Student newspaper finalist for national prize


On Sept. 21, the day the space shuttle Endeavour flew past local landmarks on its way to Los Angeles International Airport, every media outlet in the city had dispatched multiple reporters to look to the skies.

The Boiling Point, Shalhevet High School’s student newspaper, which was recently named a finalist in the National Scholastic Press Association’s competitive Pacemaker contest, was no exception. 

Members of the editorial staff were positioned on the school’s roof, hoping to catch a glimpse of the retired shuttle’s last flight. Others, among them the newspaper’s faculty adviser, Joelle Keene, had traveled to a rooftop in Beverly Hills in case that spot offered a better view. 

“Just another day in the life of The Boiling Point,” said Keene, speaking to the Journal by phone while waiting for the shuttle to make an appearance. 

Producing a newspaper in a 160-student, Modern Orthodox, private high school — one that covers local, national, even international stories – can be a daunting task. But that’s precisely what the paper’s 30-person staff sets out to do between five and eight times every school year. 

After Santa Monica College announced — and later shelved — a planned tuition program that would have charged higher prices for certain classes than for others, The Boiling Point wrote about how the move would have affected Shalhevet alumni. 

When a cheating scandal in New York made headlines and led administrators of standardized tests to implement tighter security measures, a staff writer for The Boiling Point reported that the move could have the unintended consequence of making it more difficult for Shalhevet students — and other Sunday test-takers — to register for the exam. 

And in the wake of reports that devoutly religious men in Israel had harassed and spat at an 8-year-old Modern Orthodox girl because of how she was dressed, Editor-In-Chief Leila Miller wrote a long story about Charedim in Los Angeles, pulling back the curtain on a slice of the city that most Jews — let alone high school students — never see.

All three of those stories — along with sports coverage, a feature about depression, even a restaurant review — were in The Boiling Point’s June 2012 issue. 

From its underground offices, where staffers are known to spend six hours (or more) each day in the week before going to press, The Boiling Point has a record of winning recognition for individual stories, Keene said. She cited a number of national Story-of-the-Year awards and honorable mentions writers have won in the nine years she’s been serving as the paper’s adviser. 

But for The Boiling Point, which is produced on a budget of about $9,000 annually, to be named as a finalist for the Pacemaker, student journalism’s highest honor, represents a new level of collaborative achievement. 

“It’s everybody’s work,” said Keene, who holds a master’s in journalism from Columbia University and has won national, state and local awards for her reporting with a number of newspapers. “It’s the person who makes sure that there’s a line under every photo, and that the photo credit is correct.” 

The Boiling Point is one of nine finalists competing in the broadsheet category for newspapers of 17 pages or more, a category that includes papers from larger and better-known schools, including Harvard-Westlake. 

The winners in all categories will be announced on Nov. 17 at the Fall National High School Journalism Convention in San Antonio. Keene said some of the student journalists will travel to the convention, but she was unsure whether they would be able to accept the award in person, should they win. The ceremony takes place on Shabbat, and the school’s rabbis hadn’t decided whether accepting an award would be appropriate.

The Lichtenstein Formula for a Jewish Paper


“The role of a Jewish newspaper is to connect the Jewish community, not to unify it,” said Gene Lichtenstein, founding editor of The Journal.

During his nearly 15-year tenure, which ended in 2000, Lichtenstein’s formula was to hire good, independent writers and columnists who could produce articles that raised the interest, and frequently the hackles, of both professional and peripheral Jews.

“I wanted stories that people would discuss and argue about the following day,” Lichtenstein said during a lengthy interview at his home near the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

This concept doesn’t seem so revolutionary now, but it went counter to the tradition of most American Jewish weeklies in decades past.

The purpose of those publications was precisely to unify their communities in material and moral support of their federations, which usually financed the papers, and other Jewish and Israeli causes. A basic rule was to avoid criticism and controversy.

In that sense, Lichtenstein was an odd, even risky, choice as editor, and his selection split the then Jewish Federation Council, he recalls.

When Lichtenstein visited Los Angeles in 1985 to court his future wife, Jocelyn, the city’s Jews had the unusual choice of three competing weeklies.

They were the venerable B’nai B’rith Messenger, the maverick Heritage, both independently owned, and the Jewish Community Bulletin, the official Federation organ.

Much of The Federation’s leadership was dissatisfied with the coverage of all three papers and decided to explore a new format with a new editor to replace its own Bulletin.

At this point, Lichtenstein remembers, he was contacted by Ethel Narvid, a key player in Democratic and city politics, on behalf of a Federation committee appointed to find a new editor to shape a new paper.

Lichtenstein, the grandson of Russian immigrants, had a resume combining experience as psychologist, journalist and academic.

He had worked for The New York Times, Fortune, London Economist and as literary editor at Esquire, where his contributors included the likes of Saul Bellow and Philip Roth.

On the academic side, he had served as chairman of the journalism department at the University of Rhode Island and taught courses in mass communications at USC and UC Berkeley.

Perhaps equally important for the position at hand, he had started a newspaper in the Boston area, the Jewish Journal of the Northshore.

As he recalls it, in his first interview with The Federation committee, chaired by attorney Richard Volpert, Lichtenstein outlined his concept for the new paper.

“I wanted an American newspaper, Jewish but connected to the larger world,” he said. “It wouldn’t just reflect the viewpoint of The Federation or be mainly about fundraising. It wouldn’t print only favorable stories about the Jewish community and Israel.”

In addition, he would insist on good writing, and the contributions of columnists would be central to the paper.

After that presentation, Lichtenstein thought that his chances of getting the job were pretty slim, and he and Jocelyn went on a vacation trip to London.

To his surprise, “I got a midnight call from Volpert and he offered me the editorship,” Lichtenstein said.

Shortly afterward, Narvid gave a lunch at her home for some old friends, including Los Angeles Times labor editor Harry Bernstein and this reporter, to introduce Lichtenstein.

“Harry told me that I was kidding myself if I thought The Federation would let me put out an independent paper, and you backed him up,” Lichtenstein reminded me.

Despite the prediction, The Federation committee and larger Federation board of directors agreed, in the face of considerable internal opposition, to establish an independent Journal, to advance a $660,000 loan for its operation, and to pay a subsidy to mail the paper to each of its 52,000 donors.

There had been two other finalists for the editor’s job, Yehuda Lev, an outspoken, liberal journalist, and Marlene Adler Marks, a talented writer active in politics and feminist issues.

Lev and Marks were the first editor/reporters hired, soon joined by such early staffers as Tom Waldman, Sheldon Teitelbaum, Joe Domanick and Naomi Pfefferman.

The first slim issue of The Jewish Journal appeared on Feb. 28, 1986, with Volpert, whom the often-critical Lichtenstein praised for “a real standout job,” as the first publisher.

Early issues won kudos for lively writing, outraged criticism by some Federation leaders and Jewish organizations, and a weak response from advertisers.

Within one year, the paper was hemorrhaging money, and some influential Federation leaders demanded that in the future they approve all major stories and editorials. Lichtenstein refused and, in a committee vote, carried the day by a narrow margin.

However, there was enough dissatisfaction with the editorial and business performance of The Journal that The Federation invited Charles Buerger, publisher of six successful East Coast Jewish papers, to buy out The Journal.

Buerger made a “low- ball” offer, then raised the stakes, but “to my astonishment,” The Federation decided not to sell, Lichtenstein said.

Nevertheless, by June 1987, the paper had run through the $660,000 lent by The Federation and faced an early demise.

At his point, major Federation leaders, with Edward Brennglass, Stanley Hirsh and Osiah Goren in the lead, rode to the rescue, putting up their own money to repay the loan. The Journal lived to fight another day.

Brennglass took over as publisher for the next 11 years, the paper established a solid reputation and actually started to make a profit. After Brennglass’ death, Hirsh, an influential businessman and Democratic heavyweight, became publisher in 1997.

However, by the year 2000, strong editorial and personality differences between publisher and editor-in-chief led to a parting point. Lichtenstein resigned and was succeeded by the managing editor, Rob Eshman.

Looking back on his 15-year tenure, Lichtenstein said he had “a wonderful time,” which included reporting trips to Israel, Germany, Hungary and Croatia.

“I think we put out a pretty good paper, though not as good as it could have been,” he reminisced. Part of the problem was a running conflict between himself and Federation leaders, which, he acknowledged, were partly his fault.

“I was really always an outsider, with one foot in the community, and one foot outside,” he said. In addition, “I believe that a Jewish weekly belongs to the editor and staff, and it is the editor’s job to make the staff realize that the paper belongs to them.

“That is hard for some organizational leaders to accept,” Lichtenstein added in an understatement.

His major contributions, Lichtenstein said, were to publish as many diverse viewpoints as possible, recruit talented writers and columnists and insist, at all times, on good writing.

True to his initial inspiration, “I tried to put out a paper that was part of America and the world,” he said.

“I’ve met some Jews, very wealthy and powerful Jews, who embrace Jewish victimhood, who told me that you can never trust a gentile,” Lichtenstein said. “I don’t champion that. I believe that the walls we build around ourselves are only in our minds.”

The “victim” mindset is encouraged by many Jewish organizations, Lichtenstein said, “which wave the flag of anti-Semitism to keep their members loyal and to raise funds.”

For Lichtenstein, there is a busy life after journalism. While he still writes, he has returned to his first profession as psychologist and is the director of mental health and social services for 26 clinics of the Aegis Institute, which specializes in the treatment of opiate addicts.

In addition, he has established a private practice, which includes family and marriage counseling.

He draws a distinction between core committed Jews, who go to synagogue and contribute to Jewish causes, and the “integrated” Jew on the periphery of the organized community.

“It is not the job of the American Jewish press to ‘convert’ the integrated Jew,” he said. “Our job is to open a dialogue with him.”

 

Tribe


Back when I was working at a newspaper in New York, my editors and I tried to come up with a teen-sounding headline for a story on voting for our new teen section.

“How about ‘Gettin’ Out the Vote’?” my editor offered.

As if dropping a “g” off the end of the word is all one needs to do to appeal to teens.

I knew then, and I know now, that to really speak to teens, you just have to be one.

Adults can affect any sort of teenish language they want; they can claim to understand how the teenage mind works, to get the issues teens are thinking about. But teens know a fake when they see it.

That is why The Jewish Journal has decided to hand this page over to teenagers. Once a month, we will choose columns, feature articles or news stories submitted by teens in grades 9-12.

As you can see on this page, Natalie Goodis, a junior at Marlborough High School, has inaugurated the page with a column about how her experience in Eastern Europe and Israel changed her.

Here’s your chance. Write an article about what a teenager has to weigh when deciding whether to date only Jews. Send us your thoughts on evolution vs. creationism. Tell us about what you think about Ariel Sharon, about this country’s hurricane response, about your grandmother. Describe an event at your school that moved the whole student body to action.

The topics are up to you; the voice is yours.

We hope the monthly page is just the beginning. We want teens to talk to us — to have some input into what their peers should be writing about. That is why we are creating a Jewish Journal Teen Advisory Committee. (How would that look on a college resume?) The committee will meet several times a year to determine what topics you want covered in these pages, and to get your feedback on where things should go.

Being a teenager is intense. It is when you form your values, you solidify lifelong relationships, you choose a path for your future. Most teens are profoundly aware of just how pivotal these years are, and a lot of teens have something to say about it.

If you’re one of them, we’re waiting to hear from you. This is your chance to help more than 100,000 Jewish adults get a glimpse into your world.

Action Items:

  • Articles: First-person columns, feature articles or news stories of up to 800 words — submitted as an attachment to an e-mail.
  • Jewish Journal Teen Advisory Committee: Send your name, age, school and up to 200 words on why you should be on the Jewish Journal Teen Advisory Committee.

Ground Rules

Federation to End Donor Subscriptions


Starting next year, Jewish Journal readers who received their weekly newspaper by donating to The Jewish Federation will still be able to get it, but not as part of their Federation donation.

Readers will be able to subscribe directly to The Journal for home delivery, or pick it up for free at distribution sites around Los Angeles.

Beginning Jan. 1, 2005, The Federation will no longer purchase 20,000 annual Journal subscriptions for its donors.

The change in this 18-year relationship comes as The Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles launches a unique and unprecedented plan to distribute some 110,000 copies of its weekly newspaper in the greater Los Angeles area.

"By 2006, we intend to be the largest circulation Jewish community weekly in North America," Editor-in-Chief Rob Eshman said.

As part of its plan, The Journal will rely largely on free distribution and paid private subscriptions. Until now, The Journal has been able to pay cheap third-class postage rates, allowing it to charge $30 per subscription. Under U.S. Postal Service regulations, a company must pay first-class postage if it distributes a majority of papers for free. First- class postage for weekly delivery is $60 per year.

The Jewish Journal will be running a series of ads to alert readers to its new distribution system.

The distribution plan is unique among North America’s 135 Jewish community papers. But Eshman says it suits a community that is in itself unique. "L.A. Jewry is dispersed, diverse and at the cutting edge of American Jewish life," Eshman said, "and we want our paper to reach and reflect all parts of it."

Journal Chief Operating Officer Kimber Sax said the change could initially cost the Journal, a nonprofit, "hundreds of thousands of dollars" in lost revenue.

On the upside, she said, giving away The Journal is expected to double the paper’s circulation to 110,000 by 2006. Sax and Eshman are confident the increased penetration will make the paper more attractive to advertisers hungry to reach the affluent Jewish community.

"Our vision is that everywhere you go in greater Los Angeles County, whether you’re in Arcadia, Conejo, Encino, San Gabriel or Torrance, you’re going to see The Jewish Journal," Sax said.

Eshman said the new goal challenges the paper to improve the quality to grow readership. Toward that end, The Journal has hired new writers and launched editions in Orange County and Conejo Valley. The paper just hired an in-house Web director to overhaul its Web site, which should be unveiled by October.

"Our goal is to be the largest Jewish newspaper in the country and among the best," Eshman said.

The Journal will become one of only a handful of Jewish papers nationwide neither owned by nor selling thousands of subscriptions to federations, said Neil Rubin, senior editor of the Baltimore Jewish Times and former president of the American Jewish Press Association. He estimated that about 85 percent of Jewish papers have formal financial ties with the philanthropic bodies, including the Cleveland Jewish News and the Philadelphia Jewish Exponent, which are federation-owned. Such arrangements help keep some publications afloat by guaranteeing paid circulation, he said.

However, Rubin said at the very least these relationships create the appearance of conflicts of interest.

With federation papers, "you’re not really doing journalism. You’re self-censoring or you’re being censured, which isn’t healthy for the Jewish community," said Rubin, whose Baltimore Jewish Times is independent.

Relations between the Los Angeles Federation and Journal occasionally became frosty after stories critical of the organization ran in the paper. Both Federation President John Fishel and Journal Editor Eshman deny these occasional conflicts played any role in the impending separation.

Eshman said the philanthropic organization no longer could afford subscriptions at a time of dramatically increasing operating costs and only slightly higher fund raising. He said the split might have been driven by cost-cutting recommendations made by an internal Federation task force.

Fishel said The Journal’s decision to give away most of its papers necessitated the separation. With The Journal’s decision to giveaway most copies, subscriptions will cost more than The Federation wants to spend, Fishel said.

Still, he said he hoped Federation members would continue to pick up The Journal, which has served the community well.

"I think The Journal has improved dramatically over the last decade," he said.

Stanley Hirsh


I first met Stanley Hirsh in 1984 when he stopped by tovisit an after-school program in Jerusalem where I was working as a counselor.The kids and I were playing a game of basketball on a cracked blacktop court.

After watching from the fence for a while, Stanley called meover and introduced himself. I assumed he was going to congratulate me forhelping the indigent immigrant children of Israel.

“How can someone as tall as you,” he asked, “stink so bad atbasketball?”

Hirsh was several handfuls of human being. He belonged to avanishing generation of Jewish philanthropists, self-made men (they were mostlymen) whose drive, talent, luck and brazenness made them rich. They were tough,sometimes even gruff, and yet exceedingly generous. Their philanthropy arosefrom the same impulse as their wealth. They wanted to make the most, and givethe most.

Stanley’s involvement with The Journal came toward the endof a long life of achievement and giving. But he showed great, youthfulenthusiasm for this paper. He shared a vision of a newspaper that could serveas a kind of hub for an increasingly diverse and far-flung community. Hesupported decisions that greatly increased The Journal’s size and distribution.He supported editorial content that was tough, fair and compassionate.

We at The Jewish Journal mourn his loss, and extend our deepestcondolences to his family. 

David and Goliath and David


You want media bias? I’ll give you media bias. Here’s one big city newspaper’s account of the Israeli incursion into the Jenin refugee camp: “Jenin camp looks like the scene of a crime. Its concrete rubble and tortured metal evokes another horror half a world away in New York, smaller in scale, but every bit as repellent in its particulars.”

That’s from the London newspaper The Guardian. The Los Angeles Times, in contrast, ran a long, two-page investigation into what happened in Jenin. It reported the evidence of terrorism that led to Israel’s decision to go in. It documented the precise and risky manner by which the Israeli army chose to carry out its operation. It recounted the fear of the soldiers and refugees, the killing of innocent Palestinians (that’s part of the story) and it investigated the wildly inflated stories of Palestinian propagandists and found them lacking.

It was a good — but as Dan Gordon reveals on page 10, not perfect — report, done under difficult wartime circumstances. Along with it, the Times editorialized against Palestinian claims of the camp’s innocence. “In tiny rooms,” the editors wrote last week, “men packed gunpowder and fertilizer into canisters that some bomber would use to blow apart Israeli men, women and children.”

If that’s their Guardian, and this is our Times, why are so many Jews so enraged at the folks at First and Spring?

As Sheldon Teitelbaum reports on page 10, Jewish community anger toward the Times has only increased since The Journal’s first story on May 25, 2001 investigating the paper’s Israel coverage. The outrage peaked nearly a year later on April 22, when the Times, alone among major L.A. media outlets, neglected to report on the Israel Festival, which drew between 30,000-40,000 people to Woodley Park the previous day.

Last Sunday, a week after that festival, Times Senior Editor David Lauter presented his point of view on the controversy at a panel discussion, “The Media and Israel,” at Temple Beth Am. I was on the panel, along with Matt Chazinov. Chazinov is foreign editor of the Orange County Register and, like Lauter and me, a member of Beth Am.

But the discussion wasn’t about “the media.” It was about the Times. Lauter tried deflecting some of the criticisms up front, in an opening statement.

“We simplify,” he said. “We condense. In the interest of clarity, we sacrifice nuance.” Such is the nature of journalism, and people who know the most, and care the most, about a given subject are most likely to notice what the editors left out. A frequent omission is context and history.

“Journalism is only the first rough draft of history,” Chazinov reminded the crowd.

But they were not assuaged.

Lauter cited studies demonstrating that people who are partisan about one side or another almost always feel news coverage is slanted against their side. He said the Times fields numerous complaints of pro-Israel bias from the Arab community. “It is not possible for the coverage to be biased in both directions,” he said.

The crowd was not assuaged.

Lauter continued: Foreign correspondents are most often generalists, not regional experts. Operating under demanding conditions, buffeted by the spin from competing points of view, they work hard to balance, to fact check and verify reports. And despite their best intentions, they sometimes make mistakes. Everyone makes mistakes, said Lauter, but, “when we make a mistake, we publish it and show it to 2 million readers.”

The crowd brought up specifics: a subhead that used the word “vicious” to describe an Israeli action. (Lauter said that was a mistake, and the copy editor who wrote it was chastised.) A photo of a Chassidic rabbi that misrepresented the majority of people who showed up for a pro-Israel rally. (A mistake, said Lauter, and the photo editor was chastised.) The failure to cover the April 21 rally. (A big mistake, said Lauter, and the people responsible were chastised.) These mistakes and more “do not necessarily represent bias,” Lauter said. (Though I have to say there do seem to be quite a few goofs for a paper that aspires to greatness.)

Rabbi Joel Rembaum raised the question of whether Foreign Editor Simon Li wasn’t responsible for some of the least-appreciated headlines, photos and captions. Lauter said that Li, who was singled out in The Journal’s reporting on the Times last year, is a superior, dedicated editor who is simply not adept at handling readers’ complaints.

That may be true, but the end result, for many readers, is an air of aloofness and unresponsiveness surrounding the Times. People would be even more impressed, I imagine, if Times editors would come out of their compound and talk more often. In Chicago, Tribune editors held two open meetings at which Jews upset with Israel coverage voiced their complaints. Editors at the Trib’s subsidiary, the Times, have been less than forthcoming.

(At press time, The Journal learned that Li had stepped down as Times foreign editor. Former Mideast correspondent Marjorie Miller will take his place.)

If anything, said Lauter, American newspapers are biased in favor of Israel. He pointed to a sympathetic profile the Times ran in April of an Israeli woman soldier. “When was the last time you read a story [in the Times] about the bravery of a Palestinian fighter?” he asked. Editors, like the rest of us, see the world through a certain framework. The American press sees Israel as a sometimes flawed, democratic nation facing people who resort to violence and terror in their essentially just fight for nationhood, he said. “If you believe media coverage influences public opinion,” Lauter said, “it’s hard to square consistent support for Israel with allegations of media bias.”

What Lauter did not directly address was the fact that despite their pro-Israel “framework,” journalists almost always root for the underdog, and almost all have a bias against Israel’s permanent occupation of the West Bank and Gaza The bias against occupation does influence coverage — my opinion, not Lauter’s.

Nevertheless, audience members were perhaps a bit more mollified at this point. They were impressed that their specific complaints had made an impact on Times editors. Specific complaints get attention. The more general and hot-headed the gripe, Lauter said, the more likely it was to be shelved. He was referring, not too obliquely, to a litany of grievances sent to the Times by StandWithUs.

Toward the end of the discussion, one woman in the audience admitted that she preferred the old days when the press portrayed Israel as David and the Arabs were Goliath. Lauter was nonplussed. “Ninety-nine percent of the time Goliath wins,” he said. “So stick with Goliath.”

A Community’s Voice Lost


In February 1997, the L.A. Jewish Voice, a weekly published by Selwin Gerber and a group of investors, threw down the gauntlet in the arena of Los Angeles’ Jewish press. With high-end production values, the Voice (no relation to Samuel Gach’s Jewish Voice newspaper) boasted some impressive celebrity covers — Monty Hall, Dr. Laura Schlessinger, Howard Stern — and challenged the established Jewish press with a personable, pop-culture edge. The Voice’s Pico-Robertson offices housed an energetic staff , including several future Jewish Journal employees — Religion Editor Julie Gruenbaum Fax, former Calendar Editor William Yelles and this reporter.

"It didn’t fit into any of the categories," says Fax, then the Voice’s managing editor. People’s Palette, for instance, provided a poetry/art corner for readers.

Voice editor Ari Noonan, now a writer for Heritage Southwest Jewish Press, had high hopes for the new publication.

"Our mission was 50 percent to lead a community in the direction it should go and 50 percent to reflect what it is," he now recalls.

The mission was short-lived. By the afternoon of April 18, Fax, eyes moist from emotion, entered the Voice’s production room. She notified employees, hard at work on the next issue, that it would be the last.

Insiders pinned the Voice’s abrupt end on poor budgeting, high production values, and overzealous expansion (55,000 copies a week distributed all over L.A. County). Crumpled copies of that last issue (Leonard Nimoy on the cover) lingered in bright yellow distribution boxes for weeks. The Voice had lasted 11 issues.

Digging Behind Yesterday’sHeadlines


Readers of the Los Angeles Times on Saturday,May 15, 1948, saw this headline stretching across the top of fivecolumns on Page 1.

“Jewish State Recognized by U.S. in SurpriseMove, Air Raiders Bomb Tel Aviv”

Underneath the headline were threestories – one dealing with President Truman’s announcement, one withthe opening hours of Israel’s War of Independence, and the third withJewish reaction in Los Angeles (“with a spirit of solemnity,” wrotethe Times reporter) to the news from the Middle East.

Within the newborn state itself, there was muchsolemnity and little celebration. Only 650,000 strong, Israelis werepreparing to withstand attacks from four neighboring Arab states andincreased fighting with 1,200,000 Arab Palestinians against whomthere had already been bloody warfare since the precedingNovember.

To this was added the fact that Jerusalem wasunder siege, cut off from the rest of Israel by Jordan’s Arab Legion,arguably the best fighting force in the Middle East. On the daybefore the state came into being, the Legion captured Jerusalem’s OldCity, defeating all attempts by Israel’s best soldiers, the Palmach,to break through its walls. Its defenders had been led off to prisoncamps in Jordan.

Tel Aviv, bombed by Egyptian planes on May 15, wasthe target of an Egyptian army that crossed the Negev border andbegan a drive towards Israel’s largest city, 60 miles to the north.The Syrian Army, reinforced by Iraqi detachments, began moving downthe Golan Heights into the Jordan Valley, capturing one settlementand probing Israeli defenses along the Jordan River.

That was the bird’s-eye view of thesituation.

Yehuda Lev in Israel army uniform, and YehudaLev, 50 years later.

The worm’s-eye view, which I shared with the restof the soldiers in the newly created Israeli Army, was somewhatdifferent. For many of us, volunteers from abroad, it was a time foracute nervousness about the viability of the new state. This led to aserious concern about what we should do if the precarious venturewere to collapse under the blows of the assailants. This was, wefelt, a serious possibility.

That first day was, to my recollection, extremelyhot and dusty. May is not a comfortable month in the Middle East, andworse, we did not have the sense of security that comes withpossessing the tools of war. Accustomed as I was to the largesse ofthe American military, it was a shock to be told, in a combat unit,that there was no weapon for me (“Just take one from a dead body,” mycommanding officer said) and to learn that our vehicles had beenstolen off the Tel Aviv streets. (“They’ll be of more use with usthan in Tel Aviv” was that same officer’s reasoning.)

We were outnumbered and outgunned, but we learnedquickly. We discovered that most Arab soldiers were afraid of thedark, so we attacked at night. We learned that they might have littlemotivation and poor leadership, but that the Arabs would fightfiercely and well if trapped, so where possible, we provided themwith an escape route. We learned that, except for the Jordanians, theArabs took no prisoners, so we left none of our wounded behind,whatever the price in additional casualties. And we learned veryearly on that this was an expensive war in lives and that we simplywould have to accept heavy losses and keep going.

The worm’s-eye view may lack distance, but itfocuses well on those who share the travails of combat. My closestfriend in the battalion was Moshe, a veteran of the partisans who hadfought the Nazis in the forests of Central Europe. He was an expertat disposing of enemy guards silently, with a knife. Fortunately forme, he was also versed in the art of producing gourmet dishes fromscrawny fowl. It was a talent that served us well in October when wecaptured Beersheva and bunked down in a mud hut with a dozen or sochickens. Moshe and his jeep were blown apart by a mine inDecember.

Then there was David, from Detroit, who shared akibbutz trench with Jameson, a volunteer from South Africa. One dayEgyptian shells began falling on us. David was out of the trench andunprotected. Suddenly, from the midst of the fog of cordite, smokeand flying sand, we heard his voice shouting.”Jameson, are you home?””Yes.” Pause. “Are you entertaining company?” “Yes.” By that timeDavid located the trench and flopped in.

Fifty years have passed since Israel’s War ofIndependence. Today’s Middle East wars are fought with smart bombsand missiles, supersonic aircraft and chemical and bacterialwarheads. The 6,000 Israelis who perished during the 14 months of theWar of Independence could be equaled by the casualty figures for asingle minute in tomorrow’s conflict.

Today the question no longer is “How do we win thewar?” It is “How do we save the peace?” No one wins today’s wars inthe Middle East.


Yehuda Lev writes from Providence.R.I.

Stanley Hirsh Elected New Publisher


Stanley Hirsh, a founding member of The Jewish Journal’s Board ofDirectors, was elected publisher of this newspaper by a unanimousvote of the Board last week. He succeeds the late Edwin Brennglass,who died October 23.

Hirsh, who is owner of the Cooper Building and a former chair ofLos Angeles’ Community Redevelopment Agency, is active in Jewishphilanthropy, national politics and local government. He is a formerpresident of the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles and aformer General Campaign Chair of the United Jewish Fund, serving twoterms (1984 and 1985).

“I feel the Journal has become the largest disseminator of Jewishinformation in L.A. about what’s happening in the Jewish world,” hesaid. “Because of that fact,” he added, “we want to increase ourcirculation both within Los Angeles and the Valley. Ultimately, ofcourse, our aim is to reach all segments of L.A.’s large, pluralisticJewish community –so that, at the very least, we are able to sustaina continuing dialogue among ourselves and share a common set ofvalues and assumptions.”


Stay tuned to this feature for more information behind the scenes atThe Jewish Journal

Other VoicesIn Memory of Edwin N. Brennglass:


From President Bill Clinton

Hillary and I were saddened to learn of your husband’s death, andwe extend our deepest sympathy. We hope that the love and support ofyour family and friends will sustain and comfort you during thisdifficult time. You are in our thoughts and prayers.

From Los Angeles Mayor Richard J. Riordan

Los Angeles will miss Ed. His integrity and creativity are a modelfor all of us.

From Ben Zion Leuchter of Key Biscayne, Fla.

Ed Brennglass richly deserved tributes to him as a Jewishnewspaper publisher and a compassionate human being.

It’s fascinating that this hard-bitten businessman would haveinstinctively understood and put into practice principles ofjournalistic freedom. Having assumed the role of “first among equals”(the 10 pillars of the Los Angeles Jewish community who made itpossible for the Journal to pay off its creditors and take on a newlife), Brennglass installed business discipline while the newspaperslowly crept out of the loss side of the ledger.

He had a vision that the Journal could publish in the black, so tospeak, while at the same time helping the Jewish Federation. One ofthe ways he did this was to give editorial freedom to the Journal’seditor-in-chief. How do I know this? Because we were colleagues in anumber of international Jewish enterprises, including HIAS, and wetraveled abroad together. He knew that I was a retired dailynewspaper editor; I subscribed to the Jewish Journal and found itinteresting reading even 3,000 miles away. He would discussstrategies for increasing the newspaper’s income, and he understoodthat criticism of the Journal and/or the Los Angeles JewishFederation wasn’t necessarily bad either for the newspaper or thefederation. It was a sign that the newspaper was being read, that itwasn’t a federation house organ. The best gift an Anglo-Jewishnewspaper can make to its community federation is for Jews to lookforward to reading it.

Ed Brennglass wasn’t born with a silver spoon in his mouth. He wasproud of his success in business, and he put his creative mind to useon behalf of the Jewish world. He was a good listener and a straighttalker. But behind his growl, I always knew he was a marshmallow.

My wife Magda and I will miss him.

From Judge Joseph A. Wapner

Brandeis Bardin Institute

Even as we mourn the loss of Ed Brennglass, we at Brandeis BardinInstitute consider it an honor to do homage to one of the true gentlegiants of our own BBI family and of our larger community.

In his founding and rescue of the Jewish Journal, he provided aplatform where all aspects of Jewish life in our community could beboth critically examined and applauded.

It was as if Ed Brennglass’s vision in life and for the Jewishpeople coincided with our own at Brandeis Bradin:

To place education at the centerpiece of Jewish life.

To honor our people’s continuity….

To put arts and culture into the mix with study to help young Jewsfind their voices as Jews.

He studied with us on many occasions….

It was here that he and Marjorie chose to be married.

And it was here where he showed us his innate modesty: while weasked him many times to let us honor him, he always refused.

We will miss him, his presence, his quiet strength, his beguilingsmile and the twinkle in his eye. But we will always honor his memoryas a partner in building our institution.

From Avraham Burg, chairman of the Executive, World ZionistOrganization

I can’t think of any letter that is more difficult to write, forwhat words can be offered, what letter can be written that could inany way express my sorrow and condolences over the loss of Ed

Our condolences are sent from the Executives and the staff of theWorld Zionist Organization and the Jewish Agency — we all share inyour grief.

Ed was a true example of commitment to the Jewish people as awhole and we shall truly miss his presence. His work at the LosAngeles Federation, the Board of Governors and the numeroussub-committees are just a small example of his diligence towardsachieving his goal.

Please know that our thoughts are with you in this time of sorrow.

May his memory be a blessing, and may the Almighty comfort youamong the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.

From Richard A. Siegel, executive director,

National Foundation for Jewish Culture

I was deeply saddened to hear that Ed had passed away. He was sucha vibrant and passionate man, who cared so deeply for his family, hiscommunity, and the Jewish people….

Ed will be deeply missed. We at the NFJC join with his family andfriends, his community and all those whose lives he touched, inmourning his loss. May his memory be a blessing.

From Jonathan W. Kolker, president, and Michael Schneider,executive vice president,

The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee,Inc.

The board of directors and the staff of The American Jewish JointDistribution Committee note with great sadness the death of ourdevoted fellow board member and friend, Edwin N. Brennglass.

Ed was a great American Jewish leader. A dynamic man, he was anarticulate advocate for Jews in need across the world. Who can everforget his travels to distant places of JDC even during time ofpersonal or physical distress.

Ed played a significant role in establishing policy and providedvaluable leadership at JDC during a very exciting time when JDCconducted heroic rescue efforts from Ethiopia, Sarajevo, Syria andYemen: provided relief to hundreds of thousands in need, and nurturedthe reconstruction of Jewish life in the former Communist countries,as well as in many other places around the world.

He had a passionate belief in social justice and JDC’s role inpursuing that ideal. We shall miss this extraordinary man who caredso deeply about the Jewish people.

The entire JDC family extends our condolences to Ed’s wife,Marjorie, to his daughter, Cookie, and to his son, Gary.

From Nira Lerner, museum manager, Gedera Museum and EliahuRediya, mayor, Gedera, Israel

On a beautiful spring day in May 1983, Edwin and DorothyBrennglass turned up on our doorstep looking for “Uncle Moses'”previous home. They had finally come because their Aunt HelenMienarzevitch had begged them for years to come and see what hadhappened to it.

At that time Gedera was preparing to celebrate its 100thbirthday. The municipality decided to turn the place into a museumdepicting Gedera’s history.

Moses Mintz was a leading member of the “Bilu” movement,founded in Kharkov in Russia after the 1881-83 pogroms. Theirmovement took its place in Jewish history as the first ideologicalmovement to plan and execute the idea of renewing sovereignty over”Eretz Israel” (then Turkish-ruled Palestine). In 1883, because ofstrong ideological differences of opinion within the group, MosesMintz left and joined his family in the U.S. On retirement, hereturned to Gedera where he built the house which served partially ashis private home and partially as the Community Cultural Center, andthis was what Aunt Helen had referred to. When they came, the house,which had stood empty for about 10 years, was in a bad state ofdisrepair. I, at the time, was in the process of planning therenovation of the building and was responsible for preparing a masterplan for the future museum which was to be an education establishmentaimed at educating towards the Zionism practiced by the “Biluim”founders of Gedera.

All the time I kept wondering what miracle would occur to payfor it all when, out of the blue that sunny day, the miraculousappearance of Edwin and Dorothy occurred to save the day. Theircontribution both morally and financially helped fulfill Gedera’simportant main goal: the preservation of its precious history. Themuseum was dedicated to the memories of Moses Mintz and his sisterDora Brennglass, Edwin’s mother.

Since then, the relationship between us prospered and became asincere friendship with Eddie’s continuing support. The terrible newsof his departure from our lives has hit us sorely. He will be missedand remembered not only by his children Carole Spinner and GaryBrennglass, but also by the community here in Gedera as long as themuseum he helped establish stands in what became the first street inGedera.