October 23, 2018

U.S. and Them: How Americans See Themselves in Israel

On our first trip to Israel, we traveled via Rome to Jerusalem. At the hotel in Rome, we needed to get a converter from the front desk to operate our electric appliances, and the only English-language TV channels were BBC and CNN. Our room at the King David, by comparison, was equipped with a U.S. outlet, and we could watch episodes of “CSI” in English with Hebrew subtitles.

That’s only one measure of the cultural affinity between America and Israel, of course, and Amy Kaplan drills down much more deeply in “Our American Israel: The Story of an Entangled Alliance” (Harvard University Press). Be forewarned: Kaplan is a harsh critic of Israel, and she questions all of the assumptions that prompted President Barack Obama to affirm the existence of an “unbreakable bond” between the two countries.

Kaplan is the Edward W. Kane Professor of English at the University of Pennsylvania, a former president of the American Studies Association, and the recipient of fellowships from both the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Institute of Advanced Studies at Princeton.  Her scholarly eye falls on every aspect of what she characterizes as the “mythic status and tenacious appeal” of Israel in the American imagination, and she sharply criticizes what she calls “the strangeness of an affinity that has come to be self-evident.”

Indeed, the title of her book reaches all the way back to 1799, when a New England minister preached a Thanksgiving sermon about “Our American Israel” because, as he saw it, “the people of the United States come nearer to a parallel with Ancient Israel than any other nation upon the globe.” She is just as intrigued by the way that artifacts of popular culture, such as Leon Uris’ 1958 best-selling novel, “Exodus,” and the subsequent movie version have shaped American perceptions of Israel: “One cannot overestimate the influence of ‘Exodus’ in Americanizing the Zionist narrative of Israel’s origins.” And she points out that AIPAC sent a copy of the 1978 TV miniseries “Holocaust” to every member of Congress “as part of an intense lobbying campaign against a plan to sell aircraft to Saudi Arabia.”

Kaplan recognizes how the hard realities of recent American experience have only brought us closer to Israel. “After September 11, 2001, Israel’s experience of terrorism offered Americans a ready-made vocabulary for articulating their own sense of unprecedented trauma,” she writes. But she also points out that the theological longings of “Christian Zionists” are equally powerful in shaping American policy toward Israel: “The significance of Israel was not in realizing the political goal of Jewish sovereignty, but in manifesting’s God’s sovereignty and making it possible for some Jews to convert to Christianity to correct the fatal mistake they had made in rejecting Christ two millennia ago.”

“Kaplan insists on showing us the other side of every coin. ‘The Six-Day War’ is commonly considered the turning point in the special relationship between the United States and Israel…yet the victory also marked the emergence of a ‘global counternarrative.’”

Kaplan often confronts us with facts of history that are sometimes awkward and uncomfortable. A British participant in the Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry, which studied the impact on Jewish migration to Palestine in 1946, pointed out a certain dire parallel between America’s manifest destiny and the Zionist project: “Zionism after all is merely the attempt by the European Jew to rebuild his national life on the soil of Palestine in much the same way as the American settler developed the West,” wrote Richard Crossman. “So the American will give the Jewish settler in Palestine the benefit of the doubt, and regard the Arab as the aboriginal who must go down before the march of progress.”

Kaplan insists on showing us the other side of every coin. “The Six-Day War is commonly considered the turning point in the special relationship between the United States and Israel,” she writes. “The small nation’s lightning victory and righteous cause appealed to a nation embroiled in the Vietnam War, and Americans en masse fell in love with Israel.” Yet the battlefield victory also marked the emergence of “a global counternarrative,” one that “framed the rise of Palestinian nationalism as a Third World revolutionary movement and linked Israel not with anti-colonial struggles but with American imperial power in Vietnam.” By 1982, when Israel invaded Lebanon, the atrocities in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps prompted columnist George Will to declare: “Palestinians have now had their Babi Yar.”

Ironically, the tragedy in Lebanon only validated the Palestinian in the eyes of some American observers. “A liberal consensus emerged in the 1980s around a narrative of two peoples fighting over one land, and a belief that only mutual recognition could resolve the conflict between them,” she explains. Thus did the two-state solution become an article of faith in American foreign policy, at least until President Donald Trump, “with Vice President Mike Pence, a Christian Zionist, by his side,” recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and moved the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv. By doing so, Kaplan argues, “he appealed not only to his pro-Likud Republican Jewish backers, but also to white Christian evangelicals, who overwhelmingly supported him in the election.” And so “[the] liberal consensus has now been replaced by a conservative one.”

Kaplan concludes that Israel today is perceived by Americans not as a light unto the nations but as “an invincible victim constantly besting the challenges of a perpetual war.” Her concerns and doubts about Israel, which run throughout “Our American Israel,” are eventually spoken out loud. She concedes that Israel, nowadays hailed as the “start-up nation,” is seen by some Americans as “an idea factory, manufacturing the ‘meta-ideas’ of the future.” But she argues that “it will be a dystopian future: all around the world, people will inhabit cities that look like military zones, occupied by police indistinguishable from soldiers, and monitored by sophisticated systems of homeland security.”

Kaplan must already know that she will draw unfriendly fire from the right for the point of view she expresses in “Our American Israel,” but no American who loves and supports Israel can afford to ignore the arguments that she makes. She points out that the phrase “no daylight between the United States and Israel” has joined the phrase “unbreakable bond” in the vocabulary of the Americans who support Israel, but she refuses to ignore the facts of history or to refrain from the advocacy of even the most challenging ideas. “We must let in daylight if Americans are to understand why and how this bond has come to be seen as unbreakable,” Kaplan writes, and surely she is right about that.


Jonathan Kirsch, author and publishing attorney, is the book editor of the Jewish Journal.

Movers & Shakers: Job Center, Scholarships, Bernstein’s 100th

Los Angeles County Supervisors Sheila Kuehl and Mark Ridley-Thomas (seventh and eighth from left, respectively) and JVS SoCal CEO Alan Levey (far right) were among those that celebrated the grand opening of the West Los Angles America’s Job Center of California, in Culver City. Photo courtesy of JVS SoCal

Los Angeles County Supervisors Sheila Kuehl and Mark Ridley-Thomas and JVS SoCal CEO Alan Levey were among the community leaders celebrating the grand opening of the West Los Angeles America’s Job Center of California (AJCC) in Culver City on Aug. 10.

Katherine Moore, senior vice president of communications at JVS SoCal, formerly known as Jewish Vocational Services, said her organization was awarded the contract to operate the center through a competitive bidding process. The center is funded by Culver City and L.A. County with money they receive from the federal government. The center will serve Culver City, Marina Del Rey, Playa Del Rey, Westchester, Ladera Heights and the West L.A. area.

The AJCC “is a one-stop shop for workforce services, providing a comprehensive range of no-cost employment and training services for employers and job seekers,” according to a press release for the event.

Additional attendees at the ribbon-cutting ceremony included Jan Perry, general manager of the Economic and Workforce Development Department for the city of Los Angeles; Cynthia Banks, director of the L.A. County Workforce Development Department, and Carolyn Anderson, regional deputy division chief of the California Employment Development Department.

From left: Hungarian Deputy Consul General Istvan Grof, LAPD Chief Michel Moore and Congregation Bais Naftoli President Andrew Friedman at a Bais Naftoli event that welcomed Moore as the new head of the LAPD. In his remarks, Moore addressed the congregation’s security concerns. Photo by Ryan Torok

Recently appointed Los Angeles Police Department Chief Michel Moore appeared at Orthodox community Congregation Bais Naftoli on Aug. 15 to discuss security concerns facing the Jewish community in Los Angeles.

Addressing about 60 people at the shul on La Brea Boulevard in the Mid-Wilshire neighborhood, Moore said religious individuals and families in the area face “unique risks” on Shabbat when they walk to synagogue.

Moore, appointed to head the police department this past June, spoke of his commitment to ensuring the safety and security of the community, adding that he also expects people to take responsibility for their own safety.

“Your safety is not my sole charge,” he said. “Your safety is our shared responsibility.”

Moore also addressed the homelessness crisis in this city, with an estimated 28,000 people living without shelter on any given night. He said the solution is not for police to arrest homeless people who may be in violation of the law but for there to be more housing.

“The solution today is not trying to enforce your way out of it,” he said.

Attendees at the event included L.A. City Councilman Paul Koretz; L.A. City Controller Ron Galperin; Bais Naftoli President Andrew Friedman; Rabbi Zvi Boyarsky, director of constitutional advocacy at the Aleph Institute; L.A. County Assessor Jeffrey Prang and Hungarian Deputy Consul General Istvan Grof.

Many of Bais Naftoli’s congregants are from Hungary.

Cantorial student Kate Feld, a recipient of a JVS scholarship, performed at the JVS Scholarship Program awards ceremony at Sinai Temple.
Photo courtesy of JVS SoCal

The JVS Scholarship Program awards ceremony on July 26 celebrated the 243 Jewish students who received scholarships this year. JVS SoCal CEO Alan Levey and JVS Scholarship Committee Co-Chairman Mathew Paul opened the ceremony at Sinai Temple.

“Awarding scholarships to such accomplished students is tremendously inspiring,” Paul said. “I look forward to their future success and contributions as representatives of the JVS Scholarship Program to their schools and communities.”

The celebration enabled recipients of scholarships to recognize and thank the JVS Scholarship Program donors, who contributed some of the $744,650 raised for the needs-based scholarships for college students.

Established in 1972, the program has awarded more than $9 million to nearly 5,000 students from Los Angeles County, helping them on the path toward academic success.

The program is “the largest need-based scholarship program serving Jewish students within the Los Angeles community” stated a press release for the event.

Before selecting the scholarship recipients, the JVS Scholarship Committee interviewed more than 150 students about their involvement in community service, academic performance, financial needs and family history. Schools the recipients are attending include Harvard University, Stanford University, the Sackler Faculty of Medicine at Tel Aviv University, USC and Cal-State University, Northridge. Some of the degrees they are pursuing include medicine, law and the arts. Among the scholarship recipients are immigrants and students with learning disabilities.

The event included a performance by 2018-2019 scholarship recipient Kate Feld, a cantorial student at the Academy of Jewish Religion, California, who showed off her operatic vocals.

Another highlight was a surprise marriage proposal of a couple — scholarship alumnus Ashkan Morim to scholarship alumna Morin Zaray — who had met at the 2017 awards ceremony.

Charlotte Kramon, Contributing Writer

From left: Jocelyn Tetel, vice president of advancement at the Skirball Cultural Center; Mia Carino, vice president of communications at the Skirball; Scott Goldman, artistic director for the Grammy Museum; Stacie Takaoka-Fidler, director of special projects for the Grammy Museum; L.A. City Councilmember Paul Koretz; Rita George, COO of the Grammy Museum; and Samuel Paul, media consultant to the Leonard Bernstein Office.
Photo by Betsy Annas

Los Angeles City Councilman Paul Koretz led an Aug. 21 city council presentation in honor of the late American composer Leonard Bernstein, who would have turned 100 years old on Aug. 25.

During the presentation in the City Hall council chambers, Koretz called Bernstein “a beloved contributor to the artistic soul of Los Angeles” and the council approved a resolution declaring Aug. 25 “Leonard Bernstein Day in L.A.”

Samuel Paul, media consultant to the Leonard Bernstein Office, accepted the resolution.

Scott Goldman, artistic director at the Grammy Museum, spoke on behalf of the museum and the Skirball Cultural Center, where the two institutions’ exhibition “Leonard Bernstein at 100” is on display through Sept. 2 .

The exhibit at the Skirball is one of dozens of local programs that in the past year have been celebrating Bernstein’s centennial, including performances at the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the L.A.  Opera and elsewhere.

From left: Rick Krim, co-president of Sony/ATV Music Publishing; David Renzer, chairman and CEO of Spirit Music Group and producer Howard Rosenman attended the third annual Creative Community for Peace summer reception.
Photo courtesy of Creative Community for Peace

Approximately 150 people attended the third annual Creative Community for Peace (CCFP) summer reception on July 18.

CCFP is an organization that brings together prominent entertainers to celebrate expression through art and to oppose the cultural boycott of Israel.

Held at the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles in partnership with the Grammy Museum’s “Leonard Bernstein at 100” exhibit, the event featured appearances by Oscar-winning producer Howard Rosenman (“Call Me By Your Name”) and Oscar and Grammy-nominated composer Stephan Moccio.

Rosenman shared his thoughts on Bernstein’s musical legacy, and Moccio collaborated with vocalist Maty Noyes to perform fan favorites from “West Side Story.”

Rosenmen, who was a close friend of Bernstein, also praised CCFP’s work in using art to generate peace and counteract the cultural boycott of Israel.

“This work is so important because it emphasizes the bonds of creativity — and music especially demonstrates that brotherhood and unity can be achieved for all nations because music is one of the great arts that binds us all together,” he said.

David Renzer, co-founder of CCFP and chairman and CEO of Spirit Music Group, emphasized Bernstein’s support of the State of Israel. He spoke of Bernstein’s role as the conductor of the Palestine Philharmonic Orchestra, which became the Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra, for 25 seasons.

Charlotte Kramon, Contributing Writer

Summer Sneaks: Arts & Entertainment At the Jewish Journal

Week of May 25, 2018

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Week of April 27, 2018

Week of April 20, 2018

Adam Milstein: Promoter of Israeliness

Photo by Ryan Torok.

Adam Milstein is a managing partner at Hager Pacific Properties, but is probably best known as the co-founder and chairman of the Israeli-American Council (IAC), a national organization that engages Israeli Americans through a variety of programming, including annual Yom HaAtzmaut celebrations, young adult groups and children’s educational communities.

He and his wife, Gila, run the Adam and Gila Milstein Foundation, which, among other activities, provides subsidies for high school students to attend the annual AIPAC (America Israel Public Affairs Committee) Policy Conference.

Born in Haifa, Milstein, who is in his mid-60s, arrived in the United States 37 years ago to pursue an MBA at USC, and he never left. After finding success in real estate, he has devoted himself to various charitable causes, the majority of which are focused on support for Israel.

Milstein met with the Journal to discuss why charity plays an important part in his life; how the IAC has nurtured a culture of philanthropy among Israeli Americans, “Israeliness,” and the dangers facing Israel today on the eve of its 70th anniversary.

Jewish Journal: What have been the IAC’s greatest successes since its launch in 2007?

Adam Milstein: Before we started the IAC, you did not have any Israeli philanthropy. The Jewish community said, “If you are a philanthropist, then you are a Jewish philanthropist, and if you are not a philanthropist, you are Israeli.” Eleven years later, at [the IAC galas], we raised millions of dollars. In March, we [had] a gala here in Los Angeles, and not counting contributions from Haim Saban and Sheldon Adelson, we raised $2.5 million.

Today, the Israeli-American community is considered a very philanthropic community. So, we created a culture of giving. We took a small idea and became a nationwide movement.

JJ: Why is engaging Israeli Americans important to the greater mission of supporting Israel?

AM: There is nobody better than an Israeli American to be an advocate for the State of Israel. We have the information; we have been there; we have fought in the army; we know it is a very dangerous neighborhood. We are Americans, and we think like Americans, and I think there is nobody that can be better spokespeople for Israel than people who are Israeli Americans.

Milstein served in the IDF from 1971-1974.

The Yom Kippur war was in October of 1973, the last year of his service.

JJ: What are the biggest threats facing Israel today?

AM: I think the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) movement against Israel is growing. Anti-Semitism is growing, and the fact we are passive and defensive is not helping us because it is intensifying.

JJ: Do you mean on college campuses specifically?

AM: Every place. BDS and anti-Semitism are related. Maybe on campus you call it BDS. Outside, it is anti-Semitism.

JJ: There are those who argue that BDS is not anti-Semitic.

AM: I understand you care about human rights and social justice, but if the only country in the world you have a problem with is the State of Israel, or the Jewish people, then it is related to the Jews and State of Israel. If you have a problem with [Syrian President Bashar] Assad killing people with chemical weapons, if you have problem with Iran hanging gays and lesbians from cranes, then I agree, it has nothing to do with Israel. But if every second resolution in the U.N. is about Israel, if in UNESCO every resolution is about Israel, then you understand there is anti-Semitism behind it.

And even though we say it is about the occupation, or the policies of the government, or it’s about Israel shooting someone who is trying to penetrate Israel from the outside, it is about Israel, and it is about the Jews, because we don’t hear any complaints about North Korea or China or Russia or anywhere else.

So, anti-Semitism is growing in the United States. I think, again, it is mostly growing — it is growing from the white supremacists — but mostly from the radical left and radical Muslims. And we need to think out of the box and come up with new strategies, because we clearly are not winning.

JJ: To what extent is Jewish identity connected to support of Israel?

AM: In the Israeli-American community, we don’t say you have to go to synagogue every day, pray and put on teffilin. We say you can connect to Israel and to your Jewish heritage through what we call “Israeliness.” Israeliness has to do with the culture, the food, the dancing, the fact that I met you one time and the next time I say, “You’re in town? I have an empty room. Come stay with me.”

JJ: What role do you see the IAC playing 10 years from now?

AM: I believe that we will become more and more the pro-Israel community in the U.S. This is in our mission, and we made it clear our support for Israel is unwavering, unconditional. And I think that this will separate us from the other organizations that are unsure if they need to criticize Israel or support Israel. They don’t see what we see. This is the only country we have. If you look at Israel, at the 70 years that have passed since independence, there are no other countries in the world that have accomplished so much.

Week of April 13, 2018

Week of April 6, 2018

Week of Mar. 30, 2018

Letters to the Editor: Nikki Haley, Seeds of Hate and Trump Derangement Syndrome

Nikki Haley Speaks for Many

How refreshing is it to finally have someone like Nikki Haley speak the truth about the anti-Semitic policies of the United Nations (“Haley Rips U.N. at AIPAC for ‘Bullying’ of Israel,” March 6). The United Nations truly acted as a “bully” toward Israel while former President Barack Obama’s administration did nothing but pass more anti-Israel resolutions. Haley’s voice for Israel and demands for changes in the U.N. are finally being heard. What we need is more people like Haley who are not afraid to speak the truth and recognize the U.N. for what it is.

Alexander Kahan via email

I enjoyed reading the brief on Haley’s appearance at AIPAC. Although I did not attend the most recent AIPAC in Washington, D.C., I did enjoy reading some of the speeches, especially Haley’s. As we all know, Israel has been the punching bag in the U.N. for many years and, regardless of which country is being bullied, the idea of fairness in order to bring unity among the nations should be top priority for the U.N., no matter which country it is.

Ariel Hakim, Los Angeles


The Seeds of Hate

As much as I am in favor of peace between Israelis and Palestinians, I don’t believe that getting them together will help (“Seeking Peace From the Ground Up,” March 2). Yes, you were allowed to feel hate when the 13-year-old boy was brutally murdered. That is what everyone’s initial reaction should be. I don’t see how you can forget that feeling and move on. I agree that you can’t solve the conflict, but I don’t agree that you can prevent racism. As nice as that sounds, I don’t believe that is realistic.

David Raviv via email

I have mixed emotions about the Roots summer camp. It is true that anger is a horrible sin, however, it is best to keep people who commit acts of terror as far away as possible. It has been proven that we cannot appease the Arabs, and I think it is time that we stopped trying. Shaul Judelman is correct in that we should not let adults’ conflict cloud our children’s minds, but this is a different situation. The best thing we can do now is to stand our ground and keep far away from hateful people.

Yosef Khorramian, Los Angeles

I really agree with the points reporter Deborah Danan makes in this story when she talks about making peace with the Palestinians instead of getting angry and causing conflicts, because if we just fight and argue with them, peace will not be achieved. I also agree with creating the Roots program because I think that having young Israelis and Palestinians work together at a young age will bring more respect to both sides.

Borna Haghighat, Rancho Palos Verdes

I applaud the effort by Shaul Judelman. I think it is great that he is attempting to end racism between Palestinians and Jews. However, one must look at the bigger picture. Ultimately, I do not believe that his effort will make much of a difference. The Palestinians raise their children from Day One to hate Jews. This summer camp does not really change that. However, his actions are still having a positive effect on the people around him.

Aryeh Hirt, Los Angeles


Security Tactics to Protect Our Students

Israeli security expert Oded Raz is correct in stating many tactics can make our schools safer (“Israeli Security Expert Talks About Tactics to Protect Our Schools,” Feb. 23).

When asked, “How can America make high school campuses safer?” Raz mentioned four things: concept, procedures, technology and manpower. I agree with every idea.

Also, when asked, “What is the most critical skill for security guards?” Raz said that searching for suspicious people around the school is the most critical skill. If everything is clear, you can let the students and teachers go inside. I also agree with this.

Moshe Gamaty via email


When Ashkenazi Met Sephardic

I agree with David Suissa that we live in a time when Israel is divided by Sephardim and Ashkenazim (“Living in Ashkefardic Times,” March 9). We put this boundary in between us that divides us. I agree with him that we need to combine our cultures. It was very nice that his shul did it. The shul decided to combine the two sides and make it one community. We live in a society today where everyone classifies themselves as Sephardic and Ashkenazi, not a Jew, and that needs to change.

Saul Barnes, Beverly Hills


Trump Derangement Syndrome

Unlike the magnanimous David Suissa, I have little patience for Donald Trump derangement (“Why We Can’t Talk About Trump,” March 16). Former President Barack Obama, cool and stylish, began his term by praising the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, ignoring their vicious Jew-hatred, then refused to visit Israel while there, and snubbed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife throughout his term. By normalizing and promoting Israel-bashing Muslim groups, he facilitated the growth of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement and turned the Democratic Party against Israel. He sabotaged Israel in the U.N., but worst of all, he surrendered control of Syria to Vladimir Putin and sent tens of billions of dollars to Iran, which now threatens Israel’s existence.

Trump, by contrast, condemned Palestinian leaders for paying Arabs to kill Jews, condemned U.N. Relief and Works Agency for abetting Hamas terrorism, and cut off U.S. funds for both. He then overruled the State Department to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem. Even though Indian-American Gov. Nikki Haley didn’t support Trump’s campaign, he still appointed her to the U.N., where she shamed the world’s tyrants and Jew-haters for ganging up on Israel, and decreed that Israel’s enemies no longer receive U.S. aid.  Simply put, Donald Trump, though outrageous and crude, is the best friend Israel’s had since Harry Truman.

Rueben Gordon via email

I believe that President Donald Trump is only the symptom of Trump Derangement Syndrome — he is not the disease.

I admit I am increasingly deranged as I witness the escalating erosion of decency, the normalization and acceptance of deception, the brazen, unchallenged corruption and disregard for law and ethics.

Trump’s tactics are textbook projection. He disowns his venality and blames others for his sins. We are his goats of Azazel, commanded to carry his sins out of sight.

I am baffled that anyone who claims to be an Israelite (one who wrestles) can be assuaged by his antics. He represents Amalek, the anti-Jew who mocks our commandments. Amalek represents our dark, destructive impulses, literally our inner “dweller in the vale,” our Yetzer Hara.  Amalek has many descendants and Trump and his co-conspirators are the most recent, and in my experience, the most frightening eruptions of our individual and national shadows that I have known in my lifetime.

Harriet Rossetto, Los Angeles


The Dating World

Illana Angel’s column should be congratulated for her dating approach as a divorced woman, which is to lead (her son) by example and date only Jewish men (“The Foibles of Dating Nice Jewish Men,” March 2). We know from the Pew report that 90 percent of the children of intermarried couples look at the intermarrying example set by their Jewish parent and do the same thing, resulting in the total assimilation of those Jews. I hope she finds a Jewish husband soon. Even better, I hope her son follows his mother’s example and some day finds a nice Jewish woman to marry.

Jason Kay via email

Week of Mar. 23, 2018

Six Degrees of Jewish Separation

On Feb. 14, former Los Angeles resident Shelley Faden-Focht, now living in Philadelphia, was back in L.A. to say farewell to her cancer-stricken friend Esther Elfenbaum, the former early childhood education specialist with the Bureau of Jewish Education.

Longtime friends Faden-Focht, Elfenbaum and Elaine Fidel were reminiscing about their lives when Fidel glanced at a bulletin on the television. “My God, there’s been a shooting in Parkland, Fla.,” she said. “Oh, my God,” Faden-Focht replied. “My great-niece, Joelle [Landau], lives there! She just started high school.”

When she learned that the site of the attack was Marjory Stoneman Douglas High, the same school her great-niece attended, “my heart sank,” Faden-Focht told the Journal.

She immediately telephoned Joelle’s mother and was assured the 14-year-old was safe.

“My first thought was, ‘Thank you, God, for letting Joelle be safe because she has so much to offer the world,’ ” Faden-Focht said. “This has been quite a year for her. First, her parents separated, and now this.”

Later, Joelle described the chaotic scene of the 90-minute ordeal to her great-aunt.  Shortly after hearing the first gunshots, her classmates filed into the rear section of a double room and locked the door.  Nearly everyone was crying, including the teacher. When a friend encouraged Joelle to stop crying, she explained that she wasn’t. She was praying, saying the Shema.

A week later, Faden-Focht was still in Los Angeles, and on Feb. 22, Elfenbaum died.  That day, Fidel, whose psychotherapy office is across the street from the Pico Glatt Mart, picked up her weekly copy of the Jewish Journal outside the store, and she handed one to Faden-Focht.

Joelle Landau

The edition had printed numerous community responses to the Parkland tragedy, but what really struck Faden-Focht was the dramatic illustration on the cover showing a map of the United States with guns and dripping blood.

“I decided I wanted to send copies to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School [after reading coverage of the tragedy in the Journal].” — Shelley Faden-Focht

After reading the coverage of the tragedy in the Journal, Faden-Focht said, “I decided I wanted to send copies to [Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School], to the teachers, to the students, to the survivors and their families. Parkland people should see these articles that are so eclectic.”

The viewpoints represent “an amazing array” of reactions to the shooting, she said. “Stories from young people, old people, even the security fellow from Israel,” Faden-Focht said.

A few days later, the Journal arranged to ship 400 copies of the issue to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High.

VIDEO

The Parkland Shooting: A Nightmare Come True

How did 400 copies of Jewish Journal's "When Will It End" issue end up in Parkland, FL?

STORY: http://jewishjournal.com/news/los_angeles/231847/six-degrees-jewish-separation/

Posted by Jewish Journal on Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Week of Mar. 16, 2018

Week of Mar. 9, 2018

The Oscar Issue

Week of Mar. 2, 2018

WHEN WILL IT END? Community reactions to the Florida tragedy

Community members console one another at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School four days after the shooting, in Parkland, Florida, U.S. February 18, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Drake

On the afternoon of Feb. 14, a young man armed with an assault rifle intruded onto the campus of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, where he had been expelled, and began spraying bullets into a crowd of terrified students and teachers.

By the end of the six-minute massacre, 17 people were killed and another 15 injured. The suspected shooter was later identified as Nikolas Cruz, a disturbed young man with an alleged history of mental illness. In the days that followed, as anger, grief and calls for gun control legislation reverberated throughout the nation, we asked members of the Jewish community — among them rabbis, politicians, activists and psychologists — to respond to the plague of gun violence.

From Indignation to Transformation
by Rabbi Sharon Brous, IKAR, senior fellow at Auburn Seminary

All Are Responsible
by Rabbi Marvin Hier, Simon Wiesenthal Center Museum of Tolerance

Shot and Scarred at 6 Years Old
by Joshua Stepakoff, gun violence survivor

Yes to Gun Ownership. No to the NRA.
by Joshua Greer, entrepreneur, philanthropist and gun owner

Gun Violence is a Public Health Issue
by Mike Feuer, Los Angeles city attorney and co-founder of the national coalition Prosecutors Against Gun Violence

The Consequences of Anger
by Orli Peter, clinical and neuropsychologist

What the Second Amendment Does Not Guarantee
by David N. Myers, Sady and Ludwig Kahn Professor of Jewish History at UCLA

The Limits of Proposed Gun Laws
by Rabbi Mordecai Finley, Ohr HaTorah

A Culture That Glorifies Violence
by Dara Barlin, founder Dynamic Action Research Education Consulting

What If Government Can’t Solve This Problem?
by Rabbi Yosef Kanefsky, B’nai David Judea

The Stain on the American Soul
by Rabbi Jeffrey K. Salkin, author and leader of Temple Solel in Hollywood, Fla., 30 minutes from Parkland

Don’t Punish Law-Abiding Citizens
Elan S. Carr, criminal prosecutor, military officer and Iraq War veteran

Forget Pie-in-the-Sky. Try Real-World Proposals
Ben Shapiro, author and editor-in-chief at The Daily Wire

Gun Control: The Most Dangerous Conversation
by Rabbi Amy Bernstein, Kehillat Israel

Proposed Gun Control Doesn’t Go Far Enough
by Joseph Sanberg, founder CalEITC4Me

Letter to God
by Rabbi Lori Shapiro, The Open Temple

Week of Feb. 23, 2018

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