Obama meets with Jewish leaders to prepare for Israel trip


In a private White House meeting, President Barack Obama told a diverse group of Jewish leaders  that he “was not going to deliver a grand peace plan” during his upcoming two-day trip to Israel and the Palestinian territories.

In  what one participant called “an honest and substantive exchange” concerning the President’s upcoming trip, the President told some 20 Jewish leaders at the Thursday morning, March 7 meeting that it would be “premature” to present such a plan. Sources at the meeting asked that their names not be used because participants were told the meeting was to be strictly off-the-record.

“I assume this is not a shy group,” the President reportedly said in opening the discussion in the Roosevelt Room of the White House.

The participants mostly represented major Jewish and Israel-advocacy organizations. Among those present were Alan Solow, Lee Rosenberg and Michael Kassen of Aipac, Barry Curtiss-Lusher of the Anti-Defamation League, David Harris of the Amertican Jewish Committee,  Jerry Silverman of Jewish Federations of North America, Rabbi David Ellenson, Janice Weinman, Hadassah, Nancy Kaufman, National Conference of Jewish Women, Lori Weinstein, Jewish Women International,  Steve Gutow, JCPA, Alan Dershowitz, former Cong. Robert Wexler, Dan Mariaschin, B'nai B'rith, Steve Rabinowitz, Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations; Jeremy Ben-Ami, executive director of J Street; Debra DeLee president and CEO of Americans for Peace Now; businessman and philanthropist Ronald S. Lauder; attorney and author Alan M. Dershowitz; Rabbi Marvin Hier, dean and founder of the Simon Wisenthal Center, former U.S. Congressman Mel Levine, Rabbi Julie Schoenfeld, the Orthodox Union's Nathan Diamant and National Jewish Democratic Council (NJDC) Chair Marc R. Stanley.

Presidential aides Tony Blanken, Valerie Jaret and Ben Rhodes also attended the meeting.

The President “wanted to seek input from a diverse group of leadership,” one participant said.

According to another, the President said he recognized “the region was in turmoil as a whole.”  Obama said he would take the opportunity of the trip to “connect directly to Israeli people.”

The President told the group he plans to visit places of importance to Jewish people.  Afterwards, some in the group speculated this could mean a presidential side trip to Masada.

“We assume he didn't mean Hebron,” said a source.

The approximately two-hour meeting began at 11 a.m. with the participants sitting around a large, oval table under a portrait of Theodore Roosevelt.  The President first spent five minutes giving an “overview of his thinking” about the trip, then primarily listened as the participants offered their suggestions and insights on a wide range of topics.

While a second source declined to go into specifics, the topics included the Iranian nuclear threat and the Middle East peace process.

“People suggested he say certain things,” said a source. “One person thought he should toughen his rhetoric and become more clear on Iran.  He really pushed back against that. He said he needs to leave room for diplomatic resolution. He said he was not going to do 'extra chest beating' just so people think he's tough.”

“He said Iran needs to be able to climb down without humilaiation.”

While participants touched briefly on the situation in Syria and Turkey, much of the discussion centered on the Israeli-Palestinian issue.

“He did say that part of Israel's security in the long term was wrapped up in Israeli Palestinian peace,” a source said.  “He will probably suggest a framework, but not a plan.”

The President also reportedly added, “it's not enough to want peace, what are you going to do for peace?”   

The trip later this month trip will be the President’s first visit to Israel since taking the office in 2008.   The two-day trip will include a two-hour visit to Ramallah, the capital of the PA-controlled West Bank.

The visit comes on the heels of an Israeli election whose results are still unclear.  Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has yet to form a government.

“The President was sensitive to that,” said a participant.  “But there will be a government by the time he arrives. There will be a Knesset.  Shimon Peres will be President.”

Formal invitations for the meeting went out Monday, and full details of the session remain confidential.

“The President wanted to emphasize the friendship that exists between the United States and Israel,” said a source, “and his desire to uphold that.”

“It was a very diverse group of people,” another source said.   “People from the right, people from Peace Now. Everyone got to say their little piece.  There was no unified message at all.”

 

Rob Eshman is Editor-in-Chief of the Jewish Journal. You can follow him on Twitter @foodaism.

Roman Jewry mourns Italian Muslim leader


The Rome Jewish community mourned the death of an Italian Muslim leader who was a key figure in promoting interfaith Jewish-Muslim relations.

Mario Scialoja, a retired Italian diplomat and the first president of the Italian office of the World Muslim League, died Monday in Rome. His funeral took place Tuesday in Rome’s Grand Mosque.

Scialoja, who was 82, converted to Islam in 1988 when he was an Italian diplomat at the United Nations in New York. His last diplomatic post was as Italian ambassador to Saudi Arabia in 1994-96.

“A sincere friend with whom we shared genuine dialogue initiatives has left us,” said Riccardo Pacifici, president of the Rome Jewish community. “Even in moments of tension, he always demonstrated he knew how to maintain the level of dialogue and respect.”

Mubarak’s PM says can lead Egypt, draws protests


Ahmed Shafiq says he has the military and political experience needed to lead Egypt into a new democratic era, yet Hosni Mubarak’s last prime minister has divided voters and drawn angry protests with his bid to become president.

Shafiq’s supporters see his military background as guarantee he can restore order after 14 months of turmoil. Opponents see him as leftover from the old order and mock him as the “candy man” for once suggesting anti-Mubarak protesters should be offered sweets during demonstrations.

The former air force commander’s campaign got off to a turbulent start. He was disqualified from the race this week on the basis of a law drawn up by his Islamist rivals, an announcement that came four days after his wife had died of cancer.

Then, in a dramatic U-turn less than 48 hours later, the election committee reinstated him, fuelling suspicions that he is the favorite candidate of the generals who have ruled Egypt since Mubarak was deposed in February 2011.

If he wins the first real presidential race in Egypt’s history, he will continue a decades-long tradition of presidents who have come from top military posts. Mubarak was, like Shafiq, an air force commander, before he took the top job.

“You cannot suddenly bring a civilian man with no relation or knowledge of military life and make him a president and the supreme commander of the armed forces,” he told Reuters in February, saying he could ensure a “smooth transition”.

The vote is set for May 23-24, with a run-off scheduled in June for the top two vote-getters. None of the 13 candidates is expected to win more than 50 percent of the votes and seal victory in the first round.

Egypt’s army vows to hand over power on July 1 but analysts expect it to wield influence from behind the scenes for years.

“Civilians may be in a hurry and they think that as soon as the new president is elected he will act freely of the military. No, this will not be the case,” Shafiq, 70, said in the interview.

CLOSE TIES

Though the military may be comfortable with a president who comes from their ranks, a Shafiq presidency could spark new unrest from those who harbor deep-seated suspicions about the army’s role and fear it wants to hijack the uprising.

Banners featuring his picture are held up by demonstrators demanding that Mubarak-era politicians and officials – known by the Arabic term “feloul” meaning “remnants” – be excluded from public life.

Shafiq makes no secret of his close ties with the army.

“I have good relations with the field marshal,” Shafiq told Reuters. He said he had spoken with Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi before making a final decision over his bid, though he didn’t disclose what Egypt’s military ruler had told him.

“They (the army) do want the transition to conclude. They do want to be out of frontline of politics,” said a Western diplomat, adding that the army could be back restoring order if the streets flared up again. “It is not in their interest for there to be large-scale instability,” the diplomat said.

Shafiq’s presidential bid almost foundered because of a law that was passed by Egypt’s new Islamist-dominated parliament that bars top officials from Mubarak’s era, including former prime ministers, from the presidential race.

He was prime minister just over a month, appointed in the final days of Mubarak’s rule as a last-ditch attempt to placate protesters. He lasted about three weeks after Mubarak fell.

He appealed against his expulsion on grounds the law was unconstitutional, and was reinstated pending a court’s decision over the law’s compliance with the constitution.

Shafiq, a straight-talker known for often wearing sweaters in public, has shrugged off his opposition: “I have looked at the CVs of other candidates and I was surprised that they dare run for president,” he told an Egyptian television interviewer.

Shafiq’s main rivals are Mohamed Mursi of the Muslim Brotherhood, a group that Mubarak and his government banned; Abdel Moneim Abol Fotouh, a moderate Islamist seeking to win broad support; and Amr Moussa, the former Arab League chief and foreign minister.

In a military career spanning four decades, Shafiq served in wars with Israel and is credited with shooting down an Israeli aircraft in the 1973 war. He has pledged to uphold Egypt’s peace deal with Israel, but criticizes Israeli policies.

“I object to Israel’s current actions. But,” he added, “I am a man who honors past agreements.”

When he led the air force in the 1990s, Shafiq sought to acquire more advanced weapons and make the force more modern. But Egyptian officials say Washington, which provides Egypt with $1.3 billion in annual aid in the wake of the peace deal with Israel, opposed some of the plans because of Israel’s objections.

As minister of civil aviation, a post he held from 2002 to 2011, Shafiq won a reputation for efficiency as he successfully oversaw the modernization of state airline EgyptAir and improvements to the country’s airports.

Editing by Alessandra Rizzo

Labor elects Yachimovich as its new leader


Israel’s Labor Party elected former journalist Shelly Yachimovich as its new leader.

The 41-year-old Yachimovich, a Knesset member known for her advocacy on socioeconomic issues, won Wednesday’s runoff election against Amir Peretz, a fellow Knesset member who served a stint as the party’s leader from 2005 to 2007.

Yachimovich beat Peretz with 54 percent of the vote to Peretz’s 45 percent. They had been the top two finishers in a Sept. 12 party primary that resulted in the runoff.

Yachimovich will be the first woman since Golda Meir to lead Labor.

A recent Haaretz poll suggested that Labor led by Yachimovich is likely to win 22 Knesset seats in the next election, taking six seats from the centrist Kadima Party.

In the 2008 national elections, Labor won only 13 seats with Ehud Barak at its helm. Barak, Israel’s defense minister, bolted Labor in January with four other Knesset members so he could remain in the current governing coalition.

After Barak’s defection, the remaining members of Labor promptly split with the Likud-led government and headed into the opposition. Labor has had an acting leader in the interim.

Five ways to make <I>your</I> federation better


Federations are one of the great success stories in American philanthropy. They attract thousands of volunteers and contributors, raise hundreds of millions of dollars, manage billions of dollars in a wide array of endowments and philanthropic funds, and mount special campaigns and emergency operations that raise hundreds of millions more. If the federation system vanished tomorrow, it would immediately, out of necessity, be reinvented.

Still, there is room for progress. In real dollars, adjusting for inflation, the annual campaign has been in steady decline for decades. The number of donors has also decreased. On the other hand, Jewish philanthropy outside the umbrella campaign has grown by leaps and bounds. Private foundations have mushroomed in number, size, and the amounts of money they give away. Myriad organizations successfully raise money for Jewish causes.

Federations should consider five changes to prosper. First, federations should be in the philanthropy business, which is more expansive than collecting and distributing funds. Most federations are mired in the belief that they are in the fundraising business (even if they say otherwise). Federations should be working with private foundations, creating better mechanisms to evaluate and monitor grants and allocations, guiding contributions, and endowments to Jewish causes.

Second, federations should abandon the idea that they are the “central address” of the Jewish community. Some federations still use the term — some don’t. Regardless, they often think of themselves this way. They shouldn’t. The phrase and the ideology behind it are associated with control and authority. Perhaps it’s not meant to, but it is easy to see why other institutions in Jewish life and the leaders who represent them view it as a kind of institutional arrogance. Central address carries with it an image of big brother and overblown bureaucracies.

Rather than “central address,” federations should think of themselves as Grand Central Station, a complex where ideas, resources, and initiatives intersect. They should play a vital leadership role that derives authority from the coordination, leadership and vision that they provide, not from the control of dollars they collect and hand out. The constituent and beneficiary agency system is antiquated.

Third, too much time, attention, money, and staff are spent on the annual campaign. It is a mistake to emphasize the annual campaign over endowment growth, special efforts, capital campaigns, and building relationships with foundations. This misallocation of resources creates a host of missed philanthropic opportunities.

This is not to suggest that the annual campaign is not an important part of the federation’s overall system and a vital component of Jewish philanthropy. De-emphasizing does not mean abandoning, but rather utilizing more resources on building the other components of federation philanthropy.

This suggests a fourth change that federations need to make: investing more in staff and infrastructure. Too often, federations cut back or keep their staff purposely lean — largely driven by leaders who want lower administrative cost. This formula is a faulty one. Efficiency makes sense; cutting costs to the point where federations cannot gain a larger share of the philanthropy market does not. Dollars spent on development, management, and evaluation will bring more funds into Jewish philanthropy. They are part of the cost of doing business. Federations are in a business that needs investment capital — now.

Fifth, federations need new methods of decision-making to shift from the fundraising business to the philanthropy business. The need to build consensus often results in paralysis and indecision. Federations don’t need consensus; they need action. They can react fast and focused in times of crisis, such as the recent war between Israel and a number of terrorist organizations out to destroy it.

Federations need that agility and passion on a daily basis. These institutions need to empower leadership to act, to make decisions that not everybody agrees with all the time.

This could be and should be a boom time for Jewish philanthropy, with federations playing a key role. Vast resources of accumulated wealth have already been deposited in tens of thousands of foundations, both inside and outside the federation structure. Individuals have largely untapped income and assets. Federations need to be the center and the public forum for the golden age of Jewish philanthropy.

Gary Tobin is president of the Institute for Jewish & Community Research in San Francisco.

Students remind General Assembly they’ve got a lot to give, too


In 1969, a group of college students staged a protest at the premiere gathering of the organized Jewish community, demanding more say and more attention to issues that mattered to them — such as Soviet Jewry, Jewish identity and culture. They also wanted a younger voice to be heard within Jewish power structures.
 
The demonstrations and vocal disruptions at the Boston General Assembly — an annual gathering of federation and other communal leaders — lead to the formation of the North American Jewish Students Appeal, which was funded by federations until 1995.
Ever since then, students have been a part of the GA, which this year is taking place at the Los Angeles Convention Center Nov. 12-15.
 
As it has for many years, Hillel — the international student organization that is supported in part by federations — will host 300 student delegates, many of them leaders on their campuses.
 
The students, who registered at a reduced rate, will participate in regular conference sessions and a Monday night program of film and interactive activities that will expose students to new approaches to building Jewish communities.
 
But Hillel is trying something new to expose even more students to the organized Jewish community — and to demonstrate to the community that students care.
 
On Sunday, Nov. 12, 1,000 college students from Southern California schools and from universities across the country, including GA participants, will be deployed across Los Angeles to do social justice work. They will lend a hand at more than 20 community service projects, such as the Beit T’Shuvah rehab residence, the Venice Family Clinic, the Midnight Mission and Heal the Bay. The program, called “Just for a Day,” will end with an exclusive concert by GUSTER and the LeeVees at the Henry Fonda Theater.

“We know that community service and social justice are the best ways of engaging students, so by doing that in conjunction with the GA we are letting the students know about the larger Jewish community,” said David Levy, director of the Los Angeles Hillel Council.

About 30 students are also participating through a journalism track called Do the Write Thing, sponsored by World Zionist Organization, the Jewish Agency for Israel and the American Jewish Press Association.

Student journalists get access to high-level politicians, publishers and editors, and this year will focus on Israel’s image in the media.
Many of the issues that faced students in 1969 still linger today — how to make the established community understand the desire for culture and identity, for spirituality, to get the oldsters to listen to the younger generation’s concerns.

And with today’s wired movers communicating and connecting in entirely different ways, cross-generational interface becomes even more challenging.

“This is a qualitatively different generation,” Levy said. “The whole way we organize is not the way they organize, and the pressures that used to be on students are not the same as they are now.”

Student identity has become more complex, as a generation raised by multitaskers comes of age.
 
“Students have multiple identities and multiple parts of their identities — like windows open on a computer screen. They have multiple windows open at one time — Israel, spirituality, social justice, being a sorority member. We need to give them an opportunity to connect through whichever window happens to be open at that moment, and working within one window can lead to others and strengthens them all,” Levy said.
 
That multipronged identity, and the desire for real-life community, carries through to college graduates as well, as young 20- and 30-somethings try to integrate into the Jewish community.
 
“The age of wine and cheese is over,” said Rhoda Weisman, director of Professional Leadership Project, which inspires and mentors young people for work in the Jewish community. “They are looking for a deep connection to the Jewish people — a meaningful connection. There is a search for spiritual depth and intellectual depth, and a very great need for community among them.”
 
About 100 competitively selected leaders in their 20s and 30s are part of Weisman’s Live Network, which every few weeks brings participants together at five regional hubs for seminars in leadership skills, Jewish content, case studies and personal development. The first cohort will soon begin year two, which will entail working with each other and experienced mentors to develop and follow through on a project.

At the GA, 10 participants in the Professional Leadership Project will be teamed up with seasoned Jewish communal leaders.
 
“The purpose is for them is to shadow some of the influential leaders, professional and volunteer, to learn about the inside workings of the Jewish community and to make connections for the future,” Weisman said.

The young leaders will also be filming a documentary, interviewing people of all ages at the GA about how the next generation of leaders can affect the community, and what sort of changes they can or should make. The film will be posted on the Web.

Mostly, Weisman hopes their presence will have an impact — both by allowing established leaders to dialogue with the up-and-comings, and by helping participants learn about existing organizations and structures to see where they can contribute.
 
“You can’t change things unless you already know what is happening,” Weisman said.
 
At the same time, she encourages the young leaders to integrate themselves into the existing community.
 
“Whether it’s by working with an established organization or creating a new one, you have to be connected to the greater Jewish community,” Weisman said.

For information, go to www.hillel.org, www.wzo.org.il/en/dtwt/ or www.jewishleaders.net
 

L.A. gets ready to be the center of Jewish universe


In just three weeks, more than 3,000 leaders of the international Jewish community, including the prime minister of Israel, are coming to Los Angeles.

What, you hadn’t heard?

This season’s best-kept secret among L.A. Jews seems to be that the 75th annual General Assembly (GA) of the United Jewish Communities is being held in Los Angeles — the first time in 26 years this city will host one of the largest annual gatherings of Jews in North America.

“This is a great opportunity for Los Angeles to participate in this national convention, where we don’t always have a critical mass participating,” said John Fishel, president of The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles. “More importantly, we have some extraordinarily talented Jewish human resources and some extraordinarily creative programming in L.A., and this will be an opportunity for us to highlight those individuals and programs.”

But while some locals have already signed up, and hundreds have volunteered, a mention of the GA is more likely to elicit a blank stare than an excited nod in most Jewish circles.

“Never heard of it,” said Marlene Kahan, a teacher who lives in Beverlywood. “But it sounds interesting. I’d love to read about it and find out what happens there.”

The GA is one of the largest Jewish events on the North American calendar (the Reform movement’s biennial conference surpasses the GA, with about 5,000 attendees), with thousands of lay and professional leaders from hundreds of communities gathering to explore the state of the Jewish world, and to set a vision for the year to come.

The United Jewish Communities represents 155 Federations and 400 independent communities, and the four-day conference, Nov. 12-15 at the Los Angeles Convention Center downtown, brings together Federation machers as well as other organizations and activists from around the world. Anyone who wants to be a player in the Jewish community is at the GA.

The powerful bloc of participants attracts an impressive roster of leaders, scholars and experts to run daily plenaries and a menu of hundreds of sessions on topics from global anti-Zionism to new trends in Jewish education to savvy solicitation techniques.

Anyone can register as a delegate. Southern Californians are offered a local’s discounted rate of $275 (non-residents pay $525), and people who have volunteered to help out for a few hours can attend the conference on that day (volunteer slots have been filled). All events — including a concert at the Walt Disney Concert Hall on Monday, Nov. 13 — are open to registered delegates and volunteers only.

But word has been slow to trickle out to the far-flung L.A. Jewish community.

While a call for volunteers went out to synagogues and organizations months ago, full-page ads have only shown up in the last few weeks, and the UJC Web site didn’t post program details — such as speakers and session topics — until early October.
There are currently 425 local delegates signed up, along with about 300 to 400 student delegates, some of them at Southern Californian schools, signed up through Hillel. About 750 Angelenos have also volunteered to staff the convention, which is estimated to attract 3,000 delegates and an additional 1,000 exhibitors, organizers and staff, according to Judy Fischer, who is the Los Angeles Federation staff GA director. Fischer is working with lay host community chair Terri Smooke to organize the event.

Organizers admit publicity has been slow because the program was revamped following the war in Israel.

“The focus was transformed in light of what happened over the summer, and particularly in light of the implications of the war for Israel and for the Jewish people in our communities and across the world,” said Michael Kotzin, executive vice president of the Chicago Federation, and head of programming for the GA. “There is a strong sense of connection with Israel, and recognition that as much as this means as a single war, it wasn’t just that. It has a deeper meaning.”

The theme chosen over the summer was “On the Frontlines Together: One People, One Destiny,” meant to encompass the war’s implications regarding the Israel-Diaspora connection, global Jewish security, Israel’s identity, its military, its leadership and how that reverberates out to Jewish communities across the world.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is scheduled to deliver the keynote on Tuesday evening (though in the past prime ministers have often ended up canceling or speaking through video feed). A record four Knesset ministers are also scheduled to address the group, including foreign minister Tzipi Livni, opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu and Israel’s ministers of education and tourism.

During and following the war, federations from across the country funneled $330 million dollars to Israel through UJC.
“In some ways this was kind of a breakthrough in the recognition of the centrality and significance of the UJC Federation system,” Kotzin said. “The prime minister wants to be able to come and participate to express his appreciation and to advance ties between Israel and the North American Jewish Community. The GA exists at a moment where we can really keep up with what is going on and move things forward.”

Other speakers include Canadian Parliament Member Dr. Irwin Cotler; Fareed Zakaria, editor of Newsweek International; and French philosopher Bernard Henri-Levi.

A plenary on “The Jewish Future” will feature a panel with Norman Cohen, provost of the Reform Hebrew Union College-Jewish Insitiute of Religion; Arnie Eisen, chancellor-elect at the Conservative Jewish Theological Seminary; and Richard Joel, president of the Orthodox Yeshiva University.

But all other conference-wide sessions will focus on Israel, as will more than half of the smaller sessions.
It is a shift that not everyone is thrilled with.

“As someone who lives in Israel and is a Zionist, I think it is unfortunate and actually speaks to the lack of an overarching vision for the future of the Jewish people,” said Yossi Abramowitz, founder of Jewish Family and Life, who now blogs daily at peoplehood.org.

Abramowitz has attended around 20 GAs, and moved to Israel this summer.

Holy Moses — The Getty’s latest collection puts a Christian perspective on the leader, lawgiver and


A few years ago I was leading a group of American Jews on a tour of sites in Eastern Europe. Convinced that the narrative and psychological history of Poland cannot be understood without a visit to Jasna Gora, the great pilgrimage church in Czestochowa, and a view of its devotional painting, the so-called Black Madonna (believed to have been painted by St. Luke), I brought the tour group there en route to Auschwitz. To my disappointment, many in the group were puzzled, some even amused, at the crowds of people intensely venerating the small painting.

“Jews don’t do that sort of thing,” they said. When I asked how many of them had placed a small slip of paper in the crevices of the Western Wall in Jerusalem, they assured me “That’s different!” and rejected my argument that we have our own kinds of object veneration, best exemplified in the ceremonial kissing of the Torah as it is carried around the synagogue.

The Getty Center’s upcoming exhibition “Holy Image, Hallowed Ground: Icons from Sinai” (Nov. 14-March 4) provides a great opportunity to ponder these religious confluences, while also coming almost face-to-face with some of the earliest, and most beautiful, images in Christian art. Mount Sinai resonates for Jews as the place where Moses received the Law from God. The wilderness of Sinai is the place where the Israelites wandered after their escape from Egypt. The images come to the Getty from Saint Catherine’s Monastery, located at the foot of the rugged mountain, which is said to where Moses communicated with the Burning Bush (Exodus 3:1-5). But viewers might be surprised to see that the Moses images in some of these extraordinary works aren’t the ones we’re accustomed to seeing.

The exhibition includes images from both the “New” and “Old Testament,” but it is the link between the former and the site from which they emanate that may be most interesting to the Jewish community. It’s a major accomplishment for the J. Paul Getty Museum to have persuaded the religious powers in charge to lend treasures from this venerable, yet almost inaccessible, site; but it’s also a coup for Angelenos, since the exhibition will not be seen elsewhere, and few of us are likely to have the opportunity to visit the monastery itself.

But this is more than an opportunity to ogle rare treasures. Indeed, they come to us with a visual tradition of their own, and need to be understood within that tradition. Byzantine art, with its vast time span, from the fifth century almost to the modern era, is generally characterized by stylized frontal figures and a rich use of color, especially gold. It doesn’t look like the more naturalistic art we have come to know since the Renaissance, although visitors will recognize in these icons the underpinnings of much early Italian panel painting. Initially, the somber narrative images may look static, but they merit careful attention to uncover the magic of delicately doleful faces, almost every one with a unique personality, sharing in a piety to which we can only aspire.

As devotional objects, the icons are eloquent, and it’s probably worthwhile imagining the pious monk communicating with these images on a daily basis. They must surely have become personal devotional friends, assistants on the route toward salvation. Seen as mantras for meditation exercises, these icons have a universal quality that goes far beyond the specificity of a given saint or religious narrative.

While the Getty exhibition centers on approximately 43 rare icons, from the sixth to the 17th centuries, the exhibition will also attempt to explicate their context in the isolated monastery whose construction was ordered by Emperor Justinian in the sixth century (he’s the one who built the famous, and beautifully ornate, Byzantine church, Hagia Sofia in what is now Istanbul).

Yale professor Robert S. Nelson led a team of curators who obviously became as transfixed by the place as by the works they were borrowing, attempting to present in the exhibition design a sense of the environment in which Saint Catherine’s sits. For those who want to contemplate the difficulties of land and climate endured by the wandering Israelites, that aspect of this exhibition should be an added incentive to visit the Getty.

Yet the concept of a 1,400-year-old monastery as a Christian pilgrimage site that is so intimately tied to Jewish history would likely be a seductive subject, even without the inspirational art. The show will explicate the role of icons in Christian liturgy, which ought to intrigue both Christians and non-Christians. As professor Thomas Matthews writes in the splendid catalog, the icons “bring us face to face with the deep debt of Christian religion to its pagan antecedents … [and] challenge our understanding of the underlying religious phenomena.”

That will surely be evident to Jewish viewers, as well, for the affinity of so many of our own rituals.

Given the Sinai origins of this exhibition, you won’t be surprised to find a number of images of Moses: Removing his sandals in front of the Burning Bush, receiving the Law and even standing beside the Virgin and Child. You won’t encounter the Moses we’ve seen in later Western art, who’s also the venerable law-giver we know from Jewish ceremonial objects — all of which have their origins in Christian art. Here Moses is a young man, generally beardless, almost diffident, in awe of his God, rather than awesome to his People. This might be a reflection of the monks’ considering Moses as a role model in their lives of meditation and prayer — a Moses striving for, rather than automatically imbued with, sanctity; he is the law-receiver, rather than the law-giver. Among the small number of non-icon artifacts in the exhibition is a sixth century cross incised with scenes from the life of Moses.

Remarkably, these icons were first published only in the 1950s, so this rare public display promises to expand our understanding of an important chapter of art history, especially in regard to European panel painting for which these paintings are important antecedents. The earliest ones have also provided new insights into the cult of icons and the religious sensibilities underlying this major aspect of Christian worship, as well as its debt to earlier pagan sources.

Mourning Abed


Earlier this month, three California Jews — all of us strong supporters of Israel — established a scholarship fund to honor a Palestinian patriot. He was murdered in the terrorist attack in Amman, Jordan, in November, since which time we’ve been joined by many other prominent members of the local Jewish community. A lot of people have asked me why I was one of the founders. Here’s why.

Last April, our van filled with Americans and Jews, Israelis and Arabs, rumbled through traffic to a celebratory dinner hosted by one of Los Angeles’ great Jewish philanthropists. We’d finished three days of sparring and collaboration at the Milken Institute Global Conference, imagining how to “privatize the peace process.”

Our goal was to propose practical measures for an economic road map to build the infrastructure of a Palestinian economy. We envisioned a Palestinian state that could stand on its own to provide jobs and enough capital to fuel economic stability, a necessity for the two-state solution to conflict that has been the official policy of the U. S., Israel and the rest of the civilized world for more than a decade.

Everyone in that crowded van was animated with the conversational cadences and clamor of the Middle East — that shared passion of intense human engagement and debate that comes from a common love for the region and a sense that what we spoke and argued about really mattered. Over the previous days, we’d come to know each other.

Like Hagar, the Muslims were raising their eyes from despair to hope, and like Sarah, we Jews were beginning to laugh again and embrace the future. A heady and optimistic sense was returning in the dialogue, fueled by too much coffee and not enough sleep as we anticipated a shared, final meal before planes started departing.

Abed Alloun switched back and forth from English to Hebrew. Over the days, we’d developed a cautious but growing friendship. He’d learned Hebrew during his teen years in Israeli prisons, having cut his political teeth as an activist during the first intifada in the late ’80s.

But since Oslo, he’d taken seriously the peace process as the best path to Palestinian statehood. He’d risen swiftly to become a colonel in the Palestinian security services and a deputy interior minister in the Palestinian Authority.

Only recently, he’d left politics for business, in part to support his growing family but also because of a perhaps na?ve but practical sensibility that we’d come to share — the belief that commerce could best align regional interests to create a constituency for peace, not terrorism and war.

Abed at 36 was a beacon of hope for an emerging, local and young post-Arafat Palestinian leadership — many of whom died with him in Amman — seeking peace and trying to bring the two nations in conflict closer together. This new guard was far different from the corrupt “Tunisians” who’d returned with Arafat and the backward-looking Hamas terrorists, both of whom would never stop fighting their version of 1948 war long enough to allow Palestinians to join the community of independent nations in the 21st century. Abed wanted to move on.

Since the Nov. 9 tragedy in Amman, when three men blew themselves up at three hotels, killing 57 innocent Arabs and wounding many more, more than one Palestinian, Jordanian and Israeli I’ve since spoken with have expressed a suspicion that the victims of terror at the Days Inn Hotel in Amman were not just in the wrong place and the wrong time, but rather had been targeted by Hamas or Islamic Jihad, who were working with Al Qaeda.

At the dinner that beautiful evening in April, there was some confusion about dietary diplomacy, and the hostess had asked me to straighten it out. It took a while to get everyone’s attention and get hands raised at the long table to answer “who was kosher and who was hallal?” Most were neither, but it was Abed who helped me record the count, and we both laughed, recognizing the irony and appreciation that our respective religious observances could bring us together and not tear us asunder.

It was a rare moment, demonstrating Ben-Gurion’s hard but profound simplicity that “you make peace with your enemies.” You could see, feel and believe how things could change for our respective homelands.

As the evening wore on and the wine flowed, toasts and personal tales were swapped around the table. Abed rose to thank the hosts and tell a story:

During the closing days of Israel’s Defensive Shield offensive into the West Bank in the spring of 2002, Abed represented the Palestinian Authority in negotiations for the disengagement of forces in Jenin. He had witnessed much fighting, bloodshed and shared human misery as he shuttled between Israeli and Palestinian troops to help implement the cease-fire. It had been a long and difficult week, and he candidly recalled his ambivalence about his assignment.

He’d come home to Beit Hanina from that battlefield to find his young daughter glued to inciting Palestinian National Television programming that was amplifying the now long-since disproved charges of Israeli massacres in Jenin. He turned the TV off. His distraught daughter asked him why he was not out fighting the Israelis and that they needed to go kill Jews.

“OK,” he said, “but first, I must spend some time with your mom this weekend, and I want you to go for a sleepover with some of our friends. Then, if you still feel we must, we’ll go get some guns and kill Jews if that’s what you insist.”

He called the Israeli who was his military liaison and counterpart in implementing the cease-fire. They’d become friends, and the Israeli and his wife were happy to take Abed’s daughter to share Shabbat with their children, who were the same age.

After the weekend was over, he picked his daughter up. The weekend had passed too quickly for her, and she did not want to leave her new “Uncle” Haim and “Aunt” Sara and her new friends, Motti and Mor.

She played happily in the back of the car as they drove back to Jerusalem. Then Abed reminded her, “Oh yes, didn’t we need to stop somewhere and get a gun to go kill some Jews as you’d said before?”

“Well,” was her uncommitted response, “I guess.”

“Good,” Abed said, “we’ll stop here at the next exit, buy a gun and then go back and start with killing Haim and Sara and their kids — you know they are Jews, don’t you — they are Israelis.”

“No, Babba no! They are my friends. What are you talking about,” she cried.

“Good, my dearest,” Abed said, “now you understand something very important.”

With that story, I learned how profoundly Abed believed that the path to progress in the Middle East was through nonviolence and the rejection of hatred. His children lost a very good father and his people an important patriot and leader. The Palestinians couldn’t afford to lose Abed — nor could we.

Tax-deductible contributions to the Funds for Abed Alloun Peace Through Education Scholarship Fund at the American International School in Gaza can be made c/o the Democracy Council, 11040 Santa Monica Blvd., Suite 320, Los Angeles, CA 90025 or donations can be made online with a credit card at

Names to Watch on Way Up, Down in ’06


Here are a handful of people to watch in the coming 12 months — some on the way up; some on the way down.

Jack Abramoff: The once-high-flying Republican lobbyist, Jewish benefactor and GOP best buddy has become the most radioactive man in Washington, thanks to controversial deals with Native American gaming interests and his cozy links with top legislators, especially the golf aficionados.

Now that he may be about to cut a deal with prosecutors, the scandal could affect some of the biggest names in politics, starting with former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas). And that could have an impact on the 2006 midterm congressional elections.

Ariel Sharon: The prime minister’s daring political gamble in leaving Likud and creating the centrist Kadima Party, his rumored plans for new West Bank withdrawals and his uncertain health make him the most intriguing figure in the Middle East. Many American Jewish right-wingers revile the man they once idolized, but centrist Jews here, once distrustful, are poised to support his next peace moves.

But what, exactly, will they be? And how will a fragmented Palestinian leadership react to new unilateral Israeli peace initiatives?

Sharon’s fortunes are inextricably linked to those of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who may soon find out if his decision to co-opt rather than confront Hamas will pay off — or sink his already leaking ship of state.

Benjamin Netanyahu: The former prime minister and finance minister, now leading a Sharon-less Likud Party, is at another juncture in his mercurial career. A move to the right could marginalize his party still further, but Bibi could get a boost from any resumption of widespread terrorism against Israel. Another unknown for both Netanyahu and Sharon: whether Amir Peretz, the new Labor Party leader, will be able to help right that rudderless ship.

Condoleezza Rice: Will the secretary of state, whose recent shuttle diplomacy won an Israeli-Palestinian agreement on border crossings, now take a more active role in jump starting the stalled “road map” for Palestinian statehood? And how will her possible presidential aspirations affect her diplomacy in the region? Already, “Rice ’08” bumper stickers have appeared on Washington highways.

Howard Kohr: Despite this year’s indictment of two former top American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) officials, AIPAC had a banner 2005.

But Kohr, the group’s executive director, will face huge new challenges as the case against Steve Rosen, former policy director, and Keith Weissman, an Iran analyst, goes to court. If it turns out badly for the defendants, there will be questions about how their improper activity could have taken place on Kohr’s watch. If they are acquitted, he will come under criticism from their supporters for firing them.

Most analysts say that so far, Kohr has kept AIPAC focused on its core mission, despite all the controversy — and even exploited the scandal to boost fundraising. But that task could get significantly harder in 2006.

Abe Foxman: Are Jewish relations with the Christian right at a turning point? The Anti-Defamation League director thinks so. His November blast against groups he says use public policy to “Christianize” the nation set off aftershocks that will reverberate into 2006.

Will a still-liberal Jewish community follow the outspoken Foxman, and will he get help from those Jewish leaders who agree with him on the substance of his charges but worry about alienating evangelicals who support Israel and who wield enormous power in Congress and the White House?

Leaders of the Presbyterian Church (USA): Will they continue to pursue divestment against Israel while making nice with Hezbollah? That threatens a major rupture with a Jewish community that has traditionally worked closely with the Presbyterians on major domestic issues. Other mainline churches have backed off divestment. If the Presbyterians don’t, they will render themselves irrelevant in the quest for Mideast peace.

Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.): Cantor, the only Jewish Republican in the House, has enjoyed a spectacular rise up the GOP leadership ladder, now serving as chief deputy whip in only his third term.

Cantor could help the party recover from a scandal-filled year in advance of the 2006 midterm elections and in the process boost his own hopes for becoming the first Jewish speaker of the House. But he could be tainted by his reputation as a DeLay loyalist, if the former majority leader goes down in flames.

Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.): Is the nation ready for a Jewish presidential candidate from the Dairy State? Feingold — who was in the news in December for his staunch opposition to the Patriot Act and his angry response to new revelations of government spying — thinks it is.

The quirky Feingold is a longshot, but some analysts say that if public anger about the Iraq War continues to mount and revelations about inappropriate government activity continue to wash across front pages, he could be in a position to challenge the putative front-runner for the Democratic nomination: Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY), now recast as a centrist who refuses to criticize the administration’s Iraq policies.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.): The maverick Arizona Republican forced the administration to back down on legislation banning the torture of U.S. detainees. Political pros say McCain’s reputation for integrity and his independence could make him an attractive choice for the growing number of Jewish independents, despite his arch conservatism on domestic issues. And he could be the antidote for a party that goes into the 2006 congressional midterms wracked by scandals.

Look for McCain to dramatically increase his outreach to the Jewish community in 2006 as he cranks up his campaign machine.

 

Zionist Group Seeks to Assert Relevance


Earlier this year, Yossi Beilin, leader of Israel’s Meretz-Yahad Party, called for the establishment of an assembly of Jewish lawmakers from around the world to address issues of consequence to global Jewry.

Beilin’s call echoed an idea two years earlier from Israeli President Moshe Katsav, who recommended creating a “second chamber” of the Knesset to provide a forum for Diaspora Jews to advise the State of Israel on matters of import to world Jewry.

Such calls leave proponents of the World Zionist Organization (WZO) scratching their heads. After all, they say, their organization has been doing all those things for more than 100 years.

“This is the congress of the Jewish people,” says Karen Rubinstein, executive director of the American Zionist Movement (AZM), the WZO’s U.S. wing.

Elections got under way last month for U.S. representatives to the WZO’s 35th Congress of the Jewish People, to be held in Israel in June. Balloting will run through Feb. 28. Twelve different slates are running for 145 available slots. Two new groups are among those contending: the Jewish Reconstructionist Federation, running for the first time on its own slate; and RAJI: Russian American Jews for Israel.

Founded at the First Zionist Congress in Basel, Switzerland, in 1897, the WZO — whose original goal was establishing a Jewish homeland — has convened more than 30 times to debate issues facing the Jewish people.

Among the WZO’s most important functions is providing roughly half of the decision-making power of the Jewish Agency for Israel. Half of the agency’s board of governors are from the WZO, as are many members of its committees.

“The people who go and vote in this congress represent world Jewry,” says David Borowich, founder of the Dor Zion slate, which is running for spots in the WZO Congress. “They have a chance to put forth new ideas. They influence the leadership of the Jewish Agency. You may say, ‘Why is this important?’ The Jewish Agency has a budget. That money can be going to broad programs and big ideas.”

The Jewish Agency boasts an annual budget of some $350 million and dispatches its emissaries around the world.

The WZO also passes resolutions on issues that range from support for religious pluralism in Israel to allocating money to encourage aliyah to developing rural settlements on the Israeli periphery.

But with a functioning Jewish state governed by a democratically elected Parliament, some wonder whether the WZO has outlived its usefulness.

The WZO “is a pathetic vestige of the organization founded by Theodor Herzl, which was most relevant in the years leading up to the founding of the State of Israel,” Beilin wrote in an opinion piece for Israel’s Ha’aretz newspaper earlier this year. “Instead of being disbanded in 1948, with the establishment of the state, it continues to exist as an anachronistic framework, which represents a tiny fraction of the Jewish people.”

He added that the content of the WZO congresses “is of no interest to the Jewish community around the world.”

WZO officials, along with members of the dozen American slates running for seats in the upcoming congress, acknowledge that the organization has flaws, but bristle at the notion that it ought to be replaced.

“So they want to change the name of the structure, and by changing the name believe they are changing the purposes?” asked Mel Salberg, past president of the AZM and now its American election committee chair. “I don’t see giving up a structure and an organization that has served Israel and served the Jewish people.”

Still, in the United States at least, interest in the WZO has been limited. Of the estimated 5 million to 6 million American Jews, just 107,832 voted in the elections for U.S. representatives to the Zionist congress in 1997. The number fell to 88,753 in 2002.

But some observers say the figures may be misleading. Some 50 percent of U.S. Jews aren’t affiliated with synagogues or other Jewish organizations, says Rabbi Robert Golub, executive director of MERCAZ USA, the Zionist arm of the Conservative movement, which cuts the number of potential voters down to 3 million. Of this figure, roughly half are children, cutting the number again to 1.5 million potential voters.

The AZM will be launching a radio and Internet campaign in coming weeks to educate American Jews about the WZO’s activities and encourage greater awareness and involvement.

The WZO also has passed a rule stipulating that 25 percent of each slate’s delegates be under age 30, a step aimed at addressing the WZO’s aging membership and ensuring future leaders.

Hatikva, a slate of progressive Zionist groups, has put forth candidates including the well-known Jewish entertainer Theodore Bikel and Ruth Messinger, president of the American Jewish World Service and a former candidate for New York City mayor.

At least one group in the running hopes realpolitik offers some free publicity: Likud’s U.S. arm thinks that Ariel Sharon’s recent decision to leave the Likud to form a new party could boost the electoral fortunes of the Likud’s U.S. branch.

“The fact that we are in the news and the name of our slate is ‘Likud,’ I think it definitely helps,” said Ari Harow, executive director of American Friends of Likud. “For the past couple of years, nobody really knew what the Likud stood for. For the first time in a number of years I think there’s some ideological clarity.”

Also running to represent the United States are the Green Zionist Alliance; Herut, North America: The Jabotinsky Movement; Hatikva: The Progressive Zionist Coalition; ARZA: Association of Reform Zionists of America; the Religious Zionist Slate; Dor Zion: Bnai Zion, World Confederation of United Zionists and Dor Zion; MERCAZ USA: the Zionist organization of the Conservative movement; the American Zionist Coalition: Baltimore Zionist District and Fuel for Truth; the Zionist Organization of America; and Likud.

In the last WZO election in 2002, ARZA/World Union, the Reform movement’s slate, came out on top, with 42 percent of the vote, followed by the Conservative MERCAZ USA with 22 percent and the Religious Zionist Movement with 20 percent. Coming in fourth with less than 4 percent of the vote was Meretz USA.

One need not be a member of a Jewish organization to vote; individuals older than 18 who accept the fundamental beliefs of Zionism can register and vote through the AZM at

Peretz Win Portends Political Shakeup


The election of Amir Peretz, a 53-year-old underdog, as leader of the Labor Party is almost certain to change the face of Israeli politics.

The result of the Nov. 9 Labor primary vote makes more likely the formation of a new centrist party led by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, backed by defectors from Labor and Likud. It creates the potential for a profound change in voting patterns, with many traditional Likud voters among the Sephardi working class likely to consider voting for the Moroccan-born Peretz. It puts Labor squarely on the left of the Israeli political divide and clarifies its differences with Likud on key peacemaking and economic issues.

At the very least, it almost certainly means that elections, currently slated for November 2006, will be moved up to the first half of the year.

Polls last Friday suggest that Labor under Peretz would do well in those elections. Polls in the Haaretz and Maariv newspapers show Labor rising from its current 21 Knesset seats to 27 or 28, with the Likud under Sharon winning 37 to 39.

The Haaretz poll also shows that if Sharon, who is facing strong internal dissent from Likud members who opposed his Gaza withdrawal plan, breaks away from Likud to form a new centrist party, it would win 32 seats to Labor’s 27, with a Likud rump led by former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu finishing third with 25 seats.

These results reflect the situation before campaigning has even started. A good campaign could establish the untried Peretz as a bona fide national leader, and some pundits believe he could even win the election for Labor.

Conversely, now that he’s Labor leader, Peretz will become the prime target of Likud barbs. Should he fail to rise to the occasion, Labor’s electoral fortunes could plummet.

Much will depend on what happens inside Labor. Peretz won 42.3 percent of the votes in the primary, scoring a stunning upset over incumbent Shimon Peres (40 percent) and former party leader Benjamin Ben Eliezer (16.8 percent), despite the party establishment’s efforts to stop him.

Former Prime Minister Ehud Barak pulled out of the race two months ago and joined Peres in an overt bid to block Peretz. Three days before the election, Science Minister Matan Vilnai did the same.

It’s still unclear whether Labor heavyweights will accept Peretz’s leadership or chip away at his authority from within the party, perhaps even breaking away to join a new centrist grouping under Sharon. Amram Mitzna, who like Peretz raised great hopes for change when he was elected Labor leader three years ago, resigned after he was constantly undermined by party rivals.

Will Peretz prove to be made of sterner stuff?

His challenges are great because of the very real possibility of a mass defection from Labor — possibly including Peres — to join Sharon. After the primary results were announced, Peres waited a day and half to congratulate Peretz on his victory and even after doing so, confirmed that he was taking a “time out” to consider his political future.

Peretz moved quickly to keep the party intact. He convened Labor’s Knesset faction last Friday and asked them to give him a chance to establish himself as leader. He met separately afterward with Peres, urging him to stay in Labor and help lead it.

Whether all this will be enough to keep Labor together remains to be seen.

Sharon’s next moves will be decisive. After Likud rebels voted Nov. 7 in the Knesset against two ministerial appointments Sharon wanted to make, aides to the prime minister say a split in Likud is all but certain, and that it’s only a matter of timing. After the rebel vote, Sharon warned darkly that “there will be consequences.”

Whether or not there are major political realignments, elections will probably be moved up to some time between March and May of next year. Peretz has made it clear that he intends to pull Labor out of the governing coalition within six weeks, and he and Sharon are due to meet soon to agree on a new election date.

Some Likud leaders, including Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom, express concern at Peretz’s potential to attract working-class Likud voters. Peretz said in an interview that surveys he conducted showed that the Sephardi poor no longer see the Likud as their natural political home, opening up huge electoral possibilities for Labor.

Peretz was born in Morocco in 1952, came to Israel at age 4 and grew up in a poor home in the southern development town of Sderot. A gifted and charismatic speaker with a trademark handlebar mustache, he became mayor of Sderot at 31, a Labor Knesset member at 36 and chairman of the Histadrut trade union federation at 43.

In 1997, Peretz left Labor to form his own political party, One Nation, which won just three seats in the last election. He brought his party back into Labor late last year with Peres’ help, ironically.

Peretz’s political views are clear: On the Palestinian issue, he’s a dove who believes in the feasibility of a final peace agreement; on the economy, he believes in free-market forces to create wealth and government intervention to distribute it more evenly.

On both the Palestinian and economic issues, he talks about a “moral road map” and says the occupation of the West Bank must end because it’s corrupting for Israelis. He promises that if he becomes prime minister, he will raise the minimum wage to $1,000 a month.

His political opponents on the right and in the center paint Peretz as a dangerous peacenik and Bolshevik who will take untenable risks with the Palestinians and whose radical populism will destroy the economy, which after the Sharon government’s free-market reforms has pulled out of a deep recession and shown growth.

For now, Peretz is getting sympathetic press. Several pundits praise him for being ready to go for a final peace deal and drop Sharon’s conditioning of peace talks on the dismantling of Palestinian terrorist groups.

On the economy, leading analysts dismiss the Bolshevik tag and depict Peretz as a sane and well-balanced social democrat in the model of Bill Clinton or Tony Blair.

It’s far too early to judge how significant Peretz’s emergence as a key player on the national stage will be. But if Israel’s normally hard-nosed commentators are anything to go by, his upset victory could prove to be a portentous development.

Leslie Susser is the diplomatic correspondent for the Jerusalem Report.

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Obituaries


George Allen Smith,
Philanthropist and Founder of George Smith Partners, Inc.,
Dies at 70

George Allen Smith, a leader in Southern California’s real estate finance industry, died Nov. 3 at 70. A graduate of the Harvard Business School, Smith, whose career in the industry spanned four decades, founded George Smith Partners Real Estate, a commercial mortgage brokerage firm, in 1992.

Smith and his wife, Pam, championed many institutions, including The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles and the Museum of Contemporary Art. His chief philanthropic endeavor was the founding of the Ataxia Telangiectasia Research Foundation (A-TMRF), an organization devoted to funding research into a rare neurological disease affecting his daughter, Rebecca. Since its inception in 1984, the A-TMRF granted more than $10 million in research funding worldwide, including the endowment of the Rebecca Smith Chair in A-T Research at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA.

“George approached every challenge with a level of confidence that was inspiring and contagious,” said Dr. Richard Gatti, who holds the Rebecca Smith Distinguished Professorship at UCLA.

To raise funds for the A-TMRF, Smith initiated the annual George Smith Partners Real Estate Luncheon, an event which now attracts more than 1,500 industry professionals. At this year’s event, Smith was presented with an honorary doctorate from Tel Aviv University.

Smith is survived by his wife, Pam; sons, James and Matthew; daughters, Jill Oaks and Rebecca; grandchildren, Samantha and Hannah; and sister, Eleanor (Gerald) Sorkin.

Donations can be made to the A-TMRF c/o Haskell and Davis, 16000 Ventura Blvd., Suite 806, Encino, CA 91436. — Nancy Sokoler Steiner, Contributing Writer

Samuel Baradaran died Oct. 12 at 65. He is survived by his daughter, Shaleen; and cousin, Michael Amin. Groman

ROUHOLLAH BARKHORDARIAN died Oct. 12 at 93. He is survived by his wife, Rose; six children; 16 grandchildren; and 11 great-grandchildren. Hillside

Annette Berman died Sept. 17 at 86. She is survived by her daughters, Jackie (Andy) Stern and Lynn; granddaughters, Traci Tannler and Molly (David) Schlussel; great-grandchildren, Zackary Tannler and Vivienne Schlussel; and brother, Sy (Lennet) Ogulnick. Mount Sinai

RAYMOND BLACKMAN died Oct. 11 at 81. He is survived by his brother, Al. Sholom Chapels.

HYMAN BARNETT BOOKMAN died Sept. 28 at 95. He is survived by his son, Jack; two grandchildren; and brother, Albert. Hillside

HARRY BRODSKY died Oct. 12 at 95. He is survived by his daughter, Iris (Mickey) Weiss; three grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren. Hillside

MELINDA EVELYN BRUN died Sept. 30 at 63. She is survived by her husband, William; daughter, Chandra; and nephew, Erik Laykin. Hillside

RAYE REENA CARLIN died Oct. 8 at 87. She is survived by her son, Martin (Caroline); daughter, Maxine; grandchildren, Laura and Mitchell; and great-grandson, Daniel. Hillside

SARAH GARFINKEL died Sept. 28 at 94. She is survived by her daughter, Sandy (Ron) Shenkman; and granddaughter, Stephanie Shenkman. Hillside

MARIAN LAURANS GETZOFF died Sept. 29 at 88. She is survived by sons, Peter and Stephen; daughter, Barbara Huff; daughter-in-law, Kay; seven grandchildren; three great-grandchildren; sister, Eleanor Feller; and brother, Raymond Laurans. Hillside

NANCY LYNN GOFF died Oct. 10 at 50. She is survived by her mother, Cecile; and sister, Julie (Dr. Ben) Simon. Sholom Chapels.

JANICE HAMLIN died Oct. 2 at 83. She is survived by her husband, Morris; sons, Richard (Delia) and Robert; and four grandchildren. Hillside

HYMIE HERSOWITZ died Oct. 11 at 87. He is survived by his wife, Eva; and son, Selwyn. Sholom Chapels.

Estrea Rozanes Kapuya-Berro died Oct. 12 at 93. She is survived by her son, Eliezer (Venus) Kapuya; and three grandchildren. Malinow and Silverman

Ralph Kaye died Oct. 11 at 86. He is survived by his wife, Helen; sons, Irv and Marc (Renée); daughter, Debbie; five grandchildren; and brothers, Eugene and Norman. Sholom Chapels.

BOB LEVY, JR. died Oct. 8 at 95. He is survived by his son, Bob. Hillside

CLARA LEWIN died Sept. 27 at 90. She is survived by her nephew, Gabor Szekeres. Hillside

Joyce Loraine Lynch died Oct. 10 at 67. She is survived by her daughters, Catherine and Michele. Malinow and Silverman

Leon Markus died Oct. 13 at 89. He is survived by his wife, Charlotte; sons, Jeffrey and Michael; daughter, Judith Knobel; five grandchildren; and one great-grandchild. Groman

Karl Meyer died Oct. 11 at 81. He is survived by his children, Steven (Randi) and Michael (Heather). Mount Sinai

WILLIAM NEWMAN died Sept. 29 at 79. He is suvived by his wife, Sheila; son, Ian (Karen); daughters, Dana (Tim) and Mara (Paul); and six grandchildren. Hillside

Shoshana Noily died Oct. 13 at 97. She is sirvived by her sons, Josh and Samuel; daughters-in-law; four grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.

MARVIN DAVID RATNER died Sept. 29 at 84. He is survived by his wife, Mildred; sons, Rabbi Robert (Susan) and Andrew (Kathi); brother, Stanley; eight grandchildren; and great-grandson, Yael. Hillside

BEATRICE PEARL RIEMER died Oct. 3 at 86. She is survived by her children, Rick, Ken and Terry; and four grandchildren. Hillside

Sylvia Ringelheim died Oct. 14 at 79. She is survived by her daughters, Sherrill Lewis and Arlene Parker; and one grandchild. Groman

MARLENE ROBINSON died Oct. 10 at 73. She is survived by her daughter, Marlene (Richard) Arnold. Sholom Chapels.

Morris Romerstein died Oct. 11 at 92. He is survived by his daughter, Anne (Charles) Grob; son, Samuel; and one grandchild. Malinow and Silverman

DOROTHY ROSENTHAL died Oct. 10 at 83. She is survived by her daughter, Michele (Sam); two granddaughters; brother, Bernie (Marcia); three nieces; and eight great-nieces and great-nephews.

Bernard Saffe died Oct. 13 at 81. He is survived by his son, Gary; daughters, Sari Garger and Rickie Louis; and three grandchildren. Groman

LORAINE ROSETTA SCHWARTZ died Oct. 11 at 86. She is survived by her daughter, Carole Jablon; and granddaughters, Tess and Jordon Jablon. Hillside

MONETT SCHWARTZ died Oct. 3 at 83. She is survived by her son, Paul (Sheila); daughter, Susan (Steven) Bromberg; seven grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren. Hillside

Martha Sego died Oct. 13 at 96. She is survived by her son, Peter; and one grandchild. Groman

Art Shaimes died Oct. 12 at 68. He is survived by his wife, Meredith; daughters, Cathy (Robert) Manzi and Lori (Rich) Hammer; son, Martin (Jeanette); and eight grandchildren. Mount Sinai

Elias Solz died Oct. 13 at 81. He is survived by his wife, Harriet; daughter, Heidi (Roger) Kerr; son, William (Susan) Solz; and four grandchildren. Malinow and Silverman

Esther Mazo Sosner died Oct. 14 at 97. She is survived by her sons, Bernard (Phyllis), Harold (Gail) and Howard (Elaine); seven grandchildren; eight great-grandchildren; and sister, Beatrice Cord. Mount Sinai

FREYDA PENNER SPATZ died Sept. 30 at 87. She is survived by her daughers, Julie DaVanzo (Frank), Barbara and Andrea (Bob Wunderlich); and four grandchildren. Hillside

Harry Weiner died Oct. 11 at 89. He is survived by his sons, Ken and Norm; daughter, Charlene Garcia; nine grandchildren; and one great-grandchild. Groman

CHARLOTTE MARIE COFFMAN WEISS died Sept. 28 at 88. She is survived by her sons sons, Rabbi Ken (Sue) and Dr. Mark (Marilyn); eight grandchildren; six great-grandchildren; and sister, Mildred Foreman. Hillside

MORRIS WINKLER died Oct. 8 at 76. He is survived by his wife, Mitzi; and son, Jaime. Hillside

 

The Circuit


Hope and Faith

Childrens Hospital Los Angeles (CHLA) honored L.A. resident Doron Kochavi, for his participation in the Bristol-Myers Squibb Tour of Hope across America, headed by Lance Armstrong.

Patients in the Childrens Center for Cancer and Blood Diseases at CHLA sent off Kochavi with well wishes as he left to join a team of 24 cancer survivors, advocates, caregivers, physicians and researchers selected to ride 3,300 miles from San Diego to Washington, D.C.

The team of avid cyclists began their trip Sept. 29 — to share their experiences and inspire those they met along the way to learn more about cancer research.

Seven-time Tour de France winner Armstrong led the team at the kickoff in San Diego and into Washington, D.C., as well as during other points along the route.

Kochavi’s son, Ari, is alive today because of the treatment for a brain tumor he received at CHLA. When asked about the significance of the holidays and what is he reflecting on Kochavi said prior to leaving, “The Jewish holiday is for laymen. It is a message of hope. You hope that the new year will bring all the good you hope for … health, family, a good life…. This year I will spend the new year on the road. I have the opportunity to send a message of hope across the country. We will be riding everywhere … there will be no religious boundaries and touch everyone north to south … rich to poor….. I get the chance to talk to millions of people through television, newspapers, etc. and deliver a message of hope for tomorrow.”

For more information, visit www.tourofhope.org.

Simply Remarkable

The Jewish Community Foundation of Los Angeles will award four new Jewish day school scholarships as a tribute to Mark Lainer, its chair from 2001 through 2004. The Mark Lainer Scholarships will provide assistance during the 2005 academic year to a deserving student with financial need at four local Jewish educational institutions where Lainer has played major leadership roles. These include Abraham Joshua Heschel Day School, Abraham Joshua Heschel Day School West and New Community Jewish High School, along with one recipient selected by the Bureau of Jewish Education.

The Foundation announced the scholarships at a gala dinner at the Regent Beverly Wilshire on Sept. 22 saluting Lainer’s dedication to The Foundation and the community.

“Mark’s energy and commitment are exemplary,” said foundation President and CEO Marvin I. Schotland. “We’re proud to honor him for both his outstanding guidance as immediate past chair of the foundation and for his passionate, dedicated service to the entire community.”

A leader in philanthropy and education, Lainer was also founding president of the Abraham Joshua Heschel Day School and has played important leadership roles in the Bureau of Jewish Education, The Jewish Federation, University of Judaism, Valley Beth Shalom, United Jewish Communities, Jewish Education Service of North America and The Jewish Journal.

 

Arafat’s Ghost


Your first bit of post-Gaza required reading should be “How Arafat Destroyed Palestine,” by David Samuels, the cover story in the September issue of The Atlantic.

Heartening and optimistic it is not.

Samuels followed Yasser Arafat for years before the Palestinan Authority leader’s death on Nov. 11, 2004, writing about him for The New Yorker and other publications.

After Arafat’s protracted demise, Samuels went back and interviewed the Palestinian leader’s closest advisers, his followers, his confidants. Taken together, their insights hint at a man who was deceitful on his best days, not to mention controlling, imperious, vague, insecure and corrupt to his core.

The case for corruption is not new, but Samuels gets some of Arafat’s closest advisers to cop to a system of handouts, extortion and patronage that makes Tony Soprano look like Gandhi. The Oslo Accords, with the concomitant bales of international aid funds, only stoked the greed.

Then there’s this discomforting revelation: Israelis became complicit, helping the tainted Arafat launder his skims by arranging Swiss bank accounts. The International Monetary Fund estimates that from 1995 to 2000, Arafat diverted $900 million from Palestinian Authority funds, “an amount that did not include the money that he and his family siphoned off through such secondary means as no-bid contracts, kickbacks and rake-offs,” Samuels reports.

All told, the money stolen by Arafat and his cronies “may exceed one-half of the $7 billion in foreign aid contributed to the Palestinian Authority.”

A condemnation even comes from Palestinian billionaire Munib al-Masri, one of Arafat’s closest friends. Al-Masri no doubt benefited from Arafat’s good graces, but he nevertheless sees the cost clearly: “With $300 million, $400 million we could have built Palestine in 10 years,” he tells Samuels. “Waste, waste, waste.”

Though his wife and pals spent like ancient Romans, Arafat did not live ostentatiously — it’s just that he lived unaccountably, that is, no one really held him to account for his particular outrages great and small. He used international aid money to spread fear and favor throughout Palestinian society, to dole out as he wished, abetting his personal political interests and pleasures. Sometimes the money went to pay for an American college education for the children of loyal lieutenants. Other times it paid families of slain terrorists, or for actual terrorist activities. Arafat kept the ledgers in an inside coat pocket, open to no one but himself.

I’ve read about and written about Arafat’s duplicity before. But Samuels’ article is far more than a dismal eulogy about a dead Palestinian leader who spent his last days, cut off from reality, watching Road Runner, Bugs Bunny and Tom and Jerry cartoons on television (yes, it’s true). It is a warning about the worldview he left behind. As the father of his country, Arafat shaped the national soul of Palestine, its approach to its own citizens and to other nations. What’s clear is that Arafat cared little about either.

His view of Israel and the Jews was summed up by Orzad Lev, the Israeli investment adviser who helped siphon Palestinian funds into Arafat’s Swiss accounts.

“The whole thing about the secret accounts is to keep the financial flexibility to move money to the second stage. He thought that demographically [Palestinians] are going to win the war, and in order to do that you have to be patient and let the Israelis bleed.”

To Arafat, destroying Israel was always more important than building Palestine.

This week, as Israel completes its unilateral pullout from Gaza, the legacy of Arafat becomes even more critical.

“The real question,” writes Aluf Benn in Haaretz, “which thus far remains open, is whether the parties will succeed in moving on from here to a more stable arrangement without going through another war.”

Benn reports that sewing shops in Palestinian-controlled areas are working overtime making flags for Hamas and the Palestinian Authority, as each side rushes to fill the streets and claim credit for driving out the Israelis.

In other words, Palestinians can view the withdrawal Arafat’s way: as a step toward the Jews’ inevitable departure from Israel. Or they can abandon Arafat’s disastrous vision and use the withdrawal as a basis for building a peaceful nation, one that is responsible to its citizens and respectful of its neighbors.

Read Samuels’ article, then let me know what choice you think they’ll make.

 

Circuit


 

Fine Thing for Feinstein

Rabbi Morley Feinstein, senior rabbi of University Synagogue in Brentwood, and Rabbi Mark S. Diamond, executive vice president of the Board of Rabbis of Southern California, at the General Assembly (GA) of the United Jewish Communities. Feinstein, executive committee member of the Board of Rabbis, received the Rabbinic Award of The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles.

The Stem Cell Circuit

For one week in late January, Hadassah Southern California hosted Benjamin Reubinoff, senior physician with the obstetrics/gynecology department and director of the Hadassah Human Embryonic Stem Cell Research Center at the Goldyne Savad Institute of Gene Therapy, Hadassah University Medical Center in Jerusalem.

Recently, in what is considered to be a major medical breakthrough, Reubinoff and his research team succeeded in showing that human embryonic stem cells can improve the functioning of a laboratory rat with Parkinson’s disease. This is the first time that the potential ability of transplanted human embryonic stem cells has been demonstrated in an animal model with Parkinson’s disease.

It was a whirlwind week for Reubinoff: On Jan. 23, he was the keynote speaker at the “Healthy Women, Healthy Lives” Conference at the Long Beach Jewish Community Center; on Jan. 24, he spoke at the Women of Distinction Dinner at Le Vallauris; on Jan. 25, 160 women turned up to hear him speak at a health seminar at the Annenberg Center at the Eisenhower Medical Center; and later that night he spoke at San Diego’s Chai Society event at the Burham Institute. Two days later, Reubinoff gave a lecture to the faculty and deans at UC Santa Barbara, and last, but not least, he spoke in Encino at the Northern Area Chai Society event.

A Visit from The Rebbe

Emek Hebrew Academy Teichman Family Torah Center had some very holy guests recently. On Feb. 7, Rabbi Zvi Elimelech Halberstam, the Sanz-Klausenberg Rebbe, visited the school. Halberstam is one of the most renowned Chasidic leaders alive today.

Sol Teichman, the school’s board chair, welcomed Halberstam to Emek. Teichman has a very personal connection to the Rebbe, as he survived the Holocaust with Halberstam’s father, the late Grand Rabbi Yekusiel Yehuda Halberstam, who founded Kiryat Sanz in Netanya, Israel.

On Feb. 6, an audience of 200 gathered at the school to hear Torah scholar Rabbi Yissocher Frand speak about “Gevurah – Strength, Legacy from the Past, Hope for the Future.”

In Memory of Hindy

One year ago, on Feb. 10, 2004, Hindy Cohen, a student at Bais Yaakov of Los Angeles, died at the age of 17. She was known for her staunch faith and for the joy she felt in life.

Since her death, her parents, Baruch and Adina Cohen, have set up the Hindy Cohen Memorial Fund at Bais Yaakov. In the short time since its inception, the fund has dedicated the Bais Yaakov Yoman Calendar, which is given out to every student. It has also set up an annual award given to a Bais Yaakov graduating senior who has shown exemplary character traits. The fund also sponsored this year’s Halleli Song and Dance Festival, dedicated the Yom Iyun Day of Study at Bais Yaakov, and set up a weekly mussar (self-improvement from Jewish texts) class for seniors.

On Feb. 13, in connection with Hindy Cohen’s first yahrzeit, the Hindy Cohen Memorial Fund dedicated “Hindy’s Sefer Torah.” The Torah procession began at noon at the shul that Hindy Cohen prayed in for most of her life, Congregation Bais Yehuda on La Brea Boulevard. Hindy’s parents and the rest of the crowd then escorted the Torah to its new home at Bais Yaakov on Beverly Boulevard.

A Dance for Barbara

On Nov. 6, United Hostesses’ Charity held its 62nd annual dinner dance at the Regent Beverly Wilshire. The event honored Barbara Factor Bentley, the immediate past chair of the Board of the Directors at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, and featured a performance by singer/pianist Michael Feinstein.

Baby Love

One sure way to stop those winter blues is to help people less fortunate than yourself. In January, the American Jewish Congress sent several packages of handmade baby clothing, blankets and teddy bears to needy families in Israel. Each item sent was lovingly crafted by Stitches from the Heart, a Santa Monica-based organization whose volunteers knit garments and toys from donated yarn, which are then distributed to needy people.

In Israel, Yad Letinok, a Jerusalem-based charity that helps needy families with young children, distributed the items.

 

Barghouti Release Would Reward Terror


 

In May 2004, Marwan Barghouti, one of the leaders of Fatah in the West Bank and head of the Tanzim organization, was sentenced to five consecutive life terms, plus another 40 years, by an Israeli civil court that found him guilty of five cases of murder of innocent citizens, attempted murder and membership in a terror organization.

With the demise of Yasser Arafat and little support in the Palestinian street for Mahmoud Abbas, calls have been heard to consider releasing Barghouti as a means of stabilizing the new Palestinian Authority regime. My contention is that releasing Barghouti would essentially mean rewarding and thus further encouraging terrorism.

Barghouti rose to public attention as a leader of the first Palestinian intifada (1987-1993) and an alternative leadership to Arafat’s Tunis-based elite. In the 1990s, Barghouti was considered to be a pragmatist, and some even considered him a supporter of the peace process with Israel.

But after the terror campaign began in 2000, he became acting commander of Hallelei El-Aksa, Fatah’s military arm, and an outspoken supporter of terror as a means of attaining the Palestinians’ strategic objectives. Barghouti played an active role, including organizing and financing terrorist acts. Brutal attacks against men, women and children were carried out at his direct or indirect behest.

In his trial, Barghouti was accused of dozens of other charges of murder and planning terrorist acts, but due to intelligence security considerations, these charges were dismissed for lack of evidence. Nevertheless, the court unequivocally ruled that all of these acts had been carried out with his support, making use of funds and armaments he had made available, and therefore he bore moral responsibility for them.

In light of the upcoming elections for head of the Palestinian Authority and the concern that Abbas lacks sufficient support from the street necessary to ensure stability, Barghouti is often discussed as an alternative. Some analysts claim that only Barghouti can prevent Hamas from strengthening its position and provide Abbas with the legitimization and popular support he needs to reignite the peace process.

Barghouti’s release may indeed produce positive short-term consequences from Israel’s viewpoint by propping up a regime headed by Abbas, who is considered a moderate. But is this boon worth the likely long-term damage to the interests of both Israel and the United States in their resolute war against terror and terrorists who have no compunctions about killing men, women and children?

Barghouti’s proposed release is analogous to Yigal Amir, the assassin of Israel Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, expressing remorse for his actions and in exchange for his release from prison, promising to become a public spokesman against political extremism and against political assassination. It is inconceivable that anyone in Israel would even contemplate such an absurd proposal seriously.

Barghouti’s release could also serve as an eye-opening lesson for terrorists such as Osama bin Laden: If a man whose guilt has been proven beyond a shadow of a doubt is released, terrorism must pay off.

Thus, there is no room for leniency motivated by short-term political considerations when engaging in today’s brutal battle against world terrorism.

Finally, despite Arafat’s exit from the stage, the road to agreement and reconciliation is long and arduous. What is to prevent Barghouti — who chose the path of terror when the results from the political route were not satisfactory to him and still considers violence to be the most effective means of ending the occupation — from making the same choice again if future negotiations hit snags?

Amira Schiff is a doctoral candidate in the political studies department at Bar-Ilan University. She is currently writing her dissertation on the prenegotiation process in the Israeli-Palestinian and the Cypriot conflicts. This op-ed and the one above are part of a debate series initiated by The Center for Israel Studies at The University of Judaism.

 

The Circuit


Gift of Life

When the spring mission of the Men’s Division for Israel Bonds went to Israel in June they made a pit stop at Magen David Adom (MDA)’s Blood Center in Ramat Gan so that all the mission participants could donate blood. That stop is now going to become a permanent part of Israel Bonds’ missions to Israel.

MDA is Israel’s Red Cross, but the International Red Cross and the Red Crescent Societies do not accept Israel’s MDA as a member. Therefore, MDA needs to find all the blood-pumping resources themselves.

MDA supplies 100 percent of the blood to all the hospitals in Israel, as well as 100 percent of the blood to the Israeli armed forces. They also maintain 93 emergency stations and ambulance services equipped with intensive coronary units able to initiate cardiac protocol en route to the hospital.

Now American Women for MDA in Los Angeles is raising funds to add two stories to the Ramat Gan Center.

“It is my greatest hope that all of the Jewish organizations will work together to help ARMDI [the support arm of MDA in the United State] maintain their services to the Jewish people of Israel,” said Gabriella Bashner, founding chair of American Women for MDA.

For more information visit www.armdi.org .

Tikes on Trikes

Yeshivat Yavneh’s early childhood students decided to do their part to help the wider community by participating in the Cycles for Smiles Marathon this past June. The students raised money from sponsors and then got on their tricycles and did laps around the playground. The students raised $4,100 for Beit Issie Shapiro, a therapeutic educational organization that provides services for mentally and physically challenged children in Raanana, Israel.

Election Day

It’s election season once again, and Jewish organizations all over Los Angeles have been welcoming their new leadership.

At Beth Jacob Congregation in Beverly Hills, one of the largest centrist Orthodox synagogues in the country, Martin Shandling was elected president of the new board of directors in July.

Temple Ner Tamid of Downey held its annual installation of officers of the board of directors in June. The new officers are: David Saltzman, president; Miriam Brookfield, Cheryl Brownstein and Sandy Dickinson, executive vice presidents; Laura Bornstein, secretary; Howard Brookfield, treasurer; Jane Hansen, financial secretary; Gloria Katz, Sheba Levine, Ruth Greenberg, Libby Lazarus, Lynette Austin and Michael Barsky, trustees; and Gerald Altman, Jean Franklin, Jim Hansen and Virginia Isenberg, members at large.

The Encino-Tarzana chapter of Women’s American ORT re-elected Charlotte Gussin-Root as president for her second term. The chapter installed their new officers at a special luncheon at Odyssey Restaurant in June. At the luncheon, Mariam Perlmutter received special thanks as she retired from 14 years of devoted work as treasurer, and Robert Franenberg, the classical bassist of the Rotterdam Philharmonic and son of longtime ORT member Jackie Franenberg treated the members and guests to a mini-concert.

Happy Birthday Bais!

More than 300 people helped Congregation Bais Naftoli in Hancock Park celebrate its 12th birthday in July with a dinner at the shul, which honored Dr. Maurice Levy, Rabbi David Thumin and Chaim Wizenfeld.

Silver Service

Temple Beth Ohr of La Mirada honored Rabbi Lawrence and Carol Goldmark for 25 years of service to the temple with a festive reception on June 18 that followed Friday night services.

Goldmark has been the spiritual leader of the congregation since 1979, and is a past president of the Board of Rabbis of Southern California and executive vice-president of the Pacific Association of Reform Rabbis. He is also the Jewish chaplain at St. Jude Medical Center in Fullerton.

Carol Kredenser Goldmark is an adjunct art professor at Fullerton College and is known for her rich realistic paintings.

How to Win Leaders and Influence People


Melina Gimal has been a Jewish community professional for most of her life. As a young girl she worked at Jewish Community Centers in Argentina, and later at Hillels in Washington and Miami. But most of her peers aren’t doing the same.

“They just have it in their minds that they are going to work for a bank or in real estate,” said Gimal, 26. “But they have so much to give to the Jewish community and it is a pity that we are losing them and they don’t want to get involved.”

The question of why the Jewish community isn’t recruiting and retaining more young Jewish leaders is one that the 20-Something Think Tank summit wants to answer.

The summit of 150 Jewish 20-somethings from all over America who will gather here in August to address what organizers consider the “recruitment crisis” of young Jewish leadership. Funded by the Michael Steinhardt/Jewish Life Network, the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation and William M. Davidson, the summit hopes to address issues of Jewish leadership, recruitment and retention. It aims to find ways to make Jewish leadership positions more attractive to young people choosing a career path.

“Our assumption is that we have enough in this field [of Jewish leadership] to offer and that there are enough people who are sharp and bright who will want to chose this sector if we make it appealing to them salary wise and benefit wise,” said Rhoda Weisman, executive director of the Professional Leader Project (PLP), the sponsoring organization of the summit.

“The goal of the conference is not to push them into [leadership], but to expose them to it,” she said. “Most of them don’t even know about the different possibilities [for communal careers], such as being editors, running endowments or strategic planning.”

The PLP is currently receiving about 10 applications per day for participation in the three-day summit. It is choosing participants from among college and graduate students, newly inaugurated Jewish professionals and those working in the mainstream marketplace. After the Think Tank, 20 of the participants will have the opportunity for Career Break — three days when they will shadow top Jewish professional leaders for insights into the career arena.

The summit is the last part of a three-piece research project funded by those philanthropists who examined Jewish leadership development across America. The first two parts of the project were national studies conducted by The Institute for Jewish and Community Research (IJCR) in San Francisco, and the Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies (CMJS) at Brandeis University, respectively. The studies found that that the community wasn’t doing enough to recruit and retain young leaders.

“We found a vigorous and healthy preservice picture; there are a lot of choices around the country for places to go to acquire this preprofessional training [to work in the Jewish community], but our concern was in-service training,” said Steve Dobbs, a senior fellow at the IJCR and one of the authors of the study, “Professional Development in the Jewish Community.” The study based its research on interviews with 60 Jewish professionals and it will be published later this month.

Dobbs also said that they found there was a persistent undersupply of well-trained Jewish educators and professionals at mid- and entry-level positions, because people were repelled by the low status, low remuneration, heavy workload and absence of professional development involved in Jewish communal life.

“We found people leaving their careers early because of a lack of professional development opportunities, people leaving because of communal politics and the complicated dynamics between the lay and staff professionals at the agencies,” he said.

“The really critical piece is to figure out how to support people who work in the Jewish community and how to help them have lifelong careers that pay sufficiently and have sufficient reinforcements,” said Leonard Saxe, director of CMJS and one of the authors of the study, “The Recruitment and Retention of Jewish Professionals,” a survey of Jewish professional life in six communities that will be published in August.

And as for what makes a good leader, Gimal says that it takes an ability to listen.

“You really have to have the capacity to listen to the people and really care and understand their needs,” she said. “And, of course, you need to like what you are doing and have a passion for it.”

For more information on the 20-Something Think Tank,
visit www.jewishleaders.net .

Sol Bojarsky


Sol Bojarsky passed away peacefully at home on June 27. A native of Los Angeles, born in Boyle Heights, Oct. 1, 1919, bar mitzvah at the Breed Street Shul, Bojarsky was a graduate of Hollywood High School and UCLA. From a pioneer L.A. Zionist family, Sol was a prominent insurance agent in the L.A. Jewish community for over 50 years, having taken over the business started by his mother Rose. He was an early and dedicated Jewish community leader, honored by the Jewish Centers Association and Jewish National Fund, as well as The Jewish Federation Insurance Division.

He served on the board of Brandeis-Bardin Institute for over four decades, as well as a leader of Temple of Israel of Hollywood for an equal amount of time. He was a proud community leader, a gentleman known for his big smile, love of life and warm heart. He will be profoundly missed.

He is survived by his wife, Celina; daughter, Donna (Jonathan); grandson, Joshua; and brother, Eli Boyer.

Kids Page


Aaron and the Almond

Moses’ brother Aaron, our first high priest, had a staff. One day, it grew almond flowers and fruit. It was God’s way of showing the Israelites that Aaron was personally chosen by God to be their spiritual leader. He became like a father to the Israelites. Almond in Hebrew is shaked, which also means diligent and fast. Aaron was very fast at one particular thing — stopping arguments and bringing love back to people who were angry.
Find the Aaron who lives inside you. Use him this summer when you are at camp, or meeting new people on vacation. Greet friends with a smile and with affection — and it will come back to you really fast.

Present Time

What You Need:
1. Plain white paper
2. Pair of white boxer shorts that will fit Dad
or Grandpa
3. Fabric crayons (these are special crayons labeled
for fabric)
4. Iron
5. Hard flat surface (such
as a countertop)
6. Scissors

How To Make It:
1. Draw a picture or design on the white paper.
2. Cut around the picture once it is complete. If you need to, darken in some of the lighter areas of the drawing so that it will transfer well.
3. Have Mom (or another grown-up) iron the design onto the shorts according to the instructions on the back of the package of crayons.
4. Wrap it up and give to someone special.

Father’s Day, Hooray!

Fill in the blanks to learn the history of Father’s Day:
birthday, June, Spokane, 1910, honor, five, Mother’s.

Sonora Louise Smart Dodd lived in _________, Wash.
After her mother died, her father raised her and her _______ siblings.
One day, in 1909, while listening to a sermon about _________ Day, she decided that she must create a day to _______ fathers.
She chose ________ 19, because it was her father’s _________. She gained national support and Father’s day was first celebrated in ______.

Court Case Could Be Key to Trying Arafat


When Israeli authorities chose to put Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti on trial in a criminal court, rather than a military court, prosecutors may have set the stage for an even bigger prize: Yasser Arafat.

That possibility was given a boost last week with Barghouti’s conviction on five counts of murder for Israelis killed in three separate shooting ambushes conducted by the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade in 2001 and 2002.

Barghouti, the West Bank leader of Fatah, the political faction of the Palestinian Authority president, was acquitted on 21 other counts of murder for lack of evidence.

Both outcomes bolstered the argument for putting Palestinian terrorists on trial in regular Israeli courts, rather than in military courts, where the standards of evidence are not as strict. Barghouti’s conviction shows that there is sufficient evidence to put terrorists behind bars using standard criminal procedures, and his acquittal on the other counts lends legitimacy to the argument that even Palestinian terrorists will get fair trials in Israel.

Though the trial served as a legal extension of the Israeli-Palestinian battleground, Israelis insisted that the trial was fair, and that Israeli judges do not function as rubber stamps for Israel’s security establishment — as evidenced by Barghouti’s acquittal on most of the charges.

The judges said Barghouti could be convicted only in cases where it was proven that he had prior knowledge of imminent terrorist attacks and that he approved the attacks. The prosecution sought a ruling that would have held the head of a terrorist organization personally responsible for all attacks carried out by organization members.

That made a future conviction of Arafat more difficult, because prosecutors could win a conviction only if they can prove Arafat is directly responsibility for specific attacks.

During the Barghouti trial, the Israeli judges found Barghouti had ordered his men to go forward with attacks or suspend them, "according to instructions he had received from Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat" — one sign that an Arafat conviction is not an impossibility.

Despite his conviction, Barghouti, 44, still is considered one of the prime candidates to succeed Arafat. Palestinians regard Barghouti as a national hero, and until the start of the intifada, Israel considered him a relative moderate who might make a good successor to Arafat. Until the late 1990s, Barghouti was considered one of the strongest Palestinian advocates for negotiations with Israel.

After 1993, he became a strong backer of the Oslo accords. He continued to rise in the Palestinian rank, and by the start of the second intifada in late 2000, Barghouti was Fatah’s leader in the West Bank. Disenchanted with the deadlock in peace negotiations, Barghouti, who also was responsible for Fatah’s militant offshoot, the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, began giving approval to attacks against Israelis.

The Israeli court ruled that it was through the Al Aqsa Brigade that Barghouti issued orders to kill. He was brought to trial after Israeli commandos captured him in Ramallah two years ago. He was the most senior Palestinian figure ever to face trial in Israel.

He tried to turn the proceedings into a political trial. As a member of the Palestinian legislative council, he said, he refused to recognize the legitimacy of the Israeli court’s right to try him.

"The intifada will continue as long as the occupation," he told the court upon his conviction, speaking at times in fluent Hebrew.

The Palestinian Authority denounced the trial and demanded Barghouti’s immediate release.

With Arafat’s foundering popularity and the rising power of Hamas, a figure like Barghouti may make the perfect candidate for Palestinian leadership — both in Israel’s view and that of the Palestinians.

The conviction helps ensure that Barghouti is not suspected of having a hidden agenda of collaboration with Israel. That makes him a more favorable candidate for leadership than Jibril Rajoub, Arafat’s national security adviser, and Mohammad Dahlan, former minister of internal security, both of whom at times have been slammed as too close to the Israelis.

The Tel Aviv court is due to sentence Barghouti on June 6.

The Silent Minority


If there had been any doubts that I was in another country, they were erased when the first reviews of Mel Gibson’s "The Passion of the Christ" began to appear in the London press.

While there was a mixture of praise and repugnance (just like the United States), with negative voices drowning out the affirmative ones, film critics and reviewers in London generally bypassed the Jews in their deconstruction of the film.

Missing in most of the reviews was any recognition of Jewish concerns — except, of course, in the pages of the Jewish Chronicle, the community’s local weekly newspaper, which devoted several issues to describing the responses of the editor, the columnists and the community: A terrible, inaccurate and anti-Semitic film, they argued. That community apparently is small enough to be hidden from view — 300,000 out of a population of 58 million with two-thirds living in greater London, and a large percentage of that number secular and unaffiliated. The end result is that Britain’s affiliated Jews are not a significant enough presence in society to merit concern. We are, to quote one Jewish community leader, simply invisible.

This has its ironic side today. Jews have made incredible strides within Britain over the past 40 years. Ever since Margaret Thatcher’s days as the Tory Prime Minister of Great Britain in the 1980s, Jews have taken on an active role in the British establishment: They figured prominently in Thatcher’s Cabinet, and began to play an increasingly significant role at the bar and the judiciary, as well as in publishing, science and the press. Today, to everyone’s astonishment (in the Jewish community) the leader of the Conservative Party and perhaps the next prime minister, Michael Howard, is Jewish; as is Michael Grade, the newly appointed director of the powerful BBC; while Sir Malcolm Rifkind, a former foreign secretary who, after seven years away from politics, has returned and is expected to rejoin the Conservatives in Parliament. How invisible can that be?

The problem is that nothing comparable to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) or the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations or the Anti-Defamation League exists in Great Britain. There is little Jewish political clout. The organized Jewish community is represented by a Board of Deputies, which consists of synagogue and organizational leaders. But it is not a commanding lobby group with powerful ties to the political institutions of the nation.

Nor is there a sense within the national press and television stations that Jewish issues are part and parcel of the national political dialogue. When BBC 4 aired a television program that discussed in detail Jewish anxieties and criticism of Gibson’s "The Passion," the footage was filled with clips from the U.S. showing prominent American Jewish figures, such as Rabbi Marvin Hier of the Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles, speaking out against the film. Indeed, one telling newspaper review featured a critic who explained that he took along a Jewish friend to the film’s screening, but then was baffled when the friend complained that some scenes were anti-Semitic. The reviewer did not like the film, but failed to understand how anyone could view it as directed against the Jews.

Perhaps that explains the intellectual attack that appeared in The Spectator, a conservative weekly opinion magazine.

"It’s not between Christians and Jews," critic Mark Steyn wrote, "but between believing Christians and the broader post-Christian culture."

What post-Christians wanted, he explained with a sly wink, was a wimpy Jesus who died so our sins could be licensed. Gibson’s film about Jesus the Redeemer was instead for those Christians who read the Bible as God’s word; for those "red meat" Christians who took the New Testament as the literal truth.

Many clergymen reserved cinema seats in advance and bought tickets for their congregations. Their hope was that the film would inject vitality into Christian worship and, in the process, bring people back to the church. They seemed unaware of Jewish fears and needs. In a limited way, some of their hopes were borne out. The film was a smash hit in England, breaking box office records — though nothing to compare with the commercial success in the United States.

There is a rueful lesson of sorts for me in all of this. I have felt, along with others, that at times American Jewish organizations have been strident on the issues of anti-Semitism, Israel and other Jewish fears. They have often helped foster a cultural identity based on victimization. The alternative in Great Britain appears to be inclusion and integration in place of a collective Jewish voice. The richness of a Jewish identity and cultural memory is there in England for those who choose affiliation — but it is not accompanied by a strong political presence. In the United States — for better or ill — we appear to have it both ways.


Gene Lichtenstein is the founding editor of The Jewish Journal.

Quebec Leader Tours Firebombed School


Entering the room that once housed a children’s library, the premier of Quebec couldn’t help but scrunch up his nose against the burnt, toxic smell.

"It will actually leave a very strong impression," Jean Charest told reporters, following his April 8 visit to Montreal’s United Talmud Torah. "This sight and smell leaves a lasting impression of how violent a gesture this was."

Firebombed early on the morning of April 5, the school reeked of burned children’s books and plastic, making it nearly impossible to stay inside for more than a few minutes. A note left at the arson scene reportedly said the attack was in retribution for Israel’s recent killing of Hamas leader Sheik Ahmed Yassin and was just a taste of things to come.

Police have tightened security at local synagogues and mosques following the attack. The heightened security came as some parents of students at the school said the attack was reminiscent of book burnings in Nazi Germany.

"My sons are in shock, and so am I," said Joel Greenberg, a parent of one of the students. "I am very worried about their safety from here on in."

Politicians, community leaders and letters to the editor all condemned the attack.

The city’s Sun Youth community organization has offered a $15,000 reward for information leading to the arrests of the perpetrators. Police reportedly had leads on the arsonists’ identities but said they don’t know the group that claimed responsibility in the note left at the school.

B’nai Brith Canada issued a statement on calling on the government to do more to protect Jewish sites.

"We acknowledge and appreciate the condemnation by politicians of all backgrounds," but "words are meaningless if not accompanied by action," said Frank Dimant, the group’s executive vice president.

The arson occurred a few weeks after a rash of anti-Semitic incidents, including graffiti spray-painted on homes in a Jewish neighborhood in Toronto and after a report showed a rise in anti-Semitic incidents across Canada.

Prime Minister Paul Martin met in Ottawa several weeks ago with members of major Jewish organizations, who expressed their concern about a growing tide of anti-Semitism in Canada. The groups included the Canadian Jewish Congress, B’nai Brith Canada, United Israel Appeal, the Simon Wiesenthal Center and the leadership of several of Canada’s Jewish federations.

The government is finishing a plan to establish a hate crimes police force across the country and to establish initiatives to combat racist attitudes, Justice Minister Irwin Cotler said. He described the plan as "an effective and comprehensive approach" that will help to "mobilize a constituency of conscience" in the country."

The heads of two leading Islamic organizations, Salam Elmenyawi of the Muslim Council of Montreal and Mohamed Elmasry of the Canadian Islamic Congress, condemned the attack. Elmasry called it a hate crime, adding that "the agony will be double if it was committed by a Muslim."

Charest’s visit to the school, which lasted slightly more than an hour, was intended primarily to reassure students, parents and faculty that his Liberal government was doing everything possible to ensure that such an attack would not happen again.

After seeing the ruined library, Charest spent about 20 minutes with a class of sixth-graders who had been gathered specially to meet him, although the school was closed at the time because of Passover. He answered questions from students and reassured them that they would receive "as much help as necessary" to get the library reopened.

School officials estimated that it will cost about $225,000 just to replace the damaged books. The provincial government will pick up part of the cost, Charest said.

He added, "We’re going to work with those who have the job of policing to be very vigilant in trying to prevent these events from happening again."

It was clear that the students had spent a lot of time pondering the broader ramifications of the attack.

"I feel like this will not become another Holocaust, because this time people understand what’s going on," a student named Jillian told Charest.

Charest praised the educational role of the Montreal Holocaust Museum, adding that during the Holocaust era, "people who were in a leadership position should have been less tolerant of what went on."

During a brief meeting with parents, Charest reiterated his pledge of tighter policing. In the meantime, while police are continuing the investigation, he said, "we will continue to be very vigilant. We will examine, in light of these incidents, what action will be taken to prevent them."

Evangelicals Are Not Our ‘Natural Allies’


A few years ago, a few moderate American Jewish leaders tried to allay Jewish fears that the Christian right was a threat.

American Jews had it wrong, they said — former Christian Coalition leader Ralph Reed, the Rev. Pat Robertson and their ilk really were quite nice, even open-minded fellows and strongly pro-Israel to boot. They were our friends.

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) publicly praised Reed’s pro-Israel stance and invited Christian conservatives to ADL banquets. Christians, in turn, organized nationwide prayer vigils and lobbying campaigns to support Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s vision of a greater Israel.

Basking in the glow of this newfound friendship, Reed proclaimed that the Jewish-Christian alliance for Israel was as important as the black-Jewish coalition for civil rights in the 1960s.

Then, a Hollywood film star produced, directed and bankrolled a cinematic portrayal of Jesus’ final hours that depicted Jews as Jesus’ killers, promoting an age-old anti-Semitic theme. Fearing that the film would stoke new anti-Semitism, ADL National Director Abraham Foxman pleaded that Gibson alter the film, the pope disavow it and the Christian evangelicals that had become Foxman’s allies sermonize against it — to no avail.

Foxman should have seen it coming.

For all their talk of loving Jews and Israel, conservative Christians’ No. 1 priority always has been to expand their influence and numbers at home and abroad.

Several years ago, I interviewed dozens of Christian activists for a book I was writing about a campaign against gay rights that bitterly divided many Oregon communities, where I was living at the time.

When I disclosed my Jewishness to the evangelicals I met in the course of my research, they responded with boundless curiosity and kindness. A few asked if they could accompany me to synagogue, professing their great affection for the Jewish people. Several spoke excitedly of their trips to Israel or their desire to visit there.

I found it all disarming and even a little flattering.

But then the invitations to attend their churches arrived, along with offers to pray for me. I declined them graciously and heard little else until my book, a critical but empathetic account of conservative Christian activists, was published.

The messages then began to get meaner and were often tinged with anti-Semitism.

“How could a Jew possibly write an unbiased account?” one asked.

Another told me to “go back to New York, where you belong.”

Today, some of those activists have gone on to mobilize support for Israel, working to insure that the Holy Land stays in Jewish hands so that “saved Christians” like themselves can enjoy their final rapture out of harm’s way.

Ever since Sept. 11, 2001, these Christians have felt further justified for their alliance with Israel by the conviction that Judeo-Christian culture must protect itself against the followers of Mohammed, in preparation for the coming “clash of civilizations.”

My travels in evangelical America tell me that despite the claims of Jewish conservatives, and even moderate leaders like Foxman, conservative Christians are not our “natural allies.” In fact, most American Jews find themselves deeply at odds with the Christian right over a host of issues.

Witness the overwhelming support that the American Jewish community has given to the issue of gay marriage. In Massachusetts, a near unanimity of Jewish communal leaders support gay marital rights, and opinion polls nationally show Jews to be the most solidly in favor of gay marriage of any religious group.

Christian conservatives, needless to say, are champing at the bit to make gay marriage the next major battle in the “culture war.”

Even when it comes to Israel, evangelicals are out of step with American Jews and Israelis — most of whom would agree to trade land for peace if a viable peace plan were proposed. Evangelicals, by contrast, support the maximalist ideology of the most fundamentalist Jewish settlers, who view territorial concessions as suicidal.

The Jewish-Christian alliance was based on the idea that Israel needs as many friends as it can get. But it needs good friends — friends who believe in the importance of a democratic Jewish homeland, not those whose support for Israel is based on inflexible theological explanations for Israel’s right to exist.

The rift over “The Passion” should be a wake-up call to American Jewish leaders: The Jewish-Christian evangelical honeymoon is over. It may even be time to file for divorce.

Arlene Stein is a professor of sociology at Rutgers University and the author of “The Stranger Next Door: The Story of a Small Community’s Battle Over Sex, Faith, and
Civil Rights.”

Study of Federations Finds Job Sexism


While a new report says that sexism pervades the North American Jewish federation system, in Los Angeles, the facts paint a much more positive picture of gender equality.

An old-boys’ network and an attitude that rejects women’s leadership skills have kept women from reaching the top echelons of the federation system, according to research released recently by the United Jewish Communities (UJC) and a group called Advancing Women Professionals and the Jewish Community.

The study, based on interviews with a cross-section of North American federation leaders conducted from January to September 2003, sought to understand why women have not reached top executive spots in the 20 largest Jewish communities in North America. Some of those quoted in the report seem to reflect sexist attitudes.

"Just because a man might look at a woman as a sexual object doesn’t mean that he’s not taking her seriously professionally," said one male lay leader interviewed in the report. "I mean, does every woman have to be Golda Meir?"

"My advice to women is to be presentable and play to your femininity," he said. "Men want to preen, and they will respond favorably to the right package."

In its recommendations, the report advised the system to groom a significant number of low- and mid-level female staff members for senior positions, create flexible work environments that make it easier to balance career and family and make gender balance a criterion of executive search processes.

The report recommends experimenting with new models to promote gender equity, monitoring progress through data collection and integrating women’s initiatives into federations’ executive development programs.

The UJC, the umbrella group for North American Jewish federations, paid for and commissioned the report at the request of Stephen Hoffman, the group’s president and CEO.

At The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, women appear to have more opportunities than their colleagues elsewhere. Of The Federation’s 11 vice presidents and senior vice presidents, nine are women. To name but a few, Carol Koransky, the highest-ranking woman, serves as associate executive vice president and executive director of Valley Alliance; Tzivia Schwartz-Getzug is senior vice president of public affairs; and Carol Levy holds the title of senior vice president of leadership enhancement and development.

"I think there’s definitely a desire to achieve gender equality and to be an open place for women to come and succeed," said Sue Wellerstein, senior vice president of human resources at The Federation.

Women hold none of The Federation’s top three professional staff spots. However, they now hold the top three lay leader positions.

The L.A. Federation is believed to be the only one in the country with women occupying the top positions at the same time, Wellerstein said. Harriet Hochman is the board chair, Laurie Konheim serves as campaign chair and Sharon Janks heads the women’s campaign chair.

The Federation’s relatively strong record on hiring women for important positions mirrors a trend elsewhere at other Southern California Jewish institutions, Koransky said. Unlike on the East Coast, women in Los Angeles and other Western cities hold important positions in federations and Jewish agencies, she said.

At the national level, Hoffman said the situation reflects the gender imbalance in the corporate world, with which many federation volunteers are associated. While he doesn’t yet have a precise plan to address the issue, "the first thing you do is you throw light on the issue," Hoffman said, and then "keep the light focused on this."

The report comes as the UJC is seeking a successor to Hoffman, who is stepping down in June. The search committee’s top choices are said to come from the pool of large-city federation executives, all of whom are men and some of whom have been considered for the job in the past. The UJC has not hired an external search firm, which some say would be more likely to consider a wider field of candidates.

Shifra Bronznick, president of Advancing Women Professionals, called the report a "breakthrough."

Among the report’s findings:

Female professionals face a "leaky pipeline" in the federation system, with sizable numbers in lower ranks but few at the top. The representation of female professionals increases as job prestige declines.

No women hold chief executive positions in Jewish federations in the largest U.S. cities — though some, as in Los Angeles, have held the top lay positions — and women hold just 28 percent of subexecutive positions in those cities. In large-intermediate cities, women hold 16 percent of the chief executive positions and 47 percent of subexecutive positions.

Women are held to a different standard than men. For example, the report claims, aggressive leadership is valued in men but is disdained in women and can cost them top jobs.

Despite advances in women’s philanthropy, federation leaders question women’s ability to raise funds, a key requirement for top executive positions.

The network that refers and recruits executive-level candidates is male-dominated and more likely to recommend other men.

According to Bronznick, UJC must apply the recommendations quickly but shouldn’t regard the report as a recipe to which federations can simply "add water and stir."

"It has to be about people really understanding what all the elements of change are and grappling with them themselves," she said. "Otherwise things are going to be very superficial."

Senior Writer Marc Ballon contributed to this report.

Right Wing Girds to Block Gaza Plan


The earthquake in Israel that measured 5 on the Richter Scale last week is not the only ground shifting these days in the Jewish state.

In the wake of the recent announcement by Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon that Israel soon could withdraw unilaterally from Jewish settlements from Gaza, the political landscape is shifting as well. Since Sharon made his remarks two weeks ago, right-wing ministers have been busy mobilizing Cabinet colleagues in an effort to stop the prime minister, while the left-leaning Labor Party has been preparing to embrace Sharon.

Avigdor Lieberman, leader of the hawkish National Union, has written to 10 right-wing ministers, urging them to come up with an alternative plan to Sharon’s. The Likud’s Uzi Landau is openly trying to drum up a majority against the prime minister in the Cabinet. In addition, the National Union and the National Religious Party are threatening to bolt the coalition, if Sharon goes ahead with his plan.

Some politicians are predicting that Sharon’s move will tear apart the government and bring early elections. What’s more, some military officials are saying a unilateral withdrawal from the Gaza Strip might encourage more terrorism, as Palestinians interpret the withdrawal as a retreat under fire.

But Sharon is not backing down. To take the wind out of the right wing’s sails, the prime minister said he will take the matter directly to the people by calling a nationwide referendum on the Gaza withdrawal plan. Sharon is hoping that a popular mandate for withdrawal will make it difficult for the right-wingers in his own party to continue opposing him, thereby paving the way for a coalition with Labor.

Last week, Matan Vilnai, a Labor leader, said in Washington that the Labor Party would consider joining Sharon’s government if the prime minister has a plan to return to peace talks. Vilnai said the ruling Likud Party could count on Labor’s support if Sharon goes ahead with his plan to uproot Jewish communities in Gaza.

The most active Likud opponent to Sharon’s plan is Landau, a minister without portfolio, who said he is close to assembling a majority of 12 votes in the 23-member Cabinet against the Gaza withdrawal. So far, Landau counts seven ministers against: Effi Eitam and Zevulun Orlev of the National Religious Party; Lieberman and Benny Elon, National Union; and Likud’s Yisrael Katz and Natan Sharansky, in addition to Landau.

Landau said four other Likud ministers — Benjamin Netanyahu, Meir Sheetrit, Tzachi Hanegbi and Limor Livnat — are leaning toward vote against Sharon’s plan. Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom or Shinui’s Eliezer Zandberg could provide a decisive 12th vote against the prime minister.

In his letter to the 10 hawkish ministers, Lieberman attempted to build on Landau’s work. He urged them to set up a joint forum to draft what he calls a "plan for the national camp."

Lieberman wrote that the "national camp" is divided, merely reacting to left-wing plans, like the unofficial Geneva peace proposal. Instead, Lieberman said, the government should come up with a plan of its own — and quickly. Lieberman proposed "fencing in the Palestinians" in several cantons, with Israel controlling passage between each one.

Clearly, Lieberman’s target is not the Geneva plan but the prime minister’s. Lieberman wants both to block Sharon’s unilateral disengagement plan and set a political agenda for a post-Sharon era. Elon, Lieberman’s colleague in the National Union, has been speaking out against the Sharon plan in the United States.

Such actions on the part of ruling coalition members are tantamount to mutiny in Sharon’s government.

The questions are: Will Likud Cabinet ministers agree to join the rebel forum, will Sharon vanquish the rebels or will Sharon dump the rebels for new, left-wing coalition partners?

Netanyahu’s position is the key. Having staked his political future on the success of his stewardship of Israel’s ailing economy, the finance minister and former prime minister is believed by some pundits to favor the plan that would help propel the economy out of its current slump. That would put Netanyahu in Sharon’s camp of withdrawal from Gaza.

However, if Netanyahu believes the timing is right, he could well vote against Sharon’s plan and take the lead of forces in the government opposing Sharon, thereby challenging the prime minister’s leadership. Netanyahu’s decision could decide the fate of Sharon’s government and the unilateral withdrawal plan.

Several Knesset members and expert observers believe the countdown to early elections has already begun. One of them is Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin, a former Sharon ally who now opposes the prime minister’s disengagement plan.

Rivlin said he does not believe Sharon will be able to keep his present coalition together for long or form a stable government to replace it. He also predicted Netanyahu would not make a leadership bid until new elections are called.

Rivlin’s reasoning is simple: If Sharon gets his plan through the government, the right-wing parties will leave. Then, if Sharon replaces them with Labor, he won’t be able to count on the support of the right-wingers in the Likud or on Labor’s hard left.

That would make Sharon’s government quite vulnerable. Theoretically, Netanyahu then could make his move. By triggering a vote of "constructive no-confidence" in Sharon, Netanyahu could have an opportunity to take over as prime minister.

But it would be tough for Netanyahu to assemble and hold together a ruling coalition, according to Rivlin, because Netanyahu’s coalition partners would have to be constituted exclusively of hawks and the ultra-Orthodox parties.

The hawks would press for special allocations for settlements, and the ultra-Orthodox would press for special funding for yeshivas. These financial demands would torpedo the tight fiscal policy upon which Netanyahu has staked his political reputation.

On the other hand, if Sharon fails to get his disengagement plan through, that in itself could be enough to spark elections.

Therefore, Rivlin believes, there is no escaping early elections, probably in 2005. Then the battle for the Likud leadership will begin in earnest.

Sharon sees things differently. His aides are already making plans for a referendum on the issue of the Gaza settlements, which they are sure he will win. Recent public opinion polls show that an overwhelming 77 percent of Israelis favor withdrawal from Gaza.

Winning a referendum with such an overwhelming majority would give Sharon the moral and political authority to proceed with his plan, perhaps enabling him to set up a stable government with Labor. But any referendum on the fledgling plan still is a long way off.

In the meantime, Lieberman and the other right-wing members of Sharon’s coalition are looking to the future — working, watching and waiting.

Sharon Loses Some Influence With Bush


After President Bush’s late July meetings with the Israeli and Palestinian prime ministers, one thing is clear: Ariel Sharon no longer will have things all his own way in Washington.

Bush pointedly expressed admiration and respect for Mahmoud Abbas, the new Palestinian Authority prime minister, whom he called "a leader of vision and courage and determination."

Still, Sharon was able to deflect U.S. pressure on Israel over the security fence it is building along the border with the West Bank and to underline Israel’s insistence that the Palestinians must crack down on terrorist groups like Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

The fact that Bush was effusive in his praise of Abbas — despite Abbas’ refusal to dismantle terrorist groups — worries the Israelis.

In his meetings with Bush and Condoleezza Rice, the White House national security adviser, Sharon made it clear that unless the Palestinians dismantle terrorist groups — as they are obliged to do in the first phase of the "road map" peace plan — Israel will not move on to the second phase. Sharon added that he doubts that the Palestinians will act without considerable U.S. pressure.

So far, such pressure has not been forthcoming. Israeli analysts believe that Bush went easy on Abbas, because, having invested so much in Middle East peacemaking, he wants to show the Palestinians that the United States is an "honest broker" that can deliver a fair deal.

Bush also hopes his overt show of support will shore up Abbas’ shaky status among the Palestinian public, analysts say. Ironically, Abbas’ weakness on the Palestinian street is proving to be his strength: Against the backdrop of that weakness, he has been able press for U.S. support and Israeli gestures of compromise.

Nowhere has the new U.S. "even-handedness" been more apparent than on the issue of the security fence. After his meeting with Abbas, Bush even adopted Palestinian terminology, calling the fence a "wall" and saying he would speak to Sharon about the route, urging changes wherever it causes hardship for Palestinians or cuts too deeply into the West Bank.

Sharon went to his meeting with Bush armed with aerial photographs showing that only 10 percent of the security barrier actually is a wall, in areas where snipers in Palestinian cities along the West Bank border could fire at drivers on a major Israeli highway. The rest of the barrier consists of an electronic fence, barbed wire obstacles and patrol roads, like the security fences along Israel’s borders with Lebanon and Jordan.

For weeks, Israeli officials at all levels have been trying to convince their U.S. counterparts of the need for a barrier to stop terrorists from infiltrating Israeli cities. In almost three years of the terrorist intifada, they note, not a single suicide bomber has successfully infiltrated from the Gaza Strip — which is fenced off — while more than 250 have entered Israel from the West Bank.

In their meetings with Sharon, Bush and Rice raised two concerns: That the fence creates political facts on the ground in advance of a territorial settlement with the Palestinians, and that it encompasses too much Palestinian land.

Sharon has said that the fence is not meant to have any political significance, and in the future, it could be moved, depending on where the final borders are drawn. Moreover, he said, the most controversial segment — a sizable bulge into the West Bank to include the city of Ariel, one of Israel’s largest in the West Bank — is not scheduled for construction until early next year, leaving time for disagreements to be resolved.

Bush did not pressure Sharon to stop construction of the fence or move it back to the Green Line — the pre- 1967 border between Israel and Jordan’s West Bank — but the two sides agreed to hold further consultations on the route, with the aim of minimizing hardship to Palestinians.

The U.S. intervention on the fence may not have stopped its construction, but it certainly ended any notion Sharon might have entertained of building a second fence along the Jordan Valley to protect Jewish settlements there.

The fear of being left with a minuscule Palestine, enclosed by fences on all sides, was one reason Abbas sought an American-led peace process. Preempting a two-fence plan is the first major achievement of the new Abbas strategy — though Sharon also can claim that the fence galvanized the Palestinians into choosing diplomacy over war.

For Sharon, though, it’s not the fence or its route that is likely to undermine the peace process. It is the Palestinians’ failure to disband terrorist groups. Getting that point across was the main objective of Sharon’s Washington visit. He told Bush that he believed the peace process would collapse in a matter of months if Abbas failed to act against the terrorist groups.

"We are concerned that this welcome quiet will be shattered any minute as a result of the continued existence of terror organizations, which the Palestinian Authority is doing nothing to eliminate or dismantle," Sharon said at a news conference.

In the news conference, Bush demanded that the Palestinian Authority undertake "sustained, targeted and effective operations to confront those engaged in terror and to dismantle terrorist capabilities and infrastructure."

However, Israeli analysts point out that, in his meeting with Abbas, Bush did not lay down a timetable for such action, nor did he specify how the terrorists should be confronted.

The question is whether, in the wake of the meetings, Bush will find ways to persuade both sides to do what is needed to advance the diplomatic process and rebuild mutual trust.

JDL’s Questionable Future


Kelly Rubin will turn 13 on Nov. 20. His bar mitzvah, already postponed to December, is now on hold as his father, Irv Rubin, lies in critical condition at L.A. County-USC Medical Center.

Prison and hospital officials say that Rubin, the leader of the Jewish Defense League (JDL), attempted to commit suicide early Monday morning, Nov. 4, using a razor blade to cut his throat before jumping or falling over a railing, landing on his head 18 feet below. But Rubin’s family and friends question whether the injuries were self-inflicted or if there were others involved.

U.S. Marshals spokesman William Woolsey reported Rubin in "serious to grave condition" following surgery at L.A. County-USC Medical Center. Rubin’s lawyers, Peter Morris and Bryan Altman, were initially told that he had died in the attempt, and later reported their client was "brain-dead." Family members told The Journal late Tuesday that tests showed some brain activity, and that Rubin was breathing with the aid of a respirator. As of Wednesday afternoon he is in critical condition.

Rubin’s organization, the JDL, also now lies in limbo. On the morning of the injury, Rubin was scheduled appear in court to hear evidence on his alleged attempt to blow up King Fahd mosque in Culver City and an office of Rep. Darrell E. Issa (R-Dist. 48), the grandson of Lebanese immigrants, for which he was incarcerated since his arrest on Dec. 11, 2001. The court was also going to hear whether Rubin could split from co-defendant Earl Krugel.

Now, as Krugel’s defense attorney Mark Werksman put it, "If Irv is dead, it’s a one-defendant trial." Yet in some ways, the trial may be the most secure thing in the JDL’s future. (Monday’s hearing has been postponed until Dec. 2, and the trial is tentatively scheduled to begin Jan. 21, according to prosecutors.)

Rubin joined the JDL in the 1970s after the group’s founder, the late Meir Kahane had moved to Israel in 1971 and founded the now-banned political party Kach. Rubin took over leadership of the far-right organization in 1985. Since that time, the JDL has made headlines, linked to activities ranging from the disruption of diplomatic parties to protest the treatment of Soviet Jewry, to the murder of Alex Odeh, director of the American-Arab Anti-Defamation Committee. Rubin was never convicted of any of the violence to which he is often linked.

Krugel, the man often identified as Rubin’s "lieutenant," remains in jail, awaiting a once-more postponed trial. His possible leadership of the organization was not a topic of conversation among JDL supporters, and may be tainted by the legal motions brought by Rubin’s lawyers to separate the defendants’ trial, owing in part to Krugel’s use of "racial epithets" in government-taped conversations. Rubin’s attorneys also believed that the two had separate defensive strategies. Rubin, who appeared on only three of 11 tape-recorded conversations with an FBI informant, claimed he was never a part of the bombing conspiracy, while Krugel’s lawyer is likely to argue entrapment.

Supporters of the JDL immediately began questioning the cause of Rubin’s injuries. The U.S. Marshals, who have physical custody of Rubin, describe his injuries as self-inflicted. However, with attorneys preparing to argue that the government held a long-standing bias against Rubin, and with Rubin’s controversial and antagonistic history, it was not long before his supporters began claiming that someone had tried to kill the JDL leader. Callers to the JDL office on Monday afternoon heard the recorded voice of spokesman Brett Stone saying, "It is difficult to believe that Irv Rubin would commit suicide."

Rubin’s son, Ari, who was initially told that his father had died, told The Journal "This would never have happened if my dad had been given his constitutional rights to bail. The whole thing is fishy. He would never do what they said he did….. I blame the authorities." By Monday evening, followers of the Meir Kahane movement, from which JDL was born, began disseminating, via e-mail, a "Statement Regarding Irv Rubin" which read, in part, "We reject the reports that Rubin took his own life … it is outrageous to assume Irv would have committed suicide before the long-awaited court appearance."

Morris claimed that his client was in good spirits on the day of his apparent suicide attempt. "Irv was looking forward to the trial because he and we anticipate[d] his acquittal," Morris said, although he, Altman and Rubin’s wife, Shelley, had all previously described Rubin’s extreme weight loss and difficult conditions while in prison.

Mainstream Jewish organizations expressed sympathy for the family but declined to defend Rubin or the JDL.

"As human beings we extend our condolences to his family and the people who love him. As an organization, we continue to denounce the ideology and the actions of the JDL," said Amanda Susskind, regional director of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL). One point of agreement between the ADL and JDL: "We would like to see the matter come to trial."

Fern Sidman was a JDL leader in New York in the 1980s before leaving the group to work with Kahane as a researcher. Now managing editor of the Kahane-affiliated Judean Voice News, Sidman remains in close contact with the Rubin family. Though Sidman said, "Many, many people are praying for him" in New York, few were actually members of the JDL, and she knew of no one in the organization who might take on Rubin’s leadership role should he die or remain hospitalized. "Irv is not an easy person to replace."

With Rubin attached to a respirator, the fate of the JDL now depends as much on doctors as on lawyers. Because when asked who besides his client’s family might even comment about Rubin, Morris said simply, "There’s no one else."

Eulogies:Ira Yellin


Ira Yellin, recognized throughout Los Angeles as an urban pioneer for his tireless efforts to rebuild the city’s historic core, and most recently a principal of real estate development company Urban Partners LLC, died Sept. 10 at his home in Los Angeles from lung cancer. He was 62.

Yellin, the son of the founding rabbi of Temple Mishkon Tephilo in Venice, was a major philanthropist and activist on behalf of Jewish causes.

When few developers and entrepreneurs cared about downtown Los Angeles’ historic and urban landmarks, Yellin was the exception. From the restoration of the legendary Bradbury Building to the renovations of Union Station and the dilapidated Grand Central Market, Yellin’s vision of Los Angeles helped transform the city during his 27 years of urban development.

“Los Angeles owes him a debt of gratitude,” said California State Librarian Kevin Starr. Yellin is “unique for what he wants for the city, and what he has helped build.”

Although born in Springfield, Mass., Yellin developed a deep love for Los Angeles, when his father, the late Rabbi Isaac Yellin, moved his family here in 1948.

Yellin’s contributions to the city of Los Angeles included running the international design competition to pick the architect for the new Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, one of the city’s new cultural centers.

As a community leader, his commitment to the city of Los Angeles extended to include significant cultural, religious and philanthropic involvement. Yellin served on the board of trustees of the J. Paul Getty Trust; the board of trustees of the California Institute of the Arts; the board of governors and former president of the American Jewish Committee; the board of directors of the Los Angeles Police Foundation; the executive committee of the Central City Association; the board of advisers of the Rand Institute of Education and Training; and the board of advisers of the WATTS Health Charities. He was also active on behalf of Bet Tzedek Legal Services.

Yellin graduated with a degree in history from Princeton University in 1962 and received his law degree from Harvard Law School in 1965. After completing his master’s degree in law at UC Berkeley in 1966, he served in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve, returning to Los Angeles in 1967 as a partner at the law firm of Rosenfeld, Meyer & Susman. In 1985, he started The Yellin Co., overseeing some of the best-known development projects in Los Angeles. From 1996 to 1999, he served as senior vice president of Catellus Development, focusing on complex, mixed-use projects with a community and urban significance.

Yellin founded Urban Partners with real estate professionals Paul Keller and Daniel Rosenfeld. Their current projects include the Del Mar Station in Pasadena, the Los Angeles County Hall of Justice, the California Department of Transportation District 7 Headquarters, the Herald-Examiner Building, the University Gateway, the Wilshire/Vermont Station and the Ambassador Hotel site.

In a 1994 interview with The Jewish Journal, Yellin summarized his motivation to help others and the city he loved as, “an obligation to give back and begin the endless process of healing the world. I believe that more than I believe in anything.”

He is survived by his wife, Adele; daughter, Jessica; son, Seth; mother, Dorothy; and brothers, Dr. Albert and Dr. Marc.

The Yellin family asks that donations be made in his name to the American Jewish Committee: Western Region, 9911 W. Pico Blvd., Suite 1602 Los Angeles, CA 90035, (310) 282-8080.