Protesters arrested after ‘die-in’ at Friends of IDF office [VIDEO]


Nine protesters against Israel’s Gaza operation were arrested inside the Manhattan offices of the Friends of the Israel Defense Forces.

Some two dozen protesters gathered for the “die-in” at FIDF’s New York office on Tuesday. The incident was organized by Jewish Voice for Peace and Jews Say NO, groups opposed to Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians.

Twelve of the protesters entered the offices and began reading aloud names they said were Palestinians killed in Gaza.

“The employees became upset and eventually called the police,” said Lizzie Busch, one of the JVP protesters.

Busch and two other protesters left the office when police arrived and ordered them to vacate, according to Donna Nevel, a JVP board member. The remaining nine protesters, including JVP’s executive director, Rebecca Vilkomerson, were arrested.

Some reporters were on hand to witness the incident. FIDF declined to comment.

Confederate Jews, ‘Asher Lev’ enliven L.A. stages


Just when you thought Jewish theater in Los Angeles was comatose, two plays, “The Whipping Man” and “My Name Is Asher Lev” are on the boards this month.

The West Coast Jewish Theatre’s current Los Angeles premiere of “Whipping Man” is set in an unexpected milieu, the American Civil War.

More precisely, the play by Matthew Lopez unfolds in the immediate aftermath of the bloody conflict, when Caleb DeLeon, a wounded Jewish Confederate officer, returns to his ruined family home in Richmond, Va.

The house has been abandoned save for two of the family’s newly freed slaves, who are waiting for the return of the DeLeon family.

As the Jewish officer (Shawn Savage) and the ex-slaves (Ricco Ross and Kirk Kelleykhan) wait for the devastated city to come back to life, they relive the past and wonder what the future will hold for them.

A dramatic centerpiece of the play is a celebration of the Passover seder by the three men, for Simon and John, the ex-slaves, have been raised in the faith of their masters.

It is Simon, the older of the African-Americans, who links the fates of blacks and Jews when he intones, “Let all who are in need come and celebrate Pesach. … This year we are slaves, next year we may be free.”

Howard Teichman, the company’s veteran artistic director, said in a phone interview that he seeks out plays that deal with lesser-known Jewish themes, outside the Holocaust or shtetl life.

In his research, Teichman discovered that numerous Sephardic Jews, whose ancestors fled the Spanish Inquisition, settled in cities and small towns all over the South, with many raising cotton and keeping slaves.

As was the custom at the time, the black slaves followed the religious faiths and customs of their owners, and while the Jewish masters were not above whipping their slaves, in general they meted out better treatment than the gentile plantation owners, Teichman said.

A different three-actor cast will be on stage at the Fountain Theatre, with the Los Angeles premiere of “My Name Is Asher Lev,” based on the well-known novel by Chaim Potok and opening Feb. 22, with preview performances Feb. 15–21. It will run through April 19.

Set in Brooklyn’s Chasidic community, the play, adapted by Aaron Posner, pits the artistic aspirations of the young Asher, struggling to realize his gift as a painter, against the traditional religious and social views of his parents.

Even as Asher encounters the misgivings of the tightly knit family and community, he also finds encouragement in unexpected places.

His rebbe recommends a teacher — in hedonistic Manhattan — who instructs Asher how to paint crucifixes, and worse yet, nudes.

“The play explores the struggle between art and tradition and between the generations, and trying to discover who you are and what you were meant to be,” director Stephen Sachs said in an interview.

To some extent, Asher’s struggle is akin to his own experience, Sachs said, and while the play reflects a specific time and culture, it also wrestles with universal themes.

Starring in “Asher Lev” is Jason Karasev in the title role, Anna Khaja as his mother and various female characters, and Joel Polis as the father and in other male roles.

Sachs is a co-founder of the Fountain Theatre and has been its artistic director for 24 years; he is also a playwright, whose “Bakersfield Mist” will open in London’s West End this spring.

“The Whipping Man,” is playing currently at the Pico Playhouse, 10508 W. Pico Blvd. in West Los Angeles, and runs through April 13. Performances are Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings and Sunday matinees. Ticket prices range from $25 to $35 and are available online at www.wcjt.org, or call (323) 821-2449.

Previews and regular performances for “My Name is Asher Lev” will run Feb. 15 through April 19 at the Fountain Theatre at 5060 Fountain Ave. (at Normandie Ave.) on Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings with Sunday matinees. Tickets are $34 each, with discounts for seniors, students and previews. For reservations and information, visit www.FountainTheatre.com or call (323) 663-1525.

Calendar November 30-December 6


SUN | DEC 1

CLIPPERS JEWISH HERITAGE DAY 

A Chanukah miracle couldn’t hurt as the Clippers face off against the top-ranked Indiana Pacers. Stephen S. Wise Temple’s Cantor Nathan Lam opens the game with the singing of the national anthem. There will also be a menorah lighting, a Q-and-A session with rabbis and a special halftime performance by the Body Poets. Add in kosher food and a free T-shirt, and this Chanukah celebration is bound to be a slam-dunk. Sun. 10:30 a.m. (pre-game warm-ups), 12:30 p.m. (game time).  $20-$62. Staples Center, 1111 S. Figueroa St., downtown. (213) 742-7503. ” target=”_blank”>chabadofthevalley.com


MON | DEC 2

“LISTENING TO THE OTHER”

Monday marks the beginning of a weeklong look at Middle East musical dialogues. There will be public performances, master classes, panel discussions and, of course, music. Some of the significant names sprinkled throughout the week are: Thaer Bader, Mohammed Fairouz, David Krakauer, David Lefkowitz and Betty Olivero. All have made a contribution to the unique conversation of Arab-Israeli fusion. Mon. Various times. Through Dec. 8. $30-$60 (general), $15 (UCLA Students). Various locations in UCLA area. (818) 716-6211. TUE | DEC 3

“A PATCHWORK OF CULTURES: THE SEPHARDIC-LATINO CONNECTION”

Shalom and ¡Hola! The L.A. Jewish Symphony Educational Outreach Program is hosting a concert that explores the music and historical cultures of our Spanish ancestors. Led by Cantor Marcelo Gindlin, there will be song, dance and a celebration of Sephardic and Latino music pieces. Student-created artwork will also be exhibited to contribute to an already creative atmosphere. Reservations required. Tue. 11 a.m. Free. Valley Beth Shalom, 15739 Ventura Blvd., Encino. (818) 436-5260. ” target=”_blank”>tioh.org.

“BROTHERS AND STRANGERS II: ISRAELIS ARE FROM MARS, AMERICAN JEWS ARE FROM VENUS”

Like any pair of siblings, American Jews and Israelis don’t always have a seamless relationship. But unlike you and your brother or sister, it is crucial to the future of Judaism that we understand the tensions, connections and in-betweens of the two largest Jewish populations in the world. American Jewish University hosts a panel discussion that illuminates how we can strengthen a sometimes-weakening bond. Panelists include Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR) Jewish social policy professor Steven M. Cohen, Middlebury College international studies professor Theodore Sasson, HUC-JIR contemporary Jewish studies professor Sarah Bunin Benor and Gil Ribak, director of the Institute on American Jewish-Israeli Relations. Tue. 7:30 p.m. $10. American Jewish University, 15600 Mulholland Drive, Bel Air. (310) 476-9777. THU | DEC 5

“LIGHT UP THE NIGHT”

East Side Jews is going global. Join your favorite irreverent collection of Jews as they shoo away the darkness with a dreidel tournament, drinks and nosh, and stories you wont want to miss from Justine Barron, Matthew Irving Epstein, Josh Feldman, Jessie Kahnweiler and Raimy Rosenduft. For those of you interested in human rights, the evening will also feature Guatemalan human rights activist Claudia Samayoa. Thu. 7:30 p.m. $18. Pico Union Project, 1153 Valencia St., Los Angeles. ” target=”_blank”>themintla.com.


FRI | DEC 6

THE LOS ANGELES PHILHARMONIC IN THE SANCTUARY

The world-renowned orchestra is making a house call (sort of). Leaving its home base downtown, the L.A. Phil is migrating West. Playing in the beautiful and newly remodeled sanctuary, the evening features a special performance of Beethoven, Tchaikovsky and Dvorak. So whether you are interested in Dvorak’s Symphony No. 8 or you are simply sick of Disney Hall, it will be an intimate and unforgettable evening of music. Fri. 8 p.m. $50-$150. Wilshire Boulevard Temple, Erika J. Glazer Family Campus, 3663 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles. (213) 835-2198.

Survivor: Peter Daniels


From the time he was 4, Peter Daniels — then Peter Berlowitz — spent his days mostly staring out the window of a two-room flat in Berlin. It was 1940, and Jews were forbidden from hiring domestic help under the Nuremberg Laws. Peter’s mother, Hilde Berlowitz, was forced to leave him alone with some homework and his toys while she worked at a job sewing uniforms for German soldiers. “I was very lonely,” he remembered; he had no friends and could not go outdoors. Then one day, in May 1943, Peter answered a knock on the door and saw two Gestapo officers standing there. “Is your mother home?” one officer asked. Peter told them she was at work. “We’ll wait,” the officer answered. 

Peter was born on July 8, 1936, to Hilde Berlowitz and Erich Daniels. Hilde’s mother, who was born Christian but converted to Judaism before marriage, had died in childbirth with Hilde in 1912. Her father remarried when she was 10, and she was badly mistreated by her stepmother and stepsisters. 

Erich Daniels, the son of a Jewish lawyer, never married Peter’s mother and may not have even known of Peter’s birth. In 1938, Erich fled to Shanghai with his own parents and siblings. Peter has never had any contact with any relatives on his father’s side.

Peter and his mother were exempt from deportation for many years as Hilde was a mischling, a person of mixed Jewish ancestry, who carried her mother’s original Christian birth certificate as proof. But by 1943, mischling status no longer offered protection. And as Peter waited in the flat on that day in May 1943, he was more afraid of his mother’s reaction than of the two Gestapo officers. Hilde had warned him to never open the door for anyone, and she frequently showed her displeasure by beating him.

Peter and his mother were arrested and taken to a detention center. After several weeks, they and the other Jews there were loaded into cattle cars. 

After two days and almost two nights, the train stopped. The exhausted prisoners were forced to drag themselves two miles to Theresienstadt, which was both a holding camp for prisoners, who would be transferred to Auschwitz and other extermination camps, and a concentration camp in Czechoslovakia. They spent their first night in the attic of two-story military barracks.

The next morning, Peter was sent to the boys’ barracks, a crowded room with triple bunk beds, where he spent most of his days. He made friends with some of the German-speaking boys, but, he said, “The friendships didn’t last long because the kids didn’t last long.”

Occasionally, Peter was given light work, such as pulling weeds from fallow vegetable fields or hauling slabs of mica to be shipped out. For Peter, work was an opportunity to receive extra food. 

Peter’s mother worked repairing uniforms of German soldiers. About once a month Peter was able to visit with her. “It was nothing emotional. I was not that interested in seeing her,” he said. 

In early May 1945, the International Red Cross took control of Theresienstadt, with the Germans departing several days later. Peter received new clothes to replace the rags he had worn for two years and new shoes to replace his old ones, whose front sections he had sliced off to accommodate his growing feet. “I put them on and did not take them off for three days,” he recalled. 

A week later, Peter stood with hundreds of newly liberated prisoners inside the barbed-wire fence waving and hugging each other as the Soviet army, with its tanks and troop carriers, drove past. It was May 8, 1945 — Peter was almost 9.

The camp was immediately put under quarantine to contain a large typhus outbreak. A month later, Peter and his mother traveled to Berlin, where they rented a flat. A few weeks later, Peter’s mother left to find Max Kurlander, a man she had met in Theresienstadt, and who was now, she had heard, in Deggendorf, a displaced persons camp in southern Germany. 

As Peter wandered around Berlin looking for food, he met several German boys. They spent their days following American soldiers, picking up their discarded cigarette butts and dividing the tobacco, which functioned as currency. 

Hilde married Max Kurlander in Deggendorf. She returned to Berlin, and she and Peter moved to Deggendorf in August 1945. Max, whom Peter described as “a truly bitter man,” worked as a translator for the U.S. Army.

In Deggendorf, Peter attended a public school where anti-Semitic German boys “beat him to a pulp” every day after class. His mother pulled him out after a few weeks. Peter’s sister, Evelyn, was born in September 1946. 

On Aug. 3, 1947, Peter and his family arrived in New York, where Peter attended school. But by the time he was 13, the beatings from his mother became so bad — she used a wooden clothes hanger, or whatever was handy, and hit him until he was black and blue — that Peter started running away from home, staying all night at the Greyhound Bus station or at friends’ houses. 

At 14, Peter escaped to upstate New York, working on a farm in exchange for room and board. A year later, he took a train to Texas and worked for a rancher in Brownsville. He continued moving around the United States, traveling in boxcars or hitchhiking, working as a farm hand, a dishwasher, a truck driver or doing other odd jobs. 

In 1958, at 22, Peter enlisted in the Navy. He was discharged in May 1962. 

Peter then began a new life, earning his GED, attending San Diego City College and graduating from San Diego State University. He then earned an MBA from Thunderbird School of Global Management in Glendale, Ariz.

After graduating, Peter worked for American Can Co. in New York City. He had married, and his son Erik was born in 1970. A few months later, he was transferred to Hamburg, Germany, returning to the United States in 1973 and settling in California, where he and his wife divorced.

Peter later worked for Security Pacific Bank (which became Bank of America). He retired in 2000. 

During this time, Peter met Joan Tamir, and they married on Nov. 30, 1981. She has three children: Ilana, born 1964; Dahn, born 1966; and Rahm, born 1971. Peter and Joan now have seven grandchildren.

After retiring, Peter began volunteering at the Museum of Tolerance as a docent. He did that until in 2007, when he was hired as a consultant for Northern Trust Bank but returned to the museum two years later as a speaker. “I was feeling better about myself and wanted to do something meaningful,” he said. He now also gives talks at the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust, as well as at schools and synagogues.

Peter’s mother died in 2007. As an adult, Peter re-established contact with her, but their relationship was strained.

Peter believes that his mother inadvertently prepared him for the Holocaust. “I didn’t miss the emotional support that a lot of kids had, because I never had that.”