Shalit drew, kept journal in captivity


Former captive Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit drew and kept a journal while being held by Hamas in Gaza.

Shalit was required to leave behind his sketches and record of his captivity when he was released, Yediot Achronot reported.

He also was given a radio and an exercise bicycle, Reuters reported, citing unnamed Israeli officials. He reportedly picked up some Arabic while in custody.

Shalit had surgery late last week to remove several pieces of shrapnel that lodged in his hand during his capture. The surgery was deemed successful.

Report: Bin Laden’s journal urged al-Qaida to hit Los Angeles, not just New York [VIDEO]


Files taken from Osama bin Laden’s compound reveal intent to plan another 9/11-scale attack on cities like Los Angeles, the Associated Press reports.

He was well aware of U.S. counterterrorist defenses and schooled his followers how to work around them, the messages to his followers show. Don’t limit attacks to New York City, he said in his writings. Consider other areas such as Los Angeles or smaller cities. Spread out the targets.

In one particularly macabre bit of mathematics, bin Laden’s writings show him musing over just how many Americans he must kill to force the U.S. to withdraw from the Arab world. He concludes that the smaller, scattered attacks since the 9/11 attacks had not been enough. He tells his disciples that only a body count of thousands, something on the scale of 9/11, would shift U.S. policy.

He also schemed about ways to sow political dissent in Washington and play political figures against one another, officials said.

The communications were in missives sent via plug-in computer storage devices called flash drives. The devices were ferried to bin Laden’s compound by couriers, a process that is slow but exceptionally difficult to track.

Read more at ap.org.

Video courtesy of AP.

Sholem Aleichem, Gogol Show Two Views of Shtetl Jews


Russians, Jews and literature scholars get excited about jubilee years, and for those who fit any of these categories, 2009 is a big year. One hundred and fifty years ago this month, a writer who would immortalize the Russian Jew in literature, Solomon Rabinovich (1859-1916) — better known by his literary persona, Sholem Aleichem — was born in the town of Pereyaslav, near Kyiv. This spring also marks the 200th birthday of Nikolai Gogol (1809-1852), who was born about 100 miles to the east of Kyiv, in the town of Sorochintsy. Gogol, too, helped to immortalize the Russian Jew in literature, but in a more problematic way: the Jews who crop up around the margins of his stories, most of them crafty market vendors, money-lenders and tavern keepers, are anti-Semitic stereotypes, an unsettling detail in the work of one of the greatest comic writers of modern literature.

Literary history rarely moves in a straight line. Gogol and Sholem Aleichem may have written in different languages and represented different cultures, but their lives, remembered together, offer a vivid picture of the interplay of Russian and Jewish cultural history, and their stories, read side by side, appear as if in conversation. Both writers were obsessed with the dangers of commerce and capital, a theme that renders them all the more current in 2009. Both hail from what is now Ukraine, and each came to be viewed as a literary ambassador from an ethnic group within Russian culture. Gogol knew Russian and Ukrainian, attended a Russian school, moved to Petersburg to become a writer and spent years traveling in Western Europe. Sholem Aleichem attended both a Jewish cheder and a Russian secondary school, a marker of assimilation in a Jewish family. He began writing in Russian and Hebrew, but found success in Yiddish. Like Gogol’s tales of Ukraine, which sounded quaint to the Russian elite, Sholem Aleichem exported tales of the Jewish Pale of Settlement to cosmopolitan readers via publications in Warsaw and Petersburg, and visits to the United States.

Best known in the United States for his Tevye character, who became a symbol of the Jewish departure from Eastern Europe thanks to the Broadway musical “Fiddler on the Roof,” Sholem Aleichem was canonized in the Soviet Union as the representative Yiddish writer, and an abridged six-volume Soviet edition of his works, in Russian translation, was as expected a collection in any Soviet Jewish household (and in many non-Jewish households) as the collected works of Lenin or Tolstoy.

Gogol, now best known for his later works, like “Dead Souls,” “The Overcoat” and “The Inspector General,” first became famous for his tales of provincial Ukraine, which he peopled with an amalgam of Ukrainians, Russians, Jews, Poles and Gypsies. In his first successful story, “The Sorochintsy Fair” (1830), we marvel at how “a gypsy and peasant smacked hands then squealed from pain; how a drunken Jew slapped a woman on the backside; how vendors who had been arguing hurled profanities … and crayfish; how a Russian stroked his goatish beard with one hand, while with his other … “ In this story, a Jew buys and sells a demon’s coat, infecting an entire fair with evil. Gogol’s Jewish characters increase the sensation of a tale told from the margins of the Czarist Empire and often provide a moral lesson about overzealous trade.

Jewish stock characters later appear in Gogol’s epic novel, “Taras Bulba” (1835 and 1842), based loosely on Bohdan Chmielnicki’s Cossack uprising against Polish Magnates in 1648, an event in which thousands of Jews were killed. “‘Hang all the Jews!’ rang out from the crowd, ‘don’t let their Jewesses sew skirts out of our priests’ garments!’” In this story, a Jew, Yankel, escapes a pogrom in his shtetl but eagerly betrays his community by offering products and services to the Cossack warriors for the right price. “Taras saw that his protégé Yankel had already managed to erect a stall with an awning for himself and was selling flints, handfuls of gunpowder in paper cones, and other military items — even bread rolls and dumplings.”

Little surprise, given the stereotypes sprinkled throughout his work, that Gogol has been dismissed by Jewish readers, from the Russian historian Dubnow to the Soviet critic Mashinsky, as one of Russia’s many literary anti-Semites. But Sholem Aleichem chose to model much of his writing, and even his appearance, on Gogol. Ruth Wisse, in “The Modern Jewish Canon” (University of Chicago Press, 2003), has called Sholem Aleichem “the Jewish Gogol.” David Roskies, in “A Bridge of Longing: The Lost Art of Yiddish Storytelling” (Harvard University Press, 1995), reminds us, “Rabinovich kept a box marked ‘Gogol’ on his desk for work in progress, often quoted Gogol in private correspondence, and even wore his hair as Gogol did.” Had the two writers, with their dandyish bobs and whiskers, lived at the same time, they might have been mistaken for one another.

What Sholem Aleichem was borrowing from Gogol was a rural East European landscape that may have been dangerous, but could unite readers through the power of collective memory. He also learned from Gogol to soften this danger through laughter, and he often rewrites Gogol’s Jewish characters, correcting anti-Semitic stereotypes and narrating history from a Jewish perspective. Gogol’s heavily caricatured Jew tends to profit against all odds at Ukrainians’ expense, but Sholem Aleichem’s characters (like the author, who lost his inheritance in the Kiev Stock Exchange in 1890) are usually failures at trade, and their living conditions are squalid.

Sholem Aleichem devotes numerous stories and two full volumes to “Kasrilevka,” a fictional shtetl based, in part, on his childhood village, Voronka. The first, “Old-New Kasrilevka,” is a parodic Baedeker: “They turn out ‘A Guide to Moscow,’ ‘A Guide to Berlin,’ ‘A Guide to Paris,’ so why shouldn’t we have ‘A Guide to Kasrilevka?’ The guidebook includes seven sections, decreasing in appeal: “Transportation,” “Hotels,” “Restaurants,” “Liquor,” “Theater,” “Fires,” and “Bandits.” Eastern Europe was increasingly threatening to Jews, and Sholem Aleichem subtly expresses this by depicting the most despicable elements of the shtetl. Sholem Aleichem’s popular Menachem-Mendl stories (written between 1896-1913) find the title character traveling the world inventing get-rich-quick schemes. His adventures begin when he is given, in place of a promised dowry, a small sum of cash, two promissory notes and an illegitimate “draft” on bad credit (to be redeemed in Odessa). Menachem-Mendl’s wife, Sheyne-Sheyndl, remains at home in Kasrilevka, alternately scolding her husband for his bad investments and sending him money when his ventures fail. Gogolian characters occasionally appear in her shtetl. In one letter, she writes that a government inspector has arrived in town to ascertain what has become of certain sums of money meant for charity, an echo of Gogol’s “Inspector General,” whose anticipated arrival shakes a town to its core, unearthing the illegitimate finances of its provincial elite.

Sholem Aleichem’s 1900 “The Haunted Tailor” begins with a mock-biblical description of a community’s poverty:

And it came to pass that Tsippa-Beyla-Rayza was returning one summer day with her basket from the market, she threw down her bundle of garlic with a little parsley and potatoes that she had bought, and cried angrily, “This can all go to hell! Enough of thinking up what to cook for dinner. You have to have the head of a prime minister! Dumplings with beans and again dumplings with beans. May God not punish me for these words! But even Nekhame-Bruchkhe, who is destitute, miserable, a charity case, she has a goat!

For all their apparent misery, Sholem Aleichem’s hapless characters inspire the Yiddish reader to imagine a world that is not limited to the confines of the shtetl. This incitement to imagination looks something like the conversation, in Sholem Aleichem’s 1902 story set in Kasrilevka, “Seventy-Five Thousand,” between Yankev-Yosl and his wife, Ziporah, when the former has (erroneously) decided he has won a jackpot of 75,000 rubles:

“How much have we won?” she says, gazing right into my eyes, as if saying: “Aha! You’re lying, but you’re not gonna get away with it!”

“Gimme a for instance — how much do you figure we’ve won?”

“I have no idea,” she says. “Maybe a few hundred rubles?”

“Why not,” I say, “a few thousand rubles?”

“What do you mean by a few thousand?” she says. “Five? Six? Maybe as much as seven?”

“You can’t,” I say, “imagine more?”

(Translation by J. Neugroschel in “No Star Too Beautiful: A Treasury of Jewish Stories,” W. W. Norton & Company, 2004).

Sholem Aleichem wants his readers to imagine more, even if the ticket to get there proves to be one number off. His fiction, borrowed in part from Jewish literary sources and in part from Russian writers like Gogol, was, in its own way, revolutionary.

On May 15, 1916, when Sholem Aleichem was buried in the Mount Neboh Cemetery in Cypress Hills, Queens, his headstone was inscribed with his original epitaph, which ends with the following lines:

“And just as the public was

Laughing, chortling, and making merry

He suffered — this only God knows —

In secret, so that no one should see.

(Un davke demolt ven der oylem hot

gelakht, geklatsht, un fleg zikh freyen,

hot er gekrenkt — dos veys nor got —

besod, az keyner zol nit zeyen.)

The epitaph echoes Gogol’s famous “laughter through tears” passage from “Dead Souls,” which Sholem Aleichem used to keep, in a Yiddish translation, on his desk:

And for a long time still I am destined by a wondrous power to walk hand in hand with my strange heroes, to view the whole of hugely rushing life, to view it through laughter visible to the world and tears invisible and unknown to it! (translation by Pevear and Volokhonsky, Everyman’s Library, 2004).

As a writer, Gogol struggled with his simultaneous terror of a changing world and desire to entertain his readers through comedy. According to Isaiah Berlin (1909-1997: what did I tell you about 2009?), Gogol’s world vision was as single-minded as Tolstoy’s was. Sholem Aleichem was not nearly so single-minded. Rather than worrying about the dangers of foreign influence on the Russian Empire, he worried about the dangers in Russia for Jews, its perennial foreigners. But he did share Gogol’s struggle between tradition and creativity. The fine line separating Yiddish literature as a means of inciting social change, and social change as a force destroying Yiddish, gave Sholem Aleichem the fear of loss that he would take with him, quite literally, to the grave.

Sholem Aleichem enclosed his epitaph in his Last Will and Testament, written a few months before his death. In the first of 10 points outlined in his will, the Yiddish writer specified that:

Wherever I die, I wish to be buried not among aristocrats, big shots, or wealthy people, but precisely among ordinary folk, workers, the real Jewish people, so that the gravestone which will be placed on my grave will beautify the simple graves around me, and the simple graves will beautify my grave, just as the simple, honest folk during my life beautified their folk-writer. (Translation by Zuckerman and Herbst in “Three Great Classic Writers of Modern Jewish Literature, V. II,” Joseph Simon Pangloss Press, 1994.)

With this final wish, Sholem Aleichem promises to remain near those readers whose spirit he sought to evoke through the shtetls of his fiction, and, of course, in a more subtle way, he also remains with the memory of Nikolai Gogol.

 

Amelia Glaser is assistant professor of Russian and comparative literature at UC San Diego. She is currently completing a book about rural commerce in Russian, Ukrainian and Yiddish literature. She also translates poetry and prose from Russian and Yiddish; her translations include an anthology of Yiddish poetry, “Proletpen: America’s Rebel Yiddish Poets” (U. Wisconsin Press, 2005).

 

The art of keeping a travel journal


I was going through some old boxes the other day when I found a beat up old notebook that contained a journal of my trip to the Philippines almost nine years ago. The journey had been my first to a tropical country, and thumbing through those wrinkled pages was like stepping into a blast of Southeast Asian humidity: The more I read, the more I began to feel the emotions I felt when I first wandered through Manila and Cebu and Boracay.

Admittedly, the prose in my old journal was far too purple and unfocused to submit for publication in the greater world, but it was a wonderfully vivid evocation of the trip, by myself and for myself — an author and audience of one.

My travel journals haven’t been quite so detailed in the years since I returned from the Philippines — mainly due to the professional demands of travel writing, which takes up most of my note-taking time on the road. Moreover, since a lot of my leftover travel perspectives have gone electronically into my blog in recent years, my pen and paper travel journals have been a bit skimpy in recent years.

Nevertheless, I believe that keeping a travel journal can be one of the most rewarding habits a person can keep on the road. Since I’m a bit out of practice, however, I got in touch with my old friend Lavinia Spalding — a Utah-based writer and travel-journal guru currently at work on a book titled, “Writing Away: A Creative Guide to Journaling on Vacation” — to winnow out some expert advice on keeping a journal on the road:

Rolf Potts: What are the benefits of keeping a travel journal? Why not just enjoy your experience organically without recording it?

Lavinia Spalding: Every traveler who keeps a journal does so for different and valuable reasons. On the most basic level, a travelogue is a place to record information — the name of that historic hotel in Livingston, Mont., or directions to the best Khmer restaurant in Siem Reap, Cambodia. It’s a log of what not to forget. It can inspire writing to publish or share with friends and family; serve as a confidant on solo journeys; store memorabilia such as stamps, ticket stubs and wine labels; or provide a clean canvas for impromptu sketches. It can be a mirror of self-discovery along the way.

For me, the ultimate reward is being forced, regularly, to slow down and be present. If I sit with my notebook for even a few minutes each day to write about where I am in that moment, and what I’m currently experiencing with all of my senses, it becomes a practice. It takes me out of thinking only of past and future — the site I’ve just visited, or my next destination. It demands an immediate stillness and awareness, and in doing so enriches the whole experience.

RP: What advice would you give to a first-timer, who has never kept a travel journal and doesn’t know where to start?

LS: Begin by treating yourself to a new unlined blank book. Choose it carefully, paying close attention to the weight of the pages and the feel of it in your hands. Will it lay relatively flat when open? Will it hold up to weather and wear? My favorite journals are actually sketchbooks — they’re affordable, sturdy and versatile, and can be found in any art supply store.

Once you’ve set yourself up with the perfect blank book, take it home and display it on your bedside table along with a favorite pen. Soon it’ll call to you like keys to a new car. If you’ve bought your journal for an upcoming trip but want to start writing in it at once, begin by listing expectations and goals for the journey, as well as any preconceived notions of your intended destinations. Include your to-do list, packing list, estimated budget and any useful travel tips you’ve received. Not only will this spark excitement and get you into the habit of journal writing, you’ll also have fun reading it upon your return, at which point you can recount the ways in which your expectations met or differed from reality.

RP: How do you keep a consistent journal on the road without letting it interfere with your experience?

LS: I think of my journal as a travel companion. Not a whiny or strict companion demanding my constant attention, but an affable, playful, ever-available friend that doesn’t mind spending a lot of time locked in my hotel room. Then, as I go about my day, taking in sights and having adventures, I keep it in the back of my mind, thinking to myself, “I can’t wait to tell my journal this story.” I pick up small gifts for it while I’m out — a colorful candy wrapper to glue inside, a flower to press between the pages, a museum pass or a hologram sticker of Kuan Yin.

A mistake many people make is feeling obliged to carry their journal everywhere they go. Instead, tuck a small spiral notebook into your pocket or daypack. That way you can jot things down on the spot and later transfer over the information, or better yet, tear out the page and paste it into your journal. Another mistake is trying to describe in exhaustive detail the events of every single day. If you make yourself write daily long entries, eventually it’ll start to smell like homework.

Some consistency is necessary, though. It’s a good idea to commit to eking out a few words every day — short notes on where you went and what you saw, or a funny overheard quote. Entries in my journal from Tibet are as brief as, “steaming plates of yak momos,” and in my Mexico journal, “The lady renting us the casita has a shiny gold star on her front tooth.” A few words are enough to solidify memories.

Maybe later you’ll expand on what you’ve written. Maybe not. Either way, you’ve managed to include the journal in your experience without allowing it to take over. I like to save longer entries for idle moments, when no one else is around and I’m feeling reflective, or when I’ve been drinking.

The Lichtenstein Formula for a Jewish Paper


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

That’s What I Do


If you’re a single 24-year-old gal looking to meet a preferably Jewish single guy in Los Angeles, you’d think a good pick-up line might include the words “I work for The Jewish Journal.” After all, what better way to convey to the guy-of-interest that you’re a fellow MOT? But you’d be wrong. That line’s great for when you meet his parents, and probably exactly why it’s not great for meeting him. The immediate thought bubble above his head reads something like, “Hmmm nice Jewish girl,” basically the Catholic equivalent of dating a nun.

So, when I started at The Journal four years ago, back when I was still single, in addition to the skills associated with my new job duties, there were conversational hurdles I had to learn to jump when meeting eligible guys. I had to be especially agile, since the most likely opening conversation with a new person usually centers on one’s career. To the question of “What do you do?” I came up with the following response strategy:

1. Be intentionally vague
“I’m a writer.” (If he presses for details, ask him about himself. See No. 2.)

2. Deflect
“What do you do?” (Appear fascinated, turn the conversation in another direction, move on to No. 3.)

3. Hook
(Insert clever comment to draw him in. He’ll remember now that you’re a writer. But now you’ve got him. The perfect time for No. 4.)

4. Make the bold statement
“I’m a writer for The Jewish Journal.” (Let it sink in for a second, two, three. “Wow,” he’ll say. “You must be really Jewish.” Quickly move in for step No. 5, or all is lost.)

5. Shame
(Insert clever retort to shame him and make him love you all at the same time. This will take skill to master, but you’re Keren Engelberg, Jewish Girl Reporter. The guilt force is strong within you. You are up to the task.)

 

Love, Journal Style?


Did you meet the love of your life through The Jewish Journal’s personals? Was it lasting devotion or did it crash and burn? We’re compiling the best stories of people who met through The Journal to run as part of our 20th anniversary edition. Send your stories — happy or horrid — to letters@jewishjournal.com with the subject line: JJ Love. Be sure to include your name, since we will not run anonymous submissions.

Deadline is May 31.

 

The Curious Little Monkey’s Tale


“The Journey That Saved Curious George : The True Wartime Escape of Margret and H.A. Rey by Louise Borden (Houghton Mifflin, $17).

It was a truncated tale, repeated in the hallways of publishing houses, printed on book jackets: On a rainy day in June 1940, the creators of “Curious George” fled Paris on bicycles, hours before the Nazis seized control. H.A. Rey and his wife, Margret, carried with them nothing but food, clothes and a pile of papers, including the manuscript of what would turn out to be one wildly successful children’s book. The End.

That was it.

“There was never anything about what happened to them during that journey,” said Louise Borden, herself the author of 20 books for children. “I wanted to read a book with visual images of how they escaped and where they went, and there was no book.”

So Borden wrote one.

In “The Journey That Saved Curious George: The True Wartime Escape of Margret and H.A. Rey,” the 55-year-old author fleshes out the couple who created the beloved, mischievous monkey.

The 70-page children’s book chronicles the Reys’ narrow escape from Paris on homemade bicycles, as the German army marched toward the French capital. Fleeing among a “sea of humanity,” the German-born Jews “pedaled … and pedaled … and pedaled,” Borden writes, until arriving in southern France.

Relying on H.A. Rey’s diary, ticket stubs, photographs, letters and newspapers, Borden recounts the journey from France to Portugal to Brazil and, finally, to the United States.

Borden calls her book a sort of “travel journal” for its presentation of archival materials, such as diary pages and letters to editors, along with watercolor illustrations.

“As you turn the pages, that’s kind of what my desk looked like when I was trying to sort through all this information and find the story,” Borden said.

To illustrate, she chose a Brit, Allan Drummond, because the humor in Drummond’s drawings and the way he used vibrant reds, yellows, greens and blues seemed to “echo” the drawings of H.A. Rey. She needed a “European sensibility” and “whimsical” style that nevertheless “conveys the seriousness of the times.”

In her research, Borden traveled to France, visiting the Paris hotel where the couple lived and the countryside chateau where they stayed for four months at the beginning of World War II.

She began uncovering details in the life story of Hans Augusto Reyersbach (H.A. Rey) and the woman, Margarete Waldstein, who became his wife and collaborator. Reyersbach grew up in Hamburg, Germany. As a boy, he liked to paint, and he loved animals, the zoo and the circus. Like the Man with the Yellow Hat who would lure the monkey from the jungle in “Curious George,” Reyersbach smoked a pipe. After serving in the German army in World War I, Reyersbach took his sketchbooks and pipe to Brazil.

Waldstein (Margret Rey), who also grew up in Hamburg, had studied art and photography at the Bauhaus, the German school of design famous for its influence on modern architecture. Looking for adventure, she followed Reyersbach, a family friend, to Brazil.

The two began working together on artistic projects. Reyersbach would come up with the ideas and illustrations, while Waldstein would write. They balanced each other according to Borden’s book: “Hans was the gentle one. Margarete, with her red hair and artist’s spunk, was never afraid to speak her mind.”

In 1935, they got married. It was just the two of them — and two pet monkeys, which “were always getting into mischief,” Borden writes.

Although Waldstein’s father and Reyersbach’s grandfather were rabbis, the couple lived as secular Jews, according to Lay Lee Ong, executor of the Reys estate.

To make his name easier to pronounce in Portuguese, Reyersbach changed it to “H.A. Rey.” Waldstein shortened hers to “Margret Rey.”

On their honeymoon, the Reys stopped at a hotel in Paris. What was supposed to be a two-week stay stretched into four years.

By the time the Reys left Paris, they had already published some children’s books. But it wasn’t until the fall of 1941, after they had reached the United States, that “Curious George” debuted.

Not until 1958 did it sell more than 10,000 copies a year, said Anita Silvey, who used to oversee children’s book publishing at Houghton Mifflin Co., which publishes the “Curious George” series.

“It was only when those who had read the book as a child began to share it with their children that the book started to achieve classic status,” she said. Now, the series has sold more than 27 million copies and been translated into 16 languages, including Yiddish.

The “Curious George” books have achieved such success because they capture “the curiosity, the spontaneity, and joy of living as young children experience it,” Silvey said. “George is the surrogate of every small child — he gets into trouble, he explores, and then he is always saved in the end.”

What readers can now learn is how George was also saved in the beginning.

On Sunday, Sept. 25 at 2 p.m., Louise Borden will speak about her book at the Museum of Tolerance Family Day. No charge. For more information, call (310) 772-2526 or visit

Political Journal


Israel School Teaches Peace Lesson

Racially motivated brawls at Jefferson High School this spring made the school appear, at times, like a miniwar zone. Which makes it especially interesting that L.A. Unified School District (LAUSD) officials are learning lessons from Israeli and West Bank schools, where violence, even terrorism, is an ever-present undercurrent.

The person bringing those lessons to Los Angeles is USC professor Ron Avi Astor, who has spent his career studying school violence in Israel and the United States. His newest book, co-written with Israeli professor Rami Benbenishty of Jerusalem’s Hebrew University, is titled, “School Violence in Contest: Culture, Neighborhood, Family, School, and Gender.” The two scholars conducted studies encompassing 30,000 Israeli students at a time.

A fundamental finding is that a school’s response to violence should relate to the type of violence: One size does not fit all. One of the first steps is to ask students, teachers and local authorities to describe the problem in detail, be it sexual harassment, weapons, gangs, bullying or something else.

Then, Astor said, officials should map the results. This process immediately reveals where students fear to go, allowing the school to target its response.

In Israel, national attention focused on the problem of school violence during the late 1990s. The government turned to Astor for advice. Acting on his input, schools put in place teacher training based on his methods, and a national dialogue on school violence in Israel began, Astor says. Since then, school violence has dropped by about 25 percent by his estimate.

Some of the schools facing the most hardships have fared best. Shevach Mofet in Herzeliya, for example, saw seven of its students killed in a Tel Aviv nightclub bombing.

The school managed not only to avoid fracturing into conflicting groups, but “created such a strong sense of community that a number of kids were propelled to colleges and good jobs, because they felt they were part of a greater cause,” Astor said.

He said that schools are not doomed to replicate patterns of violent behavior present in the communities around them.

“If you’re in a horrible neighborhood that has drugs and violence and political issues, and we have some of those in the West Bank, a school could shelter you,” Astor said.

The more actively the school assumes a positive, perceptive role in the community, he added, the more violent messages from the outside are mitigated. Schools that are more passive regarding a neighborhood’s ills — which focus, say, only on academics — tend to let in more of the violent messages coming from outside, Astor said.

The polling and mapping Astor and his colleagues developed in Israel and the West Bank are now at work in the LAUSD, where Astor sits on the Working Group for Safer School Communities. Students at Fremont High School in South Los Angeles and Gardena High School have already participated in mapping the dangerous areas around them, and eight more schools may soon follow. Infusing schools with a sense of purpose and community involvement is no quick fix, but the benefits over time can be transforming.

“Some of the schools we looked at were in the West Bank, where [students] go in with armored buses,” Astor recalled. “It’s amazing when you go into some of those schools. They are the most peaceful environments inside.”

Abortion Amendment on the Ballot

When Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger called for this November’s special election, he opened a Pandora’s Box. Schwarzenegger’s own initiatives (limiting teacher tenure, granting himself extra fiscal powers and changing the way legislative districts are drawn) are only three of eight now on the ballot.

One of the other ballot measures is a state constitutional amendment called Proposition 73, which would require doctors to notify the parents of minors who want an abortion.

In 1997, the California Supreme Court struck down a state law that would have required parental consent, calling it an invasion of privacy.

However, a constitutional amendment, such as Proposition 73, could preclude state judicial review.

The pro-73 campaign says that notifying parents of their child’s wish to have an abortion would help protect the pregnant minor by introducing mature decision making. It claims anecdotally that most people agree that parents have a right to be involved in this aspect of their children’s lives.

Proposition 73 opponents counter that teens who don’t tell their parents frequently have a good reason not to.

“We know that most teens talk to their parents,” said Hillary Selvin, executive director of the National Council of Jewish Women L.A. “Teens who don’t usually [have] a reason — like abuse or incest caused by somebody close to the parent or by the parents themselves.”

Selvin said that the teens who are most alienated from their parents are the ones most vulnerable.

“They will either go out of state or try and get an abortion illegally,” she said. “And I think most of us thought we were past that point in this country.”

She added that pursuing a judicial waiver to parental notification, which Proposition 73 would allow, is an unrealistic option for a pregnant teenager to pursue.

Yes on 73 campaign staff did not return calls seeking a response.

Whatever else it does, Proposition 73 makes the abortion process more difficult and complicated; it would therefore be likely to reduce the number of abortions. That in itself would please anti-abortion activists.

By far the biggest financial backer of Proposition 73 is James Holman, a publisher of several Catholic newspapers, as well as the secular San Diego Reader. Holman has donated about $1.3 million to the campaign, and has in the past opposed abortion in general, with or without parental notification.

 

Yeladim


 

At the Jewish Children’s Bookfest at Mount Sinai on Nov. 14, children were given a journal and asked the following question:

“What does being Jewish in America mean to me?”

Here is our first response, by Caleigh Gumbiner, a fourth-grader at Balboa Magnet in Northridge: “To me, being Jewish in America means I can be free to study Torah when I like and how I would like to study it. It also means I don’t have to be treated differently or badly because of my religion.”

The pilgrims came to America so they could practice their religion in freedom, just like Caleigh practices her Judaism. We must all work together to make sure that America remains a country of freedom.

Here are some of the things the kindergartners at the Westside JCC are thankful for:

“I am thankful for my parents even though they’re kinda silly. Sometimes, if they’re mad, I’ll come to see what I did wrong and sometimes when they’re sad, I can make them feel better!”

– Sydney

“I am thankful for my strawberry plant because my Mommy gave it to me and it’s very special.”

– Emma

Mail your cartoons, drawings, puzzles, etc. to The Jewish Journal, 3580 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 1510, Los Angeles, CA 90010. E-mail your written answers to our contests, or your jokes, riddles, poems, etc., to kids@jewishjournal.com. Make sure you write your name and address in your e-mail. See you next time!

 

Federation to End Donor Subscriptions


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do Party Invites Right


Invitations? Eliminate the possible problems way ahead of time. Have you asked your parents and your in-laws to give you a list? When you do, give them a number. When you ask for a list of 30 from each side, it is so much better than receiving 50 from one set of parents and 100 from the other. Add to that total another 30 of your friends and maybe 30 from your child. So 30 from each side turns out to be 120 — or more depending on who’s doing the counting.

What other problems, you ask? Remember when someone mistakenly forgot to include Aunt Saydie? Remember how one side of the family did not speak to the other side for a long time? While that may sound like a good thing, it really isn’t.

After you make the master list of 30 from each side plus your 30, it is a very good idea to give each set of grandparents a master list to proofread for errors. The errors being, of course, that you are inviting or not inviting someone that may cause a big problem. Let’s have no surprises here. It is amazing how someone may remember, "Look, we forgot so-and-so."

While so-and-so might not have minded, there could also have been another world war in your family if you don’t invite him/her. Purposefully, we do not include the child’s list to the grandparent proofing. We do not need a grandma saying "I never liked that boy!" There is no discussion involving the child’s friends.

Although you will not mail invitations for six to eight weeks, it’s good to begin looking long before that time. At least six month in advance is good to begin your search. With all the choices available, it’s not easy to pick invitations. It’s good to have a notebook, journal or an index card box with everyone’s name and address on a separate card. When the invitations go out, each name is checked. When the response arrives, it is so noted. Also note when a gift arrives and when the thank-you note is sent.

The index-card box is one of the most important items in your home and is referred to each time an affair is coming up — as well as when you need a gift for that person’s party.

Must you have a very formal invite? Will it need the extra color in the envelope? Many forget the reason for your affair. First of all, it’s not your affair. What will be suitable for your almost 13-year-old? Will he or she have a say in this selection? And will it be his or her favorite color?

It was one thing when you chose that adorable little "It’s a Girl" announcement in azalea pink, and it’s quite another for your little girl — almost grown up — to choose her invitation in that hot orange/spring green combination. While the tablecloths and place cards will probably be white, the napkins and accessories will follow through in the orange and green.

You will need a flower arrangement for the table that houses the place cards and another [smaller] arrangement for the ladies room to place next to the basket containing tissues, some pretty guest soaps, perfume and hand lotion.

Imagine the trim on the cake icing matching those two beautiful colors. Imagine her joy at being able to make the decision. The good news is that you will not have to wear a matching dress in those colors. They are just her colors.

Remember you do not have to like it. It is just amazing that, together, you two found something she loves. And your daughter will remember this affair — forever. We can only hope and pray the orange-and-green flowers in the lady’s room do not clash with the chartreuse wall tile!

Fed Campaign Ends on High Note


Propelled by a tide of last-minute contributions in the final weeks of its annual campaign, the Jewish Federation of Orange County raised a record $2.3 million, a 9 percent gain over last year, outpacing national results by the United Jewish Communities.

“We attribute the increase in the campaign to deliberate relationship building,” said Bunnie Mauldin, Federation executive director.

Each of the Federation’s various support groups increased its giving, though the 39 percent increase by the young professionals’ network was the largest. Gifts ranged from $5,000 to $100,000 or more.

Nearly 90 percent of the Federation’s contributors gave $500 or less, or 16 percent of the total.

“That is pretty much in step with what most philanthropy’s experience: 90 percent of the money comes from 10 percent of the donors,” Mauldin said.

In June, the Journal incorrectly reported the 2003 results as slightly down based on incomplete figures that did not reflect the final campaign push.

The Federation fell short of an ambitious $3.2 million target, but should be considered a success since other communities experienced meaningful declines, Federation President Lou Weiss, noted in the group’s annual report.

This year’s campaign exceeded last year’s level by $235,000, Mauldin said.

Stanley Hirsh


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

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

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

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

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

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

Physician, Heal The Soul


Physicians played a significant role in the Holocaust, and today’s doctors can learn from the ethical failures of that period, according to an article recently published by Dr. Joel Geiderman, co-chair of the emergency department (ED) of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.

"I’ve always taken an interest in the Holocaust and its lasting effects, because my mother was a survivor," Geiderman said. With 23 years of emergency medicine at Cedars-Sinai under his belt, he has always taken an interest in the philosophies of bioethics but became "passionately" involved five or six years ago. Now, he serves on the ethics committees of Cedars-Sinai and the Academy of Emergency Medicine. "Most of us know about the medical experiments, the doctors in the camps," he said, "but as I started reading about this, about the history, I was blown away."

In "Physician Complicity in the Holocaust: Historical Review and Reflections on Emergency Medicine in the 21st Century," Geiderman sets out a series of moral failures he attributes to German physicians before, during and after WWII. Published in the March issue of Academic Emergency Medicine journal, the two-part article enumerates ethical challenges requiring greater vigilance from today’s physicians.

"So much of the Holocaust is unexplainable. But when you start to break it down, step by step, it starts to make sense in a perverse way," Geiderman said. "So much of what doctors contributed to the horror came out of economic opportunism, greed and convenience."

The first part of the article traces the German medical establishment’s slippery slope, from being healers toward full participants in genocide. Starting long before Hitler came to power, Geiderman shows how German doctors embraced the false science of eugenics, or "racial hygiene." This made it easier to accept, with the rise of National Socialism, the exclusion of Jewish physicians from the practice of medicine (which also advanced many non-Jewish doctors’ careers).

When the Nazis passed the Sterilization Act, doctors not only participated in designing the program to forcibly sterilize the "genetically diseased," they exceeded the government’s goals for implementation. Throughout the regime, ordinary physicians acted as instruments of racist Nazi policies; doctors became murderers, and later made efforts to hide the truth about their activities.

In Part Two of his "Physician Complicity" article, Geiderman examines the ethical challenges faced by his colleagues in emergency medicine today. He worries about doctors being asked to serve as agents of the state, as with mandatory reporting laws for patients whose injuries might be caused by foul play or infectious disease. He considers the denial of modesty to patients when "reality television" films in an emergency room. He considers the various ways in which patients are dehumanized by their doctors, who may refer to them by room number, by their ailment or even by nasty nicknames. Economic pressures affecting the practice of medicine and technology that allows for genetic screening, testing and even genetic engineering also pass through Geiderman’s bioethical radar.

"These are not Holocaust analogies," he says of Part Two, adding that in the article, "I took a neutral stance on physician-assisted suicide. Personally, I’m against it. But I don’t think it’s useful to play the so-called Holocaust card in these debates."

The doctor compares his research and writings to reflection on the Holocaust in other fields. "In ‘Au Revoir les Enfants,’ the French director Louis Malle described the Holocaust through his childhood eyes in a French monastery … while others responded by building new lives or even a new nation. For me, as an emergency physician who has spent 25 years in an ED, dedicated my most recent years to the study of bioethics, and who is the son of a survivor, Part Two is the natural expression of my feelings or philosophy."

It is a decidedly practical sort of philosophy for a doctor of emergency medicine to study. "What’s become really clear to a lot of us who advocate bioethics is that you have to have considered these issues in advance," Geiderman says. "In emergency medicine, there’s not always a lot of time to call in an ethical consult." He views the product of his historical and ethical research as timeless. "Unlike hard science, where the science will change, this will never change."

Though his research relies on previously published materials, and his description of physician complicity in the Holocaust is carefully documented, Geiderman says some peer reviews of his work came back with incredulous comments — doctors who could not believe such events could have happened. He writes: "The keys to preventing such a recurrence lie in understanding and teaching the lessons of the past; in speaking, teaching and writing about ethics; in incorporating ethical principles and professionalism into our medical practices, and in being willing to stand up and make personal sacrifices for the ethical principles in which we believe."

And, as he says, "Certain things need to be learned over and over again."

A Portion of Parshat Mikketz


Do you remember your dreams? In both last week’s and this week’s parshot, dreams play a big part in the story. First, Joseph dreams that the sun, the moon and 11 stars are bowing down to him. His 11 brothers get very angry with him. They say, “Is that what you think? That we are going to bow down to you?”

In Mikketz, Pharoah dreams, too, first about cows, and then about stalks of grain. After Joseph interprets the dreams for Pharoah, he is freed from prison and soon becomes the grand vizier of Egypt. His brothers come down to Egypt looking for food, and they end up bowing down to him. Finally, the dreams that Joseph had 20 years before came true.

Some people keep a “dream journal” near their beds, so that they can write their dreams down as soon as they get up, before they forget them. You might want to try this, too. You never know what you might learn about yourself from your dreams.

Sunday in the Park


Maybe the post-apocalyptic parking situation was a tip-off. The overcapacity of automobiles surrounding Woodley Park seemed to confirm that this year’s Israeli Independence Day Festival outdid itself in terms of spectacle and attendance. An estimated 50,000 attended, festival director Yoram Gutman confirmed, making this year’s festival the biggest yet. As Gutman told The Journal, "There are so many Israelis who live in the Valley, so maybe that has something to do with it. I never saw so many Persian Jews and American Jews."

At the vast Encino park, the aroma of barbecues tended to by picnicking families filled the spring air; kids rode rides and tossed footballs; Jewish organizations reached out to passers-by; long lines mobbed food kiosks that offered everything from smoothies to Persian cuisine; and Israeli folk dancers cut up the lawn, if not the rug.

The Journal also got to meet and greet readers and award prizes to our raffle contestants, including the children interpreting their odes to the 53rd Israeli Independence Day in crayon for our art contest.

The festival seemed to have a little something for everyone: Sephardim and Ashkenazim; Israeli, American, Persian and Russian Jews; and non-Jews. Overall, a nice (extended) family affair.

As for Israeli Fest No. 54, Gutman was undecided whether the annual event will return to its original Pan Pacific Park setting.

"It was so successful in the Valley that it may stay in the Valley," Gutman said.

Bye-Bye


After eight years, I’m leaving The Jewish Journal. I have been working on The Journal’s web page since its inception, in 1996, and I’ve solely maintained it throughout this time.

I’ve been honored to be a part of this endeavor, and to have received your letters and suggestions throughout the past four years. I hope this web page will continue, and will grow and expand to serve the Jewish community of Southern California for many years to come.

Sincerely,

Sara Eve Roseman

Departure of Sara Eve Roseman


After eight years, I’m leaving The Jewish Journal. I have been working on The Journal’s web page since its inception, in 1996, and I’ve solely maintained it throughout this time.

I’ve been honored to be a part of this endeavor, and to have received your letters and suggestions throughout the past four years. I hope this web page will continue, and will grow and expand to serve the Jewish community of Southern California for many years to come.

Sincerely,

Sara Eve Roseman

Power, Politics And People


Along with news of its editor’s death, the YiddishForward of May 15 carried front-page reports about India’s nucleartests, the U.S.-Israeli diplomatic crisis, the naming of a specialprosecutor to probe the secretary of labor, and Israel’s new militarychief of staff.

It was vintage Forward. As it has for 101 years,the legendary Yiddish journal still covers world affairs andWashington politics as readily as it reports on Israel oranti-Semitism. Unlike any other Jewish newspaper outside Israel, theForward tries to be a window for its readers, not just on the Jewishworld, but on the world.

That’s because the Forward always had twoidentities: Jewish newspaper and newspaper for Jews. It assumed itsreaders’ interests included Jewish affairs, but weren’t restricted tothem. Expansive, eclectic, grounded in core beliefs but never limitedby them, the Forward’s Jewishness was a perspective broad enough toinclude all of human endeavor.

It was the same way with Mordechai Strigler, theForward’s editor from 1987 until he died May 10. Born in Poland in1921, he seemed to embody nearly every contradictory trend in20th-century Jewish life: raised in a chassidic family, ordained in amisnagedyeshiva, he fought with the Polish partisans, organized classes forchildren at Buchenwald, then became a leading figure in the postwarworlds of Yiddish belles lettres and Labor Zionist politics.

During a half-century in journalism he producedtens of thousands of articles, essays and dozens of books oneverything from economics to rabbinic theology. Besides the Forward,he was for 42 years editor of a rival publication, the Labor Zionistweekly Der Yiddisher Kemfer (The Jewish Militant).

His legacy is unmatched. As an editor, especiallyat the Kemfer, he published some of the most important postwarYiddish writing by the likes of Chaim Grade and Jacob Glatstein. As awriter he was peerless in drawing on the lost Jewish world of Europeto illuminate the new. He wrote about everything under the sun,sometimes using three pseudonyms in one issue. David Ben-Gurion, it’ssaid, would not begin world Labor Zionist meetings until he knewStrigler was seated.

“He will not have been the last editor of theYiddish Forward, as he had feared,” vowed Samuel Norich, theForward’s general manager, speaking at Strigler’s funeral. “But nonethat follow him will know the world that he knew, none will invoke itas he could and did, helping us to understand our days as hedid.”

Alas, if only he had helped us understand.Strigler’s tragedy is that he did not. He never reached the mass ofAmerican Jews, because he couldn’t — or wouldn’t — write theirlanguage. He was, to the end, a Yiddish writer. He wrote about thenew Jewish world, but not to it.

“Language is the heart of writing,” one colleagueexplained. “Yiddish was his language.” But that’s not the wholestory. Strigler never had his works translated. He had littleinterest in younger Yiddishists. Young journalists who worked nearhim at the English-language spinoffs of the Kemfer and Forward (thiswriter worked at both) all say they never really knew him. It was asif he could not let himself speak to the new world, because he couldnot bear to let go of the old one.

One journalist wrote that Strigler’s dual Forward-Kemfer editorship was like editing both the New York Times and theNew York Review of Books. That understates the feat. The Forward, theAmerican socialist voice founded in 1897, and the Kemfer, the LaborZionist organ founded in 1916, represented bitterly opposing wings ofthe Jewish labor movement. For a Zionist theoretician to head theForward, tribune of Yiddish diasporism, would have been inconceivablea few years earlier. By 1987, when Strigler took over, there were fewchoices left.

Once there were a dozen Yiddish dailies in NewYork alone. The Forward, the biggest, had a daily circulation ofnearly a quarter-million in the 1920s. Circulation is now around7,000. It went weekly in 1983.

Over 200,000 Americans still claim Yiddish astheir first language, according to the 1990 U.S. Census. But no morethan a fraction knew of Strigler. The vast majority, demographerssay, belong to the separatist world of Yiddish-speaking chassidim.They support a lively crop of Yiddish weeklies in Brooklyn andelsewhere, combined circulation nearly 100,000. Most have no use forthe secularist Forward. As for the Forward’s readers, they producedchildren and grandchildren who speak no Yiddish.

That the Forward lasted this long is due largelyto good fortune. The Forward Association, the paper’s publisher, alsoowns a radio station, WEVD (named for socialist icon Eugene V. Debs).Once billed as the all- Yiddish “station that speaks your language,”it now broadcasts mainstream but lucrative talk shows. InEnglish.

Boosting WEVD’s income are proceeds from the late-’80s sale of its FM band for an estimated $30 million. Besidesfinancing the Forward’s admired but money- losing English and Russianeditions, the radio dollars guarantee the Yiddish Forward can keeppublishing even after the last reader has departed, so long asthere’s someone to edit it.

And indeed, Strigler’s successor has already beennamed: Ukrainian-born Boris Sandler, 48. Once a Jewish activist inKishinev, Sandler entered Yiddish journalism at the Moscow-based DiYiddishe Gass, successor to the party mouthpiece Sovetish Heimland.He moved to Israel in 1992, pursuing research and authoring severalYiddish novels. He came to New York in January as the Forward’scultural editor.

Sandler plans to encourage other Baby BoomerYiddishists to see the Forward as their literary home. He’s been intouch with young writers in America, Europe and Israel who haveagreed to write for him.

But his Forward will have to move away from itsold newspapering ways. New readers will hear about India’s bombs fromthe New York Times or CNN. The Forward will become, like other Jewishjournals — like most Jewish communal life — a refuge where Jewsturn to explore their Jewish side. The organic, all-embracing cultureof modern European Jewry is gone. Gone.

Strigler fought mightily to preserve a murderedculture. His tragedy is that he could not win. Our tragedy is that hehad no strength left to teach the rest of us.

“Strigler was the last of his world,” saysSandler. “He was a child of European Jewry who knew how to sing andweep with European Jewry, and he was the last of them.”

J.J. Goldberg is the author of “Jewish Power:Inside the Amercan Jewish Establishment.” He writes regularly for TheJewish Journal.

 

Letters


Just to clarify Tom Tugend’s “Strain in the Relationship” (Aug.22):

Hollywood’s power brokers of Jewish ancestry met on Tisha B’Av atthe Hillcrest Country Club (over shrimp cocktails, perhaps?) todiscuss their “genuine quest for a ‘new identity’ in theirrelationship to Israel.”

Are we all comforted to know that Israel’s American support liesdisproportionately in the hands of such people so profoundly capableof deep introspection on this most somber day in the Jewish calendar?

Can we say that their need for self-deification will never bereconciled with the survival of Israel as a Jewish state?

As for Billy Crystal or any other celebrity of Jewish ancestry:Their interest or participation in anything Jewish is directlyproportional to the impact on their showbiz careers.

Howard Winter

Beverly Hills

Jewish Masochism

We non-Orthodox Jews should face up to this fact: We daily bemoanassimilation and the predicted disappearance of the Jewish peoplebecause of this. But we cannot argue the fact that wherever thenon-observant or semi-observant Jew dominates Jewish life,assimilation thrives and Jews flock to the Moonies and other cults.

We’ve done a lousy job of preserving Jewish identity. So, where dowe get the arrogance to force this miserable record upon a Jewishnation, from afar yet? Making donations to Israel should not give usthe right to force our way of life on the Jews who live there. Suchan attitude is hardly in keeping with the Jewish tradition oftzedakah. The recipients of our charity should not be beholdento us.

Our masochism truly shines bright when we consider how stupid itis for us, non-Orthodox Jews, to push the wrong buttons at thisextremely volatile time in our history. Our very survival is at stakebecause of the devotion towards our destruction, displayed by theArab enemy. We could at least have the common sense to put offinternal fighting until we have neutralized the danger from theoutside enemy.

By the way, has any one of us seen a published comment by even oneArab that attacks the Arabs in a manner that is equal to the flood ofanti-Israel articles by Jews? Talk about masochism!

Leon Perlsweig

Los Angeles

Unequal Treatment

I was shocked and saddened to read two reports from Israel(“Caught In a Maelstrom,” “Another Melee Erupts as Women Pray withMen at Western Wall,” Aug. 15). How can we anguish over the seriousdisturbances in Israel between the Israelis and the Arabs when wehave such nasty and hateful disturbances within our own people? Howcan we rightfully accuse others when we seemingly have no controlover our own actions?

I am sick and tired of those who claim to be so devout that theycannot follow the basic tenets of the Torah; we are bidden to takeresponsibility for our own actions and not to blame others.

I have found that shame, blame and regret are not satisfactoryconditions with which to live life. Is this the way to love yourneighbor as yourself? Of course, if you do not love yourself, then itbecomes easier to lay the blame on another.

The shameful way that the women were treated when they attemptedto pray is disgusting behavior and I can find no reasonableexplanation for it. How can we justify the male attitude whichdemeans women in these ways? This is 1997, and I have not found anyjustification which says that women are to be given unequal rights.

If we can not live in peace with each other then how in the nameof G-d can we ever expect to live peacefully with any other people?Let us pray that we will be able to treat each other with respect andtrue understanding, not just tolerance. Then perhaps the rest of theworld may be better able to treat us that way, too.

Polly Hertz

Los Angeles

South Bay Greetings

In case you have forgotten, we too live in the South Bay and havedone so for the past 23 years. We have been active in building aschool, mikvah, day care center, adult center and have an affiliationof 500 friends.

Surprisingly, your cover story “Wave of the Future,”(Aug. 22)forgot a main Jewish group. Hopefully, this is not a common practice.

Rabbi Eli Hecht

Director

Chabad of South Bay

Lomita

*

It was wonderful to see that the South Bay Jewish community is notforgotten. We certainly are alive and well. I believe people have toknow that there are Jews living in other neighborhoods other thanjust the Valley, the Farifax area and the Westside.

But, my disappointment came when I saw that the synagogue myfamily belongs to was relegated to less than one line. B’nai TikvahCongregation is also a member of the South Bay Council of theFederation. We are 51 years young and have the motto of “Not justanother shul!” Our credo is we are small enough to encourage personalrelationships but large enough to offer a variety of programs.

We joined the synagogue when our oldest child was ready for Sundayschool and have remained members for over 44 years. To our delight,our son and daughter-in-law have joined and nothing gives us morepleasure than sitting next to them and our grandchildren at services.

And now we are very excited about our new and dynamic spiritualleader, Rabbi Michael Beals. We were delighted as he conducted hisfirst Shabbat service last Friday night. The sanctuary was crowedwith adults and children who were anxious to welcome him and hislovely wife, Dr. Elissa Green-Beals, to Westchester and B’nai TikvahCongregation.

We believe that the Jewish Journal left our a very important partof South Bay Judaism when they choose to omit any significant mentionof B’nai Tikvah Congregation.

Ileene Morris

Westchester

*

After reading your article “Wave of the Future,” (Aug. 15) I wasstruck with the similarity of our own experience in starting a shulin Oxnard, a city that is considered bamidbar, “in thedesert,” as regarding Jewish matters, by the Los Angeles Jewishcommunity.

Our synagogue, Congregation Am HaYam, “People of the sea,” is theonly Conservative synagogue between Thousand Oaks and San LuisObispo. We had our first service last May, starting out in members’homes, and now in a rented hall. We hold Shabbat services on thefirst and third weekends of each month at the Oxnard Monday Clubwhere we will also be holding our first High Holy Day services. Weare affiliated with the United Synagogue for Conservative Judaism andnow have a membership of almost 50 families. Everyone who attendsservices, besides remarking about how warm and friendly they are,says the same thing: “I didn’t know there were this many Jews in thearea!”

There is no kosher butcher or baker in our area so that when wehave a Shabbat dinner we have to bring the food from the San FernandoValley.

Our services are warm and inspiring due to our rabbi/cantor, RabbiGerald Hanig, who was the cantor at Temple Ramat Zion in Northridgefor over 20 years. His intellect, devotion to Judaism and truly warmpersonality are our major asset. We also have none of the politicalinfighting and divisiveness or more established Jewish synagogues andother institutions. Due to the popularity of our area as a vacationresort, we also have a number of visitors to our synagogue. Indeed, alarge percentage of our members live in Los Angeles and have weekendhomes here.

So you see, you can find a synagogue in the most unlikely city.Even in the strawberry capital of the world, Oxnard, Calif.

Morton H. Resnick

President

Congregation Am HaYam

Oxnard

The Journal Critiqued

I would like to share some thoughts that have been brewing in mymind for some time now:

It might be unprofessional of me to question the value of theTorah interpretations which distinguished colleagues of mine arewriting. To my mind they add little understanding concerning theweekly parsha that is read in the synagogue. Some may think that thisan appropriate application of the midrash technique hallowedby our tradition but the Journal columns miss the mark. Usually about75 percent of the writing deals with a personal anecdote or a generalobservation on the peccadilloes of life and then a few verses fromthe weekly portion are dragged in give these ruminations some We havea right to know what the Torah portion is all about.

In my view the Journal is overloaded with material about thepolitical merry-go-round in Israel. The L.A. Times already gives ussufficient coverage of the scene there. What we need from a Jewishweekly are articles in depth, exploring the background of thecultural and religious events percolating over there.

I now notice stacks of copies of the Journal for freedistribution. Where did I get the notion that it is available only toFederation contributors? Besides, it upsets my aesthetic taste to seecopies of the Journal roll in the gutter along with the L.A. Weekly.

And finally your writers should have some sensitivity to thenuances of the Yiddish and Hebrew languages. I bite my tongue whenthe L.A. Times and non-Jewish writers commit these linguisticindiscretions. But Jews, certainly those whose aim is to make theirreaders more literate, should know that the plural of chasid ischasidim and the plural of mensch is menschen. Maybe your writersshould take some basic courses to appreciate the soul of Yiddishkeit.Let’s not bowdlerize our heritage.

Harry Essrig

West Hills

The Latest Crisis

Gary Rosenblatt citing Egon Mayer, recently wrote, “the organizedJewish community is obsessed with the sense of crisis that fuelsvirtually every Jewish cause (“‘Vanishing’ Jews Are Still Here,”Aug.8). It appears that our local Messianic synagogue has provided thelatest crisis (“Who Is Not a Jew?” Aug. 22). Marlene Adler Marksstates that Conejo Valley leaders have all mobilized around this newcause. No doubt they have pulled off a fund raising coup in theprocess. Apparently Messianic Jews are not the only Jews that lovepublicity.

Marks refers to a “besieged Jewish community.” Messianic Jews, inthe U.S. and in Israel, have been the victims of death threats,arson, physical violence, and vandalism because of our beliefs. Who,I ask, is besieging whom?

There is good reason that the phrase, “Who is a Jew?” is alwaysleft unanswered in our age of Jewish diversity. Marks celebrates thenotion that Rabbinic Jews can at least rally around their fear ofMessianic Jews. But if fear and paranoia against a small andrelatively powerless Jewish group is the only thing that can uniteRabbinic Jews today, then they of all people, are to be most pitied.

Murray Silberling

Messianic Rabbi

Beth Emunah

Woodland Hills

Correction

In Marlene Adler Marks’ column last week, Debbie Pine wasidentified as working with Cult Awareness Network. In fact, Pine isthe director of the Maynard Bernstein Resource Center on Cults. TheCult Awareness Network was purchased by the Church of Scientology.

The Journal regrets the error.


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In this, the Jewish Journal’s seventh annual honor roll of high-school graduates, we find that our f


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