Nation & World Briefs

Church Condemns Israel’s Barrier

A Protestant church has condemned Israel’s West Bank security barrier. The proposal, passed Saturday by the Evangelical Lutheran Church’s assembly, denounced the barrier for causing hardships for Palestinians, and also called on the denomination to play a role in “stewarding financial resources — both U.S. tax dollars and private funds — in ways that support the quest for a just peace in the Holy Land,” The Associated Press reported. But it did not specifically mention divestment from Israel or companies that do business with Israel. The vote is the latest taken by Protestant churches to protest Israel’s security barrier.

Travel Warning Issued on Gaza

The U.S. State Department warned U.S. citizens to avoid traveling to the Gaza Strip. The advisory, an intensification of prior warnings, calls on U.S. citizens to “avoid crowds, maintain a high level of vigilance, take appropriate steps to increase their security awareness and exercise caution in public places or while using public transportation” during Israel’s withdrawal, which began this week. It also reiterates prior calls on Americans to avoid travel to Gaza, postpone unnecessary travel to the West Bank and weigh the necessity of travel to Israel.

Roberts Backed ‘Moment of Silence’ in Schools

While working in the Justice Department for the Reagan administration in 1985, Supreme Court nominee John Roberts wrote in a memo to his supervisor that he would not object to a constitutional amendment on school prayer. Referring to a Supreme Court ruling that struck down a school prayer law in Alabama, Roberts wrote that the idea that the “Constitution prohibits such a moment of silent reflection — or even silent ‘prayer’ — seems indefensible.”

The memo was among nearly 5,400 pages of records pertaining to the Supreme Court nominee released by the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library. Roberts also wrote in a memo that a California group’s memorial service to protest abortion was an “entirely appropriate means of calling attention to the abortion tragedy.” Roberts’ confirmation hearings are expected to begin early next month.

Sharon: More Withdrawals Possible

Ariel Sharon said additional West Bank settlements could be handed over to the Palestinians as part of a future peace agreement. Asked in an interview with the Yediot Achronot newspaper if Israel eventually would withdraw from other West Bank settlements, he said, “Not everything will be there. The issue will be raised during the final-status talks with the Palestinians.” Still, Sharon insisted that the large West Bank settlement blocs would remain intact. In addition, he reportedly noted, “I never replied when asked what the boundaries of the settlements blocs are — and not because I’m not familiar with the map.”

Fund to Buy Up Gaza Hothouses

A private international fund agreed to pay Jewish farmers in Gaza $14 million to buy most of the hothouses they will leave behind. Representatives for the Gaza farmers signed the deal Friday with the Economic Cooperation Foundation, the Jerusalem Post reported. The deal came days before Israel began evacuating the Gaza settlements. The foundation, which organized the collection of private donations to fund the project, will transfer the hothouses to a Palestinian Authority company. James Wolfensohn, Mideast envoy for the Quartet — the diplomatic grouping of the United States, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations that is driving the “road map” peace plan — was instrumental in raising funds for the transfer, and himself donated $500,000.

Bedouin Soldier Behind Bars

An Israeli soldier who killed a British activist in the Gaza Strip was jailed for eight years. Wahid Taysir, a volunteer from Israel’s Bedouin Arab minority, was sentenced by a court-martial last week to 10 years in prison for manslaughter and another 18 months for obstruction of justice but was told that three and a half years of the sentence would be suspended. It was the toughest punishment handed down to an Israeli soldier for an unlawful killing in a combat zone during the Palestinian intifada. The ex-sergeant confessed to shooting Tom Hurndall, a member of a pro-Palestinian activist group, in the southern Gaza town Rafah in 2003 and to falsely telling investigators that Hurndall had been armed. The court-martial said it chose not to give the defendant the maximum possible sentence of 27 years in prison because of his exemplary combat record and to pre-empt accusations that it was scapegoating a member of an ethnic minority.

Minority in the Homeland

Jews are no longer the majority of residents in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza Strip combined, a study found. According to data supplied last week by the liberal daily, Ha’aretz, Jews constitute slightly more than 49.3 percent of the population in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The figures were supplied by Israel and the Palestinian Authority’s statistics bureaus. The paper included as non-Jews some 185,000 foreign workers in Israel and almost 300,000 immigrants who are not Jewish under Orthodox law. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has said that the Gaza withdrawal would help Israel demographically by ridding it of responsibility for 1.4 million Palestinians. According to Ha’aretz, demographers say that after the Gaza withdrawal, the percentage of Jews within Israel’s borders will be around 56 percent, a majority that should last for around 20 years.

Oy, Mr. Tallyman

Harry Belafonte retracted his recent statement that Jews were “high up in the Third Reich.” But the singer and political activist told the Jerusalem Post that Jews had contributed to Nazism.

“Was it rampant? Absolutely not,” Belafonte told the Post. “But these things happen and people are not exempt from their behavior.”

To support his contention, Belafonte referred to “Hitler’s Jewish Soldiers,” a book that detailed how some Germans of partial Jewish descent served in the Nazi army during World War II.

Briefs courtesy Jewish Telegraphic Agency.


Rabbi Simon Dolgin Dies in Israel at 89

Rabbi Simon Dolgin, founding rabbi of Harkham Hillel Hebrew Academy and rabbi of Beth Jacob Congregation in Beverly Hills for 32 years, died in Israel on April 19 at the age of 89.

Both the Sephardic and Ashkenazic chief rabbis attended his funeral in Israel, as well as dozens of rabbis, dignitaries and government officials. Approximately 350 people attended a memorial at Beth Jacob last week, where Dolgin was remembered as a fearless advocate for modern Orthodoxy.

“Nothing could stand in Rabbi Dolgin’s way in order to establish what he felt was a true Orthodox Judaism and education in this part of the country,” said Manny Stern, a past president of Beth Jacob.

A native of Chicago, Dolgin was sent west by his rabbi at the age of 23 to establish a Modern Orthodox foothold in what was perceived as a spiritual desert.

When Dolgin arrived at Beth Jacob, a small, traditional congregation near La Brea Avenue and Crenshaw Boulevard on West Adams Boulevard, he immediately took over the small Hebrew school and began the campaign to increase the observance of halacha among his congregants. His campaign to erect a mechitza, separating men and women in synagogue, would end successfully 20 years later.

Dolgin’s vision of observance extended to the greater community as well. In the late 1950s, he worked with the Ambassador and Biltmore hotels to install kosher kitchens, and he pushed The Jewish Federation toward being more sensitive to Jewish law, while encouraging his congregants to support The Federation.

His appreciation of Jews of all stripes led him to teach with those from movements to his left and to help Chabad’s Rabbi Boruch Shlomo Cunin set up shop when he arrived in the early 1970s.

In 1949, Dolgin founded Hillel Hebrew Academy, which moved with the congregation to Beverly Hills in 1954. Dolgin worked tirelessly — shlepping, teaching, mimeographing — to establish the school, often forgoing his own salary to pay the teachers.

“He had total dedication and mesirut nefesh,” selfless giving, said Rabbi Menachem Gottesman, who was principal of Hillel for 42 years before retiring last year. “If there is Yiddishkayt in Los Angeles, it is because of people like him on the front lines, working for it and fighting for it.”

Today, Hillel is a school of 800 children and Beth Jacob has 700 families, the largest Orthodox congregation on the West Coast.

Dolgin moved to Israel in 1971. He built a synagogue in the Ramat Eshkol neighborhood of Jerusalem and named it Beth Jacob, after the one in Beverly Hills. He was the first Western rabbi to hold the post of director general of the Israeli government’s Ministry of Religious Affairs.

When Beth Jacob Cantor Binyamin Glickman, an Israeli citizen, returned to Israel to serve in the army for the 1973 Yom Kippur War, Dolgin spent Shabbat with him in a bunker in the Golan Heights, distributing candy and nuts to soldiers on the front lines.

“Rabbi Dolgin was a man passionately in love with all Jews,” Sid Eisenstadt, a former president of Beth Jacob, said at the memorial. “Through his inner strength, he taught this congregation to be observant, modern, progressive and forward thinking American Jews.”

Dolgin is survived by his wife of 60 years, Shirley; his children, Saralee, Sharonbeth, Michael and Jess; and many grandchildren.

Condolences or memories of Rabbi Dolgin can be sent to
the family at .

Donations in Dolgin’s memory can be sent to Beth Jacob, 9030 West Olympic Blvd., Beverly Hills, CA 90211.

A fund has been set up to establish a yearlong internship for young rabbis in Dolgin’s memory.

Always Giving Back

Noon at the Newsroom just outside Beverly Hills. Amid the lunchtime din, CNN blares on an overhead TV, but only one diner is riveted: Lindsay Conner. The politician is transfixed, waiting for the crucial announcement regarding the then-never-ending Florida recount saga.

Politics — from international on down — has always been Conner’s passion. Appointed in 1981 to a seat on the L.A. Community College Board at age 25, he was the youngest person ever to win a citywide election in Los Angeles. Two decades have not diminished his interest in working for the community. As chair of the Government Relations Committee of The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles since 1988, Conner works with the municipal and state government.

A young-looking 44-year-old, Conner said people can’t believe he’s been involved in local politics since the early 1980s. Their reaction, he said, usually is something like, “You’re joking! When did you start? 15?”

What sets Conner apart from others is “his persistent dedication,” said Michael Hirschfeld, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Committee (JCRC), the organization that started the Government Relations Committee.

Born in New York City, Conner’s dedication to his community began at the early age of eight, after a move to the West Coast that also brought a long-time affiliation with Wilshire Boulevard Temple. He had his bar mitzvah there and years later served on the board that installed Rabbi Harvey Fields. “My parents were always proud to be Jewish,” said Conner, whose mother’s side traces its lineage to Chassidic rabbis from Russia and the Ukraine. “They certainly instilled that in me.”

With a father who worked in the music industry and a brother in entertainment law, Conner soon followed suit, working as an entertainment lawyer following his 1980 graduation from Harvard Law School (where he was editor of the Harvard Law Review). A former Coro Fellow and Wexner Fellow, Conner spent 13 years practicing. From 1986-93, he was head of entertainment at Hill, Wynne, Troop and Meisinger.

“It was a great experience for a long time,” Conner said of his now-dormant law career. But it was not enough for Conner, who needed to channel his interest in public service. Hence, his years on the community college board: Conner said that working within the world’s largest two-year college system which counts more than 100,000 students in nine colleges, was a “wonderful opportunity to give something back to the community and to L.A.” Conner served on the board for 16 years, stepping down in 1997.

Conner said he is proud of his accomplishments of that period, which included helping to implement writing across the school curriculum, battling to keep open Mission College in the North Valley and working to secure more education funding from Sacramento. “There were a lot of tough decisions to make, particularly when funding was cut in the mid-’80s. It was hard to choose the lesser of evils, but that’s what trustees were forced to do,” Conner said.

His dedication came with a price. The unmarried politician admitted that he worked so hard as a lawyer and community board member that “my social life really suffered.”

Last February, Conner joined forces with Steve Cheslow to create I-Drop, an Internet file-hosting company. As an e-entrepreneur, Conner now has the time to cultivate that elusive social life. While he has put entertainment law behind him, he has not lost the desire to give back to the community. As chair of the Government Relations Committee, Conner said he has met many young people active in JCRC who are knowledgeable and passionate.

“There ought to be a lot more of them. I’m afraid that too many bright and passionate young people in the Jewish community have either ignored or pulled away from political and community involvement,” he said.

“There are certainly a lot of people who don’t get involved. We’re all struggling on how to make the Jewish Federation relevant to a younger generation, to show them that there is value within the organized Jewish community.”

Conner is upbeat about the future, even as his mission to motivate others proves daunting. “My concern is that people may be turning inward toward their own lives and away from the larger community,” Conner said. “If we do, overall community life will suffer sooner than later. Part of the job of community leaders is to find a way to energize. It’s not an easy job. We’re in a cynical age where it has become common, even trendy, to say that what you do doesn’t count.”

Then Conner turned his attention back to the presidential election, a race that underscored, more than anything, the notion that every vote does count.

For more information on I-Drop, contact Lindsay Conner at