MATCH to donate $9M to Jewish day schools

The MATCH program will hold its fourth launch this August to encourage expanding the donor base for Jewish day schools.

The program, founded by the AVI CHAI and Kohelet Foundations in 2004, aids Jewish day schools by matching donations from new sources at a rate of 50 cents to the dollar. Donations above $10,000 qualify for the grant, and individual schools can receive up to $50,000.

In partnership with the Jewish Funders Network (JFN) and the Partnership for Excellence in Jewish Education (PEJE), the AVI CHAI and Kohelet Foundations will match the first $6 million in donations to Jewish day schools throughout the United States with an additional $3 million.

JFN Director of Communications Avi Zollman said the program has helped support Jewish day schools nationwide.

“Since 2004, our matching grant programs for day schools and Jewish education have brought more than $51 million of new funding to the field,” he said, “and 385 donors have supported 232 schools and programs.”

The latest launch of MATCH, beginning Aug. 1, features a new rule that prohibits schools from going to parents for donations. Alumni parents, grandparents and community members are the target donors for this year’s program.

“There has been a recognition among funders that these schools are a community resource and that they need to be funded not just by parents but by members of the community as well,” Zollman added.

The last program was held in 2007, with $14.9 million raised by 200 donors, with an additional $4.9 million raised by JFN donors.

Miriam Prum Hess, director of Centers of Excellence in Day School Education at Builders of Jewish Education (BJE) in Los Angeles, said that BJE coaches participant schools on how to fundraise effectively.

“We are very excited about the launch,” she said, “We will work with schools and train them so they can meet the needs of schools and help them learn how to fundraise.”

She also said the program has experienced a lot of growth since its founding.

“In its first year, we had two schools in L.A. taking part in the program,” she said. “The second time, we did some training and coaching to help them develop strategies to achieve their goals; 15 schools got involved, and several were successful with reaching their targets with more than one donor.”

Applications will be accepted from Aug. 1, 2012, until Jan. 15, 2013. Applicants will be notified on a rolling basis until the entire amount has been allocated.

Ronni Chasen update: Gun is a match in ‘person of interest’ suicide

From The Beverly Hills Courier:

The Beverly Hills Courier has learned exclusively that preliminary ballistics analysis of the bullets that killed famed Hollywood publicist Ronnie Chasen came from the same gun that the “person of interest,” suicide victim Harold Martin Smith, used to kill himself.

Beverly Hills Police Department: ‘Ronni Chasen killed by lone gunman on a bike’

Teens and philanthropy are a MATCH

Survivor. No, not the television show, as I wish were the case. A young Jewish woman and personal friend, Amy Farber, is a real survivor who was diagnosed with LAM (short for the fatal lung disease lymphangioleiomyomatosis) a few years ago, when she was 35.

I met Amy Farber last year at my high school. She delivered an impassioned speech in which she revealed that there was no cure or treatment for her terminal disease.

Amy and I had a lot in common, as we grew up in the same community. Her plight made me realize the importance of what the rabbis have been telling me about for years: tikkun olam, my responsibility to help repair the world, and that even as one person, I can make a difference.

I felt compelled to help this brilliant and vibrant Jewish woman in her quest to stay alive. I just could not ignore her desperate need. I figured my best opportunity to raise awareness to the public, as well as funds to support her cause, was through my synagogue’s MATCH program.

I am a member of the board of directors of MATCH: Money and Teenagers Creating Hope, a teen philanthropy foundation of Temple Emanuel of Beverly Hills, made up of high school students. MATCH was started through an anonymous gift of $250,000, with slightly more than $10,000 of interest generated per year. By studying Jewish traditions surrounding tzedakah, meeting with philanthropists, learning how to research nonprofit organizations, making site visits, and meeting with representatives from organizations, our board chooses how that $10,000 should be donated. It is a hands-on experience of philanthropy that helps us prepare for a life-long commitment to tzedakah and tikkun olam.

I researched the LAM Treatment Alliance (LTA), an organization Amy founded to raise awareness and money to find a cure for LAM, and presented my findings to my board. Our board decided to allocate $2,000 to further her efforts.

Amy had just completed a doctorate and had been looking forward to starting a family when her ailment struck. The doctor offered no help other than vitamins. Amy found the lack of assistance to be outrageous. She decided to take action against this rare disease. LAM affects thousands of women, typically in their childbearing years, as their healthy lung tissue is destroyed by cysts that ultimately suffocate them. To this day, many patients remain undiagnosed.

Amy assembled a team of Nobel Prize-caliber scholars and inspired them to move on an extraordinary fast track to seek both a treatment and cure for LAM. The LTA and its advisory board consists of members representing Boston’s Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts Institute of Technology, to name a few. LTA has been featured in the Wall Street Journal and on “The Charlie Rose Show” and now receives global support. Since Amy founded LTA, it has raised nearly $1 million for research and awareness of this disease.

Doctors are optimistic about discovering a cure, but regrettably it may be too late for Amy.

The good news is that while LTA is researching for a cure for LAM, scientists are finding valuable insight into the treatment of breast cancer, prostate cancer, melanoma, lung cancer and diabetes.

Amy has helped establish a goal for people to help others in need of survival. Thanks to my experience with MATCH, I’ve learned that both philanthropists and survivors benefit from acts of charity.

For more information on Amy Farber and LAM, visit ” target=”_blank”>’match. And check out

Briefs: Sheriff wants to prosecute YULA girls after soccer brawl; Graffiti targets Jews in Beverlywo

Sheriff wants to prosecute Yeshiva Girls soccer players for brawling after lost game

The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department is planning to ask the district attorney to prosecute a YULA student and the girls soccer team coach.

The request stems from a brawl that occurred on Feb. 5 after the Yeshiva University Girls High School of Los Angeles lost to Avalon High in a girls’ soccer game on Catalina Island, according to Avalon Mayor Robert Kennedy.

A team member and spectator from Avalon High are also being referred to the DA’s office, said Kennedy, who conferred with Avalon Sheriff’s station commander Lt. Pat Hunter.

According to YULA principal Rabbi Yosef Furman, as the YULA girls were leaving the field, student spectators from Avalon attacked the girls, knocking one in the head, putting another in a headlock and pulling her hair and punching her in the stomachFurman called the possible actions against the YULA player and coach “complete nonsense.” He said the assaults against the YULA girls, which were unprovoked. “We have witnesses who say that our students acted appropriately and our coach acted professionally.”

No one was seriously injured in the melee, and no accounts of racial or religious taunting have been confirmed.

Both sides agree that the game got ugly and physical, with the crowd of about 100 spectators riling the Avalon team for even more aggressive play.

Mayor Kennedy, who was not at the game, says his understanding is that both teams engaged in name-calling and rough play, but YULA counters that the taunting was one-sided.

After the post-game fracas, the YULA team sequestered itself in the visitors’ locker room with the help of Avalon school officials, and called the sheriff’s department. Officers arrived and escorted the team to the ferry landing, where sheriffs spent several hours interviewing team members, chaperones and YULA Coach Kat Gude, before the team traveled back to the mainland.

Five Avalon students were disciplined after the event, according to a spokesman for the Long Beach Unified School District. One ninth-grade team member was suspended for pushing and shoving; two 12th-grade girls, who were spectators at the event, were suspended for fighting; and an eighth-grade boy and a tenth-grade boy were barred from attending future soccer games.

YULA has canceled all further games with Avalon teams. In addition, YULA circulated a letter asking parents to send a message to Avalon that such conduct is reprehensible. It included phone numbers for city officials.

“The city of Avalon will more likely take action if they get the message that there could be negative repercussions to future tourism,” the letter stated.

Kennedy has received more than 30 phone calls — on his cell phone — from irate YULA parents. He said he is offended and upset by YULA’s sweeping condemnation of the city, especially before an investigation has been completed.

“The worst part of this whole thing is it takes two to tango — there are always two sides to a story. But it seems that the visiting team’s parents have already tried and convicted the Avalon kids that were involved,” the mayor said.

— Julie Gruenbaum Fax, Education Editor

Graffiti targets Jews in Beverlywood

Children and their parents walking to the West L.A. Castle Heights Elementary School on Tuesday morning saw a BMW spray-painted with the word “JEW” on its side. The car was parked on Castle Heights Place, just three houses down from the school.

The vehicle’s owners had learned about the damage at 2 a.m., when a neighborhood patrol officer informed them of the incident. Three other cars on nearby streets in the Beverlywood Homes Association neighborhood were reportedly also vandalized. Although his was the only vehicle to bear a reference to religion, the owner, who is Persian and asked that his name not be used, said another of the defaced vehicles’ owners belongs to his synagogue, Sephardic Temple Tifereth Israel.

An officer from the Los Angeles Police Department took a report documenting the incident, and said it will be filed as a hate crime. He said the chances of catching the perpetrator were slim. Nevertheless, the officer called a supervisor, who also visited the scene.

“We take these things pretty seriously,” he said.

— Nancy Steiner, Contributing Writer

Super Sunday fundraising beats 2006 total

On Feb. 11, the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles’ largest annual fundraiser known as Super Sunday raised $4.4 million, up from $4.2 million last year, according to Federation spokeswoman Deborah Dragon, Nearly 2,000 volunteers worked the phones at three locations, which received visits during the day from L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, City Controller Laura Chick, City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo, Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky and City Councilmember Jack Weiss.

About one-third of the money raised from the annual campaign goes for overseas allocations, with the bulk earmarked for Israel.

This year’s Super Sunday took place against the backdrop of Federation turmoil. Less than one month before the event, the Federation relieved its chief fundraiser, Craig Prizant, of his job.

No reason has been given for the departure of Prizant, who had worked closely with major donors.

Federation spokeswoman Dragon said that the mega-fundraiser is but the beginning of the organization’s annual campaign.

“The community still has great needs,” she said.

— Marc Ballon, Senior Writer

To Tell the Truth

Harry Potter’s Mirror of Erised, tucked into a secret room in the dark corridors of Hogwarts, allows the person who looks into it to see what they most desire to be. There seems to be a similar notion in the world of online dating.

A computer becomes a tool to create a “new and improved” version of yourself.

Short people become “not overly tall,” shy people become “pensive and thoughtful,” unemployed becomes “self-employed,” and living with the folks becomes “family oriented and saving for the future.” Delusional becomes creative. And dating reaches some desperate lows.

A little embellishment here and there isn’t so bad — creativity and a sense of humor are always great things. But there are just certain things that you should never lie about.

1. Physical attributes.
How many times have you opened the door to find a person 4 inches lower to the earth than what they had told you? One person I agreed to meet told me he was 5-foot-6 — exactly my height — so I was a bit annoyed when, even wearing lip-flops, I turned out to be a good 2 inches taller than him.

“My eyes are only blue with certain outfits” is actually a buyable lie. But height is pretty much set in stone once you exit the teens.

Then, of course, there is the touchy subject of weight. Most people probably post their wishful driver’s license weight, thinking at least they have “proof” in writing.

One guy admitted to me that although his profile said he was 170 he was more like 190, and honesty is a good thing, right? So how was he to explain the additional 45 pounds that followed him to my door on our first date? Did he think that I just wasn’t going to notice, or believe that he went on a crazy pre-date jitters eating binge that made 45 pounds show up overnight?

2. Pictures
There are those online who are honest and upfront enough to post recent and un-Photoshopped, untouched up, non-photo shoot, actually-looks-like-me pictures. And then there are those who are not.

I’ve had too many dates start with a smile and confusion as I have an inner dialogue: That’s who I’ve been talking to? Did I remember to ask him if his photos were recent? How fast can I eat this ice cream and leave without getting brain freeze?

3. Age
Like it or not we were all born on a certain day of a certain year, and that (along with your height) is set in stone. The people who have lied to me about their age all have their own reasons. Usually it’s the younger guys who make themselves a few years older so that they will show up in my search preferences. Then three or four dates down the road they give me the, “Oh, by the way….”

One guy who was already four years older then me lied and made himself even older! When I asked him why, he said that he looked older anyway so he changed his age to match what people usually said. Excuse me? I mean I’ve been told oodles of times that I have a baby face, but you don’t see me telling people that I’m 300 months old to somehow get that infantile sense.

4. Personal Habits
I had one man tell me that he was a nonsmoker, though four conversations later he divulged that he did smoke, just not cigarettes. Then another told me he was a nonsmoker, to later go into detail that he was actually just “working on trying to start convincing himself that he should really begin to seriously think about” quitting. Or some other equally far-fetched story that left me rolling my eyes and politely declining plans to meet.

5. Odds and Ends Details
One of my personal favorite stories was a man who told me that he had never been in a serious relationship before, so one could understand my confusion when during our first date he mentioned his exes. When I finally asked him what he meant, he said that since he wasn’t with them anymore it just didn’t count. Oh, if only the world worked that way.

The bottom line is just don’t do it. Do you really think people aren’t going to notice those few inches, those extra pounds that cloud of smoke around your head? What do you expect will happen when you start a relationship by completely misrepresenting yourself?

Most of the men I’ve confronted about it just got mad, hoping that I would “give this a chance.” Give what a chance? The delusional version of yourself that you created in your own Mirror of Erised? I don’t think so. The next upgrade that online dating needs is a giant red stamp saying liar that a person can vote to place over your profile, warning the next innocent online dater of what is really going on.

Caroline Cobrin is a writer living in Van Nuys and can be reached at


Singles – Soulmate Surfing

Dating can be scary. Dating in a foreign country can be petrifying.

When I arrived in Los Angeles in 2003, going on dates was the farthest thing from my mind. I came here for love — my love of the entertainment biz, but more importantly (and naively), my love for a guy.

Unfortunately, my dreams of a fairy-tale ending with my long distance-turned-local beau were dashed when our relationship went sour a few months after my arrival.

Fortuitously for me, although my life — with the same boyfriend for three years –was drastically altered, I was offered a job in show business (my career of choice at the time). I conveniently threw myself into my work but soon found that there was a void: I had no man to call my own.

My entire dating life, I had been what some relationship cynics call a serial monogamist. By the time I was 24, I had been in a relationship for nine years. Not with the same person. Actually, four different ones — with gaps between of just a day, a week, or a month.

When the oozing wound of the latest breakup began healing, I decided it was time to find someone new. But my desire to start dating again overwhelmed me with fear because I did not have the faintest idea how to meet someone.

As a Canadian living in Los Angeles, I didn’t have a network of friends to introduce me to eligible bachelors. The only people I knew were friends of my ex. And so, I reluctantly resorted to online dating.

The first challenge was to build an online profile. The Web site asked me to create a personal essay — the first tidbit that a prospective suitor would ever learn about me. But what could I possibly say that wouldn’t turn someone off?

After pondering the content of this paragraph for a couple of days and filling out the rest of the information in my personal Web page, I chose to write a short but to-the-point introduction that simply stated that I was Canadian and looking to meet someone new.

Once my photo was uploaded, my journey of online dating officially commenced. I immediately began to worry that no one would contact me.

All my concerns about online dating were for naught. After about a week, I was a pro. I realized how scrolling down the pages, looking at photos of available Jewish men, was similar to online shopping. This “shopping” experience became one of my favorite pastimes.

Online dating even gave my bruised ego a boost. I began receiving compliments about my looks and my accomplishments from potential suitors almost daily. I began to feel hopeful that I would find my Prince Charming within this brand new group of available bachelors.

I was soon going on dates three to five times a week. I met all kinds of men: short, tall, hirsute, skinny, gorgeous and not-so-hot; lawyers, doctors, students, businessmen and, of course, actors. It is Los Angeles after all.

Dating was no longer frightening. It actually became enjoyable, and I eagerly anticipated meeting cute, single, Jewish men, in the hopes that one special guy would win the coveted title of Melanie’s Boyfriend.

Cut to: Two Years Later.

I created my third “new” profile on the same online dating site.

Dating many different guys had lost its luster, and I was ready for something serious. Yet, at the same time, I was on the verge of throwing in the towel on dating altogether. I was certain I’d exhausted the pool of single men that I had once been so anxious to dive into.

One lonely evening, I was looking for a beacon, or at least a glimmer of hope that my perfect match was out there. I began perusing all the dating success stories listed on the dating Web site. I started reading at “A” and only made it through “D” before I became slightly more optimistic about my dating future. I vowed that evening that one day, I, too, would have my own story posted there.

Nevertheless, two weeks and three first dates later, I was fed up again, and declared myself too busy to date. Just one day later, I found him.

Ironically, he was an acquaintance of the long-distance ex. Someone I’d even had a small crush on for years. He had just joined my online dating service and thought he’d say hello to a familiar face. I was the first person he contacted.

Eight months later, we’re going strong. I don’t know if I can impute our connection to my proclamation of having no time to date, or if my taking the success stories to heart ignited a cosmic force that ushered him into my life.

But how and why don’t matter. The point is: I met him. And now that I’ve found happiness, I advocate online dating to anyone who will listen and play matchmaker as a hobby. I’m just trying to spread the wealth.

Dating Creeds

Believe it or not, I’ve never felt quite as valuable, attractive and desirable as the times I’ve gotten dumped. Well, sort of.

According to some once-doting men, I’m terrific. I’m also beautiful, talented, smart, sassy, funny, dynamic, cute and sweet. To make matters worse, I’d make a fantastic mother. And the final blow? Apparently … I’m a catch.

I listen intently to my lover-gone-evil dumper’s compliments — and cringe. Somehow my fairy tale has gone awry.

See, trailing the flattery describing my laundry list of potential partner credentials — the same saccharine methods that wooed me into that first kiss — lay an inevitable “but,” and some rambling, seemingly canned, statements.

In reiterating his appreciation for me, his desire to spare me pain and reasons why we — theoretically — should be together, suddenly my dumper’s not good enough, (“it’s not you, it’s me”), and reeeeeeally wants me to be happy (and move on). “I’m amazing, but [insert canned line here].”

Now clearly not everyone is a match. But instead of feeling empowered and desirable by my heartbreaker’s sweet lines, I am condemned to doubt not only him, but also our time together and, regrettably, my wonderful self. If I were a complete loser, I’d understand. But if I’m so swell, well … seems like I’ve been dating some — literally.

Take “Bob,” the professional with political aspirations. He fell quickly for me; we enjoyed each other, shared similar values and a distinct joie de vivre. He claimed I was everything he looked for in a woman. We talked about the future. And, importantly — we both loved sushi.

When I sought more “us” time to determine our true compatibility, Bob, the great orator, eloquently expressed his feelings for me: He relayed my wonderful attributes, my incomparable spunk and wished upon me the greatest happiness (without him). Apparently, he didn’t want to waste more of my (or his) very precious time (with me).

Guess my joie didn’t match his vivre.

“George,” a younger man (and baseball enthusiast) said I was the most beautiful, hilarious woman he had ever met. He’d gaze lovingly at me over dinner, swoon when we danced and high-five my ball-tossing ability. He reinforced my goodness and thought I’d make a beautiful bride.

Six months into it, when gazing, swooning and high-fiving left me out of a family gathering, I questioned my ranking. George stumbled to the plate, uttered something witty and reinforced my beauty. After two weeks of overtime? He was still charming and I was still “gorgeous” — just not for him.

I suppose even a great lineup can’t win a series without chemistry.

While a canned phrase certainly trumps a “fizzle,” where phone calls stop or rumors start, what if — instead of this PR-driven, cautious fantasy — we just said it: “You’re attractive, but I’ve found someone more so,” “Your neuroses were endearing; now, they’re just annoying,” “I wanted someone motivated and sassy; turns out I’d rather have a trophy wife who’ll focus more on me, ” “You’re incredible, sexy and I just don’t want to marry you.”

It may hurt, but you’ll at least have something to work with (and keep some shrinks in business). And after building your “qualifications,” seeking the “perfect” match (when perfection simply doesn’t exist), you’ve paid your dues. There’s got to be a takeaway. Otherwise, the faux-ex-fan club seems vacuous and wasteful, which simply seems frivolous.

So post-George, I reflected on men I passed up: “Jim” was great (but I wasn’t attracted to him), and “Josh” was terrific (but too goofy for me); “Brian” was really unique (but too scattered for me); “Ian,” while just OK, had amazing potential (just hadn’t gotten there yet); “Dan,” was the entire package — I just hadn’t reached the right place in my life.

So in full disclosure, I complimented my soon-to-be-ex-beaus like heck, and then dumped them. Not in a swift, clear way, but in some rambling, incoherent way. I explained issues as I saw them: “It’s not you, it’s me,” “You’re terrific, but I’m not in that place.” “I just don’t think it will work out. I can’t say why.”

Oh, no. Am I just as bad as Bob and George? Yikes.

I (and many like me) probably won’t and maybe shouldn’t ever know the whole story. But we should know something: Heartbreakers, while sometimes a fairy tale’s villain, were indeed “good” credentials. And with them, I not only learned to enjoy good food, follow baseball, work a room, and to appreciate cl-ar-it-y, I also learned “what I do/don’t want” and, importantly, to care.

I’ll absolutely take those lessons and since it’s ultimately (supposedly) worth it, I’ll tirelessly plug along in pursuit of my perfectly imperfect match. As for my ever-growing list of selling points? I’ll happily add “strong” and “wise” to my register of attributes. It’s — and here’s the hard part — adding “frustrated” and “cynical” that I’d like to avoid.

After all, I’m a catch. As-Is. At least that’s what I’ve been told.

Dara Lehon, a freelance writer living in New York City, can be reached at


MATCH Puts Giving in Students’ Hands

Learning about the importance of giving tzedakah is a basic tenet of any Jewish education.

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“It’s not just about giving away money,” said Emanuel’s Rabbi Laura Geller. “It’s about teaching young people how to be responsible Jews when it comes to giving tzedakah. It’s not something you should do instinctively. You have to do it thoughtfully.”

The program, now in its second year, is called MATCH — short for Money and Teenagers Creating Hope. It started with an anonymous gift to the Temple Emanuel Endowment of $125,000, which the congregation was obliged to match. MATCH students use the interest earned from those funds to make philanthropic donations to a variety of organizations of their own choosing.

“They model what it means to be grown-up Jews,” Geller said. “Many of the kids in our synagogue are children of privilege, and some of them will have the opportunity to manage their own family foundations some day. All of the children in this program are learning about what it means to be a thoughtful philanthropist.”

Last year, the students, who range from eighth to 12th grade, gave away $5,000. This year, the program is divided by age into two distinct boards with 36 students currently participating. Having raised all the necessary matching funds, Temple Emanuel can now provide each group with $5,000 to give away.

Over three sessions last year, the students analyzed Jewish texts about tzedakah, heard from local philanthropists and engaged in heated discussions about where the money should go. They also learned practical skills, such as how to read an organization’s 990 tax form and how to use various Web sites to research charities on the Internet.

“I would wager that most people who give charity don’t have a clue about that,” Geller said.

Ultimately, the young participants decided to give $750 to the Make a Wish Foundation, $1,000 to AIDS Health Care, $1,000 to Camp Harmony and $1,000 to Friends of Israel’s Disabled Veterans.

One requirement of the original endowment gift is that 25 percent of the money the students donated should be directed to a project within the temple itself. Geller said she was particularly touched by the teenagers’ discussion of where those funds should go, and by their conclusion last spring to return that portion of the money — $1,250 — to the temple’s endowment for use by future generations.

“One kid said, ‘Our grandparents made sure there was an endowment for us. We need to make sure that it’s there for our grandchildren,'” Geller recalled. “It’s interesting to see what areas the kids feel are important for Jewish organizations to be funding, how they think Jews ought to be giving their money.”

Justine Roach, a 16-year-old from West Los Angeles, is participating in the program at Temple Emanuel for the second year. Last year, she headed the team that investigated inner-city youth, which ended up supporting Camp Harmony.

“It felt so good and empowering, especially being a teenager and getting to make these kinds of decisions,” Roach said. “I gained responsibilities and it felt really nice. I think we’re about the right age to be making these types of decisions. In the future I’m going to be dealing with these issues, too.”

In addition to the practical experience MATCH provides, Geller said it has been a wonderful way to keep teenagers engaged in the life of the congregation after their bar and bat mitzvahs.

Geller said she had been thinking about creating such a program for a long time, and when a donor approached her looking for a program to fund, she jumped at the chance.

“This is a game that you can play — simulating a family foundation and asking kids to decide where they would give the money,” Geller said. “I had done that in confirmation classes and it always worked really well because it gave the kids the chance to think about something real, and I thought wow, what if we could really do it?”

Now it is not a simulation game, it’s the real thing. And students are even more engaged, Geller said. “It is a lot of money to them. None of them gives away $5,000 a year on their own, and they have the sense of working together and giving away a lot more money. It was very exhilarating to sit with the 10th-12th-graders this year, and to hear them wrestle with what it means to be a responsible citizen in this world.”



Faster than a benching rabbi. More powerful than a locomotive. Able to leap tall bachelors in a single bound. Look! Up in the sky! It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s SuperFlirt.

That’s right, I’m spending three days in San Diego at Comic-Con, the world’s largest comic book convention. Before you crack a kryptonite joke or ask me to beam you up, let me say that I’m a proud Con regular. I read graphic novels. I own Wonder Woman Underoos. I’ve got a Super Shin baby tee.

Many of the women at The Con are actually here with their husbands and boyfriends. I saw Neo and Trinity holding hands at the "Courtney Crumrin" booth, Legolas and Goth Chick macking down in the "Revenge of the Sith" shirt line and Batgirl and Chewbacca sharing churros at the food cart. (Wait, that might not be Chewie, just a hairy convention dude.)

I start to crack a joke about the star-crossed lovers, when it hits me: Who am I to poke fun? At least they’re in a relationship. They get to share their big day with someone else who, well, thinks of a Carrie Fisher autograph signing as a big day. Somehow in this crazy world, two people who can speak Klingon in the bedroom actually found each other. And I think that’s beautiful.

This goes to my Disneyland theory. When I’m standing in line at Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, it’s undoubtedly behind two sweaty, overweight people pulling the old "hand in the other’s back pocket" move. Even if these classy folks weren’t wearing matching Waffle House tank tops, I’d know they were meant to be together. This guy with his stone-washed cutoffs is not for me, but he’s perfect for his girlfriend, who he’s been kissing since we passed the "20 minutes from here sign" 30 minutes ago. They’re beshert, and not afraid to let everyone from Fantasyland to Tom Sawyer’s Island to the guy who sells the giant turkey legs know it. My Disneyland dictum? If these two Mousketeers somehow found each other, then I’m certainly going to find someone. Somewhere out there is a match for everyone. So rather than think I’ll never meet my man, I just wonder when I’ll meet my man.

No time like the present. I cruise the convention floor searching for cool comics and cute guys. And let me say to my fellow single chicks — this is where the boys are. Forget the bars. Ditch JDate. Those social scenes have nothing on The Con. It’s a whole convention hall packed with single guys.

The ratio of men to women here is about a zillion to one. Of course the ratio of men to Spider-Men is about 10 to one. But that’s part of the fun. Men in tights. Who cares if these single guys are dressed as Hobbits and Jedis — you should see their lightsabers.

I coast The Con with an open mind. My match could be here. I can picture it now: we’ll talk publishers, exchange a little ink and paint, then — Zam! — Wonder Twin powers activate! (I’m kidding — duh — everyone knows Zan and Jayna are siblings, not a couple. And that the Wonder Twins are from the planet Exxor, not Earth.)

I’m in line for the Warner Bros. panel when a built guy with a great smile and a Mariners hat asks, "Can I join you?"

His name’s Brian. He’s from Seattle, works in video games and is checking me out. Holy cow, Batman, this is it. My Comic-Con hookup. My potential beshert. Bring on the geek love, baby. He passes me a warm, unopened package of Red Vines.

"Can you hold these for a sec? You can have one if you want."

He shares; that’s good. I start to think of all the things Brian and I will share together — our favorite restaurants, our top five movies, our last name — when he starts wildly waving his now free hands to his buddies in the corner. They sprint toward us, jump in line and give each other lame high fives. I think I hear his short friend say, "Classic line jump, dude."

Armed with my Disney theory, I don’t get discouraged. It’s not that things will never work out with someone. It’s that Brian wasn’t that someone.

So look out beshert, there’s a new flirt in town.

Will Carin meet her mate at Comic-Con? Will she take to wearing a cape? Stay tuned for her next column. Same Jew time, same Jew paper.

Carin Davis, a freelance writer, can be reached at

Grandma’s Secret

There is no person on this planet more concerned with my
single status than my grandmother. No phone conversion with her is complete
without several highly unsubtle prods about finding a
suitable Jewish female companion.

Try as I might to steer our discussions as far away from
marriage as possible, Grandma has a way of looping us back to her favorite
subject. Just the other day I had her on the phone in order to get some cooking
tips as I prepared an omelet. As yet another golden yolk turned brown on my frying
pan, she offered her best culinary advice: “Why don’t you find a wife who can
make it for you?”

As much as I love my grandmother, her single-minded
obsession with my romantic life is fraying every nerve in my body. It isn’t
just the one-track phone conversations, either. Nearly every Jewish human being
Grandma meets she grills –Â in search of an unattached female family member or
friend to set up with me. While her intentions are good, it has become
difficult to question the standards with which she seeks my mate, because she
apparently doesn’t have any. Then she gets angry because I refuse to call an
18-year-old ultra-Orthodox girl whose first language is Yiddish and happens to
live in another state.

But just when it seemed there was little hope of getting
Grandma off my back, some help came from an unexpected source. I had taken on a
project with an uncle of mine to transfer our family tree, which traces my
ancestors back to the 17th century, to a computer program that could more
easily accommodate updated information. It was a fascinating exercise that gave
me personal statistics on hundreds of family members — including Rose Flatow,
my grandmother.

As I perused her file, an alarm went off in my brain. I
noted that 1944 was when she married my grandfather, who died 20 years ago.
Recalling that she is 92 years old, I realized something I had never thought to
question before: the age my grandmother got married. It was 33 — two years
older than I am now.

My next thought was euphoric: What better way to get her to
ease up on me than to point out the simple fact that she was pressuring me to
accomplish what she herself had not done? Grandma was a hypocrite, and though
it might put me out of the running at the Grandson of the Year Awards, I
planned on holding that over her head for as long as I could.

For our next phone call, I was ready to pounce. Seconds
after her first reference to marriage, I retorted, “Gee, Grandma, that’s
interesting coming from you considering you were 33 when you got married.”

Disclaimer: This may sound like a disrespectful way to talk
to a 92-year-old grandmother, but Grandma actually enjoys a good verbal
sparring match. A woman who describes “doing time” at a nursing home in Long
Beach, N.Y., entirely in prison metaphors without a trace of humor begins to
act like a hardened lifer after a while.

“Have it your way,” she responded. “I just hope I’ll still
be around for the wedding.”

The guilt that comes with having your grandparent play the
Age Card might humble an ordinary soul. Not me. As her most formidable Scrabble
competitor, I recognized it in the same way as when she would play a 10-point Z
tile without bothering to align it with a triple-word score: a last-ditch

Intrigued by her defensiveness, I pressed on in search of more
information. As ordinary as it is today for a woman to be married in her 30s,
it was distinctively rare when she came of age. I wanted to uncover why.

There is nothing my grandmother loves more than reminiscing
about her younger days, but nudging her nostalgic riffing in the direction of
her dating life was terra incognita for me. Like many Eastern European Jews,
Rose Silverstein grew up in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn and the Lower
East Side of Manhattan. She was the youngest of seven siblings, five of whom
were brothers. She “kept company” with some of their friends, she admitted, but
doesn’t remember being too enthralled with any of them.

“If they asked you on a date, fine, and if they didn’t call,
well, who gave a damn,” she said.

Probing further, I learned Grandma took a dim view of men
during the Depression. While she held down a job as a secretary at the Parks
Department, she saw many of the unemployed men she encountered as lazy and
passive; how could they ever support her, she wondered? Many never went to
college, but she attended night school to get her degree even though her father
frowned upon it. Sometimes she attracted the wrong kind of attention: When a
drunken coworker chased her around the office one too many times, she had her brother,
Louie, give him a stern talking-to.

Listening to her travails, I felt chastened. She had bona
fide sociological trends to support her reasons for late marriage; I could not
compete with that. Just the same, I was glad to get to know Grandma not as a
grandmother but as a woman with whom I shared common ground. Growing up we tend
to assume our grandparents were pretty much born at the age of 65.

Her story has a happy ending. She met Sam Flatow on a beach
in Far Rockaway. He asked her if she minded watching his things while he went
for a swim. She watched them until he returned and promptly stepped into his
shoe and crushed the eyeglasses he forgot he had hidden inside.

I’m pretty sure I won’t be able to top stomping on a glass
should there be any foreshadowing of a Jewish wedding in my own future. Â

Andrew Wallenstein writes for the Hollywood Reporter and serves as a weekly commentator on National Public Radio’s “Day to Day.” His work was included in the recently published “Best Jewish Writing 2003” (Jossey-Bass).
He can be reached at

Haven’t I Seen You Before?

There are many pitfalls of online dating. Posting your own profile can make you feel exposed. You can be e-mailing someone whose photo promises that he looks like Brad Pitt’s younger, taller and more handsome brother, whose profile pledges that not only is he poetic, sensitive, kind and creative but he is also the CEO of a Fortune 500 company, only to find, once you meet him, that he is an octogenarian troglodyte ax murderer.

"Online dating has no valid reference point, and there is no way to gage a person’s interest level," said New York based management consultant Marc Goodman, who set up his own site — a matchmaking Web site to rectify these and other drawbacks of online dating. "But in the matchmaking world, the intentions are very clear, and the matchmaker can verify the information about a person."

SawYouAtSinai — the name coming from the midrashic aphorism that every Jewish person met his or her soulmate when we received the Torah on Mount Sinai — is a site where users can fill out a profile, and then choose one or more matchmakers out of the 46 (four are from California) currently on the site to find a match for them. The matchmaker either interviews you or uses some other criteria to verify your information and then sets out trying to find a mate for you. There is no mate shopping on SawYouAtSinai — only the matchmakers can trawl the site seeking out matches. Once they think they have found someone who meets your criteria, they will e-mail you his or her profile, you can e-mail back your thoughts and feedback and then the matchmaker can facilitate the shidduch. If you decline a person’s profile, then you no longer have access to it.

The site has been up for 10 weeks and is currently free, with about 1,000 members in it. Goodman hopes that, within the year, the site will have more than 5,000 members, will sponsor classes and a wedding charity for poor couple, and offer the dating advice of psychologists and rabbis.

"We want people to go out on quality dates," Goodman said. "And obviously we want to get as many marriages as possible."

The Great Jewish Hope

Dmitriy Salita doesn’t fight on the Sabbath, which gives his competition a much-needed day of rest from this powerful junior welterweight. With a 13-0, 10 KO record, the 5-foot-9, 139-pound fighter who goes by the moniker "The Star of David," is a rising star in the boxing ring.

Salita, 21, studied karate in Odessa until age 9, when he and his family immigrated to the United States. Though his parents were not religious, they understood that as Jews in the Ukraine, their family could not live in complete freedom. They hoped Brooklyn would bring their sons better opportunities. With little money to spare, the new immigrants could not afford to continue Salita’s martial arts training. Four years later, acting on his brother’s suggestion, 13-year-old Salita walked into the Starrett City Boxing Club.

"That was it. I was hooked, addicted," said Salita, who won the 2000 U.S. Nationals Under-19 and the 2001 New York Golden Gloves amateur championship title.

Salita, who fights in shorts embroidered with a gold Star of David, was not always observant; he slowly grew into his relationship with Judaism.

"In the Ukraine, Jews were traditional in knowledge, but we weren’t religious," he said.

Salita rediscovered his religion when his mother, Lyudmilia, was diagnosed with cancer in 1998. Lyudmilia’s hospital roommate’s husband introduced Salita to the Chabad of Flatbush. There, under the mentorship of Rabbi Zalman Liberov, Salita studied and embraced Jewish practices.

"It didn’t happen overnight, it took years. Each week it was something different — no TV on Shabbat, no driving on Shabbat, keeping kosher and so on," said Salita, who prays at local Chabad houses when he’s on the road. "I feel comfortable at Chabad, they’re down with people."

Chabad is also down with boxing. It was Liberov’s brother, Israel, who introduced Salita to his promoter, Top Rank’s Bob Arum.

Arum, who is an active member of Chabad of Southern Nevada, has promoted numerous champions including Muhammad Ali, Oscar de la Hoya and George Foreman. Israel sent Salita’s tape to Arum’s rabbi, the rabbi showed it Arum, and Arum signed Salita immediately. Salita was thrilled with the match.

"Bob was raised in an Orthodox family, so he’s totally supportive of my beliefs. He understands my Judaism, my schedule, plus, he’s just a really good guy," said Salita, who won his U.S. Nationals title after rescheduling the final mid-Sabbath bout for Saturday night.

"I’m proud of my Judaism," he said. "When my parents came to this country, they came here for freedom. My Judaism is a part of that freedom."

Salita looks for another post-sundown win on Saturday, Sept. 20, when he meets Joe Bartole (8-2, 5 KOs) in the ring at the Arrowhead Pond of Anaheim.

"I’ve been training hard and I’m looking forward to a good performance, to putting on a good show," Salita said. "And I’m happy to be in Los Angeles. It’s a great city, an exciting city, a glamorous city," Salita said.

Salita’s fight will be televised locally on KCAL 9, Sept. 20, 8 p.m. Tickets for the fight are available through TicketMaster.

God vs. the Angels

This past Saturday, something extraordinarily rare took place: My team, the Anaheim Angels, was positioned to win a post-season series — against the New York Yankees no less. And my friend and radio colleague Hugh Hewitt, who could not use his seats (first row, near home plate), sent them to me.

Only other diehard fans of such teams as the Red Sox and the Cubs can fully understand how much I wanted to go to that game with my young son. After all, who knows when such an opportunity will come again?

But the next day, Major League Baseball announced that the game would be a day game, not a night game, presenting me with an insurmountable obstacle. Friday night and Saturday until sunset are my Sabbath, and while I am not an Orthodox Jew, I am a religious one. I take the Ten Commandments seriously, and the Fourth says, "Thou shall remember the Sabbath Day to make it holy." No amount of rationalizing could convince me that going to a baseball game is a holy act.

And I really did try to rationalize. God will forgive me, I told myself. Hey, all in all, I’m a good guy. Anyway, this is a one-time event — what’s the big deal of one Sabbath afternoon lost in the scheme of all the Sabbaths I will have observed? And I can attend synagogue in the morning and then go to the game. I won’t even buy anything at the stadium (commerce is forbidden on the Sabbath). I tried every rationalization.

But in the end, no argument worked, and I gave the tickets away.

Why I didn’t go is the reason for this column, because the reasons — both religious and nonreligious — can apply to everyone, whether religious or atheist.

One religious reason was the need to affirm in action that God and my religion are more important to me than attending a baseball game, no matter how significant the game. If I had violated the Sabbath to attend it, I would have been saying that in the competition for my priorities, the Angels defeated God. And if a baseball game leads me to compromise my religious beliefs, what would happen if I were really tested? What if I had to risk my life for a persecuted stranger, as Christians in Europe during the Holocaust had to (and only a noble few did)? We practice for big sacrifices by passing the tests of smaller ones.

A second religious reason concerned my children. They have been raised to forego some fun things like watching television on the Sabbath. How could I look them in the face and tell them that some of their desires have to relinquished, but mine don’t? My son will always remember that Dad, whom he knew to be a big Angels fan, gave up his final-game tickets because the game was on a Saturday. I hope that will count for something in his life.

The nonreligious reason is as important. I have devoted many years to studying, lecturing, and even writing a book on happiness ("Happiness Is a Serious Problem," Regan Books/HarperCollins, 1999). One of the themes of my approach is that fun and happiness are often related, but at least as often they are in conflict. For example, eating desserts is a great deal of fun, but it can also lead to great unhappiness, as many overweight people can affirm.

How does this apply to the playoff tickets? Keeping the Sabbath, my weekly day away from the world, away from television, radio and even from newspapers (the reading of which for me, a radio talk show host and columnist, is work), spent with family and friends and at synagogue, is a major source of my stability and happiness. The Angels game, when all is said and done, would have been great fun, but the Sabbath brings me happiness, and I opt for happiness.

A touching epilogue: Hugh could not use his tickets, which he also cherished, because he had a commitment to a church retreat. So here were a Christian and a Jew, each foregoing a very rare pleasure for his God and religion.

Now, two days after the great game, having had another meaningful Sabbath and having enjoyed watching the game Saturday after sunset on tape (without knowing the final score beforehand), I know I made the right decision. I suspect that Hugh feels the same. In much of Western life, religion has descended into simply making people feel good. At its best, however, religion teaches what is ultimately important and what isn’t. Neither a good nor a happy life is possible without knowing that.

That is why God must always be higher than the Angels.

Dennis Prager is an author, lecturer, teacher and theologian with a nationally syndicated radio talk show originating from Los Angeles on KRLA 870 AM.

Just the Right Size

This is a heartwarming story about a kidney.

The kidney in question belongs to Mike Jones. It used to belong to Patricia Abdullah.

Jones and Abdullah have very little, apparently, in common. Jones is an African American man. Abdullah is a female descendant of the Hawaiian royal family. Jones is Christian. Abdullah is Muslim. Jones lives in the city. Abdullah lives in the Valley.

They’re a perfect match. Sometimes you just have to stay positive. O-positive.

Jones and Abdullah met during a success seminar. When Jones announced he would have to be late to one session because of his ongoing need for dialysis, Abdullah and other classmates got involved. After five years of dialysis, Jones was desperately in need of a transplant.

For one assignment in their seminar, Jones and Abdullah learned how to successfully make what are considered “unreasonable requests.” During the in-class exercise, Abdullah shocked her partner: She said “I’m O-positive, Mike. Make an unreasonable request of me.” Jones, also O-positive, took a moment to realize what she had said, then put the seminar lessons to work and made an unreasonable request: “Will you give me one of your kidneys?” So she did.

Still, all did not run smoothly. But a fellow classmate, an administrator at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, helped work out insurance problems. Cedars-Sinai’s Dr. Gerhard Fuchs alleviated Abdullah’s concerns about missing weeks of work at her new job by removing the organ laparoscopically, requiring only small incisions. Dr. J. Louis Cohen transplanted the healthy new kidney into Jones.

And so a Muslim’s kidney is transplanted into a Christian’s body in a Jewish hospital. Both patients were recovered and healthy within three days, so the kidney doesn’t seem to mind. And according to Abdullah, “Both of our families are going to get together for a group photo. And that’s going to be our Christmas card.”