Thousands gathered to protest at Los Angeles International Airport on Jan. 29. Photo by Eitan Arom

When an executive order prompts civil disorder


Shortly before Shabbat fell on Jan. 27, President Donald Trump signed an executive order that effectively slammed the door on refugees seeking entry to the United States — at least for now.

Shock and dismay had been building in the Jewish community since a draft of the order was leaked days beforehand, and on Jan. 28, those sentiments exploded onto Rabbi Susan Goldberg’s cellphone in the form of concerned messages from her congregants at Wilshire Boulevard Temple.

“When Shabbat ended last night, my phone was blowing up — emails, photos,” she said Jan. 29 as a crowd milled past her at the arrivals gate at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). “For Jews, there’s a clear line that’s been crossed.”

The airport protest came as a grass-roots reflection of simmering anger in the organized Jewish community. The days before the executive order saw statements from Jewish organizations ranging from the Orthodox Union to the Anti-Defamation League expressing their ire, and in some cases promising to fight the administration.

At LAX, where a number of travelers had been detained because of the order, thousands poured through terminals and onto the curbs the afternoon of Jan. 29. Police cut off traffic through much of the airport and largely gave protesters the run of Tom Bradley International Terminal.

Many protesters were Jews from congregations across the city, and even on signs held aloft by non-Jews, a certain Jewish influence could be detected in references to 1930s Germany and proclamations of “Never again.”

“Our country once made the mistake of shutting its doors to nearly 1,000 refugees on the S.S. St. Louis — people died as a result,” said Rabbi Morley Feinstein of University Synagogue, reached by phone shortly after the order was signed. “We don’t want to see that happen again.”

To be sure, there are plenty of Jews who support the ban or parts of it and others who dispute analogies to the Holocaust. “Analogy to 1930s Jews is recklessly false,” a statement from Morton A. Klein, president of the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA), declared the day before the order was signed.

But some community members who voiced their support for Trump’s order did so at their own peril, including Simon Etehad, a personal injury lawyer in Beverly Hills, who was born in Iran and fled the Islamic Revolution in 1979.

img_4102“You have no idea how many friends I lost on Facebook because of my opinion … but I believe that he’s doing a wonderful job,” he said.

“Even if I would have been personally affected by this ban, I would still support it,” he wrote in a follow-up email. “Because I am not willing to endanger the life of a single U.S. citizen so that my family members might have an easier travel experience in the next 90 days!”

The people who showed up Jan. 29 at LAX didn’t quite see it that way.

“There are a lot of Jews here — a lot,” Goldberg said from the airport, joined by her three children and her husband, who translated as she spoke in sign language, since she’d lost her voice.

‘Let them in!’

As weary travelers emerged to boisterously chanting crowds, Adam and Noah Reich held a sign reading, “Two Jewish brothers standing with our Muslim brothers.” While they spoke with a reporter, a short woman with olive skin, a total stranger, walked up and hugged both of them. That type of thing had been going on all afternoon.

“Maybe like, a dozen so far,” Noah said. “We’ve been here for a couple hours and people just come up to us.”

“The collective power of everyone here is saying, ‘You’re not alone; we’re all here for you,’ ” Adam said. “And I think that’s a powerful thing.”

Emerging from the crowd, Jesse Gabriel, an attorney and executive board member at The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, put his hand on Noah’s shoulder.

Kol ha-kavod,” he told the pair, using a Hebrew expression for “Well done!”

Gabriel was one of dozens of attorneys swarming the terminal, many with signs reading “lawyer” and announcing their foreign language proficiencies, hoping to be of help to stranded travelers or those recently released by Immigration and Customs officers.

“When you have individuals whose rights need to be protected, that’s when lawyers need to step in,” Gabriel said.

In fact, there was little work for the attorneys at the terminal, since those detained were stranded elsewhere, in the bowels of LAX, incommunicado. The crowds were chanting, “Let them in!” but lawyers were struggling even to make contact with those stranded.

“Our understanding is that there are a number of people with legal travel documents who are being detained in customs and border patrol, in custody,” said immigration attorney Michael Hagerty.

Hagerty was serving as ad hoc media liaison to a group of attorneys at the airport (as announced by a cardboard sign reading “media liaison”). Among his charges were representatives from legal aid clinic Public Counsel and the local American Civil Liberties Union. But information about those in limbo -— even a basic head count — proved difficult to come by.

“We don’t know who they are, we don’t know exactly what their legal status is on an individual basis, but in all likelihood, they are legal permanent residents, they are refugees with legal refugee travel documents, people with student visas,” Hagerty said.

As he spoke, wayfarers cut through surging crowds, pushing carts and lugging suitcases. For those just arriving, it must have presented an overwhelming scene: shouts of “USA!” from flamboyantly dressed protesters, their signs decorated with images ranging from the Statue of Liberty to Trump with a Hitler mustache, and outside, drums banging out an incessant beat.

Marchers mobbed the sidewalk on both the upper and lower levels, along with the international terminal itself. The crowd lined the curb, waving signs at passing cars, and some took to the upper levels of parking garages across the street to look down over the scene.

Some travelers decided to join the protest, including Zoe Lister-Jones, a filmmaker who had just stepped off the plane after screening her new comedy, “Band Aid,” at the Sundance Film Festival in Utah.

“I’ve been witnessing the injustices occurring from Park City and I came straight from the arrivals terminal to protest,” she said. “As a Jew, I think it’s part of our bloodline to stand up to injustice and resist fascism.”

Mollie Goldberg from Los Angeles

Across Airport Way from the mass of protesters stood Michael Chusid, a kind of greeter. The tall, bearded, middle-aged Encino man held a sign that read “Welcome” in English, Arabic and Hebrew.

“My grandparents came from Lithuania and Ukraine,” Chusid said. “My grandfather was the only one to survive from his whole family. The only thing that is left in Lithuania is tombstones.

“That’s why I’m here,” he said as he teared up.

Clergy respond

News of the order quickly raised a chorus of rabbis in opposition.

The Central Conference of American Rabbis, for instance, a consortium of Reform clergy, has been abuzz with outrage at the new policy, Feinstein said.

“We know full well when people come after minorities, they don’t stop with one,” he told the Journal. “History shows this to be the canary in the mine.”

At the airport, the crowd included enough rabbis to start a seminary.

“This country is an expression of the best of what the world has to offer,” Rabbi Ron Stern of Stephen Wise Temple said at LAX. “And to be that, it has to be open to immigrants. It has to reflect the values that we hold dear as Jews.”

Rabbi Neil Comess-Daniels of Beth Shir Shalom in Santa Monica stood alone on the sidewalk outside the terminal wearing a yarmulke and prayer shawl, having been unable to locate his congregants in the chaos.

“I wanted people to know that the Jewish people feel a chill up our spine because this is happening,” he said.

Leading up to the refugee order, HIAS, a refugee resettlement agency formerly known as the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, recruited more than 1,700 rabbis across the denominational spectrum to sign a statement welcoming refugees to the United States. They included Rabbis Sharon Brous of IKAR, Adam Kligfeld of Temple Beth Am, Stan Levy of B’nai Horin, and Yoshi Zweiback of Stephen Wise Temple, as well as Feinstein and Stern.

Reached by phone Jan. 27, shortly after Trump signed the order, Kligfeld noted that the Exodus story obliges Jews “to advocate for our country to continue to have its arms and heart open to the bedraggled and impoverished and persecuted.” But he sounded a note of sympathy with community members who want to protect the nation’s ports of entry.

“I find myself in a centrist place on this issue,” he continued. “I’m proud of our country’s history regarding Jewish and non-Jewish refugees. I think we also live in a scary world.”

Representing the nation’s Orthodox rabbinate, the Orthodox Union and the Rabbinical Council of America reaffirmed a joint statement issued in December 2015 blasting the idea of a Muslim ban. Taken together with reproving statements from the Reconstructionist, Reform and Conservative movements, the Orthodox groups’ opposition brings every major strain of American Judaism into alignment against the immigration measures.

Struggling over security, Holocaust memory

The Orthodox rabbi’s statement fell far short of other proclamations by large Jewish organizations, some of which promised an outright battle with the administration.

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL), a nonpartisan group that was critical of candidate Trump, found fighting words: “ADL relentlessly will fight this policy in the weeks and months to come,” CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said in a statement, responding ahead of time to a leaked draft. “Our history and heritage compel us to take a stand.”

American Jewish Committee CEO David Harris also reached for Jewish heritage to motivate his opposition.

“We are all related to those fortunate enough to have been admitted to this country — in my case, my mother, father, wife, and daughters-in-law,” he said in a statement. “And we believe that other deserving individuals merit the same opportunities to be considered for permanent entry.”

The Simon Wiesenthal Center protested the idea of a nationality-based ban in a statement the day of the order while steering clear of Holocaust imagery. But the same day, International Holocaust Remembrance Day, it criticized Trump for not mentioning Jews in a statement about the Holocaust — a week after the Wiesenthal Center’s founder, Rabbi Marvin Hier, offered a prayer at Trump’s inauguration.

Among the leaders of large Jewish institutions, ZOA’s Klein offered a rare note of support for Trump’s measures, saying in the statement his group “is appalled that left-wing Jewish groups such as the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and the Reform Movement are ‘strongly condemning’ this draft Executive Order.”

He took umbrage with comparisons to Jewish refugees.

“No Jewish immigrants flew airplanes into buildings, or massacred scores of innocent people at a holiday party or nightclub or marathon or drive trucks into innocent citizens,” Klein said in the statement.

Though unusual within the Jewish establishment, Klein’s thesis found support in some pockets of the community, including some who are recent immigrants themselves.

“It is simply disgraceful to compare Trump to Hitler or his actions to those of the Nazi era,” Etehad wrote in the email.

Eugene Levin, president of Panorama Media Group, which operates a radio
station and two Russian-language  weekly newspapers in Los Angeles, said he supports Trump’s ban on immigrants from several predominantly Muslim countries because there is no way of doing a thorough background check and knowing if someone is not a disguised terrorist.

“Many individuals with questionable backgrounds from the Soviet Union moved here as refugees. Think about [the] Tsarnaev brothers, who were able to immigrate here as refugees,” he said, referring to the perpetrators of the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013.

“I believe what Trump did was a necessary step,” he added.

Muslims “are against the Jewish people,” said Roman Finarovsky, who grew up in Ukraine at a time when going to a synagogue could result in losing one’s job if caught by the KGB.

img_4085But some saw in the struggle of Soviet Jews cause to oppose the ban. Former Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky was an activist in the free Soviet Jewry movement as a student at UCLA. While several members of the Russian Jewish community expressed support for the ban, Yaroslavsky strongly denounced it.

“I find it to be abhorrent and contrary to every fiber of my being as a human rights activist, as an activist for Soviet Jewry in earlier years, as a civil libertarian, which I am,” Yaroslavsky said of the executive order in a phone interview. “This is un-American, literally un-American.”

Galvanizing young Jews

Shay Roman, 27, stood with two friends at LAX, all three wearing T-shirts from the group IfNotNow, a network of Millennial Jews that protests the status quo in the West Bank and Gaza.

“I’m here especially as a Jew,” Roman said. “I feel it’s so important to show support for other communities, especially the refugee community.”

“Our generation is absolutely not apathetic,” one of his companions, Jonah Breslau, 25, added. “We’re a group of young Jews and our core values are about freedom and dignity for all people — Israeli and Palestinians, Jews and Muslims.”

Danit Osborn, 22, cited her background as both Jewish and Cambodian as part of her reason for being there. She said she wasn’t sure the protest would accomplish any specific policy reform.

“I’m not sure we’re gonna change Donald Trump,” she said. “But I have to be here for my mother and I have to be here for my father.”

Olga Grigoryants, Ryan Torok, Danielle Berrin and Rob Eshman contributed to this report.

Jewish presence felt at LAX protest on Trump refugee order


Shortly before Shabbat fell on Friday, President Donald Trump signed an executive order that effectively slammed the door on refugees seeking entry to the United States – at least for now.

Shock and anger had been building in the Jewish community since a draft order was released days beforehand. On Saturday, those sentiments exploded onto Rabbi Susan Goldberg’s cellphone in concerned messages from her congregants at Wilshire Boulevard Temple.

“When Shabbat ended last night, my phone was blowing up – emails, photos,” she said Jan. 29 as a crowd milled past her at the arrivals gate at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). “For Jews, there’s a clear line that’s been crossed. People felt kind of not okay. But now, it’s different.”

Thousands gathered at LAX, where a number of travellers had been detained because of the order. Police cut off traffic through much of the airport and largely gave protesters the run of Tom Bradley International Terminal.Many protesters were Jews from congregations across the city, and even on signs held aloft by non-Jews, a certain Jewish influence could be detected in references to 1930’s Germany and proclamations of “Never again.”

“There are a lot of Jews here – a lot,” Goldberg said, her husband translating from sign language, since she’d lost her voice. Her three children joined the pair at the Jan. 29 protest.

As weary travellers emerged to boisterously chanting crowds, Adam and Noah Reich held a sign reading, “Two Jewish brothers standing with our Muslim brothers.” While they spoke with a reporter, a short woman with olive skin, a total stranger, walked up and hugged both of them. That type of thing had been going on all afternoon.“Maybe like, a dozen so far,” Noah said. “We’ve been here for a couple hours and people just come up to us.”

“The collective power of everyone here is saying, ‘You’re not alone, we’re all here for you,’” Adam said. “And I think that’s a powerful thing.”

Emerging from the crowd, Jesse Gabriel, an attorney and executive board member at the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, put his hand on Noah’s shoulder.

twit3“Kol ha’kavod,” he told the pair, using a Hebrew expression for “Well done!”

Gabriel was one of dozens of attorneys swarming the terminal, many with signs reading “lawyer” and announcing their foreign language proficiencies, hoping to be of help to stranded travellers or those recently released by immigration and customs officers.“When you have individuals whose rights need to be protected, that’s when lawyers need to step in,” Gabriel said. In fact, there was little work for the attorneys at the terminal, since those detained were stranded elsewhere, in the bowels of LAX, incommunicado. The crowds were chanting, “Let them in!” but lawyers were struggling even to make contact with those stranded.

“Our understanding is that there are a number of people with legal travel documents who are being detained in customs and borders patrol, in custody,” said immigration attorney Michael Hagerty. Hagerty was serving as ad hoc media liaison to a group of attorneys at the airport (as announced by a cardboard sign reading “media liaison”). Among his charges were representatives from legal aid clinic Public Counsel and the local American Civil Liberties Union. But information about those trapped – even a basic head count – proved difficult to come by.

twit4“We don’t know who they are, we don’t know exactly what their legal status is on an individual basis, but in all likelihood they are legal permanent residents, they are refugees with legal refugee travel documents, people with student visas,” Hagerty said.As he spoke, wayfarers cut through surging crowds, pushing carts and lugging suitcases. For those just arriving, it must have presented an overwhelming scene: shouts of “USA!” from flamboyantly dressed protesters, their signs decorated with everything from the Statue of Liberty to Trump with a Hitler mustache, and outside, drums banging out an incessant beat.Marchers mobbed the sidewalk on both the upper and lower levels, along with the international terminal itself. The crowd lined the curb, waving signs at passing cars, and some took to the upper levels of facing parking garages to look down over the scene.

Yet some travellers decided to join the protest, including Zoe Lister Jones, a filmmaker who had just stepped off the plane from screening her new comedy “Band Aid” at the Sundance Film Festival.

“I’ve been witnessing the injustices occurring from Park City and I came straight from the arrivals terminal to protest,” she said. “As a Jew, I think it’s part of our bloodline to stand up to injustice and resist fascism.”

Many Jewish protesters made their religious identity abundantly clear for passersby.

Rabbi Neil Comess-Daniels of Beth Shir Shalom, stood alone on the sidewalk outside the terminal, having been unable to locate his congregants in the chaos, wearing a yarmulke and prayer shawl.

“I wanted people to know that the Jewish people feel a chill up our spine because this is happening,” he said.

Senior writer Danielle Berrin contributed to this report.

FBI arrests two suspected Islamic State recruits in California


The FBI has arrested two men in southern California, one at Los Angeles International Airport, suspected of attempting to travel abroad to join Islamic State, NBC News reported on Thursday.

NBC, which cited anonymous law enforcement officials, said the two men were unarmed and never posed any threat to the public. The other man was arrested in Orange County.

FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller confirmed to Reuters that two men in those locations had been arrested following a joint terrorism task force investigation, but said further details could not be provided until charges were filed.

The men were due in federal court in Santa Ana on Friday, Eimiller said.

Several individuals have been arrested in recent months for plotting to travel to Syria to fight for the militant group Islamic State, including six Somali-American men from Minnesota last month.

Stop waiting for the bus


So much of the discussion about mass transit in Los Angeles is about the future. And it is true that Los Angeles is aggressively building out its transit system to make up for past neglect and to help meet the region’s profound growth and urbanization. It seems every other day there is a new story in the press about the Expo Line coming to Santa Monica, the Crenshaw Line to LAX, the Gold Line extension in the San Gabriel Valley or the subway to the Westside. I know because I write some of these articles.

But let’s not forget that good mass transit is already in many parts of the region. And many of those bus and rail lines serve neighborhoods that are home to large Jewish communities. Think Valley Village, which benefits from the Metro Orange Line busway on Chandler Boulevard, and Cheviot Hills and Rancho Park/Westwood, which will benefit in a year or so from the Expo Line extension. Between Metro, Metrolink, Santa Monica’s Big Blue Bus, Culver City Bus, Commuter Express and assorted other regional bus companies, Los Angeles is already well-served by mass transportation.

Still, the challenge remains getting people to ride those buses and trains. And given the economics of Los Angeles, that challenge is probably nowhere greater than in the Jewish community. With Jews in Los Angeles on the whole better off economically than other Angelenos, many still suffer from the common misperception that buses and trains are not for them. Metro’s own statistics may not help. According to the agency’s annual riders survey, bus riders have a household income of $16,377 while train riders have a household income of $22,517.

“I’m too [fill in your nationality/ethnic or religious origin here] to ride the bus.” That’s what I heard from the otherwise smart young woman having breakfast next to us at Go Get Em Tiger on Larchmont Boulevard in Hancock Park on a recent sunny weekend morning. The place was packed with well-heeled, casually dressed people, with cars to match parked up and down the block. Although some rode bikes or walked, the young woman’s sentiments about the bus seems to be the attitude of many of the better-off in Los Angeles. From Hancock Park to Bel Air, Westwood and Brentwood, those who can afford to drive don’t even consider the bus or train as an option. True or not, “It’s too slow” is another excuse. And unlike in the Bay Area, Chicago, New York, Boston and Washington, D.C., many of our landsmen have no history of commuting to work by bus or train.

Although Metro Rapid (express) buses and routes such as the Orange Line — the San Fernando Valley’s popular rapid bus line, which runs on a bus-only route (a former rail line) — have helped, thanks to widespread local antipathy to the bus, Angelenos raised in the North or East or from Tehran, Moscow and Tel Aviv are more likely to consider riding transit than many locals. These transplants are used to it and know the drill.

On the positive side, L.A. has changed significantly since Mike Davis penned “City of Quartz,” an important but grim book about an almost dystopian Los Angeles scarred by racial and ethnic tensions and balkanized by de facto and de jure segregation. The 1992 riots would hardly have come as a surprise after reading Davis’ book when it came out in 1990. 

Today, the ever-expanding, often-feared city that Davis described is no longer the reality. In many neighborhoods, it has been replaced by a mostly safe, infill city whose geographic boundaries are more blurred, where development takes the form of building in already built-up areas and adaptive reuse of existing commercial, industrial and residential buildings, as seen in parts of downtown and in the Arts District. Wilshire Boulevard Temple’s investment in Koreatown, whose character is principally Latino and Korean, is an example of a major urban infill project in a part of Los Angeles that is as urban as it gets. Having completed the renovation of its landmark sanctuary, the congregation is now renovating its school buildings and constructing a new social service center on Sixth Street, which will house a food pantry and dental, vision, mental health and legal services for the neighborhood, as well as rooftop athletic facilities.

Whether you call it gentrification or the natural course of events, the desire of old and young alike to live in more urban and older areas of L.A. is transforming neighborhoods from downtown to Koreatown, Echo Park and Highland Park.

And as that urbanization continues, even for those who don’t currently count themselves transit riders, the bus and train will become a more attractive option.

If you are one of those holdouts who has not been on a bus or train in Los Angeles recently, you are doing yourself a disservice. Although the Metro system needs to do a better job keeping its bus stops tidy, most trains and buses are clean and, in many cases, new. This is particularly true of the busy lines serving higher-density routes such as Wilshire, Santa Monica, Sunset, Ventura and Chandler boulevards.

Like so many other changes that have come to L.A .in recent years, there is cause for optimism about the public’s use of public transit. Just think about two local phenomena that would have been unthinkable just a decade ago. The first is CicLAvia, the highly successful bicycle and pedestrian street party that has taken L.A. by storm since its first event in October 2010. Think about it — the closing of major streets so that people can bike and walk on them. “Are you nuts? Meshugge? It will never work. It will bring the city to a standstill.” But more than 10 events later, with one in the San Fernando Valley just a couple of weeks ago, CicLAvia has become a fixture, and even a model for other cities across the country. Long Beach is having its first “Beach Streets” event June 6. Five years after the first public block party, hundreds of thousands of people have explored more than 100 miles of open streets in Los Angeles. Who knew we wanted this, until it happened?

Second is the transformation of downtown Los Angeles. Who among us believed in its rebirth more than a few years before Wexler’s Deli opened at the Grand Central Market? Developers like the Yellin Co., which owns the market and the Million Dollar Theatre, and Steve Needleman, whose family has owned the Orpheum Theatre since 1964, have long touted the merits of downtown. But the majority of us have needed more convincing.

Both of these transformative developments are about a new sense of community in Los Angeles that is resulting in Angelenos from all over the city interacting in ways they never have before. Taking the bus or train, like riding a bike in CicLAvia or exploring Broadway downtown is what we do, even if our parents out in Tarzana or Encino didn’t. And now it couldn’t be easier, with real time, transportation apps that let you know when the bus or train is arriving. I like RideScout, NextBus, L.A. Metro’s Go Metro app and Google Maps.

At an affordable $1.75 a ride with free transfers when you use a TAP transit card (for up to two hours to complete a one-way trip), Metro is a bargain compared to public transit in cities like San Francisco, Chicago and New York. And after all, you ride buses and trains when you travel, so why not at home? Whether you live in Pico Robertson or Hancock Park, Hollywood or downtown, the bus has arrived. It’s not a matter of waiting anymore.


Joel Epstein is a senior adviser to companies, law firms, foundations and public initiatives on communications strategy, corporate social responsibility, recruiting and outreach. His writing focuses on business, politics, public transportation, education and other critical urban issues.

Measure R2: Synagogues, museums, transit supporters unite to step on the gas!


What unites more Angelenos than a Los Angeles Kings Stanley Cup victory? Distaste for the 405 Freeway. The Sepulveda Pass, in particular, which has undergone a massive construction project in recent years, still retains the ability to turn into a parking lot at any hour of the day. And yet numerous major institutions line the path of and rely upon this thoroughfare between the Westside of Los Angeles and the San Fernando Valley. 

Now some of those institutions, including Leo Baeck Temple, the Getty Museum, California State University, Northridge, and Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) have made an unlikely alliance, banding together in support of a radical mass transit overhaul of the trek through the hills.

In an unprecedented show of solidarity, representatives of these institutions and dozens of others from across Los Angeles County gathered on June 8 at the Marvin Braude San Fernando Valley Constituent Service Center in Van Nuys to discuss how to move forward to significantly expand public transportation in the region. Co-officiating the Sunday afternoon meeting — and pledging his own support — was Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti. 

“We’ve all had it with the impossibility of traveling from place to place in this town,” Rabbi Ken Chasen of Leo Baeck Temple said in the day’s introductory remarks. “We are ready — and hungry — for change.”

That change could take the form of a 2016 ballot measure to raise funds for light rail projects in all corners of the county, including a much-championed line that would travel through the Sepulveda Pass and down to LAX. The proposed initiative, nicknamed Measure R2, would build on the work of 2008’s Measure R to plug gaps in L.A.’s existing mass transit system. 

But the point of the June 8 meeting was not only to review the elements of the proposal. The group’s ultimate goal was loftier: to rally stakeholders to address the economic and social setbacks L.A. could continue to suffer unless its diverse constituents learn to work — and speak — together. 

“In order to bring the kind of growth and change to our county that we want and need, we have to begin by understanding and investing in one another,” Chasen said. “This is the start of that conversation.”

Actually, it was a continuation. The seeds for this collaboration were planted four years ago, when Leo Baeck, with help from Rabbi Stephanie Kolin, co-director of Just Congregations — a social justice initiative of the Reform movement — began the process of community organizing. A team of leaders spearheaded a “listening campaign” in which members of the congregation participated in some 300 conversations, during which they “really listened hard to what matters to people, what fires them up, what they care about deeply,” Kolin said. 

One major topic that emerged was the economy, specifically job creation. At the same time, mobility was on the minds of many Leo Baeck members, and for good reason — situated in a cleft of the Sepulveda Pass, the synagogue abuts the notoriously congested 405 Freeway, where ongoing construction has kept some worshippers from reaching the location on time for years. “On a Friday evening, when worship starts, it’s a very difficult place to get to,” Chasen said. 

Some congregants talked about how hard it is to drive to synagogue. Others living in the neighborhood said they had experienced difficulty reaching loved ones in the hospital because of traffic. One told a story about missing a crucial job interview despite leaving in plenty of time, because it took him two hours to inch from the Valley to the Westside. 

“Our quality of life is destroyed by this lack of adequate infrastructure,” said Rabbi Rachel Timoner of Leo Baeck. “Because we haven’t been able to get our act together as a county, some parents can’t see their own children before they go to bed.”

Their answer: Build a train. In 2012, Leo Baeck, a member of the broad-based organizing network OneLA-IAF, began reaching out to other congregations to drum up support for the idea. Project leaders also learned that the transportation-focused nonprofit Move LA already was drafting a light rail proposal and suggested a partnership. 

With the mayoral race underway, Leo Baeck invited the candidates to a town hall-style forum to talk about the personal toll of L.A.’s famous gridlock. The candidates returned to the synagogue in February 2013 for a follow-up discussion. About 1,000 attendees from institutions across L.A. packed the room. There, Leo Baeck and OneLA-IAF organizers asked for commitments from each of the candidates: If elected mayor, would you meet with us within your first 100 days in office? Would you collaborate with us on transportation issues? Would you co-convene a meeting to hear stakeholders’ desires to get ahead?

On all counts, Garcetti has so far upheld his “yes.” Leo Baeck leaders have met with the mayor’s office monthly since late last year, hashing out a strategy to build support for Measure R2. Based on that strategy, Leo Baeck and OneLA-IAF have met with dozens of stakeholders up and down the 405 corridor to hear their traffic concerns and ask for their backing. “They all, 100 percent, said, ‘We agree — this is a gigantic unmet need in our city and county, and we need to do something about it,’ ” Timoner said. 

As for the mayor’s pledge to co-convene a meeting, that day arrived June 8. 

More than 100 people representing L.A. County businesses, schools, faith communities, government councils and labor organizations filled the meeting room, with several marveling that they had never partnered on an issue before. “It is truly rare that all of these corners of Los Angeles come together for any purpose,” Chasen said, calling the event “a grand opportunity.”

Participating institutions included UCLA, Mattel Inc., Los Angeles World Airports, Milken Community Schools, and more than a dozen churches and synagogues, including Temple Judea, Temple Isaiah and Temple Beth Am. Attendees came from the San Fernando Valley, the San Gabriel Valley, South Los Angeles, the South Bay, the Gateway Cities and the Westside.

The 405 corridor is “a crucial piece of the transit puzzle that we all need to work together to solve in order to make this region what it can be,” said Leo Baeck and OneLA-IAF member Eric Stockel. “Traffic is a barrier to jobs, to careers, to economic growth, to protecting the environment, to community and to fulfilled lives. It is, in the end, a barrier to justice.”

Luz de la Cruz, a congregant of Mary Immaculate Catholic Church in Pacoima, described how her daily bus commute to Westwood could sometimes take 3 1/2 hours, depriving her of meaningful time with her four children. 

Garcetti said he appreciated the chance to hear personal stories illustrating “the human impact of the billions of dollars and the millions of hours we lose every single year because of our inability to solve this problem.”

In a moment of levity, he also quipped, “As a Jew, it’s great to see so many Jews talking about traffic — probably the most since the Exodus.”

Garcetti’s presence wasn’t just symbolic; the L.A. mayor serves as incoming vice chair of the board of directors that governs the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), which ultimately will decide if Measure R2 makes it onto the 2016 ballot. He also has the power to appoint three new MTA members, whose views could influence the decision. 

Denny Zane, executive director of Move LA, believes the measure has a fighting chance. The proposal calls for a half-cent sales tax that would raise about $90 billion over 45 years for a transit plan that Zane called a “congestion buster.” Among dozens of projects, the measure could fund an extension of the Crenshaw Line to Hollywood, an extension of the Red Line to Burbank’s Bob Hope Airport, the conversion of the Orange Line to light rail, and a rail line from Sylmar in the north San Fernando Valley to LAX — including a tunnel through the Sepulveda Pass that could also hold toll roads and rapid buses. The plan would create tens of thousands of jobs and apprenticeships.

Nothing is set in stone, Zane said. The current proposal is just a framework for people to “kick around and learn from and modify and tell us what they think,” he explained. “It’s a serious proposal, but it’s a discussion piece. We’re pretty confident that the categories and levels of funding involved are realistic.” The measure would require two-thirds of the vote to pass, so months of deliberations over language and funding lie ahead. 

Meanwhile, Zane said, Leo Baeck and OneLA-IAF have been crucial partners. “We have a lot of fun and a good dialogue,” he said. “They’re effective and energetic. They pull together important meetings — they’re always working.”

Jewish leadership on the issue of transportation might come as a surprise to some. “Who would think that the Jews would build a train?” mused Kolin. “But it’s deeply in our values.”

“The Torah teaches us to love the stranger,” Timoner added. “This is about connecting us to one another — relating to each other face to face instead of bumper to bumper.”

For the next nine months, stakeholders will do outreach in their communities, holding forums to educate members of the public about the boons of a more comprehensive mass transit system. Next spring, the group hopes to reconvene with a clearer list of priorities for the county transportation map. 

There are still concerns to resolve. MTA board member John Fasana cautioned that county residents might have to “open our minds” about nontraditional methods of financing, such as congestion pricing. And some residents worried that unless affordable housing is built near transit stops, they could be priced out of their neighborhoods. “The rent is going to increase, and this is already a poor community,” said Rosy Cruz, a member of St. Agnes Parish, near USC. “If these big things are coming up, we’re going to get displaced.” 

On June 20, California Gov. Jerry Brown signed a state budget that could funnel nearly $1 billion into affordable housing over the next six years, potentially alleviating some of these fears. 

Organizers are hopeful that the county can reach a consensus. “We want to be able to speak with one voice,” Timoner said. “Our main goal is that when this measure is written, it’s written in a transparent and democratic way with the voices of the people
included.”

TSA agent killed, 6 hurt in Los Angeles airport shooting


A gunman opened fire with an assault rifle in a terminal of Los Angeles International airport on Friday, killing a Transportation Security Agent and injuring at least six other people before he was shot and captured, authorities said.

The incident prompted scenes of chaos at the airport, which halted departing flights and evacuated the terminal. Streets surrounding the airport were also shut down.

“An individual came into Terminal 3 of this airport, pulled an assault rifle out of a bag and began to open fire in the terminal,” Patrick Gannon, chief of the Los Angeles Airport Police said at a press conference.

A U.S. Transportation Security Administration spokesperson said on Twitter that one of its agents had been killed in the shooting and another was wounded. The tweet was later deleted.

A spokesman for the Los Angeles County Coroner said it was handling one person who was killed in the shooting – a male, approximately 40 years old.

Earlier, the Los Angeles Times and ABC News reported that a TSA agent had been killed, citing law enforcement sources.

A Los Angeles fire department spokesman said seven people were hurt and that six of them were taken to area hospitals.

Los Angeles police spokeswoman Officer Norma Eisenman said a suspect had been taken into custody and was believed to be the only person involved in the shooting.

Three male victims hurt in the incident were taken to Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, where one was listed in critical condition and two others in fair condition, said Mark Wheeler, a spokesman for the hospital.

'PEOPLE STARTED RUNNING'

The condition of the other victims or the gunman was not immediately clear.

Passenger Robert Perez told a local CBS affiliate that airport security agents had come through the terminal shouting that a man had a gun.

“I heard popping and everybody dropped to the ground,” Perez said.

Alex Neumann told cable network CNN that he was in an area inside the airport past a security checkpoint when he heard loud noises and screaming and saw people running in a scene that amounted to mayhem.

“We were at the food court and all of a sudden I hear a big commotion and people started running. People were running and people getting knocked down,” Neumann said, adding that he heard screams. “Mayhem is the best way of describing it.”

Television images showed at least one person being loaded into one of several ambulances at the scene, and passengers were seen being evacuated from the area.

Footage showed emergency responders setting up what appeared to be a triage area outside an airport terminal.

“The general public is being held back… Other than arriving flights, flight operations have been temporary held,” airport spokeswoman Katherine Alvarado said in an emailed statement.

President Barack Obama was briefed on the incident and White House officials are in touch with law enforcement officials on the ground, White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters.

LAX $4.1 billion makeover will include updates to food, concession stands


The number of people in toques and clean white chef coats at the Flight Path Learning Center and Museum at Los Angeles International Airport on the morning of Dec. 5 made it feel like a set for an episode of Bravo’s “Top Chef.”  

Press, airport staff and city employees sipping espressos from LAMill Coffee kept glancing off to a side room where pastries from Short Cake, parfaits from the Larder at Tavern and slices of salmon dotted with Petrossian caviar were being staged. 

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, an acknowledged foodie, greeted chefs like Suzanne Goin, Susan Feniger and Michael Voltaggio by name as he made his way to the podium to unveil an enormous slate of planned amenities at LAX’s Tom Bradley International Terminal.

LAX is undergoing a $4.1 billion makeover, its first since the 1984 Olympics. The Tom Bradley International Terminal will absorb $1.5 billion of that and is the largest public works project in the history of the city. The changes range from the big to the subtle, including a new, airy design for the Bradley buildings, better baggage handling machines, and more and wider gates for new generation aircraft. 

But the change most likely to be noticed by travelers is the food.

“I’ve always been a little bit embarrassed by LAX,” the mayor admitted in his introductory discussion of money, jobs, expanding economic hubs and the role the airport plays in being the city’s face to the world. 

“The Tom Bradley terminal is the first and last place many international travelers see of our great city,” the mayor said.

Plans call for more than 60 dining and retail shops. Some of what the terminal’s new concession manager, Westfield, is bringing to the upscale project is what Peter Lowy, co-chief executive of the Westfield Group, described as “iconic shopping.”  

International travelers will be able to browse and buy in Bulgari or Coach, get “Sorry I’ve been gone so much” gifts at Sanrio or relax at a mini version of Bliss Spa in the terminal. In searching for the best way to present Los Angeles to visitors, however, Lowy said everyone involved focused on “the flavor of the city captured through food.”

Until recently, the terminal might have been known as the best place to eat among not-very-good options at LAX. In its ticketing area there is a Pink’s Hot Dogs stand, and its food court includes Daily Grill and Daily Grill Express, along with the usual fast-food suspects. 

While Pink’s will remain open in its location, arriving and departing travelers on the other side of security will be able to dine at Umami Burger, get pizza from 800 Degrees or bite into one of Voltaggio’s famous sandwiches from ink.sack. Others may try Short Cake’s pastries while enjoying a cup of joe from LAMill or Coffee Bean (the latter is completely kosher).

Charcuterie, cheese and more will be on offer at Goin and Caroline Styne’s Larder at Tavern. Marmalade Café will be serving what is now known across the country as California cuisine. Luckyfish will be serving sushi fresh from Japan, while Feniger and Mary Sue Milliken’s Border Grill will bring Mexican to the mix. Cantina Laredo, the steakhouse III Forks and Franco-Japanese Chaya will offer fine dining. 

For those in a hurry, there will be Pinkberry and more. Should you need a drink to soothe your travel-jangled nerves, Vino Volo, Drink.LA and a new version of Starbucks will be among those offering beer, wine and cocktails. Travelers will be able to find sweets at Vanilla Bake Shop and See’s Candies, too. 

For locals like Jamie Thompson, a Realtor and foodie, the possibilities are exciting. 

“One of the first things I think about when I travel abroad is food,” Thompson said, adding that she anticipates a similar shift in focus to fresher, healthier, locally sourced options in the domestic terminals as well.

Fresh is important to business traveler Gene Kleid, too. People who live far from the airport — as she does in Simi Valley — often end up eating meals at airports before and between flights. Knowing when she travels for business that there are many on-the-road meals ahead of her, she said she is grateful for the trend toward variety in both international and domestic terminals. 

At the close of the morning event, when servers finally began to circulate among the guests, distributing croissants, french toast and mimosas, the mayor and other officials gathered with all the chefs for a ribbon-cutting ceremony and photo op. The banner unfurled in front of them bore each of the new tenants’ logos and declared boldly that all this delicious food and more would be available to travelers by the spring of 2013. 

In the audience, the chefs’ business partners and employees gasped; they have a mountain of unsolved menu challenges ahead of them. And before they can even start to think about that, there’s an even bigger question — how to make their meals when kitchens on the far side of security checkpoints can’t use knives.

Student newspaper finalist for national prize


On Sept. 21, the day the space shuttle Endeavour flew past local landmarks on its way to Los Angeles International Airport, every media outlet in the city had dispatched multiple reporters to look to the skies.

The Boiling Point, Shalhevet High School’s student newspaper, which was recently named a finalist in the National Scholastic Press Association’s competitive Pacemaker contest, was no exception. 

Members of the editorial staff were positioned on the school’s roof, hoping to catch a glimpse of the retired shuttle’s last flight. Others, among them the newspaper’s faculty adviser, Joelle Keene, had traveled to a rooftop in Beverly Hills in case that spot offered a better view. 

“Just another day in the life of The Boiling Point,” said Keene, speaking to the Journal by phone while waiting for the shuttle to make an appearance. 

Producing a newspaper in a 160-student, Modern Orthodox, private high school — one that covers local, national, even international stories – can be a daunting task. But that’s precisely what the paper’s 30-person staff sets out to do between five and eight times every school year. 

After Santa Monica College announced — and later shelved — a planned tuition program that would have charged higher prices for certain classes than for others, The Boiling Point wrote about how the move would have affected Shalhevet alumni. 

When a cheating scandal in New York made headlines and led administrators of standardized tests to implement tighter security measures, a staff writer for The Boiling Point reported that the move could have the unintended consequence of making it more difficult for Shalhevet students — and other Sunday test-takers — to register for the exam. 

And in the wake of reports that devoutly religious men in Israel had harassed and spat at an 8-year-old Modern Orthodox girl because of how she was dressed, Editor-In-Chief Leila Miller wrote a long story about Charedim in Los Angeles, pulling back the curtain on a slice of the city that most Jews — let alone high school students — never see.

All three of those stories — along with sports coverage, a feature about depression, even a restaurant review — were in The Boiling Point’s June 2012 issue. 

From its underground offices, where staffers are known to spend six hours (or more) each day in the week before going to press, The Boiling Point has a record of winning recognition for individual stories, Keene said. She cited a number of national Story-of-the-Year awards and honorable mentions writers have won in the nine years she’s been serving as the paper’s adviser. 

But for The Boiling Point, which is produced on a budget of about $9,000 annually, to be named as a finalist for the Pacemaker, student journalism’s highest honor, represents a new level of collaborative achievement. 

“It’s everybody’s work,” said Keene, who holds a master’s in journalism from Columbia University and has won national, state and local awards for her reporting with a number of newspapers. “It’s the person who makes sure that there’s a line under every photo, and that the photo credit is correct.” 

The Boiling Point is one of nine finalists competing in the broadsheet category for newspapers of 17 pages or more, a category that includes papers from larger and better-known schools, including Harvard-Westlake. 

The winners in all categories will be announced on Nov. 17 at the Fall National High School Journalism Convention in San Antonio. Keene said some of the student journalists will travel to the convention, but she was unsure whether they would be able to accept the award in person, should they win. The ceremony takes place on Shabbat, and the school’s rabbis hadn’t decided whether accepting an award would be appropriate.

Bill Boyarsky: Calculating the value of Villaraigosa’s trip


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The mayor and Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Hulda discuss river revitalization. Photo courtesy the Mayor’s Office

Until leaving the Los Angeles Times in 2001, Bill Boyarsky worked as a political correspondent, a Metro columnist for nine years and as city editor for three years. You can reach him at bw.boyarsky@verizon.net.

Rabbi Zoë Klein: L.A. delegation to Israel returns with wealth of optimism


Last week I returned from traveling through the land I love with some of our most influential local leaders, all journeying to Israel with the desire and will to help our collective Los Angeles reach its highest potential.

Sitting in the office of the mayor of Tel Aviv-Yaffo with date cookies and strong tea, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said, “Los Angeles is in many ways a paradise lost, which we are in the process of regaining.”

To come to Israel as part of that regaining of paradise was as productive to Los Angeles as it was precious to me, to have the two worlds my heart’s inhabited for so long come together in a dance. Like the scouts who returned from the Land of Canaan bearing a cluster of grapes, each one as big as a globe, we returned with an abundance of fruit, ripe with wisdom, vision and hope.

I was proud to be part of this delegation, proud to be among some of the gatekeepers of our city, astounded at the vast amount Israel had to offer us and the generosity of her leaders to share.

One of the biggest themes of our journey was water. The CEO of the Israeli National Water Commission quoted Vladimir Nabokov when he talked about Israel’s culture of innovation, saying, “A genius is an African who dreams up snow….”

At the Clean-Technology roundtable in Tel Aviv, some of the most brilliant minds in green technology spoke with us, starting from the premise of Israel’s most pressing question: “How do you run an entire country without oil?”

One after another genius dreamt up snow before our eyes, explaining how Israel planned to create an entire national transportation system by connecting the parking grid to the electric grid and how the L.A. Basin (which is the same size as Israel) could do the same, becoming the cleanest city in the world.

The list of technologies invented in Israel was overwhelming. That a country so small would have more companies traded on NASDAQ than any other country outside the United States amazed us: defense, drip-irrigation, Intel, Pentium, Centrino, cellphones, cordless phones, voice mail, flash technology, MP3, satellite TV, cable, DVD, Direct TV (heart of the box made in Jerusalem), plasma televisions, IM, firewalls, pill cam, generic drugs, first drug to delay Parkinson’s disease, geothermal, solar power, storage, fuel cells, batteries.

The list was out of control. Our mayor said, “Each company is great, but more than that, we need to create the kind of partnership where there is real investment in a lasting relationship, particularly with solar and greening.”

We all had a new appreciation for why our futures are intertwined.

We asked how a country so small could be so oversized when it came to invention?

One answer was that it is a culture of acceptance of risk. Another answer was that it is a culture that identifies the brightest and puts them in top positions in the army, where they learn discipline. A third answer was that it is a culture that embraces immigrants who come with degrees, perspective and the fire to create.

We visited a progressive school in Tel Aviv for immigrants, where there were 48 languages spoken, where our mayor said he was particularly heartened to see refugees from Darfur.

“I hope we think about how to embrace each other, in our shuls, in our churches, in our mosques,” he said.

Tel Aviv-Yaffo Deputy Mayor Yael Dayan, daughter of Moshe Dayan, spoke to us there saying, “The melting pot idea was a mistake, that you take everyone and put them in a pot, heat them up and create something new. You have to respect the uniqueness of each culture; you have to care about them. Don’t put them in a melting pot but make them part of a collage.”

At our last dinner together before boarding the plane, we spoke about Israel and our deepened respect for its accomplishments. Members of the delegation expressed concern about the wall, and Villaraigosa expressed concern, as well, adding, “Then again, they have built a wall to keep people out who want to kill them. It is hard to argue with that.”

Then he thought for a moment and laughed, shaking his head and saying, “And we’re building a wall in America to keep people out who want to take care of our babies.”

The highlight of this working trip for many of us was the time we spent with Israeli President Shimon Peres. He welcomed us warmly, saying that whenever he hears of a fire in Los Angeles, “We all want to run and help put it out.”

Villaraigosa explained that he was from Boyle Heights, and Peres asked if that was close to Beverly Hills. Our mayor laughed and said, “It is very far.” The two spoke about being optimists, and Peres said, “In the beginning, the pessimists are always right, but in the end, the optimists are right.”

Peres spoke about pollution, that pollution was endangering our lives in so many ways, physically and also by funding terrorists when we rely on oil.

He said, “You cannot negotiate with nature. Nature is getting impatient. You cannot tell the icebergs to wait…. We prefer to depend on the sun not an Arab country. The sun is more friendly, more objective, open to everyone.”

He spoke of the difference between “holy countries” and “oily countries,” about the problem of oil, that when one discovers oil they stop working, stop thinking.

“Why work when you’ve found oil?” he said, and then added about Israel, “What makes us proud is that we have become richer by working … we don’t have oil, but we have science, and science is unlimited.”

“We have had seven wars, always outnumbered and outgunned,” Peres said, weightily, “but never did a day of war postpone a day of freedom.”

Briefs: Coalition protests modern-day plague of poverty, BBI branches out


Coalition protests modern-day plague of poverty

It wasn’t quite the Red Sea, but the red undulating banners in front of the LAX Hilton did evoke the image of the Exodus as more than 200 people — including Jewish, Christian and Muslim leaders — made their way across Century Boulevard demanding that the hotel end its opposition to living wages for all its workers.

The rally was the latest effort of a coalition of community, civic and faith leaders that has been focusing for the past year on the working and living conditions of hotel workers along Century Boulevard.

“Passover and Holy Week are times when we relive the stories in our faith traditions of suffering and redemption, and an important part of this is recognition of the suffering that exists today,” said the Rev. Anna Olson, deputy director of Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice, which organized the demonstration.

“Workers at the LAX Hilton exemplify the modern-day plague of working poverty, and we stand with these workers in the faith that just as God heard the cries of the Israelites in ancient Egypt, the cries of these workers will be heard as well,” she said.

“The rally was intended to pressure the LAX Hilton to relax its often illegal and very oppressive policies toward it’s workers,” said Rabbi Jason Van Leeuwen of Congregation B’nai Tikvah, a Conservative shul located near LAX. He emphasized that he doesn’t “use those terms lightly.”

In addition to participating in protests and demonstrations, the leaders have also called for a boycott of the Hilton LAX. The hotel spent almost a quarter of a million dollars to oppose an extension of Los Angeles’ living wage ordinance, enacted last November, to the Century Boulevard Hotel workers, and is currently challenging a revised version of the ordinance which was passed by the City Council in February.

“Although there were references to Good Friday, the dominant theme of the demonstration was the Exodus,” Van Leeuwen said. “This Jewish experience resonated with people of all faiths.”
Extending the analogy, demonstrators carried signs charging the hotel owners with perpetrating modern plagues, including substandard wages, the lack of benefits for affordable health care and violating federal law by firing people for labor organizing.

To further underscore the parallels of moving from oppression toward a better life, Rabbi Van Leeuwen held a piece of matzah before the gathering.

“This is the bread of affliction which our ancestors ate, and some are still forced to eat,” he said, translating from the Seder service. “All who are hungry, all who are tired, let them come, eat and be nourished.”

— Naomi Glauberman, Contributing Writer

Brandeis Collegiate Institute branches out

For 60 years, the Brandeis Collegiate Institute (BCI) has brought 18- to 26-year-olds for an experiential summer on the Brandeis-Bardin Institute campus, which is now part of the newly created American Jewish University following a merger with the University of Judaism. The BCI recently added several new programs for young adults to explore their Jewish selves and Jewish community.

The new Brandeis Leadership Institute (BLI) will afford up to 50 graduate students and young professionals of diverse educational and denominational backgrounds, ages 24 to 32, the opportunity to live and learn on the BCI campus from June 13 to 24.

“BLI creates a unique space for young adults to rejuvenate their spirits and connect to Jewish culture, history, ethics and community,” said Rabbi Laurie Hahn Tapper, director of BCI and Adult Programs.

The Sheva Fellowship, a four- to eight-month residential program that prepares Jewish adults to be environmental experiential Jewish educators, began last January. Currently three fellows are being trained in such areas as organic gardening, outdoor and wilderness skills, Jewish text and tradition and community building under the leadership of Dr. Gabe Goldman, director of experiential and environmental education.

The traditional BCI program, which was originally created in 1941 by Shlomo Bardin in Amherst, N.H., and relocated to Simi Valley in 1947, is now called the BCI Classic. This summer’s session, for up to 65 participants, will run from June 27 to July 22 and will combine artistic expression, trans-denominational learning, spiritual reflection and outdoor exploration.

Additionally, BCI Part II: Recharge and Renew was introduced as a new five-day session in January. Forty-one young adults, including recent BCI alumni along with their friends and significant others who had never participated, joined together for prayer, arts workshops, community service and learning. BCI Part II will be repeated next January, according to Hahn Tapper.

BCI is also reaching out to both distant and local constituencies. The new BCI on the Road brings the BCI experience directly to campuses and conferences outside of Los Angeles. Plus, a newly formed group of BCI and Camp Alonim alumni is creating spiritual, intellectual and social programming for the local Jewish young adult population.

Applications for BLI and BCI Classic are currently being accepted on a rolling admissions basis. For an application or for more information on any BCI program, visit www.thebbi.org/bci or call Rabbi Laurie Hahn Tapper at (805) 582-4450.

— Jane Ulman, Contributing Editor

Israeli Security Offers Pointers to LAX; Education Programs Get Multimillion Dollar Boost


Israeli Security Offers Pointers to LAX

Three Israeli security experts received warm praise from local city officials after concluding a four-day recent inspection tour of Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) recently.

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa issued a statement during his Asia travels lauding the “peer-to-peer sharing of critical security measures in place at Ben-Gurion Airport.”

City Councilman Jack Weiss, who hosted the Israeli delegation, said that the inspection visit was the first of its kind to any U.S. airport.

Heading the Israeli group was Nahum Liss, director of the security planning department at Ben-Gurion International Airport, joined by department officials Hadas Levitan and Alon Browon.

They were not available for comment and LAX officials declined to discuss specific recommendations for security reasons.However, LAX Commission President Alan Rothenberg told the Los Angeles Times that the Israeli experts “had a half dozen suggestions, some of them very low tech, some of them very high tech.”

The Los Angeles airport is considered the prime terrorist target in California and its Tom Bradley International Terminal processes as many passengers annually as the Ben-Gurion airport, Rothenberg said.

In reporting the visit, the L.A. Times emphasized that “Israel airport security is recognized throughout the world as the gold standard,” particularly for its “behavioral recognition tactics.”

The Israeli delegation was invited by Weiss, who participated in a conference on homeland security in Israel earlier this year.”We came to appreciate that Israeli government officials have unique and valuable experience in protecting airports and airliners from terrorism and that they could be helpful partners in securing LAX,” Weiss said.

“We hope that we can arrange to put this security exchange on a permanent footing,” he added.

— Tom Tugend, Contributing Editor

Education Programs Get Multimillion Dollar Boost

The Jewish Community Foundation of Los Angeles (JCF) recently announced that it had awarded grants totaling a record $57 million in 2005, up 33 percent from a year earlier.

The 52-year-old foundation, the largest manager of charitable assets for Jewish philanthropists in Los Angeles, distributed more than 1,300 grants last year to a variety of secular and religious causes.

“Whether the foundation’s grants target the young, the elderly, the arts, education, or social services, we aim to make a real difference in people’s lives,” said Marvin I. Schotland, JCF president and chief executive.

With the foundation’s total assets having jumped 83 percent over the past five years, JCF recently announced that it would award grants of up to $250,000 over a three-year period, compared to maximum grants of $50,000. As of Dec. 31, 2005, the foundation had $603 million in total assets.

Among the 2005 recipients of noteworthy JCF grants:

  • Jewish World Watch, an anti-genocide advocacy group that has focused on the tragedy in Darfur, received $50,000 from JCF to help with its mission of educating and mobilizing the Jewish community against acts of genocide and inhumanity. JWW, since its inception two years ago, has raised a total $500,000 to build two medical clinics for refugees in Darfur and 50 water wells and other water systems mostly in Darfur, among other projects
  • The Bureau of Jewish Education of Greater Los Angeles received $39,000 for a Hebrew language immersion program for children in Jewish elementary day schools.
  • Aish Tamid of Los Angeles, received $10,000 for its Student Career Fair Conference, a one-day career fair for at-risk youth in the Orthodox community.
  • Brandeis-Bardin Institute landed $20,000 for a camp-based program for high-school students and their parents that focuses on Jewish ethics, sexual development and responsible decision-making.
  • The Library Education Project for Los Angeles, a StandWithUs program, received $50,000 to organize discussion groups, buy books and films and meet with librarians to help correct the perceived anti-Israel bias in many libraries.
  • HaMercaz, a program that brings together several local Jewish agencies to coordinate and provide services to families of children with developmental disabilities and special needs, landed $48,700.
  • The UCLA Center for Jewish Studies received $10,000 to help underwrite the costs of a two-day conference about the Jewish experience in Los Angeles.

— Marc Ballon, Senior Writer

Sukkot: the beauty of fragility


Nine years ago, my wife and I returned home from lunch in a friend’s sukkah on the first day of Sukkot. The phone was ringing as we walked in, and since we’d only
just arrived in Los Angeles we didn’t have an answering machine set up yet. Since we don’t use the phone on Shabbat or holidays, I did nothing as it rang four, five, six times.

I had gone to lie down for a nap when the phone started to ring again. Figuring it was a persistent telemarketer, I rolled over and tried to ignore it. The phone stopped again after another five or six rings. But a few minutes later, the phone rang again. This time I was worried.

I answered the phone and on the other end of the line was my sister, an internist in San Jose.

“Grandma is in the hospital; she is really sick. You should come,” she said.
Since my sister deals in matters of life and death, I knew it was serious.
I don’t travel on Shabbat or Jewish holidays, so after I hung up the phone I walked a few short blocks to Rabbi Elliot Dorff’s home to discuss my options.

If I waited until the end of the first two days of the festival, and then Shabbat, which followed immediately thereafter, I would likely be too late. We decided that, although we observe the second day of Jewish festivals, since the second day of Sukkot has a different status according to Jewish law than the first day and Shabbat, when the first day of the festival ended that night I would take the last flight out of LAX.

When I arrived that night in San Jose, I went immediately to the hospital to visit my grandma Lillian (z”l), who was in a coma. I made arrangements to spend Shabbat in the hospital, in her room at her side, an intimacy that the stringencies of Jewish law gifted to me.

Friday night, I prayed Kabbalat Shabbat at her side and made Kiddush with her. The next morning I donned my tallit, prayed the morning prayers and studied the weekly portion to the rhythm of a ventilator and heart monitor.

That afternoon, after one of many visits to my grandma’s side, my mother, sister and I, along with other close relatives, walked away from her door toward the waiting room for a few minutes of relief. As we headed past the nurse’s station, a nurse called out, “She is fading — you should come quickly.”

We hustled back to the room. I knelt down, took out my siddur, and began to recite the Vidui — the Jewish deathbed confessional — and concluded with the Shema. Before I finished those words, she had died.

I am grateful for many things from that weekend. I am grateful for the guidance and compassion of a wise teacher and friend in Rabbi Dorff. I am grateful for the gift — as Rabbi Ed Feinstein, a teacher of mine, would describe it a few weeks later — of holding my grandmother’s hand as she slipped from this world into the next. And, as the years have gone by, I am even grateful that she died during this season, on the third day of Sukkot, for through her death she taught me the true essence of what it means to dwell in a sukkah.

Martha Nussbaum, author of a book titled, “The Fragility of Goodness: Luck and Ethics in Greek Tragedy and Philosophy,” once wrote, “Part of the peculiar beauty of human excellence just is its vulnerability.”

Part of what gives this world its beauty, its goodness, is its vulnerability. Beauty in this world cannot be made invulnerable. We cannot be invulnerable, even though we try. We try so hard to protect ourselves, to protect our children. We build walls. We build strong, comfortable houses with roofs and heat for shelter and quiet. But we cannot be made invulnerable; we cannot keep ourselves safe and truly celebrate the beauty of this world.

On Sukkot, the time tradition tells us is zman simchateinu, the season of our joy, we dwell in a fragile hut, open to the winds and rain and cold of the world, to remind ourselves that our joy is enriched, is deepened, when we glimpse, if only for a moment, how weak and fragile we are.

Rabbi Israel Mayer HaCohen asked why it is that we celebrate Sukkot in autumn. Leviticus 23:42-3 teaches: “You shall live in booths seven days, in order that future generations may know that I made the Israelite people live in booths when I brought them out of the land of Egypt, I am Adonai your God.”

If Sukkot commemorates what God did after the Exodus from Egypt, let us celebrate Sukkot in the spring. Alternatively, if Sukkot commemorates the clouds of glory with which God sheltered us in the wilderness (as Rabbi Akiba argued in the Talmud), let us celebrate Sukkot in the summer when the clouds protected us most from the searing midday summer sun.

Why autumn?

The Chafetz Chaim answers that we were not commanded to make Sukkot during the spring or summer because that was when most people would make sukkot for shade.

Instead, we make them specifically when the rainy season begins and the weather grows colder during the fall to remind others and ourselves that what we are doing is a mitzvah, a commandment from God. This mitzvah asks us to see and feel the world in all our weakness and vulnerability. The sukkah invites us to make our home amid the elements, to experience the chill of autumn, to get damp and wet and cold. After that we can feel the true joy of having lived another year in God’s beautiful world.

Rabbi Daniel Greyber is the executive director of Camp Ramah in California and the Max & Pauline Zimmer Conference Center at the University of Judaism.

Community Briefs


Gold Train Delivers to Local Agency

The Hungarian Gold Train has finally pulled into the station, figuratively speaking, bearing $67,536 for Jewish Family Service (JFS) of Los Angeles.

In the chaotic days following the end of World War II in Europe, 24 freight cars loaded with boxes of jewelry, cutlery, thousands of wedding rings, art works and other personal property taken by German and Hungarian Nazis from Hungary’s Jewry were discovered stranded in Austria by American troops.

As was the custom in those days, GIs and officers “liberated” some of the valuables. In due course, Washington settled a class-action suit last year and allotted $25 million as compensation.

Rather than attempting the near impossible task of tracking down the original owners 60 years later, the Claims Conference, as steward for the money, has decided to distribute it among needy Hungarian survivors throughout the world.

An initial down payment of $4.2 million has been allotted to 27 social service agencies in seven countries, including the JFS grant.

The local agency is currently assisting 45 Hungarian survivors and, in line with the grant mandate, is forming an advisory committee among them. Lisa Brooks, JFS communications director, said the money would probably be used for the survivors’ ongoing medical needs.

The largest of the initial allocations is going to survivor agencies in Israel and Hungary. The remaining $21 million will be distributed over the next five years, according to the Claims Conference.

In addition, the U.S. government has earmarked another $500,000 to create an archive related to the Gold Train and the Nazi looting of Hungarian Jewry for educational and scholarly purposes. — Tom Tugend, Contributing Editor

Jewish Alliance Joins Drive to Improve Life in LAX Area

Five years ago, 30 soaring glass and steel columns, shimmering in ever-changing hues of blues, pinks, oranges and yellows, were installed at the entrance to Los Angeles International Airport. As time passed, the lighting became erratic — colors didn’t change properly and some lights failed. Last month, the entire system was closed for repairs.

But even when they worked, the glowing pylons did nothing to improve a surrounding area that remains plagued by poverty and high crime rates. That deeper problem is the subject of a broad-based coalition spearheaded by religious and community leaders who announced a “Campaign for a New Century.” As a first step, the group is circulating a petition that calls “on city and industry leaders to join us in formulating a plan for a new century.”

Citing a report prepared by the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy, coalition leaders assert that while the 13 major hotels on Century Boulevard have among the highest occupancy rates and the largest concentration of rooms in Los Angeles County, their approximately 3,500 workers earn far less than their counterparts in the region. The effects of these low wages can be seen in the high rates of poverty, crime and overcrowding in the neighboring communities of Lennox, Inglewood and Hawthorne, where many of these workers live, according to the report.

“We in the Jewish Community understand both the importance and complexity of community,” said Catherine Schneider, assistant director of the Progressive Jewish Alliance (PJA). “The people who live and work in the Century Corridor are trying to build a healthy community.

“This campaign is not just about wages. It’s not just about health care,” she continued. “It’s about living in a beautiful place. PJA joins this effort to create a gateway to Los Angeles that we can all be proud of.”

For more information, visit www.newcenturycoalition.org. — Naomi Glauberman, Contributing Writer

ADL Report Links Southland Skinheads to Drugs, Guns

Southern California is home to a small but volatile stew of racist skinheads involved with guns and drugs, according to a report released by the Anti-Defamation League.

“There’s so much of this going on in Southern California,” said Amanda Susskind, the ADL’s Pacific Southwest regional director. “It’s equally hateful toward Jews, African Americans, Hispanics.”

The ADL’s national Racist Skinhead Project has identified 110 racist and neo-Nazi skinhead groups, many of them new, in outlying areas, such as the Inland Empire and Los Angeles County’s Antelope Valley.

While such locales may seem remote to a Jewish community heavily concentrated in the Conejo Valley, the San Fernando Valley’s southern suburbs and on the Westside, individual skinheads have committed crimes in Canyon Country, Simi Valley and Chatsworth. A small gang called the San Fernando Valley Skins has been seen at high schools. The ADL report noted that its members appear “closely allied” with the Nazi-imitating National Socialist Movement.

In total, the number of active, racist skinheads in the region is less than 1,000, Susskind said. Last year, the neo-Nazi group, Volksfront, created an all-California chapter in San Bernardino County. Orange County’s Public Enemy No. 1 Skins has about 300 members and is allegedly involved with methamphetamine sales.

“We track organizations that have an ideological conviction and translate that to action,” said ADL investigative researcher Joanna Mendelsohn.

The ADL described another group, the Nazi Low Riders, as “a strange amalgam of street gang, racist skinhead group and racist prison gang” involved with armed robbery and drug dealing.

In the mid-1990s, Nazi Low-Riders successfully were prosecuted on felony weapons charges in a federal probe by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and Explosives (ATF). While the number of Nazi Low Riders has since declined, “you’ve got dozens of other groups out there that have filled the void,” said John A. Torres, special agent in charge of the ATF’s Los Angeles field division.

Whether it’s Bloods, Crips or neo-Nazis, “the common denominator is their propensity to firearms,” Torres told The Jewish Journal.

The ADL report highlighted the March 2005 arrest in San Bernardino County of a Southern California Skinhead group member on several charges, including one involving a stolen handgun.

Similarly, ATF raids on skinhead hideouts in the Antelope Valley have turned up an abundance of guns and Nazi memorabilia. “Signs and pictures — it’s right there, hand-in-hand with the firearms,” Torres said. — David Finnigan, Contributing Writer

Chaplains Foundation Honors Schulweis, Interfaith Group

An Israel-Palestinian interfaith group and Rabbi Harold Schulweis were honored last weekend aboard the Queen Mary in Long Beach for reaching out to other religions.

The honors came from The Immortal Chaplains Foundation, created in memory of the four U.S. military chaplains — two Protestant, one Jewish and one Catholic — who drowned together after giving their life preservers to soldiers on a sinking troopship on Feb. 3, 1943. Organizers said the foundation uses the chaplains’ self-sacrifice as an example to honor others for altruistic, interfaith deeds.

Schulweis and the Jewish Foundation for the Righteous created by him have spent two decades honoring non-Jews who rescued Jews in the Holocaust. In recent years, the longtime rabbi at Valley Beth Shalom has spoken out against the genocide in Sudan’s Darfur region, another outreach prompting The Immortal Chaplains’ honor.

“From their point of view, it was an appreciation of somebody to emphasize the need for goodness,” Schulweis said in an interview. “You had here people of different faiths and backgrounds who had found so much in each other, so much in each other to love and to appreciate.”

The other honoree at the Feb. 5 ceremony was Yehuda Stolov and his Jerusalem-based Interfaith Encounter Association, which has had more than a dozen dialogues, retreats and other interactions between Jews, Christians, Muslims and Druze in the Holy Land.

“For me, the main thing is the recognition of our work and the possibility to leverage it to get more awareness to what we’re doing and get more funding,” said Stolov in an interview. He was scheduled to speak this week in Southern California about his interfaith work. — DF

 

She’s 88 and Going Like 60 Volunteering


 

Imagine this situation: You’ve arrived at LAX after hours of sitting in an airplane from Italy. You’ve waited in line to get through customs, lugged your suitcases from the baggage claim and you finally emerge to locate your relatives. But they’re nowhere to be found, and you don’t speak English. What do you do?

If you’re fortunate, you find Eva Field.

Field, at 88 years old, is a volunteer with the Travelers Aid Society of Los Angeles in the Tom Bradley International Terminal at LAX. She’s been helping foreign travelers for 30 years, enabled in this job by the fact that she speaks English, Italian, French, Spanish and German.

Field’s role is often directing newcomers to a hotel or giving them transportation advice. At other times, her task is more complicated.

“People often have serious problems,” Field said. “Someone might arrive here and have no place to go, or they might have no money. They’re very upset. I try to come up with solutions.”

Apparently, Field’s personality is ideal for job.

“Field has a wonderful way with people,” said Christine Okinaga, director of volunteers for Travelers Aid at LAX. “She has to do a lot of soothing and reassuring in her job, which is vital in that terminal, where a lot of people are frustrated. Field’s great sense of humor helps to diffuse the situation.”

Field has faced some interesting challenges.

“There are some things you can’t believe,” she said. “A Belgium woman arrived one day and said she came to California to meet Charles Manson. Well, I was the only one who spoke French, so I talked with her, and I decided something wasn’t right. I called the Belgium consulate and told them they needed to watch over this dame. Eventually they sent her back to Belgium.”

Field also assists those who are waiting for arriving passengers.

“Someone might be here to meet a relative, but they don’t know what airline or flight they’re on, just that they’re to be here at noon,” she said. “I know people at all the airlines, so I make calls to find out the flight they’re on.”

Field knows what it’s like to be a foreigner. She was born in 1916, in Cologne, Germany.

“I didn’t like that country from the moment I was born,” Field said.

She spent time in Italy as a young woman and then in France, after Nazis closed her father’s business and the family was able to leave Germany. Field, her sister and parents were able to leave Europe in 1941, and they went to relatives in New York. But Field quickly headed west to Los Angeles.

“I worked as a maid, at first, for a really horrible woman,” Field recalled. “When I could get away from that, I applied for a job as a telephone operator. The day I married my husband, the phone company finally called and said, ‘Field, you have a job.’ I said, ‘Sorry, I’m getting married.’ I was a mother and a wife after that, so I didn’t do other work.”

After her husband died in the 1970s, Field volunteered with the National Council of Jewish Women.

“They became involved in helping the Boat People from Vietnam to find apartments,” she recalled. “At one point, I picked up some of these people at the airport, and I met someone from Travelers Aid, and they said, ‘Oh my God, you speak all these languages. We need you to help us at the airport.'”

Field’s been there ever since.

“One interesting thing that happens is that sometimes a person arrives in America looking for a relative with a certain name, but that relative has changed their name,” she said. “I try to figure out, if you had an unpronounceable name when you landed in the United States, what would you call yourself instead? When I come up with a name, I find people with that name and sometimes it turns out they are the relative.”

Since volunteering at LAX is apparently not quite enough for the 88-year-old, Field also works twice a week with first-graders at Westminster School in Venice.

“It’s been about nine years,” she said. “Many of the children are from Mexico, and I work with a perfectly marvelous teacher, Ramon Ramos.”

This feeling is mutual. According to Ramos, Field is a wonderful addition to his students’ experiences.

“She’s so warm and gentle with the kids,” he said, “and since she speaks Spanish, she can help them with their reading and writing and with learning English. She even teaches us some Italian phrases. The kids love her. One year, my class called her ‘Abuelita,’ which means “Little Grandma.”

Field also helps the children with math.

“I figure I can’t manage second-grade math, so it’s better that I’m in first grade,” she said.

At 88 years old, Field could be taking it easy. But every Monday, Thursday and Friday, she’s helping others.

“I would have a hell of a hard time living if I couldn’t do this,” Field said. “My friends are dying around me, and it becomes more difficult being alive.”

“I get joy from my daughter and grandson,” she continued. “I do quite a bit of reading, but it’s hard with my eyesight. The volunteer work I do gives my life meaning.”

Ellie Kahn is a freelance writer, oral historian and owner of Living Legacies Family Histories. She can be reached at ekzmail@adelphia.net.

 

Happiness Turns to Grief


Last Friday was to have been one of Victoria “Vicky” Hen’s happiest days. As a surprise, her boyfriend, Yaron Cohen, had planned to formally propose marriage to the 25-year-old Israeli American.

Instead, her parents, Avinoam and Rachel Hen, and her younger brothers, Nimrod and Udi, spent the day planning her funeral service, which took place Sunday afternoon.

As a descendant of the priestly Cohen caste, Yaron was forbidden by Jewish law to attend the chapel services or the graveside rites at Eden Memorial Park, but he told family friend Joseph Knoller, “Vicky was my whole life. I expect that at any moment she will walk through the door with her beautiful laugh and smile.”

Hen, who had worked as an El Al ground hostess for only two months, and Ya’akov Aminov were shot and killed July 4 by Egyptian-born Hesham Mohamed Hadayet as passengers were lining up for El Al Flight 106 from Los Angeles to Tel Aviv. The attack occurred at Los Angeles International Airport’s Tom Bradley Terminal.

Among the El Al passengers was Mika Walden, 25, the granddaughter of Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres, returning to Israel after an extended stay in Los Angeles. Her uncle, Yoni Peres, who lives here, told The Journal that Walden had been in the duty-free shop when the shooting occurred. She left for Israel the next day.

So far, U.S. authorities have been cautious about characterizing the attack as anything but a shooting carried out by an individual, although Israeli officials say the attack resembles previous acts of terrorism against El Al and Jewish targets. Coming as it did on July 4, and against Israelis and Jews, the attack looks and feels like terrorism, Israeli officials said.

However, spokesmen for both countries joined in praising the heroism of two El Al security guards, whose quick response is credited with saving the lives of many other passengers.

In a detailed reconstruction of the attack, FBI spokesman Matt Mclaughlin said that Hadayet, armed with a .45-caliber semiautomatic Glock pistol, a 9mm handgun and a knife with a 6-inch blade, opened fire while standing about 20 feet from the El Al check-in counter. He was immediately tackled by an unarmed El Al security guard, whom Israeli authorities declined to identify, and an Israeli bystander, 54-year-old Arie Golan.

A second guard, Haim Sapir, chief of El Al security in Los Angeles, jumped over the counter, joined the fray and killed Hadayet, apparently with a single shot from his pistol. However, Hadayet managed to inflict a superficial gunshot wound and two stab wounds on Sapir, and cuts and bruises on the other guard. Sapir was treated at a local hospital and then released.

McLaughlin said Hadayet continued to struggle after he was shot. “Even a man who has been shot in the heart has 20 seconds or more left to shoot back, and that’s apparently what Hadayet tried to do. It’s not like in the movies, where a man falls over and dies the moment he is shot.” Hadayet apparently fired 10 shots from his semiautomatic pistol, but was prevented from inserting a fresh magazine by the quick actions of the security guards, McLaughlin said.

“The actions of the security guards were those of heroes,” he added. “They kept advancing at the risk of their lives, and that’s a true definition of heroism.”

Also injured in the attack was Sarah Philips, a 61-year-old Canadian, who was shot in the ankle and underwent surgery in a local hospital.

Hadayet, 41, described as a powerfully built man about 5 foot 10 inches and between 200 and 250 pounds, ran a limousine service out of his Irvine home. The Los Angeles Times reported Tuesday that he had filed an application for political asylum shortly after arriving in the United States in 1992, just weeks before his six-month visitor’s visa was about to expire. Although asylum was denied, the application and subsequent appeal in 1996 enabled Hadayet to obtain temporary residency and a work permit, according to the Times.

The situation lasted until August 1997, when his wife won legal residency status for the family in a visa lottery. The Arab-language newspaper Al-Hayat, published in London, reported Sunday that authorities were investigating whether Hadayet had met with Ayman Zawahiri, Osama bin Laden’s top aide, in the United States in 1995 and 1998.

The chief spokesman for the Arab American and Muslim communities in Southern California has condemned the deadly July 4 attack at an El Al counter at Los Angeles International Airport by Egyptian immigrant Hesham Mohamed Hadayet.

“We condemn this heinous crime and offer condolences to the families of the victims,” said Dr. Maher Hathout, spokesman for the Islamic Center of Southern California and adviser to the Muslim Public Affairs Council.

Hadayet has been described as a devout Muslim, but Hathout said that a check of mosques in Orange County, where Hadayet lived, had not turned up any evidence of his participation in services or any person who acknowledged knowing him.

“We expect the FBI to fully investigate whether the attack was a personal or organized crime and whether Hadayet had any terrorist tendencies,” Hathout said.

He added that the attack had kept the local Muslim community on edge, and that he hoped the public would not jump to conclusions before authorities finished their investigation.

The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee has posted a condemnation of the attack on its Web site.

The attack renewed discussions on whether passengers should be screened even before entering airline terminals. Los Angeles Mayor James Hahn has submitted a $9.6 billion redesign proposal for LAX that would require everyone coming to the airport to go through screenings at a remote site before boarding trains to the terminals.

At the same time, the attack again alerted Jewish organizations and institutions to review their security measures, although the impact on the community has been less traumatic than the shooting spree at the North Valley Jewish Community Center (NVJCC) three years ago, which triggered a frantic demand for stricter security.

“I think almost everyone has been security conscious since the NVJCC shooting, which was a real wake-up call,” said John Fishel, president of The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles. “But obviously, as the El Al incident shows, we cannot afford to let down our guard.”


Remembering the Victims

Victoria Hen had a special love for and rapport with children, said family spokesman Joseph Knoller.

A fund to endow a children’s library in Los Angeles has been created and contributions can be sent to the Vicky Hen Memorial Fund, 23277 Ventura Blvd., Woodland Hills, CA 91364.

A fund has also been established to support Aminov’s pregnant wife, Anat, and their five children, who range in age from 2 to 9. Contributions can be sent to the Aminov Fund, Yad Avraham, 12426 Burbank Blvd., North Hollywood, CA 91607.

Families Mourn Loss


The Israeli community, joined by the city’s mayor and Jewish leaders, bade a grief-stricken farewell Sunday to a man and woman killed by an Egyptian-born gunman at Los Angeles International Airport July 4.

In the morning, more than 800 mourners filled the parking lot in front of Yad Avraham, a Sephardic congregation in North Hollywood, to hear Ya’akov Aminov eulogized as a man of rare kindness, generosity, honesty and devotion to his family and Judaism.

Facing the tallit-draped casket of the 46-year-old jewelry importer, Los Angeles Mayor James Hahn mourned "the tragic loss that has left a void in the Los Angeles community and each of us."

Cries and sobs punctuated the eulogies by some 10 rabbis, who, speaking mainly in Hebrew, asked why such a good a man as "Reb Ya’acov," whose family roots are in Bukhara in Central Asia, had been murdered.

"How can it be," asked Rabbi Aron Tendler, "that this righteous man was taken, that a mother of five sits alone, that he will no longer make kiddush on Friday night?"

Tears flowed when Michael Shabtai, the friend whom Aminov, in a typical gesture, had offered to drive to the airport for a flight to Israel, recounted Aminov’s last moments.

Condolences were sent by President Bush and Gov. Gray Davis.

A long procession of cars accompanied Aminov’s casket to the same airport — and past the same El Al check-in counter where he was slain three days earlier — for the flight and burial in Israel.

In the afternoon, approximately 250 mourners crammed into the chapel at the Eden Memorial Park in Mission Hills, and even more listened outside during the funeral service for Victoria "Vicky" Hen, 25.

The attractive, cheerful Hen had been on the El Al job for only two months, greeting and assisting passengers flying business class.

"Vicky had a talent to take care of people and problems with a smile," said Michael Mayer, El Al general manager for North America. Flower-carrying El Al flight attendants, some weeping, stood outside the full chapel.

The daughter of a family whose roots in the historical Israeli city of Safed go back some 700 years, Hen was eulogized by Rabbi Samuel Ohana as a woman who sanctified God’s name by her presence and in joyfully fulfilling her duties.

As he did during the earlier services for Aminov, Israeli Consul General Yuval Rotem called on U.S. Muslim leaders to condemn the killings by Hesham Mohamed Hadayet, an Egyptian immigrant. Addressing the Islamic community, Rotem demanded, "We must hear from you."

Hahn praised Hen as a person who brought joy into every life that touched hers, and one who stood for light against the forces of darkness.

This Was Terror


Referring to last week’s attack that claimed the lives of Victoria Hen and Ya’akov Aminov as an “isolated incident” does not give any sense of either the viciousness or the scope of the crime committed. Whether or not their murderer belonged to a recognized terror organization, or received his orders from such, this act of barbarity cannot be isolated from the anti-Jewish hatred, incitement, and brainwashing which has become so commonplace in today’s Middle East. When millions are indoctrinated in a culture of death, martyrdom and racism, the kind of evil exhibited last Thursday at LAX is virtually an inevitable outcome.

Indeed, while Hen and Aminov were murdered by a solitary assailant, they were also slain by a much larger phenomenon of bigotry that considers it noble to extinguish innocent lives. This is an indiscriminate cult of death, a type of fanaticism that preaches that those of a different religion or different ethnicity are less than human. It is a brand of evil that spreads the belief that any Jew or Israeli can be murdered because of a political cause. Aminov and Hen were killed because they were Jews, and because they were at a ticket counter of El Al, a symbol of the state of Israel. This was not random. It was a logical consequence of the fact that, in today’s Middle East, officially sanctioned incitement against Jews has taken root within the halls of government, in the mosques, in the schools and in the media.

We cannot separate the hatred borne toward Israel and Jews by the Egyptian-born gunman from the fact that Egypt’s state-run media has referred to Jews with blatantly racist language. This was the year in which an Egyptian journal featured a columnist urging his readers to “thank Hitler for taking … revenge upon the most despicable people on the face of the earth … [the Jews].” How can we “isolate” last week’s attack, and indeed, the terror that has resulted in the murder of 560 Israelis during the past two years, from Osama bin Laden’s call upon Muslims to target Jews for slaughter; or from a government-controlled Saudi journal publishing a column “proving” that Jews use the blood of Muslim children to make Purim and Passover pastries? We cannot isolate attacks against Israel and Jews from the type of language employed by a leading Yasser Arafat-appointed cleric in Gaza, who urges his followers to “have no mercy on the Jews, no matter where they are, in any country … wherever you meet them, kill them.”

This fanaticism poses a threat not only to Israel and Jews, but to the entire international community. It is essential that the nations of the world take a firm stand now, and utterly rebuke, disavow and combat the cult of death that targets us all. This is by far the most important challenge of our age, for the greatest evil in the world is the belief that one is permitted to murder those who are innocent, and those who are different. It was no coincidence that this shooting against unarmed civilians occurred on the Fourth of July, the very day on which America reaffirms the values it holds so dear: freedom, democracy and pluralism. America is the very land that stands as proof that different people, from different religions and points of view, can live together with respect and friendship. Los Angeles is a perfect microcosm of the American ideal. Jews, Christians and Muslims live side by side, with an overwhelming degree of respect and tolerance for each other’s beliefs and views. However, when someone from the local Arab community intentionally targets for death unarmed Jews and Israelis, we need to hear from that community loudly and publicly. We need to hear from its members that the murder of Jews and Israelis is unconditionally evil, whether it takes place in Los Angeles or Jerusalem. Los Angeles can be the place in which Jews and Muslims, Arabs and Israelis find common ground, and set an example for the Middle East.

Out of this tragedy, let a message of peace and reconciliation spring forth, a message that the repudiation and demonization of the “other” must come to an end. For unless this vision is brought to the Middle East, and allowed to be expressed there, more victims like Hen and Aminov will be struck down. There will be more widows, more orphans. Whatever is left of the dream of peace will deteriorate. And life itself will vanish.



Yuval Rotem is the consul general of Israel in Los Angeles.

Missing in Action: The Community


I am not a writer or pretend to be one. This is one of those times that I am writing out of anger and frustration.

There is anger about the terror attack at LAX, and now, anger and frustration at the Los Angeles Jewish community.

On Sunday, I am sure many of you were busy with things like family, soccer or work, or maybe you were gardening in your back yards. I am sure that everybody had a reason why they were not at the memorials held for the victims of the LAX attack.

Last Thursday, July 4, the unimaginable happened in Los Angeles. A lone gunman entered the Tom Bradley International Terminal at LAX and went directly to the El Al counter. For those of you not familiar with the Bradley International Terminal, let me tell you: you would have to walk by at least four other airline counters in order to get to El Al. In short, this terrorist was targeting Jews.

On Sunday, we all had a chance to show our solidarity with the victims’ families. Los Angeles has one of the largest Jewish communities in the nation. It was a boosha (embarrassment ) to see such few Jews. At the 8:30 a.m. memorial service for Ya’akov Aminov, many Jewish leaders were there, including Rabbi Marvin Hier, Israeli Consul General Yuval Rotem, as well as dignitaries from the state and Los Angeles Mayor James Hahn. We listened to the speakers; we heard the family cry. There wasn’t a dry eye in the parking lot where the memorial was held.

At 2 p.m., I was at a memorial and burial for the other shooting victim, Victoria Hen. What can I say? Another embarrassment! Rotem and Hier were there. Various political leaders, Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles President John Fishel and other Jewish leaders were also there. I saw Hahn for the second time in one day. I don’t care what anyone says; he could have sent an assistant to be there, but he didn’t, he came. In the morning, someone mentioned to me that Hahn was not tough enough in his condemnations in his speech. All I can say is he was there for both memorials, and that counts in my book.

At this funeral, just like at the morning one, there was not a dry eye. How can Israelis endure such suffering? Here I went to two memorials, and it drained me. Israelis live it everyday, with multiple ones at times.

What’s the difference between these victims and the ones in Israel? We go on solidarity missions to Israel and visit with the victims’ families and the injured, but not in our own back yard? Where were the rabbis: Orthodox, Conservative, Reform and Reconstructionist? The terrorist didn’t check what movement the victims belonged to before he shot them. He shot them because they were Jews.

And where were you?

It wouldn’t have hurt to cancel what you had for that day and attend at least one of the memorials. You could still do your errands to do the following Sunday. These two families can’t do that. Their lives have changed forever, and so the least we could have done is cancel our Sunday plans. Where were all the organizations that go to rallies and so on? Sunday must have been a very busy day in Los Angeles.



Amram Hassan is executive director of B’nai David Judea Congregation.

Fears After El Al


Shortly after Sept. 11, I spent an evening with an imam from a local mosque.

A member of my synagogue had arranged the dinner, and she was anxious about how it would go.

"Is it a good idea?" my friend asked. "I’m afraid we don’t even want to know each other."

It was a great idea. As the July 4 murders at the El Al counter at Los Angeles International Airport indicate, it’s no longer a matter of wanting to know each other. We must know each other, as accurately as possible. If you can’t invite your local imam into your living room, then go down to your local mosque, yourself, and bring a group from your synagogue with you.

I remember the evening well, as a cautious handshake filled with good intent. The imam decried suicide bombers and said they were against his Muslim faith. You could feel the man cry for distortions of his belief, for which he must now endlessly apologize.

I asked him how his mosque regarded Israel, and on this, too, he conceded with candid regret that the majority was probably against the Jewish state. After dinner, he gave a bit of his biography, careful to show that he was not isolated; he had not spent his life talking only to members of his faith. As I recall, he had been raised with many Christians and considered himself at home in the world.

But just how at home could he be? As his presentation was ending, he dramatically left the room and returned, dressed in Muslim headpiece, a la Yasser Arafat.

"Are you afraid of me now?" he asked.

I was ashamed by the question, which had to be asked. I have thought about it ever since. He clearly assumed that in wearing his religious garb, he would invite terror among neighbors and friends. We could know him only up to a point, he believed, so long as he didn’t show us who he truly was.

I thought of the imam again this week, while reading of Hesham Mohamed Hadayet, the airport killer. As we all must know by now, the Egyptian-born Hadayet, a taxi driver from Irvine, came to LAX armed with two guns and a hunting knife and the intent to kill people. After his spree, Hadayet and two others were dead, including an El Al employee, Victoria Hen, 25. Also dead was Jacob Aminov, whose wife was pregnant with their sixth child, who had driven a friend to the Bradley Terminal. Hadayet was killed by an El Al security guard.

Journalists are trying to figure out motive: had Hadayet cracked? Had his Egyptian-born wife, who had called police on domestic violence charges years ago, left him permanently? Had his limo business gone under?

But this is more than a standard crime, or even a typical multiple murder. In an era of secret terror cells and private demons, I wonder, how much of Hadayet can we ever know?

In today’s overheated political environment, personal facts may explain only so much. National, religious and political ideology amplify the stresses of daily lives, like a magnifying glass on paper.

The LAX murders may be the first high-profile multinational crime post-Sept. 11, in which terrorism gets dumped into the bag of motivations.

Terrorism mocks at the basic assumptions of a free, tolerant society. We believe that the bracing tonic of democracy can undermine ancient hates and usher in peace.

As horrific as the murders were, it seemed naive of George Bush to refuse to even consider the possibility that there was something different about choosing El Al rather than, say, Disneyland as the Egyptian’s target. Bush so fears fear itself, that he cannot prepare the public for the possibility that what we fear may be real. No, he declared too quickly, no terrorism here, just a man acting alone.

Bush is using an old dictionary. Only two years ago, the British Terrorism Act of 2000 defined terrorism by motive: "The use or threat of action to influence a government or intimidate the public for a political, religious or ideological cause." If you didn’t know the goal, you couldn’t judge the act.

But today’s terrorists leave no diary, just a society quaking in its boots. The European Union accepts this problem by proposing an updated law defining terrorism not by motive, but by effect: a deliberate attack with the aim of intimidating people and damaging or destroying their political, economic or social structures.

With Hadayet dead, his motive may never be known. But the shootout at LAX sure intimidates us with the question: "Are you afraid of me now?"

Muslim Messages


Amid the profusion of billboards along Southern California freeways, motorists are being startled by a new one. It features seven smiling faces of various ethnicities, with one, a woman wearing a black headscarf, holding a small American flag.

Underneath, in bold letters, are the words, "Even a smile is Charity — a message from your Muslim neighbor." The sponsor of the soft-sell ad is the Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), and the billboards are indicative of its increasing sophistication in presenting the benign and nonthreatening face of Islam.

The cost of each billboard rental ranges from $5,000 to $8,000 per month, and so far, only three carry the "smile" message. One is located near LAX and the other two are in Orange County.

But if they are deemed effective, similar signs are planned for other American cities, said CAIR spokesman Ibrahim Hooper in Washington.

The concept was developed by the Southern California chapter of CAIR, whose public relations coordinator, Sabiha Khan, said the slogan was based on a saying by the Prophet Muhammad, "Your smile for your brother is charity." Different positive messages will be posted each month, she said.

The higher profile comes even as CAIR weathers criticisms that it has served as a platform for people and groups that support terror against Israeli citizens. CAIR denies the charges — and keeps smiling.

Over the past year, and especially since Sept. 11, CAIR has evolved into an effective voice of the Muslim and Arab communities in the United States. Taking a leaf from Jewish defense organizations, any real or perceived slur or discriminatory act against a Muslim is instantly met with protests and barrages of news releases to the media.