with his inspiring tale of leaving the hate-filled environment of the Palestinian Authority and speaking internationally in support of Israel. Guests at the event also enjoyed the performance of up-and-coming pianist William Joseph and award-winning Israeli magician Amos Levkovitch. – Karmel Melamed, Contributing Writer

 

Letters to the Editor


Jewish Festivals of Yore

Rob Eshman does not have to apologize for sounding like a cranky old-timer in his lament about the Jewish festivals of yore (“A Bigger Sunday,” May 27). Much has changed since I participated in the Rancho Park festivities with my children. If attendance at the Woodley Park festival was 90 percent Israeli, many in Los Angeles must share the belief that Israel today may not represent the Diaspora view of Jewish values or Judaism itself.

The actions of the Israeli state suggest a people marching to a different drummer than the communal spectrum of the ’70s and ’80s that gathered at Rancho Park.

Martin Wallen
Bethesda, Md.

Many thanks for the nice mention of Big Sunday in your recent editorial.

Big Sunday is a volunteer day whose mission is to bring diverse people together from all walks of life, all over the city. As such, finding a date that is convenient for everyone is like walking a minefield. Big Sunday is always on a Sunday in the spring, and once you eliminate Passover, Easter, school breaks and Mother’s Day, the pickings are slim. One year we finally found a date, only to discover it was Greek Orthodox Easter. (Who knew?) This year we overlapped not only with the Israeli Festival, but with the NoHo Arts Fair, as well – and we happily sent volunteers to help out at both.

At Big Sunday our goal is to celebrate inclusiveness. Please tell your readers that any or all of them (and their congregations, schools, clubs and offices) are welcome to join us next May 7 for Big Sunday 2006.

David T. Levinson
Chairman
Big Sunday

As one of those cranky old-timers, I read, with nostalgia and great sadness, your description of the present-day festival. I’m afraid that the community of the ’70s and ’80s may be irretrievably gone. The Solidarity Walk of yore was organized and operated by The Federation as a communitywide event – not Israeli, Russian, Sephardic or any other single group – nor did we secularize it with “Mitzvah” programs on that day. We had and have other days for those programs.

It was truly an inclusive Jewish community day, demonstrating our solidarity with Israel and as a Jewish people. Organizationally, the only competition among ourselves was to vie for the honor of having more people participate, be they from the country clubs, the Jewish day schools, or from each and every synagogue in the city. The 30,000-50,000 people who participated – whether walking the 18 km, organizing the event, singing or dancing in the park ’til dusk, working the booths – all felt a sense of the total community that unfortunately doesn’t prevail today.

You raised an issue that is, I believe, a sad manifestation of what our community has and is evolving to. Your plaintive hope that the future generations will somehow change this situation is, I feel, misplaced.

I feel the loss that you have articulated. Somehow, that sense of community must be recaptured. It does not exist today. What should we be doing about it and whose responsibility should it be to act? It won’t happen by a laissez-faire approach, and that seems to be the present status quo.

Ozzie Goren
Los Angeles

Reform’s Reforms

I cannot speak for all Reform Jews, but I love the feeling of pluralism (“Reform’s Reforms,” May 20). If congregants choose to worship with us garbed in head-to-toe tallit, wearing tefillin and are comfortable sitting next to me with my bare, bald head, and having a young woman in a mini-skirt on the other side, they are more than welcome. Our temple, in the Conejo Valley, had a beautiful standing-room-only community prayer service after Sept. 11. Clergy and local residents representing every race, color and creed, sang, hugged and wept together. I have no problem if fellow congregants, or our rabbis, choose to become more halachic as long as there is no impact on my personal Jewish lifestyle or beliefs. That’s the beauty of Reform Judaism.

Martin J. Weisman
Westlake Village

Cantorial Correction

Thank you for the wonderful article highlighting how far the Academy for Jewish Religion (AJR) has come in just a few short years (“Student Rabbis, Cantors Take Next Step,” May 20). The article and accompanying photo do, however, merit a clarification and correction. In addition to the nontraditional roles noted, our graduates are also becoming congregational clergy. Indeed, of our 2005 ordinees, five out of seven will be serving in synagogues, in California as well as Arizona and Iowa. In addition, five of our eight past ordinees are also serving as congregational rabbis and cantors. Finally, the accompanying picture stated that it was of the “AJR rabbinical ordinees.” In fact, Paul Buch and Phillip Baron are being ordained as cantors.

Everyone associated with AJR has worked very hard to make the accomplishments noted in the article possible and we appreciate The Journal’s recognition of those efforts.

Rabbi Stan Levy
Chair, Board of Governors
Academy for Jewish Religion Los Angeles

Reform’s Reforms

Perhaps Micha Odenheimer of Ha’aretz has an excuse, but your editors have none. The principal architect and driving force behind the Pittsburgh Statement is our own community’s Rabbi Richard Levy, then president of the [Central Conference of American Rabbis]. That was itself a tribute to his stature within the movement as he was then neither a congregational rabbi nor a full-time teaching one, but instead the long-time executive director of the Los Angeles Hillel Council. He is a major influence on the movement’s return to tradition, not to mention author/editor of several of its prayer books, which reintroduced Hebrew to the liturgy. Your failure to acknowledge Levy’s contributions in print is unforgivable.

Immanuel I. Spira
Los Angeles

Yip Is a Yid

Whatever her credentials may be, Jacqueline Bassan, author of the letter on May 27 denying Yip Harburg’s Jewishness, is simply wrong. Yip Harburg was born Isadore (or Isidore) Hochberg in New York City (Letters, May 27). His work is repeatedly referenced in “Funny, It Doesn’t Sound Jewish: How Yiddish Songs and Synagogue Melodies Influenced Tin Pan Alley, Broadway, and Hollywood” by Jack Gottlieb (State University of New York Press, 2004).

Eric A. Gordon
author,
“Mark the Music: The Life and Work of Marc Blitzstein”

Given his passionate and quintessentially Jewish concern for the underclass, not to mention his literary genius, I confess I would have been crestfallen to read that E.Y. “Yip” Harburg was of some other persuasion, had I not known better. In fact, he was a product of both Russian Jewish immigrants and the Lower East Side. I’m quite sure the Christian lyricist the writer had in mind was Johnny Mercer, one of the very few non-Jewish songwriting giants of that era.

Mark Ellman
Los Angeles

Lost Parking, Lost Temper

On my return to my car after attending the Israel Independence Day celebration in Woodley Park, I could not help but notice on the other side of the street a young man wearing a kippah in his early 30s arguing with another young man of similar age about a parking spot (“L.A.’s Big Sunday,” May 20).

He was so enraged, this young man wearing the kippah, he couldn’t let it go. Soon some people passing by saw what was going on and tried to extricate the two men from a soon-to-be fist fight or worse. The young man wearing the kippah had left his young wife with a baby in tow and kept going back and forth to the man that aced him out of a parking spot. The anger was so evident you couldn’t help but notice. I feel sorry for this observant young man; he obviously had a problem that it ticked him off so bad. I’m sure this is what the media calls “road rage.” But still, how can you ruin a lovely Sunday afternoon for yourself and your little family all over a lost parking spot? How will we ever achieve peace in the Middle East if young men here fight over a parking spot on Israel’s Independence Day?!

Jacqueline Bereskin
Calabasas

Platform for Extremist

Why are Jews so self-destructive? In response to an ad in The Jewish Journal, I attended a forum run by UCLA Center for Jewish Studies on May 22 (“Is Israel Jewish, Democratic, and Western? And What Should It Be?” May 20).

One of the three speakers was Israeli Arab Nadim Rouhana, who rejects Israel’s right to exist. That he’s not tried for treason is proof that Israel is indeed “liberal, democratic and western.” The question I have for the UCLA Center for Jewish Studies is why provide a platform to this extremist so he can reach impressionable students and Jewish Angelinos? Surely there are other Israeli Arabs with whom a rational dialog is possible. Why buy the bullets for someone who wants to kill you?

Harriet P. Epstein
Santa Monica

Stand With Sudan Refugees

Almost four years ago, Roz Rothstein, executive director of StandWithUs, and I brought out Francis Bok, a Sudanese slave who escaped after 10 years of being held in captivity to speak in Los Angeles prior to Pesach 2002 (“We Must Work to Free Today’s Slaves,” April 9).

We made calls not only to synagogues and Jewish schools, but to many African American Churches to hear the horrific account of what happened to him as a 7 year old when he lost his entire family and became a slave for the next 10 years. His account of violence and slavery was not unusual and continues to happen to his people, the Dinka tribe, and the people of Darfur.

Four years ago, we were sadly met with a strange sense of indifference by the First AME Church where the Pastor Cecil Murray asked us, “Why should blacks in America care about slaves in Africa when we are still slaves here?” Although Murray did have Bok tell his story at the First AME, only about 150 of more than 400 members were interested enough to show up and listen.

To their credit, Francis was welcomed at UCLA, B’nai David, Beth Am and Stephen S. Wise to tell his tragic story. The most touching and heartwarming event was when Bok spoke to the Stephen S. Wise eighth-grade classes, which had been studying and doing a project on Sudan over the year. They welcomed him as if he was a rock star! This class had more knowledge of what was going on than their adult counterparts, and the Stephan S. Wise administration is to be congratulated for that.

Every year after that, Roz and I tried to again bring this issue to the Jews in Los Angels and were met with very little interest. More than 2 million human beings have died, and we are happy to see Los Angeles waking up. We need to show support and hope that this urgent message is brought to the attention of thousands if not millions of Jews. Jews can certainly identify with slavery and genocide and should play an active role in helping to stop this horrific atrocity. It is never too late to step up to the plate.

Allyson Rowen Taylor
Associate Director
American Jewish Congress

Throw Book at Quran Flushers

Rob Eshman’s article makes good sense in reporting on religious stories; writer treat them sensitively (“Articles of Faith,” May 20).

I take exception to his questioning Newsweek’s story on the flushing of the Quran. They do indicate it was done by American interrogators. They are the guilty parties and need be tried by a military court.

Hyman Haves
Pacific Palisades

Another Jewish D.C. Museum

Most visitors to Washington, D.C., are aware of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum (“Learn to Remember,” April 29). Yet for Jewish visitors there is a little-known museum that should also be seen: the National Museum of American Jewish Military History at 1811 R St. N.W. (free admission). Exhibits include a section on Jewish military involvement in the liberation of the concentration camps and a section on Jewish women in the military.

Phyllis Zimbler Miller
Los Angeles

 

Jewish Split Marks Armenian Genocide


 

In the cemetery of the 1,500-year-old Armenian Quarter in the Old City of Jerusalem there rises a memorial to genocide — the Armenian genocide. This horror set the stage for the Jewish Holocaust, but as a human calamity, it also stands alone.

George Hintlian, a 58-year-old Armenian historian, grew up in the quarter. He’s interviewed hundreds of exiled survivors; two are left in the quarter, he said, the oldest, is a 100-year-old woman.

“My grandfather and uncle were killed in the genocide, and so were many other members of my family,” Hintlian said.

His friends include Hebrew University professors who attend the quarter’s genocide memorial ceremony each year. They’ll be hosting a memorial conference at the university later this month, but such attention is the exception rather than the rule.

Armenians “would expect a natural alliance [with Israelis and Jews], or at least empathy,” Hintlian said. “But in the end, a kind of indifference has set in.”

There’s always been a strong Jewish angle to the story of the Armenian genocide, whose 90th anniversary is commemorated this weekend. At the beginning, Jews numbered disproportionately among those who called attention to the atrocities, among those who tried to provoke the conscience of the world.

Then, in the nine decades after, Jewish intellectuals and scholars worked to expose and commemorate this brutal episode — out of a sense of decency, of historical accuracy and also with an understanding that genocides are not a Jewish phenomenon alone, and that the tragedy of a single people is a tragedy also for all humanity.

But there’s been another quite different strain of Jewish reaction to the Armenian genocide. American and Israeli Jews also have been prominent among those who refuse to define the slaughter of more than 1 million Armenians as genocide. They refuse to blame the Turkish regime of old for the crime — largely out of respect for Turkey’s long history of protecting Jews and out of deference to the current pro-Israel Turkish government.

Turkish governments for more than 80 years have denied that any genocide took place, claiming instead that a war was on and Armenians weren’t its only victims. This view holds that Turks weren’t responsible for Armenian suffering then and certainly are not now. In its public relations battle vs. Armenians, Turkey has had no greater ally than Israeli governments and elements of the U.S. Jewish establishment, notably the American Jewish Committee.

The official Israeli line, stated most authoritatively in 2001 by then-Foreign Minister Shimon Peres on the eve of a state visit to Turkey, is that what happened to the Armenians “is a matter for historians to decide.”

Peres didn’t stop there. Speaking to a Turkish newspaper, Peres said, “We reject attempts to create a similarity between the Holocaust and the Armenian allegations.”

Hebrew University professor emeritus Yehuda Bauer, Israel’s leading Holocaust scholar, minces no words: “Frankly, I’m pretty disgusted. I think that my government preferred economic and political relations with Turkey to the truth. I can understand why they did it, but I don’t agree with it.”

Witness to History

Henry Morganthau, the U.S. ambassador to Turkey through the first half of World War I, was an early, crucial witnesses to the Ottoman Turks’ slaughter of 1 million-1.5 million Armenians, and the permanent exile of approximately 1 million more from 1915 to 1916.

In a cable to the U.S. State Department, Morganthau wrote: “Deportation of and excesses against peaceful Armenians is increasing, and from harrowing reports of eyewitnesses it appears that a campaign of race extermination is in progress under a pretext of reprisal against rebellion.”

Morganthau, one of a few Jews then in U.S. government service, also wrote that the “persecution of Armenians is assuming unprecedented proportions. Reports from widely scattered districts indicate a systematic attempt to uproot peaceful Armenian populations and … arbitrary efforts, terrible tortures, wholesale expulsions and deportations from one end of the empire to the other, accompanied by frequent instances of rape, pillage and murder, turning into massacre, to bring destruction and destitution on them.”

Years later, Prague-born Jewish author Franz Werfel immortalized the scattered, desperate Armenian acts of resistance against Ottoman marauders in his classic 1933 novel, “The Forty Days of Musa Dagh.” Today, numerous Jewish Holocaust scholars, including Elie Wiesel, Deborah Lipstadt, Daniel Goldhagen, Raul Hilberg and Bauer, are among the most prominent voices calling for recognition of the Armenian genocide and Turkish historic responsibility for it.

The forces that carried out the killing included Kurds and Circassians, as well as Turks, Bauer said, but the decision-making leaders behind the onslaught were the Turkish rulers of the Ottoman Empire.

“There’s no doubt about it whatsoever — it’s absolutely clear,” said Bauer, citing “thousands” of testimonials from U.S. consuls, missionaries, social workers, nurses, doctors and businessmen present at the time, as well as thousands more from Austrian and German officials who were there. The various sources tell “the same story, and they were completely independent of each other,” Bauer said.

Decades of Denial

A post-World War I Ottoman Turk government convicted and executed many perpetrators of the Armenian massacre, Bauer added, but the Turkish leadership that overthrew that post-war government, and every Turkish regime since, has denied the genocide.

“Many of these denials say, ‘Yes, there was terrible suffering on both sides, the Turkish vs. the Armenian, these things happen in war,'” Bauer said. “But that’s nonsense. This was a definite, planned attack on a civilian minority, and whatever Armenian resistance there was came in response to the imminent danger of mass murder.”

The Turkish version has sympathizers among university historians, including UCLA’s Stanford Shaw, University of Louisville’s Justin McCarthy and Princeton’s Bernard Lewis, but they are a distinct minority.

Israel’s reaction to the Armenian genocide has become an academic focus of Israeli Open University professor Yair Auron. His books include “The Banality of Denial: Israel and the Armenian Genocide.” Israel’s Education Ministry blocked his 1990s attempt to introduce the Armenian genocide and other genocides into Israeli schools out of concern for “objectivity.”

Auron contends that the Israeli government’s abetting of Turkey’s denial is not only a “moral disgrace,” it also “hurts the legacy and heritage of the Holocaust. When we help a country deny the genocide of its predecessor, we also help the deniers of the Holocaust, because they watch what’s happening. They see that in this cynical world, if you invest persistent efforts in denial, then denial, to some extent at least, succeeds.”

But Jewish and Israeli silence is about more than a misguided attempt to preserve the Holocaust’s “uniqueness.” There’s also the pragmatic issue of Israel’s all-important military, economic and political relations with Turkey. Israeli Foreign Ministry sources, who insisted on anonymity, characterized the official Israeli approach to the Armenian genocide as “Practical, realpolitik”

Repeated requests to the Turkish Embassy in Tel Aviv for an interview went unanswered. But Turkey remains a major customer of Israel’s defense industries, and the two countries share considerable military and anti-terrorism expertise. Turkey also stands as a bulwark of moderate Islam in the Middle East, a vital regional site of U.S. and NATO military bases, as well as an ally of America and an enemy of Iran and Syria.

Then there’s Turkey’s historical treatment of Jews, beginning with the Spanish Inquisition more than 500 years ago, when it provided a safe haven for Jewish refugees fleeing murderous persecution.

Officially, Israel doesn’t use the word “genocide” to describe the slaughter of the Armenians, preferring the word “tragedy.”

In contrast to some 20 other countries, the United States also has never recognized the Armenian genocide. Congressional resolutions to that effect have repeatedly failed to pass, despite backing from Jewish congressmen such as Adam Schiff (D-Burbank), Barney Frank (D-Mass.) and Stephen Rothman (D-N.J.).

Israel and Jewish lobbyists in the United States have opposed these efforts. For its part, the American Jewish Committee has taken no official position on a proposed congressional resolution urging President Bush to use the term “Armenian genocide” in his own upcoming remarks related to the genocide’s 90th anniversary.

Barry Jacobs, director of strategic studies at the American Jewish Committee’s Washington office pointedly refused to agree or disagree with the judgment of Holocaust and genocide scholars on who was responsible for the slaughter of Armenians.

The L.A. Story

In Los Angeles, the Museum of Tolerance “has educated more people about the Armenian genocide than any other institution in America,” said Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean at the affiliated Simon Wiesenthal Center.

The calamity is included in a map of 20th century genocides in the museum’s permanent exhibition, and the museum’s library has numerous books and videos discussing it, Cooper noted. He employs the term “Armenian genocide,” but he will not place responsibility for it on troops of the Ottoman Empire or on Turkish leaders, past or present.

Two years ago, a handful of young Armenian activists targeted the center in a six-day hunger strike, demanding greater representation of their people’s victimization. Talks between the Wiesenthal Center and Armenian community officials ended that dispute, Cooper said.

Summing up the center’s approach, Cooper said: “We try to take a stand that is true to history, but which is also true to our friends, and hopefully our Armenian and Turkish friends understand. That a genocide of the Armenian people took place is a fact, and that for hundreds of years, the Turkish people [aided Jews in danger], when Christian and Muslim nations did not is also a fact, and that Israel needs close relations with Turkey is also a fact. That’s not an easy triangulation, but it’s our responsibility to make it.”

Despite Turkish and Israeli lobbying against including any mention of the Armenian genocide, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., makes three mentions of the genocide in its permanent exhibit. One is Hitler’s infamous exhortation urging his invading troops to be merciless: “Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?”

Armenian in Jerusalem

Armenian historian Hintlian takes Israeli school groups on tours of Jerusalem’s Armenian Quarter. One stop is the memorial in the cemetery. It’s something he can do to keep the memory and lessons of that history alive.

Hintlian appreciates the support he gets from well-known Jewish Holocaust historians. Bauer and Auron will be among four Israelis traveling to the Armenian capital of Yerevan to participate in an academic conference on the genocide. Still, Hintlian is “distressed” at the overall Jewish response. It has regressed, he said, from Morganthau’s valiant example of 90 years ago.

“Armenians expect that Jews would have a natural sympathy for them,” the historian said. “We are two ancient nations with the same diaspora problems of survival. We’ve suffered the same kind of persecution. And fate decided that our two nations would both be victims of genocide in the last century.”

 

Ner Tamid Opens Link to Jewish Past


 

At Congregation Ner Tamid, most members can trace their ancestors back to Eastern Europe and the late 1800s.

Few are aware that 1654 was one of the most significant years in Jewish history — the year that 23 Jews fled the Portuguese Inquisition when they boarded the St. Charles bound for North America. This tiny group stepped onto the shores of New Amsterdam (New York) with the dream that the budding democracy in the new land would end their history of expulsion from countries around the globe.

Rabbi Jerry Danzig of Congregation Ner Tamid of South Bay (CNT) had a vision of a museum inside the synagogue that would trace the history of Jews in America from 1654 to the present. He, along with his dedicated committee, made that vision a reality in January, when the museum officially opened with a dinner and celebration attended by more than 100 people. From timelines, maps and posters to antique tools, cigar molds and famous original signatures, the exhibit is fascinating, enlightening and inspiring. The displays cover an array of topics that include early immigration, intolerance, trades, humanity and famous Jews in politics, the military, entertainment and sports.

The overriding theme is that Jews had a significant impact on the formation of our young country. Danzig said that it is no accident that Emma Lazarus, a Hebrew scholar and translator, wrote the words inscribed on the Statue of Liberty, nor that the words embossed on the Liberty Bell come from the Torah. For Danzig, the most important parts of the exhibit are those that demonstrate how Jewish individuals, such as Lazarus; Samuel Gompers, the father of America’s labor unions, and Jonas Salk, developer of the polio vaccine who refused to profit from it or allow it to be patented, changed the character of America.

“Our museum is a panorama of 350 years of Jewish life in America,” Danzig said. “Since the Exodus from Egypt, Jewish life thrives in freedom and the beneficiaries have been the countries in which they resided. We are proud to display the contributions Jews have made over 350 years to the evolution of the American civilization, its politics, literature, science, music, art, education, philosophy. This museum has given our students, as well as many non-Jewish individuals and groups, a new appreciation of our history, contributions and achievements.”

The volunteers who worked with Danzig caught his enthusiasm for the project. They raised nearly $10,000 in donations and gathered many of the pictures, artifacts and visuals from CNT members.

“It was the most unique experience,” said Ellen November, curator of the exhibit. “Creating the displays and studying all the material and artifacts expanded my depth of knowledge of modern-day Jews and about the history of Jewish immigration. It made me even more aware of how much Jews embody the American spirit.”

Danzig has organized numerous events to mark “Celebrate 350.” These events encourage participation by the religious school students, the congregation and the community at large. Since the museum opened, docents have led students, church groups and libraries through the exhibit.

On Sunday, Feb. 20, at 7:30 p.m., CNT will host a program on “What Do We Owe Peter Stuyvesant? 350 Years of Jewish Life in America.” Professor Mark Dollinger, director of the Jewish studies department at San Francisco State University, will address the issues of Jews and federal politics, social welfare reform and Jewish education and identity.

The public is welcome to take a self-guided tour Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Guided tours can be arranged by calling the synagogu. at (310) 377-6986. The address is 5721 Crestridge Road, Rancho Palos Verdes.