Jews share a sense of place in L.A. history


Coinciding with the run of the “Jews in the Los Angeles Mosaic” exhibition at the Autry National Center — and we hope, continuing well beyond — this issue of the Jewish Journal marks the beginning of a new monthly feature showcasing various aspects of Los Angeles’ Jewish history.

One doesn’t have to be an L.A. hater to share the commonly held notion that the words “Los Angeles history” are oxymoronic. While those of us who actually grew up here may have visited Olvera Street as third-graders and built California missions out of sugar cubes as fourth-graders, somehow we also picked up from our teachers that these were exercises in the perfunctory — this wasn’t a real history, or, moreover, a real city: it wasn’t old enough, storied enough, weighty enough nor city-like enough to merit a modicum of the attention deserved by the past of wherever it was those teachers came from. 

And if there’s truth to the conventional wisdom that Jews are just like everyone else, only more so, then most Jewish Angelenos’ connection with local Jewish history has been even more tenuous. “What history? Everyone came here after World War II,” responded the Los Angeles Hebrew High School principal when I proposed teaching a class on the subject for students some 30 years ago. (To his credit, despite his doubts he allowed the course to go forward.)

In fact, Los Angeles’ Jewish history can be traced back to the tailor-merchant Jacob Frankfort, who arrived here in 1841 and was the first Jewish resident of El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina de Los Ángeles. Nevertheless, it was, indeed, the thousands of returning G.I.s, along with their families and friends, who launched one of the greatest internal migrations in Jewish history, ultimately tripling the 150,000 Jews living here at the end of the war and forever transforming this city and its Jewish community.

Los Angeles, with its unique confluence of climate and geography, seemingly unbounded economic and cultural opportunities and an unending flow of newcomers, is now home to between 500,000 and 600,000 Jews. With 10 percent of the U.S. Jewish population, it is the nation’s second largest Jewish center, after New York. But even as the city nurtures the aspirations of Jews as individuals, Los Angeles also challenges Jewish communal life and identity and is, perhaps, a harbinger of the American Jewish future. 

Today, after a relative dearth of scholarly interest, the study of Los Angeles history as a whole, as well as local Jewish history specifically — and the intertwining of the two — is finally flourishing, whether it’s to compare similarities with other major cities and their Jewish communities or to contrast the differences. (One focus being, for example, the presence and impact of Hollywood, the relationship of its movers and shakers to their Jewishness, the Jewish community and Israel, and how the industry shaped, and continues to shape, the image of Jews). 

No less than a minyan of professors, as well as community and family historians, will participate in the public “Jews in the Los Angeles Mosaic Symposium” to take place at the Autry on May 19. In other developments, UCLA’s Center for Jewish Studies, in cooperation with a host of institutions, is in the process of creating a multimedia, digital archive called “Mapping Jewish L.A.” The Jewish Studies Interdisciplinary Program at California State University, Northridge, is starting a “Mapping the Jewish Valley” project. The recent “Light and Shadows: The Story of Iranian Jews” at UCLA’s Fowler Museum included moving installations depicting Iranian-Jewish life in Los Angeles by artists Shelley Gazin and Jessica Shokrian. A new entry on the Jewish film festival circuit is “Once Upon a Time at 55th and Hoover,” a documentary short by professor Andrés Enrique-Arias, about Jews who arrived in Los Angeles from the Island of Rhodes during the first half of the 20th century and built a thriving community around their synagogue, Ohel Avraham, the Sephardic Hebrew Center, then located in South Central. 

To me, just as significant as these academic pursuits is the heightened sense of place increasingly demonstrated by rank-and-file yidLAch (translation: Jews of Los Angeles, not to be confused with gridLAch, the tormenting of the Jews of Los Angeles by traffic), congregations and organizations.

Who would ever have predicted that Temple Beth Israel of Highland Park and Eagle Rock, moribund after the older Eastside neighborhood’s Jewish population began to diminish in the 1960s, would now be thriving, with many young families, a rabbi, religious school, and its 90th anniversary celebration planned for later this year?

Or, 10 years ago, during the meltdown of the Jewish community centers, that of the six JCCs then in existence, including several in more densely Jewish areas, the two surviving (and now bursting at the seams) centers would be the Silverlake Independent JCC and the Westside JCC? (Note to Silverlake JCC: It really should be spelled Silver Lake, to properly honor Herman Silver, the Jewish civic and community leader and water commissioner, for whom the reservoir’s lower basin, and surrounding neighborhood, are named.)

Or that in 21st century L.A. there would ever be a group called East Side Jews, self-described as “an irreverent, upstart, nondenominational collective of Jews living in Los Angeles’ East Side” and now teamed with Silverlake JCC? Or that the city’s largely unknown Yiddish cultural heritage would gain a new audience through the work of the organization Yiddishkayt? 

Across the city, several major preservation projects are underway, not merely to preserve historical landmarks as museums, but rather to lend them new meaning and purpose by reinventing them to serve contemporary needs. 

Last year’s reopening of the original 1915 Breed Street Shul — the last remaining of 30 synagogues in Boyle Heights and City Terrace, which had been closed since 1996 — has attracted standing-room-only crowds of Eastsiders, Westsiders and Valleyites for arts, culture, education and service. Programs offered there have ranged from an interfaith seder sponsored jointly with the Jewish Federation’s New Leaders Project and several b’nai mitzvah ceremonies. There’s also been a public conversation with Janice Steinberg, author of “Tin Horse,” a new novel set in Jewish Boyle Heights in the early 20th century (researched in the Jewish Historical Society’s archives), and a pre-Grammy concert and party for the Eastside band Quetzal, winner, the next evening, of the Grammy for best Latin alternative album. Probably the best evidence of the new enthusiasm is the fact that just four years ago, 6,000 Jews, Latinos and others gathered on the street outside the Breed Street Shul to celebrate Israel’s Independence Day at an event skeptics said no one would come to, since it was being held east of La Cienega Boulevard. 

Also in Boyle Heights, a coalition of Latino and Jewish activists saved the façade and a portion of the former Vladeck Center headquarters of the Jewish Labor Committee, as well as a 1964 mural highlighting neighborhood landmarks by noted Jewish artist Joseph Young, when both were threatened with demolition to build the LAPD’s new Hollenbeck Division police station. The Vladeck Center is now used by Hollenbeck’s Police Activities League youth programs, and Young’s mural graces the station’s community room. 

Notably, in the Mid-Wilshire district, the magni(n)ficent home of Wilshire Boulevard Temple is in the final stretch of the first phase of the restoration and redevelopment of its 1929 campus, which will ultimately include a kindergarten-through-sixth-grade Jewish day school, a tikkun olam (“healing the world”) center and additional space for programming designed to serve young Jews from the Wilshire Corridor, downtown, Silver Lake and Los Feliz.

And, most recently, in Pico-Union, musician and producer Craig Taubman has acquired the city’s oldest standing synagogue, originally built in 1909 for Sinai Temple but that served as the Welsh Presbyterian Church from 1926 until this past December. Taubman is in the process of creating there a multicultural and interfaith performing arts and worship space that will also provide culinary arts education and employment for underserved youth. 

We look forward to sharing memories and visiting together, in the pages of the Jewish Journal, the neighborhoods, personalities, events and institutions that make up this rich, colorful and special 160-year-old Jewish legacy found in our own backyards.

Stephen J. Sass is president of the Jewish Historical Society of Southern California and Breed Street Shul Project and is vice-chair of the L.A. County Historical Landmarks and Records Commission.

Calendar Picks and Clicks: Feb 9–15, 2013


SAT FEB 9

IRA GLASS

“This American Life” has earned acclaim for its in-depth coverage of news stories and unlikely subject matter. The popular radio program has redefined the way stories are told. Glass, host of “This American Life,” appears in person to reveal how the culturally significant weekly show went about “Reinventing Radio.” Live at his radio desk, Glass shares the secrets for how he unearths the drama and humor in everyday true stories, mixing clips, music and his own penetrating narration. Sat. 8 p.m. $48. Carpenter Performing Arts Center. 6200 Atherton St., Long Beach. (562) 985-7000. carpenterarts.org.


SUN FEB 10

SUPER SUNDAY

The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles’ annual volunteer-staffed phone-a-thon raises funds to help care for Jews in need, engage with the community and ensure the Jewish future. Shifts are available in both the Mid-City and Valley locations, including with Federation’s Young Adults of Los Angeles (must be 18 or older). Also, today marks the Federation’s first community service day of 2013. Sun. 9 a.m.-1:30 p.m., 5-9 p.m.: Jewish Federation, Goldsmith Center, 6505 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles; 9 a.m.-1:30 p.m., noon-4 p.m., 4-8 p.m.: Temple Judea, 5429 Lindley Ave., Tarzana; 5-9 p.m.: YALA at The Goldsmith Center. Visit jewishla.org to register or for more information.

 

“THE STREISAND SONGBOOK”

Singer and film icon Barbra Streisand connects with audiences of all ages and inspires artists of every generation. One of these is singer-songwriter Ann Hampton Callaway, who appears at the Walt Disney Concert Hall to perform music from Streisand’s timeless songbook, including “People,” “On a Clear Day,” “Evergreen” and “Cry Me a River.” The composer of more than 250 songs, from television themes to Broadway show numbers, Callaway was asked by Streisand to write the lyrics for the song she sang to James Brolin at their wedding. Lyricist Alan Bergman joins Callaway in a special guest appearance. Sun. 7:30 p.m. $50.50-$119.50. Walt Disney Concert Hall, 111 S. Grand Ave., downtown. (323) 850-2000. laphil.com.


WED FEB 13

“VIBRANT AND RIVETING: JEWISH ROOTS IN AMERICAN MUSIC”

Robert Greenberg, world-famous teacher, composer and raconteur, wears his admiration of Aaron Copland and George Gershwin on his sleeve as he performs and lectures about selections from the composers’ catalogs at Sinai Temple. Greenberg shows how these two composers drew on their Jewish roots and combined their own work with African-American and other indigenous American sounds to create the first truly American concert music. Wed. 7:30 p.m. $8 (Sinai Temple members), $16 (general). Sinai Temple, 10400 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 481-3243. sinaitemple.org.


THU FEB 14

“I NEVER SAW ANOTHER BUTTERFLY”

This one-act play for elementary and middle-school students follows child inmates of the Terezin concentration camp who created art as a way to escape the horrors of camp life. “I Never Saw Another Butterfly” centers around Raja, who shares her story about life in the camp, including creating a world of flowers and butterflies behind barbed wire. When Raja befriends Honza, the two unite the segregated boys and girls houses through a secret newspaper, Vedem. Several performances will be followed by conversations with Holocaust survivors. Thu. Through Feb. 17. Performance times: 10 a.m., 1 p.m., 5 p.m., 7 p.m. $12.50. Laguna Playhouse, 606 Laguna Canyon Road, Laguna Beach. (949) 497-2787, ext. 1. lagunaplayhouse.com.

 

L.A. RISING FOR WOMEN

Eve Ensler’s taboo-busting feminist hit, “The Vagina Monologues,” spawned the worldwide V-Day movement, which has raised millions to end violence against women. A nonprofit charity created in 1998, V-Day uses art, activism and international activities to educate and change social attitudes toward violence against women, even sending a delegation of women to Israel, Egypt and Jordan in 2003 to spread the word. Celebrate the 15th anniversary of V-Day with a live DJ and band, dance crew, V-Day drinks, a photo booth and more. Performers include DJ Nova Jade, who contributes to the Jewish Journal’s Oy Gay blog. The U.S. National Committee for UN Women participates. Thu. 8 p.m.-1 a.m. $10 (presale), $12 (door). The Joint, 8771 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles. onebillionrising.org.


FRI FEB 15

“HITLER’S CHILDREN”

Gathering testimonies from the descendants of Nazi officials, “Hitler’s Children,” a new documentary by Israeli director Chanoch Ze’evi, follows the descendants of Hitler’s inner circle as they struggle with their family legacies. Among them is Niklas Frank, son of Hans Frank and godson of Hitler, who despises his father’s past so much that he has spent his entire adult life writing negatively about him, and Bettina Goering, great-niece of Hermann Goering, who lives in voluntary exile and decided, along with her brother, to get sterilized so as to not pass on the Goering name or blood. Fri. Various times. $11 (general), $8 (children under 12, seniors). Laemmle’s Music Hall 3, 9036 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills. Laemmle’s Town Center 5, 17200 Ventura Blvd. Encino. (310) 478-3836. laemmle.com.

Calendar Picks and Clicks: Jan 19–25, 2013


SAT JAN 19

YUVAL RON ENSEMBLE

Oscar-winning composer Yuval Ron leads “Mystical Music and Dance of the Middle East.” Uniting Arabic, Jewish and Christian performers, the concert, part of the World City series at downtown’s Music Center, features songs of Sufi origin from Turkey, Jewish prayers from Morocco, Yemen and Israel, and chants from the Christian Armenian Church accompanied by Middle Eastern stringed instruments, a whirling dervish and a belly dancer. Sat. 11 a.m., 12:30 p.m. Free. The Music Center, W.M. Keck Children’s Amphitheatre, 135 N. Grand Ave., downtown. (213) 972-4396. musiccenter.org.

 

“LEAVING THE LAND OF ROSES”

Featuring artwork by Iranian-Jewish artists David Abir, Krista Nassi, Tal Shochat and Marjan Vayghan, the Shulamit Gallery’s second inaugural exhibition, a satellite show of the Fowler Museum’s “Light and Shadows: The Story of Iranian Jews,” explores what it means to be forced into exile while remaining connected to the sights, sounds and scents of a remembered landscape. Sat. 6-9 p.m. Exhibition runs through March 9. Free. Shulamit Gallery, 17 N. Venice Blvd., Venice. RSVP required: (310) 281-0961. shulamitgallery.com.

 

SUN JAN 20

ED ASNER IN “A RADICAL FRIENDSHIP”

The unlikely friendship between Martin Luther King Jr. and Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel is the focus of this new play by American Jewish University Whizin Center instructor Jane Marla Robbins. Asner stars in this staged reading as the Polish-born Heschel, who walked arm-in-arm with King during the 1965 civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery, Ala. Sun. 4 p.m. $45. American Jewish University, 15600 Mulholland Drive, Bel Air. (310) 440-1246. ajula.edu.

 

TUE JAN 22

EVA SCHLOSS

Schloss, the childhood friend and stepsister of Anne Frank, appears in person to give a firsthand account of the discovery and printing of Frank’s diary as well as provide insights into Frank’s life. Much like Frank, Schloss survived the Holocaust hidden in a Dutch home before being discovered by the Nazis. A Holocaust educator based in London, Schloss is a trustee with the Anne Frank Educational Trust, U.K., and has shared her experience in the books “Eva’s Story” and “The Promise.” Tue. 6:30 p.m. Free. USC University Park Campus, Bovard Auditorium, Los Angeles. (213) 748-5884. chabadusc.com/anne.

 

JESSIE WARE

Drawing comparisons to sophisti-pop chanteuse Sade, this soulful British-Jewish singer-songwriter is on the rise with a Mercury Music Prize nomination for her debut album, “Devotion.” Ware performs a free show at Amoeba Music and signs copies of her latest EP, “If You’re Never Gonna Move.” The South Londoner’s Wednesday show at the El Rey Theatre is already sold out, so don’t miss your chance to see her gratis. Tue. 6 p.m. Free. Amoeba Music, 6400 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles. (323) 245-6400. amoeba.com

 

WED JAN 23

MARTY KAPLAN

Kaplan, a Journal columnist and the Norman Lear Professor of Entertainment, Media and Society at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, discusses choices made, difficulties encountered and commitments solidified as part of USC’s “What Matters to Me and Why” series, which features speakers who helped shape the university. Kaplan draws on his broad career, which has spanned academia, government, politics, the entertainment industry and journalism. Wed. Noon-12:50 p.m. Free. USC University Park Campus, Ground Zero Performance Café main hall, Los Angeles. (213) 740-6110. learcenter.org.

 

FRI JAN 25

CENTENNIAL CIVIL RIGHTS SYMPOSIUM

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and Bet Tzedek Legal Services gather top-notch legal experts to take on challenging topics. Erwin Chemerinsky, founding dean at the University of California, Irvine, School of Law, discusses “The Federal Courts and Civil Rights Today.” ADL legal affairs director Steven Freeman moderates a panel discussion on “Civil Rights Topics Facing Minority Communities” with civil rights attorneys Jon Davidson (Lambda Legal), Constance Rice (Advancement Project), Thomas Saenz (Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund) and Karin Wang (Asian Pacific American Legal Center). Grant Specht, directing attorney at Bet Tzedek, addresses “Working With Challenging Clients: Ethics & Practical Solutions for Pro Bono Attorneys.” Fri. 8 a.m. (breakfast and registration), 8:30-noon (program). $36. Skirball Cultural Center, 2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 446-4244. regions.adl.org/pacific-southwest/events.

 

BRAD MELTZER

The best-selling author discusses “The Fifth Assassin,” the second entry in his Culper Ring trilogy. On the trail of a killer in Washington, D.C., who is re-creating the crimes of the four men who successfully assassinated U.S. presidents, archivist Beecher White discovers a shocking truth: All four assassins, from John Wilkes Booth to Lee Harvey Oswald, were secretly working together. Fri. 7 p.m. Free. Barnes & Noble, The Grove at Farmers Market, 189 The Grove Drive, Los Angeles. (323) 525-0270. barnesandnoble.com.

Temple Judea to hire Rabbi Joshua Aaronson


[UPDATE: Jan. 18] Members of Temple Judea in Tarzana concluded a yearlong search for a new senior rabbi by voting to hire Rabbi Joshua Aaronson on Jan. 16. The spiritual leader of Temple Har Shalom in Park City, Utah, Aaronson will join Judea, a 1,000-member-family Reform congregation, on July 1, replacing Rabbi Donald Goor.

Those who took part in the vote were given three choices: yes, no or abstain. Aaronson received 333 votes in favor and 46 against, according to Ellen Franklin, the synagogue’s executive director. There were 34 abstentions.

“I am honored to join this sacred community which for 60 years has been a beacon of vibrant, Jewish life in the San Fernando Valley,” Aaronson said in a statement released by the congregation. “Rabbi Goor has built Temple Judea’s reputation as a cutting-edge community of Jewish living, known throughout the country for dynamic educational and social justice programming, among other things. In fact, it is this reputation that draws me to Judea. In the months ahead, I look forward to forging lasting relationships with the members and staff of this warm congregation.”

Goor announced his plans last January to make aliyah along with his partner, Cantor Evan Kent, of Temple Isaiah in West Los Angeles. One of Judea’s associate rabbis, Dan Moskovitz, has announced that he is leaving for a pulpit at Temple Sholom in Vancouver. Associate Rabbi Karen Bender will be staying at Judea, Franklin said.

[Jan. 7] Rabbi Joshua Aaronson, of Temple Har Shalom in Park City, Utah, has emerged as the frontrunner to replace Rabbi Donald Goor as the senior rabbi at Temple Judea, a Reform congregation in the San Fernando Valley.

On Dec. 20, the synagogue’s board of trustees voted to approve Aaronson for the position. Now, in accordance with the Tarzana synagogue’s bylaws, the 1,000-member-family congregation will vote on Jan. 16 to determine if Aaronson will get the job. If approved in the congregational vote, Aaronson will start at Judea this summer.

“Any institution needs a leader, and the senior rabbi is a spiritual and communal leader of an institution, the face of the institution and the person who helps set the vision and direction of our institution,” said Ellen Franklin, executive director at Temple Judea.

Aaronson was selected from a pool of candidates that included Judea’s associate rabbis, Karen Bender and Dan Moskovitz. He is set to replace Goor, the congregation’s longtime spiritual leader, who announced his plans last January to make aliyah along with his partner, Cantor Evan Kent, of Temple Isaiah in West Los Angeles.

Goor, who became senior rabbi in 1997, oversaw a merger with the struggling Temple Soleil in West Hills in 1999 and a $27 million reconstruction of the temple’s Tarzana campus.

Aaronson was ordained at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in New York and has served on pulpits in Buffalo, N.Y., Cleveland and Australia. He has been a rabbi at Har Shalom, a Reform congregation with 300 member families, for more than a decade.

Aaronson would bring “22 years of experience and leadership to our synagogue,” said Temple Judea board of trustees president Andy Keimach in a letter sent to the Judea community on Dec. 21.

A senior rabbi search committee presented the board with Aaronson as its choice after approximately 1 1/2-years of work, during which the committee followed a hiring process prescribed by the Central Conference of American Rabbis.

Aaronson and the other final candidate — Rabbi Philip Rice from Congregation Micah in Nashville, Tenn., who ultimately withdrew his name from consideration, according to Judea’s Web site — spent weekends in December at the congregation, getting acquainted with the synagogue and allowing the congregation to get to know them. From Dec. 14-16, Aaronson met with congregants, studying, eating and schmoozing with them.

Congregants, Franklin said, were heavily involved in the hiring process, providing feedback on what kind of rabbi they were interested in having during focus groups, through surveys and during town hall-style meetings.

Calendar Picks and Clicks: Dec. 8-14, 2012


SAT DEC 8

Dana Berger and Dan Toren

Singer-songwriter Berger is likened to an Israeli Joni Mitchell. Toren is an acclaimed songwriter behind some of Israel’s biggest pop hits. The two appear together for an acoustic performance at The Mint. Sat. 9:30 p.m. $45 (presale), $50 (door). The Mint, 6010 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles. (408) 318-7143. broshproductions.com.


SUN DEC 9 

Kugl Kukh-Off

Calling all kugel aficionados! Whether it’s sweet or savory, the kugel is the ultimate in Jewish-American culinary creativity when it comes to the holiday or family gathering. Today, bring your best kugel (or your favorite tasting fork) to Yiddishkayt’s third quadrennial Kugl Kukh-Off. Part of the Silverlake Independent JCC’s annual Festival of Lights, which features live entertainment and fun for the entire family. Kugel drop-off and registration starts at 11 a.m. and tasting begins at noon. Sun. noon-3 p.m. Kugl Kukh-Off: $2 (all the kugel you can eat and judge). Festival of Lights: free (adults), $15 (children). Silverlake Independent JCC, 1110 Bates Ave., Los Angeles. (213) 389-8880. yiddishkayt.org.

 

L.A. Clippers Jewish Heritage Day

Celebrate Chanukah with the Clippers as they square off against the Toronto Raptors at Staples Center. Pregame warm-ups include a menorah lighting and a Q-and-A with rabbis. The Keshet Chaim Dance Ensemble performs at halftime. Your Chanukah gift from the Clippers: a free T-shirt. Sun. 10:30 a.m. (pre-game), 12:30 p.m. (game time). $20-$62. Staples Center, 800 W. Olympic Blvd., Los Angeles. (213) 742-7503. lajewishchamber.com.

 

A Holiday Celebration of Jewish Stories

Veteran actors Robert Lesser, Richard Fancy, Orson Bean and others bring to life stories by Saul Bellow, Sholem Aleichem, Grace Paley and Bernard Malamud, tracing the modern history of the Jews through fiction. The program includes Bellow’s “A Wen,” Aleichem’s “She Must Marry a Doctor,” Paley’s “The Loudest Voice” and Malamud’s “The Jewbird.” Directed and compiled by Matt Gottlieb. Sun. 2 p.m.; Dec. 11, 7:30 p.m. $20. Pacific Resident Theatre, 703 Venice Blvd., Venice. (310) 822-8392. pacificresidenttheatre.com.


MON DEC 10 

Wabash Saxons

Made up of former residents of Boyle Heights and Theodore Roosevelt High School alumni, this social club meets today for its 60th semi-annual luncheon. Former L.A. District Attorney Gil Garcetti appears as guest speaker. Mon. Noon. Free (lunch not included). Taix French Restaurant, 1911 W. Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles. RSVP to (310) 459-3620.


TUE DEC 11

Ronna & Beverly 

Ronna Glickman (Jessica Chaffin) and Beverly Ginsburg (Jamie Denbo) are America’s favorite 50-something Jewish mothers. Between them they have seven marriages, three children, some step-kids they never talk about and a best-selling book, “You’ll Do a Little Better Next Time: A Guide to Marriage and Re-marriage for Jewish Singles.” Tue. 8 p.m. $10. Upright Citizens Brigade, 5919 Franklin Ave., Los Angeles. (323) 908-8702. losangeles.ucbtheatre.com.


THU DEC 13

Zubin Mehta 50th Anniversary Concert

Celebrating 50 years since he was named music director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, world-renowned maestro Mehta conducts the L.A. Phil in a performance of Mozart’s Overture to Don Giovanni, Hindemith’s Symphony: Mathis der Maler and Dvorak’s Symphony No. 7. The Israel Philharmonic Orchestra’s music director for life, Mehta has demonstrated solidarity with the Jewish state throughout his celebrated career. Through Dec. 16. Thu. 8 p.m. $54.50-$187. Walt Disney Concert Hall, 111 S. Grand Ave., downtown. (323) 850-2000. laphil.com.


FRI DEC 14

Harry Shearer and Judith Owen

Actor-satirist Shearer (KCRW’s “Le Show,” “The Simpsons”) and his singer-songwriter wife, Owen, host “An Evening of Holiday Music and Mirth,” which began as an annual gathering for family and friends but soon grew too large to host at the couple’s home. Mixing traditional and nontraditional holiday music, the public performances have drawn such celebrity guests as Jane Lynch (“Glee”), Weird Al Yankovic and Shearer collaborator Christopher Guest. Who knows who will turn up this year? Fri. 8 p.m. $50. Largo at the Coronet, 366 N. La Cienega Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 855-0350. largo-la.com.

Observant life in progress


Barbara Heller likes to refer to herself as a “growing Jew.” 

The actress/singer has created a biographical show, “Finding Barb,” that traces her life from her dysfunctional family in Boca Raton, Fla., through her disappointing pursuit of an acting career in New York, to her indoctrination into Orthodox Judaism and, finally, to her present state of trying to balance her commitment to an observant life with her professional ambitions.

The play is running currently at Working Stage in West Hollywood, with performances continuing through Jan. 10.

The seeds of Heller’s quest seem to be rooted in the upheaval of her early home life. While her parents are caricatured in her play, she said the conflict between them was real.

“There was a lot of fighting in the house, not between me and my sister, but between my parents. 

“They both had their issues, and they both were really honest about it. Unfortunately, they shared everything with us, like their problems. But, on the other hand, nothing was hidden. I don’t know. I guess I got to see too much.”

Complicating matters, Heller remarked, was the feeling that she never fit any of the “boxes” into which she wanted to fit — she was never part of the “cool” group in elementary school, for example. She said it got better in high school, where she loved the extracurricular acting, singing and dancing activities and appeared in school productions.

Heller recalled that she was 13 when she decided she wanted acting to be her life’s work. She was in New York visiting her aunt, who was a lawyer.

“I looked at all the books in her office, and I thought, ‘Oh, this is so boring.’ And I looked at the cover of Time magazine. Jim Henson had just passed away, and I sat in her law library … and I just sobbed. I said, ‘I feel so much more connected to Jim Henson than to any of these books and being a lawyer.’ I remember that moment. I made a decision.  I said, ‘I have to be an actor.’ And that was it.” 

Heller attended Tisch School of the Arts at New York University but couldn’t finish because her parents were going through a messy divorce and didn’t have the money for her to continue there. Instead, she graduated from the University of Florida, in Gainesville, with a major in theater and returned to New York to try for acting roles. 

Although she did cabaret work, toured in an off-Broadway production, auditioned for numerous Broadway shows and got called back many times, she never actually landed a role on Broadway. She started to think about quitting. 

Then she was invited to a Shabbat dinner at the Upper West Side apartment of a friend she had met a few years earlier, when they visited eight concentration camps and Israel under the sponsorship of the World Zionist Organization.

That night, there was a security she had never previously enjoyed, certainly not when she was living with her parents. 

“I had no structure growing up,” she said. “So, to have even one dinner a week where everyone was loving and happy and there together, and there was good food on the table and we could have guests over — just the idea of having a wholesome, intimate Shabbat dinner that was loving was precious to me. I’d never had that before.

“I bought a dream that night.” 

She also met a couple there who suggested she attend a retreat in Orlando, which was being run by Isralight, an organization dedicated to “Inspiring a Renaissance in Jewish Living” through educational programs.

“I decided that weekend that I should go to Israel and study the Torah in the original text instead of the critical texts I had studied in college,” Heller said. “I stayed there for almost two years [off and on] learning in yeshivot.” 

She then steeped herself in Orthodoxy and endured years of match-made dating that is portrayed in her show as hilariously disastrous. 

But, for her, the woman’s role in Judaism does have a certain beauty. 

“I started to get really curious about what it means to be a Jewish woman,” she said. “What are the laws that I can embrace? I love the idea of niddah; I love the idea of a woman going to mikveh and praying, and being immersed in that water,” she said. 

During the period of her extreme Orthodox life, Heller spent some 10 years singing and performing exclusively for female audiences. She explained that it’s a very strict halachah for an observant woman to perform only for other women. But, ultimately, that limitation wasn’t fulfilling, and her current show is a way of reintroducing herself to more mainstream, integrated audiences.

As for dating, Heller said, as an observant woman, she didn’t touch men for six years. Still, she didn’t get married in the time frame that the rabbi said she would find a husband.

“I only dated observant men for nine, 10 years, and then I realized I’m not finding the right person for me. Maybe that’s because I’m not supposed to be fully observant in this very strict way. So, I started dating people who are not as religious, and I’m much happier, because I don’t really fit in the box of an Orthodox Jew.” 

At this point in her life, Heller said she considers herself “a growing Jew,” or “limmudnik.”

Limmud actually means ‘to learn’ or ‘learning,’ and I’m a learning Jew; I’m a growing Jew. I also teach Judaism. That’s part of what I do as a job. I teach Jewish students on the weekends at different synagogues and in their homes,” she said. “I teach Judaism, and I also run a theater camp for Jewish kids where there’s, partially, Jewish learning and theater studies as well.”

Heller concluded that her play is about finding a box that works for her, or taking pieces of different boxes and putting them together in a creative way.

“Finding Barb”

The Working Stage
1516 N. Gardner, Los Angeles 90046 (five blocks east of Fairfax)
(323) 521-8600
Thursdays through Jan. 10, 2013, 8 p.m.
No performance the weeks of Thanksgiving, Christmas, or New Year’s Eve
Tickets $25.00
Reservations: FindingBarbShow.Eventbrite.com/

Gifted diaspora teens


Growing up in Los Angeles, Asaf Shasha, then 16, had everything a teenager could want: a loving family, good friends and a comfortable home. 

Still, Shasha couldn’t shake the feeling that there was more to life than the fancy gadgets prized by the kids at his Jewish day school.   

“Life was becoming very materialistic. Everyone was starting to get their license and cars,” Shasha, now 18 and a high school graduate, recalled recently. “It was a movie life where you were judged by how much you have, how expensive your car is. I didn’t want to get into that. I didn’t want to become that.”

After discussing the issue with his Israeli-born parents, Shasha made a big decision: to finish high school in Israel.

He enrolled in the Naale program (aka the Elite Academy), which in the past 20 years has offered more than 13,000 mature, gifted Diaspora youths a fully subsidized three-year high school experience at one of 26 religious, secular or traditional Israeli boarding schools.

Although fluent in Hebrew, Shasha wanted to be with other teens from English-speaking countries (10 percent hail from the United States, 60 percent from the former Soviet Union and the rest from other nations), so he chose to live and study at the Mosenson Boarding School, on the grounds of the Mosenson Youth Village in Hod Hasharon, whose campus also hosts English-speaking students from other programs.  

The goal of the program “is to connect the students to Israel, to underscore the value of Israel to the Jewish people,” Chaim Meyers, the program’s coordinator at Mosenson, explained during an interview at the leafy campus. 

Roughly 80 percent of Naale students remain in Israel through high school graduation; of these, about 85 percent decide to live in Israel for at least another three years, often in an army uniform or advanced yeshiva program. Of the 15 percent who return to their home countries following graduation, roughly half move back to Israel within a year. 

Regardless of which school they choose, Naale students receive free tuition, room and board, medical insurance, a phone budget to speak to their parents, trips and a one-way ticket to Israel from the Ministry of Education. 

The staff — program coordinators, teachers, counselors, house parents — keep an eagle eye on the teens, virtually all of them living away from home for the first time.   

During their first year in Israel, the students study Hebrew 20 hours a week, in addition to 20 hours of regular coursework, much of which is taught in easy Hebrew.  

“By 11th grade, their second year, they’re studying in Hebrew,” said Ofer Dahan, Naale’s director of development for the Western world. “Everyone studies toward their matriculation and [the academy has] a 93 percent success rate — the highest in Israel.”

The 60 percent of applicants who are accepted to the program must first undergo tests and interviews to gauge their maturity level and their ability to be in a group setting and live away from home. Knowing some Hebrew is helpful but not a prerequisite. 

Once in Israel, students whose families do not live in the country are provided with a host family, where they often spend Shabbat and holidays. 

Floren Avraham’s parents sent her to Israel on the Naale program believing they would join her in a few months. But it took the New Yorkers nearly three years to sell their house and make aliyah (her father is a returning Israeli). 

Taking a seat on the campus’ central lawn, Avraham said she “loved living at home” but that moving on her own to Israel “made me much more independent, more confident, more open. It was an amazing experience, and, looking back, I can’t believe I did it.” 

Avraham’s adjustment was softened by the fact that her grandmother lives just a short walk from the school; her uncle teaches there. 

Unlike Avraham, Kareen Haim decided to move to Israel more out of a sense of adventure than anything else. Her Israeli-born parents are still in Los Angeles, “But they hope to move back to Israel in a few years,” she said. 

“I wanted a change. I went to a fancy school, and I was looking for something more down to earth.  People were snobby and looked down on people like me who aren’t rich.”

Since moving to Israel — which she had visited but didn’t particularly like — Haim has found the people “are a lot warmer than they are in America. And although she has many Israel-based aunts, uncles and cousins, Haim said, “My friends here at Naale have become my family because we rely on each other.” 

Although she calls enrolling in the program the “right decision,” Haim said she wouldn’t have minded a bit more privacy. 

“It’s like living in a small neighborhood where everyone knows everything about you — what you’re eating, what you’re wearing, how late you’re sleeping.” 

The positive side is that “the counselors really care about us; they call us a lot to make sure we’re OK,” Haim said.  

The students emphasized that the decision to attend Israeli boarding school shouldn’t be taken lightly, even by the roughly 50 percent of students who hail from a home with at least one Israeli parent.  

“The adjustment was very, very hard in the beginning, and at some points I wanted to go back home to my parents,” Shasha said of the homesickness he felt. “But thanks to all the support I received from the staff and my parents, and after seeing how happy the 11th- and 12th-graders were, after two months I felt at home.”    

While Dahan said that few if any parents encourage their children to apply to Naale solely to save the cost of a day school education, the fact that the program is free to participants makes boarding school in Israel a viable option.   

Avi Toledano, who oversees Naale at the Education Ministry, said the ministry invests so much into the program because it makes overseas students excited about Israel. 

“The hope is that after the kids come, the family will follow,” Toledano said.

ZOA L.A. office in doubt


Citing budgetary pressures, the Zionist Organization of American (ZOA) will vacate the small office it has rented in The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles headquarters on Wilshire Boulevard later this month. 

The pro-Israel nonprofit exercised an opt-out clause in October, passing up the chance to renew its one-year lease on a small office space on the building’s fifth floor, for which it has paid somewhere between $800 and $1,000 each month, according to officials from ZOA and Federation. 

National Executive Director David Drimer called the move part of an effort to cut costs;  ZOA’s tax-exempt status was revoked earlier this year, and the organization is currently unable to access any new donations. 

“It’s prudent to show that we’re managing the company in a cost-conscious way, no matter what the expense,” Drimer said. 

Drimer said the decision to move the office occupied by Los Angeles Regional Executive Director Orit Arfa out of the Federation building is not yet final, but as of Oct. 29, both Drimer and Federation confirmed that no talks had begun to discuss the group’s continuing on as a tenant. “This is what happens in the office-space business,” Federation President Jay Sanderson said. 

Drimer said ZOA, which has also put its annual fundraising dinner “on hold” this year, is paring back in many ways. 

Of the five regions where ZOA has a full-time executive director, one already works from home, Drimer said, adding that cuts were being made throughout the organization, including reducing the number of students participating in the upcoming mission to Israel to 15 from the usual 24. Drimer also said that at least one ZOA staff position that has been vacant since August will remain unfilled to reduce spending. 

But whether the spirit of austerity extends to the man who has held ZOA’s top job for the past 18 years is unclear. 

According to documents shared by ZOA with the Journal, ZOA National President Morton Klein has received a total of $1.7 million in compensation from ZOA over the years 2009-2011, and could be owed as much as $1.4 million in additional deferred compensation. Asked on Nov. 2 whether Klein himself had taken any voluntary pay cuts to ease the current burden on his organization, Drimer referred the Journal directly to Klein, who Drimer said was traveling in California. 

An e-mail sent to Klein and Drimer on Nov. 2 garnered no response, and on Nov. 5, Drimer wrote in an e-mail that Klein was unwell and would not speak with the Journal. 

Arfa also declined to be interviewed. 

The austerity measures trace back to the Internal Revenue Service revocation of ZOA’s tax-exempt status in February 2012, after ZOA failed to file its required tax forms for three consecutive years. 

The 115-year-old organization filed the required forms belatedly on Oct. 31 of this year, Drimer said; for now, however, all new donations to ZOA are being redirected to a nonprofit entity that will hold the monies until ZOA’s tax-exempt status is reinstated. 

ZOA hasn’t ceased operating, though. With assets of about $6.3 million in cash and other investments and a building owned by the organization valued at $18 million, ZOA has been funding its operations with existing funds. 

“We try to prioritize, just like any company, Drimer said of the possible closing of the L.A. space. ZOA National Vice Chair Steven Goldberg, however, saw the cut as possibly an attempt by Klein to retaliate against Arfa, who has been a vocal internal critic of the organization’s handling of its loss of tax status. 

In an internal ZOA memo dated Oct. 12 obtained by the Journal, Arfa expressed significant reservations about what she said were Klein’s requests that she conceal ZOA’s lost tax status, calling such actions “unethical and disingenuous.” 

“There’s no longer any pretense by Mort Klein that he’s acting in the best interests of the ZOA,” said Goldberg, who called for Klein’s resignation in an interview with the Journal in September. “It’s all about being spiteful and punitive against Orit Arfa and me for insisting that the organization behave legally and ethically.”

Goldberg, a Los Angeles-based lawyer who has emerged as the lone, loud voice of dissent on ZOA’s national board, was referring to his belief that the organization should proactively inform donors and the public about its loss of tax-exempt status. 

Drimer, who dismissed Goldberg as a “rogue board member,” rejected one claim Arfa made in her Oct. 12 memo, that Klein had instructed her “not to mention the loss [of tax-exempt status] at all” to potential donors. 

“Neither she nor any other ZOA employee has ever been encouraged to mislead anyone about the ZOA’s tax status,” Drimer said.  

The loss of tax-exempt status appears to have discouraged contributions from at least some potential ZOA donors; along with her Oct. 12 memo, Arfa submitted three e-mails as evidence of this. One came from Jesse Rosenblum, president of ZOA’s Orange County chapter, who said, “the ZOA image in the community is now at an all time low.” Another came from Mark Tannenbaum, who, in response to Arfa’s invitation to join the local board, wrote that he was “too uncomfortable” with ZOA’s loss of tax-exempt status and with Klein’s “excessive” salary to join. 

The third e-mail attached to Arfa’s memo was from Lew Groner, director of marketing and communications at the Jewish Community Foundation of Los Angeles. In an e-mail sent to Arfa on Sept. 28, Groner called ZOA’s loss of tax-exempt status a “game-stopper.” 

“I can imagine the ZOA’s non-filing of tax returns is an impediment for your fundraising efforts; don’t see how it could be otherwise,” Groner wrote. “Quite frankly, it doesn’t look good, smell good or feel good to any reasonable donor.”  

In addition to the uncertainty surrounding her future tenancy at Federation’s headquarters, Arfa has been getting other mixed signals from ZOA’s leadership. 

On Nov. 2, Arfa, after being informed by another ZOA employee that her account of her region’s activities would be omitted from ZOA’s upcoming annual report, sent an e-mail to Klein and Drimer asking why. The decision was reversed a few days later, but Goldberg, who was copied on Arfa’s e-mail to Drimer and Klein and shared it with the Journal, said he believes Klein has been threatening Arfa with termination, and that she wasn’t the only ZOA employee to feel that way. 

“The vast majority of employees, including in New York, are concerned about what’s going on,” Goldberg said. “Most if not all of the employees are working in fear of losing their jobs.”

Drimer rejected Goldberg’s assertion about Arfa. 

“Orit Arfa’s job has never been threatened in any way because of her questions on these matters,” Drimer said.

 But if the loss of tax-exempt status and the subsequent controversy has roiled ZOA’s leaders, members and donors in Los Angeles, the same can’t be said of all the organization’s chapters. 

The ZOA Michigan chapter in suburban Detroit is known to be the most independent of the regional chapters, and its president, Eugene Greenstein, told the Journal that his group was not involved in the internal politics playing out at the national level. 

 “We are minding our business and running our programs,” Greenstein said. “And we support the good work of the national organization.”

Union workers celebrate at Dodger Stadium


LAX workers were the first to begin the cheers.

“Obama! Obama! Obama!”

It didn’t take long for others to follow when the news broke out at Dodger Stadium on election night that Barack Obama had been re-elected president. That’s where hundreds of supporters gathered as part of a party organized by the Los Angeles County Democratic Party and the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO.

“Four more years! Four more years! Four more years!”

The crowd at the Stadium Club, a bar and dining area that overlooked the lit-up stadium, looked up eagerly at flat-screen TVs to take in the news. Union workers, community leaders and Obama supporters didn’t have to wait long to get worked into a frenzy. News outlets called the election for the incumbent just 15 minutes after the party started at 8 p.m.

Then Maria Elena Durazo, executive secretary of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, addressed the group, speaking from a podium and denouncing “the super rich and powerful.”

“Their money is nothing compared to the power of firefighters, teachers … and truck drivers, and nurses,” she said.

What Eric Bauman, chair of the Los Angeles County Democratic Party, expected to be a long night ended rather quickly. He tipped his hat to Florida Jews, saying that Obama carried Jewish counties in Florida by huge margins.

“Jewish voters by-and-large stood with the president,” he said. “This is a great victory for us today.”

Still, when Bauman took the stage later he reminded the crowd that the presidency wasn’t the only important contest up for grabs.

He didn’t have to tell Lowell Goodman, director of communications for Service Employees International Union Local 721, which represents 80,000 public employees in Southern California, including librarians, nurses, social workers and trash collectors.

Goodman said he had been out since 1 p.m. knocking on doors to mobilize people to vote against Proposition 32, which proposed reforming California’s campaign finance rules and banning the use of employee payroll deductions for political purposes. Union leaders opposed it, arguing it would limit their ability to participate effectively in the political process.

“Yes on 32 silences the voices of our 80,000 members, and what it says is the only ones who should have a voice in politics in California are the 1 percent,” he said.

Goodman, whose children attend preschool at Silverlake Independent Jewish Community Center, lives near the stadium in Angelino Heights in Echo Park. Asked if he was going to walk home, he answered:

“If it’s a good night, I’ll stumble home.”

Surviving a Survivor


It’s an age-old, common dilemma faced by adult children of aging parents: What is the right thing to do when those parents begin to lose their faculties? That theme is at the heart of “Surviving Mama,” by playwright Sonia Levitin, which opens Oct. 12 at the Edgemar Center for the Arts in Santa Monica.

“When you have an aging parent and you have to make a decision, it can’t just be a cookie-cutter decision,” Levitin said in an interview. “You have to take into account everything about that person — their early life, what they endured, their personality and how they are going to react. What’s going to be the next step for them? And people are very different. Almost everyone I talk to has an aging parent, and I hear many different stories — of sibling rivalries coming out, some parents going on their own, making a plan; others a little resistant.” 

Levitin’s play traces the life of Marlena, called Mama (Arva Rose as the older Marlena, Gina Manziello as her younger self), who, when we first meet her, is a feisty, independent woman of German-Jewish heritage in her mid-80s. She has almost set her apartment on fire and is displaying other signs of encroaching dementia. Her youngest daughter, Anne (Manziello, in a dual role) continually clashes with her middle daughter, Stella (Sharon Rosner), over whether to put Mama in a home, and it is clear Mama resists the idea with all her might.

Much of the action is shown in flashback, as we revisit significant events in Marlena’s life. The story reverts to Germany in 1923, when, at the age of 26, she exhibits the strength and resolve that will carry her through life by defying her autocratic father, learning a profession, and marrying the charming, flamboyant Gustav (Peter Lucas). Fifteen years later, with the advent of Nazism, Gustav flees to Cuba, and Marlena escapes to Switzerland with their three young daughters, where they are helped by a priest who enlists the aid of a Catholic family.

The following year, Marlena, the girls and Gustav reunite in America, and Gustav, who is a designer, goes into the shmatte business. But he is a womanizer, and Marlena endures an unhappy marriage.  

After Gustav dies, Marlena falls in love and has a short-lived relationship with another man as the dementia overtakes her.

Levitin based the work on her own late mother’s life, incorporating memories her mother related, as well as on her own recollections, some of which go back to her days as a young child in Nazi Germany.

“I remember that Hitler parade that I refer to in the play. It was very frightening.  I remember scattered things. I remember being in Switzerland.”

Levitin said she also remembers how impoverished she, her mother and her sisters were in Switzerland. “My mother wasn’t allowed to work because she wasn’t a citizen, and you had to be a citizen. She was willing to do anything, and she was absolutely destitute. She went to an agency that was supposed to help refugees, and they told her to go back to Germany. She did go to a rabbi, and he found families for her who were not Jewish but would take the children.” 

Once in America, Levitin’s mother, who had been raised in a beautiful home, with a nanny and maids, still struggled. “She had to work,” Levitin recalled, “and she had to work at very grimy jobs, cleaning other people’s houses, scrubbing the floor, after hours, in a restaurant. This is a woman who came from a well-to-do family.

“My mother’s experience has had an effect on my children, in that they understood her independence and her courage,” Levitin added.

Levitin recalls that just as the character of Anne, her counterpart in the script, is in denial about Marlena’s dementia, she herself could never acknowledge her mother’s mental deterioration. 

“Anne says in the play, ‘You know, I haven’t even said it to myself.’ And it was gradual, and the truth is, I never said it until this woman came over to assess her, the woman who ran the group home, who was lovely. She met my mother, and we talked. I remember it was outside on the lawn, and my mother went in for a sweater or something, and the woman said, ‘Well, she’s going to fit right in. They’re all demented.’ It was like the bottom had just dropped out. Yes, I knew, but I didn’t know. I had managed her; I really had.”

The character of Marlena as an old woman shares her life story with the viewer at key moments in the play, coming to the apron of the stage to address the audience directly. Those segments transition into flashbacks, and, for director Doug Kaback, they represent Marlena’s growing isolation.

“Her mind is drifting to the events of her past, and I think what she’s really analyzing and experiencing in a way, because we bring these events to life, is a sort of validation of the things that she did to save her children and herself, to hold on to a marriage that was proving very fateful and without passion. Her arc is to come to terms with that and to recognize that, even though she sometimes has a caustic character, she has tremendous love and value, and has accomplished really heroic things in her lifetime.”

But, Kaback added, she is burdened by a lifelong sense of guilt.

“She carries such a huge weight, and this terrible horror of what she experienced getting out of Nazi Germany, and the fact that so many loved ones remained, and that she couldn’t help them, and the tragedy of their early deaths, is something that she just can’t quite make whole for herself.  Consequently, she drifts more and more internally, into a world of loss, and she’s pulling back from life in a way.” 

Rose, who plays Marlena, believes that her character’s guilt over having left her contentious mother, Lucie (also played by Rose), in Germany as the Nazis were taking power is pivotal.

“It creates a deep sadness, a great defensiveness and a depression that is not uncommon in many Eastern European Jews,” Rose said. “We come to guilt easily. She didn’t just abandon her mother. She abandoned her mother knowing, in her gut, that she was abandoning her to something terrible. So, even though she begged her to leave, she knew that she could have done more, and that it was, to a certain degree, self-serving that she didn’t do more.”

Rose was particularly drawn to this material because of its ethnic underpinnings. “I’m very Jewish. Most of the theater that I do, that is of consequence and that matters to me, often has a Jewish theme. I am not just an actor. For the last 25 years, I’ve been a family therapist, and the combination of the family dynamics, the Jewishness of the plot and the characters, made it completely irresistible to me.”

Rose would like the play to transmit a sense of what she calls “the incredible bond between family members, particularly mothers and daughters.”

And Kaback hopes that “whatever station we’re at in life, we’re able to see in Marlena a reflection of ourselves, and a recognition that we, too, have to confront some very challenging and difficult questions as we grow older.”

As for what Levitin would like audiences to take from her play: “I want them to come away with a feeling of the fullness of life, the triumph of life and of people over all the things that can befall them. I want them to become encouraged by the show, and to say, ‘Wow! That was a woman who knew how to live.’ ”

 


“Surviving Mama”

Edgemar Center for the Arts, on the Main Stage

2437 Main St., Santa Monica, CA 90405

Oct. 12- Nov. 18

Fri. at 8 pm, Saturday at 3 and and 8 pm, Sunday at 5 pm.

Tickets:  $34.99

RESERVATIONS: (310) 392-7327

ONLINE TICKETING: http://www.edgemarcenter.org/ 

Fairfax Legacy Gala a Lion-Sized Success


When theater producers Pierson Blaetz and Whitney Weston established Friends of Fairfax to help Fairfax High School in 1998, they came up with the Melrose Trading Post, a flea market held every weekend in the high school’s parking lot. But the annual $200,000 from the Trading Post has not been enough to help Fairfax High cover the shortfall it’s currently facing due to statewide cuts in education spending. 

On Oct. 6, the Friends of Fairfax held its inaugural Legacy Gala and Hall of Fame Induction at the vintage Wilshire Ebell, where 500 people, including Fairfax alumni such as L.A. County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, attended to give back to the school that enriched their education and their lives. Honorees included philanthropists Joyce Eisenberg-Keefer and Annette Shapiro, Broadcom founder Henry Samueli, and the patron saint of Fairfax High’s music program, Herb Alpert.

Following dinner, the auditorium presentation saw Eisenberg-Keefer, who has supported myriad Jewish and medical institutions, and Shapiro, president of the board of Beit T’Shuvah, receive their medals of honor.

During his turn, Marconi Prize-winner Samueli spoke about how Fairfax helped put him on the path to becoming an electrical engineer. He credited Fairfax with “having good teachers who are passionate about what they teach” for furthering his education,” and urged people to support the school and make sure “they continue that tradition.”

After receiving his medal, Alpert, 77, was joined onstage by pianist Bill Cantos, drummer Michael Shapiro, bassist Hussain Jiffry, and Alpert’ wife, singer Lani Hall. 

Alpert performed a full-length concert for attendees, playing standards such as “Fever,” “Moon Dance” and “Mas Que Nada.”

Seeing Alpert perform brought back memories for Yaroslavsky, who as a Fairfax student in 1966 saw Alpert return to Fairfax with his Tijuana Brass at the peak of his success.
“They had to play two assembly concerts because they could not fit all the students in,” he recalled.

Calendar Picks and Clicks: Sept. 29 – Oct. 5, 2012


[SAT SEPT 29]

MUSEUM DAY LIVE!

Smithsonian magazine hosts a free day at participating museums, including the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust, The Grammy Museum, the Santa Monica Museum of Art, the Pasadena Museum of California Art and the Autry National Center. Zimmer Children’s Museum, which is closed on Saturdays, will be open for Museum Day on Sunday, Sept. 30. Sat. Free (registration required, ticket information on Web site). Various times, locations. smithsonianmag.com/museumday.


[SUN SEPT 30]

 SUKKOT PICNIC

Join the Israeli Leadership Council, MATI and Mitchabrim — organizations dedicated to strengthening the Israeli-American community — at this folksy Sukkot festival. Arts and crafts, Israeli folk dancing, sukkah decorating, kids’ activities and more make it a can’t-miss event for the entire family. Sun. 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Free. Warner Center Park, 5800 Topanga Canyon Blvd., Woodland Hills. (818) 466-6454. jewishla.org.

11TH ANNUAL WEST HOLLYWOOD BOOK FAIR

West Hollywood’s celebration of the written word features more than 220 authors and artists. Speakers include “Saturday Night Live” alum Rachel Dratch (“Girl Walks Into a Bar”) and comedy writer David Misch (“Funny: The Book”); Journal columnist Bill Boyarsky (“Inventing L.A.”); political commentators Robert Scheer (“The Great American Stickup”) and Nancy L. Cohen (“Delirium”); novelists David Brin (“Existence”), Seth Greenland (“The Angry Buddhist”), Tod Goldberg (“Living Dead Girl”), Gregg Hurwitz (“The Survivor”), Stephen Jay Schwartz (“Beat”) and Jerry Stahl (“Pain Killers”); and children’s writers Amy Goldman Koss (“Side Effects”) and Eugene Yelchin (“Breaking Stalin’s Nose”). Attend writer’s workshops, poetry readings and performances, and peruse more than 75 exhibitor booths featuring publishers, booksellers and writing groups. Sun. 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Free (includes admission, shuttle and parking). West Hollywood Library and West Hollywood Park, 625 N. San Vicente Blvd., West Hollywood. westhollywoodbookfair.org.


[MON OCT 1]

“VOICES UNITED”

Comedian Sarah Silverman joins actor Russell Brand and singer-songwriters Catie Curtis and Mary Gauthier in headlining this Americans United concert in support of church-state separation. Mon. 7:30 p.m. $25 (standing room), $50 (rear orchestra), $100 (front orchestra). El Rey Theatre, 5515 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles. au.org/voices-united-la-tickets.


[TUE OCT 2]

MAC MILLER

YouTube clips of the Pittsburgh native effortlessly freestyling are viral classics, and his records — including debut album “Blue Slide Park” — showcase Miller’s knack for lacing his rhymes with humor. The 20-year-old rapper makes a stop in Los Angeles as part of his Macadelic Tour. Hip-hop act Travis Porter and rapper YG also perform. Tue. 8 p.m. $30-$35. Nokia Theatre, L.A. Live, 777 Chick Hearn Court, Los Angeles. (213) 763-6030. nokiatheatrelalive.com.


[THU OCT 4]

“IS ALTRUISM A WONDER DRUG?”

David Levinson, Big Sunday executive director and author of “Everybody Helps, Everybody Wins,” joins bioethicist Stephen Post (“The Hidden Gifts of Helping”) and Stanford University School of Medicine neurosurgery professor James Doty in a discussion about the latest in medical science and altruism. They draw on recent studies that found that frequent volunteering among older adults led to reduced risk of an early death, and that nonvolunteers were more likely than volunteers to experience a major illness. Moderated by Lisa Aliferis, editor of KQED health policy and public health blog “State of Health.” Thu. 7:30 p.m. Free. Goethe-Institut Los Angeles, 5750 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles. zocalopublicsquare.org.

“RECOVERED VOICES”

L.A. Opera music director James Conlon’s concert series restores two generations of composers that were wiped off the map by the Third Reich. Tonight’s chamber music concert features performances of lost works by Austrian composers Alexander von Zemlinsky, Arnold Schoenberg and Franz Schreker; and Czech composer and pianist Erwin Schulhoff. Pacific Trio and friends accompany Conlon. Thu. 7:30 p.m. $37-$65. Broad Stage, 1310 11th St., Santa Monica. (310) 434-3200. thebroadstage.com.

 

“UNAUTHORIZED: THE HARVEY WEINSTEIN PROJECT”

Documentarian Barry Avrich’s latest film offers an unflinching portrait of Harvey Weinstein, co-founder of the Weinstein Co. and Miramax Films. Avrich turns to Martin Scorsese, James Ivory, John Irving and others to examine the influence that Weinstein holds in Hollywood. A post-screening Q-and-A with Avrich follows. Thu. 7:30 p.m. $10 (general), $7 (LACMA members, seniors, students). Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Bing Theater, 5905 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles. (323) 857-6000. lacma.org.

Artist Daniel J. Martinez provokes religion, politics to incite insight


Daniel Joseph Martinez has a question, or, rather, he wants you to have one. Well-known as one of the art world’s favorite provocateurs, the Los Angeles native and resident has brought his unique brand of art-as-conversation-piece to Culver City’s Roberts & Tilton Gallery for his first L.A. gallery exhibition in a decade, “I Am a Verb.” But why is Martinez, a non-Jewish artist, getting coverage in the Jewish Journal?  Well that’s simple, really; one of the works he made for the show is a series of photos of a hunchbacked, masked man with the Shema tattooed on his chest, along with a Muslim prayer inscribed in Arabic on one arm and a Catholic prayer in Latin on the other.

“This show is … a constellation of gestures … that are both philosophical and poetic, but yet use very disparate languages to attempt to question the state of who we are as human beings, and to question the time that we live in,” said Martinez on a recent Friday morning, strolling through the installation of his work. “It’s sort of like a series of haiku.”

Martinez has been active in the art world for more than 30 years, but he first rose to prominence in the early 1990s after making a lapel pin, of the sort often used for museum visitors, which was distributed to all attendees of the 1993 Whitney Biennial in New York. A simple inscription on the pin read, “I can’t imagine ever wanting to be White,” and it was worn by visitors of all races and ethnicities — including white — while viewing the rest of the art in the exhibition. Martinez thereby made everyone participants in his questioning reality, and he used language that was specifically intended to provoke the status quo in a zeitgeist consumed by political correctness.

Since then, Martinez has continued to challenge his viewers, and he’s spoken often about how his upbringing in the tumultuous Los Angeles of the 1960s influenced his views on multiculturalism and the notion of who is the outsider. Born in 1957, Martinez has by now become a fixture in the international art scene, his work included in museum collections worldwide.

Upon entering Roberts & Tilton, you’re confronted first by a large, white room, where the sound of Muslim prayers echoes throughout. From one wall, an abstract, sculptural mirror juts out; on another, a crookedly hanging police shield displays a strange manifesto scrawled across it that references both butter and betrayal; and, finally, across the room, the display of four massive photographs of the strange, hunchbacked, masked male figure.

At first glance, this collection of objects couldn’t be more disparate — in their media, subject matter and style — but Martinez is quick to explain the reasoning behind their juxtaposition. “There’s some attempt here to put a series of different kinds of works that take iconic or institutional positions from the society and compress those together.”  

It’s easy to see how the police shield, the Arabic music and the religion-tattooed hunchback follow this line of thought, but the abstract mirror takes a little more explanation. A quick trip to the adjacent room reveals that what once looked like a pedestal with a mirror on it randomly jutting from a wall is actually a replica of the base of the Statue of Liberty, looking as if it had been forced through the wall and become stuck there. 

“A Little Liberty, 2012” 18-karat gold glazed ceramic.

“The same sculpture, which is the Statue of Liberty on one side, looks like completely abstract minimalist gesture,” Martinez said, explaining his trick. “The Statue of Liberty pierces the wall; it’s been toppled. You think of the monuments of Lenin, you think of the monuments of any empire that is in ruins or in decline, or [where] something has changed, those monuments get toppled.”

Liberty’s extinguished torch reaches out toward the neon lights of two signs on a wall opposite that blare “We Buy Gold” and “Facial Waxing,” the light and language of the streets. “I’m not sure what the Statue of Liberty represents today other than a tourist attraction,” Martinez said. “A lot of what we do, and a lot of what has meaning, gets turned into entertainment.”

Walking back around to the other side of the wall, Martinez pointed to the mirrored base of the statue. “When you look at the bottom of the Statue of Liberty, which is upside down, what do you see? You see light,” said Martinez, pointing to the reflection of the sunlight and ceiling lights in the upward facing mirror. “You see the light. It’s a reflection of light. It’s a reflection of purity, right, but yet it’s also pornographic, we’re looking up her dress,” he said, speaking of the statue as if it depicted a real human being and not just an iconic symbol. In the process of upending the sculpture, he has turned its meaning upside-down as well: “We’re looking at the bottom, we’re looking at something that was repressed, something that was buried, something that was compressed into the earth, that was never seen. We only see the iconic symbol of what it was supposed to represent.”

The most interesting portion of Martinez’s exhibition, and certainly the most Jewish part, is his hunchback photos. “These are all me,” Martinez explained of the large photos, which depict him in heavy prosthetics and makeup. “I used my own physical body as another form of landscape, because this is like a landscape.” 

There is something undeniably topographical about the hunch on Martinez’s back, which he says took hours of special-effects makeup to achieve. But it’s clearly the simple faux tattoos on the figure’s front that make the most provocative statement. Through the prayers from all three Abrahamic faiths, Martinez’s hunchback brings the three traditions together on one deformed body.

“The attempt is not to get into the theological or political or social debate that goes on between these three different groups of people,” Martinez said. “It’s not to suggest that any one of them is right or wrong; it’s actually to try and observe it from a different point of view.

“I mean, do we believe in God?” He asked. “What is our spiritual self? How do we nourish that? How do we exist today?”

Such questions excite Martinez. To him, the idea of in-your-face, statement art, with too didactic a message is a little boring these days. “I don’t know if people respond well to that anymore,” he said. 

Martinez wants people who come to see his work simply to be open to possibilities and to find their own interpretations. “I wish that people would come and look and just take a second to think about things that are going on right now, at this very minute, everywhere around them, and somehow reconsider; they don’t have to change their mind.”

But if Martinez seems passive about his work, that’s not so. “I don’t think the work is neutral … and I don’t think it’s passive either … because if it was passive, I’m really not sure why I would do it. And it’s not neutral because neutrality then suggests that I don’t have an opinion, and I think it’s fairly clear there’s an opinion in the room.

“Am I really here only to decorate or do I have another kind of responsibility to speak to the tenets of the time?” Martinez asked. In the context of his work, it is instantly clear that the question was meant to be rhetorical.

Daniel Joseph Martinez’s “I Am a Verb” will be on display through October 20th at Roberts & Tilton Gallery, 5801 Washington Boulevard, Culver City, CA 90232.  For more information, visit www.robertsandtilton.com or call (323) 549-0223.

Once dreaming of a Hebrew charter school, now only Mandarin is offered


When the Albert Einstein Academy for Letters, Arts and Sciences (AEA) opened in August 2010, part of the draw for parents was the chance for students at the Santa Clarita charter middle and high school to study Hebrew. 

Since then, AEA backers have submitted petitions to set up elementary schools in the Newhall School District, Los Angeles Unified School District and Ventura Unified School District, without success. In August 2012, a revised version of its twice-rejected petition for an elementary charter was submitted to the Saugus Union School District in Santa Clarita. Among the changes in the newest version was eliminating offering Hebrew at the school, at least initially. 

“We will offer only one second language at the beginning; it will be Mandarin,” Shannon Perches, the principal and lead petitioner for the proposed elementary school, told the Saugus district’s board of governors at a well-attended public hearing on Sept. 19. 

In denying an earlier version of the charter petition, the board expressed concerns about the proposed school’s financial plan and its ability to accommodate students with special needs, as well as those whose first language is not English. 

As for teaching a second language, a central element of AEA’s unique curriculum, the board’s objection wasn’t to offering Hebrew, per se. 

The board’s concern was focused on how the proposed elementary school would go about teaching multiple foreign languages. 

“The AEA petition fails to state how students would be assigned to either Hebrew or Mandarin instruction, or whether there would be any consideration of the child’s ability to learn either language,” states a report by the Saugus district staff adopted by the board when it rejected the second version of the charter petition in April 2012. 

Hebrew may yet return to the proposed school’s curriculum, according to Jeffrey Shapiro, the executive director of the Albert Einstein Academy for Letters, Arts and Sciences (AEALAS) Foundation, an independent nonprofit organization designed to support and develop AEA schools. 

“In future years, we intend to add additional languages,” Shapiro said. 

Other public schools in California teach Hebrew, including public charter elementary schools. At the AEA high school, 80 students are enrolled in Hebrew classes this year, the vast majority of them new learners of the language, and not all of them Jewish. 

“It’s like a miracle,” said Nehama Meged, head of the school’s Hebrew department. On the wall in her classroom are half a dozen framed photographs of her students on a school trip to Israel taken after the end of the 2011-12 academic year. 

Twenty students traveled through Israel on an itinerary that featured both Jewish and Christian historical and holy sites; five of the students were not Jewish, Meged said. 

“The kids, who had zero knowledge not just about the language, but the place, the people learned so much, and they care about Israel,” she said. 

Taking Hebrew out of the AEA Saugus elementary petition is just the most recent step in a long process that has dramatically reduced the prominence of Hebrew language instruction in AEA schools. 

In order to get the high school’s charter petition approved by the William S. Hart Union High School District, the backers of the AEA high school dropped a curriculum that would have offered Hebrew-immersion instruction. That change led the Hebrew Charter School Center, the leading organization dedicated to developing Hebrew-language charter schools, to cut ties with AEA. The school also abandoned their plan to locate in a newly planned Jewish community center building.

The school was, from the first, the vision of Rabbi Mark Blazer of Temple Beth Ami in Santa Clarita, and Blazer spoke publicly to parents, officials and the media during that initial AEA charter approval effort. He has since taken a much lower profile, though he remains president of the board of the AEALAS Foundation. Blazer attended the Sept. 19 hearing but left before the proceedings began.

Rosh Hashanah, Israeli-style


It’s Sunday night, Erev Rosh Hashanah, and Hebrew chatter fills the air of a Masonic center on Westwood Boulevard. 

Approximately a dozen round tables covered in white cloths fill the large room. 

To the side of the space, platters of chicken, fish, salads, potatoes and rice steam on a long rectangular table. 

Israeli men and women of all ages sit together at the round tables, feasting on the entrees, a mix of Israeli, Yemenite, Libyan and Iraqi cuisine. They drink wine and sparkling apple cider. A volunteer walks around the tables, refilling the glasses.

This festive celebration for the local Israeli-American community drew approximately 60 at $10 a head, potluck. The Israeli Leadership Council (ILC) sponsored the event.

Not the typical Rosh Hashanah service, but, characteristic of the kind of gathering one might find in Israel among secular Jews, there was no sermonizing or Torah reading, or even a dress code. Following a brief presentation on the symbolism of traditional holiday foods by Rabbi Avi Stewart of Westwood Kehilla, everyone made their way over to the buffet area to load their plates and, after dinner, they all participated in a sing-along and Israeli folk dancing. 

It was exactly the kind of nonreligious and community-oriented Rosh Hashanah event that its co-organizer, Dikla Soffer, intended it to be.

“My kids, like I do, don’t want to go to any temple, but they’re raised in a home where we do traditional things. …We want to celebrate in our own way,” said Soffer, an ILC volunteer and former leader of the Israeli Scouts in Los Angeles.

Working toward building an engaged Israeli-American community, the nonprofit ILC holds community events throughout the year.

The Erev Rosh Hashanah celebration was the first of several events that Soffer and Noam Aviv, a 20-something Israeli emissary working with the ILC and Israeli Scouts for the next several weeks, are planning to hold for the community. Upcoming events include a Kabbalat Shabbat celebration and a Sukkot camping trip.  

Guy Husani, a Northridge resident and retired emergency medical technician who attended the Erev Rosh Hashanah event with his wife and three young children, said many Los Angeles-area Israelis are less interested in participating in a formal, lengthy and religious service and prefer, instead, to spend the holiday at a casual get-together.

“I want to come in and say hello, shake some hands, do a couple of prayers for the holidays, eat some dinner and go home,” Husani said.

Shalhevet looks for financial security in property sale


Shalhevet high school is close to finalizing a deal to sell more than half of its 2.4 acres to a property developer who plans to build an apartment complex on the lot at the corner of Fairfax Avenue and San Vicente Boulevard.

The plan will put Shalhevet on firmer financial footing, head of school Ari Segal told the Boiling Point, Shalhevet’s school newspaper. The school currently carries heavy debt and has limited funds for capital improvements and programming, Segal said. 

The school plans to either renovate or completely rebuild the structures on the remaining half of the property, starting after this academic year. The contract stipulates that the buyer will not take possession of the property until construction of a new school building is complete, so Shalhevet can use the other side of the facility during construction, the Boiling Point reported. 

“We have a lot of time,” Segal told the Boiling Point. “It will be a year before we need to move out of our side of the building — until then we will have 12 months to fundraise.”

Segal said the sale would mean capping enrollment at 240 students. There are 162 students enrolled this year.

“But to be perfectly honest, I love the idea that we should focus on having 200 students,” Segal told Jacob Ellenhorn, editor of the school paper. “Part of what makes the school unique is that every single student has a voice, and every member of the community really knows each other. I find that once you get past 200, and certainly past 240, you lose that intimacy.”

LimmudLA honors founders


LimmudLA honored its founders, Linda Fife and Shep Rosenman, in an evening of dinner, music and study on Sunday, Sept. 9, at the Los Angeles River Center and Gardens.

LimmudLA is the local outlet of an international model of interdisciplinary, interdenominational, no-boundaries Jewish conferences and events. Founded in the United Kingdom more than 30 years ago, Limmud now conducts 60 conferences in 30 countries, all of them almost entirely run by volunteers.

Fife and Rosenman conceived of bringing Limmud to Los Angeles about seven years ago, after they participated in a Limmud conference in New York. They rallied volunteers and funders and five years ago held the first conference in Southern California over Presidents’ Day weekend, with close to 700 participants converging at the Hilton Orange County in Costa Mesa. The conferences have continued there each February since then.

In 2013, however, LimmudLA plans to forgo its annual marquis conference, instead holding smaller, local events ranging from cultural to academic to family-oriented.

“We’re trying to be localized and organic to the communities where we’re doing different events,” said Yechiel Hoffman, executive director of LimmudLA, the only paid staff member. “Rather than taking people out to Orange County for an event, this gives us a way of being able to provide different options and different access points where people are.”

More than 400 volunteers have stepped up for LimmudLA since its inception. Hoffman said about 120 people are currently active volunteers. LimmudLA plans to hold a multi-day event next summer and is aiming to put on the full conference again in the winter of 2014. 

About 175 people came to honor Fife and Rosenman at what was LimmudLA’s first gala fundraiser. The organization met its goal of raising $75,000. 

The event featured music, text study and an examination of Jewish narrative. Rather than a plaque, Rosenman and Fife each received the newly published Koren Talmud, Tractate Brachot, and rather than a traditional acceptance speech, they staged a musical collaboration that had the audience responding to Rosenman’s “oom-pa-pas” and “ba-da-das.” Fife said it was, like LimmudLA, an example of volunteers stepping out of their comfort zones to produce something meaningful.

Proposed Albert Einstein Elementary charter to get a new hearing


The Saugus Union School District is set to hold a third hearing on Sept. 19 regarding a petition to establish an Albert Einstein Academy for Letters, Arts & Sciences (AEA) charter elementary school in Santa Clarita. 

If approved, the school would be the second in the AEA family of charter schools, along with a charter high school in Santa Clarita that started its third year in August. It would also be one of a handful of charter schools on the West Coast where Hebrew is taught as a second language. Classes in Mandarin would also be offered. 

The Saugus Union district’s five-member governing board rejected two earlier petitions for the same AEA elementary school, voting unanimously in March 2011 and on a 4-1 vote in June 2012. In the past two years, petitions to establish AEA elementary charter schools have also been denied by three other school districts.

In its latest denial, the 37-page staff report adopted by the Saugus board found that the AEA petition presented an “unsound educational program for the pupils” and that the “petitioners are demonstrably unlikely to successfully implement the program.” 

Jeffrey Shapiro, executive director of the AEALAS Foundation, a nonprofit entity designed to develop and support AEA schools, said that a modified petition, submitted to the district on Aug. 27, addressed “each and every one” of the concerns raised in the June staff report. 

Faced with what it called “a complicated and sometimes frustrating process of seeking approval for a kindergarten-through-sixth-grade charter school in the Saugus Union School District,” the AEALAS Foundation has launched a concerted public relations effort in support of its petition for a Santa Clarita elementary charter school. 

An “Approve the Einstein Charter” Facebook page was established in August; as of Sept. 11, the page had garnered 274 “Likes.” Earlier this month, California State Assemblyman Cameron Smyth (R-Santa Clarita) wrote a public letter in support of an AEA elementary school charter. 

The AEA high school in Santa Clarita first opened its doors in the fall of 2010 with 200 students in seventh, eighth and ninth grades. As of this fall, AEA high school has 375 students enrolled in grades seven through 11. In early 2012, the high school received a five-year renewal from the William S. Hart Union High School District, and a three-year accreditation from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC).

The proposed AEA elementary charter school aims to eventually enroll 500 students. According to Shapiro, 1,000 families have expressed interest. If the current modified petition is approved, the elementary school will begin classes in August 2013. 

The governing board is not expected to vote at next week’s public hearing; according to Shapiro, votes are typically taken approximately 30 days later.

Community Profile: Gerald Bubis


Gerald B. Bubis is 88, and he knows there are things he’ll never do again.

He’ll never travel to Israel again, for one, and after 46 trips, that’s a tough one to swallow. Then there’s the fact that this author and/or editor of 12 books and 200 articles on serving the Jewish community now has a tremor in his hand that prevents him from putting pen to paper. He also can’t drive anymore, and he can’t stand up long enough to wash dishes.

Despite all this, he’s not frail, and the clarity and wisdom he still possesses have provided him the blessing of being able to ponder how he wants to approach this late stage of life.

“I think of this more as a condition than as a stage,” Bubis said, sitting in an armchair in the living room of his Beverlywood condo. “This is the first time in your life you’re confronting the fact that this is really the end of the physical stage, and that’s different. Because there is this notion of it being Dec. 25 on the calendar, and it’s a matter of saying how will you spend that last week of your life.”

It’s a scenario the High Holy Days imposes on all worshippers, but for Bubis, as it is for many seniors, the question of what has filled his book of life and how it will close is not abstract, but an everyday reality.

He has made the decision that he will not allow himself room for regrets — neither about the past nor about what he can no longer do. Rather, he focuses on what he has accomplished and what he still can do. 

Bubis is the founding director of the School of Jewish Communal Service at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR) and was an early and ardent advocate for peace with the Palestinians. He is recognized nationally as an elder statesman, both in the peace camp and in the world of Jewish professionals.

In his earlier years, Bubis, who is still a broad 6 feet tall, was probably called strapping. Now, his hearty eyebrows and booming voice both have taken on the qualities of old age, and he moves slowly, with a walker. His health issues are profound: He takes two dozen pills a day to deal with legs that barely work, heart trouble, high blood pressure and episodes of pain on one side of his face that are so debilitating the condition is referred to as suicidal neuralgia. He’s had three bouts with thyroid cancer, and a serious car accident in February exacerbated issues with his legs and left vision in one eye impaired.

But Bubis is well aware of the tendencies of his age cohort, so to a genuine query of, “How are you?” Bubis will begin his answer by setting himself a time limit to update the essentials, and he promises that he will then move on to more interesting conversation.

 “You can either sink into a morass of depression or feeling sorry for yourself, or you say it is what it is, it can’t be any different,” Bubis said. “The people I admire most are the people who confront their limits and cope with them in ways that say, I still have my life, and I still have my pleasures. I still have my challenges, and if one part of my body is diminished or extinguished or involves some kind of coping or adjusting, so be it. I can’t do anything about it, but what I will do about it is, I will say ‘hineni,’ here I am, and how do I go forward?”

Jerry and Ruby, his wife of 64 years, still go to concerts and lectures regularly; they get together with friends often, and they are close with their two children and three grandchildren. They study and socialize with a chavurah they have been part of for 35 years, and have been members of Valley Beth Shalom for decades, but their once weekly attendance has become more sporadic since the car accident.

And Jerry still works. He mentors and consults with Jewish professionals several times a week and reliably holds court at Pat’s on Pico, where the lunch waiters know to pack up half his salad at the outset and to bring him biscotti with the bill.

Because he can no longer write, he is considering looking for funding to hire someone to help him transcribe his words into articles.

He has volumes of anecdotes to share, and while he is careful about his listeners’ time and patience, it doesn’t take much goading for him to unleash dependably gripping stories about camping in Yosemite or personal encounters with King Hussein.

Bubis says he is at peace with where he is now, because he allows himself the satisfaction — but not the fiction — that his life has been lived well.

“To me, it’s a nourishing thing to know that this stage has grown from all those other stages. I have been lucky enough to go through all the stages there are — by way of love and marriage, children, professional fulfillment and accomplishment and recognition,” Bubis said.

That’s not to say it’s been perfect. He’s got an ego, and he can get angry, he said. He said he was for too long married to his work, and didn’t always give Ruby or the children the time he should have.  

“My regrets are of my failing as a father and as a mate in the early days of our marriage,” he said. Today he has a strong relationship with his son, David, who is vice president for development for Bet Tzedek Legal Services, and his daughter, Deena Libman, a development officer at the San Diego Jewish Federation. Both David and Deena were Bubis’ students in graduate school at HUC-JIR, and, like their father, both also were awarded honorary doctorates from HUC-JIR. 

Dwelling on what wasn’t accomplished is a sure road to unhappiness, Bubis advises.

“Making peace with what you have accomplished, and not judging yourself for what you didn’t accomplish, is to me a very important attribute, which I believe a lot of people never acquire, but rather they have this restless dissatisfaction, and maybe in some cases depression, about what they wished would have happened that didn’t happen,” Bubis said. “But you can only be what you are capable of being at the time that you are that.”

Jerry and Ruby built their life from modest beginnings.

Bubis grew up in Winnipeg, and his parents divorced when he was 11, after his father fled to the United States after being caught embezzling. Jerry, his mother and his sister moved to Minnesota, where they lived with his mother’s parents, Orthodox immigrants from Minsk. 

As a teenager, he split his time between the Talmud Torah at the Jewish community center and loitering around the streets, shoplifting and pulling pranks. He had a lot of anger, he admits, and says he once went at his mother with a butcher knife and tied his sister up in the closet.

But his maternal grandfather was a true role model. He was a quiet and kind small property owner who established a synagogue and Jewish free loan in Minnesota, and during the Depression he would secretly leave food and coal for his tenants.

“I’ve always had two birds on my shoulder — my father and my grandfather, and each influenced me in his own way,” Bubis said. “As a result of my father, I vowed that I would try to be a person with a good name. And as a result of my grandfather, I had a model of a person who had a good name.”

Bubis enlisted in the Army during World War II as a combat engineer and was trained to remove land mines. He was about to be deployed overseas when he was plucked from his unit and sent back to the camp in Oregon to train other soldiers. A few months later, his entire unit was killed in Italy.

With injured feet, Bubis was discharged with a disability pension that paid his way through college and social work school. Two months after he left the military, he met Ruby at a Manitoba-Minnesota Hillel event and was smitten immediately.

“Having the luck of having a mate, a partner, for so long is in itself an incredible gift, because we grew up together,” Bubis said, looking across the room, where Ruby sat on a loveseat that, like most of their furniture, is a family heirloom. “The love, for me, grows and grows, and it grows even as the nature of how we relate is different than when we were young. And, for me, having the luck of a person who is on the one hand always my supervisor and a goad for keeping me focused, and on the other hand has kept me from ballooning up about myself and puffery about myself, that to me has been a tremendous help.”

Ruby, also a social worker, helped resettle refugees after World War II and later helped settle Soviet Jews in Los Angeles. Jerry worked as a camp director and a Federation executive before he founded the School of Jewish Communal Service and then became a professor at HUC-JIR.

After his recent car accident, which left Bubis laid up for months, he was stunned at the love that began to flow from across the globe and from those close by — people stepped in with meals, rides and visits.

“This has just been a shower of love and support from places I never, ever would have expected — e-mails and calls from former students all over the world. And it has been a tremendous experience to have the equivalent of my hesped [eulogy] while I’m alive — the equivalent of what people will say at my funeral. To me that is remarkably lucky.”

It is the knowledge that he has affected so many people that gives him peace now. 

“You never know what time is going to be. I live as if there will be time to get to our grandson’s smicha [ordination], which will be in two years. My wife comes from a long-lived strain of people. I believe she could live until 100. I have no relatives who lived past 87, so I’ve already passed them. And I’m at peace with that. It doesn’t mean that I’m not interested in the future and wondering what will happen, but I really do feel peaceful.”

Waxman faces Bloomfield in redrawn 33rd


Sitting in his recently rented campaign office on West Third Street in Los Angeles one afternoon in late August, Rep. Henry Waxman listed — one by one, from memory — some of the coastal and South Bay neighborhoods and cities that are included in the newly redrawn 33rd Congressional District where he’s running for reelection in November. 

“El Segundo, Hermosa Beach, Manhattan Beach, Redondo Beach, part of Hawthorne — and then there’s the whole Palos Verdes Peninsula,” Waxman said.  

Waxman is on unfamiliar ground this year, literally and figuratively. The district where he’s running stretches from Malibu all the way down the coast, incorporating a few inland neighborhoods along the way, including the chunk of the Westside where his campaign office sits. It’s a big change for Waxman, who used to represent a lot more of the Westside, including West Hollywood, Beverlywood and Pico-Robertson. By his count, 45 percent of the voters in the newly drawn 33rd District are people he’s never represented. 

And this year, Waxman, the fifth-most senior Democrat in Congress and dean of the chamber’s Jewish members, who has won his last five elections with at least 65 percent of the vote, faces a challenger unlike any he’s faced before. 

Bill Bloomfield, an independent, is a retired businessman who has never held public office and was, until relatively recently, a lifelong Republican. 

At a time when Congress has an all-time-low 10 percent approval rating, Bloomfield’s reform-minded campaign slogan — “He’ll fix Congress” — should have at least some impact. Bloomfield spent more than $1 million in the run-up to the June primary, coming in second in a field of eight candidates, with about 24.6 percent of the vote. He said he’s willing “to spend what is necessary … and not a dollar more” in order to get out his message of reform — a pledge that anyone with a mailbox in the district probably believes. 

Waxman, meanwhile, spent about $200,000 leading up to the primary and took 45.3 percent of the vote in June. But even though he expects to be outspent in the race — as of June 30, he had just over $1 million in cash on hand — Waxman is confident that he can beat Bloomfield, especially since registered Democrats, who make up 44 percent of the district’s voters, outnumber both Republicans (29 percent) and independents (22 percent). 

“I just have to make sure that he doesn’t outspend me so much that I don’t get my message out,” Waxman said. 

Waxman’s message focuses on a legislative record that stretches back nearly four decades. Since he first began serving in Congress in 1975, Waxman, now the ranking Democrat on the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, has passed legislation addressing the problems of air pollution, preserving safe drinking water and cracking down on the marketing of cigarettes aimed directly at minors, among other matters. He’s also been a staunch Israel supporter throughout that time. 

Waxman is determined to continue serving in Congress, in part to pursue new legislation — he’d like to address climate change, perhaps by instituting a tax on carbon emissions — but also because House Republicans lately have made efforts to roll back existing laws protecting the environment. 

“This past year, the Republicans in the House voted to repeal most of what’s in the Clean Air Act by trying to stop regulation of pollution in a number of different areas,” said Waxman, who was one of the primary authors of the reauthorized Clean Air Act in 1990, which for the first time addressed air toxins, acid rain and ozone depletion.

With Democrats controlling the Senate and the White House, Waxman said he knew such efforts would not succeed. “I worry a great deal what will happen in the next couple of years if we don’t have President Obama and have Republicans in control of the Congress,” he said.

Bloomfield, for his part, professed having great respect for Waxman and said he would never let his opponent’s signature piece of legislation be overturned. 

“I like clean air,” Bloomfield said. “I like the fact that the Santa Monica Bay is cleaner than it was.” 

Instead, Bloomfield is running a campaign that focuses less on replacing Waxman in particular and more on reforming Congress in general. 

“I am not running because of how liberal he [Waxman] is, although he’s a lot more liberal than I am,” said Bloomfield, who is a co-founder of No Labels, a two-year-old nonpartisan organization that aims to reform Congress. “I’m running because of how partisan he is, because the institution is not working.” 

Partisanship, for Bloomfield, is the problem in Washington — yet until recently, his own record of campaign donations appeared to be that of a devoted and generous adherent to the Republican Party. 

Bloomfield spent a year working as an unpaid volunteer with Sen. John McCain’s 2008 presidential bid and has been a major contributor to Republican candidates. 

In the two years leading up to the 2010 election, Bloomfield donated $140,000 to the California Republican Party, more than $50,000 to Republican gubernatorial candidates and another $39,000 to other Republicans seeking statewide office, according to the National Institute on Money in State Politics. 

He also donated at least $24,000 to individual Republican House and Senate candidates outside California and $30,400 to the National Republican Congressional Committee in 2009, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. 

But in March 2011, Bloomfield switched his registration, becoming an independent. He said he didn’t know that he’d be running for Congress when he dropped out of the GOP (which he now calls “my former party”), and Bloomfield explained his decision to reregister as a reaction to the frustration with Congress’ “hyper-partisanship.”

“You’ve got people in congress who basically think that their job is to politick 24/7,” Bloomfield said. “The hyper-partisanship is causing the gridlock.”

In a video posted on his Web site, Bloomfield calls Waxman “10 times more partisan than the average Democrat.” But Waxman contends that he has worked across the aisle many times over his long career. 

“I believe in compromise,” Waxman said. “Unfortunately, we have the extreme right wing in the Republican Party right now in control and everybody else in the Republican Party is so co-opted that they think compromise is a bad word and something that should be avoided at all costs.”

If Waxman blames Republicans for Congress’ dysfunction, Bloomfield assigns roughly equal measures of responsibility to both parties. 

“It takes two to fight,” the former Republican said. 

There’s a double irony to Bloomfield’s running as a reformer. Not only did Waxman himself get elected as part of a crop of reform-minded “Watergate babies” in the wake of Nixon’s resignation in 1974, but Bloomfield’s current bid is a direct result of two recent reforms to California elections he has backed financially. 

He gave a combined $150,000 to support two ballot measures in 2010: One took control over drawing California’s congressional districts away from elected officials and handed it to an independent commission; the other established the “top-two” system of primary elections, in which all voters are given a ballot with every candidate on it, regardless of party. 

Both passed, and as a result, the 33rd Congressional District, as drawn by the independent redistricting panel, is more competitive than Waxman’s former district, and the new so-called “jungle primary” system is far friendlier to independent candidates, especially those with deep pockets. 

But if Bloomfield makes clear his aim is to reform Congress, it’s unclear how he’d vote on specific issues, should he manage to unseat Waxman. 

During an hour-long interview with the Journal, Bloomfield avoided picking sides on a number of issues that have divided Congress over the last two years. On the fiscal front, Bloomfield praised the Bowles-Simpson debt-reduction commission, whose conclusions were rejected by Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan and were not fully embraced by the Obama administration. He bemoaned the Democrats’ passing the Affordable Care Act without any Republican votes, but also assailed Republicans for wasting time passing legislation repealing Obamacare, knowing that such efforts wouldn’t move in the Democratic-controlled Senate. 

Asked what he would have done had he been a member when the health-care reform bill came up before the House, Bloomfield declined to say how he’d have voted, saying only that he wanted “to improve it.” 

Bloomfield also declined to say who he’d be voting for in the presidential race this fall. 

“The problem with answering that question is I get labeled,” said Bloomfield, who in early 2011 donated a combined $7,500 to Republican nominee Mitt Romney and a pro-Romney PAC. “I will support whoever the president is when I think he’s right, and I will be totally against him when I think he’s wrong.”

The growth in the numbers of “decline-to-state” voters and the shrinking number of Californians who are registered Republicans, coupled with the top-two primary, gives moderate Republicans like Bloomfield an incentive to run as independents. 

“The party label ‘Republican’ in California — and especially in a district like Henry Waxman’s — is absolutely toxic,” said Raphael Sonenshein, executive director of the Pat Brown Institute for Public Affairs at California State University, Los Angeles and a Jewish Journal columnist. 

Bloomfield qualifies as a moderate Republican — he drives a Prius, believes that climate change is caused by human activity and voted against the ballot measure that outlawed same-sex marriage in California — and as such, he’s “much more threatening to a Democrat than conservative Republicans are,” Sonenshein said. 

Still, Sonenshein added, “I’d be beyond shocked if Waxman lost.” 

Waxman isn’t resting on his laurels. Waxman’s campaign manager recently held a conference call with leaders of about half a dozen synagogues around the South Bay, looking to plan ways for the congressman to reach out to the community. The South Bay could take on an outsized importance in this campaign, particularly as two candidate debates already scheduled will both take place in Palos Verdes. 

In the parts of the 33rd District that are new to him, Waxman might have some ground to make up. Rabbi Yossi Mintz, the director of Chabad of the Beach Cities in Redondo Beach, said he’d received many Bloomfield campaign mailers in the recent months but hadn’t gotten anything or seen any signs pushing voters to choose Waxman. 

Mintz said he’d met Bloomfield once, and that although he hadn’t yet met Waxman, Mintz said he knew the congressman’s reputation. 

“I know about his support for Israel, which is very important to me,” Mintz said. “He’s a person that other people look up to on how to vote. That’s a very powerful thing.”

In August, with the election less than three months away, the Waxman campaign office didn’t yet have the lived-in feeling of Bloomfield’s larger, more well-worn headquarters in Manhattan Beach. A neat stack of “Waxman for Congress” signs sat in the entryway.

Waxman said he was working the phones that day, soliciting donations from supporters in a way he hadn’t done in years past. 

“I’m calling people, telling them that I’ve never asked for their help in the past,” he said, “and this is a time when I really need it.”

Chabad Telethon raises $4 million


Hollywood stars and dancing rabbis came together for the 32nd annual Chabad “To Life” Telethon on Sept. 9. Held for the first time at the Saban Theatre in Beverly Hills, the high-profile fundraiser raised approximately $4 million for Chabad of California.

“At Chabad, there’s no greater joy than the joy of giving,” declared Larry King, whose hosting duties and interviews were recorded days earlier at KCET in Burbank and shown on screens straddling the stage.

KTLA Morning News’ Sam Rubin, “Good Morning Arizona” anchor Stella Inger and comedian Elon Gold co-hosted the event live, playing to a small studio audience at the Art Deco theater.

The three-hour telethon aired locally on KTLA 5, from 8 to 11 p.m., and was carried nationwide by cable and satellite providers, as well as stations in San Diego, San Francisco, New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.   

Actor Jon Voight, one of the evening’s main celebrities, remains an active supporter of Israel and Chabad, having appeared in multiple telethons. 

“I’ve had many major roles in motion pictures, but one of my favorite roles is taking part in Chabad’s” yearly telethon, he said. 

Onstage throughout the evening, Voight was in good spirits, surrounded by a house band, a rotating crew of people working the phone banks and an active tote board. He danced with black-suited Chabadniks young and old. “I’m learning new steps every day,” Voight said. 

Then, catching his breath, he delivered his spiel, asking viewers to call the phone number that appeared on the bottom of their television screens and donate what they could. 

In addition to Voight, speakers included actors Tom Arnold, David Arquette and Howie Mandel, Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, L.A. City Councilmen Paul Koretz and Dennis Zine, Consul General of Israel in Los Angeles David Siegel and philanthropist Stanley Black.

Among the featured performers were 11-year-old piano prodigy Ethan Bortnick, Chasidic rock-and-pop duo the 8th Day and Chasidic singer and composer Lipa Schmeltzer. 

The $4.03 million raised on Sunday — last year’s telethon raised $4.2 million — will benefit the international Chasidic movement’s social services and programs, including summer camp scholarships, support for children with special needs, community outreach centers, crisis intervention and drug and alcohol rehabilitation. 

Seated near L.A. Clipper forward Trey Thompkins at the phone bank, actor-comedian Arnold made his pitch for Chabad. Never shy, Arnold highlighted his past as a recovering alcoholic and drug addict when requesting donations in support of Chabad’s drug rehabilitation services.

“They do wonderful work there and they help everybody,” Arnold said.

Highlights from the Chabad “To Life” Telethon: 

7:58 p.m.: Backstage, two minutes until showtime, production assistants scramble to prepare performers, including Voight and dancing rabbis, for their cue. 

8 p.m.: A message from King segues into Bortnick’s piano performance of “The Star-Spangled Banner.” The rabbis follow — young men grab one another’s hands or shoulders, kicking up their feet as they dance in circles. 

8:12 p.m.: Dressed in black sneakers to match his suit, comedian Gold warms up the crowd: “You don’t have to be Jewish to enjoy the Chabad Telethon, but it helps,” Gold says.

8:55 p.m.: King interviews Arquette about what it took to get sober. Building “a connection to God” and learning how to manage self-critical thinking both played a role in his road to sobriety, Arquette says. 

9:10 p.m.: Consul General Siegel, City Councilman Koretz, County Supervisor Yaroslavsky and philanthropist Black share the stage with Rabbi Boruch Shlomo Cunin, director of West Coast Chabad. Black announces his own pledge for $250,000.

9:35 p.m.: Looking out at the theater’s numerous empty seats, Arnold quips from the phone bank, “How about a hand for all of Clint Eastwood’s chairs out there,” referring to Eastwood’s controversial speech at the Republican National Convention.

9:40 to 10 p.m.: Entertainment attorney and Chabad Telethon co-chairman Marshall Grossman pledges $25,000. Television producer Kevin Bright (“Friends”), who was not in attendance, pledges $180,000 and Ralphs supermarket representative Jose Martinez hands over a jumbo-check for $20,000.

10:10: An interview between King and TRIBE Media Corp./Jewish Journal president David Suissa is screened. “Chabad means ‘love’ more than anything,” Suissa says.

10:55 p.m.: The tote board jumps to more than $4 million for the evening’s final total. The rabbis return for a final dance — until next year.

The Hollywood treatment


“Fundamentally, your job is not that different from my job,” screenwriter Alex Litvak told a room full of rabbis assembled at American Jewish University for the annual High Holy Days conference sponsored by the Board of Rabbis of Southern California.

While most of the 165 attendees were off attending sermon workshops on topics ranging from social media to Mussar, about 20 opted to touch-up their Torah with insights from film and TV. Rabbi Jon Hanish from Temple Kol Tikvah in Woodland Hills began the session by asking a panel of eight Hollywood writers what was on their minds this year.

“Why am I here?” one said. “Materialism,” another said. “Political and social divisiveness,” a third added. 

It was a fun but unorthodox match, bringing Hollywood currency to holy categories. 

“I’d want to know what King David’s approval rating would be in the digital age,” said Seth Kurland, a sitcom writer and producer best known for his work on “Friends.” “You think of him probably as courageous and compassionate, but he kills Bathsheba’s husband! Even he must have had a Yom Kippur day; he must have asked, ‘Do I want to define my life by moments of weakness or moments of strength?’ ”

This second annual Professional Writers Workshop, which paired some of Hollywood’s finest with the rabbinate’s most fastidious, looked like an episode of “In Treatment,” offering the best sermon therapy money can buy (and for the bargain conference price of $150). In cross-denominational groups of three, the questions ranged from the practical (“Should I start with a question, crack a joke or tell a story?”) to the philosophical (“What would you say you’re trying to say in this sermon?”) to the political (“This is the time to go for it — make the big point!”). It was classic Freudian role-reversal, with the rabbis in the hot seat and the writers going righteous.

“I don’t know if by the end [of this session] we’re gonna pitch you sermons or you’re gonna pitch us TV shows,” said David Kendall, creator of ABC Family’s “Melissa & Joey” who also worked on older hits like “Growing Pains” and “Boy Meets World.” 

In one group, Rabbi Elie Spitz of Congregation B’nai Israel in Orange County puzzled over how to make a trite topic like tzedakah sexy. He worried about sounding “canned” and “predictable,” but even more so, Spitz said, “There is discomfort in asking for money on High Holy Days, when people want to be spiritual.” To which Kendall offered straightforward advice on the merits of truth: “Say, ‘It feels horrible to talk about this,’ ” Kendall said. “In writer’s terms we’d say, ‘Let’s hang a lantern on it,’ which means you’re going to do something obvious. If something is unavoidable in the plot or exposition, you ‘hang a lantern on it.’ ”

Temple Emanuel of Beverly Hills’ Rabbi Laura Geller suggested that Spitz tell a story about an event that changed his relationship to money. “That takes people to very personal places,” she said.

But just how deep can you go, she wondered. “How personal can you get?” she asked Kendall. “My sermon is about growing older; about how we devote so much energy and resources to youth. Well, what about me? I’m not dead yet. How vulnerable do I get in speaking about my own fears about aging; how my mother’s getting older? How much do congregants really want their rabbi to reveal?”

Get intimate, he said. A message becomes more memorable if tied to a resonant or relatable story.

Things were less fraught for Rabbi Mark Kaiserman, who will serve this year as interim rabbi at Congregation B’nai Tzedek in Fountain Valley after the retirement of 36-year-veteran Rabbi Stephen Einstein. 

“Which gives me the luxury of reusing sermons,” Kaiserman joked to his Hollywood helper, Sam Baum, creator of Fox’s “Lie to Me.”  

“And,” Baum added guilefully, “you can swing for the fences.” 

Rabbi Daniel Feder was more interested in milking Baum for entertainment tips. “I always try to have one or two chuckle moments,” Feder said. “Maybe you could suggest, ‘Put Humor Here.’ ” 

Baum rejoined his request with plot-development 101: “I try to force myself to write a single sentence that gets at the core of the story,” he began. “The first couple of minutes are crucial to creating the feeling that there is a hand quietly guiding you.” And, as Hollywood proverbs go, action must follow inspiration. “It is crucial that in the last two minutes there is something actionable — you have to give the character something to do, not just something to think about.”

It is telling that the people who usually do the teaching were so willing to be taught. And perhaps a little bit ironic that those who often self-protect from congregants felt safe among storytellers with the world’s largest soapbox.

But as writer and producer David Sacks, known for shows “3rd Rock From the Sun” and “Malcolm in the Middle” encouraged, be fearless! Don’t be cowed into feel-good Torah. Although this hardly compelled Rabbi Miriam Hamrell of Ahavat Torah in Brentwood: “Last year I gave a sermon on Israel, and people had a hard time with it,” Hamrell said. “People said, ‘We’re not here to hear politics. We’re coming here to heal, to listen, to open our hearts.” In the wake of that, she said, she had to lead a decompressing discussion circle.

Monica Henderson Beletsky, a Harvard graduate who writes for NBC’s “Parenthood” got a kick out of the strange and wonderful convergence of Hollywood and holy themes. 

“It’s so funny,” she said, “one rabbi wrote about being in a personal prison and another wrote about happiness, and they both came to the same conclusion. And, you know, we’re working with a similar theme on our show, but I can’t tell you about it.”

Hanish, an organizer of the event, said the confluence of high-minded rabbis with highly accomplished writers is a good fit.

“Rabbis know a thing or two about writing, but rabbinic school is about academic writing, and we end up writing things that are too intellectual and not connecting on a human level. Film writers understand how to write to the general populace and get deep messages across.”

And, of course, Hollywood is always seeking good material, a plentiful resource in the life of a rabbi.

“The writers get just as much out of it as the rabbis,” Hanish said. “They come for fun, but they get rejuvenated. Afterward, they’ll say, ‘I was on the fringe of my Judaism, but these rabbis understand today’s world’ —and some consider returning to Judaism.”

For Dahvi Waller, who won an Emmy for her work on “Mad Men,” things got a little too close for comfort. Last year, after a Jewish Journal article covered her session at the workshop, she was bombarded by requests for help from rabbis all over the country. “I can’t say ‘no’!” she gushed, explaining why she didn’t want her session to be written up this year. “They wanted way more than an hour of my time.”

Calendar Picks and Clicks: Sep. 15-21, 2012


SAT SEPT 15

“With Great Power: The Stan Lee Story”
The feature-length documentary explores the life of the 89-year-old, comic-book legend, co-creator of the Fantastic Four, X-Men, Spider-Man, Iron Man and the Hulk. Directed by Terry Douglas, Nikki Frakes and William Lawrence Hess, “With Great Power” highlights Lee’s Depression-era upbringing, his early years at Timely Comics, his military service during World War II, the dawn of Marvel Comics and more. Narrated by Lee (born Stanley Martin Lieber), the doc features interviews with Kevin Smith, Patrick Stewart, Samuel L. Jackson and Eva Mendes. A Q-and-A with the filmmakers follows the screening. Sat. 7-9 p.m. $10. Downtown Independent, 251 S. Main St., downtown. (213) 617-1033. downtownindependent.com.


SUN SEPT 16

High Holiday Food Drive 2012
SOVA needs your help. This Jewish Family Service of Los Angeles program, which provides free groceries and an array of support services to more than 12,000 individuals each month, is collecting canned beans, meat, tuna, dry milk, pasta, noodles, rice, dry soup, peanut butter, toiletries and other items. Drop-off locations include the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles as well as participating synagogues and day schools. Sun. Through Sept. 26. The Jewish Federation, 6505 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles. Call (818) 988-7682, Ext. 116, to find drop-off locations in your area. jewishla.org, jfsla.org/sova.


TUE SEPT 18

Matisyahu
The Grammy nominee appears live in support of his latest record, “Spark Seeker.” Like its predecessors, the new album — Matisyahu’s fourth — features a blend of reggae, hip-hop, beat boxing and spiritual lyrics, but also showcases traditional ancient sounds and electro beats. Expect to hear lead single “Sunshine” as well as other new tracks, and older material off of albums “Light” and “Youth,” during tonight’s performance. Opening bands include reggae-rock ensembles Dirty Heads and Pacific Dub. Tue. 6:30 p.m. $27.50. Hollywood Palladium, 6215 Sunset Blvd., Hollywood. (800) 745-3000. livenation.com.


WED SEPT 19

“Sarin Zakan & Eshel Ben-Jacob: Bacteria Art and Eco-Fashion”
Israeli fashion designer Sarin Zakan, who creates eco-couture clothing that blends science and art, makes her U.S. debut at the Pacific Design Center. Zakan’s work — including collars and dresses — features patterns formed by bacteria. Her pieces will be displayed alongside the work of her mentor, Tel Aviv University physics professor Eshel Ben-Jacob, who is called the godfather of bacterial art patterns. Wed. 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Free. Through Nov. 9, Mon.-Fri. Pacific Design Center, 8867 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles. (310) 657-0800. pacificdesigncenter.com.


THU SEPT 20

Mitch Albom 
The best-selling author of “Tuesdays With Morrie” and “The Five People You Meet in Heaven” sits down with Rabbi David Wolpe to discuss his new book, “The Time Keeper.” Albom’s novel follows the inventor of the world’s first clock, Father Time, who, after being punished for trying to measure God’s greatest gift, is given a chance to redeem himself by teaching two people — a teenage girl about to give up on life and a wealthy old businessman who wants to live forever — the true meaning of time. Admission includes a copy of the book. Thu. 8 p.m. $20 (Sinai members), $25 (general). Sinai Temple, 10400 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 481-3243. sinaitemple.org


FRI SEPT 21

Martin Amis and Matthew Weiner
Matthew Weiner, the marvel behind “Mad Men,” appears in conversation with Martin Amis, a master of ironic prose (“Money: A Suicide Note”). A postwar British writer of fiction, nonfiction, short stories, essays and reviews, his new novel, “Lionel Asbo: State of England,” follows the problematic relationship between a thuggish and lottery-winning English uncle and his nephew. Though experts in different mediums, Weiner and Amis share a fascination with the lives of the privileged in their respective works. Fri. 7:30 p.m. $20. Writers Guild Theater, 135 S. Doheny Drive, Beverly Hills. (310) 855-0005. writersblocpresents.com.

“Abraham”
French singer-songwriter and actor Michel Jonasz embodies Abraham, his cantor grandfather, in this one-man show. Set before his death, the play follows Abraham as he recalls his deepest memories — his childhood, escaping from Poland, meeting his wife, his deportation to concentration camps, and the joys and sorrows of existence. In French with projected English translations. Fri. 7:45 p.m. Through Sept. 22. $50 (general seating), $75 (premium). Theatre Raymond Kabbaz, 10361 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 286-0553. theatreraymond-kabbaz.com.

Jewish Home to expand to West L.A.


Challenged by an 18-month waiting list numbering 400 people, the Jewish Home of Los Angeles has announced that it will add another campus — this time on the west side of Los Angeles. On Sept. 7, the Jewish Home closed escrow on a 2.5-acre site in Playa Vista.

The Gonda Healthy Aging Westside Campus, as the senior care community will be known, will be located at The Village in Playa Vista. It will offer independent living, assisted living and memory care, supplementing the Jewish Home’s two existing campuses in Reseda in the San Fernando Valley. 

“Our goal is to be spread geographically so that we can serve both in the Valley and West L.A.,” Molly Forrest, president and CEO of the Jewish Home, said on Sept. 11. “Some people would like to stay at home. Others will need skilled nursing. We are trying to present in West L.A. an opportunity to serve almost 600 seniors in a variety of settings.”

Now in its centennial year, the Jewish Home cares for more than 1,000 seniors in-residence, and it assists 1,600 more through community-based programs. Half of those waiting to get into the Jewish Home live on the Westside.

The expansion is being funded in large part by the Leslie and Susan Gonda (Goldschmied) Foundation and the Saul Brandman Foundation. At its core will be the Gonda Campus, with a 176-unit continuing care community for independent seniors and 24 units dedicated to assisted living and memory care. Forrest said the goal is to open the campus within four years.

This is part of a bigger plan. Forrest said that the Jewish Home aims to purchase a skilled nursing facility in the area and find a Westside site for a Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE). The federal program, known at the Jewish Home as the Brandman Centers for Senior Care, provides a full range of health-care services for seniors living independently in the community in order to allow them to remain in their homes. This can include anything from meals and therapy to medical care and transportation.

Forrest said the move to West L.A. reflects the Jewish Home’s aspirations to serve 5,000 people by 2015. Already, it is the largest single-source provider of senior housing in Los Angeles.

“It’s a huge step forward for us,” Forrest said.

Calendar Picks and Clicks: Sep. 9-13, 2012


SUN | SEPT 9 

“ARTHUR SCHNITZLER — BEING JEWISH”
A renowned writer and dramatist whose favorite topics were anti-Semitism, love, sex and death, Arthur Schnitzler chronicled turn-of-the-century Vienna. A Getty staged reading of Schnitzler's journals and correspondence portray a conflicted Austrian Jew who is not afraid to ask difficult questions. Held in conjunction with “Gustav Klimt: The Magic of Line,” a panel discussion with filmmaker Peter Schnitzler, Schnitzler's grandson, and Schnitzler expert Lorenzo Bellettini follows. Sun. 4-7:30 p.m. Free (reservation recommended). Getty Center, Harold M. Williams Auditorium, 1200 Getty Center Drive, Los Angeles. (310) 440-7300. getty.edu.

CHABAD “TO LIFE” TELETHON
Television icon Larry King hosts the 32nd annual Chabad telethon, featuring celebrity guests and, of course, dancing rabbis. Proceeds benefit Chabad of California's programs and institutions, including schools, summer camps, community outreach centers, drug and alcohol rehabilitation programs, crisis intervention and support for children with special needs. Sun. 8-11 p.m. KTLA. tolife.com.


MON | SEPT 10 

“SONGS FOR A BRIS”
Actor-singer Ben Goldberg's one-night-only musical exploration looks at the biggest decision every infant Jewish boy never got to make. The performance features music by Meat Loaf, U2, Cole Porter, Hootie and the Blowfish, and many others. Mon. $10. Rockwell, 1714 N. Vermont Ave., Los Angeles. (323) 661-6163. rockwell-la.com.

MACCABIAH MASTERS TENNIS TRYOUTS
Interested in representing the United States at the 19th World Maccabiah Games next summer in Israel? Maccabi USA is holding masters-level tennis tryouts today for men and women, ages 35 and older, at Mountain Gate Country Club. Buffet lunch included. Mon. 9 a.m. (arrival, check-in), 10 a.m. (tournament begins). $40 (application fee), $50 (participation fee), $30 (additional guest). Mountain Gate Country Club, 12445 Mountaingate Drive, Los Angeles. (215) 561-6900. maccabiusa.com.


WED | SEPT 12

KCET HIGH HOLY DAYS
The community television station honors the High Holy Days with four documentaries during the month of September, including “The Gefilte Fish Chronicles,” a story of how a family stays spiritually and physically connected through tradition; “The New Beginning,” which examines the ancient origins, evolution, symbols and traditions that have come to define the High Holy Days; “18 Voices Sing Kol Nidre,” which tells the story of the most sacred prayer in Judaism through the tales and anecdotes of those who have been touched by it; and “Where Birds Never Sang: The Story of Ravensbruck and Sachsenhausen Concentration Camps,” which looks at Hitler's largest concentration camp designed for women. Wed. Through Sept. 20. “The Gefilte Fish Chronicles”: Sept. 12, 2:30 p.m.; “The New Beginning”: Sept. 13, 10:30 p.m.; “18 Voices Sing Kol Nidre”: Sept. 16, 4:30 p.m.; “Where Birds Never Sang”: Sept. 20 at 10:30 p.m. For additional airing times, visit kcet.org.


THU | SEPT 13

“10Q: NO REGRETS”
Time magazine columnist Joel Stein hosts an evening of confessions. Just in time for the New Year, comedians, writers, celebrities and audience participants reveal their biggest regrets in an attempt to clean the slate. Folk-pop duo the Wellspring performs. Co-sponsored by Reboot and the Jewish Federation's Young Adults of Los Angeles. Thu. 7-10 p.m. $15 (advance ticket), $18 (door). Acme Comedy Theater, 135 N. La Brea Ave., Los Angeles. (323) 761-8324. yala.org.

ITZHAK PERLMAN
The Israeli-American master violinist performs Tchaikovsky's “Violin Concerto.” One of the world's most renowned classical musicians, Perlman has won more than a dozen Grammy awards, taken part in the inauguration of President Barack Obama and played with every major orchestra. Conductor Bramwell Tovey leads the Los Angeles Philharmonic in the final classic concert of the season with Johannes Brahms' “Hungarian Dances Nos. 10, 4, 5,” Tchaikovsky's “Violin Concerto” and Antonin Dvorák's “Symphony No. 8.” Thu. 8 p.m. $1-$133. Hollywood Bowl, 2301 N. Highland Ave., Hollywood. (323) 850-2000. hollywoodbowl.com.

MICHAEL CHABON AND AYELET WALDMAN
The Pulitzer Prize-winning author of “The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay” and “The Yiddish Policemen's Union” appears in person to read passages from his new novel “Telegraph Avenue.” Set in Berkeley at the end of the summer of 2004, record store co-owners Archy Stallings and Nat Jaffe and their midwife wives, Gwen Shanks and Aviva Roth-Jaffee, face personal and professional problems that test the strength of their relationships and businesses. Writer Mona Simpson (“My Hollywood”) leads a post-reading discussion and Q-and-A with Chabon and his wife, author Ayelet Waldman (“Red Hook Road”). Thu. 7:30 p.m. Free. Hammer Museum, 10899 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 443-7000. hammer.ucla.edu.

Calendar Picks and Clicks: August 11-17, 2012


SAT | AUG 11

NEIL DIAMOND
The Grammy-winning pop-rock icon played a series of sold-out shows at the Greek in the summer of 1972, which led to the multiplatinum double live album, “Hot August Night.” Forty years later, Diamond returns to the Greek stage to celebrate the anniversary of those concerts, performing such hits as “Sweet Caroline,” “Cracklin’ Rosie,” “Solitary Man” and “I Am…I Said.” Sat. Through Aug 25. 8 p.m. $49-$250. Greek Theatre, 2700 N. Vermont Ave., Los Angeles. (323) 665-5857. greektheatrela.com.


SUN | AUG 12

SEPHARDIC JEWISH FILM FESTIVAL WORKSHOP
Experts from the film industry—producer Robert Israel (“Ace Ventura: Pet Detective”), documentarian Bette Jane Cohen (“The Spirit in Architecture: John Lautner”) and animator Brooke Keesling (“Boobie Girl”)—present clips of their work and discuss the moments and people who have inspired them. Sun. 11 a.m.-1 p.m. Free. The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, 6505 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles. RSVP (323) 272-4574. sephardicfilmfestival.com.

“VOICES FROM THE SILENCE”
A new print of 1924 Yiddish silent film masterpiece “Yidishe Glik” (“Jewish Luck”)—based on Sholem Aleichem’s satiric stories about daydreaming entrepreneur Menakhem Mendl—marks today’s 60th anniversary of the executions of 13 leading Jewish literary and civic figures in the former Soviet Union. Los Angeles Times and NPR film critic Kenneth Turan appears in person to introduce the screening. Sun. 5 p.m. Free. Workmen’s Circle/Arbeter Ring, 1525 S. Robertson Blvd., Los Angeles. (213) 389-8880. yiddishkayt.org.


TUE | AUG 14

REGINA SPEKTOR
The Russian-born singer-songwriter puts her multi-instrumental chops on full display on new singles “All the Rowboats,” a haunting sample-driven number, and “Don’t Leave Me (Ne Me Quitte Pas),” an upbeat piano-pop tune, from her new album, “What We Saw From the Cheap Seats.” Spektor has proven that she hasn’t lost her touch even after six albums. Tonight, she performs with special guest Only Son. Tue. 8 p.m. $39.50-$55. Greek Theatre, 2700 N. Vermont Ave., Los Angeles. (323) 665-5857. greektheatrela.com.


WED | AUG 15

“SHALOM AMIGOS”
The migration of approximately 1,000 Jewish settlers to the Dominican Republic during World War II – and the integration of Jews into Dominican society – forever changed the Caribbean nation. Tonight at the Skirball, an interactive Web documentary examines the relatively unknown history of the Jewish community in the Dominican Republic through the memory of the settlers and their descendants. A Q-and-A with directors Adrien Walter and Emmanuel Clemenceau follows. Wed. 8 p.m. $6 (general), $5 (Skirball members, full-time students). Skirball Cultural Center, 2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 440-4500. skirball.org.


THU | AUG 16

JEWLICIOUS SUMMERFEST
Rock n’ roll meets religion at Jewlicious’ summer camp-style festival for young professionals (18 and over). Taking place over the course of four days and three nights, this annual overnighter features performances by reggae singer Pato Banton, acoustic-pop musician Ari Herstand, Mikey Pauker and others. Activities include horseback riding, mountain biking, late-night Torah learning, and discussions on social entrepreneurship and relationships, among other topics. Thu. Through Aug. 19. 3 p.m. $56-$699. Brandeis-Bardin Campus American Jewish University, 1101 Pepper Tree Lane, Brandeis. (310) 277-5544. jewliciousfestival.com.

DUDAMEL CONDUCTS COPLAND
Celebrated Venezuelan conductor Gustavo Dudamel leads the Los Angeles Philharmonic and Venezuelan pianist Sergio Tiempo in a performance of quintessential American composer Aaron Copland’s four-movement “Symphony No. 3,” which fuses jazz, neoclassicism and modernism. Thu. 8 p.m. $1-$133. Hollywood Bowl, 2301 N. Highland Ave., Hollywood. (323) 850-2000. hollywoodbowl.com.


Friday | AUG 17

“IT IS NO DREAM”
The latest production from Moriah Films, the Oscar-winning film division of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, explores of the life and times of Theodor Herzl, the father of modern political Zionism. Co-written and produced by Rabbi Marvin Hier, founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, and directed by Richard Trank, the film features narration by Ben Kingsley and stars Christoph Waltz as the voice of Herzl. “It Is No Dream” follows Herzl as he meets with kings, prime ministers, ambassadors, a sultan, a pope and government ministers in his quest to create a Jewish homeland. Fri. Various times. $11 (general), $8 (children under 12, seniors). Laemmle’s Music Hall 3, 9036 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills. Laemmle’s Town Center 5, 17200 Ventura Blvd., Encino. (310) 478-3836. laemmle.com.

Calendar Picks and Clicks: August 3-10, 2012


SAT | AUG 4

“THE MUSIC OF JEWISH COMPOSERS”
The ninth annual Beverly Hills International Music Festival features the world premiere of composer Assaf Rinde’s “Meditation on a Sephardic Theme,” performed by guitarist Edward Trybek. Mezzo-soprano Iris Malkin and pianist Jean-David Coen perform pieces by composers Gerald Cohen, Stephen Richards, Max Janowski, Richard Neumann and Daniel Akiva. Pianist Coen performs Joseph Achron’s “Hebrew Melody” with violinist Limor Toren-Immerman as well as Alexander von Zemlinsky’s “Trio in D Minor, Opus 3” with clarinetist Gary Gray and cellist Stephen Green. Festival runs through Aug. 12. Sat. 8 p.m. $25 (general), $15 (seniors, students and Temple Emanuel members). Temple Emanuel of Beverly Hills, 8844 Burton Way, Beverly Hills. (310) 779-7622. bhmusicfestival.org, panoramaticket.com.

THE BANGLES
Best known for hits like “Manic Monday,” “Walk Like an Egyptian” and “Eternal Flame,” the Bangles perform as part of the Pershing Square Downtown Stage Free Summer Concert Series. Celebrating their 30th anniversary, Susanna Hoffs, Vicki Peterson and Debbi Peterson recently released their newest album, “Sweetheart of the Sun.” Alt-pop band Right the Stars also performs. Sat. 8-11 p.m. Free. Pershing Square, 532 S. Olive St., Los Angeles. (213) 847-4970. laparks.org/pershingsquare.


SUN | AUG 5

“JEWISH HOMEGROWN HISTORY FILM DAY”
The Skirball screens four documentaries that address the richness, complexity and inherent contradictions of the Jewish experience in the modern age. “The Family Album” draws on home movies to capture American family life from the 1920s through the 1950s. In “The Hunky Blues —The American Dream,” Jewish Hungarian filmmaker Peter Forgács uses home movies and archival footage to explore the immigration of Hungarians to America. While tracing the roots of her family, filmmaker Jacqueline Levitin discovers the 1,000-year-old history of a Chinese-Jewish community in Kaifeng in “Mahjong and Chicken Feet.” And while documenting the life of Chasidic Jews living in the Fairfax district of Los Angeles, urban anthropologist Barbara Myerhoff documents her conversion to Orthodox Judaism as she copes with her imminent death from cancer, in “Her Own Time — The Final Fieldwork of Barbara Myerhoff.” Sat. 11 a.m.-3:40 p.m. Free. Skirball Cultural Center, 2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 440-4500. skirball.org.

MAGGIE ANTON
Author of the acclaimed “Rashi’s Daughters” series appears at Beth Chayim Chadashim tonight to celebrate the release of her new novel, “Rav Hisda’s Daughter, Book I: Apprentice,” which follows talmudic sage Hisda’s beautiful and learned daughter Hisdadukh. Derailed by a series of tragedies, Hisdadukh must decide if her path lies in the way of sorcery, despite the peril. Klezmer music, food and scholarly words from Anton highlight this book launch. Books available for purchase. Sun. 6 p.m. Free. Beth Chayim Chadashim, 6090 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles. (323) 931-7023. bcc-la.org.


WED | AUG 8

“JEWISH COMEDY NIGHT: COAST 2 COAST”
Comedians Wayne Federman (“Late Night With Jimmy Fallon”), Kira Soltanovich (“Girls Behaving Badly”), Mark Schiff (Jewlarious), Avi Liberman (Comedy for Koby) and Laugh Factory regular Ian Edwards perform in one of two stand-up comedy shows on both coasts on the same night. Wed. 8 p.m. $20 (advance), $25 (door). Laugh Factory, 8001 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles. (323) 656-1336. jspace.com/allevents.


THU | AUG 9

ORQUESTRA SARABIA
Blending traditional Jewish and Arabic songs with Afro-Cuban rhythms, Cuban composer and percussionist Roberto Juan Rodriguez’s 10-piece ensemble of Cuban, Jewish and Arabic musicians performs tonight at the Skirball. Part of the museum’s “Sunset Concerts” live music series. Arrive early to dine under the stars, tour the Skirball’s galleries and explore the museum’s architecture and hillside setting. Thu. 8 p.m. Free (concert), $10 (parking per car, cash only). Skirball Cultural Center, 2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 440-4500. skirball.org.


FRI | AUG 10

“NOBODY LIKES JEWS WHEN THEY’RE WINNING”
Playwright Maia Madison’s comedy follows interfaith couple Sarah and Patrick, who want to get married and live happily ever after, so long as Sarah’s Jewish family never finds out. Examining the ways in which Jews are portrayed in Hollywood and how pervasive these stereotypes are, the play explores the larger themes of family, intimacy and self-determination. Part of the Open Fist Theatre Company’s fourth annual First Look Festival, a celebration of contemporary theater. Fri. Through Sept. 8. 8 p.m. $20. Open Fist Theatre Company, 6209 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles. (323) 882-6912. openfist.org.

Maccabiah tryouts coming to L.A.


While hundreds of American athletes are eagerly anticipating the beginning of the Olympics in London this month, another Team USA is preparing for a different international competition.

Tryouts for the 19th Maccabiah Games, which will be held in Israel in July 2013, are already beginning across the country—including several in Los Angeles.

Held every four years in Israel, the all-Jewish Maccabiah Games prides itself on being the third-largest international sports competition—behind the Olympics and the Pan American Games—with more than 50 participating countries.

The United States will send 79 teams in approximately 40 sports to the 2013 games, including seven basketball teams. Basketball teams will compete at different age levels, from 15 to 45, and up.

Basketball Chairman of Recruitment and Outreach Brian Schiff pointed out that the U.S. delegation has fared well in recent years, earning four gold and two silver medals in the 2009 games.

Splitting the masters’ team into a 35-and-up team and a 45-and-up team will give the United States another chance to go for gold, Schiff says.

“We’re not looking for the 12 best athletes on every team,” Schiff said. “We’re looking for the 12 players who will make up the best team.”

Past Team USA participants included a number of college and professional players, such as Davidson forward Jake Cohen and Big 5 Player of the Year Zack Rosen, who is currently playing summer league with the Philadelphia 76ers.

Tryouts for the Men’s Open Team (18 and up) will be held at Milken Community High School on Aug. 4 and 5. The Men’s Youth Team (15 and 16) will hold tryouts at Milken on Aug. 19.

Schiff says tryouts are open to anyone interested.

“We’re hoping to get as many people as possible to try out,” he said. “This is an unbelievable opportunity to represent the country, and you get a lot more out of the games than just athletics.”

Tryouts for Juniors Boys’ Baseball will be held Aug. 5 at Simpson-Hartunian Field in Encino. Masters Tennis (35 and up) tryouts will be held Sept. 10 at MountainGate Country Club in Los Angeles. 

To register for tryouts in basketball or in other sports, visit maccabiusa.com, click on “Sports,” and then click on “Sports Explorer.”

Letters to the Editor: Foie Gras ban, JCC closures, being a mensch


Praise for Ban on Foie Gras

In the June 8 Graduation section, I read about an 18-year-old young lady who helps rehabilitate abused horses and is moving into a nursing program with the goal of becoming an orthopedic surgeon (“Healing Others, and Herself”). I am so proud of our community and its compassionate heritage.

On the other hand, I am appalled to read on the “Foodaism” page, regarding the ban of foie gras, that several chefs claimed “the ducks like to be engorged,” thus defending cruelty by claiming the victims enjoy it (“Duck Liver and the Sixth Taste,” June 8).

The article also tells us chefs “resent being told by non-chefs what they can and can’t serve.” Chefs don’t like to be force-fed rules? Ducks and geese don’t like to have pipes rammed down their throats two or three times daily to be pumped so full that some have died from ruptured organs and others can barely stand due to their engorged livers. Two rescued from a leading foie gras producer were being eaten alive by rats because they could not move.

Hats off to California! Welcome, and long live the ban.

Marilyn Russell
Los Angeles

Closure of JCCs Is a Real Loss

As someone who until last week worked at the Milken JCC building for the Jewish Free Loan Association, I was witness to the demise of the vibrant programs for seniors and the nursery school. Those children represent our future no less than the jFed generation (“Fueling the jFed Generation,” June 1). That Federation could have saved the JCCs and chose not to breaks my heart. Travel to any city, especially smaller ones, and the JCCs are the communal center for people of all ages in the community. How sad that a city like ours cannot boast of thriving Jewish centers.

I am happy that New Community Jewish High School will have a beautiful new home, but what a price our community has paid. Whether it is the fault of the JCCs or Federation is really irrelevant. We should be embarrassed and ashamed by all of this.

Pearl Taylor
Sherman Oaks

First, Be a Mensch

The article “Dear Graduates” (June 1) by Rabbi Michael Gotlieb was wonderful. Notwithstanding his sagacious advice to new graduates, I would add one other thought: The ultimate degree or appellation that one can earn is “mensch” — a title that “good Jews” strive to attain their entire lives. The benefits and rewards of earning the title mensch far outweigh any degree awarded by any educational institution.

Michael Waterman
Encino

Groman Eden to be rededicated


Groman Eden Mortuary will be hosting a dedication ceremony on June 13 at 6:30 p.m. to commemorate its restoration.

The ceremony will be officiated by Rabbi Jerry Cutler of Creative Arts Temple. He will be blessing the building and placing the prayers inside mezuzahs that will hang on the upper right side of certain doorways.

The ceremony will also include a brief history of the mortuary. Afterward, there will be a light reception, and guests can tour the mortuary on their own or with a staff-led group. A shomer will be in attendance to explain the custom of watching the bodies of the deceased before burial, and another person will be available to explain the functions of the newly refurbished taharah, or ritual washing room.

Groman Eden Mortuary began its restoration project in 2010, according to general manager Anthony Lampe. The electrical system, wiring, carpet and some furniture were replaced, but the original colonial style of the building was retained.

Groman Eden Mortuary is part of the network Dignity Memorial. More information on Dignity Memorial services can be found at dignitymemorial.com.

The mortuary is located at 11500 Sepulveda Blvd., Mission Hills. RSVPs for the restoration ceremony are encouraged and may be left with Phyllis Grabot at (805) 341-7269. For more information about Groman Eden Mortuary, call (818) 365-7151 or visit gromanedenmortuary.com.