Table for none?


It was to be the restaurant that would change kosher dining in Los Angeles.

In December 2006, the Prime Grill, a branch of the popular New York kosher steakhouse, opened its doors in Beverly Hills promising a new experience in kosher dining. “There’s never been a kosher restaurant like this in Southern California,” Samuel Franco, the restaurant’s director of operations, told The Journal at the time. “New York has always been ahead of L.A. in certain ways. With the Prime Grill’s opening, L.A. now catches up.”

But little more than a year after it opened, rumors spread that the luxurious restaurant on Rodeo Drive was about to close.

“There is absolutely no truth to this rumor,” general manager Mikael Choukroun said in January, noting that the restaurant was adjusting its menu to more moderate pricing.

But by February, the doors were closed and a message on the voicemail said, “The Prime Grill regrets to inform that due to rainwater damage from the recent storms, we will be temporarily closed.”

Numerous calls to the New York restaurant management (including owner Joey Allaham) have not been returned, and the Beverly Hills locale now appears closed for good, its phone line disconnected.

And the Prime Grill is not the only kosher restaurant that has closed in recent weeks. Mamash, an Asian fusion restaurant in the Pico-Robertson neighborhood, also closed in March, after opening only last December. And Pico Boulevard’s 15-year staple, the Yemenite restaurant The Magic Carpet, has closed, as well.

Why are all these kosher restaurants closing? What does it take to make a successful kosher restaurant in Los Angeles?

Prime Grill’s problem, many say, was the prices. The owners seemed to recognize the problem and began offering lunch and happy hour specials toward the end of the restaurant’s short run. Others say it was the location — off the “strip” (Pico-Robertson).

But the Prime Grill’s downfall also might have been the image presented as its selling point: its outsider status.

“The bottom line is that owners have to be there — you can’t manage a kosher restaurant from New York,” said one successful kosher restaurant owner who asked that his name be withheld. “Restauranting is a passion — it’s not just a business.”

New York cannot be duplicated in any market — and that includes the kosher restaurant business, said Errol Fine, owner of Pat’s Restaurant, a high-end kosher venue on Pico that has outlived others for the last 15 years.

“The market is different here,” he said.

“I think it’s more common to go out to dinner in New York than it is in L.A.,” Fine said, because New York has 10 times the kosher population. “There’s a saturation point. Maybe there’s not enough population to support all these kosher restaurants that have sprung up — there’s only so much of a kosher pie that gets divided. People have to make their choices.”

Most agree that the kosher restaurant business in Los Angeles is not easy.

“It’s a really hard game — the community is a really hard community to satisfy,” said Warren Bregman, an architect and contractor who was one of the three partners at Mamash. “Overheads are the killer — that’s what killed Prime Grill, too.”

He said location wasn’t the problem — Mamash was situated on the south side of Pico Boulevard near Doheny Boulevard — but finances were. The restaurant practically closed before it opened, the partners having underestimated costs. And kosher restaurants cannot survive on the kosher clientele alone, Bregman said.

“If you’re going to do high-end you have to do more corporate involvement,” he said. They’d planned to attract the Fox Studios and Century City crowd in their more than 160-square-foot space.

Every restaurateur seems to have a unique economic plan to make it work. Mamash’s owners thought they would draw the corporate clientele; Prime Grill hoped for celebs like Paris Hilton and Larry King. The Magic Carpet’s Nili Goldstein believes it’s all about catering.

“A kosher restaurant has to establish a catering business,” she said, because it has to be closed on Friday evenings and Saturdays — the main profit days for non-kosher restaurants.

“You lose Friday and Saturday, you’re left with Sunday, and you take away Jewish holidays — it doesn’t leave much for the owner to survive,” she said.

When one of her three business partners died three years ago, she cut down on catering — which should ideally be 15 percent of the business.

“There are a lot of non-licensed people operating catering businesses,” she said — non-restaurant owners who provide food at shul and private events — cutting into restaurant profits.

But the poor economy, difficult parking situation and increased competition also made her eager to sell. With the Pico-Olympic parking proposal, which would limit evening parking and hurt businesses like Magic Carpet, Goldstein decided it was time to get out. She sold her business to an Indian restaurant.

Even as she did, Delice Bakery opened its own restaurant across the street. It was perfect timing.

Julian Bohbot had been trying to buy the lot next to his French bakery since he opened Delice in 2001. He finally secured a 40-year lease and opened the Delice Bistro in March. The French steakhouse is centered around a faux Eiffel Tower that disappears into a circular crevice painted to look like the sky, and the dim lighting and close seating — fitting 80-85 people — give the place a bustling but cozy feel. It’s haimish — warm; kind of like the two restaurants Bohbot ran in Paris.

Although it’s too soon to tell whether Delice Bistro will be a success, in the weeks before Passover the restaurant was full. Bohbot said he pays attention to the menu — and prices.

“I am the cheapest kosher restaurant in the U.S.,” he claimed, noting that his steak is priced at less than $30.

Table for none?


It was to be the restaurant that would change kosher dining in Los Angeles.

In December 2006, the Prime Grill, a branch of the popular New York kosher steakhouse, opened its doors in Beverly Hills promising a new experience in kosher dining. “There’s never been a kosher restaurant like this in Southern California,” Samuel Franco, the restaurant’s director of operations, told The Journal at the time. “New York has always been ahead of L.A. in certain ways. With the Prime Grill’s opening, L.A. now catches up.”

But little more than a year after it opened, rumors spread that the luxurious restaurant on Rodeo Drive was about to close.

“There is absolutely no truth to this rumor,” general manager Mikael Choukroun said in January, noting that the restaurant was adjusting its menu to more moderate pricing.

But by February, the doors were closed and a message on the voicemail said, “The Prime Grill regrets to inform that due to rainwater damage from the recent storms, we will be temporarily closed.”

Numerous calls to the New York restaurant management (including owner Joey Allaham) have not been returned, and the Beverly Hills locale now appears closed for good, its phone line disconnected.

And the Prime Grill is not the only kosher restaurant that has closed in recent weeks. Mamash, an Asian fusion restaurant in the Pico-Robertson neighborhood, also closed in March, after opening only last December. And Pico Boulevard’s 15-year staple, the Yemenite restaurant The Magic Carpet, has closed, as well.

Why are all these kosher restaurants closing? What does it take to make a successful kosher restaurant in Los Angeles?

Prime Grill’s problem, many say, was the prices. The owners seemed to recognize the problem and began offering lunch and happy hour specials toward the end of the restaurant’s short run. Others say it was the location — off the “strip” (Pico-Robertson).

But the Prime Grill’s downfall also might have been the image presented as its selling point: its outsider status.

“The bottom line is that owners have to be there — you can’t manage a kosher restaurant from New York,” said one successful kosher restaurant owner who asked that his name be withheld. “Restauranting is a passion — it’s not just a business.”

New York cannot be duplicated in any market — and that includes the kosher restaurant business, said Errol Fine, owner of Pat’s Restaurant, a high-end kosher venue on Pico that has outlived others for the last 15 years.

“The market is different here,” he said.

“I think it’s more common to go out to dinner in New York than it is in L.A.,” Fine said, because New York has 10 times the kosher population. “There’s a saturation point. Maybe there’s not enough population to support all these kosher restaurants that have sprung up — there’s only so much of a kosher pie that gets divided. People have to make their choices.”

Most agree that the kosher restaurant business in Los Angeles is not easy.

“It’s a really hard game — the community is a really hard community to satisfy,” said Warren Bregman, an architect and contractor who was one of the three partners at Mamash. “Overheads are the killer — that’s what killed Prime Grill, too.”

He said location wasn’t the problem — Mamash was situated on the south side of Pico Boulevard near Doheny Boulevard — but finances were. The restaurant practically closed before it opened, the partners having underestimated costs. And kosher restaurants cannot survive on the kosher clientele alone, Bregman said.

“If you’re going to do high-end you have to do more corporate involvement,” he said. They’d planned to attract the Fox Studios and Century City crowd in their more than 160-square-foot space.

Every restaurateur seems to have a unique economic plan to make it work. Mamash’s owners thought they would draw the corporate clientele; Prime Grill hoped for celebs like Paris Hilton and Larry King. The Magic Carpet’s Nili Goldstein believes it’s all about catering.

“A kosher restaurant has to establish a catering business,” she said, because it has to be closed on Friday evenings and Saturdays — the main profit days for non-kosher restaurants.

“You lose Friday and Saturday, you’re left with Sunday, and you take away Jewish holidays — it doesn’t leave much for the owner to survive,” she said.

When one of her three business partners died three years ago, she cut down on catering — which should ideally be 15 percent of the business.

“There are a lot of non-licensed people operating catering businesses,” she said — non-restaurant owners who provide food at shul and private events — cutting into restaurant profits.

But the poor economy, difficult parking situation and increased competition also made her eager to sell. With the Pico-Olympic parking proposal, which would limit evening parking and hurt businesses like Magic Carpet, Goldstein decided it was time to get out. She sold her business to an Indian restaurant.

Even as she did, Delice Bakery opened its own restaurant across the street. It was perfect timing.

Julian Bohbot had been trying to buy the lot next to his French bakery since he opened Delice in 2001. He finally secured a 40-year lease and opened the Delice Bistro in March. The French steakhouse is centered around a faux Eiffel Tower that disappears into a circular crevice painted to look like the sky, and the dim lighting and close seating — fitting 80-85 people — give the place a bustling but cozy feel. It’s haimish — warm; kind of like the two restaurants Bohbot ran in Paris.

Although it’s too soon to tell whether Delice Bistro will be a success, in the weeks before Passover the restaurant was full. Bohbot said he pays attention to the menu — and prices.

“I am the cheapest kosher restaurant in the U.S.,” he claimed, noting that his steak is priced at less than $30.

When challah becomes the bread of affliction


Rabbi Marvin Hier fondly recalls bakery-fresh buns and muffins in his lunch when he attended yeshiva. He also admits to a penchant for challah.

“I didn’t just nosh on a piece of challie. I could have, on Friday and Shabbos, two slices, three slices of challie at the same meal. And the same with bagels,” he said.

Hier hasn’t eaten challah, let alone matzah, in several years. But this bread-free existence isn’t part of some Passover-inspired, Atkins-style diet. The founder and dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center was diagnosed with celiac disease (CD) more than four years ago.

CD, also called celiac sprue, is an autoimmune disorder, like Crohn’s and multiple sclerosis. The ingestion of gluten — a protein in wheat, rye and barley — leads the immune system to identify the lining of the small intestine as a foreign object and mounts an attack, hampering the body’s ability to absorb nutrients. The disease was thought to be rare, but it is now believed that 1 percent of the population — roughly 3 million people in the United States — have the condition, according to the Center for Celiac Research at University of Maryland School of Medicine. CD is especially common among Jews, along with Italians, Irish, British, Scandinavians, Spaniards and Palestinians.

CD typically presents with multiple symptoms, which can include various stomach and digestive ailments, as well as anemia, weight loss, depression or anxiety. The disease can also increase the risk of infertility, osteoporosis, arthritis, Type 1 diabetes, liver disease and certain types of cancer, like esophageal cancer and intestinal lymphoma.

Diagnosis can be challenging, because many medical professionals are not familiar with CD, and its symptoms overlap with other diseases. Research has shown that a celiac can see a succession of physicians and specialists over an average period of 11 years before the true source of the illness is diagnosed, according to The Celiac Disease Foundation, which is holding its annual Education Conference and Food Faire on May 3 at Good Samaritan Hospital.

Before his diagnosis, Hier, 69, recalls a life filled with acid reflux disease, which doctors treated with prescription medication.

It could have been years before the true cause of his digestive problems was found, if at all. His condition was finally discovered when one of his grandchildren was diagnosed in 2003 after suffering from almost daily stomach cramps. The entire family underwent testing because the disease is passed on genetically, and Hier was found to carry the genetic markers.

Looking back, he’s fairly certain he knows whom he inherited CD from in his own family.

“My father for sure had celiac,” he said. “He had a very skinny face, drawn.”

The disease can surface as early as 1 or 2 years old or can suddenly appear in women in their 40s. There is no cure for the condition and no pill to alleviate symptoms. While a few drug manufacturers are attempting to develop a vaccine, only a strict diet free of gluten can ease symptoms.

Dr. Michelle Pietzak, a pediatric gastroenterologist with Childrens Hospital Los Angeles, says many celiacs remain undiagnosed because physicians get little nutritional training in medical school and the education doctors receive afterward is partly based on information from drug companies, which currently have no drug-offering incentive to discuss the issue, she says.

“Also, there is some skepticism on the part of the physicians,” Pietzak said. “I’ve heard some physicians say, ‘Oh, this is just a trend like low-carb or the Zone Diet,’ and it’s not. [A gluten-free diet] is the medical treatment for the condition. But the awareness still has a long way to go.”

Elaine Monarch, executive director of the Celiac Disease Foundation, says she had symptoms growing up, but wasn’t diagnosed until she turned 41, in 1981. She said doctors attributed her problems to anemia because she was female or bloating due to her stressful lifestyle as a busy mom.

“Then I got violently ill, and they thought I had food poisoning, and then they thought I had a parasite,” she said.

When she was finally diagnosed, she said, the knowledge about the disease was so limited in the 1980s that she was told to stay away from bread, except for maybe a bagel on the weekends.

Studio City-based Celiac Disease Foundation has been a key player in helping the Food and Drug Administration adopt rules about how to define “gluten free” on product labels as part of the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act; a final ruling on the voluntary law is expected by August.

Shopping for food, toiletries and medications can be confusing for those with celiac disease or other gluten-sensitive conditions. Wheat can be listed on labels in different forms: modified food starch, rusk, edible starch, cereal binders, cereal filler, thickener. A similar problem exists for rye and barley.

To help clear up some of that confusion, many celiacs turn to gluten-free blogs and online message boards for answers. And if you Google the name Rabbi Gershon Bess, at the top of the list is mention of his “Passover Guide to Cosmetics and Medications” on Celiac.com. The annual report features products like toothpaste, denture cream, vitamins and over-the-counter drugs that are free of wheat, barley, rye, oats or spelt. (Gluten is too large to be absorbed through the skin, so cosmetics do not pose a problem for most celiacs.)

Bess says he fields requests for the Kollel L.A. guide from several non-Jews, and one woman has even asked to get a regular update each year. “She has said that she finds sometimes it’s more accurate than what the companies report,” he said.

Increased celiac consciousness among corporations has benefited kosher consumers during Passover by reducing the inclusion of wheat, rye and barley in foods.

“The companies are very sensitive to the needs of the celiac patients, which makes our job easier,” Bess said. “If they had a choice between corn or wheat starch, they would definitely go with the corn.”

L.A.’s gourmet kosher makeover


At the new Shilo’s steakhouse on Pico Boulevard, concentric circles of color surround the caviar: green onion on the outside, yellow egg yolk sprinkled on the inner rim, followed by chopped egg whites peppered with blinis and tortillas and topped ceremoniously by a mound of glistening fish eggs.

The Ikura caviar is red, which indicates that it’s kosher — culled from salmon, not the non-kosher black beluga that comes from sturgeon.

At The Prime Grill on Rodeo Drive, the short ribs are braised for 12 hours and then served with wild mushrooms and spicy mustard. The chopped Wagyu Steak Sliders look like little hamburgers but are eye-openingly delectable, made from hand chopped steak, while the Oh Toro sashimi is smooth and silvery and almost swims down the throat.

At Tierra Sur at the Baron Herzog Winery in Oxnard, venison is one of the most popular dishes, and the white bean soup is topped with “bacon” — a crisp, salty, flavorful meat that’s made from lamb so it will be kosher.

Welcome to Southern California’s new world of Gourmet Kosher.
As America has fallen in love with food over the last decade, the kosher world has not been too far behind. Kosher products and kosher gourmet ingredients abound, as do kosher cookbooks and cooking classes and a general interest in food, entertaining and all it entails. The kosher market has proved a profitable one, appealing to the religious, the newly kosher and others who may want nondairy, halal or simply food that is perceived to be cleaner.

New York, the capital of fine dining, boasts a number of established top-caliber kosher restaurants, among them Le Marais, Abigail’s, Tevere and The Prime Grill, which opened there in 2000 and has just opened in Beverly Hills, as well.

The arrival in Southern California of The Prime Grill — a trendier, classier place than its New York counterpart — and other restaurants, signifies that Los Angeles, a city that often lags foodwise behind New York, San Francisco and Chicago, might finally be catching up when it comes to kosher food.

In the second-largest U.S. Jewish city (behind New York) Los Angeles has a fair number — about 50 — kosher eateries, from bakeries to pizza stores to ethnic food and a number of fancier restaurants.

New restaurants are appearing that don’t ladle up the chicken soup and pastrami sandwiches of yesteryear, though delis with that fare still abound, more often known as “kosher style” and consumed by the non-kosher crowd in the mood for a good knish.

This gourmet kosher trend is aspiring to create a whole new world of fine dining, with chefs trained at top culinary schools (some of them do not observe kashrut themselves) who offer high-end cuisine and extensive wine lists in dining rooms designed by famous decorators.

Pricey and elegant, the hope is to bring high-quality dining to the kosher consumer and, at the same time, attract all the other food connoisseurs that vie for tables at Los Angeles’ top eateries.

But are Los Angeles’ kosher consumers ready for high-class dining? And is the mainstream “treif” world ready to patronize a kosher restaurant as a prime destination?

What does it take to be a kosher restaurant?

No. 1, of course, is adherence to the laws of kashrut, a complex system with innumerable subtleties and exceptions, but which at its most basic elements prohibits pork, shellfish and some other animals and fish and their byproducts. There are also restrictions regarding alcohol and produce and laws prohibiting mixing meat and dairy products. Any kosher restaurant must choose to be either fleishig or milchiks (the Yiddish words for meat or dairy), which means choosing between steakhouse or Italian, a deli or a pizzeria. Not both.

To be certified glatt or suitably kosher for the Orthodox (there are also some Conservative certifications), a restaurant cannot be open on Sabbath or Jewish festivals. And, further, to get a hashgachah — the outside certification provided for a fee by organizations such as the Rabbinic Council of California, Kehilla and Rabbi Yehuda Bukspan, to name a few of the top L.A. certifiers — the venue must have a mashgiach onsite — a supervisor versed in the laws who will ensure complicity.

Rabbi Yaacov Vann, director of Kashrut Services at the RCC, one of the top kosher certifiers in California, describes the need for a kosher restaurant to be a “secure system,” and he uses specific criteria to assess the risks of each establishment.

“How likely is there to be a problem?” he said.

Bakeries, like the famous Schwartz’s, for example, have a low-risk assessment, because there’s little differential between ingredients for kosher bakeries and non-kosher bakeries — flour, sugar, eggs — are all pareve. “There’s little risk to cheat,” he said.

Meat, by contrast, must come from a certified shohet, or butcher, and is more expensive than regular meat. (In September, a scandal rocked Monsey, N.Y., when a butcher was discovered selling non-kosher meat to the ultra-Orthodox community.)

All restaurants, of course, need more oversight than any bakery or pizzeria, and the bigger and busier the place, the more supervision it requires. Depending on the facility, the mashgiach may be the owner or someone who works in the store or an outsider — although the RCC is hoping to require all restaurants to have outside supervisors to minimize corruption.

All this can cost the establishment thousands of dollars a year. But the assurance of strict observance is the only way to bring in people who eat kosher.

There are no statistics on the number of Jews who keep kosher in Los Angeles, though an estimated 10 percent of the L.A. area’s roughly 600,000 are said to be Orthodox. But even those numbers don’t mean much to restauranteurs, because not all religious Jews eat out, some do but only infrequently, limited by such reasons as money, time, family values or weekends spent at home for Shabbat. Many Jews who care about kashrut will also eat at non-kosher restaurants but limit themselves to nonmeat meals, allowing themselves more flexibility on the weekends, when kosher restaurants are closed.

In other words, it’s impossible to gauge the size of the market for kosher dining, except to say that the clientele, until now, has been mostly Jews, friends of Jews or colleagues of Jews taken there for business meals. And everyone agrees, that despite many choices until now among kosher restaurants, there haven’t been enough good kosher restaurants here.

7 Days in the Arts


Saturday the 14th

?Como se dice, “fun” en Espanol? LA Latino Book and Family Festival, por

Keren’s Corner

Jewish Book Month isn’t till November, but why wait?

Two Jewish children’s authors have events of note going on this week. At Pepperdine’s Smother’s Theatre, see the staged musical adaptation of Judith Viorst’s “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day” by now a hilarious classic. Or for Jewish folktale funnies, Children’s Book World hosts storyteller Jon Reed, reading from Ann Redisch Stampler’s “Shlemazel and the Remarkable Spoon of Pohost.” Stampler will also attend and sign copies of the book.

Pepperdine: Oct. 14, 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. $10-$15. (310) 506-4522.

Children’s Book World: Oct. 14, 10:30 a.m. Free. (310) 559-2665.

supuesto! The festival comes to the Fairplex in Pomona this weekend, and features a children’s stage and play area, food courts, science discovery center and a youth and adult writing exhibition. Pick up a new title, like Susanna Reich’s “Jose! Born to Dance” in the book village, view Latino arts and crafts in the culture and travel village or wander off into one of the other three themed villages.

10 a.m.-6 p.m. (Sat.), 10 a.m.-5 p.m. (Sun.). Free. (760) 434-7476.

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Monday the 16th

UCLA Hillel’s art galleries mess with our emotions this season. Serenity can be had on the third floor’s “Silent Waves” photographs by Douglas Isaac Busch. Just one floor below, however, the Gindi Auditorium features Shulie Seidler-Feller’s unsettling snapshots of a devastated New Orleans, in “Broken Landscapes.” They are on view through Nov. 15 and the end of December, respectively.
Hillel at UCLA, 574 Hilgard Ave., Los Angeles. (310) 208-3081.

” target=”_blank”>www.westcoastjewishtheatre.org.

Thursday the 19th

Dealer and defender of sentimentality Mitch Albom strikes again with his new release, “For One More Day,” about a suicidal alcoholic man who gets that miraculous titular day with his eight-years-deceased mother. The “Tuesdays With Morrie” writer comes to Starbucks today for a Q-and-A, and to Sinai Temple tonight, for a reading and signing.

Starbucks: Noon. 11707 San Vicente Blvd. (Brentwood), Los Angeles. (310) 207-4202.

Sinai Temple: 7:30 p.m. 10400 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 474-1518.

Friday the 20th

” target=”_blank”>Bob Dylan makes an L.A. stop tonight on the latest installment of his “Never Ending Tour.” What he’ll perform is anyone’s guess. As always, the one thing the show promises to be is unpredictable.

7:30 p.m. $35-$75. The Forum, 3900 W. Manchester Blvd., Inglewood.

Cozy Kosher Surf Shack — Observant Oasis in the ‘Bu


Joyce Brooks Bogartz’s look isn’t quite what you’d expect from the owner of a kosher restaurant. Adorned with brown and cream dreadlocks, the nearly 50-year-old proprietor of Malibu Beach Grill would at first glance seem to fit in better with customers sporting board shorts than black hats. But this post-punk Gidget is the kind of ‘Bu Jew who is as comfortable around Chabadniks as she is with surfers.

“Having a kosher place, you can only be so risqué in your appearance,” she said.

Situated a quick jaywalk across Pacific Coast Highway from Surfrider Beach and the Malibu Pier, Malibu Beach Grill is a kosher oasis in a town renowned for breathtaking seaside vistas, A-list celebrity sightings and new-age crunchiness. And nearly two years after the controversial ouster of Malibu Chicken by building owner Chabad of Malibu, Malibu Beach Grill is well on its way to carving out its own niche with an eclectic menu that can best be described as California fleishig (meat).

But the road to winning over the locals wasn’t easy.

Brooks Bogartz and her husband/silent partner, Gary Bogartz, each worked full-time jobs in addition to the restaurant during the first year. Malibu Beach Grill was open 16-hour days in the first six months, and differentiated itself from many area restaurants by offering delivery.

“I thought I worked hard before this. I had no idea,” said Brooks Bogartz, a former entertainment publicist and Chabad Telethon coordinator.
“For a year we were the walking dead,” she said. “I was sleeping four hours a night.”

Business is starting to pick up at this cozy kosher surf shack, both from word-of-mouth in the observant world and hipster bon mots in the L.A. Weekly last summer.

To compensate for being closed Friday night and Saturday, the restaurant stays open until 10 p.m. Sunday to Thursday, making it a favorite with Pepperdine students, especially during winter months. The free wi-fi doesn’t hurt, either.
The novelty of buying kosher food at the beach keeps observant families showing up en masse on Sundays and on weeknights during the summer. More than a few put Malibu Beach Grill on the itinerary so out-of-town guests can savor the SoCal ta’am (flavor).

“It’s a small place, but it’s better than what we have in Philadelphia,” said Shira Weitz, 22, who was visiting with friend Este Kahn.

“They put an interesting twist on everything,” said Kahn, a 22-year-old Fairfax resident. “It’s different from what you get at other kosher restaurants. It’s not just a plain burger.”

The burgers at Malibu Beach Grill offer a Cali twist: the Sunset features sundried tomatoes, caramelized shallots and basil aioli. And when the kitchen staff asked Brooks Bogartz how she wanted to prepare the Mexican food, in Jewish fashion she answered the question with another question: “How does your grandmother do it?”

Kashrut for the restaurant is handled by Rabbi Levy I. Zirkind out of Fresno.
Brooks Bogartz identifies as shomer Shabbat, and as a resident of the Malibu area since 1994, she attends services at Chabad of Malibu, whose sign featuring a surfing rabbi has graced PCH since 2001.

Despite the dread cred and her sister Collette’s local notoriety as a surfer, Brooks Bogartz has yet to actually grab a stick and hit the waves.

“My dream is to learn how to surf in Hawaii, where it’s warm,” she said.
Instead, Brooks Bogartz spends her time working alongside her dedicated kitchen crew, which has remained the same since its opening, slowly building up the restaurant’s catering and walking the tables to make sure her customers are happy.

“I have the Jewish mother inclination to feed everybody,” she said.

Cozy Kosher Surf Shack: An Observant Oasis in the ‘Bu


Joyce Brooks Bogartz’s look isn’t quite what you’d expect from the owner of a kosher restaurant. Adorned with brown-and-cream dreadlocks, the nearly 50-year-old proprietor of Malibu Beach Grill would at first glance seem to fit in better with customers sporting board shorts than black hats. But this post-punk Gidget is the kind of ‘Bu Jew who is as comfortable around Chabadniks as she is with surfers.

“Having a kosher place, you can only be so risque in your appearance,” she said.
Situated a quick jaywalk across Pacific Coast Highway from Surfrider Beach and the Malibu Pier, Malibu Beach Grill is a kosher oasis in a town renowned for breathtaking seaside vistas, A-list celebrity sightings and new-age crunchiness.

And nearly two years after the controversial ouster of Malibu Chicken by building owner Chabad of Malibu, Malibu Beach Grill is well on its way to carving out its own niche with an eclectic menu that can best be described as California fleishig (meat).

But the road to winning over the locals wasn’t easy.

Brooks Bogartz and her husband/silent partner, Gary Bogartz, each worked full-time jobs in addition to the restaurant during the first year. Malibu Beach Grill was open 16-hour days in the first six months, and differentiated itself from many area restaurants by offering delivery.

“I thought I worked hard before this. I had no idea,” said Brooks Bogartz, a former entertainment publicist and Chabad Telethon coordinator.
“For a year we were the walking dead,” she said. “I was sleeping four hours a night.”

Business is starting to pick up at this cozy kosher surf shack, both from word-of-mouth in the observant world and hipster bon mots in the L.A. Weekly last summer.

To compensate for being closed Friday night and Saturday, the restaurant stays open until 10 p.m. Sunday to Thursday, making it a favorite with Pepperdine students, especially during winter months. The free wi-fi doesn’t hurt, either.

The novelty of buying kosher food at the beach keeps observant families showing up en masse on Sundays and on weeknights during the summer. More than a few put Malibu Beach Grill on the itinerary so out-of-town guests can savor the SoCal ta’am (flavor).

“It’s a small place, but it’s better than what we have in Philadelphia,” said Shira Weitz, 22, who was visiting with friend Este Kahn.

“They put an interesting twist on everything,” said Kahn, a 22-year-old Fairfax resident. “It’s different from what you get at other kosher restaurants. It’s not just a plain burger.”

The burgers at Malibu Beach Grill offer a Cali twist: the Sunset features sundried tomatoes, caramelized shallots and basil aioli. And when the kitchen staff asked Brooks Bogartz how she wanted to prepare the Mexican food, in Jewish fashion she answered the question with another question: “How does your grandmother do it?”

Kashrut for the restaurant is handled by Rabbi Levy I. Zirkind out of Fresno.
Brooks Bogartz identifies as shomer Shabbat, and as a resident of the Malibu area since 1994 she attends services at Chabad of Malibu, which has featured a sign with a surfing rabbi has graced PCH since 2001.

Despite the dread cred and her sister Collette’s local notoriety as a surfer, Brooks Bogartz has yet to actually grab a stick and hit the waves.

“My dream is to learn how to surf in Hawaii, where it’s warm,” she said.
Instead, Brooks Bogartz spends her time working alongside her dedicated kitchen crew, which has remained the same since its opening, slowly building up the restaurant’s catering and walking the tables to make sure her customers are happy.

“I have the Jewish mother inclination to feed everybody,” she said.

Jewish Federation Raises $10 Million for Israel

The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles recently announced that the organization has raised $10 million in pledges just three weeks after launching its Israel in Crisis Fund.

All of the monies raised will go toward supporting direct services to Israelis who have suffered during the recent crisis, including providing counseling for terror victims, aiding the elderly, disabled and other at-risk populations with intervention programs, and helping to underwrite the cost of sending thousands of young Israelis from the north to summer camps in safer parts of the country.
“This is a time to do two things,” Federation President John Fishel said. “If you feel like you want to or can, you should get on an airplane and stand in solidarity with Israel. Even if you can’t, it’s a time to respond by making a generous donation to the state of Israel.”

Fishel recently went on a mission to Israel. During a visit to the northern Israeli city of Naharya, he spent several hours huddled in a hospital basement while Hezbollah missiles exploded nearby.

The local Federation hopes to contribute a total of $15 million to United Jewish Communities, the umbrella group of the nation’s federations that is coordinating the fundraising efforts.

Meanwhile, the Los Angeles chapter of the American Jewish Committee (AJC) has raised more than $100,000 for the AJC’s Israel Emergency Assistance Fund, also a national campaign. Like the Federation, 100 percent of the AJC’s proceeds go to Israel, said Saundra Mandel, the local chapter’s acting director. Local money has helped purchase two mobile
intensive-cardiac-care ambulances for Magen David Adom, Israel’s Red Cross, and 500 first-aid kits to bomb shelters, Mandel added.

Another organization, the American Friends of Magen David Adom, has raised $700,000 locally since kicking off a war-time campaign on July 12, according to Ellen Rofman, the group’s Western regional director. That money has gone toward purchasing ambulances and medical supplies, as well as toward testing donated Israeli blood for viruses and other requested items, she said.

To attract funding, Rofman said she has sent out e-mails to rabbis throughout Southern California, advertised in the Jewish press and contacted Jewish country clubs and private foundations. Given the needs of the Israeli people, she said the fundraising drive, named Code Red Alert, will continue until mid-October.

To make a donation to the Federation’s Israel in Crisis Fund, call 866-968-7333 or, visit www.jewishla.org.

To make a contribution to the American Jewish Committee, visit www.ajc.org.

To make a donation to American Friends of Magen David Adom/ARMDI, call (818) 905-5099, or visit www.afmda.org.

— Marc Ballon, Senior Writer

Spielberg Adds $1 Million to Relief Funds

Steven Spielberg is giving $1 million for relief efforts in Israel during the current conflict, with the initial $250,000 going to the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles.

Additional future gifts are earmarked for the liberal-oriented New Israel Fund and other relief organizations in Israel, Marvin Levy, the filmmaker’s chief spokesman, announced this week.

Spielberg’s is among the major gifts to the Los Angeles Jewish Federation’s special crisis fund and is being donated through his Righteous Persons Foundation, capitalized entirely through his personal profits, estimated at around $40 million, from his Academy Award-winning movie, “Schindler’s List.”

Fishel said that the crisis fund concentrates on alleviating the devastating effect of Hezbollah rocket barrages on northern Israel, particularly on children, the elderly and disabled.

In addition, Spielberg’s grant will be used to retrofit Haifa’s three hospitals with shatterproof glass and for emergency assistance to the main hospital in the hard-hit town of Nahariya.

The unspecified donation to the New Israel Fund will go for emergency assistance to communities in northern Israel through support of crisis hotlines, economic help and improved food distribution.

At the same time, another Jewish high-profile Hollywood personality is disbursing $1 million.

Barbra Streisand is giving that sum to former president Bill Clinton’s Climate Change Initiative, which seeks to create a consortium of major cities around the world to lower greenhouse gas emissions.

Steisand recently announced plans for a concert tour in October and November, whose proceeds will go to organizations concerned with environmental, women’s health and educational issues.

— Tom Tugend, Contributing Editor

New Program Welcomes Learning Disabled Students to Day Schools

A year-old program for children with learning disabilities at Los Angeles Orthodox day schools has room for a few more kids for this September.

Kol Hanearim — Hebrew for all the children — started last year to meet the challenge of keeping children with learning disabilities in Jewish day schools. The children, who have all left or been asked to leave Jewish day schools, have their own class embedded in a host school. A special education teacher and trained aides teach classes in academic subjects as well as social and study skills.

“The unique thing about what we’re doing is the kids will develop a sense of belonging within the host school, and that will lead toward the class being integrated as much as possible within the host school,” said headmaster Rabbi Levy Cash.

The Kol Hanearim curriculum and schedule is designed to flow with the host schools, so that kids join their grade for classes like art, computer and physical education, and for prayers, lunch and recess.

Last year, Harkham Hillel Hebrew Academy hosted the first class of six fourth-graders, who are generally two to three years behind grade level academically and might also have behavioral issues. This year, in addition to the fourth- and fifth-grade class at Hillel, the program will offer a second- and third-grade class at Maimonides Academy, and a sixth- through eighth-grade class at Perutz Etz Jacob Academy. Each cohort will stay within the host school from year to year, so they can benefit from stable friendships and consistency of educational approach.

“There is a lot our kids can gain from their peers, and there is a lot their peers can gain from us being in the school,” Cash said, noting that the host schools have been welcoming and cooperative.

For information, contact (818) 536-9741 or e-mail Kolhanearim@gmail.com.

— Julie Gruenbaum Fax, Education Editor

7 Days in the Arts


Saturday, July 15
Pretty Charlize Theron plays chairwoman for Los Angeles Free Clinic’s ninth annual “Extravaganza for the Senses.” The food and wine event features tastes from some 40 local restaurants — ranging from high-end Angelini Osteria to lower-end but highly tasty Poquito Más — and some 100 wineries. Also on the bill are live music and a silent auction.

6-10 p.m. $90 (general), $200 (VIP). Twentieth Century Fox, 10201 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles. R.S.V.P., (323) 330-1670 ” width=”15″ height=”1″ alt=””>

Sunday, July 16
Make some time for “Zero Hour.” West Coast Jewish Theatre’s latest is this one-man show, written by and starring Jim Brochu, as Zero Mostel. The play tells Mostel’s life story, from his youth growing up on New York’s Lower East Side, through his early highs as a stand-up comedian and lows when he was blacklisted, to his ultimate huge success on Broadway.

8 p.m. (Fri. and Sat.), 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. (Sun.). $20-$30. Egyptian Arena Theatre, 1625 N. Las Palmas, Hollywood. R.S.V.P., (323) 595-4849.

 

 

Monday, July 17
Funny girls perform for tonight’s charity benefit, “4 Women For Women,” supporting the Women’s Clinic and Family Counseling Center. Julia Sweeney hosts, with Laraine Newman, Melanie Chartoff, Ann Randolph and Terrie Silverman each offer some comic relief. Also scheduled is a silent auction, special eBay auction of black bras worn by the stars and a kissing booth with “special guest smoochers.”

6:30 p.m. (reception), 8 p.m. (performances). $100. The Hayworth Theater, 2511 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles. (323) 376-9339. ” target=”_blank”>www.womens-clinic.org.

 

Tuesday, July 18
Jack Rutberg Fine Arts goes big for summer, offering an exhibition of more than 50 major paintings, drawings, original prints and sculpture by heavyweight artists including David Hockney, Ruth Weisberg, Arthur Dove and Marc Chagall. “Summer Selections: Portraits, Places, Perspectives” runs through Sept. 9.

357 N. La Brea Ave., Los Angeles. (323) 938-5222. www.jackrutbergfinearts.com” width=”15″ height=”1″ alt=””>

Wednesday, July 19
An expansive art exhibition can also be viewed, and purchased, at the Workmen’s Circle. “Curating a Better World: 10th Anniversary Show” features donated works from artists who have participated in the Circle’s 62 previous exhibitions over the last 10 years.

Through Aug. 25. 1525 S. Robertson Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 552-2007. ” width=”15″ height=”1″ alt=””>

Thursday, July 20
Got a kitschy song in your heart? Head to the Aero Theatre for the first night of its “Can’t Stop the Musicals” series. In this installment, the series pays homage to the guilty pleasures from “an era not normally thought of as rich territory for filmed musicals: the 1970s and 1980s.” Tonight, that translates to a screening of Menahem Golan’s “The Apple.” Head back other nights for “Flashdance,” “Rock ‘N Roll High School,” “Jesus Christ Superstar,” “Tommy,” “Hair” and “All That Jazz.”

July 20-30. 7:30 p.m. $6-$9. Max Palevsky Theatre at the Aero Theatre, 1328 Montana Ave., Santa Monica. (323) 466-3456

Friday, July 21
Gay Men’s Choruses of Los Angeles and Orange County each put on worthy shows this week. On Saturday, July 15, head to the O.C. for Men Alive’s fifth anniversary concert, “Curtains Up! Light the Lights!” The song and dance tribute to Broadway will feature special guest star and Grammy nominee Michael Feinstein. And this weekend, stay local as the Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles presents “The Look of Love: The Music of Burt Bacharach.”

“Curtains Up! Light the Lights!” Sat., July 15, 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. The Irvine Barclay Theatre, 424 Campus Drive, Irvine. (866) 636-2548. ” target=”_blank”>www.gmcla.org.


Class Notes


Get Packing
It was weeks before camp started, but on Sunday, June 11, Gear Up for Camp Day brought 1,700 people — including 500 campers and their families — to The Federation’s Camp Max Straus, run by Jewish Big Brothers/Big Sisters. Campers filled laundry bags with camp necessities — sunscreen, T-shirts, hats, socks, towels — most donated by local businesses. Federation staff and volunteers, as well as staff from Jewish Big Brothers/Big Sisters and Camp Max Straus, helped distribute the goods.

This was the first time the event was held at the nonsectarian overnight camp in Glendale, giving parents a chance to see where their kids would spend the summer. The day also featured carnival rides, live entertainment and food.

The Federation is helping 1,100 underprivileged kids go to camp this summer, including those who will attend Max Straus — which offers one- and two-week stays to at-risk youth from the L.A. area — and some Jewish children, mostly immigrants from Iran and Russia, who will attend Jewish camps on Federation scholarships.

For more information, call (323) 761-8320.

Arts in L.A. Gets a Push
Arts Education in L.A.-area public schools is getting a boost from the Jewish community, as the Jewish Community Foundation and The Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Foundation recently announced support for Los Angeles County’s Arts for All initiative. Adopted by the L.A. County Board of Supervisors in 2002, Arts for All seeks to restore arts education slashed with the passage of Proposition 13 in 1978.

The Jewish Community Foundation, in collaboration with the Los Angeles County Arts Commission, launched the Arts in Schools Giving Circle to try to raise $100,000 from individual donors by the end of 2006.

The Giving Circle hopes to provide matching grants to fund more than 150 arts residency programs serving approximately 4,000 K-12th grade students in 14 Los Angeles County public schools.

Seeded by a grant from the Nathan Cummings Foundation, the Giving Circle is the first opportunity for individual donors to participate in the Arts for All Pooled Fund, a consortium of foundations and corporations.

The Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Foundation announced a $100,000 gift to the Pooled Fund in May. Of this, $50,000 will support the Hacienda La Puente Unified School District’s plan over the next three years to hire an arts coordinator and to develop arts curriculum and arts education training for district teachers. The Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Foundation supports initiatives involving healthcare, access to college, Jewish programs in Los Angeles, and established a chair in Israel studies at UCLA.

For further information about the JCF Giving Circle, call program officer Amelia Xann at (323) 761-8714 or axann@jewishfoundationla.org. For information on the Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Foundation, call (310) 449-4500. For information on Arts for All, visit www.lacountyarts.org.

Birthright Reaches 100,000
This month, the 100,000th 18- to 26-year-old will participate in a free, educational trip to Israel, thanks to Taglit-Birthright, a 6-year-old program supported by United Jewish Communities, the Israeli government and 14 philanthropists.

Internal research has shown that the program is meeting its goals of solidifying participant’s Jewish identity and connection to Israel, and has also generated more than $182 million in revenue for the Israeli economy.

But the program might be a victim of its own success: This summer, 15,000 applicants were turned away, when a record 25,000 youth applied for just 12,000 spots.

For information, call (888) 994-7723 or visit www.birthrightisrael.com.

Teens on the Beltway
Rabbi Morley Feinstein of University Synagogue in Brentwood accompanied the synagogue’s confirmation class to Washington D.C., to participate in the L’Taken Seminar of the Religious Action Center of the Union for Reform Judaism last month.

The study and action program was attended by 250 students, who culminated the conference by meeting with congressional staffers to advocate on behalf of issues such as Darfur, immigration and the death penalty.

Also attending were teens from Temple Beth Torah of Ventura, Temple Beth Sholom of Santa Ana, Temple Emanuel of Beverly Hills and Temple Israel of Hollywood.

 

Letters 06-30-2006


South Central Farm
Ralph Horowitz’s claim of anti-Semitism simply serves to inject ethnic conflict into a debate it does not belong (“A Harvest of Conflict,” June 23).

As part of our senior project, I and my friend, Deepak Seeni, interviewed some of the people involved in the farm. I suffered no anti-Semitism. On the contrary, some of the people seemed interested when I explained why I could not eat the food that was being sold there.

To portray Horowitz negatively at a time of negotiations was foolish, but to judge on the basis of what a hate group the leadership condemned said is ridiculous. If Horowitz was interested in negotiating in good faith but found current leadership distasteful, I don’t understand why he didn’t accept the deal negotiated by the city and nonprofit groups on the basis that the city or another neutral agency be in charge of running the urban garden.

Throwing out misleading accusations doesn’t show good faith, and the fact this piece of land was not saved, in the end hurts only the kids whose closest alternative for play is an empty parking lot, while the parties unproductively blame each other.

Horowitz now has the chance to be a true mensch by simply reentering negotiations and finding a way to save that space for the community.

Charlie Carnow
Northridge

Assemblymember Monta?ez
In a column providing all sound bites and no substance, Jill Stewart offers comments disparaging Assemblymember Cindy Monta?ez (“These Dems Could Help Unlock Gridlock,” June 16). These comments are both mean-spirited and baseless.

Stewart’s first barb that Monta?ez (D-Mission Hills) is “an emotional hyperpartisan” is both sexist and false. Exactly how does one measure emotional hyperpartisanship? First, Monta?ez is a policymaker; [L.A. City Councilman Alex] Padilla is a power broker with little interest in real policy.

Next, Stewart makes claims like “[Monta?ez] proved incapable of working with both sides of the aisle in Sacramento.” Stewart, unsurprisingly, provides no support for this claim. Indeed, were Stewart an informed journalist, she would know that Assemblymember Monta?ez has co-authored 12 bipartisan pieces of legislation this session alone (AB547, AB568, etc). And readers should know that her legislation, signed by the governor, was, by definition, acknowledged by Republican leadership as necessary and important work.

Stewart is also off base in her ludicrous assertions that Monta?ez’s pro-labor position hurts her Latino constituents. In fact, being pro-labor and a being a friend to small business are not mutually exclusive. Rather, the reason that major labor organizations support Monta?ez is that she takes on, not kowtows to, big business. Stewart needs to do her homework.

Roy Kaufmann
Field Representative
Office of Assemblymember
Cindy Monta?ez

Jews and China
You’ve got it partially right — the next revolution in Jewish life is already taking place relative to China, but in a very different way than you describe and for a very different reason. (“This Week,” June 16).

Let me explain. Both traditional Judaism and the predominant Chinese philosophies are unbroken traditions addressing the whole person — intellectually, physically, emotionally and spiritually. Traditional Chinese medicine, based upon that premise, is truly holistic and integrative in both theory and clinical practice.

For this reason, an ever-increasing number of Jews seeking to bring balance to their lives and wellness to their health are attracted to Chinese medicine. Also, an ever-increasing number of Chinese medical practitioners and students are Jewish.

Yehuda Frischman
Los Angeles

You are not alone in your envisioning of Jews in China. In 1970, plus or minus a few years, Max Dimont, the author of “Jews, God and History,” was the speaker at a Temple Soleal retreat in Santa Barbara. He ended his talks with the prediction that the next great revival of Jews would be in China. Needless to say, most of us were dumbfounded. But the thought remained with me ever since.

Stan Burney
Via e-mail

Campus Activism
In his op-ed, Rabbi Chaim Seidler-Feller mischaracterizes pro-Israel campus activism and ignores its importance and effectiveness (“Different Tack on Campus Challenge,” June 23). UCLA, in the heart of Jewish Los Angeles, does not always reflect what is happening nationally and internationally.

The rabbi’s approach certainly can enhance these efforts, but contrary to his charge, activist groups like StandWithUs promote coalition and bridge-building as a necessary part of activism. If the pro-Israel/pro-peace community abandons activism, it will do so at great risk.

Roz Rothstein, National Director
Dr. Roberta Seid, Educational Consultant
Esther Renzer, President StandWithUs

Kosher Entity
I am perplexed as to where the millions –if not billions — of dollars in profits that the “strongest and wealthiest entity in the Jewish world, ” except for Israel, as described by Rabbi Jacob Pressman, reside. Is there a secret bank account in Switzerland for the Orthodox Union (OU), the largest kosher certification entity?

The OU is a registered not for profit, so Pressman could easily check its financial documents (Letters, June 23).

While a few purveyors of kosher food –many of them non-Orthodox Jews or non-Jews — may make a handsome profit, the idea of a massive, megawealthy Orthodox “kosher entity” is as mythical as the “Protocols of the Elders of Zion.”

As an admirer of Pressman’s many contributions to L.A. Jewry and a member of a Conservative congregation, I am sorely disappointed that the rabbi has chosen to engage in what can only be called Orthodox bashing. And his words reinforce the negative canard that kashrut is “all about the money.”

Jodie Davidson
Woodland Hills

John Fishel
While the article titled, “A Private Man,” about John Fishel that ran May 26 was informative, it did not highlight one of Fishel’s key strengths.

Expert after expert has declared that a vital dynamic causing growth and change in 21st century Jewish life is directly proportional to the successful rise of entrepreneurial, Jewish, social venture startups. Jewish Los Angeles has spawned more of these new and creative organizations that address the myriad interests and needs such a diverse population requires than any other area outside of New York.

A great deal of these initiatives are being adapted and re-created in cities across the country, such as new spiritual communities, organizations that decry global genocide and serve the special needs of Jewish children among many others. Fishel has consistently taken the position that new organizations can and should arise and that their existence alone adds immeasurable value.

This is not true in most places. I believe the prolific number of creative ventures attest to the success of this position and must be noted.

Rhoda Uziel
Executive Director
Professional Leaders Project

Correction
In “Young Lawyer Has a Ball With Bet Tzedek” (June 23), The Journal incorrectly reported that Jeffrey A. Sklar is an attorney at Alschuler Grossman Stein & Kahan LLP. Although he once worked at that firm, he is now an associate in the corporate practice of Loeb & Loeb LLP in Los Angeles.

In “Jesus’ Man Has a Plan” (June 23) the Rev. Rick Warren received his kippah from Jimmy Kolker, former U.S. ambassador in Uganda, not from the country’s president, as reported. Additionally, the invitation to Warren came from Rabbi David Wolpe, Craig Taubman and the ATID program at Sinai Temple, not from Synagogue 3000.

 

A Harvest of Conflict


Developer Ralph Horowitz made no secret of his intense displeasure with the 350 mostly Latino farmers who squatted on his 14-acre parcel at 41st and Alameda streets in South Los Angeles. As he saw it, the farmers who cultivated avocados, squash, tomatoes and other produce on individual family plots without paying him were squatters who, in effect, stole from him.

Before Horowitz finally evicted the farmers and their supporters last week, he also had to endure celebrities railing against him and demonstrators showing up at his home — not to mention the expense of thousands of dollars in legal fees spent on enforcing his property rights.

But Horowitz hauled out the most explosive grievance at the 59th minute of the 11th hour in the standoff. Speaking to a Los Angeles Times reporter last week, Horowitz said he refused to reward a group that included people who had made anti-Semitic remarks about him.

“Even if they raised $100 million, this group could not buy this property,” Horowitz told NBC4 in a separate interview. “It’s not about money. It’s about I don’t like their cause and I don’t like their conduct. So there’s no price I would sell it to them for.”

Horowitz, who declined repeated requests to be interviewed for this story, also has talked of being infuriated by an Internet site that accused him of being part of a “Jewish Mafia” that controls Los Angeles.

The South Central Farmers group and supporters have emphatically denied engaging in anti-Jewish posturing, noting that many in their ranks are Jewish, including rabbis. They accuse Horowitz of playing the anti-Semitism card to divert criticism from him and to splinter an alliance of Westside Jews, environmentalists and South L.A. farmers that coalesced around saving the farm.

“I believe Horowitz thought he was getting a lot of bad press, and sometimes people believe that if you attack you can take the issue away from those people who are questioning what you’re doing,” said Dan Stormer, a civil rights attorney who’s representing the farmers. “The best defense is a good offense.”

Other observers say that Horowitz had plenty to be aggrieved about, and studies suggest that anti-Semitism is a real problem among Latinos. But evidence of actual anti-Semitism on the part of the farmers or leaders is slim or even nonexistent.

The recent battle over what many call the largest urban farm in the nation captured headlines around the world, pitting Horowitz against poor Latino farmers and do-gooder celebrities. With last week’s eviction looming, entertainers such as ’60s folk icon Joan Baez and actors Danny Glover, Martin Sheen and Laura Dern visited the farm site to show support. As pressure mounted and the bulldozers began rolling, many hoped Horowitz would buckle and sell the property, especially after Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said he helped cobble together a $16.3 million offer for the land — a bid that apparently met the asking price. (Some insiders say the complicated proposal would have demanded substantial good faith from Horowitz, such as a provision that would have required him to borrow $6 million against the property with the expectation of getting reimbursed within 18 months.)

In the end, though, Horowitz walked away from a deal that would have made him a media hero, one that would have allowed the farmers to continue growing their fruits and vegetables that, supporters say, some relied on for sustenance.

Why didn’t he sell? Horowitz told several media outlets that his anger toward farmers for squatting on his land and vilifying him had so alienated him that he wouldn’t sell to them for any price. He “disliked from the beginning,” he said, “the activists, the movie stars, the anarchists and the hard-nosed group.”

He also pointed out a land trust that offered to purchase the land had missed a deadline.

But what about the anti-Semitism bombshell — which is bound to reverberate through the Jewish community, while also raising questions about Horowitz’s timing and motives?

It’s not difficult to find implied and explicit anti-Semitism linked to the cause of the South Central farmers.

La Voz de Aztlan, a Web site that describes itself as “a totally independent news service,” offered that “Not many people are aware that Los Angeles has a powerful ‘Jewish Mafia’ that is in cahoots with the Los Angeles Police Department and many local elected politicians. … Through ‘backroom deals’ and collusion with certain Jewish L.A. City Council members, Ralph Horowitz was given ownership of the land and he has now placed an ‘eviction notice’ on the entrance to the farm.”

The AfroCubaWeb site linked to the La Voz story and in its summary added the word “sinister” in front of “Jewish land developer Ralph Horowitz.”

Such radical sites are widely dismissed as marginal and irrelevant, but a handful of arguably anti-Semitic posts also appeared on the leftie site la.indymedia.org. A poster who called himself “Farmboy” referred to “WHORE-witz”; “Susan” wrote: “There was a time in this country when Jews were also kept down. Do you remember that? It appears, Mr. Horowitz, that you’ve forgotten what prejudice is like. If it’s not about the money, then what is it about, Mr. Horowitz?”

Another poster submitted a picture of a Molotov cocktail and suggested it was time to use them.

Horowitz’s charges of anti-Semitism come at a time when Latino anti-Semitism in the United States has reached worrying levels. According to a 2005 Anti-Defamation League (ADL) survey, 19 percent of American-born Latinos hold anti-Semitic beliefs, while 35 percent of foreign-born Latinos have such views. For Americans at large, the number for those with anti-Semitic views is 14 percent.

ADL National Director Abraham Foxman has said Latino anti-Semitism stems from anti-Jewish teachings in the schools, churches and communities of Latin countries.

But is anti-Semitism the issue at the South L.A. farm? The local ADL branch has received no complaints alleging anti-Semitism on the part of the farmers or their supporters, said Alison Mayersohn, spokesperson for the ADL, Pacific Southwest Region.

The farmers and their allies explicitly disassociated themselves from anti-Semitism when word reached them that that Horowitz believed they had posted anti-Semitic comments on their Web site and/or linked to an anti-Semitic site. Both charges were untrue, and group leaders faxed a letter to Horowitz on June 9 — days before the eviction — to tell him that they condemned anti-Semitism.

“We have never engaged in such descriptions and would support you in speaking out against anti-Semitism,” the missive said. “In addition, many of the supporters of the South Central Farmers are Jewish.”

L.A. City Councilwoman Jan Perry, whose Ninth District includes the urban farm, acknowledged that there have been ad homonym attacks on Horowitz, but she observed no anti-Semitism from anyone associated with the farm. Perry, who is African American and Jewish, has faced intense criticism herself for suggesting that the site could be used to generate local jobs and needed tax revenue.

Horowitz, apparently, could not be mollified. His enmity for the farmers and their supporters only grew after learning that anti-Semitic printouts from La Voz de Aztlan had circulated by unknown sources at L.A. City Hall. That Web site, which Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, has called “venomous,” has no official or unofficial connection with the farmers.

Even so, the injection of anti-Semitism into the dispute by third parties apparently set Horowitz off. Rabbi Levi Cunin of Chabad of Malibu, who spoke with Horowitz by phone in a failed bid at bridging the gap between the two sides, said the developer expressed upset at being characterized as a stereotypical Jewish landlord.

In Cunin’s opinion, “it was a very complicated puzzle and [anti-Semitism] was just a part of it,” he said. Horowitz “was vilified strongly, and I think he felt very, very hurt by the way this was all dealt with.”

Farmer Alberto Tlatoa, 20, said Horowitz’s charges of anti-Semitism represented nothing less than the cynical attempt of a victimizer trying to portray himself as victim. Looking tired and dispirited two days after the forced eviction, he pointed to torn branches and twisted plants where his family’s three peach trees, squash and other fruits and vegetables once flourished.

“I want to call on him to look into his heart,” said Tlatoa, wearing a shirt bearing the message, “South Central Farmers Feeding Families.” “These are families just trying to survive, to feed their kids, to keep them away from gangs. That is not a crime.”

Stormer, the farmers’ attorney, said that he wouldn’t have represented them if he’d detected any anti-Semitism. Stormer says he will continue to pursue litigation to undo the eviction. His next appearance in court is scheduled for July 12, when he intends to challenge the city’s below-market sale of the property to Horowitz in 2003.

The tussle over the land dates back before 1986, when the city seized Horowitz’s land using the eminent domain process. Officials hoped to build a trash incinerator on the site, but community opposition derailed that project. After the 1992 riots, the city leased the land to the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank, which began allowing people to cultivate the land. After a series of bruising court battles, Horowitz regained possession of his land in 2003 for about $5 million — a price well-below market level but close to what the city had paid him 17 years earlier. (As part of the deal, Horowitz agreed to donate 2.6 acres for a community soccer field.) Farmer supporters challenged the legality of the sale and continue to do so, characterizing it as a backroom sweetheart deal.

Insiders said Horowitz was initially open to working out a deal but lost interest after repeated attacks on his character. He also told several media outlets that he paid more than $25,000 per month to maintain the property but received not a penny from the squatting farmers.

Leaders of the farmers have recently come under scrutiny for alleged wrongdoing and intimidation. The L.A. Weekly reported allegations that the leaders evicted fellow farmers, even though they lacked legal authority, while also allegedly collecting “donations” from farmers. The leaders have denied the charges, saying those evicted had illegally subleased plots for personal gain.

Meanwhile, those sympathetic to Horowitz’s position have included Mark Williams, an African American board member of Concerned Citizens of South Central Los Angeles. Williams accused “radical” farmer activists of both bad faith and race baiting over the history of the conflict. He said that it was his mother, activist Juanita Tate, who had originally helped broker a deal with the city for the farmers to use the land while it lay fallow, provided that the farmers would vacate when needed on 30 days notice.

That day arrived when the city agreed to return the land to Horowitz. Tate took the position that the farmers should abide by the agreement. In response, she was cast, said Williams, as “a black woman hostile to the new Latin majority in our community.”

Williams said that the attacks devastated Tate, the long-time executive director of Concerned Citizens, which community members founded in 1986 to block the proposed incinerator project. Tate died in 2004.

But resisting an eviction does not make the farmers racist or anti-Semitic, supporters said. In the weeks following the judge’s order to leave in late May, activists and celebrities built an encampment at the farm, including a kitchen, medic station and art space. A “sacred space” also appeared, which featured a menorah and other holy and spiritual relics, supporter Sarah Coffey said.

“The community that has been built here isn’t about race, religion or color,” she said. “It’s about sustainability and connectedness to the land.”

As last week’s eviction approached, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa amplified his effort to broker a solution that would have preserved the green space, which stands out in an industrial area — and in a city that is short on accessible urban parkland. Working with the Annenberg Foundation and Trust for Public Land, the mayor helped put together a deal that he thought would meet Horowitz’s asking price, said Darryl Ryan, the mayor’s press deputy.

Much to Villaraigosa’s chagrin, Horowitz torpedoed the deal, Ryan said.

“I think when it came down to it, Mr. Horowitz didn’t want to sell the land to the farmers,” he said. “Mr. Horowitz didn’t like the way they were treating him.”

Neither the mayor nor his staff members witnessed any anti-Semitism directed at Horowitz by the farmers or their supporters during their involvement, Ryan added.

The city has allocated a 7.8-acre site at 111th Street and Avalon Boulevard that would accommodate some 200 garden plots. Thirty displaced farmers already have begun cultivating the land. Some of the farmers remain dissatisfied with the substitute location for a variety of reasons. The city is looking for other potential garden sites as well.

Farm supporters hope beyond hope that somehow they will prevail in their struggle to regain the use of Horowitz’s property, although the odds appear dim at best.

As things stand, many of the avocado and peach trees have been cut down, along with the photogenic walnut tree in which actress Daryl Hannah had perched.

But has more been lost than an urban garden?

Horowitz’s “unfounded” charges of anti-Semitism have generated an anti-Jewish backlash among some Latinos, said Tezozomoc, an elected co-leader of the South L.A. farmers. The farmers, he said, feel angry about the developer’s besmirching them.

But others see continued good relations between the two ethnic groups.

“The dust-up over the garden is not going to have any serious impact on Latino-Jewish relations,” said David Lehrer, president of Community Advocates, Inc., an L.A.-based consulting group that focus on improving ties between the city’s diverse communities. “There are other more profound and deep-seated issues that could cause friction, but the garden isn’t one of them.”

 

Letters 06-16-2006


Is It Kosher?
I applaud and appreciate that you were ready to take off the gloves and attack what merits attack, but I fear you left one on (“But Is It Kosher?” June 9). You were too much of a gentleman.

I understand that you were courageously tilting against the strongest and wealthiest single entity in the Jewish world, second only to the state of Israel: the kashrut entity. Think of all the products that bear the kosher seal — from my delicious Oreo cookies to my bottled spring water (water?) to my milk from Ralph’s. Think of the add-on for personal supervision on the premise by mashgihim at all the kosher events in town. Consider the kosher wine industry, and the Passover product annual gouging orgy, and I come to a guesstimate that we are talking about millions, perhaps billions of dollars in profits for some people somewhere.

Understand, I benefit from the many reassurances that I am consuming kosher products. If along the way some of those involved are misleading me, the transgression is on their heads.

However, the issue of money leads me to another excellent article in the same Journal: the problem of funding Jewish education, especially day schools, so as not to deny such schooling to those who cannot meet the high cost (“The Middle Class Squeeze”).

What I am proposing now is that the collective Orthodox community take the huge profits from kashrut in which we are all consumers, and feed that money back into education. It happens that the majority of all-day schools are Orthodox and it would behoove the Orthodox community to investigate what is happening with all the enormous profits in the kashrut industry which they have arrogated unto themselves and hopefully are reporting every penny to the IRS.

As to misconduct, which always seems to happen in huge human endeavors, let the Jewish community not be guilty of suppressing information and sheltering misconduct in the religious establishment as some other great religious establishments are doing.

There, Rob Eshman, I have taken off both gloves, and I hope that from the pivotal position you have in L.A. Jewry’s primary information source you will succeed where I have not in elevating the sacred regulation of kashrut to what it should be, namely: to guarantee to all Jewish children whose families devoutly wish to provide them with a high quality, deeply Jewish-rooted education, the opportunity to receive it at our hands.

Rabbi Jacob Pressman
Rabbi Emeritus
Temple Beth Am

It seems that “kosher” has devolved into a mere technicality, a trend which needs to be reversed. Jewish law forbids cruelty to animals, as they are part of God’s creation. We now know that the OU heksher does not signify a cruelty-free slaughter. We are forced to awaken from our slumber of ignorance and indifference.

We must follow the lead of Whole Foods and not buy Rubashkin’s products. (There are other kosher brands available.) And we must do this until kosher means kosher once again.

Sue Roth
Los Angeles

Bravo to editor-in-chief Rob Eshman for bringing up the controversial subject of meat labeled “kosher” but which derives from animals treated inhumanely in plants where workers are exploited. There is significant room for improvement in another segment of the kosher industry, as well — prepared foods. I have long struggled to feed my children healthy kosher food. It’s not easy! There is not one brand of kosher chicken broth that doesn’t contain MSG. The one brand of kosher powdered chicken broth without MSG contains partially hydrogenated oils, also known as “transfats,” which are now universally understood to be the most unhealthy fat of all and which have recently been cut out of the recipes from most major brands of baked goods. Almost every “kosher for Passover” cake, brownie or cookie mix available in the supermarkets and kosher markets I shopped in this year also contained transfats.

Feeding our Jewish children healthy kosher food we can feel good about shouldn’t be such a struggle. How about it, Maneshevitz and Streits? Why not remove the unhealthful additives and sell us foods that are truly “kosher”?

Stephanie Gold
Los Angeles

Welcoming Converts
The non-Jewish spouses of Jews often feel unwelcome in Jewish circles. Synagogues ostracize them. Rabbis ignore them. Families insult them. Spouses call them by ugly names. It’s no wonder that they don’t explore the possibility of becoming Jewish.

If Jews are proud of our Jewish tradition, then we should practice our values of generosity, kindness, warmth and inclusiveness with the non-Jews who are close to our community. Why drive pro-Jewish partners away?

I appreciated The Journal’s cover story on June 2 about “Court Seeks to Ease Way for Conversions.” It demonstrates a concrete way in which a unique transdenominational beit din is genuinely welcoming candidates for conversion into the total Jewish community. This community beit din will not embarrass or harass the non-Jews who seek to join the Jewish people.

Ninety Reform, Conservative and Reconstructionist rabbis are associated with the Sandra Caplan Community Bet Din (www.scbetdin.us). People can rely upon these rabbis to provide sensitive and constructive paths into conversion.

Rabbi Jerrold Goldstein
Secretary
Sandra Caplan Community Bet Din of Southern California

The Journal’s articles on conversion were excellent. During my years of experience with converts to Judaism, I have discovered the reason that so many converts backslide or no longer show the interest in Judaism they once had is because of the indifference and apathy their Jewish spouses have toward Judaism and its traditions. When one converts to Judaism, he or she is excited to celebrate Shabbat and Jewish holidays, go to synagogue weekly and keep some level of kosher observance. Unfortunately, after the conversion has taken place, the Jewish spouse thinks their former non-Jewish partner has now become “too Jewish” and discourages observance so that the convert’s enthusiasm for Judaism is dampened.

In our program, we encourage the Jewish partner to take our class with the potential convert, but many times the Jewish partner for various reasons refuses to enroll. However, when the Jewish and non-Jewish partners take our class together, they get closer, more knowledgeable and observant of Judaism. At the end of our program we have not only converted the non-Jew to Judaism, but also the Jewish partner, as well.

Rabbi Neal Weinberg
Director and Instructor
Judith and Louis Miller
Introduction to Judaism Program
University of Judaism

As a convert to Judaism, I was reassured to read your series of articles on those like me who chose to become Jews (“Did It Stick?” June 2). A lapsed Catholic with many Jewish friends growing up on Long Island, early on I was attracted to the ethics and worldly focus of Judaism. Following a course of study at Temple Emanuel in New York City, I converted in 1967 and my first wife and I raised our three children in the Jewish tradition.

In 1992, on the eve of her bat mitzvah, my youngest daughter asked if I would be bar mitzvahed with her. That glorious day came to pass at Wilshire Boulevard Temple, with Rabbi Harvey Fields observing that in the 130 year history of the temple, there was no record of a father and daughter having a b’nai mitzvah. At the party afterward, when Tessa and I greeted everyone, I said that I had checked around the room and I was the only person who had had a First Holy Communion and a bar mitzvah.

In my life in Los Angeles with my wife Wendy, inspired by Rabbi Chaim Seidler-Feller at UCLA and through my work with the Progressive Jewish Alliance, enriched by interfaith activities, Judaism has strengthened and complemented my struggle for civil liberties, human rights, peace and justice.

Stephen F Rohde
Los Angeles

Middle-Class Squeeze
Are education tax credits (let alone publicly funded school vouchers) so politically anathema to the Jewish community that they escape mention in a 3,000 word article subtitled “What Can Be Done to Make Jewish Day Schools More Affordable?” (June 9)?

Tax credit schemes avoid elements typically cited as objectionable by opponents of voucher plans. No money is conveyed by the government to private schools, either directly or indirectly. Since every dollar allocated to qualifying recipients is the product of a voluntary contribution, it cannot be argued that “my tax dollars are underwriting the operation of schools whose purposes I do not support.” And as for those who argue that tax credits divert scarce resources from public education, cannot the same be said of Jewish day school enrollment?

If supporting and augmenting enrollment in our Jewish day schools is regarded as a fitting community priority, on what grounds are education tax credits viewed as treif?

Dr. Ron Reynolds
Van Nuys

Each year, the Jewish community bemoans the high cost of a day school education, while touting its value with subjective quotes such as “Population studies have shown that day school alumni are more likely to retain a lifelong affiliation rate with Judaism and to educate their own kids Jewishly.” Objective statistics somehow are never included to support those claims.

In fact, commitment to Judaism stems from the home, not the school. If it appears that day school graduates are more dedicated, the likelihood is that they come from homes where Jewish values and observance are a priority. Those same graduates, had they attended supplemental schools, would be just as likely to become stalwart adult members of the Jewish community, without having impoverished their families in the process.

Despite the wonderful work being done by people like Miriam Prum-Hess, there will never be enough money to enable the vast majority of middle class families to utilize day schools. That’s because there are other very worthy causes, such as caring for the elderly, indigents, immigrants and the Land of Israel, that also deserve additional funding.

Unlike those other causes though, there is a day school alternative∑ the supplemental school. Supplemental schools are far more affordable, can usually provide financial assistance, and offer classes for kindergarten through 12th grade. Synagogues generally provide the kindergarten through seventh grade components, while community schools such as the Los Angeles Hebrew High School (LAAHS), offer classes for students in eighth through 12th grade. On June 12, LAHHS will graduate 68 students from its five-year program. This is its 55th graduating class.

Regretfully, during the past decade, many synagogues have downsized their Hebrew school programs from three days per week to two days or less, deeming them unattractive to committed families. Returning those programs back to their initial stature will provide middle-class families with a viable alternative that won‚t drive them to the poor house.

The Jewish community must refocus its efforts and resources to bolster supplemental education. Synagogues must revisit the curricula of their schools to assure that their students receive a rigorous and robust Jewish education. Finally, the Bureau of Jewish Education must raise its standards for accreditation of supplemental schools. Once synagogue-based Hebrew schools provide the level of Jewish education that they did in their glory days, middle-class families will no longer find it necessary to make great financial sacrifices when raising children, and a quality Jewish education will be accessible for all.

Leonard M. Solomon
Trustee
Los Angeles Hebrew High School

UCLA Palestine Week
As a student leader at UCLA, I was disappointed with the coverage of the recent campus anti-Zionism Awareness week (“UCLA Jews, Muslims Alter Protest Tactics” June 2). Unfortunately, the article implied that Jewish and Muslim students were the only major campus groups involved in these events and avoided discussion of the recent positive steps toward dialogue between our respective communities.

June 2, at noon, the Muslim Student Association (MSA) along with Hillel and other student communities of faith, assembled peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for distribution to the homeless on skid row. That evening, members of MSA joined our community at Hillel for Shabbat Shavuot featuring a discussion with Dr. Nayer Ali on Islam. On June 5, MSA and the UCLA Jewish Student Union (JSU) broke bread together at an event marking the first time kosher/halal meals have been available to dormitory residents at UCLA, due to the successful year-long campaign organized by leadership of both JSU and MSA.

For the alarmists of our community, there exists a fervently anti-Zionist and often anti-Semitic campus community more numerous and less nuanced than our Muslim cousins. Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlán (MEChA), a sponsor of UCLA’s anti-Zionism week, and other Mexican-American empowerment groups see the Israel/Palestinian conflict as white male oppressors asserting their dominance over women and children of color and draw parallels between the occupation of Palestine and the occupation of Aztlán (Southwestern U.S. ceded after the Mexican-American War). Chicana/o students tend to invoke charges of deicide grounded in the pre-Vatican II Roman Catholic tradition and have been more vocally anti-Semitic, claiming the “Jews are the criminals” responsible for the plight of immigrant communities at a rally in April, for example.

We, as the Los Angeles Jewish community, have an obligation to promote education and dialogue efforts reaching the Chicana/o community and other communities of color who tend to have less nuance and far more misconceptions about Jews and Israel than members of the Arab and Muslim communities.

Andy Green
President Emeritus
Hillel at UCLA (2005-2006)

The Finkelstein Syndrome
Roz Rothstein’s article on the anti-Semitic Jew, [Norman] Finkelstein , highlights a major lapse in common knowledge abou Jewish history (“Beware the Finklestein Syndrome,” June 9). While every effort is made to inform the world about the Holocaust, very little information is disseminated about the history of lies and hate against the Jews, or its relationship to the Holocaust.( I have seen history books that devote two pages to Anne Frank, but fail to mention that Jews were patriotic Germans and no threat to Germany)

Theobald of Cambridge, a 12th century apostate to Catholicism, created the “blood libel” which has lasted to this day and caused thousands of Jewish deaths. If there was general awareness of the history of hatred against the Jews, then when people hear a Finkelstein, they can wonder, is he a whistleblower or a modern day Theobald? Those who wish to spread vicious lies against Jews today, do not convert to another religion; their venom is more credible when they remain Jews, especially if they can claim to be from a family of survivors .

Ronnie Lampert
Los Angles

Polish Holocaust
I note the reference in the article on the academic achievements of young Kenny Gotlieb that he is a grandson of a survivor of the “Polish Holocaust” (“Seniors’ Deeds Pave Path for Future,” June 9). Excuse me, but can someone explain to me what is a “Polish Holocaust?”?Is this suggesting that the majority of Holocaust victims were Poles? Or is it supposed to imply that the Holocaust was created by Poles? Surely neither of these. Is it supposed to mean that the Holocaust largely took place in Poland occupied by Nazi Germany? If so, then please say so. I am afraid that this constant coupling of the word “Holocaust” with the word “Poland” makes the young people of today forget that the author of the Holocaust was Nazi Germany whose armies conquered most of Europe and imposed the genocide of the Jews throughout the continent. So please call it the Nazi Holocaust or the European Holocaust, or best of all, just “The Holocaust” (for there was only one) and not “Polish Holocaust.”

Wiktor Moszczynski
Via e-mail

Da Vinci Code
Enjoyed your articles of the DaVinci Code, but only the first three gospels of the New Testament (Mathew, Mark and Luke) are synoptic gospels. They are synoptic because they are similar to each other and different from the writings of the fourth gospel of John.

Brett Thompson
Via e-mail

Correction
In “Seniors’ Deeds Pave Path for Future,” (June 9) Ruben Zweiban was sponsored by Rep. Howard Berman (D-Van Nuys).

 

Wandering Jew – Music to My Ears


“In syngagyng a sangasongue … ” — James Joyce, “Finnegans Wake.”

Singing in synagogue is something I wish I were better at doing or at least less embarrassed about doing full-throated. At the Synagogue for the Performing Arts, the congregation doesn’t have that problem. They have David Coury.

A voice expert known for coaching singers and nonsingers, and working with deaf and autistic students and contestants for TV shows like “Extreme Makeover” and “American Idol,” Coury is unique and considered “revolutionary.”

When I heard about his “So You Always Wanted to Sing!” seminar, I knew it was time to put my mouth where my … or my money where my … whatever. Who isn’t a wannabe chazan from way back?

The Sunday afternoon workshop was held at the Howard Fine Acting Studios on Las Palmas Avenue, off a stretch of Sunset Boulevard east of Highland Avenue near Buckbuster (“Less Than $1 Many Items Sell For”) and the Hollywood Center Motel (“Electrical Heat”), which looks like an abandoned set from “L.A. Confidential.”

A few dozen singees sat nervously in the studio theater. Lee Miller, television director and president of the Synagogue for the Performing Arts, introduced Coury. The syagogue bills itself as “L.A.’s original entertainment congregation.”

“Isn’t there another shul like this in New York or Branson?” I asked.

Miller shook his head.

“We’re it,” he said. Coury chanted “Kol Nidre” last fall with Synagogue for the Performing Arts’ cantor, Judy Fox, and, Miller said, “a lotta jaws dropped.”

I was skeptical at first, hearing how Coury’s accompanist on piano had just got the day off from studio work “with Natalie Cole.” Coury had that hipster headset and two bottles of Sparkletts at the ready, high energy that got me wondering: How will I know if he’s the real laryngo-glottal guru? This is Hollywood, after all. If you can fake it here you can fake it anywhere, right?

“How brave you are,” Coury butters up the attendees — each paid $75, which goes to Synagogue for the Performing Arts. The teacher is trim and dark in black sweatshirt, khaki slacks, sneakers.

“It’s a long road from the shower to the stage,” he says, rolling up his sleeves and diving right in. “I like to just get to things,” he tells us. “There’s no revving up.”

A fellow named Sky is the first actor ready for his voice-up.

Our music man’s method? It’s all about the mask.

“That’s where you sing from,” Coury says, gripping his face as we model him. But wait. What? No up from the diaphragm and below bellowing?

“That’s an old wives’ tale,” explains Coury. “A cave has resonance and an ant hole depth. You’ve got to use your mouth.”

Alternately praised and nudged, each vocalist eventually expresses more than he or she thought they ever could. Whatever their issue, Coury calms them into laughter or steers them back to the mask. Soon they’re singing “Moon River” like Mandy Patinkin or “People” like Barbra Streisand, bounding off stage to high-fives or applause.

OK, not like Streisand, obviously. But it is amazing to observe. Coury has no tricks or even a warm-up technique.

He can explain “pre-frontal rostrum medial cortex” like a speech therapist, but something else is at work, too. When Serena forgets her lyric and goes off into just sounds, Coury is laudatory toward her. “She has reached Yummyville,” he says, “where it feels good, and there are no nerves anymore.”

“Willingness and desire are everything,” he teaches. “So the challenge is just the nerves. Put yourself in my hands and meet me halfway.”

And darned if it doesn’t happen right before our ears.

A good listener with a wicked laugh, Coury stops one singer as soon as she starts.

“Favorite food, Denise?” he asks.

“Clam Chowder,” she replies, smiling.

“See how we light up when we talk about food?” he says with a laugh. “Singing and speaking are very oral. Singing equals speaking equals singing … the voice should be musical, symphonic.”

Powerful medicine.

“You can’t fake a blush,” he says to a woman named Stephanie. “You’ve had a transformation.”

Already full of fabulous pipes, Stephanie wants a “a fuller belt.”

In moments, Coury releases her “Tiger Song” from “Les Miz” out into the wilds of Sunset Boulevard somewhere. Teary-eyed, she thanks him.

And I know it may sound silly, but he’s got us all belting words like “I” and “you” over and over. No kidding. Love should be sung as “lahhv,” you know, and pronounced as in “va va voom.” The expert lets us in on the ins and outs of “eees” and “ooos” and how “eh” is a vowel, but they don’t teach you that.”

Well, that’s one way to praise Yahweh. But how does he get us to do it?

“You must risk three things,” Coury says. “Sounding weird, looking bad and being disliked.”

Um, do we have to? Why?

“Because the world worships the original. Take these tools and risk it.”

The tools are learned through little inspirationals, like the one he gives a lusty singer named Shelley, who gets up and growls, “Rock me, baby, like my back ain’t got no bone.”

Coury wants more.

“Be like a dog to a steak,” he tells the loungey bombshell. “Bite into it. Not with your voice, with your mouth.”

And for guys like Phil, afraid he can only drone a tone deaf “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” Coury teaches: “There’s no such thing as fearless. There’s being afraid and doing it anyway — that’s being extraordinary.”

So after hiding out fearfully as long as possible, I climb on stage. After a taste of Perry Como (“Just in Time,” a song I want to sing at my wedding), I’m convinced I’m no crooner.

But with the coach’s encouragement, I go for something even higher, recalled from the car radio while driving Sunset Boulevard to get here. It’s a ballad from a lame top-40 band, Foreigner. “I’ve been waaaaiting for a girl like you, to come into my liiife….”

I tell him I had my tonsils out when I was 10, but Coury takes no lip.

“Listening to yourself is not going to allow the magic,” he says. “Looking directionally at me will bring it. Use the human in the room. You’ll find your humanity immediately at play.”

Suddenly something comes out that I’ve never felt, not even while alone with the windows up and stereo blaring. I’m exhilarated. Euphoric.

He shakes my hand and I bounce off stage, hearing his final instructions to all of us:

“Dare to be heard. In this world of communication, you have to speak out to be heard. You can literally touch somebody with your voice. Who knows who’s there? And that’s magic.

“Do! Sing! Big! Not big voice, big mouth. It’s not the singing; it’s the learning. Your voice is greater than any song you’ve ever sung, if you’re working on your voice. So keep your yapper open.”

Sound advice. What else did I learn?

Singers should keep their eyes open and it’s quite all right to lick your lips. Pronouncing is what gives life. And when you run out of breath? Breathe. Listen for me next Friday night and Shabbat shalom, Los Angeles.

Synagogue for the Performing Arts has another seminar, “Journey Into Self-Discovery,” taught by Howard Fine, Feb. 17-19. For more information call (310) 472-3500 or go to www. SFTPA.com.

Hank Rosenfeld is a storyteller for “Weekend America,” heard on public radio stations every Saturday, including KPCC-FM 89.3 in Los Angeles.

 

Oxnard Kosher Dining Is a Sur Thing


“Kosher gourmet” sounds like an oxymoron. And “Oxnard kosher” sounds like the nocturnal ravings of some deluded diner.

Well, get used to it. Gourmet kosher dining has arrived in the Southern California farming community of Oxnard. Paris, London, New York maybe. But Oxnard? Home of big-box grocery chains, Mexican cantinas and strawberry fields forever.

Oxnard’s population is more than 70 percent Latino, which could explain why Tierra Sur, the finest new kosher restaurant on this coast (or almost any other), has decided to open with a decidedly Mediterranean-Spanish flavor, with a large dose of Tuscany thrown in for good measure.

So what’s a nice kosher restaurant doing in a place like this?

Tierra Sur is found deep in the heart of Oxnard’s industrial section, 60 miles north of Los Angeles and a mile and a half off Highway 101, nestled in the confines of the Herzog Winery.

Herzog itself has come a long way. It began making kosher wine back in 1848 in the small Slovakian village of Vrobove, where Philip Herzog crushed grapes for Austro-Hungarian royalty. The winery moved to upstate New York in the early 20th century, and then switched to California, where it is now headquartered and makes surprisingly good wines.

The front of its $13 million state-of-the-art winery houses an elegant tasting room and gift shop, which features high-end table wear, glasses and gifts appropriate to the sophistication of the entire operation.

But the pièce de résistance is Tierra Sur, with its high-ceilinged dining room, flanked by tall windows draped in heavy silks, soft leather dining room chairs pulled up to intimate-sized tables adorned with white table clothes and Reidel crystal stemware. The lighting is subdued, and the color scheme — earth tones of soft olive, gold and browns — highlights the elegant Mediterranean menu.

All this décor is very nice of course, but what about the food?

It more than measures up to the ambience.

Chef Todd Aarons, who grills some of his best creations in an outdoor wood-burning fireplace on the patio, grew up in Los Angeles, graduated from the California Culinary Academy and cut his kitchen teeth at San Francisco’s Zuni Café. Two years later he moved to Savoy in New York’s Soho district. However, his cooking chops and tastes were really formed during a sabbatical in Tuscany, working at four restaurants and imbibing the culture of the Mediterranean table through his pores.

Following his return to California, Aarons went to a post-graduate program at Beringer Vineyard’s School for American Chefs in Sonoma, developing his skills in matching wine with food.

But it was while working for an Italian coffee company in Israel, and developing menus for Italian-Mediterranean restaurants in Netanya and Tel Aviv, that Aarons rediscovered his Jewish roots, fell in love with an Orthodox young woman and eventually became a ba’al teshuvah. Now the dietary laws of kashrut have became the most important element of his cooking.

Aarons commutes to the new restaurant from his home in North Hollywood, where he lives with his wife and three young daughters within the eruv.

Before his Oxnard venture, Aarons ran Mosaica, an upscale glatt kosher French Mediterranean restaurant in New Jersey. But the opportunity to create a restaurant from scratch with the financial support of the Herzog brand was impossible to resist.

So with sous chef Chaim Davids, Tierra Sur opened in late 2005 with kosher supervision by the Orthodox Union. But if you expect pickles, corned beef on rye, or matzah ball soup — fuhgeddaboudit.

Dinner with five-star service — on a par with a dining room in a Four Seasons or Ritz Carlton — changes not just with the seasons but every evening according to the chef’s whim and the availability of the finest and freshest ingredients.

The Mediterranean influence is most visible in the appetizers, many of which come directly from the Spanish tapas or Greek mezes so beloved of the countries bordering that sea.

Platillos were small plates of delicate salt cod beignets; mushrooms a la Greque, cooked in truffle oil (one of the many instances where the absence of butter in the kitchen does nothing but improve the flavors); and a baba ghanoush that is fire roasted in the patio oven. The boudin blanc was a house-made veal-and-chicken sausage with roasted pink lady apples and turnips, and a corn and salt cod chowder was a warm starter on a foggy Oxnard eve.

The dinner entrees, which range in price from $25 to $44, include a farm-raised venison imported from the Mashgichim farm in Goshen, N.Y.; a delicate pan-seared wild Pacific king salmon with braised leeks, root vegetable Spanish tortillas and tarragon salsa; a marjoram and honey roasted chicken leg stuffed with porcini mushroom and chick pea ragout; and a pomegranate-marinated roasted lamb with sautéed broccoli rabe and fresh fava beans. Hannibal Lector eat your heart out. (A more modestly priced menu of soups, salads and sandwiches is available for lunch.)

Desserts like orange almond flan, a warm Mexican chocolate cake with caramel frozen custard and churros y chocolate are simple, inexpensive and delicious.

And, of course, the food can be accompanied by a dazzling selection of kosher wines — by the glass or by the bottle — from winemaker Joe Hurliman.

Already Tierra Sur, which also offers a wine-tasting menu, has been discovered by the Ventura dining cognoscenti and its private dining room has become a popular spot for everything from award dinners held by the Ventura’s Jewish Federation and its various offshoots to dinner celebrations for local corporate heavyweights such as Camarillo’s Amgen.

And the Orthodox are coming from miles around. There is always a fair sprinkling of men in kippot and women in wigs lining up to wash their hands at the small stainless steel sink hidden discreetly in a corner of the dining room.

On the night we went, customers included a couple who had driven up from Hancock Park, a family from the San Fernando Valley headed by a lady who doubles as the Jewish chaplain for the Los Angeles womens prison and a grandmother from Leisure Village in Camarillo who was treating her grandson and his wife from Philadelphia to a wedding anniversary dinner.

And in all cases, their food reviews were a unanimous thumbs up.

Tierra Sur Restaurant is located at 3201 Camino Del Sol in Oxnard. The restaurant is open everyday but Saturday for lunch, and Sunday, Tuesday through Thursday for dinner. For more information, call (805) 983-1560 or visit http://www.jewishjournal.com/local/KosherEats.php for links.

Sally Ogle Davis is a Southern California-based freelance writer. Ivor Davis writes a column for The New York Times Syndicate.

 

Jennifer Chadorchi: The Hunger to Help


 

At 6:30 p.m. on a chilly Wednesday night in December, more than 30 young Jewish professionals gathered on the corner of Sycamore Avenue and Romaine Street in West Hollywood to feed homeless people waiting in line for a hot meal.

There on behalf of the Greater West Hollywood Food Coalition, the volunteers looked with surprise at the growing line of nearly 200 people waiting for food — a sight already familiar to Jennifer Chadorchi, the young Persian Jewish woman who had single-handedly recruited the evening’s volunteers.

“The turnout of volunteers was amazing that night,” said Chadorchi, who regularly organizes volunteer groups for the Coalition. “It makes me feel so great to share the experience of helping others by bringing them in to volunteer.”

For the last eight years, Chadorchi, a Beverly Hills resident in her 20s, has become a rare jewel in the Persian Jewish community, quietly mobilizing a small army of friends, family members and local students to respond to the plight of the homeless in Los Angeles.

“Her compassion and her actions are contagious,” said Lida Tabibian, a volunteer recruited by Chadorchi. “She not only changes thousands of lives, but she’s also inspiring a whole generation to be leaders for this cause.”

Chadorchi’s journey in aiding the homeless began when she was 16, when, on a rainy night while driving in her brand-new car, she spotted Coalition volunteers serving food to the homeless.

“What caught my eye was the long line of these people just standing in the pouring rain with only newspapers over their heads,” Chadorchi said. “It didn’t seem fair to me that I had so much and they had nothing, so I decided I had to help.” Since 1987, coalition volunteers have been handing out excess food donated by Los Angeles area hotels, restaurants, grocery stores and caterers. In 2000, the coalition joined forces with UCLA medical students, who offer medical aid to sick, homeless individuals gathering at the street corner.

Chadorchi’s efforts also have included raising funds for the coalition, and she has organized clothing drives in her Beverly Hills neighborhood. She was also instrumental in organizing Project Feed, a campaign allowing Beverly Hills school district students to donate food and time to the coalition in exchange for school credit.

“She has had a tremendous impact on our organization. What she did was build a bridge between our group and Beverly Hills, especially the Iranian Jewish community,” said Ted Landreth, one of the coalition’s founders. “Without her I doubt we could have made these important connections.”

Those familiar with Chadorchi’s volunteer efforts said they wished she would enter the public sector and work with local government officials to help alleviate Los Angeles County’s difficulties with the homeless.

“I’ve known Jennifer since she was a junior at Beverly Hills High School. I think she is one of the most dedicated, incredible and passionate young people out there,” said former U.S. presidential candidate Michael Dukakis. “The people working out there [L.A. city officials] are doing alright, but if she was in charge of the homeless problem in Los Angeles County, I promise you’d see some real changes.”

Chadorchi said she is frequently approached by Jews in the community who question her for helping a non-Jewish cause like the coalition.

“It is our duty as Jews to heal the world one person at a time — tikkun olam,” Chadorchi said. “I’m here to let people out there know that one person can really make a difference.”

Individuals interested in joining Chadorchi’s efforts can contact her at (310) 288-0090.

Jennifer Chadorchi

MORE MENSCHES

Avi Leibovic: Guardian Angel of the Streets

Jack and Katy Saror: Help Knows No Age

Joyce Rabinowitz: A Type Like No Other

Saul Kroll: Healing Hand at Cedars-Sinai

Karen Gilman: What Makes Her Run?

Steven Firestein: Making Magic for Children

Yaelle and Nouriel Cohen: Kindness Starts at Home

Moshe Salem: Giving a Voice to Israelis

David Karp: A Guide for Unity in Scouting

7 Days in The Arts


Saturday, November 5

Santa Monica Playhouse Youth Performers perform some tikkun olam and a musical show all at once. This weekend, the 10- to-14-year-olds present “Drempels, aka: The Short but Happy Life of the Drempel Hieronymus Aloisius Plonk.” The musical comedy imagines a make-believe mischievous species called Drempels that live underground. Proceeds from today’s and tomorrow’s shows will benefit The Jenesse Center Hurricane Relief Fund in South Los Angeles, which is currently housing more than 300 Katrina evacuees.

7:30 p.m. (Sat.), 5 p.m. (Sun.). $20 (donation). The Other Space at Santa Monica Playhouse, 1211 Fourth St., Santa Monica. R.S.V.P., (310) 394-9779, ext. 2.

Sunday, November 6

In the Israeli film, “Joy,” the title character and her family are anything but. However, with the help of her favorite reality TV show, Joy Levine hopes she might be able to change her family’s lot by reconciling her parents with the estranged friends who pulled away from them after a mysterious event some 22 years earlier. The film screens on Nov. 5 and 6, as part of AFI Fest.

6:15 p.m. (Nov. 5), 4 p.m. (Nov. 6). ArcLight Hollywood, 6360 Sunset Blvd. R.S.V.P., (866) 234-3378. ” width=”15″ height=”1″ alt=””>

Monday, November 7

Veteran newsman Mike Wallace talks with ABC News’ Judy Muller this evening at Temple Emanuel. Having worked on “60 Minutes” since its 1968 premiere, Wallace’s list of interviewees includes American presidents, world leaders and classic entertainers. He reveals some of the stories behind the interviews in his new memoir, “Between You and Me,” and with any luck, tonight at Emanuel.

7:30 p.m. 300 N. Clark Drive, Beverly Hills. R.S.V.P., (310) 335-0917. ” width=”15″ height=”1″ alt=””>

Tuesday, November 8

Simms Taback offers up the differences between a schlemiel and shlimazel, and other vital Yiddish lessons in his book, “Kibitzers and Fools: Tales My Zayda Told Me.” He’s at Children’s Book World this afternoon for storytelling and a booksigning.

Ages 6 and up. 1:30-3 p.m. 10580 1/2 Pico Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 559-2665.

Wednesday, November 9

Bi now, gay later? That’s the question in Dan Rothenberg’s new one-man show, “Regretrosexual.” The neurotic Jewish guy is ready to propose to his girlfriend, if only he can get up the guts to be honest with her about his gay-curious sexual past.

8 p.m. (Tues.-Thurs.), through Nov. 17. $18. The Lounge Theatre, 6201 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles. R.S.V.P., (323) 969-4790. ” width=”15″ height=”1″ alt=””>

Thursday, November 10

Every holiday finds us overeating or fasting, but professor Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett takes the analysis a few steps further today. The USC Casden Institute presents her lecture on “Recipes for Community: A History of the Jewish Kitchen,” which explores the Jewish relationship with food from the 19th century until today.

5:30 p.m. Free. USC campus. R.S.V.P., (213) 740-3405. ” width=”15″ height=”1″ alt=””>

Friday, November 11

Being a celeb super couple can be tough. Consider how it feels to be Bennifer in Adam Goldberg’s new film, “I Love Your Work.” At turns somber and self-mocking, the film addresses the culture of celebrity through the story of a movie star who goes crazy trying to cope with his fame after marrying an equally famous starlet.

Regent Showcase Theater, 614 N. La Brea Ave., Los Angeles. (323) 934-2944.

The Circuit


In the Pink

Lladró, the world-famous Spanish House of Porcelain, joined forces with the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation at a private reception at the Rodeo Drive Gallery recently to launch the new Lladró Pink Collection. A portion of the proceeds went to the foundation. Stephanie Medina Rodriguez, director of public affairs for KCBS-TV and KCAL-TV, was honored for her ongoing commitment to the organization. (From left) Lladró USA President Juan Vicente Lladró, Rodriguez and Linda Briskman, mayor of Beverly Hills. Photo by James Louis

Help for the Hungry

MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger provided a total of $305,000 in grants to 15 organizations working to provide relief for those affected by Hurricane Katrina. The grants span Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana and support programs that offer food services to the victims of the storm.

Grant recipients include the Greater Baton Rouge Federation of Churches and Synagogues, Baton Rouge, La., $15,000; and Jacob’s Ladder: A Relief Project of the Union for Reform Judaism, Utica, Miss., $10,000.

“MAZON is an expression of the American Jewish community’s belief that all of us, regardless of faith, are part of the same human community,” MAZON President H. Eric Schockman, said. “During this time of great need, MAZON’s 100,000 supporters have responded in great numbers, enabling MAZON to provide critical relief to the region.”

Since 1986, MAZON has granted nearly $36 million in support of anti-hunger programs and advocacy working to end hunger and supply aid to needy families throughout the United States, Israel and other countries.

Donations to MAZON for relief efforts can be made at www.mazon.org. or by calling (310) 442-0020.

Beary Nice

As part of her bat mitzvah community service project, Nicole Sabolic, 12, of Northridge led friends and family members on a teddy bear drive to neighborhood homes and stores to receive donations of money and stuffed animals as a way to brighten the day of Providence Holy Cross patients. Sabolic and 10 of her family members and friends handed out the teddy bears to the patients at the medical center.

Return of the Scrolls

When the Topanga Canyon Fire entered Las Virgenes Canyon on Thursday, Sept. 29, and began moving toward Congregation Or Ami, Rabbi Paul Kipnes acted quickly and removed the synagogue’s three Torah scrolls to his home.

By that evening, the Calabasas congregation on Mureau Road was included in the mandatory evacuation. Once fire crews successfully contained the area the next day, Kipness and Cantor Doug Cotler led a procession of congregants to ceremoniously return the sacred Torah scrolls to the ark before the start of Shabbat services.

Music for Daniel

Each year, a festival of music fills the earth around Oct. 10, Daniel Pearl’s birthday, to celebrate his life and promote tolerance and “harmony for humanity.”

“Music Days is a musical protest against the hatred that took Danny’s life, in which musicians and audience together reaffirm their commitment to sanity and humanity,” said his father, Judea Pearl. “As the music blends with hundreds of voices from all over the world, people are empowered with the awareness of who they are, and what they stand for in a world gone mad.”

Daniel Pearl, a Wall Street Journal reporter, was kidnapped and murdered by terrorists in 2002 in Pakistan. A classically trained violinist, an avid fiddler and mandolin player, he used his passion for music to form friendships across language barriers and cultural divides. His participation in musical groups in every community in which he lived, left behind a legacy of musician-friends around the globe.

Daniel Pearl Music Days uses the power of music to promote cross-cultural understanding and reaffirm a global commitment to humanity.

“Music Days carry special significance in Jewish communities, for they portray Jews as active seekers of peace and dialogue, in a spirit of a Jewish American journalist who earned respect on both sides of the East/West divide,” Judea Pearl said.

One such event, the American Youth Symphony’s performance of Gustav Mahler Symphony No. 2 in C Minor, Resurrection, was held in Royce Hall UCLA last week.

Over 35 countries are involved and approximately 200 concerts are performed as part of the series.

Pearl said he would like to see more participation in the future from the Arab and Muslim communities. This year Morocco, Tunisia, Jordan and Pakistan were involved.

For more information about Daniel Pearl Music Days, visit www.music-days.org.

 

Fundraiser to Benefit Storm Victims


This Sunday, September 18th!

LALA & MOE’S

Jewish Experience & The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles Present:

LA Jewish Katrina Benefit

All Proceeds To Benefit Jewish Federation’s Hurricane Relief Fund

Featuring:

The Moshav Band

Comic Relief by:

Edgar Fox
Avi Leiberman
Plus Special Guests

Silent Auction, Special Prize Drawing, Kosher Food, And More!

Sunday September 18th 2005
3:00 – 7:00 PM
Westside Jewish Community Center
5870 W Olympic Blvd.
Los Angeles Ca, 90036

$25 Adults
$15 Students & Families
Space is Limited

For More information Contact:

Danwitz@LMJE.org

Community Sponsors Include:

Anti-Defamation League
Aish Ha-Torah
Ashreinu
Congregation Beth Jacob
Congregation B’nei David Judea
Congregation Mogen David
Isralight
Jewish big brothers
Jflicks
Los Angeles Hillel Council
The Chai Center
The Westwood Kehilla
Young Israel of Century City
And Many More

 

Kosher Stylin’


If we are what we eat, then at this moment I’m a big fat Gordo’s burrito with extra cheese. But I’m a veggie burrito because for the past several years, I’ve been cultivating my own brand of kosher. I like to call myself “kosher style.”

It’s a phrase that’s apt to confuse, so let me explain. No pork. No shellfish. No conscious mixing of meat and dairy. I’ll eat meat out, and though I pass on cheeseburgers at Barney’s, I wouldn’t ask Alice Waters to hold the butter in preparing my filet of beef ? la ficelle (assuming ficelle isn’t bacon). My theory: Unless I see dairy, it’s kosher enough.

I have plenty of friends who keep more strictly kosher than I do, but even some of them make exceptions — like bouillabaisse in France or lobster in Maine. I deviate when I’m the guest in someone’s home, and the options are slim — my rationale being that it’s better to not shame a host than to stick to my half-baked rules.

There are those who may cringe at my interpretation of Jewish dietary laws, but it’s not like I eat this way because the Bible tells me to. Nor do I see it as a mitzvah commanded by the God I’m not always sure I believe in. And it certainly isn’t because I grew up this way.

It began with a request from a Holocaust survivor who once advised, “Order kosher meals on airplanes, because the day you stop ordering them is the day they’ll stop making them.”

Forgoing regular airplane food was a sacrifice I could make.

I remember the first time a flight attendant called out, “Ravitz, kosher meal?” Heads of passengers whipped around to look at “the Jew,” and there I sat, donning my jeans, fleece and baseball cap, looking like any other 20-something American.

I didn’t want the attention, but when it came, I kind of liked it. That nasty little packet of excessively wrapped, overcooked — and yet simultaneously frozen — meat sparked conversation. People would ask me about my kosher meals: “I’ve always wondered what this is all about.”

I even got confessions: “You know, I recently found out my grandfather was Jewish.”

I felt like an ambassador for my people, called forth to enlighten flight passengers over stale rolls.

Soon I was changing the way I ate on the ground, pork products being the first to go. Then I struggled to relinquish shrimp, New England clam chowder, steamed mussels. California rolls were missed, until I found salvation in “imitation crab.” Then came the meat-and-dairy conundrum, which wasn’t that bad, barring the loss of chicken Caesar salads and my mom’s grilled bleu cheese steak. The mere thought of it still makes me drool.

At a crawfish boil I attended in Alabama this summer, people around me snapped off heads, slurping the prawns’ insides, while taking turns asking me questions.

“What, you don’t like this stuff?” “You allergic?” “What’s wrong with you?”

I stammered, embarrassed by the repeated calls of attention. “Well, you see, I sort of keep kosher.”

“What’s that?”

I blathered about split hooves and chewed cuds before someone interrupted, “But why do you keep kosher?”

I gave the best answer I could come up with: “Because it reminds me of who I am.”

In September, Sophia Café, a new kosher restaurant, opened on Solano Avenue in Albany, walking distance from my home. When I first spotted it, I was floored. How could a glatt kosher restaurant survive in a place like this? It’s not like the Bay Area is a bastion of religious observance.

I walked inside and got my answer.

There was the visitor from Los Angeles who said her son passed up going to Cal because kosher food was so hard to come by. There was the woman planning for observant houseguests from the East who will need places to eat. There was the father in an Orthodox family who kept thanking the owner for his restaurant’s presence.

The mashgiach, who oversees kosher practices in the kitchen, said it’s the only glatt kosher restaurant in the East Bay. He also said it wouldn’t survive on kosher eaters alone.

I have a feeling that a certain Holocaust survivor would have something to say about that. Lucky for me, the restaurant’s meat was served hot and without wrapping.

Jessica Ravitz completed her masters in journalism at UC Berkeley and currently is a staff writer at The Salt Lake Tribune. She can be reached at jessica_ravitz@yahoo.com.

Letters to the Editor


 

Special-Needs Support

I read with great interest your article on Jewish special education (“Support Still Lags for Special Needs,” Nov. 12). Like I do with any article related to this topic, it penetrates to my very being because I am a person with special needs.

I was born in the early ’50s with moderate cerebral palsy. Making a place for me in Jewish life was provided by compassionate religious school teachers and camp staff.

I was the token one. Yes, I benefited but could have benefited beyond my wildest dreams if there were programs designed for me.

Today, I’m an advocate for one of the regional centers. Although this agency is not Jewish, our mission is the same – inclusion. Inclusion, that’s the key word we advocate in all our presentations. We have come far in raising people’s consciousness, but we have somewhat further to go.

I’m wondering if the Commission of Jews With Disabilities is still in existence. I was once a member of this group that was composed of members with and without disabilities. We tried hard to shake the Los Angeles community with thought-provoking innovative ways of demonstrating that this population had many viable messages to teach.

I respect the notion that more has to be done in this arena. I look forward to hearing about future progress.

Susan Cohn
San Jose
Kosher Slaughter

Agriprocessors’ and Agudath Israel of America’s responses to PETA’s accusations are shameful, slanderous and insulting. Whether one believes that shechitah [ritual kosher slaughtering] is humane is irrelevant to this complaint, and PETA’s representative has stated as much (“Kosher Slaughter Controversy Erupts,” Dec. 3).

Agriprocessors demeans both the Jewish community as a whole and the events of the Holocaust by stating, “We’ll put them [PETA] on the wall with Hitler.” A recent inappropriate advertising campaign by PETA, which equated the meat industry with the Holocaust, was appropriately denounced by the Jewish community; Agriprocessors assertion equating PETA with Hitler should also be denounced.

Whether one agrees with the underlying motivations of the parties involved in this dispute, Jewish organizations should avoid accusations of anti-Semitism where none exist. This habit of crying wolf will seriously undermine legitimate claims in the future.

Dr. Alexander Werner
Studio City

Interfaith Marriage

Shame on The Jewish Journal (“A Happy/Merry Solution,” Dec. 3). Never would I have thought that a Jewish paper would accept interfaith marriages. It is one thing to condone interfaith marriages (95 percent of my friends have interfaith marriages). It is another thing to accept them, and tell them how and where to buy Chanukah/Christmas cards.

Are the Torah and Talmud just antiquated short stories? Does Jewish identity mean nothing to you guys? A Christmas tree does not belong in a Jewish person’s home. Plain and simple.

Interfaith marriages are forbidden by Jewish law. If you don’t believe in that, you might as well change your name to the Jewish-Christian Journal.

Eric Muscatel
via e-mail

L.A. Museum of the Holocaust

As the executive director of the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust, I feel that I must respond to some recent letters by Rabbi Harry A. Roth and Lawrence Weinman in regard to our capital campaign to build a permanent museum in Pan Pacific Park (Letters, Nov. 26).

The Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust is the oldest Holocaust museum in the United States. We have been in existence since 1961 and have been providing Southern California with ground-breaking educational progamming over the last four decades.

Thousands of schoolchildren, mostly non-Jewish, tour our museum annually, and we are the only museum in Los Angeles that is always free and open to the public, a true blessing in a city where many students and school districts simply cannot afford field trips. The museum pays for busing for districts that cannot afford transportation, as well.

The plan to construct a museum in Pan Pacific Park is not a new idea and has been the ultimate goal for the last 20 years. The new building will create a cohesive unit in Pan Pacific Park, as it will encompass the already existing Holocaust Monument that has stood there for many years.

From our new location, we will continue our important work, work that is not repeated by other cultural and religious institutions in the city. The Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust has partnered with the Museum of Tolerance, the Anti-Defamation League, The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, the University of Judaism, the Skirball Cultural Center, UCLA, the Gay and Lesbian Center of Los Angeles, the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum and countless other organizations.

I would encourage those who have not been to the museum or attended any of our programs to do so immediately. I can assure you, once you walk through our doors, you will not be disappointed.

Finally, I am not sure why Weinman and Roth see a connection between the oldest Holocaust museum in the country and the day school crisis in Los Angeles. Weinman and I disagree: I do not see us as a “community of limited resources” but rather a community of endless talent, resource and possibility.

Rachel Jagoda
Executive Director
Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust

Peace Recipe

I was touched by reading “Whose ‘Land’ Is It?” (Nov. 19), Gaby Wenig’s insightful, personal review of Barbara Grover’s photographic exhibit, “This Land to Me,” which helps us listen equally to Israeli and Palestinian stories that matter.

When our fears from this conflict hijack our best judgment and wisdom, art like Grover’s and other shared, positive human experiences can help us realize the equal humanity of the “other” and begin to treat one another far better.

Here on the San Francisco Peninsula, my wife, Libby, and I are part of a 12-year-old Jewish-Palestinian living-room dialogue group, preparing for our 151st meeting, still learning to change “enemies” into partners. There are now 10 similar groups here.

Another art – shared foods – and the human stories behind them, inspired us to print last month a first-of-its-kind 100-page cookbook, “Palestinian and Jewish Recipes for Peace.” Like Grover’s exhibit, it seeks to reveal the humanity of our two fine peoples. It’s described more at traubman.igc.org/recipes.htm.

Since I grew up in Westwood and graduated from University High, I was interested that “This Land to Me” was generously backed by Wally and Suzy Marks, who also helped develop the historic Helms Bakery Building.

I was raised on Helms breads and Knudsen milk. Later in my life, it was educator Gene Knudsen Hoffman, daughter of the creamery’s founder, who first said what I’ve learned is profoundly true: “An enemy is one whose story we have not heard.”

When Grover’s exhibit leaves, Libby and I encourage your Jews and Palestinians there to keep listening to one another’s stories. It can do small miracles. And sometimes big ones.

Len Traubman
San Mateo

Stands Firm

In response to Sandra Helman and Eric Gordon who disagreed with my stand on travel to Cuba (Letters, Dec. 6), I stand by my statements that travel to Cuba really only benefits Castro.

Yes, it feels good to help a few people. It’s nice to think of all the conversions and the revival of the Cuban Jewish Community.

I’m glad you try to stay in Paladors. The ad I complained about promoted tourist hotels.

The most important thing for Cubans is how they are going to survive. This means that they participate in Castro’s rallies, they pretend to be Jewish or Presbyterian or anything to get handouts. Synagogues are a source of needed items. This is not revival this is survival.

Cuba’s recent apparent relaxation of laws regarding religion is deceiving. Religion is infiltrated by and under the control of state security. (Castro’s equivalent of Hitler’s SS). Cuba’s Jewish community relies on many outside organizations for assistance. That’s money, which always ends up in Castro’s pockets, since his Mafia-type regime controls all retail stores on the island.

I won’t enumerate the human rights abuses, the involvement in international terrorism, the trafficking in human persons, the prostitution; this is documented by many sources, including the State Department.

Tourism is Cuba’s most important moneymaker. It is also an apartheid industry. The average Cuban is excluded from the tourist areas, suffers from food shortages, has no freedom of speech, no freedom of the press, no freedom to travel and no freedom to choose how to educate their children.

The island is a prison. The president vetoing the lifting of the travel ban is correct.

The fact that countries do business with Cuba, including Israel, and that tourism is flourishing, doesn’t make it right. I will wait until Cuba is liberated to visit.

Kathleen Sahl
San Pedro

Cause for Concern

In the review of Philip Roth’s “The Plot Against America,” I can find something of comparable concern in the events of today (“When We Elected Lindbergh,” Nov. 12). I’m sure many of your readers will see the same parallel, also in your article “The Left and the Islamists”

We Jews are in a worrisome situation as a result of the reports following the election. It is astonishing to see the joint support of Kerry by the Jewish community of 75 percent and the Muslim community of 90 percent.

We also worry about Kerry’s desire to seek support from “allies” in conducting his foreign policy. Would he subordinate the American foreign policy to the U.N? Would Kofi Annan be able to veto our foreign policy? In effect would Kofi Annan be president by default?

Jews, typically liberal, and the Muslims currently most threatening to the West is a strange alliance, very dangerous to us Jews.

Of 26 members of Congress who are Jewish, only one is a Republican supportive of the president. Of the ll Jewish senators only two are Republicans supportive of the president’s support for Israel.

If Kerry would have shown an inadequate concern for fighting terrorism, would his election have been a serious cause for concern for Israelis as well as our American Jews?

Jerome Greenblatt
via e-mail

Horrific Business

As a Jew, I appreciate the condemnation by rabbis across the country of the abuses videotaped at the largest kosher slaughtering plant in America (“The Kindest Cut,” Dec. 10). However, simply being outraged by animal cruelty isn’t enough. Each one of us must take responsibility as consumers and realize that our choices have consequences that can’t be ignored.

Slaughtering is a horrific business, and, whether we want to admit it or not, the animals suffer greatly. As if a painful death isn’t bad enough, the animals endure systematic abuses throughout their abbreviated lives on factory farms. The vast majority of farmed animals never go outside, rarely move freely and often endure mutilations without painkiller.

These facts alone should be enough for all of us to truly follow God’s intention of compassion and mercy and remove animal products from our diet. It’s up to us.

Josh Balk
Outreach Coordinator
Compassion Over Killing
Takoma Park, Md.

Animal Slaughter

I am an Orthodox Jew who is horrified by the reporting of what goes on at the Agriprocessors meat processing plant (“Kosher Slaughter Controversy Erupts,” Dec. 3). Though I am well aware that PETA has a double agenda, promoting vegetarianism as well as stopping the inhumane treatment of animals – and I only identify with the second (though my daughter is a vegetarian) – I wholeheartedly support PETA’s campaign against inhumane killing of animals masquerading as the most kosher type of shechitah.

As of today, I will no longer purchase any Aaron’s Best Meats or Rubashkin’s Meats.

Dr. Chaim Milikowsky
Ramat Gan

The Orthodox Union is to be commended for initiating an end to the horrible treatment of animals at the Postville, Iowa, slaughterhouse that were revealed on the PETA videotapes. But what about the many other violations of Jewish teachings related to animal-based diets and agriculture?

When Judaism mandates that we treat animals with compassion, can we ignore the cruel treatment of animals on factory farms, where they are raised in cramped, confined spaces without sunlight, fresh air or opportunities to fulfill their natural instincts?

When Judaism stresses that we must diligently protect our health, can we ignore that animal-based diets are major contributors to the epidemic of heart disease, many forms of cancer and other killer diseases and ailments afflicting the Jewish community and others?

When Judaism mandates that we be partners with God in protecting the environment, can we ignore the significant contributions of animal-centered agriculture to air, water and land pollution; species extinction; deforestation; global climate change; water shortages, and many other environmental threats?

For the sake of our health, the sustainability of our imperiled planet, Jewish values, as well as for the animals, it is essential that we consider shifting toward plant-based diets.

Richard H. Schwartz
Staten Island, N.Y.

Bush Voters

With regard to the ridiculously sterile opinions article by Cathy Young (“Idea of Dumb Bush Voters Lacks Reality,” Dec. 3). I am going to speak as a humanitarian, to perhaps shed some light on why people believe Bush supporters are “dumb.”

We believe that people like myself (a full-time waitress, full-time student) should not be paying nearly $400 a month in taxes. We believe that fear is not a good enough reason to vote for someone.

We believe that there are more issues to worry about than the war in Iraq and Israel. We believe that the Patriot Act is, first and foremost, an infringement on our constitutional rights. We connect more with a woman and her status as a human being than with a fetus and its pending status as one.

Liberals could care less about political IQ. We’re too busy worrying about the people who inhabit our world.

Chelsea
Los Angeles

I found this article to be perplexing, to say the least The implication is that Democrats consider people who voted for Bush to be dumb.

On the contrary, people voted for Bush for a variety of reasons. The voters included those who believed in one or more of the following: the RNP best supported Israel (blatantly false), provided the best defense against terrorism, believed in the Iraq War, held ideological beliefs consistent with the evangelical right-wing Republican Christians or knew their financial future was assured with this candidate.

Of course, there were others who had concerns with Sen. Kerry or perceived that the Democrats lacked a clear message regarding a wide range of topics (e.g., peace, jobs, outsourcing, fairness for everyone, health care, etc.).

However, implying that Democrats are not reflecting deeply on their vision and mission is simply untrue. A quick review of the Op-Ed section of The New York Times (Dec. 8, 2004) reveals no less than four articles regarding the need for the Democratic Party to energize itself. Many ideas are being considered, such as engaging citizens in the rural communities and using new methods to increase Democratic turnout in 2006.

Letters I have received from Sen. Boxer and the New Democratic Network, as well as articles from The Nation, also voice the need and commitment for the Democratic Party members and leaders to reflect deeply regarding a new vision that will attract a new base of Democrats for the future.

I see nothing dumb about this intelligent and thoughtful response.

Marcia Albert
Los Angeles

 

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Calendar


The Jewish Journal is no longer accepting mailed orfaxed event listing information. Please e-mail event listings at least threeweeks in advance to: calendar@jewishjournal.com.

By Keren Engelberg

Calendar

NOVEMBER 27/Saturday

SHABBAT

Hebrew Discovery Center: Nov. 26-28. Family Shabbaton with special guest speaker Rabbi Isaac Balaness. $195, $375 (couples). Ventura Beach Marriott, 2055 Harbor Blvd., Ventura Beach. R.S.V.P., (818) 348-4432.

ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT

Padua Playwrights: 4:30 p.m. Padua Playwrights presents a workshop production of “Tirade for Three” and “Gary’s Walk,” parts one and two of a trilogy by Murray Mednick. $10. Electric Lodge, 1416 Electric Ave., Venice. (310) 823-0710, ext. 4.

28/Sunday

ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT

San Diego Center for Jewish Culture at the Lawrence Family JCC: Noon-5 p.m. “Diversity of Life: A Photographic Exhibit” by Zion Ozeri. Free. David and Dorothea Garfield Theatre, 4126 Executive Drive, La Jolla. (858) 362-1348.

EVENTS

Yiddish Alive: 4-7 p.m. A new conversation group in Orange County. All ages and experience levels welcome. Temple Beth Tikvah Fullerton, 1600 N. Acacla, Fullerton. (714) 671-0707.

29/Monday

LECTURES

Sephardic Temple Tifereth Israel: 7 p.m. Discussion on “‘In God’s Image’ or ‘The Image of God’: a Spiritual Look at Your Brain.” $15 (includes dinner). 10500 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 475-7311.

ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT

Workmen’s Circle: 3-5 p.m. Stanley Schwartz presents his “The Peaceable Kingdom” sculpture. 1525 S. Robertson Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 552-2007.

Academy for the Performing Arts at Huntington Beach High School: 7:30 p.m. “I Never Saw Another Butterfly,” the story of one boy’s journey through the Terezin ghetto on the way to the Auschwitz death camp. $6. Huntington Beach Library Theatre, 7111 Talbert Ave., Huntington Beach. (714) 536-2514, ext. 4305.

MET Theatre Company: 8 p.m. Opening of “The Merchant of Venice,” the classic play reset in early 20th-century New York. $15, $12 (students and seniors). 1089 N. Oxford Ave., Hollywood. (323) 957-1152.

EVENTS

Beth Jacob (teens): 9 a.m. “NFL” Non-stop Fun and Learning, featuring four big-screen NFL games playing simultaneously. Free. 9030 W. Olympic Blvd., Beverly Hills. (310) 278-1911, ext. 120.

OASIS (seniors): 1:30-3 p.m. Yiddish conversation group. All levels welcome. $5 (per trimester). Jewish Family Service, 8838 Pico Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 446-8053.

City of Hope Singers: 5:30-8:30 p.m. Vocal group for singers of all skill levels from all over Los Angeles. Hope Village, Comedy Theatre, 1500 E. Duarte Road, Duarte. (714) 562-0860.

30/Tuesday

LECTURES

Caravan for Democracy: 5 p.m. Natan Sharansky, Israeli minister for Jerusalem and diaspora affairs addresses students and faculty at UCLA. Free. www.caravanfordemocracy.org. For more information, see page 16.

The Menachem Institute: 7:30 p.m. Rabbi Laibl Wolf discusses “The Art of Jewish Meditation.” ($5 in advance), $7 (at the door). 18181 Burbank Blvd., Tarzana. (818) 758-1818.

ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT

Hammer Museum: 7 p.m. Hammer conversation with screenwriter Bill Condon and author T.C. Boyle. Free. 10899 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 443-7056.

EVENTS

Jewish Federation of the San Gabriel and Pomona Valley Jewish Book Festival: 7:30 p.m. Author Kate Wenner discusses “Dancing With Einstein.” La Canada residence. R.S.V.P., (626) 967-3656.

1/Wednesday

LECTURES

Adat Ari El: 12:30-1:30 p.m. Erika Jacoby a Holocaust survivor discusses her new book, “I Held the Sun in My Hands – a Memoir.” $3. 12020 Burbank Blvd., Valley Village. (818) 766-9426.

StandWithUs: 7 p.m. Lecture by Khaled Abu Toameh, award-winning Palestinian journalist. $10 (in advance), $15 (at the door). Museum of Tolerance, 9786 W. Pico Blvd., Beverly Hills. R.S.V.P., (310) 836-6140.

Jewish Book Month: 7:30 p.m. Author Ruth Ellen Gruber speaks about her latest book, “Virtually Jewish: Reinventing Jewish Culture in Europe.” Alpert JCC, 3801 E. Willow St., Long Beach. (562) 985-7585.

ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT

Hammer Museum: 7 p.m. Some Favorite Writers presents Jonathan Franzen. Free. 10899 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 443-7000.

Wilshire Boulevard Temple: 7 p.m. (beginners), 8 p.m. (regular class), 9:15 p.m. -midnight (open dancing). David Dassa leads Israeli dancing. $7. Irmas Campus, 2112 S. Barrington Ave., Los Angeles. ddassa@att.net.

OPEN HOUSES

Valley Beth Shalom Day School: 9:15 a.m. Kindergarten Live. 15739 Ventura Blvd., Encino. (818) 530-4072.

EVENTS

Temple Isaiah: 4-7 p.m. Chanukah Bazaar. 332 W. Alejo Rd., Palm Springs. (760) 325-2281.

PROGRAMS

Northridge Hospital Medical Center: 6:30 p.m. The Healing Arts program offers its monthly topic, “Balanced Nutrition for Holiday Eating.” Roscoe Campus, Penthouse Auditorium, 18400 Roscoe Blvd., Northridge. (818) 885-5488.

2/Thursday

LECTURES

Israel Cancer Research Fund: 7 p.m. Dr. Timothy Cloughesy, associate clinical professor, UCLA department of neurology, discusses “Using Molecular Biology to Individualize Brain Cancer Care.” Free. Loews Beverly Hills Hotel. 1224 Beverwil Drive, Beverly Hills. R.S.V.P., (323) 651-1200.

California Museum of Ancient Art: 7:30 p.m. “Warrior Women of the Bible” with speaker Dr. David Noel Freedman. First in a two-part series, “Women of the Ancient Near East.” $15 (adults), $12 (seniors), free (members). Wilshire Boulevard Temple, Piness Auditorium, 3663 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles. (818) 762-5500.

ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT

L.A. Film School: 8 p.m. Larry Hankin’s “10 Funny Fables Plus 1” with cameos by Janeane Garofolo, Larry Hankin, Jeff Garlin, Jerry Stiller and others. Free. 6363 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles. (877) 952-3456.

3/Friday

SHABBAT

B’nai Tikvah Congregation: 6:30-7:30 p.m. A musical family shabbat. Services and potluck dinner. Free. 5820 W. Manchester Ave., Los Angeles. (310) 645-6262.

Nashuva: 6:45 p.m. Nashuva community service-oriented Kabbalat Shabbat.

Westwood Hills Congregational Church, 1989 Westwood Blvd, Westwood. www.nashuva.com.

ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT

CSUN Arts Council: 7-9 p.m. Eighth annual high school art invitational opening reception. Thirty-nine Valley high schools and more than 200 students are participating in the show. Main Gallery, N. University Drive, Northridge. (818) 677-2226.

Camelot Artists Productions: 8 p.m. David Steen’s “A Gift From Heaven” is the story of an Appalachian family’s demise. $28 (general), $20 (students). Beverly Hills Playhouse, 254 S. Robertson Blvd., Beverly Hills. (310) 358-9936.

Vanguard Theatre Ensemble: 8 p.m. Opening night gala of the holiday play “Greetings.” Champagne reception immediately follows the show. $23. 120-A W. Wilshire Ave., Fullerton. (714) 526-8007.

Imaginary Friends Music Partners: 9 p.m.-midnight. Jazz pianist George Kahn and the George Kahn Quartet play songs from their newest release “Compared to What?” Featuring Andy Suzuki, Karl Vincent and Paul Kreibech. $10 cover, plus minimum. Lunaria Jazz Club, 10352 Santa Monica Blvd., Century City. (310) 282-8870.

EVENTS

Chai Center: Dec. 3-5. Desert Hot Springs Retreat. Hot springs mineral baths, women speakers and teachers, gourmet healthy food, stress reduction, massage and informal classes. R.S.V.P., (310) 391-6691.

UPCOMING

Sat., Dec. 11

ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT

MnR Dance Factory: Creative drama workshops for children with Chicago actress/writer Lisa Diana Shapiro. Free. 11606 San Vicente Blvd., Los Angeles. R.S.V.P., (310) 826-4554.

Sun., Dec. 12

PROGRAMS

ATID (21-39): Dec. 12, 4 p.m. “Adventures in Judaism II” for young professionals ages 21-39, an afternoon of workshops, latkes, cocktails, “ultimate dreidel” and a Middle Eastern buffet. Sinai Temple, 10400 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 481-3244.

Dec. 30-Jan. 2

ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT

Wilshire Boulevard Temple: Winter Rikud in Malibu. Israeli dancing weekend. From $175. www.rikud.com.

Feb. 17-21.

PROGRAMS

Jewish Student Union: Applications now available online for the annual JSU New York experience trip. www.jsu.org.

SINGLES

27/Saturday

Conversations at Leon’s: 7:30 p.m. Post-Thanksgiving mixer. $15-$20. 639 26th St., Santa Monica. R.S.V.P., (310) 393-4616.

Jewish Singles, Meet! (30s and 40s): 8 p.m. “Not-So-Speedy Meeting” and game night in conjunction with Temple Ner Maarav. $9. 17730 Magnolia Blvd, Encino. R.S.V.P. by Nov. 26, (818) 750-0095.

28/Sunday

Jewish Singles Volleyball: 3 p.m. Volleyball and post-game no-host dinner. Free. Playa del Rey Beach court No. 11 at the end of Culver Boulevard, Playa del Rey. (310) 278-9812.

JDate: 7 p.m. (reception), 7:30 p.m. (concert). Performance by Israeli recording artist Noa. $45 (online only). Fred Kavli Theatre, Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza, 2100 E. Thousand Oaks Blvd. www.jdate.com.

New Age Singles (55+): 7 p.m. “Starlight Ballroom Dance” with music by Johnny Vana Trio. $10-$12. University Synagogue 11960 Sunset Blvd., Brentwood. (310) 473-1391.

29/Monday

Nexus (20s and 30s): 7:30 p.m. (beginners), 8:15 p.m. (intermediate), 9-10 p.m. (open dance). Israeli dancing lessons and open dance. $5 (members), $6 (nonmembers). Alpert Jewish Community Center, 3801 E. Willow St., Long Beach. www.jewishnexus.org.

Project Next Step: 8 p.m. “Coffee Talk” with coffee and pastries. $7. 9911 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 284-3638.

30/Tuesday

L.A.’s Fabulous Best Connections: 6-9 p.m. Dinner at Marmalade Cafe. The Grove, Third Street and Fairfax Avenue. R.S.V.P., (323) 782-0435.

Westwood Jewish Singles (45+): 7:30 p.m. Therapist Maxine Gellar leads a discussion about “My Most Embarrassing Moment.” $10. R.S.V.P., (310) 444-8986.

The New JCC at Milken: 8-11 p.m. James Zimmer leads Israeli folk dancing. $5-$6. Salsa, swing and tango lessons for an additional $3 (7-8 p.m.). 22622 Vanowen St., West Hills. (310) 284-3638.

1/Wednesday

Nexus (20s-40s): 6 p.m. Volleyball followed by no-host dinner. End of Culver Boulevard, near court No. 15, Playa del Rey. www.jewishnexus.org.

2/Thursday

Conversations at Leon’s: 7 p.m. “Date or Mate, What Are You Looking For?” $15-$17. 639 226th St., Santa Monica. R.S.V.P. (310) 393-4616.

J Networking: 7:30 p.m. The new Jewish networking group meets in the West San Fernando Valley. R.S.V.P. by Nov. 26, (818) 342-2898.

Mosaic: Dec. 2-5. Trip to Kartchner Caverns, Ariz. info@mosaicla.org.

3/Friday

Brandeis-Bardin/Makor Jewish Learning Circle: Dec. 3-5. Partnership weekend with the theme “The Search for Roots and Wings: Commitment and Creativity” with Rabbi Gordon Bernat-Kunin. $130 (singles), $240 (couples). Simi Valley. (805) 582-4450.

New Age Singles: 6 p.m. No-host dinner at Nibbler’s in Beverly Hills followed by Creative Arts Shabbat Service at Temple Beth Am. 1039 La Cienega Blvd., Los Angeles. R.S.V.P., (310) 838-7459.

Singles Toward Marriage (30-39): 6:30 p.m. Monthly Shabbat dinner with group discussions led by Rabbi Shlomo and Tovi Bistritzky. 5998 Conifer St., Oak Park. R.S.V.P., (818) 993-0441.

upcoming

Sat., Dec. 11

Sephardic Singles Havurah (40s-60s): 7 p.m. Chanukah celebration and potluck dinner with candlelighting, prayers, songs and dancing. $5. R.S.V.P., (323) 294-6084.

Jan. 21-23

J-Ski (20s-40s): Mammoth Ski Trip. $185. Also, March 2-6, Whistler Ski Trip. $759. JskiLa@aol.com.

Keren’s Corner

Le Nouvel Anti-Semitism

What’s new in French anti-Semitism? Head downtown Thursday, Dec. 2 to find out as ALOUD at Central Library presents Michael Curtis, who will discuss “Anti-Semitism in France: Past and Present.” The author of numerous books on the history of France and anti-Semitism will discuss the relationship between historic traditional anti-Semitism in France and its current manifestations, including new factors like the extreme political left and Muslim

Circuit


Music for hope

Tziona Maman came into Ohr Meir and Bracha Center in Jerusalem crying and very depressed. Her husband Tzion had both his legs badly injured in the Machane Yehuda bombing in 1997, and became addicted to pain killers. Before the bombing he had been a sculptor and was able to support his family through his art, but after the bombing he spent most of his time in a drug-induced stupor.

Ohr Meir and Bracha enrolled Tzion in a drug rehab program that successfully enabled him to be drug-free, and now he has started making sculptures again. His family is on surer footing financially, and Tziona is much happier.

On Sunday, Nov. 14, Ohr Meir and Bracha will be holding a fundraising concert to raise money for terror victims in Israel. In addition to providing counseling and referral services for the victims, Ohr Meir and Bracha, which translates to the light of Meir and Bracha, also gives weekly food baskets to victims in precarious financial situations. They also sponsor a summer retreat for terror victims.

The concert will feature the Moshav Band and will take place at 7:30 p.m. at Congregation Magen David, 9717 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles. $15 minimum donation. For more information, call Sam Saidian at (310) 922-3010.

Jocelyn’s Honor

Jocelyn Tetel, the vice president of advancement at the Skirball Cultural Center, was awarded a commendation from the City of Culver City on Oct. 25 for her contributions to the disabled community.

For more than 12 years, Tetel has served on the board of directors of the Kayne Eras Center, an organization that serves children with various disabilities and operates two group homes for adults with developmental disabilities.

She also introduced art by L.A. GOAL to the general community by installing two exhibits at Skirball’s Ruby Gallery. L.A. GOAL is an organization that empowers adults with disabilities to become independent and productive members of society by helping them to provide “passive education” (i.e., art works) to the community that will enable the community to relate to them and see not just their disabilities, but their abilities.

UJ’s Ugandan Connection

The University of Judaism (UJ) had a special visitor in October – Dr. Gilbert Balikaseka Bukenya, the vice president of Uganda. Bukenya spoke to the students about Uganda’s desire to emerge from the third world, an effort that is hampered by Uganda’s lack of infrastructure. Bukenya also spoke about Uganda’s relationship with Israel, and how Uganda is exploring the use of the kibbutz as a model for collective living and pooling resources for Ugandan farmers.

While at the UJ, Bukenya met with Gershom Sizomu, a rabbinic student at the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies and a native of Uganda. Sizomu is the spiritual leader of the Abuyadaya – the Ugandan Jews. Sizomu plans on returning to Uganda as that country’s first ordained rabbi. Bukenya and Sizomu spoke about Sizomu’s community and its need for fresh water.

At the end of the meeting, Bukenya raised the possibility of student exchange programs between the UJ and Uganda, and the possibility of training Ugandans in the UJ’s Graduate Programs in Nonprofit Management.

Gindlin Sings at Sinai

Cantor Mariana Gindlin was recently appointed to lead the religious service at Temple Sinai of Glendale. Gindlin was raised in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and her father sang in a professional synagogue choir for more than 30 years. Although she grew up singing, it was unthinkable in Argentina at the time for a woman to be a member of the clergy, so Gindlin decided to study psychology while taking voice lessons privately. Times eventually changed and Gindlin enrolled in the Latin American Rabbinical Seminary, where she studied to be a cantor.

“The first time I stepped into Latin American Rabbinical Seminary, I realized I was at home,” she said.

In the upcoming year, Gindlin plans to add a junior choir and build an orchestra to enhance services and other events. She also wants to spread her passion for Jewish music and create a stronger sense of community and a greater joy in congregational worship.

Temple Sinai is located at 1212 N. Pacific Avenue in Glendale. For more information, call (818) 246-8101.

Peter’s New Place

In other UJ news, Peter Lowy was officially named chair of the University of Judaism’s board of directors on Oct. 11 at a ceremony held at the university’s Colen Conference Hall. Lowy is the CEO of Westfield Group, a global real estate investment trust with interest in 124 shopping centers around the world. The Westfield Group was the original sponsor of the UJ’s Department of Continuing Education’s Public Lecture Series.

Lowy, who until recently served as board treasurer, succeeds Dena Schechter, who led the board for five years.

“Building on the work done by my predecessor, Dena Schechter, and others, I want to see the UJ reach its fullest potential,” Lowy said. “The UJ must always strive to provide the highest quality education and to positively influence Jewish life in our community.”

New in Northridge

Two Northridge communities got new leadership over the summer. The Sephardic Congregation of Northridge recently hired Rabbi Moshe Abady to be its new spiritual leader. In 2001, Abady and his wife, Leora, moved to Los Angeles from Israel, where he directed the Sephardic Halacha Program at Yeshiva Darchei Noam Shappell’s, to accept a teaching position at Maimonides Academy. Abady also directed the Youth Minyan at Congregation Torah Ohr and offers bar mitzvah lessons.

Rabbi Eli Rivkin and his wife Tzippi, and their three small children moved to Northridge from Brooklyn, New York to head up Chabad at Northridge. The Rivkins will not only focus on building up the already existing Northridge community, but they are also going to be doing outreach to the 7,000 Jewish students at CSUN.

For more information visit www.chabadnorthridge.com.

A Cop for a Cop

The Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA) held a special lunch on Oct. 20 at the Luxe Summit Hotel to honor Jona Goldrich, who sponsored JINSA’s Law Enforcement Exchange Program (LEEP) Conference in California.

The LEEP conferences, which also took place in Minnesota and Florida, were the largest counterterrorism cooperative training enterprises between the U.S. and Israel. The California conference took place Oct. 18-19 in Garden Grove, where policeman heard from six counterterrorism professionals from the Israeli National Police, the General Security Service, the Mossad and the Israel Defense Forces. The speakers discussed the best counterterrorism practice procedures with an emphasis on preventing and responding to suicide bombings.

The lunch honoring Goldrich was chaired by Lawrence Field and David Justman, and guests heard presentations from Gideon Avrahami, the director of Jerusalem Mall; Yoram Hessel, a retired senior officer of the Mossad; Gen. Shaike Horowitz, a commander of the bomb squad unit of the Israeli National Police; Brig. Gen. Amichai Shai, the commander of the crime investigation unit; Maj. Gen. Mickey Levy, the former commander of the Jerusalem Police Department; Brig. Gen. Shimon Perry, police and law enforcement attachÃ(c) of the Embassy of Israel; Steven Pomerantz, former assistant director of the FBI; and Cmdr. Shmuel Zoltak of Israel National Police’s crisis negotiation unit.

For more information on LEEP and JINSA, visit www.jinsa.org.

This Bud’s For You

Anheuser Busch, the company behind Budweiser beer, donated $100,000 to The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles in October. The donation will go to support a wide variety of education, social welfare and human services provided by The Federation. This is the 12th year that Anheuser-Busch has provided funds to benefit the Los Angeles-area community; they have donated more than $1 million to the Federation since 1994.

Stand with students

About 85 students from 32 universities spent most of Halloween weekend attending Israel in Focus at Ojai’s Camp Ramah, where they developed skills to speak for the Jewish state when encountering college campus hostilities.

“There are a lot of students in the same boat as my school,” said Tal Zavlodaver, 21, president of USC’s Hillel-based group SC Students for Israel.

The event, co-sponsored by StandWithUs and the Israel Consulate, included lectures from the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and Israeli consulate staffers plus pollster Frank Luntz; Gary Ratner, executive director of the American Jewish Congress; Maya Zutler of U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s Los Angeles office; and Aryeh Greene, an adviser to Israel’s Diaspora Minister Natan Sharansky. A Saturday night concert featured hip-hop’s Remedy.

The students, most involved with campus Hillel groups, came from Cal State branches in Northridge, Long Beach and Fullerton plus UC campuses in San Diego, Irvine, Davis and Santa Barbara. Other students came from Ohio, Arizona, New York, Canada and Australia.

While USC has more from campus indifference than antagonism towards Israel, 19-year-old Aaren Alpert said that on her UCSB campus, “Students are mainly apathetic; however the faculty tends to be more of a problem.”

“There is a fight on campus and these are the leaders who go back to their campuses and promote Israel,” said public affairs consul Yariv Ovadia of the Consulate General of Israel in Los Angeles.

“I certainly wish that I had been a student at this conference,” said Ovadia’s colleague, Justin Levi, the consulate’s academic affairs director and a UCLA class of 2003 alumnus. – David Finnigan, Contributing Writer

Bazel Draws Sabra Artists to Encino


Hanging out with a group of Israeli artists at a hot new cafe in Encino may not be the same as sitting on Dizengoff in Tel Aviv, but the conversation is as close as it gets for Los Angeles. Tempo is still great for Middle Eastern food and music, but now Cafe Bazel appears to be the spot for late-night carousing.

Named for a Tel Aviv street full of cafes like this, Bazel’s menu has Theodore Herzl on the front cover because it was in the Swiss town of Basel that he conceived the Zionist movement. The Bazel on Ventura, which has been open for six months, has shakshuka, beet salad, rugelach, tea with mint leaves, waitresses in tight black T-shirts and other women in tight black leather who arrive and sit right in front of the join and make you watch them eat. Long black limos are parked out front, facing off against a Lamborghini and a Mercedes on the other side of the boulevard.

Tonight we’re here with Roni Cohen, an Israeli artist who is telling friends about her new show at the Bank Leumi.

Cohen, who moved to Los Angeles in 1997, was a foreign press photographer during the 1973 war in the Golan and Sinai. An accident near the end of the war wrecked her leg and her camera and she went to study with Ran Schori at Bezalel Arts. She also studied in London and New York and began working in a variety of textures, showing at the Shafrai and Mabat Galleries in Israel.

In 1991, her house on Rehov Bialik in Ramat Gan was rocketed by a Scud missile (she wasn’t home, having escaped to Beersheva). With a damaged life and broken heart, she painted through waves of despair and hope. Working in red and black, signifying drums and explosions of not only war but of new energy, she began expressing what she calls "emotional and industrial landscapes."

Her show features abstract forms on large compressed felt rugs, acrylic and collage, and serigraphs and etchings of Jerusalem and Safed.

"I know the soul is here," she says pointing to her head. "I have a new life now, new friendships, new ideas — new everything."

Cohen teaches early childhood education at Stephen S. Wise Temple, and has a son in high school in Agoura Hills. She has had 11 solo shows in Israel and California and is a resident artist at the 825 Gallery on La Cienega Boulevard.

Back at Bazel, it’s after midnight and Israelis are still pouring in for dinner. The sidewalk tables are packed and the men’s bathroom has a widescreen television showing MTV. Deejays Shai and Ariel play Morcheeba and Zero 7 hipster beats behind the coffee bar. There is no alcohol here yet, but fruit shakes are popular. You can get Israel toast and Schnitzel Panko until 3 a.m.

"Tempo is forever," sculptor Uriel Arad says. But now this is his place.

Every time an artist comes to Los Angeles, like Israeli stand-up Naor Zion, who recently played the Wilshire Ebell Theater, "the place to be after the show is over is Cafe Bazel, for real," Bazel manager Nicki Zvik tells me. "This place will be jammed like it’s no tomorrow."

Cohen is drinking cappuccino with friends Eytan Rogenstein and Arad. Other friends of hers come to Encino from the newer Jewish communities of West Hills and Calabasas. One says the atmosphere at Cafe Bazel reminds him of being on Dizengoff because, "You see everybody."

But his friend disagrees.

"It’s the only place on this entire street," he argues, "so it doesn’t remind me [of] anything."

"Everybody and his opinion," says the first artist.

"Plus it’s too wide, Ventura," continues the second.

Cohen’s friend, the sculptor, also "works in construction, like everybody else."

Looking at the long black sedan parked near his table, he jokes, "I came in that limo." Then adds, "I’m driving it."

Directors, painters, football players, even actor David Hasselhoff comes to Bazel, according to Zvik. He says Hasselhoff claimed the warm chocolate cake the finest dessert he ever had in his life.

However, a shooting in the parking lot a few weeks ago slowed business for a bit.

"Ihiye b’seder" ("It will be okay"), Cohen tells Zvik at the coffee bar.

"It’s already b’seder," the manager assures her.

Roni Cohen’s art appears from Oct. 14 through Nov. 21 at Bank Leumi, 16530 Ventura Blvd., Encino with a reception Oct. 14, 5:30-7:30 p.m. Cafe Bazel is at 17620 Ventura Blvd., Encino, (818) 728-0846.


Hank Rosenfeld is a folk journalist.

Valley Festival Draws Thousands


It was a sunny day in Woodland Hills — perhaps a little too sunny — but the heat did not stop the 11th biennial Los Angeles Jewish Festival from creating some heat of its own.

"More booths, more vendors, more of everything" is how festival co-chair Nancy Parris Moskowitz described this year’s gathering, sponsored by The Jewish Federation/Valley Alliance and a host of Jewish organizations and corporate sponsors, which attracted a multiethnic group of some 30,000 people throughout the day. Moskowitz also welcomed the festival’s return to the Pierce College campus, where attendees benefited from "good parking, lots of access and lots of shade."

Ken Warner, Valley Alliance president, was proud that the festival’s $125,000 price tag "is not costing The Federation any money. We did this by asking businesses to contribute."

In keeping with this year’s social action theme, "World Jewry," Becquie Kishineff, who went on a mission to Argentina last November, enlisted the graphic art services of an unemployed Argentine Jew she had met for a special Jewish unity-themed jigsaw puzzle project sponsored by the Valley Alliance.

"He spent hundreds of hours working on it but he didn’t want to accept any money," Kishineff said. "There are people out there who still want to give."

And the festival gave its all in reflecting the diversity of Jewish Los Angeles. Among those occupying booths: Assemblyman Paul Koretz (D-West Hollywood) and Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Sherman Oaks); organizations and nonprofits of every stripe from the Anti-Defamation League to StandWithUs and Million Mom March; Yiddish and Jewish culture societies; and grass-roots clubs, such as the Pomegranate Guild of Judaic Needlework.

"Part of our mission is to have a visible presence in the community," said Bill Rice of GaySantaBarbara.org, which hosted the Gay Cafe alongside food kiosks Klassic Knishes and Kosher Connection.

Judaica and art vendors ranged from a Shop for Israel shuk to local artists. The Main Stage showcased live music all day long, and kids had plenty of activities to choose from — everything from rock-climbing and Family Stage entertainment, to the Temple Beth Torah of Mar Vista booth, which offered kids a respite from the heat with some storytelling. Keith Levy, director of programs at Congregation B’nai Emet of Simi Valley, showed children such as Abby Leven, 10, of West Hills, how to play the shofar just in time for Rosh Hashanah.

Abby’s father, Paul Leven, who also brought his wife, Saralyn, and 12-year-old son, Aaron, summed up the festival’s appeal: "We like to see our friends and to check out the booths."

The Circuit


Gonna Fly Now!

Zubin Mehta, Israel Philharmonic Orchestra (IPO)’s music director for life, announced that the orchestra’s first performance of its 2003 American tour will be a gala IPO fundraiser at the Frank Gehry-designed Walt Disney Concert Hall in downtown Los Angeles on Dec. 10.

“Intifada or no intifada, people are packing the concert halls,” Mehta said of the orchestra’s homeland success.

Joining Mehta and his wife, Nancy, at the Peninsula Hotel press conference in Beverly Hills were a clutch of IPO supporters, including gala co-chairs Margo and Irwin Winkler and Edye and Eli Broad; both couples will be honored at the concert banquet.

“The experience has been wonderful,” said Eli Broad of his years supporting the IPO. “It’s really enriched our lives. It’s a great way to not only support the orchestra, but the soul of Israel.”

“I’m a big fan,” said Irwin Winkler, the producer behind the “Rocky” series and Martin Scorcese classics such as “Raging Bull.” “It’s a great cultural ambassador for the State of Israel.”

Among those on hand for Mehta’s announcement: gala principal benefactors Vidal and Ronnie Sassoon; gala vice chairs Mel and Joyce Eisenberg Keefer and Annette and Peter O’Malley; and Denise Maynard, programming director at K-Mozart 105.1. Following the Dec. 10 event, the IPO will round out December with performances in Costa Mesa, Newark, New York, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C.

Welcome Back, Kosofsky

Congregation Shaarei Tefila of Los Angeles has welcomed its new spiritual leader, Rabbi Nachum Kosofsky, and his wife, Elana. Kosofsky, an L.A. native, returned to his home town from Columbus, Ohio, where he served three years as assistant rabbi for the Beth Jacob Congregation with Rabbi David Stavsky. The Kosofskys return to Los Angeles with their five children, Racheli, 7, Naami, 6, Meira, 4, Shmuel, 2, and Yechiel, 6 months.

A Dream Come True

Leo Baeck Temple organist Shiri Lee Pitesky was honored for her first 50 years as the Temple’s organist by helping her realizing her dream — to play “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” during the seventh-inning stretch at Dodger Stadium at the June 19 game.

A Verizon Horizon

Verizon Foundation contributed $50,000 to become the first corporate sponsor of KOREH L.A, a program of The Jewish Federation’s Jewish Community Relations Committee (JCRC) that promotes childhood literacy. KOREH L.A. has more than 1,300 volunteers currently reading with students in more than 50 LAUSD elementary schools.

Dinner with Julia

America’s first lady of food, Julia Child, was the honorary chair and special guest at “Endangered Treasures: A Celebration of Cookbook Preservation,” a Four Seasons fundraiser that grossed $50,000 to preserve rare historic cookbooks.

Sponsored by the International Association of Culinary Professionals Foundation (IACPF), the event attracted 135 patrons in support of the project that food historians describe as “doing for old cookbooks what the American Film Institute does for classic films.”

Luminaries in attendance: cookbook author and Journal contributor Judy Zeidler, actress Faith Ford, TV personalities/event emcees Susan Feniger and Mary Sue Milliken and keynote speaker Barbara Haber, author of “From Hardtack to Home Fries: An Uncommon History of American Cooks and Meals.”

“This was a truly magical evening that was made even more special with an appearance by the legendary Julia Child,” remarked food writer Amelia Saltsman, the event’s co-chair.

Child urged guests to support the cause and “do it with flair!”

For information, visit www.iacpfoundation.org/events.html . — Staff Report

A Pass-SOVA Tradition


A jar of gefilte fish, a bottle of Tzali’s grape juice, Manischewitz matzah ball soup mix, Streit’s macaroons, Trader Joe’s horseradish, matzah, Sun-Maid raisins. All the makings for a Passover seder — even if you’re homeless.

On a sunny Friday morning in March at SOVA’s humble West Los Angeles storefront, about 10 people — young and old — work together in assembly-line fashion to package these nonperishable items. These volunteers are unpaid, and the Passover kits are aimed at low-income, homebound and even homeless Jews.

Helping the needy is what SOVA (Hebrew for “eat and be satisfied”) has been doing since 1983, when Santa Monica deli owner Hy Altman and wife, Zucky, created the nonprofit organization.

SOVA’s three storefronts are open for four hours a day during the weekdays, during which the Los Angeles and Valley locations provide grocery packages for more than 2,000 people a month. A typical four-day supply of groceries — designed for homeless people without cooking facilities — includes canned and packaged grocery products, produce, liquid supplements and can openers. In addition to its food pantry services, SOVA provides referrals to an array of employment, legal and medical help services, as well as bus tokens.

There is a cap on how many times people off the street can solicit SOVA’s services: twice a month for the homeless, once a month for low-income, although exceptions are made for emergency situations.

Originally a Jewish Community Centers (JCC) program, SOVA transferred over in 2002 to the authority of Jewish Family Service of Los Angeles (JFS), a beneficiary agency of The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, as part of a post-crisis reorganization of JCC assets. SOVA operates on an annual budget of $560,000 culled from The Federation, government and municipal grants, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and private donors, such as the Edelstein Family Foundation and Carolyn Spiegel. Spiegel, who has purchased and donated products to SOVA for several years, even developed a system for combining coupons and advertised grocery store specials to donate goods. In 2002, she single-handedly donated more than $39,000 worth of products for SOVA’s clientele.

“Their income is so low, they can’t afford to cover their day-to-day costs,” said Leslie Friedman, SOVA’s director since the JFS takeover.

SOVA is a real roll-up-your-sleeves kind of team effort.

“The most rewarding element has been working with volunteers,” said Lirona Kadosh, the 25-year-old manager of SOVA’s West L.A. location. “In the end of the day, it’s tough, it’s draining. But you learn a lot.”

SOVA thrives from food collection campaigns supported by more than 50 area congregations, as well as other community entities. Passover — along with Rosh Hashana, Thanksgiving and Chanukah — is one of several holidays each year for which SOVA holds special distributions. The food collected during the High Holidays translates into an estimated $80,000 saved.

“We have a lot of regulars — homeless veterans, Russian immigrants, Latino families that just can’t stretch enough,” said volunteer Myrna Dosie, who is in her 12th year as a volunteer. About a quarter of those helped by SOVA are Jewish, many of them elderly, some Holocaust survivors.

Enter Hans, a man with a German accent, who comes in for his typical SOVA care package, which might included cooking oil, tuna, pasta, rice, spaghetti sauce, tea, cereal and toiletries, such as toothpaste, shampoo and hand lotion.

Minutes later, in walks another regular, Paul, who lives in the Crenshaw District. He feeds a family of five and has been turning to SOVA twice a month for supplemental help since 2000. He also has AIDS.

“They’ve been very helpful,” said Paul, an African American who learned about SOVA through AIDS Project Los Angeles. “They’re very personable and have always treated me with kindness. I don’t know what I’d do without them.”

Since 1989, Paul and Ruth Mittleman have dropped by the West Los Angeles station every week to donate their time. Ruth even got her friend, Dosie, involved.

What might not be so obvious on the surface is that SOVA not only assists total strangers, but often even helps the very people volunteering for the nonprofit organization.

Ezra Shemtob, 82, struggles to suppress tears as he tells his story, even after nearly two decades have passed. The Mittlemans helped Shemtob adapt to America when he was just a stranger to the United States in 1989. The former high school teacher came to this country a broken man — his apartment, career and car confiscated by Iran’s government, simply because he was Jewish. Upon his arrival in America, his wife died of a heart attack as a result of all of the stress they had endured.

Every day after synagogue services, the observant Shemtob comes down to SOVA to volunteer a few hours of his time. Given all that he has experienced, Shemtob credits the volunteering as crucial to his mental and spiritual health.

“He’s been here for 14 years,” Paul Mittleman said. “He’s been very sick, but he’s OK now. He’s been a very loyal worker.”

Shemtob, who has a son living in Los Angeles and a daughter stuck in Iran, gives back to the community “as a mitzvah, for the United States, which gave me everything.”

He appreciates the scope of SOVA’s outreach.

“SOVA is a good organization,” Shemtob said. “They don’t look at race, what color, what religion — they help everybody.”

Also helping expedite things on this Friday morning are a clutch of students from the Archer School for Girls and Harvard-Westlake School who are fulfilling required community service hours. Abram Kaplan, a Harvard-Westlake 10th-grader, chose SOVA because he remembers the charity group from his Temple Emanuel days.

“I’ve met a whole lot of cool people like Ezra,” said Kaplan, 16, who sees SOVA as something he would volunteer for even if his school did not require him to. Kaplan roped in his classmate, Eyal Dechter, who was less enthusiastic about his community service detail. But he conceded that SOVA is a good cause.

“It’s a good idea to help others in need, but I do it mostly because I have to,” said Dechter, 15.

First-time volunteer Simon Yeger had no problem getting into the SOVA groove.

“Everyone’s been very helpful,” said Yeger, now retired for four years and looking for ways to give back to the community.

What SOVA needs most right now is more volunteers, who can donate a couple of hours per week, and vendors, who would be joining supermarkets such as Ralphs and Gelson’s.

“We are very open and interested to hearing from vendors who’d like to contribute goods,” Friedman said.

Kadosh has seen a difference for the better since JFS took over SOVA.

“All of the adjustments have been for the better. We’ve had more access to food, an increase in help, more drivers and stronger support.”

And volunteers see SOVA’s mandate as an extension of what the Torah commands Jews to do.

“The middle name of Judaism is tzedakah,” Ruth Mittleman said. “Offering help to people is just a way of Jewish life, and here you can see your money at work. This is as hands-on as it gets.”

The SOVA Food Pantry Program is located at 13425 Ventura Boulevard, Suite 200, Sherman Oaks. For more information, call (818) 789-7633 or visit www.jfsla.org/sova/.

The three SOVA storefronts are: SOVA Valley, 60271¼2 Reseda Blvd., Tarzana. (818) 342-1320.

SOVA Metro, 7563 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles. (323) 932-1658.

SOVA West, 11310 Santa Monica Blvd., West Los Angeles. (310) 473-6350.

Leonard Green


Leonard I. Green, founding partner of the West Coast’s largest leveraged buyout firm and board chairman of the Los Angeles Opera, died on Oct. 25 following complications from heart surgery in Venice, Italy, where he was vacationing. He was 68.

Green, who co-founded the New York investment banking partnership Gibbons, Green, van Amerongen in 1969, became known as a pioneer in management-led, nonhostile leveraged buyouts, called "the friendly takeover."

In 1980, Green opened the firm’s California office. He left in 1989 to open Leonard Green & Partners, which acquired Big 5 Sporting Goods, Carr-Gottstein Foods Co. and Thrifty Corp.

Green, an opera aficionado, became a founding director of the Los Angeles Opera in 1986. He served as its president and chief executive from 1998-2001, when he was elected chairman. During this period, donations doubled from $8.5 million in 1998, when he recruited tenor Placido Domingo as artistic director, to $17.7 million this year. Green was also on the board of the Music Center of Los Angeles County.

The Philadelphia native earned his bachelor’s degree in economics from Cornell University in 1955, an MBA from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton Graduate School in 1956 and a law degree from Loyola University in Chicago in 1965.

Green is survived by his daughter, Suzanne; his son, Steven; and a grandson.

Kibbitz


Summertime means baseball, barbecues and kosher dogs. Not the pups you throw on the grill, the ones you take for a walk. That’s right — man’s best friend is eating man’s best food. KosherPets, a Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.-based pet food company, offers up “kosher-style” pet chow for your Jewish cats and dogs.

When did Fido turn frum? Martine Lacombe and Marc Michaels began cooking for their Dalmatian, Lola, in 1998, when traditional veterinary medicine failed to cure her skin ailment. “We lived in a predominantly Jewish neighborhood and always bought kosher meat,” Michaels said. “So we made Lola’s meals from Empire Chicken, rice, carrots and garlic, and followed kashrut rules while cooking it,” added the proud pet owner.

Lola healed quickly and shared her beauty secret with her dog park pals. The other dogs’ owners, who wintered in Florida and summered in New York, brought the “pet grub like bubbie used to make” to the left coast and caused a KosherPets Diaspora. “Our heads were spinning,” Michaels said. “The food took off and suddenly, we were shipping mason jars filled with kosher dog stew across the country,” he added.

Though neither Lacombe nor Michaels is Jewish, they are happy to serve the community and have immersed themselves in kosher culture. “We attend Kosherfest (the country’s largest kosher trade show), have met with rabbis from multiple certification agencies, and had our facility inspected by Rabbi Sholem Fishbane of the Chicago Rabbinical Council (CRC),” Michaels said.

KosherPets’ products never come in contact with dairy or dairy derivatives, are made chametz-free for Pesach (they received a CRC Passover-use endorsement), and are always prepared with meat from kosher species. (It is not necessary to have the meat certified by a mashgiach because it’s not for human consumption.)

Though they currently only sell beef-based patties, KosherPets is developing chicken-, turkey- and salmon-based recipes. And the chefs will soon be cooking for more than cats and canines. “We’ve received e-mails from so many different pet owners, that we’ll soon sell kosher bird, hamster, rabbit and even guinea pig food.” Michaels said.

If only KosherPets had been around to help out Noah on
his ark. For more information on KosherPets, visit

It’s Delish Is Delovely


Dressed in a white shirt and black pants with tzitzit hanging out the sides, a red beard and a big black velvet yarmulke on his head, Rabbi Moshe Grawitzky looks like any other yeshiva rabbi. But he’s not — or at least, not anymore. As the founder of It’s Delish, an innovative kosher food manufacturing and distribution company in North Hollywood, the ultra-Orthodox Grawitzky is as likely to be hobnobbing with the head buyers from all the large supermarket chains on the West Coast as he is with colleagues from Toras Emes, the school he used to teach at, while he establishes himself as a mover and shaker in the highly competitive world of retail food merchandising.

Grawitzky and his wife, Chana, started It’s Delish 10 years ago with $100,000 in start-up capital borrowed from credit cards and free-loan societies. They began with a small line of kosher-for-Passover nuts, dried fruit, spices and candy, which they packaged in bags and then peddled to supermarkets. As simple as the idea sounds, there was nothing quite like it available in California.

"Back then, there was no availability of mainstream, normative kosher snacks," Grawitzky says. "In the supermarket’s mindset, they were pitching toward what they thought made the most Jewish bang for their buck. They stocked a lot of gefilte fish and borscht –they must have thought that we took an IV of gefilte fish every morning for breakfast and had these lavish matzah ball parties all the time."

It’s Delish was started with the aim of changing the price and the quality of kosher food. The Grawitzkys wanted to produce up- market products at downtown prices, and, in Grawitzky’s words, "to enhance the joy of being a kosher consumer."

"There has always been some perception that if you were going to keep kosher, then you were going to be punished financially for that pleasure," Grawitzky says. "And I don’t like being taxed to the hilt because I’m Jewish. So we decided that kosher is never going to be more expensive if we can help it. If anything, it was going to be less expensive."

"It has also been a lifelong goal to make Yiddishkayt and Jewish products more user-friendly," he adds. "So we wanted to create a contemporary type of upscale snack that would complement the consumer."

Unlike Jewish food companies such as Manishevitz, It’s Delish offers consumers mainstream food products. And unlike Liebers and Paskez, sold only in kosher stores, It’s Delish is sold in mainstream supermarkets. Colorful packaging and an upbeat logo give the products a bright, cheery and contemporary feel, and when compared with the equivalent products in the supermarket, it wins the price test. At Ralphs on Pico Boulevard, an It’s Delish peach pie costs $3.99, compared to the Ralphs brand at $4.29. It’s Delish basil retails at $3.49 for 2 ounces, McCormick basil is $6.19 for one-third of an ounce.

The Grawitzkys’ dedication to bargain prices — they even put their kosher-for-Passover products on sale before the holiday — is not without drawbacks. "Sometimes that means we take a loss," Chana Grawitzky says. "When pine nuts went up to $12 a pound, we kept the same price, and we did not increase it, because our goal is to give great quality products at great prices."

Presently, the only thing inflating in It’s Delish are its business operations. The company now offers over 300 products which are sold in several hundred supermarkets in California, Nevada, Oregon and Seattle. Products are packaged in a Valley warehouse complete with a $100,000 temperature-controlled cooler room to store the chocolates and candy, and then shipped on one of the It’s Delish trucks to the supermarkets.

At times, It’s Delish will do "kosher runs" at non-kosher manufacturing plants, so that they can produce lines of products that are traditionally not kosher (such as sour worm candies). They recently created a line of kosher-for-Passover soft drinks when kosher-for-Passover Coca-Cola was not available in California.

It’s Delish has also created their own innovative packaging and storage for their products. It’s Delish spices are sold in larger plastic bottles with wide openings, instead of the smaller glass containers that spices are traditionally sold in. In addition, the company builds its own shelving specially designed to hold It’s Delish products to put in the supermarkets.

The company employs 40 people to do the packaging, the shipping and shelf stocking, with the Grawitzkys overseeing most of the product development and marketing.

"When we started it we thought it would be a mom-and-pop type of operation on a very small, localized scale," Grawitzky says. "A hobby so to speak. We never expected it to take over our lives."

He says he makes millions of dollars in sales every year, but not millions of dollars in profits. Although he credits the supermarket chains with being receptive to their dreams of quality kosher products, Grawitzky says that the financial reality of the supermarket business is brutal.

"There is a religion going on in the supermarkets now to save labor, so we send in our own workers to stock the shelves," he says. "We also need to pay slotting fees just to get the shelf space. We end up paying for the trucks, the space and the labor — and this is the type of system where you can drive 300 miles to make a delivery, arrive five minutes late and be told to turn back and come back the next day."

"But the fierceness of the competition to get an inch of shelf space is the most sobering thought of all," he adds. Indeed, It’s Delish does not even try and compete for shelf space in the spice or candy aisles, preferring instead to stock their products in a different part of the supermarket, where they can control the way that the products are presented to the consumer.

Product and display control are a big issue for Grawitzky, who recently turned down a distribution deal with the Wal-Mart chain. "It was an instant sale of millions of dollars," he says. "We turned them down because we thought that they would not do a nice enough job merchandising the product." He says that his displays have garnered praise from high-ranking supermarket executives across the country, and he is reluctant to give that up for the sake of a few more dollars.

It is not only kosher consumers that are enjoying It’s Delish products. Terry O’Neil, director of public relations for Ralphs Grocery Co. in California, told The Journal that It’s Delish is carried in many of the stores that serve a predominantly Spanish customer base, and it sells very well. "In a lot of the Hispanic stores that we have, it is selling better than in the Jewish neighborhoods," he said. "For us, it has been a very good product and a very good seller."

In the future, It’s Delish plans to increase its product line and distribution centers and hopes to continue being ambassadors for kashrut. "I want people to realize that we serve people who are lawyers, doctors, actuaries and venture capitalists making multimillion dollar salaries," says Chana Grawitzky. "They might live in beautiful homes in Hancock Park of Palos Verdes, but they keep kosher."

The Man of Lonesome Sorrow


He awoke from the nightmare with a scream, as he had every night for almost 40 years. His heart
raced, his body drenched in sweat, his mind filled with vivid images of fiery destruction. He saw rivulets of blood flowing through the streets of Jerusalem, the Holy Temple ground into ashes, the lifeless bodies of the priests scattered about the Temple Mount.

The dreams began after Jeremiah’s 17th birthday. At first, they were benign, inspiring.

Before I created you in the womb, I selected you; before you were born, I consecrated you. I appointed you a prophet over the nations.

I replied, Ah, Lord God! I don’t know how to speak, I am still a boy.

And the Lord said to me: Do not say, "I am still a boy," but go where I send you, and speak whatever I command you.

See, I appoint you this day over nations and kingdoms: To uproot and to pull down; to destroy and to overthrow; to build and to plant. (Jeremiah 1:5-10)

The nightmares came soon thereafter. As a child, he’d been taught that the land of Israel sensed and responded to the behavior of its inhabitants. "You shall not defile the land in which you live, in which I Myself abide, for I the Lord abide among the Israelite people." (Numbers 35:34) Suddenly, he could viscerally feel the revulsion of the land for its immoral populace. He was nauseated.

I brought you to this country of fertile land to enjoy its fruit and its bounty, but you came and defiled My land. You made My possession abhorrent. (Jeremiah 2:7).

Assaulted by the horrid visions each night, he came to loathe the petty evils and everyday cruelties accepted in polite society. The daily diet of deceit, betrayal and corruption — the common fare of all urban society — disgusted him. Everything which passed for normal, every commonplace practice of business, politics, religion, especially religion, appeared to him as a precursor to the coming catastrophe. He had no outlet for his rage but to proclaim the vision from the steps of the Holy Temple.

Will you steal and murder and commit adultery and swear falsely and sacrifice to Baal and follow other gods who you have not experienced and then come and stand before Me in this house which bears My name and say, "We are safe?" Safe to do all these abhorrent things? (Jeremiah 7:9-12)

The more bizarre his behavior, the more he became an anathema to family, community and state. Shamed and castigated, he was incarcerated, if not as a dangerous criminal, then as a lunatic and a social nuisance. His lonely sadness soon descended into despair.

Woe is me, my mother, that you ever bore me, a man of conflict and strife with all the land! I have not lent, and I have not borrowed; yet, everyone curses me! (Jeremiah 15:10) Why did I ever issue from the womb; to see misery and woe; to spend all my days in shame! (Jeremiah 20:18)

He had failed. Jerusalem was destined for destruction and nothing could save her. The carcasses of this people shall be food for the birds of the sky and the beasts of the earth, with none to frighten them off. And I will silence in the towns of Judah and the streets of Jerusalem the sound of joy and gladness, the song of the bridegroom and the bride. For the whole land shall fall to ruin. (Jeremiah 7:34)

Jeremiah awoke from the nightmare with a fearsome scream. But he knew that this day’s end would be different. The onslaught had begun. The Babylonian armies arrived and besieged the city. As he had seen thousands of times in his dreams, the walls crumbled, the city filled with terrified screams, the Holy Temple burned.

But the prophet Jeremiah, for the first time in 40 years, slept soundly. The horrible nightmares were gone; replaced by a new vision — of new beginning, of rebirth, of renewal. Divine love replaced divine revulsion. The prophet of national doom turned into a champion of spiritual resilience. With the same passion he had once hurled words of despair, he now pleaded with his people to hold fast to hope.

I will build you firmly again, oh maiden Israel! Again you shall take up your timbrels and go forth to the rhythm of the dancers.

For the day is coming when the watchmen shall proclaim on the heights of Ephraim: Come, let us go up to Zion, to the Lord our God!

Thus says the Lord: Restrain your voice from weeping; your eyes from shedding tears. There is hope for your future — declares the Lord." Your children shall return to their country. (Jeremiah 31:4-6, 16-17)