Week of Feb. 16, 2018


Week of Feb. 9, 2018


Seeing the Whole Community


This is my 18th issue of the Jewish Journal as editor-in-chief, and, I have to say, these past few months have been exhilarating. One, I’ve never worked harder, and two, the reaction throughout the community has been incredible —  better than I could have imagined. Everywhere I’ve gone, I’ve heard a similar refrain, “I love what you’re doing with the Jewish Journal.”

Of course, when I hear that, I have to say (as I wrote about last week), “poo, poo, poo.” But I also like to ask: “What is it that you like?” I’ve done this countless times with readers from across the spectrum — religious, secular, left wing, right wing, young, old, Jewish, non-Jewish, everyone.

So, in honor of our “chai” issue, I thought I’d recap the thinking behind the reimagining of your community paper, a paper I have always loved and am working to build upon.

First, we’re here to cover the whole community. That means I can’t allow content biases to get in the way. This easily can happen in publishing. If an editor-in-chief, for example, favors religion and spirituality, you’ll see too much of it. If the editor favors news and opinion, or culture and the arts, or community reporting, or Israel and political coverage, same thing — you may see too much of it.

The challenge is to balance everything to honor the diversity of the community and the diversity of Judaism.

The challenge is to balance everything to honor the diversity of the community and the diversity of Judaism. If we’re going to live up to our promise to “connect, inform and inspire” the whole community, we must keep everyone in mind and cover as much of the Jewish buffet as possible. If we focused more on the news, we would mostly inform; if we focused more on religion, we would mostly inspire; and if we focused more on the local community, we would mostly connect.

We must do all three equally. That’s why you see such a broad diversity of coverage.

You may see a pro-and-con debate on abortion, gun control or the Iran nuclear deal, but also a spiritual poem on the Garden of Eden.

You’ll see a dark story on neo-Nazis or the rise in anti-Semitism in the United States, but also one on the uplifting message of Hanukkah.

You’ll see reporting on Jewish outreach at the Sundance Film Festival, but also a cri de coeur from a Mexican “Dreamer” afraid of being separated from her family.

You’ll see hard coverage of the Harvey Weinstein scandal and the #MeToo movement, but also a dialogue between a Reform and Orthodox rabbi on the true meaning of tikkun olam.

In other words, it is diversity, above all, that is imperative.

Does every page in the paper appeal to everybody? Of course not.

Some people like our ethereal poem page, others prefer our political analysis and commentary. Some like reading about the local Persian gay community, others prefer a story on how the Jews of Puerto Rico fared during the hurricane.

Some people like our Israel coverage, others are just tired of anything Israel and prefer local stories. Some like to see coverage of a new film, others prefer a commentary on how that film connects to Jewish values.

Our mission, then, is to reach everyone in a meaningful way. That also means a great diversity of voices. Over the past few months, we have added more than a dozen women’s voices, many of them local rabbis who contribute to our Table for Five page. We’ve gone out of our way to add more Sephardic and millennial voices. With op-eds, we look for opinion pieces that provoke thought, not anger.

But diversity is not enough if you don’t enjoy reading the paper. That’s why we’ve redesigned the paper to make it more visually engaging. We’ve also added a few special sections like “Image of the Week” and “20 (or 30) Years Ago in Jewish Journal.”

Online, we’ve increased our coverage of daily news on our website and launched the global newsletter “Roundtable,” which provides “fresh takes on hot issues” every morning.

Over the past few months, we have added more than a dozen women’s voices, many of them local rabbis who contribute to our Table for Five page.

In recent months, we’ve produced more than 20 online videos, ranging from interviews with Jewish leaders to light-hearted clips on the Jewish holidays. We’re now in the process of building a sound studio in our offices to produce a podcast network.

While we’re excited about all the new things we’re doing online, we never forget that the community paper is our pride and joy. There’s no substitute for a paper you can pick up at a local synagogue or café. You can feel the whole community as you flip through the pages. It’s hard to capture that feeling on an iPhone screen.

One comment I’ve been getting consistently is that the paper “looks great.” Why is that important? Because in publishing, beauty is more than skin deep. Clean, attractive layouts engage the readers with your content. This is smart business: If we make the content more visually appealing, you’ll be more likely to read the articles, and we’ll be more likely to connect, inform and inspire you.

Poo, poo, poo.

Week of Feb. 2, 2018


Week of Jan. 26, 2018


Letters to the Editor: Islam, Mensch List, Trump and Immigration


A Meaning Lost in Translation

In his Jan. 12 column “A Hunger for Memory,” David Suissa quotes Aomar Boum’s book “Memories of Absence” as translating the word dhimmi as “people of the book.”

The term dhimmi always has been translated inaccurately as meaning “people of the book” or “protected people,” who are exempt from Islamic law. However, the term is not native to Arabic and its usage is descriptive rather than factual translation. It is borrowed from Hebrew, related to the biblical Hebrew word d’mama, which means silent or still (as in the kol d’mama daka, the “still, small voice” that the prophet Elijah hears in 1 Kings 19:12 and as in numerous Psalms such as in Psalm 62:2 (al dhomi lach, “don’t hold Yourself silent”).

The Quran does not mention dhimmi and it is stated only in the Hadith in various agreements between the Prophet and Jewish tribes in Medina. It has always struck me as a derogatory and humiliating term referring to Jews in the Muslim world as a “silent second-class,” who were expected to stand when a Muslim walked by, not allowed to ride horses or own a piece of land. In most Arab countries, Jews were allowed to live only in limited closed quarters called hara. In contrast, Hebrew has the term ger, referring to non-Jews who live among the Jews and accept and observe the seven Noahide laws. The term, as used in the Torah and discussed lavishly by Maimonides, never implies discrimination or humiliation against the ger but rather full acceptance and total respect.

Ed Elhaderi, Los Angeles


Journal’s Hits and Misses

My compliments on Larry Greenfield’s reflections on the legacy of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. (“King’s Dream,” Jan. 12”). He promotes King’s vision of racial friendship, and points out the growing voices of black separatism and leftist violence. The Journal is to be commended for thoughtful diversity of views. “Antifa” is not our friend.

Norman Epstein, San Francisco

Just wanted to tell you I like your new format and human interest stories. Very good — sharing how people are helping people. But I miss some of your columns that offer intellectual and challenging thought — like Dennis Prager.

Karen Rae, Sherman Oaks

The 11 vignettes in the “Mensch List” cover story (Jan. 5) were heartwarming. But one omission troubled me. Our species is devastating the biosphere, including countless wild species. Reportedly 98 percent of U.S. charitable contributions are to organizations whose concern is our species whereas only 2 percent are to organizations whose principal concern is the environment or wild species. The Journal’s list follows in the same spirit. The efforts of all 11 honorees are human-focused. Was there no one in the “overwhelming influx of inspiring nominees” who works to protect nature and who is deserving of recognition?

Ben Zuckerman, Los Angeles

Susannah Heschel’s essay was a “blast from the past,” bringing to the fore the incredible insights, acumen and razor-sharp mind that characterized her father’s work (“What Would My Father Say?” Jan 12). Most importantly, Heschel emphasized her father’s unrelenting search for the truth and the homeostasis that was universally acknowledged between his fiery words and his concomitant nonviolent actions of resistance.

Contrast that with the dissembling screed that Ben Shapiro penned about the reported scatological remarks made by President Donald Trump in his self-deified role of a (“who shall live and who shall die”) present-day Nero. To offset this treasure trove of conservative tried but not true journalistic legerdemain, Shapiro sprinkles in a few seemingly apolitical political crumbs about Trump being a charismatic boor with a volatile yellow streak running down the center of his back.

Defending that which is best about Judaism (defining a religious person as maladjusted; attuned to the agony of others and never satisfied but always questioning) is the gist of Heschel’s gift to the Journal reader, while Shapiro’s gift is the benighted defense of that which is indefensible.

Marc Rogers, North Hollywood

President Trump has been in office for a year, so let’s look at the facts. Third-quarter economy grew 3.2 percent. Unemployment at a 17-year low. Stock market sizzling. Stopped foreign college graduates from coming here and taking our jobs. Illegal immigrants are leaving. Foreign countries are opening plants here. American companies are coming back. Retail sales for December were up over the previous year. All this despite two major hurricanes and major wildfires in California. If you bashers are going to bitch in good times, what are you going to do in bad times?

Joseph B.D. Saraceno, Gardena

Ben Shapiro hit the nail on the head. When the entire Michael Wolff affair is said and done, it won’t be Donald Trump who emerges worse off. It will be the fake news mainstream media who subscribe to Wolff’s journalistic style, namely, if you like what you read, take it as truth. That’s the essence of confirmation bias that the mainstream media are foisting on the public.

The mainstream, liberal, left media blew their integrity in the desire for a cheap hit by defending Wolff, the author of “Fire and Fury.” They relied heavily on the falsehoods of Wolff’s book while ignoring some of the major achievements of Trump, such as tax relief for the middle class, defeating ISIS, recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and announcing the moving of the American Embassy to Jerusalem.

Marshall Lerner, Beverly Hills


Trump’s Comment About Certain Nations

I am the daughter of an immigrant. As we are confronted with the most recent profane and derogatory comments by President Donald Trump concerning groups who have sought and wish to seek refuge in the United States, we must remember Jews who were turned away from entry into this country only to be returned to a country where they were murdered.

Some Jewish groups have ignored previous vulgar and bigoted comments made by Trump. How can they remain silent now? Every Jewish organization that claims to promote freedom and tolerance should denounce his words.

Cynthia Hasday, Los Angeles


and FROM FACEBOOK:

‘Sacred Protectors,’ Jan. 12:

I have spent time in Morocco and this is mostly true. Of course, like anywhere on Earth, there will be some Moroccans who will not behave so gallantly. One of the most beautiful, oldest Jewish cemeteries is in Marrakesh. … Rabbis request being buried there. It is like little else you’ve ever seen; simply breathtaking and moving. The old Jewish quarter is pretty amazing too.

La Pickwell

Respect is due to these Moroccan, Muslim protectors of Jewish cemeteries and synagogues. A good story of humanity gone unnoticed.

Herman Meltzer

We need to hear more stories like this. I’m sure that they are out there.

Ginny Baldwin

Thank you, Aomar Boum. Shalom. Aleikum-as-Salaam. Peace be upon you.

Eb Hoene

‘A Hunger for Memory,’ Jan. 12:

Beautiful and touching story.

Ruth Solomon Wolitzer

Nice to hear a positive story about living in a Muslim land.

Beth Anderson

Week of Jan. 19, 2018


Week of Jan. 12, 2018


Week of January 5, 2018


Week of December 22, 2017


Week of December 8, 2017


Week of December 1, 2017


Letters to the Editor: New Journal Layout, Prayer, and Israel


New Look, New Content

I cannot adequately express how impressed I am with the new “Back and Forth” feature. Civil but serious, it sharply helps amplify and elucidate the perspectives of the quality voices that participate and teaches us stiff-necked readers things we would otherwise be unlikely listen to. A Kiddush HaShem to the fullest — what a wonderful way to model meaningful engagement between parts of our community and beyond. Thank you, thank you, thank you for embodying a core Jewish value with such deep, universal worth.

Kol hakavod!

Michael Feldman via email

Kudos on the new layout and typeface of the Journal. Big improvement. But as a boomer feminist, I found two recent columns written by women personally disturbing. The first was about flirting, which I at first dismissed simply as a “fluff” piece (“Why I Miss Flirting,” Nov. 10). In the second column, a mother proudly says she encourages her son to be “strong enough to be kind” (“My Son, the Maccabee,” Nov. 10). My alarm bells went off. I personally have seen men who were attracted to a damsel in distress become physically aggressive when that same woman becomes assertive. I also know of college football players (arguably men’s men) who have been convicted of rape.

Since these Journal columns have been published, more and more influential men have been outed for their alleged inappropriate sexual behavior with young men and women. Actor Richard Dreyfuss, when recently confronted, actually tried to excuse his alleged behavior by issuing a statement of direct relevance to both of these Journal  columns. He writes: “I value and respect women. … I became … the kind of performative masculine man my father had modeled for me to be. … I flirted with all women. … But I am not an assaulter. … I remember trying to kiss [his accuser] as part of what I thought was a consensual seduction ritual. … I am horrified and bewildered to discover that it wasn’t consensual. I didn’t get it.”

Women have worked too hard and too long in the fight to gain equality and independence. I hope we aren’t being asked to start all over again.

Sharon Alexander, Torrance


Building Bridges in a Time of Chaos

Thank you, Rabbi Shlomo Einhorn and the Jews United for Democracy and Justice, for your inspiring compilation “After Charlottesville” (advertising supplement, Oct. 20). Not only do you bring together teachings from the vast spectrum of Jewish leaders, sages and religious persuasions, but you also include teachings from non-Jewish leaders and traditions. By doing this, you are helping us to realize the relevancy and importance of striving to sing all four songs as written by Rabbi A.Y. Kook: the song of the individual, the song of the nation, the song of humanity, and the song of all existence. In this time of chaos, we must push ourselves beyond our ordinary boundaries, build bridges and learn from each other. It is only with an open, probing mind that we can elevate our community as well as our nation.

Also, thank you, David Suissa, for creating a forum where spirituality and practical matters can attain the perfect balance!

Mina Friedler via email


Prayers Alone Won’t Cure Society’s Ills

Ben Shapiro wrote a recent column about the power of prayer in the aftermath of the recent mass shooting in Texas (“Don’t Dismiss the Power of Prayer,” Nov. 10). One of the purposes of prayer in such cases is to provide comfort and consolation to the relatives of the victims because absolutely nothing can bring victims back to life. No human action can do that.

The unprecedented number of mass shootings during past several years shows there is a serious problem in society. Both sides agree on that. It’s obvious from Shapiro’s words that he doesn’t understand what is causing “a tsunami of rage,” neither has he the slightest idea where to look for the root causes of those events. Mr. Shapiro, with political power and authority comes the huge responsibility of providing peace and security to millions of people. The inability to fulfill that responsibility is what is causing the tsunami of rage. Such tragic events are not part of God’s plan. Period. They’re part of society, designed by humans. One thing I know in my profession: When there’s a problem with a building, we architects and civil engineers roll up our sleeves and begin to look for what’s causing the problem. And if we find out it is in the foundation, the last thing we would do is to offer a prayer. Even the most thoughtful prayer cannot do the job. Only hard work by experienced people can.

Svetlozar Garmidolov, Los Angeles


Inappropriate Topic in Torah Portion

Rather than commenting on the parsha, the extremist Open Orthodox rabbi unleashed a screed against the Orthodox Union (OU) for not aiding and abetting his agenda to promote practices that all halachic leadership of Modern Orthodoxy agrees is out of bounds (“Parsha: Chayei Sara,” Nov. 10). May the OU find the strength to remove these heretical congregations from their midst.

Saul Newman via email


Historic Evidence of Israel’s Roots 

Thank you for Judea Pearl’s story (“The Balfour Declaration at 100 and How It Redefined Indigenous People,” Nov. 10) lauding the declaration’s tacit recognition of the Jewish people’s status as the indigenous population of Eretz Israel.

It bears emphasis that the Jewish claim to indigenous status in Israel is not just a matter not of faith, but of historical fact confirmed by archaeology and science. The Merneptah Stele, inscribed on behalf of the eponymous Egyptian pharaoh (and son of Ramses II) around 1208 B.C.E., attests to the presence of a people called “Israel” in Canaan. The Tel Dan Stele, which celebrates an Aramean victory over Israel in the 800s B.C.E., mentions Judah’s royal “House of David.” Assyrian sculptures dating from 841 B.C. and 701 B.C.E., respectively, both on display in the British Museum in London, depict the Israelite King Jehu and the Assyrian siege of Lachish in ancient Judah. The Assyrian royal annals’ account of the siege declares Judah’s king Hezekiah trapped “like a caged bird” in Jerusalem, paralleling the biblical account. And population genetics studies confirm the connection of present-day Jews to an ancestral home in the Levant and the continuity of the Jewish people from ancient to present times.

Rome eventually destroyed the Jewish kingdom in a war from 66-73 C.E. and dispersed its people, but Jews never forfeited the right to return home or to reconstitute a Jewish state.

Stephen A. Silver, San Francisco


Israelis Trying to Do the Right Thing

I am a 15-year-old freshman at YULA Boys High School. I was thrilled to see “Teaching Math to Israel’s ‘Invisibles’ ” (Oct. 27) in the Journal because this story shows that Israel helps every race and religion — even Arabs — who constantly try to eradicate the Jewish state. This is also one of the many proofs that if any race or religion is in need of help, Israel is the first to offer its help. People who are not Jewish who read this story can see how the people of Israel care about everyone and are trying to be peaceful with everyone, even groups of people that try to terrorize the world. This story really has inspired me to be more involved in defending Israel when people accuse Israel of treating Arabs poorly. It especially bothers me when the media publish negative and untrue information about Israel. I love that this newspaper published very positive things about Israel. I hope other people get inspired like I did.

Daniel Dallal, Los Angeles

I strongly agree with what Shai Gul does and it will inspire others to reach out to people who need help. When most people run into situations like Shai Gul did, they most likely will run away from these problems. However, Shai did just the opposite, helping to educate people in that poor city. He conveyed kindness and empathy. He taught the “invisibles” to not be so invisible and to take a leap forward in life. By giving them this push, he managed to give them jobs and a basic education to build on. Shai Gul is an inspiration for people around the world. He should keep up what he does so others can be influenced and follow his tracks.

Eitan Ulitzky via email

Week of November 16, 2017


Week of October 13, 2017


To Rob, with love


When my friend Rob Eshman suggested I write a weekly neighborhood column in the Jewish Journal in August 2006, my immediate response was, “How can I do it every week? I can’t write about the same neighborhood week after week.”

His response: “So write about whatever you’re passionate about that week.”

Those words have stayed with me ever since, and whenever I wasn’t sure what to write about on any given week, I just followed Rob’s advice.

Well, now that I have to fill Rob’s pretty considerable shoes as the Journal’s publisher and editor-in-chief, I will try to do the same.

My first issue in my new role will be next week’s Sukkot issue. I approach this moment with some trepidation. Already, from my experience of just the past two weeks, I can tell you it is a huge amount of work to produce quality journalism every week.

When I started a spiritual magazine many years ago called OLAM, we had months to put it together. We could agonize for weeks over the articles, the writers, the images, the design, everything. Will I have as much time to agonize at the Jewish Journal? Not a chance. Will I try to be as meticulous? Yes. Wish me luck.

Producing a weekly community paper is, above all, an enormous responsibility. The eyes of a community are on you, on every word and on every image. The more I get into it, the more appreciation I have for what Rob did over the past 17 years as editor-in-chief, week in and week out.

First, I’m learning that everyone thinks they’re Ernest Hemingway, everyone has a piece that absolutely must be published. Rob knew how to manage sticky situations like this — where you want to be honest without hurting people’s feelings — with class and grace. Will I have the same grace? I don’t know. I’ll try.

Second, many readers get angry when they read content with which they disagree. Rob had this remarkable willingness to publish letters to the editor that completely reamed his own paper. Will I be as fearless? I don’t know. I’ll try.

Third, Rob was a journalist at heart. He loved news. He loved everything that would advance a story. He loved stories, period. Will I be as great a journalist and storyteller? I don’t know. I’ll try.

One of Rob’s great contributions to the Journal and to our community is his appreciation for diverse voices. I know from experience. Occasionally, I would send him an op-ed from another writer that I knew he would sharply disagree with, and I’d get this kind of response: “I disagree with it, but it’s well written and well argued.” And more often than not, he’d publish it.

You can never underestimate this talent. At a time when the nation has been as polarized as ever, when people are repulsed by views they disagree with, when disagreements easily turn into animosity, it takes guts to publish stuff you completely disagree with.

Will I have that same courage? I don’t know. I’ll try.

One thing I do know is this: If there is one thing that has bonded Rob and me over the years, it is our love of fresh and different voices, our love of trying new things, our love of shaking things up and keeping readers on their toes.

In fact, when he first brought up the idea that I take over his role, one thing he said was, “Hey, maybe the place can use some new blood.”

Am I that new blood? I don’t know. I certainly hope so.

What I can tell you is that Rob had a genius for constantly providing that new blood. His eyes and ears and taste buds were always open for something new to share with readers. If he tasted something he liked at my Shabbat table, he’d show up at my home the following week and film my mother making her famous galettes.

It is that openness I will miss the most. Those impromptu conversations in our offices about movies, food (always food), the Jewish community (don’t ask), a new book, Israeli politics (always polite), a new person we met, a cool event we attended or that was coming up, a story about one of our kids … there were always new stories to share.

Will I continue to follow Rob’s lead and tell all those new stories with fairness and passion? I’m not Hemingway, but I’ll try.


David Suissa is president of TRIBE Media Corp./Jewish Journal and can be reached at davids@jewishjournal.com.

Rob Eshman stands in front of his favorite Jewish Journal cover, which never ran. Photo by Lynn Pelkey

The last column


So this is goodbye.

I walked into the offices of the Jewish Journal 23 years ago, and it’s time for me to walk out.

As I announced a month ago, I’ll be stepping down as editor-in-chief and publisher as of Sept. 29 and moving on to the next chapter of my life, focusing full time on writing and teaching, and being open to new possibilities as well. If the urge to return to a regular column proves irresistible, you’ll have to find me elsewhere. So this is my last column as editor. I’m truly touched by the numerous kind letters and Facebook posts from people who say they will miss me. For those of you who won’t miss me, I’m glad I could finally make you happy.

A while ago, I realized I had better move on before it was too late. The Journal has been my home since 1994, and it was time to leave home. Twenty-three years. The voice in my head kept nagging, “If not now, when?”

When I told my therapist maybe this was all just a midlife crisis, he raised an eyebrow. “Rob, you’re 57. Midlife?”

As my friends and family (and therapist) can attest, I’ve struggled with this decision. It didn’t come as an epiphany but as a gnawing sense that I had given this place my all, and it was time to stretch myself in new ways.

Each Yom Kippur, we come face to face with our mortality. The liturgy urges us to make good our vows and repair our wrongs before the closing of the gates. And each Yom Kippur for many years, I sat in services and struggled with the reality that the gates are closing, and I had to decide. I would recite the Al Chet prayer, which asks God to forgive us a litany a sins. I would get to the last one — “For the mistakes we committed before You through confusion of the heart” — and beat my breast extra hard. The rabbis understood how indecision could paralyze us, stifling our potential.

In her new book, Rabbi Naomi Levy (who also happens to be my wife) tells how the rabbis believed that an angel hovers over every living thing, every blade of grass, whispering, “Grow! Grow!” Since I first read that passage, the angel’s voice has only grown louder. By last year, that still small voice — kol d’mama daka — was screaming.

Still, I wavered. Letting go of this job turns out to be really hard. It has given me a public platform, a voice. It has taken me around the world: Poland, Azerbaijan, Turkey, Morocco, Germany, France, England, Mexico and, of course, Israel. It has brought me into the vice president’s mansion and the White House — twice — and enabled me to meet and speak with intellectuals, diplomats, artists, writers, actors, activists, rabbis, educators, politicians and world leaders. It has put me on stages from Encino to Oxford, to speak with people like Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris, Tony Kushner, Ehud Barak, Amos Oz and the brave Muslim journalists whom the Journal has hosted as Daniel Pearl Fellows.

It has paid me to do what I would do for free: keep up with current events, learn all that I can about Judaism, Los Angeles, politics, food and Israel. It has put me into the heart of the Los Angeles Jewish community at a remarkable time, when we Jews are freer, more secure and more powerful than at any other time in our history. It also put me into journalism during a thrilling moment, when the future of media changes weekly, and when what began as a small community paper can now, with the click of a button, have an impact on people around the world.

Maybe I should stop with this litany before I change my mind, but ultimately, those are just the perks of a fascinating job. I am under no illusions about what really made my role so rewarding.

First, you.

When I say the Journal has been my home, I mean you readers have been like family. You are smart, caring, engaged and opinionated. Not for a second did I ever feel I was writing into a void — and, on occasion, I wished I were. “Eshman is a total moron when it comes to Israel,” a letter writer wrote last week. I’ve been doing this so long and have developed such a thick skin, I actually took it as a compliment. Hey, he didn’t say about everything, just Israel.

I’ve always been keenly aware the Journal serves one of the world’s largest and most diverse Jewish communities. As our online presence has grown, so has our community of readers, from L.A. to Tel Aviv to New York to Tehran. My goal has been to make the Journal the easiest and most interesting place for all these disparate voices to meet, to argue factually and honestly, to understand one another if not to agree. I’ve met or spoken with thousands of you over the years and I take comfort in knowing the Journal, 30 years after its founding, remains the one place where all of our many voices can gather and be heard, day after day, week after week. Even as online media catered more and more to ideological ghettos, the Journal remained committed to reflecting the broadest array of views.

My other deep sense of fulfillment comes from having been part of the Jewish Journal board and staff. I was fortunate to work under three chairs of TRIBE Media, the nonprofit that publishes the Journal: Stanley Hirsh, Irwin Field and Peter Lowy. All three fiercely respected the Journal’s editorial independence. Stanley tapped me to be editor and Irwin devoted himself selflessly to the Journal for years. Peter came in at a dire moment and has stuck by the Journal’s side ever since — he continues to be a selfless supporter and loyal defender. If anything, I often felt that if we weren’t raising a ruckus, we were letting Peter down. To me personally, he is a role model for fearlessness and generosity. If you have received any benefit from this enterprise, Peter Lowy deserves more credit than he will ever take.

I’ve appreciated all of our board members over the years, but I owe four of them special thanks. Uri Herscher believed in this paper when the recession had all but finished it off. His commitment to local, independent Jewish press, his moral authority and his wisdom helped bring it back to life. Uri continues to be a mentor and inspiration to me, as he is to so many. Art Bilger was part of the original rescue squad and saw us through very hard times with insight and creativity. Michael Parks, a Pulitzer Prize winner and former editor of the Los Angeles Times, has always been an unflappable editorial sounding board for me. Jonathan Kirsch has acted as the Journal’s pro bono counsel for 30 years. His expertise has been an important part of the Journal’s success, and occasionally its salvation. Tough stories often make for tough enemies. Jonathan Kirsch is our shield.

As for the staff, what can I say? There’s a word for an editor without a staff — it’s called a blogger. An enormous amount of work goes into putting out a weekly paper and a constantly updated website. That work is unceasing, always under deadline with never enough time or money. Whether it’s Tom Tugend, who fled Nazi Berlin and fought in three wars — and still reports for us — or our newest interns, the people who do this work on the advertising, production, administrative and editorial sides are the paper. They are an extraordinary group of people, from all different faiths and backgrounds. I’ll take full blame for any criticism you may have of this paper, but any compliments must be shared with them.

Six years ago, when I asked David Suissa to join the paper, I knew that there were few people in L.A. who share his passion for Jewish life combined with his commitment to fine journalism and an intense creativity. Three years ago, when I first told David I was thinking of leaving, he said, “No!” David can be very persuasive, so no it was, and I’m grateful I stayed. These past few years have been the most exciting.

I know there are Suissa people out there and Eshman people, but as David takes the reins, I want you to know that I am a Suissa person. I am sure under David this enterprise will go from strength to strength.

There is a second “staff” that also has been a blessing: my family. Raising a family in the Jewish community while reporting on the Jewish community has been tricky at times, and often personally hard for them. To protect their privacy, I chose to write about my son, Adi, and daughter, Noa, very sparingly in this space, but know that is in inverse proportion to the amount of room they take up in my heart and soul. Adi and Noa have been my constant joy and inspiration.

If there’s anything I’ve learned in those decades, it’s that nothing is as important to individual success as community. Yes, the community can offer connections and a leg up. But it also will be there when you fall.

My wife Naomi approaches Jewish learning and practice with utter commitment and total joy. She doesn’t just inspire me, she revives my faith when the politics of communal life can sometimes sour it. Being married to a brilliant rabbi and writer has also helped me fool you into thinking I know far more than I do.   

My parents, Aaron and Sari Eshman, are my role models for community and caring. My dad was born in 1927 in Los Angeles, where his father, Louis, was on the original medical staff of what was then Cedars of Lebanon Hospital. I have vivid childhood memories of Mom and Dad heading off to charity events and volunteering for Cedars, Vista Del Mar and other organizations. Like so many of their contemporaries, they have left this city and its Jewish community far better than they found it. I hope I have been a worthy link in the chain.

That chain includes my predecessors at the paper. Founding editor Gene Lichtenstein set an example of journalistic excellence I have tried to emulate. The cover of the first issue on Feb. 28, 1986,  featured a story on Jews and the school busing controversy. Clearly this was never going to be a paper content to run puff pieces.

Gene accepted men-seeking-men ads long before mainstream papers did. After he left, we were the first Jewish paper to run cover stories on gay marriage and transgender Jews. Religion that doesn’t wrestle with contemporary issues belongs in a museum, not a newspaper.

In the pantheon of columnists I most admire — William Safire, Peggy Noonan, Tom Friedman, Steve Lopez, Bret Stephens, Nick Kristof, Jeffrey Goldberg — I put the late Marlene Adler Marks on the highest pedestal. She was a dear colleague who died too young, and could never be replaced.

When I started at the Journal, almost all Jewish papers were exactly what the late Rabbi Stephen S. Wise called them: “weaklies.” They were parochial community organs. The lead  story of one such paper that arrived in our offices back then was, “Jewish Community Center Gets New Deck.” And yes, the entire cover photo was of a wooden deck. This is some business I’m in, I thought.

Today, Jewish journalism is in a golden age: The Jewish Journal, The Forward, The New York Jewish Week, Moment, Tablet, JTA, not to mention The Times of Israel and Haaretz (let’s face it, they’re pretty Jewish) are attracting great talent, breaking stories, providing deep insights and playing a leading role in shaping communal and international conversation. I am indebted to and often in awe of my colleagues in this corner of the journalism world. Of course, Jewish journalism still is, compared with the big guys, a small endeavor. But Jews also are small in number — and that hasn’t stopped us from making a difference. So can our media. Please support it.

I can’t tell you I’m not a little scared. I will miss being in regular contact with the remarkable people who make up this community, many of whom have become dear friends. I have this recurring, chilling thought that nothing will work out and I’ll be the guy at home in my pajamas writing those cranky letters to the editor, instead of the guy at the office who selects which ones to print.

But there’s some comfort, excitement and strength in being open to the uncertainty. That’s the lesson of Yom Kippur:  We know our days are numbered, that life is a passing shadow, and so we resolve to make changes today — haYom! the liturgy repeats — because the future is beyond our control. 

Last week, I was talking all this over with an older and far wiser attorney friend over lunch. I said I’d heard a life transition can be like a trapeze — sometimes you have to let go of one bar before the next appears. “Well,” he said, “as long as there’s a net.”

At first, I gulped. Oh, damn, I thought, he’s right. What was I thinking?

But then I remembered, I have a net, and so do you. It’s called community. It’s the reason this paper exists and thrives, it’s the reason I’ve been doing this job for 23 years.

If there’s anything I’ve learned in those decades, it’s that nothing is as important to individual success as community. Yes, the community can offer connections and a leg up. But it also will be there when you fall. It’s there for you when you get sick or a loved one dies, and it’s there for you to celebrate your successes and your joys. They say journalism is the first draft of history. But journalism’s true purpose isn’t to record history; it’s to strengthen community. No matter what comes next — trapeze bar or net — I am proud to have helped the Journal fulfill that role.

Over the years, many letter writers have accused me of being overly optimistic. Guilty. This was never the column to turn to if you wanted to read the same old dire warnings about how the Jews are disappearing, anti-Semites are everywhere, the younger generation is lost, Israel and the Palestinians are doomed, and every other gloomy prediction that passes as realism.

But it is impossible to do what I’ve done for the past two decades and not be optimistic. I leave this job with a deep sense of the abiding power of community and tradition and the ability of Judaism to meet the challenges of an unpredictable and often cruel world. To be a Jewish journalist is to see an ancient faith renewed in real time in the real world, in all its variety, abundance — and endurance.

Just this week, I was planning an upcoming trip to Berlin for a conference. When I told my wife I was thinking of finally visiting Auschwitz, a place neither of us has ever been, she became  upset.

“Please don’t go to Auschwitz without me,” she said.

The instant she said it, we had to laugh. Seventy-five years ago, who would have thought?

To this day, that somewhat over-the-top 2003 video of Israeli jets flying over Auschwitz still moves me. The weak can become powerful. Refugees can find a home. In a matter of years, enemies can become allies. Things change, often for the good.

But among all that change, the need for spirituality and tradition abides. Just last week, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg posted a photo of him and his wife celebrating Shabbat with their baby daughter, Max. They gave Max a 100-year-old Kiddush Cup that belonged to her great-great-grandfather.

No amount of money or power, no new technology and no social upheaval can erase our deeply human need for meaning, connection and purpose. Judaism has helped people meet those needs for millennia. After 5,778 years, the burden of proof is on the pessimists. Judaism will evolve, of course, but as long as it changes to meet these eternal human needs, it will endure.

So, now comes the time for my personal evolution. I do hope we can keep in touch. After all, I plan on staying in L.A. and, more than likely, remaining Jewish.  This Yom Kippur, you definitely will find me in shul, thankful for having made my decision, grateful for the past 23 years, and eager to open new gates as the old ones close.

In the meantime, I wish you a sweet and healthy New Year. Serving you has been my deepest honor. May you come to know all the blessings that being part of your life has brought me.


If you’d like to keep in touch with Rob Eshman, send an email to robeshman@gmail.com. You also can follow him on Instagram and Twitter @foodaism, and on his public Facebook page. Rob will still blog at foodaism.com — without a staff.

I Love You Rob Eshman


It was announced today that Rob Eshman is stepping down from his post as editor-in-chief and publisher of the Jewish Journal. When I read the news my heart paused, then I sighed, then I was sad for me, then I was happy for him, then I stared at the picture accompanying the announcement and thought about how much I love this wonderful man, and will miss him as my boss.

Important to note that my remarkable Rabbi, Naomi Levy, is married to Rob and I love her just as much, so there is no shame in professing my love for this great man. As I begin my ninth year as a writer at the Jewish Journal, I owe everything to Rob. He not only heard my voice through my writing, but fought for others to hear it, even when some wanted me to be quiet. I have built a wonderful life as a writer and I will forever be grateful to the man who started it all for me.

Rob Eshman is my hero for a lot of reasons. He loves his family in a way that makes me believe in love. He comments on my writing in a way that makes me want to do better. He inspires me to be a more informed Jew. He makes me laugh, and think, and hope, and pray. I am a better writer for having worked alongside him and will forever been honored to have been taken under his wing.

To the divine Rob Eshman, you are amazing and I am happy for you. I wish you nothing but good things on your new adventure. I look forward to buying your cookbook and seeing you in temple. You are a wonderful journalist, an exceptional human being, and I love you. Always have, and always will. Mazel Tov Mr. Eshman. Be happy, be safe, and always keep the faith.

 

 

Rob Eshman, longtime Jewish Journal editor-in-chief and publisher, to leave post for writing projects


Rob Eshman

Rob Eshman, longtime editor-in-chief and publisher of the Jewish Journal, has announced he will be leaving his position on September 26.

Eshman, who has written and sold two movie projects while at the Journal, said that after 23 years at the paper, he wants to switch the focus of his career to full-time writing. He will be working on a food book—Eshman writes the blog “Foodaism”—and another movie project.

“I couldn’t be prouder of what the Journal has become,” Eshman said. “And I am honored and grateful to have been a part of it. I will always love this paper, its staff and this community.”

Peter Lowy, chairman of TRIBE Media, which produces the Jewish Journal, said that current President David Suissa will be stepping into Eshman’s role.

“Rob has been integral to the Journal and the Jewish community,” Lowy said. “He brought curiosity, intellect, and a sense of humor to his work.  Most of all he cares passionately about journalism and Judaism—and he showed that every week.”

Lowy said Eshman approached him in late July to begin discussing the move, and together with Suissa they worked toward a smooth transition.

“What makes the Journal great is a great staff, its board, and the community we serve,” Eshman said. “Those will remain the constants of the Jewish Journal.”

The Journal combines news of the 600,000-person LA Jewish community –the third largest in the world after New York and Tel Aviv–with commentary, features and national and international news.  It publishes 50,000 print copies each week in Los Angeles, and updates jewishjournal.com, one of the world’s most widely-read Jewish news sites, throughout the day.

In 1994, Eshman arrived at the Journal after working as a freelance journalist in San Francisco and Jerusalem. The paper’s founding editor, Gene Lichtenstein, hired him as a reporter. At the time the Journal was a print-only publication. The Journal was independently incorporated but distributed via the Federation membership list.

Eshman became Managing Editor in 1997. In 2000, then-Chairman Stanley Hirsch named him Editor-in-Chief.

As editor, Eshman expanded the reach of jewishjournal.com from 4000 unique visitors to upwards of 4 million today. He brought on a greater mix of political and religious voices. He also overhauled the print circulation model, completely dropping Federation distribution and making the Journal a free weekly, distributed throughout the city. Then-chairman Irwin Field was instrumental in seeing these changes through, Eshman said.

“I wanted to reach every Jew,” Eshman said, “especially those who weren’t connected to the organized community. I realized a good Jewish paper was the easiest way into Jewish connection, and I wanted to make it even easier.” 

In 2009, the Journal, like most newspapers in the country, fell into dire financial straits. Eshman turned to Lowy, CEO of Westfield Corp. to rescue the company and help steer it through the double blow that the Internet and the recession dealt the industry. With a handful of other philanthropists, Lowy formed a new board and came on as Chairman. A year later, Eshman tapped Suissa, formerly the founder of Suissa/Miller Advertising and editor and publisher of OLAM Magazine, to run the Journal’s business side. At that time, Eshman was named Publisher as well.

In the process, Eshman chose a new name for the company –TRIBE—to reflect the its growing multi-media nature and broader mission. These moves ensured the paper’s survival, and eventual growth.

“David Suissa brought his passion and creative genius to the paper, and has been an invaluable partner,” Eshman said.

While Eshman leans left and Suissa right, the two wrote often-opposing columns and the Journal came even more to reflect—and combine—strongly divergent voices that would otherwise stay secluded in separate media bubbles.

During the 2016 Iran nuclear deal, which Eshman supported and Suissa opposed, their ability to spar publicly while maintaining a close friendship and partnership drew media attention.

L.A. Jewish Journal’s heads spar over Iran deal, but stay friendly,” read a headline in the Times of Israel.

Under Eshman, the Journal has won numerous press and community awards. It has expanded across other media platforms, including video. Its livecast of the Nashuva congregation’s Kol Nidre service draws 75,000 viewers each year, making it the world’s most-watched High Holiday service.

Asked to name highlights of his tenure, Eshman pointed to two. In 2015, Islamic terrorists in Paris massacred the staff at Charlie Hebdo magazine for printing cartoons they found offensive. The Journal renamed the Jan. 16 masthead of the paper, “Jewish Hebdo,” and ran the offending cartoons inside.

A year later, Eshman oversaw the first poll of American Jewish opinion during the Iran nuclear deal. It found most American Jews supported a deal that the vast majority of Jewish organizations, as well as Israel’s Prime Minister, opposed. The results reverberated internationally, and the White House acknowledged the Jewish Journal as “One of the most widely read Jewish publications online.”  

“To go from a small locally-circulated newspaper to a media company that reaches millions around the world, and has an impact on the great debates of our time while still serving its core readers with the kind of independent journalism that serves and builds community–that’s very gratifying,” said Eshman. “But it wasn’t at all just me. It was us.”

Eshman credits his past managing editors Amy Klein and Howard Blume, former executive editor Susan Freudenheim, and current managing editor Ryan Smith—as well as a slew of talented writers—as instrumental to the Journal’s editorial accomplishments.

Eshman, 57, is a native of Encino, CA and a graduate of Dartmouth College. He is married to Rabbi Naomi Levy, an author and founder of Nashuva. They have two children, Adi and Noa.

During his tenure at the Journal, Eshman, a member of the Writers Guild of America, wrote and sold a feature film screenplay and a multi-part television project. He also created the food blog, “Foodaism,” named one of L.A.’s best food blogs, and created and taught “Food, Media and Culture” at USC Annenberg School of Communication, where he will continue to teach. He has served on several non-profit boards, including, at present, The Miracle Project.

“We wish Rob well and look forward to an exciting future with David building off the base that Rob and his team has built,” said Lowy.

Eshman pointed out that there has been at least one Jewish newspaper in Los Angeles since the first one was founded in 1870. 

“I was so honored to serve this community and be part of that history,” he said. “And it goes on.”

 

 

Who is a Finalist for the Southern California Journalism Awards?


Lisa Niver is a finalist for the Southern California Journalism AwardsI am a finalist in two categories for the Southern California Journalism Awards! I am so honored and excited. Thank you to everyone who has supported me in my writing career.

What are the Southern California Journalism Awards?

The 59th Southern California Journalism Awards honor the best in broadcast, print and online media. There were 1200 entries for the 2017 awards.

From LA Press Club: “The Southern California Journalism Awards were born during the Cold War, when Los Angeles journalism was dominated by the city’s many newspapers. Television was in its infancy. Developments like all-news radio were still years away. Women journalists were rare in mainstream media. Minorities, even rarer.

Today we see greater diversity in the newsroom and in the ways we provide information. The Press Club has been striving to embrace Internet journalists and bloggers–clearly the wave of the future.

The Southern California Journalism Awards, now celebrating 59 years of recognizing high-caliber journalism, continues to call attention to the Los Angeles area’s fine journalists while promoting excellence in new and emerging media.”

Lisa Niver is a finalist for the Southern California Journalism AwardsWhen and Where are the Southern California Journalism Awards?

I will be going to the ceremony at the Biltmore on June 25, 2017 and sitting at The Jewish Journal table.

What articles are you nominated for? I am nominated in two categories

X13. TRAVEL REPORTING

*Brad A. Johnson, Bradajohnson.net, “Trout Fishing and the Yearning for Peace in Kashmir”

*Todd Krainin, Reason, “Gurgaon: India’s Private City”

*Lisa Niver, Mountain Travel Sobek, “Mongolia: Land of Dunes & Moonrises

*Gwynedd Stuart, L.A. Weekly, “How to Go to Disneyland as an Adult and Not Want to

Die”

*Susan Valot, KCRW, “For the Curious: A Visit to the Oldest Juniper Tree in America”

F7. COLUMN

*Patricia Bunin, Southern California News Group, “When Nothing Special Moments Are

Everything”

*Tom Hoffarth, Los Angeles Daily News, “Vin Scully’s Final Call”

*Lisa Niver, The Jewish Journal, “A Journey to Freedom Over Three Passovers

*Jon Regardie, Los Angeles Downtown News, “David Without a Slingshot (Yet)”

*Sharon Smith, Downey Patriot, The Problem With Senior Housing”

Who are the 2017 Special Honorees?

* Andrea Mitchell, NBC News — Joseph M. Quinn Award for Lifetime Achievement

* Jake Tapper, CNN — Presidents Award for Impact on Media

* Daniel Berehulak, Photojournalist — Daniel Pearl Award for Courage and Integrity in Journalism

*Jaime Jarrin, Dodgers Broadcaster — Bill Rosendahl Public Service Award for Contribution to Civic Life

Thank you for all of your support! Lisa Niver

Are you wondering how to get started as a travel writer?

The 13th We Said Go Travel Writing Competition is open! Share a story about where you find freedom and get started today. Maybe you will be sitting next to me at a future writing award ceremony. You never know what will happen next in your journey. You do get to decide if you want to participate. I hope you will join in! We are looking forward to reading about your adventures.

Video: Lisa’s interview on The Jet Set

See this article on Sheknows

From left: Michael Robin, Melanie Zoey Weinstein, Marnina Wirtschafter and Jaclyn Beck sing a politically themed song parody of “Seasons of Love” as part of IKAR’s Purim celebration. Photo by Len Muroff.

Moving and Shaking: L.A. celebrates Purim, IDF soldiers celebrated, Elon Gold reignites Jewish comedy


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Mayim Bialik suited up for the Velcro wall at Valley Beth Shalom’s March 12 Purim carnival. Photo courtesy of Mayim Bialik.

Los Angeles Jews celebrated Purim across the city and around the world on March 11 and 12.

On the Westside, Shtibl Minyan and Temple Emanuel of Beverly Hills held “Hamilton”-themed shpiels, “Hamalkah: A Purim Musical” and “Esther: A Purim Musical,” respectively. Temple Isaiah hosted “The Late Late Show Purim,” with Rabbi Joel Nickerson playing talk show host James Grogger and featuring characters from the Purim story as his guests. At Temple Beth Am, senior staff and interns dressed as either Little Orphan Annie or her dog, Sandy, to convey the message that “the sun will come out tomorrow.” Aish Los Angeles held a jungle-themed Purim party for young adults ages 21 to 32 at Morry’s Fireplace.

Venturing to Club Fais Do-Do, IKAR held a combination Megillah reading and shpiel, featuring slides with funny images. Between chapters, the shpiel team screened a number of video shorts, including “IKARaoke,” starring “Royal Pains” actor Mark Feuerstein. The spiel ended with a politically themed song parody of “Seasons of Love” (from the musical “Rent”). Costumes, too, skewed political, with Rabbi Sharon Brous dressed as the Statue of Liberty.

Festivities continued Sunday around the region, with carnivals at Temple Judea, Temple Isaiah and Valley Beth Shalom (VBS), among other places. At VBS, actress Mayim Bialik (“The Big Bang Theory”) was one of the carnival-goers who suited up for the Velcro wall.

In Israel, Rabbi Marvin Hier, dean and founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles, was spotted dancing after a Megillah reading at the Tel Aviv Hilton with his son, Avi Hier, and Andrew Friedman, president of Congregation Bais Naftoli.

— Esther D. Kustanowitz, Contributing Writer


Soldiers who traveled to Los Angeles as part of Lev Chayal “Trip of a Lifetime” gather around businessman and philanthropist Marvin Markowitz (top row, seventh from left, seated). Photo by Debra Halperin Photography.

Soldiers who traveled to Los Angeles as part of Lev Chayal “Trip of a Lifetime” gather around
businessman and philanthropist Marvin Markowitz (top row, seventh from left, seated). Photo by Debra Halperin Photography.

Lev Chayal held its second annual “Toast to Our Heroes” party on March 4 at The Mark for Events on Pico Boulevard. The party honored 10 Israel Defense Forces soldiers who were wounded during hostilities with Hamas in Gaza in 2014.

Lev Chayal, which translates to “Heart of a Soldier,” is a group dedicaxted to honoring wounded Israeli soldiers by offering them free leisure trips to Los Angeles. Chaya Israily and Brocha Yemini founded the group in 2016 under the auspices of the Chabad Israel Center.

The black-tie evening coincided with the second trip for soldiers sponsored by Lev Chayal. During their 10-day tour of Los Angeles, dubbed “The Trip of a Lifetime,” the soldiers attended a Lakers game, toured the headquarters of dating app Tinder and visited the Getty Villa museum, among other attractions.

Businessman and philanthropist Marvin Markowitz donated the use of the event space and paid for a significant amount of the event’s expenses.

Some 200 people attended the event, which raised nearly $50,000. Lev Chayal is preparing for the next trip for soldiers in December.

— Eitan Arom, Staff Writer


Alan Dershowitz and Roz Rothstein at “Combating the Boycott Movement Against Israel” conference. Photo courtesy of StandwithUs.

Alan Dershowitz and Roz Rothstein at “Combating the Boycott Movement Against Israel” conference. Photo courtesy of StandwithUs.

More than 250 people participated in the “Combating the Boycott Movement Against Israel” conference on March 4-6, organized by the group StandWithUs, which focused on countering the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel.

Supported by the Diane Shulman and Roger Richman Israel Education Fund, the conference at the Hyatt Regency Los Angeles International Airport drew students, professionals and activists from the United States, Canada and Israel. Attendees and members of StandWithUs, a nonprofit pro-Israel organization, shared their experiences with the BDS movement and the tactics they have used to challenge it on college campuses and other places.

“Today, you can’t say anything about minorities, about gay people, about Palestinians, about Muslims or about Arabs,” said Harvard University law professor emeritus and defense attorney Alan Dershowitz. “But when you put a shoe on the other foot, you can say analogous things about the nation-state of the Jewish people, about the Jewish lobby, and ultimately about Jews.”

He said college campuses should “demand a single standard” that is fairly applied to both sides.

“Whatever the left says is hate speech against them, we must demand that that be deemed hate speech against us on the other side,” Dershowitz said.

Other guest speakers included Judea Pearl, father of late Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl; Yaki Lopez, consul for political affairs at the Consulate General of Israel in Los Angeles; and Anne Bayefsky, director of the Touro Institute on Human Rights and the Holocaust.

Hannah Karpin, 17, StandWithUs High School Intern at Palos Verdes Peninsula High School, said the conference enabled her to learn more about the BDS movement.

“I think it should be acknowledged as an anti-Semitic movement,” said Karpin, who is planning to attend college next year. “It was shocking to hear that some recognizable organizations were behind the BDS movement.”

— Olga Grigoryants, Contributing Writer


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Elon Gold. Photo by Ryan Torok.

Comedian Elon Gold performed at a Purim comedy concert at the Saban Theatre in Beverly Hills on March 9, during which he talked about why Israel is the nipple of the Middle East breast (Gold said Israel is the most sensitive area and he doesn’t get to visit it as much he would like) and acted as Abraham negotiating with God over how much should be cut off during a circumcision (with God sounding like Marlon Brando and Abraham like Woody Allen).

Gold is Modern Orthodox and his material focused almost exclusively on the Jewish experience. He asked at one point if any gentiles were in the crowd. When nobody raised a hand, he insisted there were a couple of goy but they were hiding. He then asked the non-Jews how it felt for them to be the ones hiding.

Alex Edelman, a stand-up comedian who opened the show, gleaned material from his Jewish upbringing and did an eight-minute bit about the year his family celebrated Christmas, much to the chagrin of his yeshiva teacher.

The several hundred attendees included Pico Shul Rabbi Yonah Bookstein and his wife, rebbetzin Rachel Bookstein; Jacob Segal, co-chair of the Southern California Israel Chamber of Commerce; David Suissa, president of TRIBE Media Corp., and his daughter, Tova; and Scott Jacobs of JooTube.

On a more serious note, Gold took the opportunity to denounce the anti-Semitism that has been on the rise over the past couple of months, with Jewish community centers being targeted with bomb threats and several Jewish cemeteries vandalized.

“You mess with the Jews, you lose,” Gold said.


From left: FIDF Chairman Ari Ryan and FIDF board members Francesca Ruzin and Michael Spector. Photo courtesy of S&N Photography.

Friends of the Israel Defense Forces (FIDF) held its Young Leadership Western Region Spring Mixer on March 9 at the Nightingale Plaza dance club on La Cienega Boulevard.

Some 650 young donors mingled over cocktails under violet lighting as house music blared, celebrating the work FIDF has done to support Israeli troops. Life-size posters of IDF soldiers in uniform beamed at the guests.

For an extra $18 above the $36 ticket price, attendees were able to send a Purim gift package to an IDF soldier.

The event, chaired by Danielle Moses, Mimi Paley, Francesca Ruzin and Miles Soboroff, raised more than $41,000 for FIDF.

In 2016, FIDF supported, by its own count, 66,000 soldiers, veterans and bereaved family members, including 14,500 through educational programming, 2,800 through assistance to so-called lone soldiers who don’t have immediate family in Israel, and 8,000 soldiers needing financial assistance.

— Eitan Arom, Staff Writer


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Michael Janofsky

Michael Janofsky, a former correspondent for The New York Times and more recently managing editor of LA School Report, has joined the Jewish Journal as an assistant editor. Janofsky was a sportswriter, national correspondent and Washington, D.C. reporter over 24 years with the paper. After moving to Los Angeles in 2006, he worked as a speechwriter for the dean of UCLA’s business school and a freelance writer and editor before joining the Journal.

Moving and Shaking highlights events, honors and simchas. Got a tip? Email ryant@jewishjournal.com. 

SHALOM HANOCH & MOSHE LEVI: THE EXIT CONCERT

Calendar: March 10-16, 2017


SAT | MARCH 11

AUTHOR NOAH ISENBERG

cal-casablancaNoah Isenberg and Monika Henreid discuss Isenberg’s new book, “We’ll Always Have Casablanca: The Life, Legend, and Afterlife of Hollywood’s Most Beloved Movie.” Its focus is the award-winning film that was released in 1942 featuring Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman and a memorable supporting cast. Isenberg, a film historian, reveals the myths and realities behind “Casablanca’s” production. Through extensive research and interviews with filmmakers, film critics, family members of the cast and crew, and die-hard fans, Isenberg reveals why the film remains so revered. He also focuses on the major role that refugees from Hitler’s Europe played in the production (many cast members were immigrants). The book is filled with fresh insights into “Casablanca’s” creation, production and legacy. 3 p.m. Free. Book Soup, 8818 Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood. (310) 659-3110. booksoup.com.

SUN | MARCH 12

SHALOM HANOCH & MOSHE LEVI: THE EXIT CONCERT

Shalom Hanoch and Moshe Levi perform their final show in the United States. 8 p.m. $100. The Canyon Club, 28912 Roadside Drive, Agoura Hills. israeliamerican.org/shalom.

TUES | MARCH 14

“BORN SURVIVORS: THE EXTRAORDINARY STORIES OF THREE YOUNG MOTHERS”

cal-born-survivorsWendy Holden chronicled the stories of three young mothers who were torn from their families by the Nazis in her powerful book “Born Survivors: Three Young Mothers and Their Extraordinary Story of Courage, Defiance, and Hope.” The three women were strangers, but all a few months pregnant and in need of help to keep it a secret from their Nazi captors. Despite the odds, they all defied death to give their children life. Meet one of the Holocaust survivors, Hana Berger Moran. 7:30 p.m. Free; registration required at ushmm.org/events/holden-losangeles. Wilshire Boulevard Temple, Irmas Campus, 11661 W. Olympic Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 556-3222. ushmm.org.

WED | MARCH 15

IS “ZIONIST” NOW A BAD WORD?

cal-david-wolpeAs the debate over Israel rages on across college campuses and in living rooms throughout the United States, is “Zionist” still a term of support for Israel, or is it now a loaded term? How do younger Americans interpret “Zionism”? Join the Jewish Journal and Hadassah’s Defining Zionism program as we explore how tomorrow’s leaders are thinking about and engaging with the Jewish state, and how their relationship with Israel differs from that of previous generations. Moderated by Sinai Temple Rabbi David Wolpe; Temple Emanuel of Beverly Hills Rabbi Sarah Bassin; 30 Years After co-founder Sam Yebri; and Jewish Journal staff writer Eitan Arom. 7 p.m. $10 in advance; $15 at the door. Sinai Temple, 10400 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles. hadassah.org/jewishjournal.

“CATHOLIC AND JEWISH CONCEPTS OF FORGIVENESS”

How does our Jewish tradition understand the concept and practice of mercy and how do we live up to this ideal, which is one of the highest qualities we look for in a human being? Rabbi Steven Silver will discuss “Catholic and Jewish Concepts of Forgiveness.” After lunch, there will be a screening of “Stolen Summer,” a Project Greenlight film about a young Catholic boy who goes on a quest to help a dying Jewish friend get into heaven. 11 a.m. $14; $12 for members. The Rosenberg Cultural Center at Temple Menorah, 1101 Camino Real, Redondo Beach. (310) 316-8444. templemenorah.org.

BEING JEWISH ON A COLLEGE CAMPUS

Harkham-GAON Academy (at the Westside Jewish Community Center) is hosting this event for high school juniors and seniors to gain insight into Jewish life opportunities at college campuses across the country. The event will include a panel of experts on Jewish life at college with the opportunity to ask questions. You will also hear about challenges Jewish college students face. 6:30 p.m. Free. Harkham-GAON Academy, 5870 W. Olympic Blvd., Los Angeles, (310) 556-0663.

SECURITY RESPONSE TOWN HALL

In response to the recent wave of bomb threats at Jewish Community Centers nationwide, and the vandalism at multiple Jewish cemeteries across the country, The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles will hold a town hall addressing security issues at Jewish sites. Los Angeles Police Department officials and senior representatives from the FBI will speak. 5 p.m. RSVP required at SLoughmiller@JewishLA.org; no walk-ins. The Jewish Federation, 6505 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles.

THURS | MARCH 16

“MEMORY & CONTINUITY OF THE SOUTHERN ITALIAN JEWISH LEGACY”

cal-FabrizioLelliFabrizio Lelli will discuss the extraordinary spiritual rebirth of contemporary Judaism by comparing it with other intellectually significant phases of Apulian Judaism in the past. Lelli studies the history of Apulian Jewish culture, concentrating on written and oral testimonies of former Jewish refugees who were in transit camps in the region of Apulia. Lelli teaches at the University of Salento in Italy. Sponsored by UCLA’s Alan D. Leve Center for Jewish Studies. 4 p.m. Free. Pre-registration required at cjsrsvp@humnet.ucla.edu or (310) 267-5327. UCLA, 314 Royce Hall, Los Angeles. humnet.ucla.edu.

Letters to the editor: Response to women’s march, Obama goodbye, and Journal at 30


Women’s March Was About Moving Forward

Jan. 21 was a wonderful example of women and men marching peacefully with great dignity so their voices might be heard.

My environmentalist daughter in the Bay Area marched; my pregnant younger daughter, son and husband marched in Brooklyn. I marched with friends in Los Angeles, proud to be an American.

We will not move backward in time and tolerate anything less than progress forward. We will not lose our right to make healthy choices about our bodies.

Marilyn Stolzman, Calabasas

Emotions About Obama, Run High

Judging by the letters you are getting that chide Rob Eshman’s reverent goodbye to President Barack Obama (“Thank You, Obama,” Jan. 20), it appears that your Jewish readers are beginning to wake up. We should thank Obama for showing the Jews how mistaken they were in voting for him with all his underhanded anti-Israel handiwork.

Chuck Colton, Sherman Oaks

Hal-e-Jew-Ya to Fran P. Jackson’s letter (Jan. 27) about former (thank God) President Obama! He was the worst president America has ever known, and thank God we have a brilliant man like Donald Trump as our president! Shabbat shalom to the very interesting Jewish Journal! I am a visitor from Manhattan, and even if I wasn’t Jewish, I would love reading your great magazine!

Sandy Kane Brodsky via email

Three Decades of Jewish Journalism

I enjoyed Tom Tugend’s feature story on the 30 years of the Jewish Journal (“A Paper Evolves and Innovates,” Jan. 27) with some sense of nostalgia.

My first “real” job was with the B’nai B’rith Messenger in 1977. The world was different then. But Jewish journalism was still a very challenging and rewarding profession, just as it is today. I salute the Jewish Journal for 30 years of providing thought-provoking ideas that impact our community.

The one omission I think Tugend made was not devoting a little more space to the early Jewish editors who “set the table” for the banquet that the Jewish Journal would eventually become. At the very least to name people like Joseph Jonah Cummins and Gil Thompson of the Messenger, Manny Chait of the Jewish Community Bulletin (which gave birth to the Journal), Herb Brin and a young guy with dark hair named Tugend at the Heritage.

Tom Tugend is and has been a treasure for this Jewish community.

Ron Solomon, Beverly Hills

Intentionally Omitting the Jews

I completely agree with Rob Eshman’s concept that President Donald Trump’s omission of the Jews from his Holocaust speech was intentional so that he would not alienate his large anti-Jewish base (“A Holocaust Without Jews,” Feb. 3). And I am tired of hearing that Trump can be forgiven because his daughter and son-in-law are Jewish. I have yet to see evidence that Trump arranged his daughter’s shidduch (dating, being wooed by and marrying an Orthodox Jew) nor that he was delighted that it happened. Yes, now that he has a bright son-in-law, he is using him, just like an Arab head of state uses a Jewish surgeon.

Martin A. Brower, Corona del  Mar

Letters to the editor


Thanks … but No Thanks?

Thank you, Rob Eshman, for writing what is in so many of our hearts (“Thank You, Obama,” Jan. 20). Well done, but missing one paragraph:

Thank you, Obama, for selecting Joe and Jill Biden, also fine people, who set the bar as high as you and Michelle did as examples for our nation and our youth.  

Again, Rob, a fine and important column.

Pam Pacht via email

I thank you for your “Thank You, Obama” column, and sadly say thank you to the departed Mr. and Mrs. Obama, who graced us with intelligence, wit, kindness and style. Which makes it even more difficult to face our current president, who lacks exactly those qualities.

Rick Edelstein, Los Angeles

Rob Eshman’s column overlooks many of the highly problematic issues of Obama’s presidency. To say that, “In my lifetime, there has never been an administration so free from personal and professional moral stain,” is to look at the world through rose-colored glasses, to say the least.

Obama can be credited with deporting more immigrants than any of his recent predecessors, expanding military operations in addition to Iraq and Afghanistan, and granting more powers to the executive branch, which makes the Trump administration so frightening.

Aaron L. White, Los Angeles

For too many years, the Jewish Journal has been, thanks to Rob Eshman, a Democrat Party publishing organ. Naively, I always thought that the Journal’s mission was to represent all of Los Angeles’ Jewish community’s schools of thought and politics. Marginalizing readers who are not “left of center” will ultimately guarantee the demise of this publication. It is high time for the board to choose a nonpartisan editor with an inclusive world view. Let Eshman embark on his anti-Trump campaign elsewhere.

Ron Rutberg via email  

Rob Eshman should be ashamed of himself and resign as editor-in-chief of the Jewish Journal.

Jerusalem has been the capital of Israel for more than 3,000 years, since King David moved it from Hebron (where Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are buried) to Jerusalem.

It has been our capital long before Berlin, London, Moscow or Washington, D.C.

Why are you so fearful about establishing its rightful position among the nations of the world?

What can the Arabs do to us that they haven’t already tried? What can the world do to us that Hitler hasn’t already done?

Eshman: Resign.

Betzalel “Bitzy” N. Eichenbaum, Encino

Eshman’s expressions of gratitude have almost brought tears to my eyes but vomit to my mouth.

Keep up the good work, Rob. Your popularity is soaring in Gaza, Jenin and Ramallah.

Giorgio Berrin, Lake Balboa  

It’s hard to believe that a publisher could write such gratuitous fantasies about the Obama administration’s past achievements. There is no doubt that many readers would find this article offensive and misleading. Eshman’s blind admiration of Obama’s “accomplishments” is biased, one-sided, politically wrong and far from Jewish interests.

Fortunately, in the same edition, the Jewish Journal had a sense of balance by publishing the excellent opinion piece by contributor Larry Greenfield (“A Legacy of O,” Jan. 20) describing the true Obama disasters.

I urge all readers to read his op-ed.

Alex Chazanas via email 

This has been such an ugly campaign that it’s no wonder the ugliness continues. Larry Greenfield’s piece on the Obama years surpasses even the alt-right distortions. I was shocked to read this in the Jewish Journal. 

Theresa McGowan, Santa Monica

Opposing Trump

David Suissa (“When Values Divide Us,” Dec. 23) draws a false comparison between those who hate Obama and those who oppose Trump. While I can’t speak for his Shabbat guests, Trump’s ubiquitous lying, hateful speech and winks to racists must be opposed. Yes, Mr. Suissa, these violate Jewish values. The hatred of Obama is, at best, partisan politics and, at worst, latent racism.

Rabbi Mitchel Malkus, Washington, D.C.

Photo from Pexels.

Jewish law versus Jewish journalism


Can traditional Jewish law sanction journalism? Can journalism be practiced by people who look to halachah as their guide for daily living?

At first, these seem like absurd questions. The profession of journalism is entirely about the public sharing of information — the good, the bad and the ugly. Halachah (Jewish law), on the other hand, demands that we be extremely circumspect about sharing information about others, even positive information.

Halachah contains broad prohibitions against being a talebearer. “Do not go about as a talebearer among your people,” reads the verse in Leviticus. Furthermore, Jewish law forbids lashon harah — literally, evil speech, or speaking badly of others. That alone would seem to severely limit the range of what a contemporary journalist could write.

So the question as to whether journalism — in particular investigative journalism within the Jewish community — can be practiced within the bounds of halachah seems almost nonsensical. On the face of it, the answer is: Of course not.

Yet journalism thrives in almost all Jewish communities, including, of course, this one. And how would one tell talented Jewish journalists that their passion for journalism and their passion for Judaism were simply incompatible? That would not only cast aspersions upon all of the Jewish journalists in the field, but it would present halachah as a system of thought and law that has nothing to say about one of the central institutions in our lives, one of the pillars of democratic, free society.

Yet the task of meshing journalism and Jewish law is anything but simple.

Consider the Lanner case. In 2000, The New York Jewish Week published a series of landmark reports on the abuse of Jewish students by their headmaster, Rabbi Baruch Lanner. Had journalists abided by what was then regarded as the correct interpretation of Jewish law, the reporters and editors would have been obligated to keep the information and the lurid details out of the public eye for as long as possible, instead sharing it only with those individuals who exerted direct influence over Lanner. But many of those individuals, we later learned, were unwilling or unable to stop his abuse. The decision of The New York Jewish Week to publish the story, and to reject the halachic interpretation that regarded public exposure as a last resort to be exercised only when all else has failed, not only stopped the abuse, it single-handedly placed the issue of sexual abuse in school and youth group settings squarely into the communal conversation, leading to far-reaching systemic change in how the community thinks and acts.

The task of meshing journalism and Jewish law is anything but simple.

“Theoretically, one should not want to try people in the newspaper,” said Rabbi Yosef Blau, who sat on the special commission that investigated the Lanner case. “But in a practical sense, in the present time, the newspapers have proven to be a very effective tool … in forcing the community to confront the issues, rather than to stay in denial.”

Unfortunately, events over the past decade have demonstrated the unimpeachable truth of Blau’s words time and time again. Over the past 30 years, the Jewish Journal has published numerous stories that exposed the untoward acts of rabbis, leaders and institutions — stories that caused shame and grief at the time, but which, like the Lanner story, resulted in positive change, or at least greater awareness.

But it is clearly insufficient to tell Jewish journalists that, like Pinchas of old, their work requires them to violate halachic norms in the moment, and to then hope that the significance of their reporting ultimately secures them a pardon. And, in truth, none of us should accept the conclusion that halachah has no means of prescriptively affirming the value of a profession that we intuitively understand to be vital to maintaining the ethical fortitude of our community.

More recently, scholars such as Rabbi Aryeh Klapper, the dean of the Center for Modern Torah Leadership, have been endeavoring to articulate a more workable and cogent way to speak about the relationship between halachah and journalism. Klapper demonstrates that halachah maintains different expectations for individuals on the one hand, and public systems that support the communal welfare on the other. Individuals are expected to make a precise cost-benefit analysis in every single instance in which their actions will cause harm to another person, and are typically required to err on the side of inaction. But systems or institutions that the community counts on to preserve the common good are granted more leeway. They are required to have and to enforce a code of ethics anchored in halachic imperatives and values, but the individuals working within that system are free — indeed are required — to pursue the communal interest as their highest priority.

Klapper includes responsible, ethical journalism as falling solidly within the category of systems that the community needs and desires, so that the community’s interests are served. As long as the journalistic organ has a proper code of ethics, its writers and reporters can and must do their work. Klapper’s conceptual breakthrough is premised on the idea that while journalism may not have existed when classical halachah was formulated, this does not at all mean that it cannot be understood and appreciated in halachic categories, and practiced by people who are Jewish journalists in the finest sense of both words.

None of this is to say that there aren’t legitimate dilemmas and potential pitfalls aplenty. The temptation to abuse the power of the pen is ever-present and no less irresistible than any other pleasurable vice. And this is precisely why it is so important that we have meaningful and workable halachic frameworks for journalism, and never create the impression that the twain shall never meet.

Rabbi Yosef Kanefsky is senior rabbi at B’nai David Judea, an Orthodox congregation in Los Angeles. He contributes to the blog Morethodoxy at jewishjournal.com.

Jewish Journal nominated for 11 Los Angeles Press Club awards


Dear Friend,

On behalf of the Board of Tribe Media Corp., I am proud to share with you that the Jewish Journal has just been named an 11-time finalist for the 58th Annual Southern California Journalism Awards hosted by the Los Angeles Press Club. The awards will be announced at a ceremony later this month.

This is a tremendous achievement for our small, highly dedicated staff, which works tirelessly to connect, inform and inspire, providing unique, top-notch news and insightful commentary on the most pressing issues for the Jewish community – locally, nationally and internationally.

For these prestigious awards, we compete directly against all the other top news organizations locally, including the Los Angeles Times, and our showing spotlights our journalistic excellence. 

It's also important to note this comes at a cost. And someone who benefits from the Journal, you can be a part of making it happen. Just like your local public radio and television station, The Journal, a 501 (c) 3 non-profit organization, relies on the generous support of readers like you to provide the reporting worthy of these Press Club honors. 

That is why I am asking you to honor the hardworking editors, reporters, and staff of the Jewish Journal by making a contribution today

Of special note: The Jewish Journal has been singled out for the design of its powerful “Jewish Hebdo” edition, published in January 2015 following the Paris terrorist attacks on Charlie Hebdo and a Kosher supermarket.

The other Jewish Journal finalists include:

– Senior Writer Jared Sichel for Print Journalist of the Year;

– Publisher and Editor-in-Chief Rob Eshman in the “Commentary” and “Columnist” categories;

– TRIBE Media Corp. President David Suissa in the “Columnist” category;

– Bi-weekly columnist Marty Kaplan in the “Commentary” and “Columnist” categories;

– Arts and Entertainment Editor Naomi Pfefferman in the “Entertainment News or Features” category for her chilling article on the film “Son of Saul;”

– Contributing writer Julie Gruenbaum Fax in the “Investigative/Series” category for her sensitive, multi-part story on transgender Jews, the first of its kind in the world of Jewish press;

– Political columnist Raphael Sonenshein in the “Commentary” category;

– Contributing writer Tom Teicholz in the “Entertainment Journalist” category. 

As the Journal celebrates its 30th anniversary, I want to encourage you to contribute.

Now more than ever, let's applaud the tradition of quality, independent Jewish journalism whose reach across our community and beyond is simply unparalleled. Please join me in supporting the Jewish Journal today.

Thank you.

Sincerely,
Peter Lowy
Board Chair, Tribe Media Corp.

Yes, I want to support the award-winning work of the Jewish Journal. Click here to make a tax-deductable donation online.  You can also mail your donation to 3250 Wilshire Blvd. Suite 1250 Los Angeles, CA 90010, or call 213-368-1661 ext 131

A tale of two shadchens


My parents came from Shiraz, Iran. The little English they spoke had a strong “FOB” (fresh off the boat) accent, which the class clowns could impeccably impersonate. My father worked two jobs — as a rabbi at a shul, Ohel Moshe Synagogue, and in Anaheim, 26 miles from home, commissioning car parts in a junkyard.  My mother worked three jobs — as a nightly mikveh lady, elder caretaker and mother. Ashamed of my parents’ struggles, I distanced myself from my inherited culture and stopped speaking Farsi.

Like many others who fled their homeland, my parents felt most comfortable in their ethnic Persian-Jewish enclave. To them, the obvious choice was to send me to Bais Chana High School (now Ohel Chana), a religious Jewish school for girls in Pico-Robertson. As the oldest of four children born to hard-working immigrants, I dared not voice my desire of attending another school that would have a stronger secular education. I already felt guilty enough for their sacrifices. 

[” target=”_blank”>Click here to make a tax-deductable donation online.  You can also mail your donation to 3250 Wilshire Blvd. Suite 1250 Los Angeles, CA 90010, or call 213-368-1661 ext 131

The moral and intellectual state of the Jewish left


There is at least one thing about which my critics and I can agree: The very many responses — published in the Jewish Journal and elsewhere (The Forward, Huffington Post and various blogs) — to my Dec. 4 column titled “The Torah and the Transgendered” are an excellent measure of the moral and intellectual state of the American-Jewish left.

My critics and I recognize that all these rabbis, including the head of the Reform rabbinate, all these Jewish professors and all the Jewish laypeople who attacked me and my column represent the American-Jewish left, and are therefore a fine indicator of the moral and intellectual state of the American-Jewish left.

Let’s see what that state is.

Before doing so, however, one important caveat. Although many may call themselves liberals, I am discussing the left, not traditional liberals. It is vital to recall that there was a very long period when “liberal” and “left” were not only not synonymous, they were frequently at odds with each other. For example, liberals were fiercely anti-communist, and the left wasn’t (it was anti-anti-communist). Similarly, the left regarded America — as it does today — as essentially a racist, sexist, xenophobic and imperialistic country, while liberals thought America, though not perfect, was and is the greatest country ever created.

[RELATED: A response to Dennis Prager]

Here then are some of the characteristics of the American-Jewish left that stand out from the responses:

First, the low intellectual state.

Jews and the left generally pride themselves in valuing the life of the mind. But the left (with, of course, some individual exceptions) is actually anti-intellectual. The proof is the contemporary university where ideology has replaced intellectual inquiry. As Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Bret Stephens (a secular Jew with a graduate degree from the London School of Economics) succinctly put it recently in his Wall Street Journal column, “American academia is, by and large, idiotic.”

Why? Because leftists, not traditional liberals, have taken over the universities. 

There are few intellectual arguments in the scores of responses to my column. The vast majority of the rhetoric is about how bigoted a person I am.

In fact, nearly all the responses actually betrayed an unwillingness (or perhaps even an inability) to dialogue intellectually. When not condemning me as an individual, they discussed accepting transgender individuals in Jewish life — which I happen to support, believe it or not. But my column had nothing to do with accepting transgender individuals either as people or as Jews. It was about the blurring of male-female distinction in society, and how much the Torah (and later Judaism) values distinctions, including the male-female distinction.

This blurring of the male-female distinction has me very worried about the future because I do not believe that the abolition of “he” and “she,” as more and more universities now recommend, is a healthy thing. I do not believe that it is good that boys are elected high school homecoming queens — because queens are female and kings are male; or that anatomical males should be naked in high school girls’ locker rooms. I do not believe it is healthy for children when parents raise them with no gender, leaving it to the children to determine their gender as they grow up. And I do not believe that the widespread progressive dismissal of the need for both a father and a mother — given how little the sexes differ, who needs a parent of each sex? — is good for society.

This societal denial of the significance of male and female, this blurring of genders, and Judaism’s opposition to such blurring was the subject of my column. Yet that subject was either missed or ignored by virtually every responder, who wrote as if in preprogrammed mode, “bigot,” “non-inclusive,” “intolerant,” “transphobic,” “hateful” and, one after another, described the Torah as saying essentially anything a person (on the left) wants it to say.

Which brings us to characteristic No. 2:

Instead of intellectual discourse, what we have is the dismissal of the decency of the left’s opponents. If you oppose the left, you are rarely debated. Instead you are dismissed as sexist, intolerant, xenophobic, homophobic, transphobic, Islamophobic, racist, bigoted and spewing hatred. And that’s only a partial list. Instead of debating us, the left morally dismisses us as unworthy of debate.

For example, Rabbi Sharon Brous wrote that “Prager is a self-appointed community provocateur — a role he seems to enjoy.” 

The idea that I deeply and sincerely care about people (including the transgendered), about Jews and Judaism, about children and about their future is one that Rabbi Brous cannot entertain. Because then my ideas would have to be responded to, whereas if I am just “a self-appointed community provocateur,” I don’t merit a reasoned response to a reasonable column.

FYI to Rabbi Brous: I was a leader in the fight to save Soviet Jewry, and I wrote, with Rabbi Joseph Telushkin, one of the most widely read English-language introductions to Judaism ever published, before you were born. I have lectured to more Jews than almost any living Jew. I have brought innumerable Jews to Judaism, and innumerable non-Jews to an appreciation of Jews. And you demean these 40 years of service to Jews as those of “a self-appointed community provocateur.”

By dismissing opponents’ decency, those on the left feel no need to confront our arguments. At the end of my second column responding to my critics, I invited any or all of the responders to a public dialogue organized by the Jewish Journal with proceeds divided among the charities of our choice. No one thus far has accepted the invitation. The reason is that the left lives in an intellectual bubble, and therefore isn’t used to being intellectually challenged.

Third, and finally, there is a willingness to make up falsehoods in the service of progressive ideals. Thus, the head of the Reform rabbinate (the Central Conference of American Rabbis) wrote, “Sadly the Jewish Journal has a long history of publishing Prager’s vitriol and personal attacks on hard-working and devoted rabbis.” 

That is, as I wrote in my response column, a lie. There is no such history, let alone long history. My call for her to back up her charge or retract it has thus far been met with silence.

And yet another rabbi wrote:

“The first thing we learn about ourselves in Bereshit/Genesis is that we are created in the image of God and that zachar u’nikeva bara otam (male and female God created it (the human).”

To make her point, this rabbi simply decided to mistranslate one of the two words she cited from the Torah. Bara otam means “created them,” not “created it.” 

I have devoted all this time and effort to this subject for many reasons. One is, as I wrote above, my fears for the next generation. 

Another is that pre-adolescent children are now encouraged to adopt a transgender identity when in most cases, gender dysphoria is only a passing phase. 

As sex researcher Debra W. Soh wrote recently in The Wall Street Journal:

“Research has shown that most gender dysphoric children outgrow their dysphoria, and do so by adolescence: Most will grow up to be happy, gay adults, and some, like myself, to be happy, straight adults.

“Waiting until a child has reached cognitive maturity before making these sorts of decisions would make the most sense. But this is an unpopular stance, and scientists and clinicians who support it are vilified, not because science — which should be our guiding beacon — disproves it, but because it has been deemed insensitive and at odds with the current ideology.”

And my other reason for all this writing is to provide Jewish historians of the future a picture of the moral and intellectual state of progressive Judaism in the early 21st century — in the progressives’ own words.


Dennis Prager’s nationally syndicated radio talk show is heard in Los Angeles on KRLA (AM 870) 9 a.m. to noon. His latest project is the Internet-based Prager University (prageru.com).

At L.A. Jewish Journal, president and publisher face off on Iran deal — and stay friendly


Open up the pages of the Los Angeles Jewish Journal these days, and you’re likely to find vigorous debate about the Iran deal.

And that’s just between the newspaper’s president, David Suissa, and its publisher and editor-in-chief, Rob Eshman.

The two have been going head-to-head on the nuclear agreement between world powers and Iran in column after column for the month since it was announced on July 14.

“A flawed deal will make America and Israel safer than a failed deal,” Eshman wrote in his latest Jewish Journal column, published Monday. “We need to accept it and focus on strengthening our position vis-à-vis Iran in every way possible, including increased aid to Israel.”

Now here’s Suissa, in one of his recent weekly columns, writing about the deal: “It’s full of nasty surprises … I don’t care if you’re Republican or Democrat, this fine print stinks.”

But if you think Suissa and Eshman are battling it out in the halls of the Jewish Journal’s offices or that someone’s job is on the line, think again. Both men say they benefit from and respect the other’s perspective.

“I love the fact that we have diametrically opposed positions in the same paper,” said Suissa, who as president of TRIBE Media Corp. oversees the Jewish Journal’s business operations.

“I respect Rob tremendously; I love the way he writes,” Suissa told JTA. “We’re very much on the same page in terms of wanting to have a paper that includes the broadest possible range of views. We really try to put our money where our mouth is. I piss off one half of the community, and he pisses off the other half.”

Eshman said: “Yes, it is unusual that the two people who are the most prominent voices of the paper disagree on Iran. Then again, we disagree on a lot of issues — and I think that is what sets the Jewish Journal apart from other Jewish (and non-Jewish) media companies.”

He noted that the paper presents viewpoints ranging from the hard-right of the Zionist Organization of America to the far left of Jewish Voice for Peace, a group that the Anti-Defamation League has called one of America’s Top 10 anti-Israel groups.

“We really treat our paper and websites as true community forums, and if you have a smart, original and well-written opinion, you are in the community,” Eshman said.

As for his disagreements with Suissa, Eshman said hashing them out is often the most fun he has during the day. In any case, Suissa is a partner, not a boss. Both men answer only to TRIBE’s board, which has not once interfered with editorial matters, according to Eshman.

In their columns, too, each has been careful to urge respect for the other side.

“Even though I am for the deal, I fully respect the opinions of people who have come to another conclusion — that’s why you can turn the page of this newspaper or scroll our website and find columnists who disagree with me,” Eshman wrote in his column on Monday.

Suissa echoed that in his column on Tuesday: “It’s important not to demonize the proponents of the deal, who also want what’s best for America, Israel and the world. I may see things differently than they do, but I can’t impugn their motives.”

With so much public vitriol being exchanged between opponents and supporters of the Iran deal, including in the Jewish community, perhaps something can be learned from the comity at the Jewish Journal.

Letters to the Editor: Obama, Iran and Jews in Egypt


Connect. Inform. Inspire.

Over lunch, I read the April 10 issue of the Jewish Journal cover to cover. The articles were informative, inspiring and gave me pause. The Iran framework offerings pushed me in all directions to think, rethink and re-rethink my position. I found plenty of Jewish delicious teachings too on Passover and more. I’m going to be contemplating Michelle K. Wolf’s insights on self-determination and its implications for how we treat Jews with challenges. I could go on and on.

Bravo, Rob Eshman. Yes, I enjoyed your editorial (as I always do, whether I agree or not), but more so the issue is praiseworthy as a whole. 

I suppose some would call for ex-communication for the lack of kvetching in this email to a publisher/editor-in-chief, but I am resolute. The issue demands I kvell

Rabbi Paul Kipnes, Congregation Or Ami


Skeptics Unite

I haven’t practiced psychology for several years but I still know denial when I see it (“Maybe Obama Knows What He’s Doing,” April 10).

First, Eshman tries to convince us — and himself — that the Iran deal will be good for Israel, despite Iran’s explicit intention of wiping Israel off the map. Then, David Lehrer, like Eshman a well-meaning, sincere gentleman, tries to convince us that our failure to be alarmed by anti-Semitism during a period of burgeoning anti-Semitism is evidence of ethnic maturity.

Really, guys?

Jonathan Kellerman, Beverly Hills

 

I hope Eshman is right, but I just do not believe in the foreign policy wherewithal of this president. Barack Obama may have been correct in 2003 in opposing the Iraq war (something few Democrats were opposed to at the time; both Hillary Clinton and John Kerry voted in favor of it), but undoing George W. Bush’s foreign policy is not a foreign policy. Obama needed to understand that he had to take the world as he found it in 2009. He took a victory in Iraq and turned it into a defeat.  

When Eshman said, “But there also is evidence that Iranian insiders are eager to find a way to abandon the long and costly push for nuclear weapons without admitting as much to the Iranian people — who have paid an enormous price for such folly,” I must be missing something. I read everyone from Jeffrey Goldberg to Bret Stephens to Henry Kissinger and George Shultz, and I have not seen anyone say that. 

I know Israelis do not think as he does. They are totally perplexed how a passionate committed Jew such as Eshman can support Obama. Frankly, I understand their views more than I understand his.  

We are going to have to wait for the verdict of history, but I find it hard to believe that this is beneficial.

Douglas J. Workman, Los Angeles  

 

Eshman is absolutely delusional.

How can he believe that this totally incompetent fool who belonged to an openly anti-Semitic church is pro-Israel? He never was and never will be. J Street is a fraudulent organization that pretends to be pro-Israel but undercuts them at every turn. Jews are absurd to be Democrats anyway, but to vote for Barack Obama, who is obviously pro-Islam and particularly pro-Iran? Obama is worse than Jimmy Carter!
Yes, I am Jewish.

Lee Tabin via email


What’s Missing

In regards to Rob Eshman’s “Let My People Stay” opinion piece in the April 3 issue, my husband and I were very much in agreement with the opinion presented. But lacking in the piece, and in the Journal in general, is the information regarding the ways in which “Jewish communities … can target these groups …” as well as methods for “supporting those Muslims speaking out against the status quo and the extremists within their own communities.” Who are these people and organizations? Is the Journal featuring their stories with any regularity? Perhaps it should be.

Cherie McDermott via email


He Who Helps Himself

Regarding Dennis Prager’s article “If God Took the Jews Out of Egypt … ” (April 10), this is the first time I’ve read something that actually helps me understand evil, why God allows it and our role as human beings to act in preventing it or in some way mitigating it. His explanation of why we also are to remember God having taken us out of bondage spoke to me. God not acting in the face of evil, since that time, doesn’t mean he doesn’t love us or is powerless to act, but as Prager says, “… a moment’s reflection should make it pretty clear that this would end human free will.” I’m struck with the fact that I — we — must act, and not wait for him to do so.

Jerry W. Cohen, Los Angeles

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