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.
Kingsley’s ‘Twist’ on a Dickens Thief
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.
Tad Daley (email@example.com), 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.
Nation & World Briefs
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
Kingsley’s ‘Twist’ on a Dickens Thief
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 firstname.lastname@example.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.
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
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.
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
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
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
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
“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.
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?!
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
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
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.
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
Beverly Wilshire Hotel
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.”
Grim Faces, Tense Words at Summit
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.