Historian charts L.A. reform academy’s future

When he took over as dean of the Los Angeles campus of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR) in July 2010, Josh Holo, already a professor at the college, brought with him a few photographs of 11th-century letters to hang on the wall behind his desk. Among the letters is one that mentions a major problem for the Jewish communities in Egypt at the time: how to raise funds to redeem fellow Jews who had been taken captive by pirates.

Getting people to support HUC-JIR, the Reform movement’s preeminent academic institution on the West Coast, doesn’t have the urgency of freeing hostages from the clutches of pirates — at least not anymore.

But just two years ago, it looked like two of the four HUC-JIR campuses might have to close due to financial difficulties, including the one in Los Angeles. “We entered crisis mode,” Holo said.

Then-dean Steven F. Windmueller helped shepherd the local branch of HUC-JIR through those challenging months. “We lived through a period of testing the mettle,” Windmueller remembers. “We’re certainly in a stronger and more secure place than we were several years ago.”

That is due at least in part to a $10 million gift from the Skirball Foundation, for HUC-JIR’s endowment (see sidebar). The L.A. campus was renamed on Feb. 6 in honor of Jack Skirball, an HUC–JIR-ordained Reform rabbi. 

Holo is glad the school has put that tumultuous period behind it. “We’re back doing our work rather than worrying about our work. We are getting our house in order. We have a plan,” Holo said. “We’re either at or ahead of the plan, and that allows us to feel like we’re being responsible, and we can put our nose back to the grindstone and do what we do — which is studying and learning and training our professionals.”

L.A. HUC-JIR campus named for Skirball

At a midday ceremony on Sunday, Feb. 6, the Los Angeles branch of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion officially became the Jack H. Skirball Campus. The decision, triggered by the Skirball Foundation’s recent $10-million donation to HUC-JIR’s endowment, recognizes Skirball’s role as a founder and consistent supporter of the Reform movement’s West Coast academic home.

Skirball was ordained as a Reform rabbi at the Cincinnati campus of HUC-JIR in 1921 and served as spiritual leader to two congregations in the Midwest before moving to Los Angeles where he became a film producer. Skirball later became a successful real estate developer but is today perhaps best remembered for his philanthropic support of HUC-JIR and the Skirball Cultural Center.

The Skirball Cultural Center, which opened in 1996, started out as the smaller Skirball Museum on the campus of HUC-JIR in 1971. Founded by Uri Herscher with Skirball’s support, the cultural center was initially conceived as a vehicle for HUC-JIR to reach a broader audience. The cultural center had a long-term lease on the land in the Sepulveda Pass; in 2010 it bought the underlying property and its core collection from HUC-JIR making it, for the first time, fully independent of the institution that served as its first home. 

Those who addressed the crowd of about 100 on Sunday afternoon included leaders from both HUC-JIR and the Skirball Cultural Center.

It’s clear that these are the parts of the job that Holo enjoys most. “I love to teach,” Holo, 39, said. “I love my administration, and I don’t mind the fact that my administration takes me away from teaching, as long as I get to teach — and I do.” Upon becoming dean, Holo established a policy that will ensure that all of the future Reform rabbis and Jewish educators being trained at HUC-JIR will take one class with him during the time they are enrolled. “I want them to see the dean as a practicing scholar,” Holo said.

Holo’s scholarly work focuses on medieval Jewish history, and the photographs of letters hanging on his office wall are also included in his book, “Byzantine Jewry in the Mediterranean Economy” (Cambridge, 2009). Before becoming dean, Holo was already wearing an administrator’s hat along with his scholar’s cap. He was director of the Louchheim School of Judaic Studies, which serves as the undergraduate program in Jewish studies for University of Southern California, whose campus is adjacent to HUC-JIR’s.

He is only the second non-rabbi to serve as Los Angeles campus dean. The first was Windmueller, his predecessor, an experienced Jewish communal professional turned professor. Holo’s job is to chart a course for HUC-JIR in Los Angeles so that it can best prepare future rabbis to lead the Reform movement in the future.

“Generation Xers are really coming into their own, and Generation Yers are right behind them,” said Rabbi John Rosove, senior rabbi of Temple Israel of Hollywood, who has close relationships with both Windmueller and Holo as friends and congregants. A self-described “aging boomer,” Rosove said the experiences that impacted him growing up — the assassinations of John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr., the Civil Rights Movement, the Vietnam War and the three major Israeli-Arab wars between 1948 and 1973 — are similar to those that shaped Windmueller, who is 68.

But for Holo — and even more so for Holo’s students — those events are the stuff of history. “They don’t have any personal memories of any of these things, and their experience of Jewish identity will necessarily be very different,” Rosove said. “I’m kind of excited to see what their generation will bring to the American Jewish community going forward.”

Holo’s personal upbringing wasn’t in the Reform movement. The Southern California native grew up attending a Conservative synagogue and a non-denominational day school. He often views the future of Reform Judaism through the lens of his expertise in medieval Jewish history.

“One of his great skills is to understand the nature of the challenges that confront the contemporary Jewish community in light of the historical sweep of the entire Jewish panorama,” Rabbi David Ellenson, president of HUC-JIR, said of Holo. “He brings the perspective of the Jewish past to the present.”

This quality was very much on display during a recent interview. Even when Holo was ostensibly talking about relatively recent trends in the Jewish community — Reform Jews who are incorporating the traditional practice of keeping kosher, for one — the patient and soft-spoken historian consistently referred back to the distant past. At one point, he explained in depth the medieval-era schism between Karaites and Rabbinites. Today, every major Jewish denomination — including Reform Judaism — comes from the Rabbinite tradition. Karaites, whose practice is derived from the Bible alone, have all but disappeared. The citation, which seemed like a digression at first, turned out to be completely integral to Holo’s explanation. It was easy to understand, yet not oversimplified.

It’s no wonder then that Holo’s favorite perk as dean is being able to ask the researchers on campus to meet with him and talk to him about their current work. “It’s not a tenure checkup or anything like that,” he said.

“I’m in this building with this incredible brain trust, and I get to have an hour and a half with them and just get plugged into this world of Jewish learning,” Holo said. “It’s such a privilege.”

L.A. Receives Emergency Grant, Sinai Head Appointed, Composer Wins Soup Contest

L.A. Receives Emergency Grant to Pay for Jewish Education

Five communities, including Los Angeles, will split an $11 million emergency grant from the Jim Joseph Foundation for day school and Jewish camp tuition assistance over the next two years. The San Francisco-based foundation will begin paying money out immediately to Jewish federations in Los Angeles, the San Francisco Bay Area, Boston and its neighboring North Shore, and the greater Washington, D.C., area.

“This is a critical economic time,” Jim Joseph Foundation President Alvin Levitt said, “and a critical response to an emergency situation. To the greatest extent possible, these grants are meant to make the difference between kids being able to afford to go to Jewish school and camp — and not going.”

The L.A. Federation will administer the grant of up to $2.5 million over the next two years to help families pay for Jewish day school and high school, residential summer camp and early childhood programs. The Federation is still working out the mechanism by which it will distribute the funds to the 10,000 kids in Jewish day and high schools in the Los Angeles area and thousands more in overnight camps and preschools.

L.A. Federation President John Fishel called the grant “an extraordinary gift,” but one that comes with challenges.

“The scope here is so vast, it’s going to take some extremely thoughtful people to really develop the criteria,” Fishel said. “This is a significant sum of money to get from a single body, but how you administer it in an equitable fashion, get it out as quickly as possible, get it out to the neediest people, and have it be really meaningful — that will be a big challenge for us.”

The Jim Joseph Foundation hopes the money will stabilize schools as well, since many institutions have seen ominous drops in registration for next year, and even some students dropping out this year. Fishel said a recent study revealed that the Los Angeles area’s 35 day schools and other community organizations have given out $28 million in tuition assistance this year.

This is the second tuition assistance grant the Jim Joseph Foundation has made in Los Angeles in recent months. Last December, the foundation announced a $12.7 million grant to the L.A. Federation and the Bureau of Jewish Education to help five high schools increase enrollment by paying for tuition subsidies for middle-income students over the next six years. Part of the $12.7 million pays for development directors, additional teachers for new students, and marketing, evaluation and administrative costs. The schools and the larger Jewish community are obligated to raise an additional $21.25 million within the next six years for a community endowment fund to pay for Jewish education into the future.

Like the $12.7 million grant, the new money is meant to provide scholarships on top of what schools are already offering; recipient schools may not replace their scholarship money with the Jim Joseph funds.

The Jim Joseph Foundation has given out $142 million since it was founded three years ago. In Los Angeles, it has funded Jewish camp initiatives and a study of alumni of Birthright Israel, a program that strengthens Jewish identity by sending young people on a free trip to Israel.

Levitt hopes the emergency grant will inspire other foundations — which themselves are hurting — to respond in this time of crisis.

“Private foundations have an obligation to step up — at least proportionally to their assets. But it doesn’t have to be in Jewish education, as we’ve done,” Levitt said. “It could be to help the elderly — or the poor. This is a critical time and people are in real need. If not now, when?”

Julie Gruenbaum Fax, Senior Writer

Sinai Head of School Appointed to National Post

Sinai Akiba Academy’s head of school, Rabbi Laurence Scheindlin, has been appointed president of the Solomon Schechter Day School Association, an organization that develops tools and resources for professional and lay leaders in its 76 member schools. This is the first time a head of school, and someone from the West Coast, is leading the association, a part of the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism (USCJ).

“We think we have a unique role to play among the day school associations in that we have a lot of expertise in areas of curriculum and instruction,” said Scheindlin, who has spent more than 30 years at Sinai Akiba, the day school connected to Sinai Temple in Westwood.

Three years ago, the association adopted a strategic plan that for the first time put heads of school and educational professionals on the board, to serve along with Conservative day school lay leaders. The plan also yielded an emphasis on selling parents on the need for a day school experience, curriculum development and publications to help teachers and lay leaders. The association produced a curriculum on Bible that is used not only in Conservative schools, but also in other Jewish schools, and is currently finishing up a similar curriculum on rabbinics.

Scheindlin said he sees increased attention to students’ spiritual experience.

“Without diminishing the academic rigor of our Judaic studies programs, we are finding way to enhance spirituality on campus, so kids are not just learning about Judaism, but they are coming away with a feeling of Jewish life and inner life, and the ways in which we sense God’s presence around us.”

Scheindlin’s appointment is a one-year position, at the end of which a new governance structure will be implemented. Scheindlin is leaving open the possibility that his tenure will be extended.

“We are extremely pleased to have Rabbi Scheindlin serve as our board president,” said Elaine R. S. Cohen, associate director of USCJ’s department of education. “His extensive experience and insights are already a tremendous asset to our organization and integral to achieving our strategic priorities of promoting educational excellence, increasing advocacy and promoting synergies with partner institutions.”

Julie Gruenbaum Fax, Senior Writer

L.A. Architect Wins Top Israel Prize

A Los Angeles architect has won two top prizes in Architecture of Israel Quarterly’s third annual Project of the Year Competition. Raquel Vert, principal at Raquel Vert Architects, won the building category and the Yuli Ofer Prize for Advancement of Architecture for her work on The Deichmann Center for Social Interaction and the Spitzer-Salant School of Social Work at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev.

Vert shares the awards with Irit Axelrod and Yasha Grobman from Grobman-Axelrod Architects.

More than 300 works were submitted for prize consideration. Vert beat out four other finalists in the building category, and earned a first-place win for the Yuli Ofer Prize, which is awarded to the top three projects among the competition’s six categories (building, landscape, interior design, unbuilt projects, research and student).

Vert, a Tel Aviv native, lives in Encino and worked for several Southern California architects — including Frank Gehry — before setting up her own practice in Santa Monica. In 2004, Vert established a branch office in Israel and was commissioned to design the Spitzer-Salant Building and the Deichmann Building. The buildings are part of a complex at the entrance to Ben-Gurion University, which links the town of Beer-Sheva with the campus.

“The buildings’ form have a bold, playful and sculptural spirit, with a tilted concrete wall sitting in water holding a floating cubic structure and a curved metal wall penetrating the building through sheets of glass, all enforcing a sense of indoor-outdoors,” Vert said.

“Truly, as important as the prestige of these awards, is the knowledge that our design has succeeded in its goal of opening BGU to the city, linking the university’s academic life with the history of Beer-Sheva and establishing a cultural core for the entire community.”

Adam Wills, Senior Editor

Local Composer Wins Soup Contest

A Los Angeles amateur chef has won the 2009 “Better Than Your Bubby’s Chicken Soup Challenge” sponsored by the National Jewish Outreach Program.

Michael Cohen, 31, a Hollywood composer who scored “The Hebrew Hammer,” beat out four contestants in the final round of the nationwide search for the best chicken soup recipe. Cohen’s recipe, “Elat Chicken Soup,” named for the Pico Boulevard market where he buys his ingredients, features a mix of chickpeas, eggplant and Middle Eastern spices. 

Noted food experts, including kosher cookbook author Jamie Geller and syndicated columnist Lenore Skenazy, judged the finals, which were held on March 12 at Abigail’s on Broadway, a New York City kosher restaurant. 

Cohen received a round-trip ticket to Israel for his prize-winning recipe. He has won $40,000 in previous national cooking contests over the past four years.

To see the winning recipe, visit http://betterthanyourbubbys.blogspot.com.

Lisa Armony, Contributing Writer

VideoJew’s VideoGuide to L.A. #2 — Driving from here to there

VideoJew Jay Firestone is back with the second ‘volume’ in his VideoGuide to L.A.  This week—driving.

AJ Congress wowed; Shaare Zedek gets record donation; Koufax in the house

Woolsey Wows AJC

It was an extraordinary evening when the American Jewish Congress (AJC) honored former director of Central Intelligence R. James Woolsey at a black-tie gala dinner at the Four Seasons Hotel Dec. 10.

Woolsey received the AJC’s Jerusalem Award for his extensive work on behalf of Israel and the Jewish people. The honor recognized Woolsey’s efforts in combating the United States and Israel’s reliance on oil from the Middle East. His work promoting energy independence has enhanced the security of the State of Israel and the U.S.-Israel alliance.

Woolsey’s political and legal career, including presidential appointments in two Republican and two Democratic administrations, has reflected consistent environmental involvement. He has worked closely with the advisory boards of the Clean Fuels Foundation, the New Uses Council and the National Commission on Energy Policy. He had been adamant in his beliefs and said, “The United States cannot afford to wait for the next energy crisis to marshal its intellectual and industrial resources.”

Special guest of the evening was Richard Perle, former assistant secretary of defense during the Reagan administration. Perle is a former chair of the Defense Policy Board and has served on the board of advisers for the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies and the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs.

Shaare Zedek’s Healing

Dr. Norman Levan, a 90 year-old dermatologist in Bakersfield, donated a record-setting $5 million to Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem to establish a Center for Humanistic Medicine.

The Dr. Norman Levan Center for Humanistic Medicine will seek out innovative and practical ways to further develop humanistic medicine within Shaare Zedek. The center will coordinate and host training seminars for staff from all departments within the hospital while helping to instill the importance of placing compassion as a primary objective in all interactions with patients and guests of the hospital.

In announcing Levan’s gift, professor Jonathan Halevy, Shaare Zedek director general, stated, “This most generous gift will allow us to further expand the legacy of compassionate care that has characterized Shaare Zedek for more than a century.

Levan’s contribution will enable the advancement and expansion of the medical center’s many existing programs.

Score one for the McCourts

The American Friends of Hebrew University hit a home run last week when they honored Dodgers co-owners Jamie and Frank McCourt with the prestigious Scopus Award. Former Vice President Al Gore showed his sense of humor as he spoke to the overflowing crowd in the Hilton Ballroom kibitzing and shooting barbs at Don Rickles, who’d entertained the crowd with his outrageous humor. Gore turned serious when praising the university, noting its three recent Nobel Prize-winning graduates as an example of “questioning intellect combined with a profound sense of moral purpose.”

Gore said he believes that love of knowledge has sustained the Jewish people through the ages and now Israel, as well. He said Israel possesses an abundant knowledge-based economy. Gore’s mood became somber when he turned the discussion to Iran, saying the world can’t ignore the threats and must be proactive, taking necessary action if talking fails.

Throughout the night, whispers of excitement were heard about the attendance of baseball legend Sandy Koufax, who presented the McCourts with their award. Vin Scully, hall of fame broadcaster and “voice of the Dodgers,” served as master of ceremonies.

The dress was formal, but the room was warm with generosity and good wishes as the event raised more than $3 million.

Open to Art

Rain and cold weather couldn’t deter several hundred people from attending the opening reception of the L.A. Art Association annual exhibition, “Open Show,” at Gallery 825 on Dec. 16. Collectors, artists, family members and friends crowded the gallery to view more than 1,400 works submitted by more than 400 California artists.

Only 61 works were selected by Ann Philbin, director of the UCLA Hammer Museum of Art, to be included in the exhibition. Two of the works were by Israeli-born American Sigal M. Bussel, who draws from her experiences in both countries. Bussel received an undergraduate degree from UCLA and a master’s from Harvard University.

The L.A. Art Association is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to provide opportunities, resources, services and exhibition venues for L.A. artists. Seen enjoying the exhibits were Danny DeVito and wife, Rhea Pearlman; actress Mindy Sterling, and Laurent and Bibiana Urich. The artworks will be on display until Jan. 20.

Israeli Diplomats Reach Out to L.A. Iranian Media

Representatives from Southern California-based Persian-language satellite radio stations and television shows attended a special press conference on Aug. 28, held for them at Los Angeles’ Israeli consulate, the first public interaction between the Israeli government and local Persian-language media in more than 25 years.

The local Iranian media outlets are owned and operated by expatriate Iranian Muslims, and the gathering was a move by the consulate to reach out directly to the people of Iran.

“I received feedback from a lot of channels in the Iranian media for interviews, so I saw the desire by them to understand what we think and we believe, so we setup this event specifically to address their questions,” said Israeli Consul General Ehud Danoch.

Local Persian Jewish activists were instrumental in helping to connect the Iranian media with the consulate for the press conference, as many Persian Jews still share common cultural and linguistic ties with other Iranian groups in Southern California.

“This is indeed something that has never been done before in this city where there is a community of Iranian and a center of Iranian media outside of Iran,” said George Haroonian, a Persian Jewish activist who helped organize the press conference with the consulate.

“We need to be the connector between the people of Israel and people of Iran,” Haroonian said.

During the nearly two-hour press conference, Danoch responded to reporters’ questions about the aftermath of the war with Hezbollah and addressed the Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s repeated calls for Israel’s destruction.

“The most important message for us to get across is that the government of Israel and Israelis have nothing against the Iranian people or Islam,” Danoch said. “But we will not tolerate the extremist expressions of that president of Iran”.

Since the collapse in 1979 of the regime of the late shah of Iran, many Iranian Muslim politicians and Western-educated professionals have been among the large groups of Iranians in the United States and, particularly, Los Angeles. During the past two decades, these communities have established media outlets in Southern California that oppose the current government in Iran, and regularly broadcast news and political commentary to Iran through satellite radio and television, as well as via the internet, much of it in an attempt to help bring down the regime there.

Southern California’s Iranian Muslim media has also frequently voiced criticism of Israel, as well, and the consulate’s outreach at this event was an attempt to counter that. On the part of the Iranian media, this was one more way to take a jab at the regime.

“This is an important event for us because we don’t want our viewers to receive one-sided bias news from the media in Iran and get brainwashed — we must show the other side,” said Afshin Gorgin, a reporter for the Iranian news program on the Voice of America satellite television. “Here they get to see and hear the views of the other side directly from a representative of Israel”.

Members of the Iranian media in attendance said the press conference was later broadcast in its entirety into Iran, which has a population of nearly 70 million, many of whom said they oppose their government’s support of terrorist organizations like Hezbollah, but are afraid to express their views.

“I receive phone calls from listeners in Iran, and they say we do not have a problem with Israel, and we do not have border disputes with Israel,” said Siavash Azari, a news commentator on KRSI, a Beverly Hills-based satellite radio station that broadcasts daily into Iran.

The Iranian Muslim media stepped up interest in issues concerning Israel when, late last year, Iranian President Ahmadinejad called Israel a “disgraceful blot” that should be “wiped off the map.” In response, they condemned Ahmadinejad and organized a pro-Israel rally in Westwood, which drew nearly 2,000 Iranians from various religions.

“We spoke out against him because his words were utterly absurd for anyone to say, and we would have spoken out against such statements if they were made by any other leader,” said Reza Fazeli, a news commentator for the satellite television station Pars TV.

Earlier this month, Israeli Deputy Consul General Yaron Gamburg was also interviewed by Hossien Hejazi, an Iranian news commentator at KIRN-AM. 670, a Persian-language radio station based in Hollywood.

In January, when Ahmadinejad denied the existence of the Holocaust, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, working with Iranian Jewish leaders, invited Iranian journalists to tour the Museum of Tolerance in an effort to educate them about the Holocaust so that they could send information back to Iran on the topic.

The January event, as well as the recent press conference, seem to be having the desired effect of opening up dialogue. At the conference, Danoch offered to make himself available for interviews and said the consulate would help to get their message across to the people of Iran in any way possible.

More Information on Getting That Visa

Visa Violations

The U.S. government estimates that about 40 percent of people who are in this country illegally arrived on a legal visa but lost their legal status either by overstaying or otherwise violating the terms of their visa. These are sometimes referred to as “nonimmigrant overstayers.”

Nonimmigrant overstayers include those who came here on a student visa (F-1 or M-1 visa, depending on the type of studies pursued) or their family’s visa (F-2 or M-2). Others come on a tourist visa (B-2) or temporary business visa (B-1).

Another visa commonly used by nonimmigrant overstayers is the H-series visa (H-1, H-2, etc.), which permits those with specialty occupations to enter the country, as well as their families, who enter with an H-4 visa. Another visa commonly used is the R-1, those permitted to enter the United States as “religious workers” and their spouses and children, who enter with an R-2 visa.

All of the above-cited visas are violated if the bearers remain in the United States in a different status from that stipulated in the visa, or if they stay beyond the valid period.

Aid for Those Who Overstay

There are a number of agencies that can help people who are here illegally and would like to talk with someone without fear of being arrested or deported.

Here is a partial list:

  • HIAS, the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, offers a variety of services and acts as advocates for migrants’ rights. Their main office is in New York, 333 Seventh Ave., 16th floor, New York, NY 10001-5004. (212) 967-4100, (212) 613-1409 or (800) 442-714. www.hias.org.
  • In Southern California, Public Counsel has a program called Immigrants’ Rights Project, which offers a variety of services. Public Counsel, P.O. Box 76900, Los Angeles, CA 90076. (213) 385-2977. Their office is located at 610 Ardmore Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90005, and their phone number at that office is (213) 385-9089. They accept appointments only, no walk-ins. www.publiccounsel.org.
  • Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles (LAFLA) offers a variety of services. They are located at 5228 Whittier Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90022. For more information, call (213) 640-3883 or visit www.lafla.org.
  • The American Civil Liberties Union also offers aid at 1616 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90026. (213) 977-9500. www.aclu-sc.org

There are also many private attorneys and legal firms that offer services to those in this situation. L.A. newspapers in Spanish, Hebrew, Russian and other languages all have ads for immigration attorneys who are experienced in dealing with cases involving nonimmigrant overstayers and other immigrant issues.

I Ate the Whole Thing!

I Ate the Whole Thing!

Rap music and matzah balls? Hey, Jews can rap. Just ask the group, Chutzpah, which showed up in full rapping gear for the weighing of the 26-pound-matzah ball at Canter’s Deli last week to celebrate the DVD release of “When Do We Eat?” The weights and measures officials arrived in uniform to record the official weight to send to Guinness, and guests and regulars ogled the giant treat. Not exactly like grandma used to make, but in this case bigger was better.

The matzah ball weigh-in was all part of the 75th anniversary celebration for the legendary L.A. deli, with Assemblyman Paul Koretz doing the honors of presenting an official proclamation from the state of California. Alan Canter, representing the second generation of family ownership, accepted the honor; he has spent practically his whole life keeping Canter’s one of Southern California’s most beloved and long-lasting dining establishments.

Koretz saluted the restaurant for its many years of great food, legendary service and extensive community involvement.

Two longstanding employees, head waitress Jean Cocchiaro and manager and main sandwich man George Karkabasis — considered by many to be the fastest and best sandwichmaker in town — were also surprised with certificates of commendation.

Together, they have worked at Canter’s for more than 100 years! Jacqueline, Gary and Mark Canter were on hand to celebrate their family’s famous fressing history with Dad, Alan.

The Canters reminisced about old times with Koretz, noting the table where Marilyn Monroe and Arthur Miller sat on Friday nights, the visits from sports stars like Wilt Chamberlain and Hank Aaron, the joking of regulars like Jack Benny and Buddy Hackett.

Solidarity Brother

Responding to the crisis in Israel, Rabbi Eli Herscher, senior rabbi of Stephen S. Wise Temple, and the synagogue’s director of education, Metuka Benjamin, quickly organized a solidarity mission to Israel. The group of 21 congregants met with high-level military and political leadership for a crisis update, visited military bases directly involved in the conflict and experienced first-hand the mobilization of essential services for Israelis in the north who were directly affected by this war. Herscher and Benjamin led the temple’s leadership as they brought gifts to wounded soldiers at Rambam Hospital in Haifa. They also visited a summer camp organized by the Joint Distribution Committee to serve children affected by the bombings in the Haifa area and met with handicapped Israelis who were evacuated to hotels in the center of the country. The temple has scheduled three other Israel missions for the coming year and raised $1.4 million dollars toward meeting Israel’s immediate crisis needs.

Zev on the Mount

Mount Sinai Memorial Parks and Mortuaries named Bob Zev director of marketing. Zev, who has a bachelor’s from CSUN and an MBA from USC, has more than 15 years of marketing and communications experience serving as the vice president of marketing for a financial institution.

Zev grew up in Los Angeles, became a bar mitzvah at Sinai Temple, and attended Hillel Hebrew Academy, Hebrew High School, Camp Ramah and spent a year in Israel at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

‘Lost’ in the Art World

Even though Jack Bender didn’t win the best director Emmy Sunday night for his work on “Lost,” he was very much a winner at the premiere of his one-man show, “Found” at the Timothy Yarger Fine Art Gallery in Beverly Hills on Aug. 26. The exhibition was a “lost and found” of sorts for Bender’s friends, colleagues and admirers, who all converged onto the swanky gallery floors to view his colorful, explosive mixed-media paintings and, of course, to socialize.

The paintings could hardly be viewed through the talkative crowd of well-dressed art lovers, gallery clients and Bender’s circle of friends, who were sipping vodka-based cocktails named in Bender’s honor, such as “On a Bender” and “Castaway.” Across from “The Hatch Painting,” made famous for its appearance in “Lost,” students from View Park Prep in South L.A. played smooth jazz for the guests.

Among the celebs present to gush over Bender’s artwork were actress Blythe Danner; Jacqueline Bisset; J.J. Abrams, creator of “Lost”; Carlton Cuse, “Lost” producer; “Lost” star Evangeline Lily (who plays Kate) and “Sex and the City” actor Evan Handler (Charlotte’s Jewish husband).

“I don’t know how he did all of these,” Danner enthused to Entertainment Tonight, at the gallery.

Works exhibited are those he completed during breaks from filming “Lost” in Hawaii these past two years. Bender has been painting ever since he was a teen.Lilly, however, wasn’t surprised by Bender’s creative output on display: “It’s an expression and extension of himself,” she told The Journal in the gallery’s backroom, where Bender shared exhibition space with Chagall and Picasso. “He’s very spontaneous as a director and doesn’t like to premeditate things.”Bender summed up the evening: “It’s wonderful to be in this extraordinary environment. Hopefully it’s the beginning of a long ride.”

— Orit Arfa, Contributing Writer

Beit T’Shuvah’s New President Honored

Brindell Gottlieb recently opened her home to celebrate Nancy Mishkin as the new president of Beit T’Shuvah. Mishkin’s two-year term with the Westside congregation and rehabilitation center began in July. The annual Steps to Recovery Gala on Jan. 28, 2007, honoring Ron Herman, Dr. Susan Krevoy and Diane Licht, will be the first event highlighting Mishkin’s presidency. Beit T’Shuvah’s mission is to insure the physical, emotional and spiritual health of individuals and families within a supportive Jewish community. For more information, call (310) 204-5200, ext. 211.

Letters to the Editor

Bill Boyarsky

Bill Boyarsky’s article (“Needed: Rational Discussion,” Aug. 18) was inaccurate and mean-spirited. He had the opportunity to dissent and speak up at the meeting of more than 400 attendees, but instead chose to vent to Journal readers who were not there and who could not fairly assess his charges.

The moderator asked if the audience thought the Los Angeles Times portrayal of Israel was biased against Israel, and the verbal and show of hands response was overwhelming. The audience was not angry with Boyarsky or David Lauter personally, but rather with their collusion with this bias.

I believe that both are out of touch with the opinion of the Los Angeles Jewish community and why so many have cancelled their subscriptions to the Los Angeles Times. If this forum shed any light on the issue, it was a very important evening.

Rita Sinder

Bill Boyarsky’s column was misleading. The audience of 400 at the Women’s Alliance for Israel event responded sharply to the L.A. Times deputy foreign editor’s defense of his newspaper labeling the Hezbollah as guerillas and not terrorists. They were not “out for his scalp” but didn’t like his answers and his newspaper’s fairness to Israel. I strongly suspect that any cross-section of Jews in our town would have reacted the same way. Most Jews in Los Angeles believe the L.A. Times is unfair in its treatment of Israel.

Boyarsky is right we do need “rational discussion.” How about starting with his column? He is obviously too biased to defend his former employer.

Howard Welinsky
via e-mail

David Lauter’s brilliance and soft-spoken nature has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that many people are obviously concerned about the Los Angeles Times. I know David and have always liked him. That doesn’t make the L.A. Times a reasonable publication. The day before I left for Israel on the StandWithUs solidarity mission, the L.A. Times headline read: “Israel Rejects Peace.” If I were to encapsulate the problem, there it is. Who in their right mind, right or left, could have ever approved a headline like that? Unless it was meant as a provocation to both liberals and conservatives who care about Israel?

This is what the crowd of 400 people was upset about. It doesn’t matter if you are a Democrat or a Republican who loves Israel and craves long-term peace. What matters is that staff at the L.A. Times would have approved such a headline, minimizing the distaste this would cause to the L.A. pro-Israel community. I’m sorry if the crowd was impatient and “unreasonable.”

But the L.A. Times staff needs to be realistic. If they continue to frequently depict Israel as the side provoking war and not interested in peace, Israel as the strong side that pits war machines against children and women, they should likely expect unreasonable audiences who are hurt and fed up with one-sided reporting. In that case, if I were David Lauter, sitting on a panel defending or explaining the L.A. Times, I would “know my audience” and not be surprised at their predictably pent up concern.

Roz Rothstein
National Director

Who cares if Lauter wore a yarmulke? Indeed all the more reason to wonder why he has no historical perspective, no understanding that Israel faces an existential crisis today and that “if we forget history we are doomed to repeat it.”

Although the Los Angeles Times has been accused repeatedly of anti-Israel bias and irresponsible reporting, there was no debate or disagreement from Boyarsky as a panelist — of the kind he expected from the audience.

Perhaps the audience might have sat politely — lending a false impression of agreement rather than exercising the same right of free speech and dissent that Boyarsky claims for the Times. If we do not forcefully confront the prejudices and distortions that underlie the anti-Israel bias in today’s media, our very values of compassion, tolerance and even- handedness could be our undoing.

Sadly, the Los Angeles Times and its representatives to not seem to understand this.

Rosalie Zalis
via e-mail

I was at the event that Bill Boyarsky and David Lauter spoke for the Woman’s Alliance for Israel Program (“Needed: Rational Discussion,” Aug. 18). However, Boyarsky is incorrect in his assumptions about us going after Lauter’s scalp.

We wanted much more from Lauter. We wanted an explanation on why the Los Angeles Times has difficulty in using the word terrorist, instead of “militant.” Instead of giving us a logical answer, he bored us with his explanation of the “one man’s freedom fighter is another man’s terrorist” jive, and that the L.A. Times assumes that its readers can discern the difference.

We booed because we are not the radical “right-wing” DEBKA readers, as Boyarsky implied. This was a slap in the face to any Republicans that were in the audience. We booed because we are not stupid. We expected an intellectual dialogue, but we were hit with criticisms of the Bush regime, a “not my president” attitude, and the moral explanation that because reporters put themselves in the line of fire they do a good job.

Well, my son is in the army in Israel; he puts himself in the line of fire, and he has no problems distinguishing between a terrorist and a freedom fighter. And to top it off, to make comments about FOX — the one channel that does not make excuses for suicide bombers — and assume this as our only source of information was a slap in the face to the many activists who work hard daily, educating, discussing, working and fighting for Israel. I am one of those people who was insulted by the attacks on the right, the convoluted answers and the lack of respect that Boyarsky gave us that night and in his column.

This is the reason why I find the L.A. Times irrelevant in their reporting. They refuse to listen to more than 400 subscribers and former subscribers, and the stats on their readership should be a wake-up call, not an excuse to use their political bias to win arguments.

Allyson Rowen Taylor
Associate Director, American Jewish Congress
Western RegionSanta Monica

Bill Boyarsky exposes why the Israel Women’s Alliance audience was so disturbed by LA Times deputy foreign affairs editor David Lauter. We wanted substantive discussion about bias and questionable sources and editorial choices at the Times. But Boyarsky asserts that the Times is so balanced, this question isn’t even debatable. He attacks the audience for daring to raise the issue and for being dismayed by Lauter. who avoided it by prattling on about the logistics of getting reporters to Lebanon and by giving such convoluted, unconvincing answers to informed questions that the audience audibly sighed. Boyarsky and Lauter exhibited “boorishness” and “narrow-mindedness” and cut off rational discussion, not the audience. Boyarsky’s response can only heighten concerns about journalistic standards.

These are grave times. Israel and Jews face a dangerous media propaganda war fed by Arab media, sources and photojournalists. This is not the time for the journalistic establishment to circle the wagons and defend their own and their egos.

They should be engaged in serious self-examination to see if they meet their own standards or are part of the problem. Judging from Boyarsky’s response, they would rather demean and silence the messenger than rationally and openly consider the validity of the message. Unfortunately, that means they are part of the problem.

Roberta P. Seid
Santa Monica

Dems and Don’ts

Why is Rob Eshman surprised at poll findings that find Republicans more consistently pro-Israel than Democrats by 20 points (“Dems and Don’ts,” Aug. 18)? Where have you been, Rob?

Eshman’s solution to the current schism is to disengage support of Israel from support of the [Bush] administration, so as to rise above “politics.” In other words, show appreciation for the policies of the administration by withholding our support, while maintaining our support for those who increasingly oppose our interests. Oh, that makes sense.

I have a better idea: realign with political parties who support Israel.

Sam Shmikler
Santa Clarita

Rob Eshman is correct that we must make arguments that appeal to decent liberals; to do this we must revamp the case we make for Israel.

Our first priority should be making it clear that Zionism is justifiable (establish why analogies between Palestinians and Native Americans are obscene). This would certainly entail going after textbooks.

Secondly, we need to follow Joe Hicks (Chipping Away at Israel Support Endangers U.S.,” Aug. 18) and make it known to everyone that Israel is the victim of absurdly disproportional criticism; disproportionate criticism is hate, should become Israel’s slogan.

Ronnie Lampert
Los Angeles

I respect Rob Eshman a great deal, and his column demonstrates that the pro-Israel community has done a poor job of reaching out to progressive-leaning groups, which should be naturally allied with our goals. However, many of the assumptions made in the articles were wrong.

Despite some wonderful lip service by Republicans, the GOP has shown a lack of spine in putting their money where their mouth is on Israel.

It was Republican congressional leaders who pushed Israel to accept the phased-out elimination of all economic aid to Israel, and attempted to cut military aid to Israel in 2004 before being beaten back by Democratic votes.

Further, in 2006 it was Sen. John Warner (R-Va.) who held up the Senate Resolution condemning Hezbollah and Iran because he was more concerned about Iraqi opinion than our friendship with Israel. 44 of 45 Senate Democrats sponsored that resolution, but only 19 Senate Republicans dared to put their names on the line for Israel. Anti-Israel Republicans like Sen. Sununu (R-N.H.), Sen. Enzi (R-Wyo.), U.S. Rep. Issa (R-Calif.) and U.S. Rep. Paul (R-Texas) are conveniently overlooked in the Republican argument.

Even in the Connecticut Senate race, the truth is that the Lieberman/Lamont race actually shows that the Democratic Party’s support for Israel is both wide and deep and provides a “win-win” for Pro-Israel activists.

Lieberman, the sole Orthodox Jew in the United States Senate, is a tireless supporter of Israel. Some believe that Jews such as Lieberman, because of their Jewish heritage, have a special connection to Israel and the issues facing our community.

However, reviewing Ned Lamont’s Web site, Lamont demonstrates a similar strong support for Israel and the right of Israel to defend itself, stating.

Andrew Lachman
Democrats for Israel Los Angeles

In his column, it appears that Rob Eshman sees the problem, notes the dissonance, wishes it were different, but offers no deeper analysis of the problem. I urge him to think about this freshly and more deeply, not just urge liberal Dems in Hollywood to speak up. It’s their worldview that is holding them back. Eshman needs to understand and impact that to have any effect.

David Schechter
via e-mail

Miles on Israel

The cover story from Aug. 4 (“Is Lebanon Israel’s Iraq?”) was far too negative, especially since it was not even logical or accurate. The mordantly leftward slant of The Journal has made it insufferably unpleasant to read. There is something even treacherous in the miserable, compulsive pessimism of the “analysis” of Jack Miles’ opinion piece (masquerading as definitive analysis) and of The Jewish Journal’s view of the war in general. Frankly, I think The Journal needs a new editor if this self-pitying can’t be brought under control.

Jarrow L. Rogovin
via e-mail

Republican Jewish Coalition Ad

The Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC) stoops to a new low by implying that members of the Democratic Party are anti-Israel because Joe Lieberman was defeated in the Democratic Primary in Connecticut (Aug. 18).First, Joe Lieberman was not silenced he can still speak out for Israel, as I am sure he will. Second, the man who defeated him, Ned Lamont, is a strong supporter of Israel.

I recommend the RJC convince their representatives in the Congress to support pro Israel programs not just mouth support. For example improving automobile gas mileage would significantly reduce the dollars that Iran and other Israel foes get and use to fund the terrorists including Hezbollah.

The RJC should support programs that help Israel, and eliminate programs and actions that have resulted and continue to result in recruitment of terrorists.

Henry J. Pinczower
Los Angeles

The ad on your inside cover from The Republican Jewish Coalition disgusts me (Aug. 18). Joe Lieberman was not defeated because of his support for Israel, but because of his continuing support of the most incompetent and corrupt president in the history of the United States.

Unfortunately, the Democratic Party supported Lieberman. It was the voting public, fed up with the disastrous war in Iraq and Lieberman’s blind support for it, that led to his defeat.

The “radical left” has hardly taken over the Democratic Party, and Cindy Sheehan is not a spokesperson for party policy.

No Democratic president would stand by and allow Hezbollah rockets to rain down on Haifa. Nor would they have started a war with Iraq that has ended up strengthening Iran and weakening both the United States and Israel.

Finally, it is the Republican Party that envisions the United States as a Christian theocracy. I cannot understand how any Jew could proudly align themselves with these people.

Barry Wendell
North Hollywood


I read Michael Aronoff’s letter and assumed he was referring to me, among others, as one who engaged in “fury against an apostate.. [and who]…lives in a fantasy world” regarding Israel’s enemies.

I have been to Israel nearly 50 times, have spent time teaching and consulting there, serving on Jewish Agency committees, heading the North American committee on aliyah, etc. I also met with Palestinian leaders over the years, including Arafat three times. I was and continue to be a life-long Zionist. I have absolutely no delusions that enemies such as Hamas and Hezbollah and their backers are serious about wanting to destroy the state of Israel.

Bill Boyarsky pointed out sadly in his column about the behavior of those attending the Women’s Alliance for Israel meeting in last week’s issue. The two matters are conjoined. Rational discussion and open-ness to information explaining the complexities related to Middle East matters should be on everyone’s agenda here.

Israel must be kept strong under all circumstances. I have confidence in its ability to defend itself and believe whatever the rhetoric of Israel’s enemies, Israel’s continuity depends on its strength and not the wishes and intentions of its enemies.

Peace Now in Israel has been in the forefront in supporting the state of Israel, serving and fighting in its army ,while continuing to criticize, where appropriate, the behavior and policies of its governments, regardless of the party in power. Most of today’s conventional positions, including discussion and acceptance of a two state solution, began with Peace Now.

The fighting in Israel has ceased for now. What all sides need are opportunities to find moderates and rational thinkers who will continue to concentrate on the long-time festering issues which ca n never be solved on the battlefield. Open discussions, explorations of options, confronting Israel’s mistakes in dealing with its own Israel Arab citizens, cooperation with friendly Arab countries, affecting world public opinion are but some of the issues facing Jews world-wide and the State itself. Yes, Israel lives in a bad neighborhood. But it is also true that the radicals remain a small, if powerful voice and influence in the Middle East. Eventually political discussions with the enemy remains the only path for insuring peace. Easy? NO. Necessary? Absolutely.

If this is a fantasy world, then God help us all, for Israel with its ^ million Jews in a sea of a billion or more Muslims, is doomed to eternal wars.

Citizens of Israel are more realistic about these matters than many of us seem to be. I. These discussions are an imperative here and in Israel, now more than ever. I remain firm in my support of our beloved Israel but even more committed to help in some small way to finding those paths which will better serve Israel’s future than another century of warfare.

Gerald Bubis
Los Angeles


An article on Carvel ice cream shops in the Aug. 11 issue misspelled the name of the owner of the Carvel outlet at 11037 Santa Monica Blvd. in Los Angeles, near the San Diego Freeway. The owner is Stephen Winick. The article also misidentified the opening date of the store, it was September 2005, not December.


If you have any information about Ferramonti, the concentration camp in Southern Italy, please call (888) 388-0444 or e-mail ferramonti@sbcglobal.net.

THE JEWISH JOURNAL welcomes letters from all readers. Letters should be no more than 200 words and must include a valid name, address and phone number. Letters sent via e-mail must not contain attachments. Pseudonyms and initials will not be used, but names will be withheld on request. We reserve the right to edit all letters. Mail: The Jewish Journal, Letters, 3580 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 1510, Los Angeles, CA 90010; e-mail: letters@jewishjournal.com; or fax: (213) 368-1684

Seeing Red Over Green’s Israel Policy

Local leaders of the Green Party are working to overturn an anti-Israel resolution that has become official party policy. Resolution 190, which passed in November, calls for a boycott of and divestment from Israel until “the full individual and collective rights of the Palestinian people are realized.”

Indicating that they have “lost several party members as a result” of the resolution, the L.A. Green Party’s County Council wrote a formal letter stating that “the issue is far more complex than is captured in the resolution” and referred to the resolution as “divisive.” Resolution 190, which urges all companies, governments and student organizations around the world to boycott and divest from the Jewish state, makes no reference to violence that targets Israeli civilians, such as suicide bombings and rocket attacks. Nor does it take into account, for example, the nuclear threat from Iran or human rights violations in countries hostile to Israel.

Resolution 190 was adopted by the Green Party after four weeks of discussion, which culminated in approval by national party delegates in online voting.

Leading the effort to denounce and rescind the resolution are Gary Acheatel, a Beverly Hills High graduate who founded Advocates for Israel in Oregon two years ago, and Lorna Salzman, a New Yorker who ran in Green Party primaries as a presidential candidate in 2004. They have disseminated two substitute resolutions that aim to “initiate a broad, open dialogue” involving state committee members and the Israeli Green Party.

In a shift of rhetoric, the substitute language removes the onus from Israel and proposes a policy of opposing “U.S. military aid … to all countries that have a record of violating human rights, including the mistreatment and inequality of women….”

The internal conflict over Resolution 190 exposes deep rifts within the party. While the Green Party has long dedicated itself to ecological matters, there is some debate as to whether the party’s platform embraces human rights and peace, especially within the context of foreign policy.

When an issue is “far from what is already agreed upon in our national platform,” said Michael Feinstein, former mayor of Santa Monica and co-founder of the Green Party of California, “it is necessary to reach further into the party’s grass roots to ensure that positions taken are truly reflective of our membership.”

But Ruth Weill, a member of the Wisconsin Green Party, the source of Resolution 190, said the Green Party has always taken stands on issues of social justice: “We’re the party that’s been trying to end the Iraq War for three years.”

Weill, who like Feinstein is Jewish, adds that Resolution 190 is justified because of Israel’s “continued occupation, cutting off of water aquifers, violating tons of international laws.”

Supporters of Israel and Israel itself often have been on the defensive because of general hostility toward the nation but also specifically because of opposition to the Israeli presence in territories since the 1967 Six-Day War. In 1975, in the aftermath of the Yom Kippur War and the first oil crisis, the United Nations passed a resolution equating Zionism with racism. The United Nations rescinded that resolution in 1991.

Some Arab and Muslim-majority nations have long practiced an economic boycott of Israel, but in recent years the idea has gained some traction in the West. Israel has been equated with regimes like apartheid-era South Africa, even as other nations that notably violate human rights, such as North Korea and China, escape similar censure. The Presbyterian Church (USA) two years ago passed an anti-Israel resolution. Other entities have refused to do so. The British University Teachers Union and residents of Somerville, Mass., a suburb of Boston, rejected resolutions that proposed divestment from Israel, according to published reports.

Resolution 190 was the brainchild of two Wisconsin Greens, Ben Manski, who is Jewish, and Mohammed Abed, a member of Al-Awda, an Islamic organization that advocates for Palestinians’ right of return. Abed said that Israel’s treatment of Palestinians is “comparable in many ways to South African apartheid.”

Manski defends the procedures by which Resolution 190 became party policy. He said that there was a “lengthy discussion” over four weeks and then online voting over two weeks. Although only 72 of 126 Green Party national delegates voted on this resolution, it was approved overwhelmingly; 55 supported it, 7 voted against it and 10 abstained.

Manski hails the process as “one of the most democratic, deliberative and transparent” of any party. However, the Israeli Green Party, which called Resolution 190 “a breach in trust,” was not consulted during the debate. Most Greens in Los Angeles County were also unaware of the resolution until after it passed, according to local party members interviewed.

“The vast majority of active Greens in L.A. County and across California had no idea that this was being debated or voted upon,” said Feinstein, who added that L.A. County has roughly 25,000 registered Greens, which he asserted is more than Wisconsin or any other state except California and New York.

At the time of the Kosovo war, said Feinstein, the German Green Party, which is part of the international Green Party, held a national meeting to discuss intervention in that Balkan republic.

“Here, we had an e-mail vote,” said Feinstein.

It isn’t entirely settled what it would take to rescind the resolution — whether it would require a majority or two-thirds vote. Nor is it clear what form the vote would take. But the critics don’t intend to let the matter go.

A series of talking points, circulated by Salzman and Acheatel, argue that Resolution 190 “reflects interference by and manipulation of the [Green Party] by outside special interest groups.”

They specifically cite Al-Awda and the American Muslim Association. Of these outside parties, Salzman said, “As far as I’m concerned, they wrote the declaration.”

Resolution co-author Abed called this “utter garbage,” adding, “Ben Manski and I wrote it as members of the Green Party,” not as representatives of any other organization.


The Circuit

A World of Food

World Ethnic Market/KosherWorld Show manager Phyllis Koegel presented a Buyer of the Year Award to Tamara Dorrell, Safeway manager, national categories, ethnic. The World Ethnic Market was held recently at the Anaheim Convention Center.

L.A. Helps the Gulf

Four members of Temple Beth El in San Pedro took a hands-on approach to charity when they went on a relief mission to Gulfport, Miss., last week. The four accompanied Rabbi Charles Briskin to help in rebuilding and reconstruction efforts for the coastal city devastated by Hurricane Katrina. Briskin, along with Alan Rowe of San Pedro, Vicki Hulbert of Palos Verdes Estates, Ben Pogorelsky of Rolling Hills Estates and David Burton of Rancho Santa Margarita, are part of a citywide delegation of Jews and Christians participating in this relief mission sponsored by the Southern California Board of Rabbis, the Jewish Community Relations Committee of The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, Grant A.M.E. Church and the Southern California A.M.E. Ministerial Alliance.

“Tikkun Olam, the ethical imperative to work to repair the world by responding to crisis and the needs of the larger community is one of Judaism’s central values,” Briskin said. “By going to Gulfport, we are doing our small part to repair, literally, one small corner of our world.”

Briskin said he hopes not only to contribute time, energy and labor, but also to return home with valuable lessons learned about the faith, hope and cooperation that prevails within this devastated region.

For more information, call (310) 833-2467 or e-mail; rabbibriskin@bethelsp.org.

Consulate’s “Israel 101”

The L.A. consulate general of Israel hosted a group of 40 sixth-graders from Pressman Academy for an “Israel 101” event before their class field trip to Israel next month. Students participated in Israeli dancing, word association games, videos and an educational skit highlighting Israel’s high-tech industry, performed by members of the consulate staff. Apart from the mouthwatering Israeli chocolates, the students got a special treat when Consul General Ehud Danoch greeted them and emphasized that while the scenery and holy sites would undoubtedly leave an impression on them, it will be the connections they make with their Israeli counterparts that will most affect them. During their 10-day tour of Israel the students will experience the action of Tel Aviv, the majesty of Jerusalem and Masada, and catch a glimpse of life on a kibbutz.

Just Smile

It was Lladro&tilde and African dishes recently on Rodeo Drive when Lladro&tilde, the renowned Spanish house of porcelain, joined forces with Operation Smile to raise money for free reconstructive facial surgery to children in developing countries worldwide. A special porcelain sculpture, “Let Me Help You,” was formally unveiled at a VIP reception at the Lladro&tilde Rodeo Drive Boutique.

To set the mood for the African trip, Lladro which will sponsor it with the funds raised, transformed the boutique into a visual homage to the Kenyan landscape in blues, reds, yellows and oranges to reflect a Kenyan sunset, while Barbuda trees recreated the greenery native to the region. Guests enjoyed African music, and cocktails and sampled unusual goodies, like groundnut soup garnished with tiny bananas, Nyama Choma (barbecued meat in the Kariokor style), M’Chuzi Wa Kuku (coconut chicken), Smaki Na Nazi (coconut fish), Samosa (meat-filled pastries) and Irio (a pea, corn and potato dish served as a minipancake, topped with East African salad relish).

OK, I am not certain if it was kosher, but I would have to pronounce it to ask, but I do know the food was yummy and the desserts amazing. Great stuff like, Mini Mount Kenya’s (minicoupe with peach ice cream topped with diced, rum-soaked pineapple; mango, and a dollop of whipped cream) and Mahamri (fried dough with powdered sugar). What could be bad about a doughnut with powdered sugar?

On hand were celebs like Operation Smile spokeswoman and angelic actress Roma Downey, who was with her husband, super- reality show guru Mark Burnett; Kathleen Magee, co-founder, Operation Smile; Bill Magee, son of co-founders Kathleen and William Magee; Safa Hummel, CEO, Lladro USA; Beverly Hills Mayor Stephen Webb; Vice Mayor Jimmy Delshad, and Lorraine Bradley, L.A. City human relations commissioner (and daughter of former Mayor Tom Bradley).

Lladro’s goal is to raise $150,000 by donating 10 percent of the retail price of all nationwide sales of the “Let Me Help You” sculpture between March and October 2006. For more information, visit

Community Briefs

Displaced Gaza Resident Raises $5,000 in L.A.

A leader of the displaced Gaza settlers made an impassioned case for the hardships they’re suffering before a sympathetic Los Angeles audience, which donated $5,000 on the spot.

Last August, Dror Vanunu was among about 8,000 settlers in 21 Gaza communities who were forced to move as part of the Israeli government’s disengagement policy. Last week, he was the featured speaker before 30 local settler advocates at a Beverlywood home.

He noted that many settlers had left behind spacious houses with ocean views; many now reside in temporary housing with little character or sense of community. He insisted that the Israeli government had provided inadequate compensation and less than initially promised.

Vanunu now resides in temporary housing in Nitzan, about 15 miles north of Gaza, along with 485 families who once lived in the main settlement community of Neve Dekalim,

Vanunu said he hopes to raise a total of $6 million to help former Gaza settlers afford such basic necessities as trauma counseling and even food and clothing. He asserted that Israel’s disengagement policy led to the ascendancy of Hamas, a group whose leaders call for the destruction of Israel.

“I feel like I live in exile,” Vanunu said in an interview. “I live in Israel, but I live in exile.”

The Beverlywood gathering was hosted by Jon Hambourger, founder of SaveGushKatif.org, which raised more than $110,000 to fight disengagement and became one of the biggest U.S. organizations committed to keeping Gaza in Jewish hands.

Hambourger said the meeting was the start of renewed efforts to raise money and awareness about the plight of the ex-settlers.

“These people, in my opinion, are the absolute cream of the crop,” Hambourger said of the Jewish ex-residents of Gaza. “I need them to know, and other settlers who might get uprooted, that they are not alone.” — Marc Ballon, Senior Writer

Father, Daughter Each Earn Book Awards

Rabbi David Ellenson and Ruth Andrew Ellenson made history when they became the first father and daughter to simultaneously win a National Jewish Book Award.

Rabbi Ellenson, a Manhattan resident and president of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, won the Modern Jewish Thought and Experience Award for “After Emancipation: Jewish Religious Responses to Modernity,” spotlighting how denominations have redefined themselves over the years.

Ruth Ellenson, who lives in Los Angeles, took the Women’s Studies Prize for editing “The Modern Jewish Girls’ Guide to Guilt” — hip, edgy essays tackling guilt (over dumping a nice Jewish guy, for example), as a means of exploring what it means to be a Jewish woman.

The 58-year-old father and his 32-year-old daughter will sit together at the awards ceremony in Manhattan on April 26, joining other winners such as Amos Oz (“A Tale of Love and Darkness”) for book of the year, Michael Chabon (“The Final Solution”) for fiction and Deborah Lipstadt (“History on Trial: My Day in Court with David Irving”) in the Holocaust category.

Although the Ellensons’ tomes seem dissimilar, the rabbi sees parallels.

“The essays in Ruthie’s book indicate how women have struggled with their Jewish heritage in an attempt to re-conceptualize their identity in the modern world, which is precisely the type of work I do,” he said.

Turns out guilt — over neglecting dad’s legacy — in part prompted Ruth Ellenson to publish her debut book. The writer had felt remiss because she was covering pop culture for People, even as The Forward named her father one of the 50 most influential American Jews.

“I’d be talking to him about interviewing Brad Pitt, as he was off to Moscow for a conference on saving world Jewry from anti-Semitism,” she recalled, sheepishly. “I wondered, ‘How could I ever measure up? What could I contribute to the Jewish community?'”

Her answer was “Guilt,” which earned Ellenson good reviews, a 30-city author’s tour and now a book award the same year as her father.

“To be recognized alongside him feels like I’m finally worthy of the Jewish inheritance I was born into,” she said.

Rabbi Ellenson said he is “gratified” about his own award, but overwhelmingly thrilled about his daughter’s honor.

“As a parent, one always hopes one’s children will affirm their values, and Ruthie has done that and beyond,” he said. — Naomi Pfefferman, Arts and Entertainment Editor

Preteen Ambassadors From Beverly Hills

Eleven middle school boys from Harkham Hillel Hebrew Academy in Beverly Hills recently returned from a two-week trip to Israel, where they toured the country and spent time with Israeli families from the Zeitlin School in Tel Aviv.

For six years, Hillel and the Zeitlin School have been twinned under the Jewish Federation’s Tel Aviv-Los Angeles Partnership. The schools exchange delegations every year, and participate in joint projects. This year, the seventh grades at both schools are reading the same book and discussing it via e-mail and video conferencing.

For information about the Tel Aviv-Los Angeles Partnership, visit www.jewishla.org and click on the “Israel and Overseas” menu.


L.A. Shoah Survivor, Liberator to Reunite

After 60 years and 10 days, Samuel Goetz finally found the GI who liberated him on May 6, 1945.

On that sunny spring day in Austria, Goetz was a 16-year-old survivor of three Nazi camps, weighing less than 80 pounds. Robert Persinger, a Midwest farm boy, was a 21-year- old sergeant in the 3rd Cavalry Reconnaissance Group. He commanded the lead tank that broke down the gates of the Ebensee concentration camp.

Their fleeting encounter — they never even exchanged names — is engraved in the memory of Goetz, and, 60 years later, he discovered that it also left an indelible impression for Persinger. The two men, who finally reconnected by phone, have made plans to meet in person this fall, when the ex-sergeant will be honored by a Los Angeles group of Holocaust survivors.

This is how the lives of the Jewish boy from Tarnow, Poland, and of the soldier from Wever, Iowa, intersected in the last days of the war in Europe.

“I had been eating charcoal for nourishment for the last few days when on Sunday, May 6, I left Block No. 6 and made my way to the main gate at Ebensee,” recalled Dr. Sam Goetz, 77, now a faculty member at the Southern California School of Optometry.

“I crossed the dreaded roll call square, whose eerie silence, normally punctuated by the SS men’s screams, seemed unnatural,” Goetz continues. “Suddenly, my eyes registered the unbelievable sight of a tank moving up the road.

“The gate opened and a man in an olive brown uniform emerged from the tank. As hollow-cheeked figures kissed his hands and swept him off his feet, I saw a large white star on the tank. At that moment, after five years in the ghetto, as forced laborer and as concentration camp prisoner, I became a free man.”

The soldier in the olive brown uniform was Persinger; his memory of the scene is just as clear.

“As we approached on the gravel road to the camp, we saw masses of human beings that appeared almost as ghosts standing in mud and filth up to their ankles behind the high wire fence,” he said. “None of us had ever seem human beings in this terrible situation before. We started to toss rations and energy bars to them until our supply was depleted.

“The stench of the dead bodies was almost unbearable,” he added. “We went to the crematorium, where there were stacks of bodies piled like cordwood. If you weren’t sick by now, you would be before you left. At the same time, you wanted to cry.

“We had seen terrible sights in combat across Europe, but it was beyond anyone’s imagination,” he added.

Persinger and his crew started confiscating food supplies and large kettles in the nearby village, using their tank guns as persuaders, and made a rich thick soup for the starving camp inmates.

After liberation, Goetz worked for four years in a displaced persons camp in Italy, where he met his future wife, Gertrude.

After finally receiving a visa to enter the United States, Goetz resumed the education cut short at age 11 by the Nazi invasion of Poland. He eventually earned a doctorate degree in optometry from the UCLA School of Public Health.

He became a prominent spokesman for the survivor community, founded the UCLA Chair of Holocaust Studies, currently serves on the content committee of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., and has received numerous awards for contributions to humanitarian causes.

Goetz recaptured the story of his life in the terse, yet moving, autobiography, “I Never Saw My Face” (Rutledge Books)

But Goetz could never forget the youthful GI who symbolized the transition from slavery to freedom.

Goetz went to Washington to search through the databases of the National Archives and the U.S. Memorial Holocaust Museum for the name of the U.S. unit that had liberated Ebensee, a sub-camp of the Mauthausen concentration camp. But he couldn’t discover the soldier’s identity.

Then, in late April, a patient named Val Rodriquez came in for an appointment.

Rodriquez had served with the U.S. occupation army in Austria in 1946 and befriended some former Spanish prisoners at Ebensee and Mauthausen.

He told Goetz that one of the speakers at the annual memorial services at Ebensee would be the GI who had commanded the lead tank.

Goetz couldn’t go, but gave Rodriquez his business card to pass on.

Persinger, whose father lost the Iowa family farm during the Depression, worked after his Army discharge in rural Illinois as a truck driver and plant manager for a garment rental service.

Now 81 and retired, Persinger lives with his wife Arlene in Loves Park, Ill. He does volunteer work for his local museum, church and veterans organization.

On May 16, Persinger called Goetz. In October, they’ll meet face to face, when the farm boy from Iowa will be honored at the annual luncheon of the “1939” Club, said William Elperin, president of the Holocaust survivors group.

When Persinger arrived at Ebensee, the camp held some 18,000 prisoners, mostly Poles, Italians and Spaniards, besides 2,000 Jews.

“It never came to mind who they were,” Persinger said. “They were all just starving human beings.”


Last Call


By the time I got to the Beverly Hilton in the wee hours of Wednesday morning, the party was winding down. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger

had already given his speech to 1,000 cheering Republicans. His friend, Bob Hertzberg, a Democrat and mayoral candidate, had swung by from the Dem’s San Fernando Valley gathering to take in Arnold’s speech.

“This is some night,” said Hertzberg, his expression reflecting shock and awe. But Hertzberg at the Hilton may have been the only example of bipartisanship on display this week, in the city or the country.

Earlier that night at the Marriott in Manhattan Beach, where 1,000 local Kerry supporters, campaign volunteers and media gathered in a ballroom off the lobby, spirits started high and turned increasingly dispirited. As President Bush moved closer to re-election, one Kerry fan said he already had a new bumper sticker in mind for his car: “Hey, We Tried to Warn You.”

Speaker after speaker tried to keep the young, diverse crowd fired up: L.A. Mayor James Hahn, state Assembly Speaker Fabio Nunez and Rep. Diane Watson (D-Los Angeles), who launched into a conspiratorial rant about rampant voter fraud. The more electoral votes Bush racked up, the more fervid the speeches, the louder the cheers.

People had signs and they wanted to wave them. After all, like most Democrats, they walked into the ballroom believing their guy was rolling toward victory.

“We’re gonna do it!” Rep. Jane Harman (D-El Segundo) declared to wild applause. The election will prove that national security is a Democratic issue, said the Congresswoman, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee.

I gravitated to some Jewish supporters, who didn’t seem to be succumbing to the pep rally. They had spent days walking precincts in Nevada and cold-calling voters in Ohio. It was slowly dawning on them that their massive, well-organized and passionate efforts had come to naught. If they were delusional, it was toward the pessimistic side of things.

“They’ll be shipping us all off to Israel,” said one woman, “so that we can be killed there to make way for the messiah.”

Two huge TV screens beamed CNN’s coverage into the room, and held most of the crowd’s attention. The biggest ovation of the night came when CNN’s Jeff Greenfield gave Sen. John Kerry enough electoral votes to win. But word quickly spread that Greenfield was just speculating.

“Pay attention, people!” a man yelled, and more air went out of the room.

“Who are these people?” a Kerry supporter asked as Bush chalked up more votes. The idea that millions of people could vote for a man she and her friends despised genuinely baffled her. “Where did they come from?”

I noticed a wave of people hitting the bar as midnight approached — a kind of last call for Kerry. An aide to a major Jewish politician grew philosophical, saying it might just be poetic justice for Bush to try to get us out of a war he had botched.

“You know what the difference is between Vietnam and Iraq?” his friend added. “Bush had a plan to get out of Vietnam.”

I drove to the Beverly Hilton close to midnight. Schwarzenegger’s party was breaking up, and spirits were high. The TV screens were turned to CNN and Fox News. Proposition 71, the stem cell research funding initiative that the governor supported, was an early winner. Proposition 66, the rewrite of the three-strikes law, which the governor opposed, looked to be heading for defeat. And Bush, whom Schwarzenegger had finally stumped for — in Ohio — was one electoral vote from victory. A good-sized knot of Bush supporters took their revelries to the lobby bar a few hundred feet away.

Former Gov. Pete Wilson was among those on the way home. It was 1 a.m. when I asked Wilson if he believed the election was over.

“God,” he said, “I hope so.”

Is it possible, I asked him, that the margin of Bush’s victory in Ohio could have been tweaked up by the additional Jewish votes he picked up in the state?

“Could be,” he said.

Wilson, who garnered a relatively high 33 percent of traditionally Democratic Jewish voters in the 1994 governor’s race, said an increased number of Jews responded to the president’s vocal support of Israel, and initial CNN exit polls bore that out. Jews still voted overwhelmingly for Kerry, but Bush gained a few percentage points among them. But at the end of the day, Bush got more votes of all types, and the Democrats were left to wonder why.

Back at the Marriott, a good-sized crowd was still waiting for hope to be on its way. The party atmosphere was waning, but the Dems were still talking excitedly among themselves.

Which, come to think of it, might have been their problem all along.



On a particular stretch of Wilshire Boulevard near Westwood at 6 p.m., right-lane traffic is hopelessly stalled. A stream of cars crowds the intersection, trying to squeeze into the nearby parking lot of a well-known synagogue.

It’s a familiar sight: With most people heading home from work, L.A.’s Jewish community is swimming against the current, driving to services in some of the most densely populated neighborhoods in the city.

“If you come here at 3:30 p.m. and on, it is total gridlock,” said Carol Sales of Temple Akiba in Culver City, just a few miles south. “But there are back ways of bypassing Sepulveda that [everybody] knows,” Sales said of the major traffic artery in her area. Sales quickly explained that Temple Akiba holds services at 8 p.m., giving plenty of time for rush hour to clear up.

An imaginary L-shaped line connecting the western San Fernando Valley to the Westside, Culver City and Carthay Circle would represent arguably the most traffic-heavy area in the United States. The American Highway Users Alliance, a nonprofit advocacy group, ranked the most congested freeway interchanges in the United States in their study “Unclogging America’s Arteries, 1999-2004.” The 10 and 405 interchange in West Los Angeles is the fifth most congested in the nation and receives 296,000 vehicles per day; it causes approximately 22.7 million hours of delays for drivers annually. The 405 and 101 interchange in Sherman Oaks is the worst in the nation, which sees 318,000 vehicles per day and causes over 27.1 million hours of annual delay. The Texas Transportation Institute at Texas A&M University recently counted $1,155 per Los Angeles resident in annually wasted time and resources due to traffic, the worst by far of any city in the country.

A huge portion of Los Angeles’ Jewish community is centered along these most congested parts of the city, especially along Pico Boulevard north of the 10, on the Westside near the 405, and near the 101 in the Valley.

Is traffic a Jewish issue, then? You bet. How to handle it, how to schedule around it, how to build and create community despite it — and what we can do to make it better — is of ever-increasing concern.

“Two things: There has been a diffusion of the L.A Jewish population [over the past 20 years], particularly into the West Valley, and there are more cars on the road,” said professor emeritus Arnold Band of UCLA, a longtime observer of Jewish life in the city. “[That] means it’s harder to get to places and it’s harder for people to get to each other.”

“My No. 1 consideration is when to have the class, when to have the activity,” said Rabbi Sally Olins of Temple B’nai Hayim in Sherman Oaks, a Conservative congregation. “At least in our temple, the most difficult [time] is during the week in the evening.”

Some L.A. synagogues have found creative solutions to increase participation despite rush-hour traffic. In some cases, services and activities are best timed for commuters to come directly from work. “My people explain to me that once they get home, it’s so hard to get up and go out again [in the] hassle of traffic. [That’s] something they really don’t want to do,” Olins said.

Rabbi Robert Gan of Temple Isaiah in West Los Angeles, a Reform congregation, had similar sentiments. Years ago, the temple used the opposite approach from Temple Akiba by switching its services from 8 p.m. to 6 p.m. to try drawing congregants directly from work. “The concern was, would people who were commuting from work have time to come? What we found was it was the greatest thing that ever happened to us,” Gan said.

“Sometimes husbands and wives come [here] right from work and meet the rest of family. After services people would stay and have dinner,” he said.

And it isn’t only religious life that’s forced to tiptoe around traffic patterns. “It’s sort of an omnipresent concern. Two to five miles can make a difference in turnout,” said Daniel Sokatch, executive director of the Progressive Jewish Alliance (PJA).

“We’re going to sacrifice part of our demographic making those choices. There’s a lot of intersections in how traffic and transportation affect the number of people and what kind of people will go to an event,” Sokatch said.

If the PJA wants to attract a crowd of established donors, it will have to find a way to host the event locally in Brentwood or Santa Monica, Sokatch explained. For a younger, activist crowd, the event should be more central to Silverlake. In other words: people stay local.

“You learn to ride the L.A. traffic and transportation patterns to your advantage,” Sokatch said.

But organizations’ efforts to ride that wave may fall increasingly short in the years to come. Congestion is on the rise. In fact, the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) is expecting a population increase of approximately 3 million people in Los Angeles over the next 20-25 years.

If Los Angeles’ infrastructure is left unchanged, the American Highway Users Alliance estimates that by 2025, the 405/101 interchange will cause per-vehicle delays of 48 minutes and the 405/10 junction alone will lengthen trips by 35 minutes, both during those evening hours when many synagogues hold services and activities. And it isn’t simply third-party groups who are pointing to the problem — Los Angeles Mayor James Hahn has had a Traffic Safety and Congestion Relief plan in action since 2001, focusing on the 25 worst street intersections of each year for upgrades.

The most direct solutions, of course, involve building longer-running carpool lanes and wider freeways. But there are alternatives to simply building more miles of road.

“What’s happening in our system is that surface transportation is really slowing down,” said Carol Inge, deputy director for planning at the MTA. “I think that rail is a good way, especially in the densest areas, to separate [a] trip off of the congested streets.”

Admittedly, rail transit has had a mixed history in Los Angeles. Rail is expensive to build, can easily run over budget and often struggles against low ridership once built. In Los Angeles County, commuters intent on rail travel must also contend with a complete lack of service to the Westside and Santa Monica and, oftentimes, a bus trip (or a long walk) is required just to connect to the nearest rail line in many other parts of the city as well.

The MTA strike in late 2003 didn’t help matters. “[The strike] shut down the system and probably scared a lot of people away. After the strike we were down about 9 percent in ridership, and we may not be able to recoup those riders,” said Rick Jager, senior communications representative at the MTA.

Speaking about the most recently completed MTA Gold Line rail route, “We had [the] strike, and a lot of the riders probably got upset and said, ‘Well, I’m back in my car.’ We’ve got to change that mentality,” Jager said.

Changing that automobile mentality is also important to minimize another chore that comes with a car-centered city: parking. Keren Aminia, a member of the Conservative congregation Adat Shalom in West L.A., is heading a task force in her synagogue to solve the parking and access issues at the preschool.

“[The child] goes to school from 9 a.m. until 12:30 p.m. For these three and a half hours of school I sometime spend an hour just parking and getting in and out of the synagogue,” Aminia said. For its part, Adat Shalom is working on solutions.

“I think what you have to do first is ask, ‘Does the temple or synagogue have parking?’ That is a very big issue for this temple,” said Sales of Temple Akiba. “When it was built it didn’t include parking, so we rent spaces next door, and that becomes costly.” Temple Akiba pays thousands of dollars per year for its13 parking spaces.

Some temples try to circumvent the problem by only offering spaces to members. Others depend on street parking and meters, forcing congregants to compete with other cars in the neighborhood for a spot.

To address these automobile issues, new mass-transit infrastructure is already under construction in various parts of the city. The MTA is beginning work on an $880 million project, with a projected completion in 2009, that will expand the metro Gold Line past downtown and into East Los Angeles, though that remains far from most Jewish populations. Further to the west, an incipient rail project called the Mid-City Exposition Light Rail will run parallel to the congested 10 from downtown to Culver City, slated for completion in 2012. That rail line may eventually be extended to Santa Monica.

But rail is still nowhere to be found on the Westside, and there are no plans to bring it there. The Red Line metro was never extended west beyond Western Avenue. in order to avoid explosive pockets of underground methane. “For someone on the Westside, it does seem like public transportation is relegated to people who don’t have the economic means to be able to afford a car,” PJA’s Sokatch said.

Instead, the MTA is designing a new east/west bus system north of the 10 near the thriving Jewish communities along Pico and Wilshire boulevards. This program, called Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), will ferry passengers from Koreatown all the way to the Santa Monica pier, featuring perks like electronic ticket machines at each stop, clocks announcing the time until the next bus, renovated stations, larger vehicles and rush-hour bus-only lanes. The Wilshire BRT will cost $217 million and see completion in November 2005.

Another BRT system called the Orange Line will run from the opposite end of the Metro Red Line in North Hollywood through the Jewish communities in Van Nuys and Sherman Oaks to Warner Center in the West San Fernando Valley. The Orange Line will feature an exclusive bus lane and cost $329 million to build. An Orthodox Jewish community along the Orange Line’s route strongly objected to its construction along Chandler Boulevard in North Hollywood, even filing a lawsuit against the MTA.

Rabbi Dov Fischer called it “grotesquely invasive” in a 2001 Jewish Journal article, worrying that it would disrupt the community’s ability to walk to services and attract graffiti. Nevertheless, completion of the Orange Line is projected for August 2005.

Lawsuits aside, bus systems also have major functional limitations. “Logistically I cannot take a baby in a baby stroller and a toddler on the bus. It’s just … not a convenient means of transportation,” said Aminia of Adat Shalom. “I actually have to walk for about 15 minutes to get to the bus stop. We took the bus to school with my toddler maybe 10 times, just for the experience and because I didn’t have a lot to do that day.”

The question that remains is whether Jewish families in Los Angeles would actually take advantage of — or even desire — any new public transportation alternatives to increase their community involvement, especially if they have small children or are attending after-hours events. “Driving is a pain, it really is. But I don’t know anybody who would take a bus at night,” Olins said.

Professor Band summed up that sentiment: “By the time you get [efficient public transportation] in, if you ever do, we’re talking about 2040 or 2050, it goes so slow here and there’s so much resistance, people will still use their cars.”

“There are a few rabbis who attract people from other areas [of Los Angeles], but there aren’t that many,” Band said.

Having become accustomed to the automobile culture, Jewish life in Los Angeles may have already acquired its characteristics. “Generally speaking, what you have, I think, are pockets of communities that are within the larger geographic area [of Los Angeles]. People have created communities within communities,” Gan said. “I think, generally in Los Angeles, people tend to go to most synagogues and temples that are near them.”

Mark Musselman, parent of a child attending Temple Akiba’s nursery school, echoed that statement exactly: “Me and a bunch of parents partly chose [this nursery school] because it’s so close.”

According to Olins, this tendency becomes especially clear when members of her congregation move to another part of the city. Congregants “might love the rabbi and the cantor and us, but when push comes to shove and [they move] five or 10 blocks from [a different] temple, why are they going to drive 20 minutes to us?” Staying close to home for convenience’s sake is not necessarily a bad thing, said Olins, so long as the family is still involved in Jewish activity.

At least for his constituents, however, Sokatch of the PJA did hold out some hope for future alternatives to the car culture: “If they could get on a train and not worry about driving and parking, I think a lot of my folks would be adaptable. We have a bunch of people [in PJA] for whom environmentalism and community building, which is clearly served through public transportation, is of particular importance.”

Today, unfortunately, some Jewish families are already being left out. Even only focusing on the religious aspects of community, “we [in Los Angeles] have 60 percent of our Jews nonaffiliated,” Olins said. “That scares me.”

No doubt, the record-breaking traffic isn’t making it any easier.

Community Briefs

Rally for Freedom

“Avadim hayenu, ata bnei horin.” We were slaves, but now we are free. Pesach’s refrain is not true for many. For years, Charles Jacobs, along with many others, fulminated in print and in person against slavery, and particularly against those states, most notably Sudan, where slavery, slave raids and outright genocide, are major tools of a generations-old civil war pitting southern Sudanese tribal peoples against an Islamicized-Arabized central government in Khartoum. With the attack on the United States, Jacob’s call gains added poignancy: many of the organizations and states that profit from Sudan’s slavery have ties, direct and otherwise, with Islamo-fascism’s shadowy international movement. The American Anti-Slavery Group and iAbolish.com, in cooperation with the Museum of Tolerance and Standwithus.com, presented both Charles Jacobs and Francis Bok on March 14 speaking about slavery in Sudan and many international efforts to redeem Sudanese slaves from captivity. The story of Bok’s travails — abduction as a child, years of slavery and subsequent escape — give this great tragedy a personal face. Other events include: Saturday, March 16, 10:30 am, Beth Am (1055 S. La Cienega Blvd.); Saturday, March 16, 4:30 pm, B’nai David-Judea Congregation at Pico and Livonia. Rally for Freedom on Sunday, March 17, 4:00 pm, at the First AME Church at Adams and La Salle. — Dennis Gura, Contributing Writer

L.A. Armenians Protest

An Armenian rally was held in front of the Israeli Consulate on Wilshire Boulevard to protest what they allege is Israel’s refusal to recognize the Ottoman massacres as a “genocide” and a cultural tragedy akin to the Jewish Holocaust. About 70 people protested peacefully for two hours on March 7. According to Yuval Rotem, Israel consul general in Los Angeles, the anger is based on a misinterpretation of some comments Rifka Cohen, the Israeli ambassador to Armenia, made earlier this year. The rally left officials at the Israeli Consulate baffled. They believe that the anger is misplaced. “Some elements want to use it as a vehicle against Israel,” Rotem said, “which is unfortunate.”

“I understand it’s a very sensitive issue for them. It’s a horrifying thing that happened,” said Zvi Vapni, deputy consul general in Los Angeles. “But generally, Israelis have a close relationship with the Armenian people.” Vapni noted that one of the oldest quarters in Jerusalem is an Armenian community. Rotem added that after a major earthquake hit Turkey several years ago, “we were the first to go and assist them.” Vapni added, “We are not historians. We do not deny anything. They must understand that the Consulate are not the ones that make any decisions or comments on this matter.” — Staff Report

Holocaust Scholars Hold Roundtable

The Directors Roundtable is holding the Los Angeles leg of its worldwide conference at UCLA on March 20. The conference topic: “What Remembrance of the Holocaust Is Doing For Mankind.”

The Roundtable will hold parallel events in London, Paris,
Berlin, Rome, Moscow, Buenos Aires, New York, Washington D.C., Florida, and
Israel. Speakers at the conference will include a who’s who of the Holocaust
scholarship community, including Darlene Basch, Dr. Michael Berenbaum, professor
Mark Jonathan Harris, Gregory Laemmle, Curt Lowens, Dr. Gary Schiller, professor
Cornelius Schnauber, Dr. M. Mitchell Serels, the Rev. Alexei Smith (retired) and
Nick Strimple. To register, call (323) 655-7001 or e-mail your reservation to mlakediroundtbl@aol.com . — Staff Report

An ‘Open Orthodox’ Rabbinical School

Rabbi Avi Weiss visited Los Angeles last week to promote his new “open Orthodox” rabbinical school, “Yeshivat Chovivei Torah,” now in its second year in Manhattan. Weiss spoke at Temple B’nai David-Judea, the shul of his former assistant rabbi, Yosef Kanefsky. The rabbinical school offers a four-year program for men who only plan to serve as pulpit rabbis, and each student must commit to three years of community service work. (One rabbinical student might intern in Los Angeles next year.)

“Openness in Orthodoxy means the preparedness to discuss openly some of the critical issues related to the role of women, a dignified and respectful dialogue with the Conservative and Reform,” Weiss said. “We believe we can transform the Modern Orthodox community if there are rabbis open to dialogue with Jews of all backgrounds — this could be phenomenally impactful. Weiss, a longtime activist on behalf of Soviet Jewry and Israel, called this project “the highlight of my life.” — Staff Report

Culver City Peace Debate

More than 100 people attended a lecture “Is an Israeli-Palestinian Peace Treaty Possible?” at Culver City’s Temple Akiba on March 10. A spirited debate took place between David Pine, western regional director of Americans for Peace Now, and Jerry Blume, spokesperson for Americans for a Safe Israel.

The audience at the Reform temple, most over the age of 50, expressed anger over suicide bombings, and disappointment with both Yasser Arafat and Ariel Sharon. While both advocates strongly support Israel, they presented different solutions to the current crisis.

“Jews argue,” concluded Rabbi Allen S. Maller, who moderated the debate. “That’s what we do best.” — Eric H. Roth, Contributing Writer

L.A. ADL Talks of Split

Following the recent dismissal of Anti-Defamation League (ADL) Regional Director David Lehrer, Los Angeles members continued to discuss the prospect of splitting off from the New York organization.

Close to 100 people attended the meeting of the executive board of the Pacific Southwest Region of the ADL on Wednesday, Jan. 9, to discuss Lehrer’s dismissal.

By all accounts, it was an emotional gathering, with ADL supporters venting their anger regarding both Lehrer’s abrupt termination by ADL National Director Abraham Foxman, and the national leadership’s continued silence on the issue. (Although contactedby The Journal, neither Foxman nor national chairman Glen Tobias has been willing to go on record with any response since the story broke in early January.)

While most members of the executive board remained subdued, at the meeting, longtime donors and activists expressed their dismay at the treatment of both Lehrer and the entire West Coast ADL support system.

"Everyone was indignant and thought the national position was outrageous," said Carmen Warschaw, an ADL board member and honorary lifetime national commissioner. "Most people didn’t know about the money and how it was distributed; some were even talking about changing their wills," she said, meaning to cut out the ADL as a beneficiary.

According to ADL staff, the West Coast office raises between $5 million and $6 million annually for the national organization, of which $1.8 million comes back to Los Angeles.

Although the idea was posted at the Jan. 9 meeting to break off and start a new group, one board member, who asked to remain anonymous, said that was unlikely.

"We do not want the ADL to follow the pattern of the American Jewish Congress," the board member said, referring to how the Los Angeles chapter split off to form the Progressive Jewish Alliance. "We’re still very committed to the ADL. Also, there are problems, because while local leaders raised the funds for the building, we do not own it, and that presents a serious complication."

Warschaw, however, disagreed.

"If people have the ability to do their own fundraising, they should have the ability to control their own future," she said. "Either the national leadership will change their attitude, or there will be a new organization."

Another meeting of the board is set for later this month.

A Different Standard

Ask Mimi Feigelson a simple question, you don’t get a simple answer.

“So how do you like L.A.?” I ask, as we sit down for coffee and pastries at a Pico-Robertson cafe, thinking this is just the warm-up for the real questions.

But for Feigelson, a visiting lecturer in rabbinics at the University of Judaism (UJ), small talk is for wimps. Every question is real and deserves a thoughtful answer.

She repeats the question to herself several times, smiles as she considers it carefully, and then tells of how kind and gracious everyone has been since she arrived here in July, how things have fallen into place quite easily. Still, she says, “like” is too facile a word, because Los Angeles is not, and never will be, home.

“I am grateful for my welcome, but Yerushalayim is home,” Feigelson concludes.

At 38, Feigelson has honed her ability to integrate disparate realities into one coherent and compelling existence. She is an American-born Orthodox Israeli woman teaching at an American seminary for Conservative rabbis. She is halachically observant, and has smicha, rabbinic ordination. She is aware of the political implications of her smicha, but insists it is a private odyssey. She has been vilified by many in the Orthodox establishment, but she maintains a commitment to honor and respect that same Orthodox establishment.

With a dark thick ponytail streaming over her right shoulder and her trademark thin braid hanging to the left, nearly touching the bottom of her black vest, Feigelson has a conservatively bohemian look, one that fits her dual mission of staying within the establishment while defying its conventions.

As she often does, Feigelson uses an analogy and a Chasidic story to explain herself. In traditional mystical sources, it is said the world will exist for 6,000 years. We are in year 5762, and therefore far along in the world’s life. “It used to be that people would come into the world and have shoresh neshama, the root of a soul, from one source. But today, each of us comes into the world and we have so many splinters of souls,” she says, likening it to the last tiny shards left when the big pieces of a broken vessel have already been swept up.

“That’s why we’re torn in so many different directions simultaneously, and some of us choose to listen to one voice and ignore the others, and then there are those of us who try to juggle as many voices as possible simultaneously, who are able to contain them,” she says.

Even for Feigelson, some aspects of her life’s path have been a challenge to contain — notably, being an Orthodox woman with smicha.

“I’ve been marginalized and ostracized to a certain degree, but in God’s eyes I am who I am,” Feigelson says.

Back home in Jerusalem, where she has lived since she was 8, Feigelson, who is single, is the director of the women’s beit midrash at Yakar, a community of Torah study, prayer and social activism that is on the leftmost vanguard of Orthodoxy.

Feigelson’s smicha is from Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach, the late Chasidic master of song, story and Torah. When she started studying with him at the age of 16, he gave her entry into a Judaism from which she felt alienated for much of her Modern Orthodox upbringing, despite her passion for study and her devotion to halacha.

“What he gave me was the key to the back door,” she says of Carlebach. “When you are a guest you use the front door, but when you’re family you know where the key is hiding, and you can walk through the back even if the front door is locked,” she says.

But rather than just drink in his words while he visited Israel or she visited New York, she also studied on her own and got her master’s degree in Jewish philosophy at the Hebrew University.

Finally, after 15 years of studying with Reb Carlebach, she told him she wanted smicha from him.

“He said, ‘Mimi, you already have my smicha,'” she says.

Still, he set up an intensive program for her — including oral and written exams — studying all the halachic and talmudic texts normally studied for ordination, plus some extras, such as sections on honoring one’s parents and business ethics.

Feigelson kept her smicha under wraps for seven years, until she was outed last year in an article in the New York Jewish Week.

Feigelson says she feared the kind of reaction that in fact came out once word spread — the condemnation and dismissal, the accusation of being blasphemous toward Torah.

“There is a moment where you think of the absurdity of it. Did I do something wrong?” she asks incredulously. “That I sat and learned? That I was tested on it? That I was credited for what I had learned, acknowledged for what I accomplished? What sin did I do?”

Despite her strong words, Feigelson seems possessed by a calm, even peaceful resolve, fueled by a deep awareness that she is in this for the right reasons.

“I’m not out to prove anything. I’m out to live my life in honesty and integrity in God’s eyes,” she says.

She maintains that her smicha was the next natural step on her personal journey and not a political statement — she does not use the title rabbi, out of respect for the Orthodox world.

Still, she is aware that her smicha puts her at the forefront of a movement in which women are taking on leadership roles in the Orthodox community.

In Israel, women now argue divorce cases before rabbinic courts, and others answer halachic questions regarding menstruation and reproduction. In New York, several women trained to be congregational interns, where they took on pastoral and chaplaincy roles, as well as teaching.

“I am not going to give up the halachic community, I’m not going to give up my halachic pursuits and whatever it takes to make that happen,” she says. “If that means that there are things that have to wait, I’ll wait, but I’m not going to walk away. I can’t believe the Orthodox world can’t contain me.”

For now, though, Feigelson is spending two years teaching rabbinics to future Conservative rabbis — first year and fifth year students — at the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies at UJ.

Through the tractates of Mishna and Gemara, she is exploring theological questions and challenging her students to think about their own missions.

“I feel like I’ve been given this gift to be able to learn together and ask these questions that are going to formulate how these future rabbis are going to work with people,” she says.

Deciding to leave Israel for two years involved months of tearful internal struggle. For the UJ too, the match did not seem perfect. Feigelson has neither a doctorate nor Conservative ordination, which makes her an odd candidate academically and as a role model. Her expertise is in Chasidic philosophy; they needed a teacher in rabbinics.

“Both UJ and I had to deal with the reality of who I am and where I am coming from and what I have to offer, and who they are and what are their needs,” Feigelson says.

Rabbi Bradley Shavit Artson, dean of Ziegler school, is thrilled with the creativity and the passion for Torah that Feigelson has brought to the school.

“We are trying to be an unprecedented rabbinical school, and not to worry about the mold but to provide excellence in both traditional and academic forms,” he says, “and sometimes that means bringing in people who may not have the usual academic degrees, but do have a vast knowledge base and can serve as inspirational role models.” Feigelson has already established a rapport with students and colleagues, leading a kumsitz, or singalong, the first week of school and having people over to her house for informal study. She demands a lot from her students academically and challenges them to think about why they have chosen the rabbinate, and where God fits into the picture.

She expects her students to challenge her, as well.

“My teachers receive my respect and honor, but never the benefit of the doubt,” she says. “I expect the same from my students.”

She also admonishes them not to get to carried away by “spirituality.”

“There is fine a line between spirituality and stupidity,” she tells her students. “On the one hand, does everything have meaning? Yes. On the other hand, does everything have meaning? No. Can you contain that? That is the question,” she says.

Feigelson has high aspirations for her students, much as she does for herself — a love of God and Torah, a sense of obligation, a sense of comfort with the ongoing struggle to embrace Judaism.

“I want them to feel that the tradition is alive, that it is a vibrant organism, that the letters are three-dimensional — not dead letters on the page,” she says. “You have to have something to hold onto, something to grapple with, something that challenges you and touches every part of who you are and has a conversation with you in those places,” she says. “That is what I want them to see.”

Locals on the Shelves

Moving out of formal academic writing, Steven M. Lowenstein, professor of Jewish History at the University of Judaism, has produced an interesting treatment of Jewish folkways, traditions and variant religious, culinary, sartorial, musical and linguistic practices. His presentation is thorough, yet popular.

In discussing Jewish costume, for example, he addresses overt religious practices, such as the biblical prohibition of sha’atnez (cloth made of mixed wool and linen) and various treatments of tzitzit (ritual fringes). Well-chosen illustrations, all in black and white, present Jewish dress throughout the Diaspora, from Yemen, Turkey and North Africa to Germany and Poland. He corrects the common conception that Chasidic traditional dress is based on medieval Polish upper class costume. The assertion has some element of truth, but medieval Jewish dress also differed from Polish Christian dress in substantial ways, particularly its choice of color (black and white for Jewish men, brightly colored and often decorated for Christians).

In various chapters, he supplies recipes, notated musical samples and a phonological chart. The chart indicates how various regional Jewish communities pronounced the “begad kefat” Hebrew letters (the six letters that under certain grammatical circumstances can be written with or without a dagesh — a dot — as a sort of sound intensifier or modifier).

He avoids, self-consciously, the “exotic” communities approach, attempting to treat each regional Jewish community as a part of a more or less coherent international Jewish tradition. As a general and popular book, Lowenstein’s work stands in interesting contrast to the late Israeli President Yitzhak Ben-Zvi’s “The Exiled and the Redeemed,” which covers much the same ground conceptually. (Although Lowenstein profits greatly from his use of primary and secondary research literature written in the 40 some years since “Exiled” was published.) Ben-Zvi’s work was somewhat nostalgic, trying to document Jewish regional curiosities before their eventual assimilation into a common Israeli-Zionist culture following these groups’ migration to Israel. Lowenstein is far from that breathless nostalgia, and realizes that folk culture is determinedly dynamic and restless. Unlike Ben-Zvi, he doesn’t foresee a homogenized Jewish cultural future. Neither does he predict the shape of the future. But he knows it is coming, and he does a valuable service by illuminating that future’s historical roots.

Over his five decades of involvement in Jewish life, Gerald Bubis has managed to operate inside its institutions and outside its labels.

As founder and director of the Irwin Daniels School of Jewish Communal Service, he passed on a legacy of innovation in Jewish elder care, camping, education and organizing to new generations of Jewish leaders. Bubis worked within several mainstream Los Angeles Jewish organizations as both an executive and lay leader, where he served as a spur to activism and awareness. His informed and opinionated voice comes through clearly in this anthology of his writing.

His subjects range from Jewish family and identity to Israel-Diaspora relations to balancing the needs of volunteers and staff. The tone is set early on, in a list called, “Thirteen Paradoxes,” where Bubis poses the kind of difficult questions he was known to raise at board meetings: Why, he wonders, are Jews at the cutting edge of innovation in all areas of Western life, except in Jewish life? It’s a problem, to be sure, but one that Bubis himself is innocent of creating.
— Staff Report

No single theme, no one idea grandly captures Rabbi Bradley Shavit Artson’s attention in this collection of sermons, weekly newspaper columns, and e-mail d’vrei torah. The disparate and contending impulses of modern Jewish life intrude on these reflections. Befittingly, they seem to reflect Artson’s personality: gentle, insistent, somewhat reserved and thoughtful.

His access and mastery of both traditional Jewish source material and contemporary commentary and theology saturate his writing. But he treads lightly, his insights into the weekly portion easily accessible to the least literate Jew, or indeed, gentile, as Jack Miles makes clear in his forward.

Artson, currently the dean of the University of Judaism’s Zeigler School of Rabbinic Studies, was previously both a pulpit rabbi and a political operative, serving as the legislative assistant to the speaker of the State Assembly in Sacramento. While not emphasized, his political background and interests lie not too far beneath the surface. He comments on the verse “Proclaim liberty throughout the land” from BeHar-BeHukotai (Leviticus 25:1-27:34): “One cannot, [Rashi claims], be truly free unless one is able to choose where to live. Do the homeless in our major cities have that freedom? Can they choose where to live? What of recent college graduates, so saddled with untenable debts that they are unable to purchase a home? What about members of racial or ethnic minorities who are victimized in certain neighborhoods? What of the freedom of gay men and lesbians to live freely where they choose without fear of intimidation or assault?”

The particular rhetorical choices reveal as much about Artson’s political sympathies as they do the Torah portion. Yet his partisan sympathies, however well-placed, do not consistently overwhelm the more unambiguously theological lessons he imparts: “Why does the God of Israel have no image? To portray is to limit, to encompass, to comprehend. That path leads to the trap of excessive intellect, of human arrogance, to the mistaken idea that expertise or knowledge can replace faithfulness or goodness. God is always ain sof, ‘without limit.’ Less interested in being understood, God passionately seeks commitment, being, and involvement. Prayer, in the Tabernacle of old or in the synagogue of the present, is less a recital of words, or an exercise in self-expression, than response of wonder, gratitude and love. God and love dwell not in Cupid’s arrows, but in humanity’s heart, invisible, and for all.”

For those seeking that extra insight for their Shabbat table, Artson offers a pleasant, stimulating appetizer.

The “Dummies” series offers cute, humorous treatments of just about any subject that will sell a book. These are not books one sits down and reads in full. Rather, they function as a casual reference. The tone is breezy and conversational: the material is presented as fairly as possible, but there is no pretense that the treatment is exhaustive.

Blatner and Falcon follow the formula perfectly. Big print, wide margins, iconic marginalia, sidebars and highlights: in general, these are souped up “Cliffs Notes” (even the covers are yellow). Like “Cliffs Notes,” they are wonderfully useful, and, unlike “Cliffs Notes,” they are fun.

“Judaism for Dummies” has a bit of everything. Jewish history is covered in about 80 pages, from Abraham to JewBus (Jewish Buddhists). The grand ambition to encapsulate Judaism in 400 pages necessitates both simplification and generalization. The great, expansive, voluminous intellectual endeavor that created rabbinic Judaism, and all its texts of Talmud, Midrash, homily and law, are summarized in four brief paragraphs and a sidebar, ending: “The creation of the Mishnah and the focus on study certainly helped save Judaism during these dark years. This growing emphasis on study led to a greater predisposition to learning in general and created a portable culture. However, ultimately, so much of Jewish history over the following 1,500 years had to do with just one thing: how intent the current ruling leader was to impose his religious beliefs over his Jewish subjects.” This may be a fair assessment perhaps, but it is also far too dismissive of the great creativity, suppleness and intellectual valor of rabbinic Jewish life.

Falcon is best-known in Los Angeles for his work in Jewish spirituality and meditation generally associated with the “Jewish Renewal” movements. Given the book’s inherent limitation, Falcon and Blatner are quite fair to most other trends of modern Jewish life and history (although they, again of necessity, all but overlook that incredibly fertile period of Jewish intellectual life in Eastern Europe from the late 19th century to the Shoah). Their section on “Celebrations and Holy Days” reflects Falcon’s training, background and interests. Their 15 pages on Shabbat (subtitled “Paradise Regained”) is probably one of the most succinct, open, practical nondenominational introductions to this critical Jewish practice yet published.

Occasionally it seems that editorial directive got in the way of common sense. Henrietta Szold, as important an organizational figure as she is for American Jewry, seems to have been included as one of the “Ten Great Jewish Thinkers” because of her gender. With all the respect due her, she’s not quite in the same intellectual league as Blatner and Falcon’s other 20th Century Jewish intellectuals, such as Abraham Isaac Kook, Martin Buber and Abraham Joshua Heschel. Moreover, the omission of Rav Yosef Soloveitchik, under whose aegis probably more rabbis were ordained than under any other individual in history, is particularly glaring.

Nevertheless, given the limitations, for its purpose, this is an excellent book. It’s the one to give to the curious friend or neighbor. Light, friendly, easygoing, Falcon and Blatner have written a fun book on a serious subject.

Joan Denson grew up the only daughter in an upper-middle class Midwest Jewish family in the 1950s. After college, she married a successful businessman, had a son and seemed, by all appearances, to have it all — but a secret gnawed away at her. As she explains in this memoir, she eventually confronts the fact that she is a lesbian, and her ordered world is overthrown.

Denson, a Los Angeles psychotherapist, seems to have forgotten nothing of her tortured journey to self- and societal-acceptance. Perhaps not surprisingly, a pivotal moment for her comes when she comes across “The Diary of Anne Frank” as a teenager. She finds herself relating to the secret life Frank led, and, more strangely, realizes she has fallen in love with the young girl.

There’s humor here and great anguish, as Denson smartly pares down her story. The narrative loses some power once Denson is well out of the closet — the poignancy was in the secrecy — but she still manages to give us an honest portrayal of the life of a giving, successful Jewish woman operating in a world that still fails to fully include her. — Staff Report

Romance lures us with its suddenness, its unpredictability. Shoah memoirs teach us that even in the midst of concentrated bestiality, human beings can labor successfully to retain their humanity. Love in a Dachau satellite camp affords us a glimpse into the determination of good souls.

Blanka Davidovich, a Czech deportee to Auschwitz, was shipped to Dachau 3b, known also as Mulhdorf, in September 1944, as Nazi Germany desperately resisted the Allied advances from both west and east. Under a typical brutal Nazi commandant, the assorted prisoners and deportees — Greek, Czech, Hungarian and Polish Jews, Russian and allied POWs, captured resistance fighters — labored to build some final Nazi redoubt in a vain attempt to fend off their coming defeat.

Blanka was part of the small contingent of female prisoners sent from Auschwitz to work in the kitchens and perform other tasks while the male prisoners shoveled cement. Her boldness caught the attention of Eberle the commandant; Losch, an engineer from Operation Todt; and Mirek Vencera, a political prisoner-cum-camp electrician. Under Mirek’s subtle tutelage, Blanka pulls relatively “safe” duty and learns survival skills. Mirek, part of the camp-wide resistance underground, struggles with his blossoming love for Blanka, his allegiance to the Podzemny (Czech underground) and his own dangerous secrets. Although the synopsis reads like a lush, garish bodice, ripping romance, author Petru Popescu, Blanka and Mirek’s son-in-law, vouches for the story’s authenticity.

Shoah memoirs are often constrained by the emotional necessity of the survivor. As much personal reflection, they also stand as witness to unbearable cruelty, terror and loss. Mirek’s presence permeates “Oasis,” but Popescu gives voice to Blanka, in all her vulnerability. Mirek helped her live, and acted on principle, not chasing his advantage with this seemingly fragile 19-year-old.

Imbedded in this lesson however is the painful paradox of Shoah memoirs: for each that survived, many more died. For each person who was lucky, and found a niche, too many others didn’t. Blanka and Mirek wisely ascribe no higher meaning to their survival. But later, in loving, marrying and bringing up children, Blanka and Mirek not only survived, but also honored their own dead with a small and quiet victory.

Books on Kabbalah and Jewish mysticism come in two varieties: the devotional-inspirational and the scholarly academic. These two books by Los Angeles authors and academics are quintessential examples of both genres.

Tamar Frankiel teaches history of religion at UC Riverside, and writes about “applied” mysticism. In “The Gift of Kabbalah,” Frankiel expounds on the virtues, pleasures and insights of Jewish mysticism.

While drawing from her academic background both for a lucid prose and a systematic approach to the material, Frankiel attempts to outline Kabbalah’s central concepts and applications. She is open to non-Orthodox writers on matters of the spirit, citing for example, Rabbi Lawrence Kushner in her bibliography. She makes no mention at all, however, of any of the great scholars of Jewish mysticism, not Moshe Idel, not Martin Buber, not Gershom Scholem. The lacunae are glaring, and seriously damage the work’s integrity.

Pinchas Giller, on the other hand, has an exquisite mastery of both primary and secondary materials in the study of Kabbalah in general, and Zohar in particular.

Reading about “practical” Kabbalah can be daunting and confusing. The theosophy implied in the images and metaphors of Jewish mystical writing are, to say the least, obscure and obtuse.

As “Reading the Zohar” unfolds, the centuries of ideological accretions are slowly separated out, and the reader comes to understand how Jewish mystical ideas developed over time and what implications those concepts had inside Jewish intellectual life. Yet, for all his mastery of academic texts, Giller writes plainly and clearly. The only serious flaw of this work for the general reader is the price.

Lee Baca’s Brotherhood Crusade

Two weeks after Muslim terrorists attacked America, L.A. County Sheriff Leroy "Lee" Baca stood in front of an audience at the King Fahd Mosque in Culver City, clutching his personal copy of the Quran. After some preliminary remarks to an audience of Jews, Christians, Muslims, Sikhs and others whom he had called together, the chief law-enforcement officer for the County of Los Angeles leveled his dark-brown eyes at the audience. "What," he asked, "does God want from us?"

It’s about the last question you’d expect coming from the man who oversees the largest sheriff’s department in the United States, the man responsible for 1,400 bailiffs serving 50 courthouses, 22,000 inmates, one of the nation’s largest food service operations (for the inmates), an enormous hospital system, mental health program and drug rehabilitation center, a staff of 13,000 sworn and civilian personnel, a police department serving some 40 contract cities and a $1.4 billion annual budget. But there he was, spending a long afternoon asking about God.

After rabbis, ministers, a priest and an imam delivered messages of unity, Baca told the 100-person audience that they need to worry about understanding one another, about learning the peaceful traditions of their faith and about getting on with their lives.

"I am in charge of your fear," he said. The words seemed very comforting: Baca has a firm, deep monotone and speaks with a lawman’s certitude. I’ll protect you, he seemed to be saying, you just look out for one another.

The meeting at the mosque on Washington Boulevard was the latest in a series of interfaith gatherings the sheriff has convened since Sept. 11. The first took place on Sept. 12, before Osama bin Laden was even on America’s "most wanted" list. Baca called about 60 religious and ethnic leaders, including rabbis Leonard Beerman, Steven Jacobs and Alan Freehling, to a meeting room in the Sheriff’s Department headquarters in Monterey Park.

"I knew we had to get our faith groups working together," he told The Journal, "or hate crimes will evolve to where we have no control."

A second interfaith meeting, convened by Baca on Sept. 20, drew California Gov. Gray Davis, County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky and some 70 participants, representing the spectrum of the county’s religions.

Out of that meeting came a consensus that dialogue was not enough. Baca called another meeting at the Museum of Tolerance on Sept. 28. There he put local television producers and directors on the stage with Muslim and Jewish representatives, in front of an audience of handpicked religious leaders. Because of that gathering, the stations joined in airing "Together," a 30-minute series of segments by 10 TV news departments explaining Los Angeles’ diverse cultures and stressing tolerance.

Baca relishes the coup. "How many people read an article in the Los Angeles Times from start to finish? 100,000?," he told The Journal. "But half a million people or more will watch the TV news."

There have been other gatherings, too. Baca helped organize an event at which the Islamic Center in Northridge hosted Rabbi Steven Jacobs’ Kol Tikvah synagogue on Oct. 14. About 700 people, including hundreds of young children, spent the evening together.

"The challenge is to demystify the Muslim faith," Baca said later of such meetings. "We don’t know enough about it. And I tell the Muslim community that in the interest of tolerance, they should come out and support the right of the State of Israel to exist. We need to allay the fear of the Jewish community that the Muslims hate Jews."

Interfaith dialogue is hardly a new idea in Los Angeles; entire institutions have grown out of it: county and city human relations commissions, nonprofit dialogue groups, long-running faith-based programs. There have been as many efforts at dialogue as there are previous participants who have soured on them as, at best, endless jaw-boning or, at worse, attempts by extremists to gain status by association with more mainstream groups.

But following Sept. 11, dialogue became high-profile, and Baca was stepping onto a near-empty stage. Following the attacks, L.A. Mayor James Hahn was first in Washington, D.C., at policy meetings, then focused here on airport safety and other issues. Baca stepped into the vacuum. His vast jurisdiction includes a swath of ethnic groups. His deputies were already responding to the post-attack rash of Muslim- and Sikh-directed hate crimes. Organizing meetings around tolerance and understanding seemed an obvious next step, and it earned the sheriff the spotlight.

And criticism. Baca’s entry into the field, while widely understood, has not been entirely above suspicion. Some critics see it as naive and simplistic, others as clever campaigning in a run-up to the 2002 sheriff’s race.

"It’s a short-term feel-good solution," said David A. Lehrer, regional director of the Anti-Defamation League. Lehrer and Baca have known each other for years, and in recent phone calls have found themselves disagreeing over the efficacy of bringing Muslim and Jewish leaders together. Mainstream Jewish leaders, Lehrer said, "understand the reticence of Arab Americans to speak up and they don’t have much truck with it."

Another Jewish dialogue veteran, who didn’t want his name used, was even more blunt, saying the effort rings of dilettantism. Baca chooses religious leaders who often represent relatively small constituencies, usually outside the mainstream, the veteran said. "This is what the sheriff should be doing?" he asked.

The question goes to Baca’s sincerity, which the sheriff, in the course of an hour-and-a half interview in his office, took pains to demonstrate.

The son of divorced parents, Baca grew up in his grandparents’ house in East Los Angeles, then a melting pot of Jewish, Latino and Asian immigrants. The pattern held: Baca, a Latino, is married to a Chinese American, and has a Palestinian brother-in-law. Dinner table discussions are heated interfaith dialogues. "I tell him what is the incentive for Israel to give you anything? Did the Palestinians go through the Holocaust? The pogroms? The two Crusades? The Inquisition? You don’t trust a partner who puts a gun at your head."

Merrick Bobb, Board of Supervisors-appointed special counsel to the Sheriff’s Department, acknowledges that the sheriff’s efforts are a first for the department. "It is not normal," said Bobb, who has sparred bitterly with Baca over inmate treatment and spending priorities. But, he said, the sheriff is in this case acting in the county’s best interest. "I think it is appropriate. The strength of community relationships is one part of what makes for effective law enforcement."

Beyond Baca’s personal history, in his career in the Sheriff’s Department he has shown evidence of real commitment to tolerance. He pushed through a new department core mission statement that affirmed the rights of minorities (including sexual minorities), reached out to form advisory boards in different ethnic communities, and earned the accolades of civil rights groups by launching an oversight board to investigate his own department’s actions.

The campaigning Baca might never be completely separate from the crusading Baca, but that’s the life of an elected official, said Donna Bojarsky, the co-chair of L.A. Works and a participant in the dialogues. "Every single person elected to public office politics," Bojarsky said. "But what’s impressed me about him is he went out and started to do this at a time when it’s important to do. You wouldn’t equate that with the sheriff. He walks around with a Talmud and Quran and he feels it in his kishkes. He has respect for all, but he is willing to call it as he sees it."

For supporters and critics alike, the questions that may help voters judge Baca’s effectiveness and sincerity on these issues have yet to be answered. They’ll want to see how long he sticks to his commitment to bringing the county’s faith groups together. Also, they’ll be looking at hate crime statistics. In the wake of Sept. 11, the sharp spike has leveled off for now.

The sheriff’s strongest critics say they’ll want to see how the values of tolerance and respect are manifested in the one L.A. community over which Baca really does wield power: the L.A. Sheriff’s Department.

In the meantime, Baca has a ready answer to those who use pulpits in the county to preach violence or intolerance. As he said at the King Fahd Mosque that day, and numerous times since, "I know this: God is not an accomplice to murder, and we cannot allow any religion to give God a bad name."

Community Briefs

Young Judaea Sends L.A. Youths to Israel

Five students from the Los Angeles area left for Israel on Sunday, Sept. 2. They will spend the next 10 months living, studying and working in Israel with Young Judaea’s Year Course program. While getting a firsthand look at Israeli life through volunteering, travel and contact with Israelis, they will earn college credits to take back with them to the United States. This year’s Hadassah-sponsored Young Judaea Year Course program is the largest to date. Attending are 150 participants from the United States, 75 participants from FZY (Federation of Zionist Youth) in Great Britain and five Israeli tsofim (scouts).

For more information about Year Course call (310) 709-8015 or check the web at www.youngjudaea.org

–Staff Report

Ventura County Celebrates Judaism

“The Jews have gone West,” said Joel Aaronson, president of the Jewish Federation of Ventura County, as he surveyed the Ventura County Jewish Festival on Sept. 9. Aaronson says they plan to make the event an annual one, especially after the turnout of more than 5,000. “We may not be millions,” said Cheri DeKofsky, executive director, “but we are mighty.” Held at Cal State Channel Islands in Camarillo, the festival was designed to bring together Jews of every denomination with food, arts and crafts and entertainment.

Aaronson was very proud that Jews and non-Jews throughout the county, regardless of denomination, were able to work together. “If we can do this, the world can do this.”

The Ventura Klezmer Band started off the festivities with a lively mix of Hebrew and Yiddish tunes — with a little Gershwin thrown in. A children’s stage and play area allowed the whole family to enjoy the festival. “This is really incredible,” said Karen Cardozo of Ventura. “It really pulls the whole Jewish community together.” Planning will begin in late fall for next year’s festival. To get involved with the 2002 festival, contact (805) 647-7800. — Shoshana Lewin, Contributing Writer

Pam Remembered

The American Orthodox community suffered the loss of one of its guiding lights with the recent passing of Rabbi Avraham Yaakov Pam, head of the Torah Vodaas Yeshiva in New York. Scores of Angelenos, many of them professional educators, regarded him as their chief mentor and guide; hundreds more turned to him for counsel and his characteristic loving smile. In reminiscing about Pam, a few vignettes emerged as favorites.

Pam stepped into a cab in New York on a cold, winternight with a student, who later recounted the details. As the driver began topull away, Pam noticed that the meter was not turned on. When he pointed out theassumed oversight to the cabbie, the cabbie said: “I should make a lot moremoney than my boss pays me! The fare is $12 bucks. Why should you care if Imoonlight a bit?” Pam was adamant. “It’s not honest.” The driver was just asinsistent, until Pam offered to pay him double, with half going to the boss.

The driver agreed. At the end of the trip, the meter read $12. Pam paid him $24 — and added a $2 tip!

The cause dearest to his heart was the organizationShuvu (Return), which he founded in 1990 to provide Jewish education to Sovietimmigrant children. Too weak to attend its recent annual fundraiser on his own,he arrived by ambulance, and came into the hall on a stretcher. Even though hehad not met the 10,000 children, he would not let them down.

— Contributed by Shelly Fenig

Words of Solace

Rabbis in the L.A. area responded to the tragedies in New York and Washington D.C., by making common cause with Israel and finding lessons from Jewish history.

No retreat
by Harold M. Schulweis

From the American Jewish community perspective, this week’s terrorism creates at least two challenges.

First, we cannot think that the tragic bombing on American soil is a response to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, for in that case, Israel becomes the scapegoat to the bombing.

We heard this too often in the media on the day of the bombing. On ABC, Peter Jennings explained that this happened because the United States is a strong ally of Israel. If you accept that, then the culprit is Israel, since without Israel there would be peace.

But we know this is not true. What’s being challenged by terrorism is Western civilization, with its ideals of democracy, individualism and freedom.

The targets of those who bombed the USS Cole and the Pentagon are not Israel. The mass media likes to localize and personalize, which is why the conflict is always explained as being part of the Middle East. We must resist this idea. The forces at work today are truly anti-democratic, and we must say so.

Second, we, of all people, cannot scapegoat the entire Muslim community, nor make an enemy of a million Muslims. The basic question is: What can faith do to transcend the divisiveness of the political partisanship of our day?

Judaism is one religion among the world’s great religions, and we Jews have an obligation to know the other great religions, most of which we’ve spawned. In October, my synagogue is inviting Dr. Nazir Khaja, who will speak on the Koran and other basic tenets of the Muslim faith. Frankly, it’s brave of him to come, to discuss his religion in a synagogue.

Jews and Muslims have had a wonderful golden period. Our leaders wrote in Arabic, notably Maimonides’ “Guide for the Perplexed.” The main point here is that there is a way out of even the most intractable struggle, if you do your part. There is no alternative but a constant effort to win people over. If you don’t believe in the possibility of dialogue, you are condemned to one end: war.

Harold M. Schulweis is spiritual leader of ValleyBeth Shalom in Encino.

America Joins Israel’s Nightmare
by Steven Z. Leder

Welcome to our nightmare, America! Welcome to terror that strikes the most sacred symbols of all that you believe in. Welcome to impotence — your planes grounded, markets shut down, the enemy dancing in the streets of Palestine as the call goes out from hospitals for blood. Welcome to not knowing if people you love are alive. Welcome to shock, anger, sadness, helplessness, orphaned children and scattered body parts. We Jews have been there a long time — thousands of years, really. Our nightmare’s most recent name is Intifada II. There have been others. Kishnev. Munich. Entebbe. Kristallnacht. Now, sadly, you have joined us with your own Day of Broken Glass and shattered lives.

This morning, Americans were stripped bare and brutalized. This morning, we grew up in ways both heartbreaking and inevitable. Will this cruelty reveal our capacity for reaching out? Will Americans who thought so little of Israel and her pain find greater sympathy in their hearts as on CNN they watch the next Palestinian suicide bomber’s carnage? Will the hundreds of ethnic minorities who live in Manhattan, like so many ants in a hill, see Israel’s plight as their own plight? Will the good people of the world, of which there are many, finally watch out for each other, care about each other, and protect each other? I hope so. Because then the terrorists will have failed. In tearing us apart, they will merely have brought us closer together.

Steven Z. Leder is associate rabbi of WilshireBoulevard Temple.

What the Past Teaches
by Yosef Kanefsky

So many of us are struggling to obtain some kind of perspective on the surreal events of Tuesday morning. How can we get our minds around a literally unbelievable event — one that we never imagined possible, and which represents the most dramatic triumph of evil that we have seen in a long time?

In this search, Jewish history is an important ally. I officiated at a bris at 8 that morning. In searching for words with which to place this celebration in the context of the still unfolding events on the East Coast, I found myself reaching into Jewish history. We Jews are not strangers to the unbelievable and the calamitous. We have looked on with disbelief at destruction of our holy places and, repeatedly, at the destruction of entire, innocent Jewish populations. The book of “Psalms” is filled with poems of sheer disbelief. Yet, never have we given up our commitment to bris. In the very midst of the events that we simply could not understand or explain, we intuitively knew that this was no time to suspend our commitment to the God of Abraham.

God had placed upon Abraham’s shoulders the responsibility to be a source of blessing for the world, and if anything, the hellish events around us only demanded an even more tenacious commitment to our covenant with God.

The perspective that we can obtain, then, is not one that can explain or justify the slaughter of innocents. It is rather one which provides us guidance as to what we are called upon to do now.

Kanefsky is spiritual leader of B’nai David-Judea inLos Angeles.

The Fragility of Life
by Steven Carr Reuben

I was startled out of my sleep at 6:15 a.m. Tuesday with a phone call from my daughter, who is living half a mile from the World Trade Center in New York.

“Oh my God!” she cried into the phone, “I’ve just witnessed the most horrible scene of my life!” With those few words, she seems to have captured the dread and horror that we all have felt ever since.

All Americans are in shock and numb, feeling more vulnerable to the blind hatred and fanaticism of terrorist than ever before in our history. We gasp in disbelief at the human carnage of thousands of innocent lives that can vanish in an instant of unleashed evil. The world, as we know it, has changed forever, and our souls lie burdened with doubt and grief.

Once again we know to the core how fragile life is, how unpredictable life is, how we are all linked by the common bonds of human frailty, fear, and longing for a better, safer world.

“The entire world is a very narrow bridge,” wrote Rabbi Nachman of Bratzlav, “and the essential thing above all is not to fear.”

Now is the time we need each other’s strength, each other’s courage, each other’s love.

We pray for the victims and their families, for the strength and resolve of our nation, and for the wisdom of our country’s leaders. These High Holy Days, every synagogue and every Jew will be looking for messages of hope amid fear, comfort amid grief, faith amid pain.

Steven Carr Reuben is rabbi of Kehillat IsraelReconstructionist Congregation in the Pacific Palisades, and president of theBoard of Rabbis of Southern California.

With Broken Hearts
by David Wolpe

Tuesday was a day of stunning calamity. Our tradition teaches us both how to deeply mourn, and how not to despair.

There is a part of us that wants the world to understand that this is the war that has been fought against the Jewish State. We always understood that underneath it was a war against not simply the state, but the freedom and faith that our tradition represents. The most important thing to say is that our hearts are broken, and we pray to God to give rest to the souls of those who have died, and comfort to those who are grieving. But we must also say that the taking of innocent human life for political ends will destroy this fragile garden we have been given. In the name of faith we must save, not kill. Those who do otherwise do not honor God, but rather imperil creation. May God bring justice upon those who have plotted murder and abetted slaughter. May God grant wisdom to those who hate, and turn their bitterness to love. And may God bless America.

David Wolpe is rabbi of Sinai Temple inWestwood.

Finding Comfort and Faith
by Laura Geller

One of my congregants called today to say how grateful she was that the High Holy Days are so close. At a time like this, she told me, when the world seems so out of control, it is a blessing to be part of a large and supportive community. And it is an even more powerful blessing to be part of a tradition that has walked in the valley of the shadow of death before, and has never lost its faith.

The magnitude of the terrorist attacks and the enormous tragedy of the human lives that have been lost does challenge our faith — in the security and intelligence systems of our government, in the belief that civilized people don’t attack innocent civilians, and in the notion that we are safe from terrorism in America. This act of evil must be condemned by all people of faith in the most unequivocal of terms.

As Jews who care about Israel, we now know firsthand what our Israeli friends have endured for a long time: the randomness of terror and the awareness of how difficult it is to find the appropriate response. We hope that Americans and the American government will understand more fully the pressures that Israel has faced and be more helpful in responding to Israel’s need for peace.

As Jews who have suffered discrimination, we hope that all Americans will be careful not to judge an entire group of people by the actions of some. And as human beings who have suffered the deaths of people we love, our hearts and prayers go out to the families of the victims. We pray they find comfort and faith.

Laura Geller is spiritual leader of Temple Emanuelof Beverly Hills.

L.A.’s New Leaders

If you’re a young Jewish leader who would like to know more about Los Angeles civic life, or if you’re a young civic leader who wants to be more in step with the Los Angeles Jewish community, the New Leaders Project might have a place for you. NLP, sponsored in Los Angeles by the Jewish Community Relations Committee of the Jewish Federation Council, is currently seeking applications for its fourth class.

The program, which graduated its first class a few months after the riots split the city asunder in 1992, aims to create an informative blend of civic instruction and Jewish values that appeal to its audience of about 15 to 20 men and women, ranging from their mid-20s to early 40s.

“I loved the idea of 16 of us sharing background and ideas and thoughts. It broadened my knowledge of this city.”

— Larry Greenfield, businessman, attorney and political activist

“Each year, we’ve attracted people into the program who I don’t think would have entered into a traditional Jewishleadership program,” said NLP co-founder and co-chair Donna Bojarsky. One of the main goals, she said, is to build bridges across the city between the civic and Jewish communities.

“As our cities have become increasingly complex and diverse places, it’s important to call upon Jewish values to inform us as good Jewish leaders and also to be civic leaders,” said Bojarsky, a longtime political and Jewish activist who is a public-policy consultant to actor Richard Dreyfuss.

As in the previous two sessions, the 1996 program, which ended in October, began with a weekend retreat in which speakers — including rabbis, previous NLP graduates, Federation and civic leaders, and media representatives — spoke about such topics as Jewish values and public policy, the meaning of Jewish leadership and spirituality, and, of course, the challenges facing Los Angeles. In the months that followed (usually on alternate Sundays), NLP participants met with leaders from the African-American, Asian and Latino communities, as well as with city officials, educators and Jewish leaders. Other events included potluck Shabbat dinners, a spiritual retreat, and a discussion on leadership from the Orthodox Jewish perspective.

One of the most meaningful parts of the program, according to some participants, was creating a community-service project that could be put into action and, presumably, would have some impact. Working on a project helped Dean Shapiro tie his business skills with Jewish activism. Shapiro is vice president of international theatrical sales at Metromedia Entertainment in Century City. He and another NLP member, Nicole Silverton, produced a reading of a new play titled “Magda’s Story” at the Wiesenthal Center. Putting together the production, with actors Stockard Channing, Michael York and Larry Drake (Benny in “L.A. Law”), was “really thrilling,” Shapiro said. The play, a Holocaust theater piece for schoolchildren about a righteous gentile’s effort to save a former boyfriend from the death camps, proved popular and will be staged again this summer with a different cast.

For Shapiro, the play’s message about people of different backgrounds helping each other “is the core of the New Leaders Project.” The 27-year-old Los Angeles native, a member of Congregation Kol Ami in West Hollywood, said that the program was stronger in its civic than its religious components, but that he received “an excellent foundation on how political Los Angeles works, how the Los Angeles Jewish community works, and how they work together.” It also proved invaluable as a networking tool. “I now know someone at AIPAC, someone who works in Israel Bonds and at City Hall. When, in the rest of my public life, I need to call them, I can. And when there’s something I might know about, they can call me.”

Scott Stone, another member of the class of 1996, was also impressed with how much he learned about the way the Los Angeles Jewish community works. Other than his involvement with his synagogue, Temple Emanuel in Beverly Hills, Stone, 41, who has his own television production company (Stone Stanley Productions), had had little understanding or connection with the organized Jewish community here. “For me, this was a way of being exposed to a much more Jewish approach to tikkun olam, to creating bridges between communities I was already involved in.”

Stone’s project, which is still a work in progress, grew out of his commitment to both the Jewish and gay and lesbian communities. He is making a documentary about successful gay and lesbian couples, where both partners are Jewish. “My hope is that by showing examples of couples in relationships of anywhere from six months to 50 years, I will be able to depoliticize and take the religious edge off the issue,” Stone said.

Larry Greenfield, a businessman, attorney and political activist for international human rights and Jewish causes, refers to himself as “born and bred into Conservative Jewish life,” in Los Angeles. Among other things, he is co-chair of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee Leadership 2000 group, on JCRC’s board of directors and co-chair of Unity ’97, Los Angeles Young Adult conference commemorating Zionism’s centennial. Being part of NLP allowed him to become more familiar with civic Los Angeles, Greenfield said. “I loved the idea of 16 of us sharing background and ideas and thoughts. It broadened my knowledge of this city.”

At graduation, however, Greenfield made a speech in which he challenged the facilitators of the NLP program to seek out not only the “usual minority coalition partners…but also such groups as the Christian Right or the Libertarians or Cultural Conservatives or others with whom you do not often agree.”

The New Leaders Project, however it evolves in the future, has already spawned programs in four other cities: Boston, Indianapolis, Detroit and Flint, Mich. Two additional cities, still unnamed, will offer the program later this year.

NLP in Los Angeles is funded by grants from the Charles I. Brown Foundation, the Hillside Foundation, Stanley Hirsh, the Audrey and Sydney Irmas Charitable Foundation, the Jewish Federation Council of Greater Los Angeles, the Nathan Cummings Foundation, the Righteous Persons Foundation through the National New Leaders Project, the David Polak Foundation, program alumni and many individual donors. Richard S. Volpert chairs the program, and E. Eric Schockman is the program director.

NLP applications are encouraged by May 16, but will be accepted until May 30. For information, call (213) 852-7730.