3 Big Complications You Avoid By Hiring Professional Movers


While the prospect of moving to a new place is exciting, the idea of managing the move is not something you look forward to handling. Instead of attempting to deal with the move on your own, it makes sense to hire a firm that can take care of all the details. Doing so will help you avoid quite a few headaches. Here are four examples of issues you will avoid by seeking help from a pro.

The Move is More Organized

 

How long has it been since you were part of a residential or commercial move? Do you remember all the work that went into planning everything from the packing to placement of furniture at the destination? Are you anxious to take on all those details again?

If you choose to hire professional house movers in Regina instead of trying to rent a van and haul your furniture to the new place, rest assured that the move will be more organized and less chaotic. You can even find a mover who offers packing services and leaves much of the preparation in capable hands. While they are taking care of the packing, you have more time to tackle other tasks on the to-do list.

There is Less Potential for Damage

 

How much do you know about what sort of padding to use for different types of items? Can you select boxes capable of supporting the weight of the things you want to pack? How much do you know about properly preparing fragile items for transport across town or across the country? If you are like most people, it’s easy to make mistakes that increase the chances of something being scratched or broken.

When you hire professional residential or commercial movers, they can determine the best containers to use, what sort of padding is needed, and how to load the van so that there is little potential for shifting during transit. The result is that your belongings are much more likely to arrive at the destination without any damage.

The Movers Waste No Time

 

People who are not professional movers can do a credible job, but they are not likely to match efficiency that the team from a moving company can provide. That can lead to delays that make what should be a quick and easy move into a project that takes twice the time it should. If you want to avoid this problem, hiring a pro is the only practical solution. Your belongings are packed, loaded, and delivered without wasting any time at all.

Whether you need help with a residential move or could use a hand with relocating an office, choosing to hire Regina office movers is the best decision you can make. Call today and learn more about the services that are there for the asking. It won’t take long to understand why professional movers will make things a lot easier.

Moving and Shaking: Temple Adat Elohim names interim rabbi, Brooke Burke-Charvet honored


Rabbi Barry Diamond

Temple Adat Elohim (TAE) has named Southern California native Rabbi Barry Diamond as its interim rabbi. He replaces Rabbi Ted Riter, who ended his 16-year tenure at TAE in May.

Diamond, who grew up in Huntington Beach and Newport Beach, has served in several posts since his ordination at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, including time as interim rabbi in Houston, Texas, at Temple Sinai. He has worked as a part-time rabbi at Congregation Beth Shalom of Bryan/College Station, Texas, and spent 14 years leading the education programs at Temple Emanu-El in Dallas.

TAE, a Reform congregation in Thousand Oaks, announced Diamond’s appointment on July 5. A congregational meeting to approve Diamond was held on July 14. 


From left: Actress and model Brooke Burke-Charvet with Barbara Lazaroff, California Spirit co-founder and restaurant designer. Photo courtesy of Amy Williams

Last month, American actress and model Brooke Burke-Charvet was honored at the 29th California Spirit, an annual gala that raises funds for the American Cancer Society.

During the July 28 event, which was held at the Pacific Design Center in West Hollywood, Burke received the Inspiration Award. In 2012, the multifaceted performer who co-hosts “Dancing With the Stars” shocked fans when she announced that she had been diagnosed with thyroid cancer. That same year, Burke’s cancer was successfully removed. 

Co-founded by film executive Sherry Lansing, restaurant designer Barbara Lazaroff and chef Wolfgang Puck, California Spirit features cuisine, wines, live entertainment and a live silent auction. Since 1984, it has raised millions of dollars in support of research, patient services, early detection and more at the American Cancer Society.

Former “Project Runway” contestant Nick Verreos presented the award to Burke. Additional honorees included John Shaffner, Joe Stewart, Dr. Philomena McAndrew and Dr. Solomon Hamburg.


Delegates of AJWS’ rabbinic trip to India included Rabbi Peter Levi (top row, standing), Rabbi Ron Li-Paz (top row, second from left) and Rabbi Sue Levi Elwell (top row, second from right). Photo by Ruth Messinger of AJWS.

Rabbis Ron Li-Paz, of Valley Outreach Synagogue, and Peter Levi, of Temple Beth El in Orange County, traveled to Lucknow, India, last month on a rabbinic delegation trip. 

American Jewish World Service (AJWS), an international humanitarian nonprofit led by activist Ruth Messinger, organized the trip, which provided the local clergy with the opportunity to join national Jewish leaders and volunteers in reflecting on connections between traditional Jewish teaching, service activities and human rights. It was AJWS’ fourth rabbinic delegation to visit somewhere aboard.

In total, 17 rabbis from across the country — including Rabbi Sue Levi Elwell, the Philadelphia-based founding director of the Los Angeles Jewish Feminist Center — participated in the 10-day excursion. It ended July 31.

“We are deeply gratified to have leaders of Rabbis Elwell, Levi and Li-Paz’s caliber as part of our rabbinic delegation to India,” said Messinger, president of AJWS, in a statement released prior to the trip. “Rabbi Elwell, Rabbi Levi and Rabbi Li-Paz, like the other rabbis traveling with us, are tremendous leaders not only in their synagogues and organizations, but also in their local communities.”

AJWS reports that it has sent more than 400 rabbis, rabbinic students and graduate students in Jewish communal programs on learning and service trips in the developing world since 2004. Upon returning home from these trips, delegates work with fellow alumni to form like-minded communities of Jews interested in global justice.  


Moving and Shaking acknowledges accomplishments by members of the local Jewish community, including people who start new jobs, leave jobs, win awards and more, as well as local events that featured leaders from the Jewish and Israeli communities. Got a tip? E-mail it to ryant@jewishjournal.com.

Peres to vacate official president’s residence


Israeli President Shimon Peres will move out of his official residence in Jerusalem following flooding and infrastructure failure throughout the complex.

Peres will move to an apartment in Jerusalem’s tony Mamilla neighborhood during the renovations, which are estimated to cost nearly $800,000. He is expected to remain in the rented apartment for at least four months.

Once renovations are completed on the public areas of the residence Peres will travel back and forth for meetings.

The building, opened in 1971, has never undergone major repairs or renovations.

Peres conducted official functions at two hotels in Jerusalem for several months this year, after infrastructure damage in the public areas.

The Diaspora may be moving, but it isn’t going away any time soon


When Howard Grossman moved to the northeastern Pennsylvania town of Wilkes-Barre 35 years ago, it was a thriving industrial city with a substantial, long-established Jewish community. Today, anyone who visits Wilkes-Barre cannot help but come away with the impression that this town of 43,000 has seen better days, and will perhaps see not too grand a future.

Along with the decline of the city’s industry, there’s been another loss: a massive reduction in its Jewish population. The community that numbered some 8,000 Jews in the 1920s has now shrunk to barely 2,100, a far more precipitous drop than the 40 percent decline experienced by the city at large.

Wilkes-Barre Jews, Grossman recalls, were prominent among the store owners of its bright and busy shops. But hard times for everyone had an even greater effect on the Jewish community. Today many Wilkes-Barre stores are empty while others have been replaced by low-end retail chains. The children of the original store owners, and of local garment manufacturers, teachers and professionals have, for the most part, decamped.

“It’s a shame,” Grossman says. “This is a town where they had a strong commitment.”

That commitment, Grossman insists, is still there. He estimates that 80 percent of Wilkes-Barre’s Jews are affiliated with a synagogue, a percentage far higher than in most places. Yet the depth of commitment doesn’t reduce the prospect that the community could eventually fade away.

The Protean Diaspora

The trajectory of this Pennsylvania city is nothing new — not in today’s United States, and not throughout the two-millennium-long history of the Diaspora. Jewish communities like the one in Wilkes-Barre have grown to prominence, only to decline over time into insignificance or even oblivion.

“The reality of Jewish life remains complex and protean,” Israeli historian David Vital suggests. “Jewry has no formal boundaries; its informal boundaries are subject to constant movement, change and debate.”

This has also been the history of the Jewish homeland itself: a bright period of ascendancy, followed by a stretch of desolation, and finally, today’s emerging reality, where Israel stands at the brink of becoming, for the first time since the heyday of the ancient state, the home of the largest Jewish community in the world.

Yet through history it has been the Diaspora, for all the contempt felt for it by some in Israel, that has dominated the “protean” history of our people, and marked what Martin Buber once called our “vocation of uniqueness.” Even when the old kingdom still existed in Palestine, Jews thrived mostly in “exile.” As early as 500 B.C.E., Jews established communities from Persia to North Africa. By the time of Jesus, when Hebrews accounted for roughly one in 11 residents of the Roman-dominated Mediterranean, nearly two-thirds lived outside Palestine, with roughly 1 million in Egypt alone.

Over the ensuing centuries these populations were constantly in flux, waxing and waning as economic, political and theocratic fashions forced migrations. Communities rose and then fell. At various times, Jews gathered in Antioch, Alexandria, Trier and, of course, the Eternal City itself. After the fall of the Roman Empire, Jewish fortunes shifted towards the Eastern Empire; later, to Islamic-dominated lands from Spain to Persia.

The Diaspora reached in all directions. Intolerant rulers spurred Jewish colonies to spread northward to The Netherlands and westward to England.

A different movement led eastward, this one from Germany and Central Europe to the vast, under-populated and economically backward lands of Poland and Russia. Between the 16th and 20th centuries, it was there that the largest concentration of Jews, more than 5 million, came to live.

Meanwhile, as Britain, Holland and other European powers stretched their influence around the world, Jews followed. The Diaspora spread as far as India and China, to the “new world” of Australia, and, most portentously, to the Americas.

The Reshuffled Diaspora

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, poverty and growing anti-Semitic pogroms led to the movement of 1.8 million predominately Eastern European Jews to the United States, transforming America into the leading center of Diaspora life.

Then, two inextricably related events further shattered the archipelago of historic Jewish communities: the rise of Nazism and the establishment of the State of Israel.

The first event all but wiped out the great Jewish communities of continental Europe.

The second event, the establishment of the State of Israel, was, of course, a blessing to the notion of global Jewish survival. But it also signaled the end of many of the world’s oldest Jewish enclaves. Muslim reaction against the state led to the virtual elimination of long-thriving Jewish communities in Egypt, Iraq and North Africa. Most of their members sought safety either in Israel, or in the United States, Canada, Australia or France.

This process of consolidation has now accelerated. The collapse of the Soviet Union brought a large population — roughly 1 million at least — out of a traditional center of Jewish life, and in to Israel, the United States and the remaining handful of countries willing to receive it, including, ironically, post-war democratic Germany.

The trend is continuing under the current Russian regime, which, although not openly anti-Semitic, follows an authoritarian, nationalistic bent uncomfortable for many Jews. Perhaps slightly more than 250,000 Jews from the former Soviet Union have immigrated to the United States since the collapse of the communist regime.

Most recently, new developments have enhanced the global concentration of Jews. Rising anti-Semitism and hard economic times, for example, brought many Mexican, Argentine and other South American Jews to Israel and the United States in the 1980s and 1990s. And the rise of Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez — a man deeply influenced by the Argentine anti-Semite and Holocaust denier Norberto Ceresole — seems likely to accelerate the diminution of yet another small (roughly 15,000) but well-established Latin American community.

Also significant has been the rise of Islamist Iran, a country closely allied to its fellow oil producer Venezuela, and arguably the leading center of anti-Jewish agitation in the world today. Since the 1979 revolution, about 80 percent of Persian Jewry have left. More than half — at least 50,000 — have relocated to the United States, mostly to Los Angeles and to Long Island, N.Y.

Jewish Mom for the Straight Guy


When my father informed me he had scheduled a business trip to Los Angeles and was taking my mother with him about a month after I moved out here, his timing seemed less than coincidental. Both of my parents had been anxiously phoning me on a daily basis since I left New York. The real reason they were coming was to make sure I wasn’t living in a crack house, or at the very least had the decency to choose a Jewish crack house.

Truth be told, I needed them. After all the work that went into finding a suitable apartment and automobile in Los Angeles, I was growing increasingly listless about settling in much further. Even when the weather got colder and I struggled to sleep without a quilt, freezing each night felt preferable to braving the crowds at Bed Bath & Beyond.

Still, I had to be careful what I wished for. From the first minute my parents arrived at my new apartment, my mother began scrutinizing every square inch. As she wandered about steadying crooked picture frames, frowning at price tags and toeing carpet stains, I felt as if she and I were co-starring in the rejected pilot episode of "Jewish Mom for the Straight Guy."

But their visit was not entirely without generosity. When my father told me he was bringing a housewarming gift, my mind immediately raced with a few tantalizing possibilities: That waterbed I’ve been fruitlessly asking for since I was a kid? Not likely. A new car? In my dreams. A welcome mat emblazoned with the family name? Hope there’s a lot of willing Wallensteins on eBay.

So when he handed me a gift-wrapped package about the size of a cigar, I was completely confounded. Removing the wrapping, I unsheathed a mezuzah, the slender religious object Jews affix to their doorposts containing a scroll with excerpts from the Torah.

"It will watch over you," my father suggested.

The mezuzah was about more than providing a surrogate guardian, I realized. My decision to move out of New York City had only accelerated their long-compounding anxiety over my fading religious identity; despite Los Angeles’ heavy Jewish population, I imagine they pictured the city filled entirely with blonde heathens named Heather intent on eternally altering their bloodline. If my parents could fit Mount Sinai itself on a handtruck, they would have had it wheeled into my apartment. A mezuzah was a more practical choice to serve as a constant reminder of my Jewishness.

Had I wanted to distract my parents into forgetting about posting the mezuzah, I probably could have gotten away with it. But like every Jew, strands of guilt are coiled into my DNA’s double helix as tightly as a Chasid’s peyos.

On my parents’ last day in Los Angeles, they stood by as I fastened the mezuzah into place outside the front door of my apartment. Much as I would like to say the spirit of Moses himself swelled within my soul, the hammer, nails and wood actually brought to mind the crucifixion of Jesus.

"Can I ask what you’re doing?" a voice called out from down the hall. My parents and I wheeled around to glimpse the neighbor I had never met who lived three doors away. As if Central Casting had dispatched Hot, Young Los Angeles Neighbor to the never-ending sitcom that is my life, a striking blonde stuck her head out of the apartment, presumably prompted by the banging outside. My parents and I exchanged a helpless look. How were we going to explain a mezuzah?

She ventured out of her apartment for a closer look, which afforded me the opportunity to get a closer look at her blue eyes and tan legs. Fairly certain my parents would not spontaneously combust at that moment no matter how much I might will it, I instantaneously decided they would help me charm her. I turned to my father and asked him to explain the mezuzah, which he did with surprising gusto. I was then reminded of a fact I often forget: my father is also a man, and no man is immune to a friendly, attractive woman.

"Would you like us to install one for you next?" I asked. "Free of charge."

She laughed and even came into my apartment for a quick tour. My parents nervously milled about, watching their worst nightmare unfold in front of their eyes as I flirted with a neighbor who was way too blonde to be Jewish. When she scribbled her phone number on a Post-it before leaving, they simply ignored what transpired in sullen silence.

Not another word has been spoken about the mezuzah since that fateful day; I’d imagine in their mind I might as well have nailed mistletoe to the door. My mezuzah had indeed blessed me, but not in the way they had intended.

Westward Ho


When I accepted a job to transfer from New York City to Los Angeles, I figured October would be the ideal month to move. Just as bone-chilling winds began sweeping the East Coast, I’d be basking in year-round sunshine on the other side of the country.

But the timing couldn’t have seemed worse when I arrived here to find wildfires ravaging the region, labor strikes disrupting the city’s transit system and grocery stores and a new governor whose qualifications included "Kindergarten Cop." Snow was starting to become a fond memory as I came to grips with feeling as if I’d moved to biblical Egypt during the Ten Plagues.

Still, there’s no turning back now. Turning 30 had left me with a creeping sense of stagnation about my life, which I’d lived entirely in New York. I hoped a different state would help me find a new state of mind.

And then there was the sneaking suspicion I had dated every Jewish single girl available in New York. That notion finally fully dawned on me when a friend-of-a-friend recommended a woman who he deemed compatible. Upon further inquiry, I discovered we had more than just interests in common: we shared DNA. I politely declined the opportunity to date my cousin.

Then again, incest might seem more advisable than coming to Los Angeles in hopes of meeting single, stable Jewish women. I had been duly warned that everyone here is superficial and insincere. These sentiments, of course, came from that hotbed of depth and sincerity known as Manhattan, so I paid them no mind.

Dating in Manhattan isn’t quite what you’ve seen on "Sex and the City." What irks me most about that show is how it glamorizes every aspect of city living, as if horrific weather and sluggish subways don’t interfere with single, attractive people. If Carrie Bradshaw were a real person, she wouldn’t last five minutes in her Manolo Blahniks, much less afford them on a writer’s salary.

But I must admit my own fantasies of Los Angeles living were fueled by another HBO show, "Curb Your Enthusiasm." How I yearned to be Larry David, roaming carefree around this eternally sunny city, bumping into one quirky character after another even more neurotic than he is. Even as it satirized the loopy conventions of suburban life, "Curb" made Los Angeles seem like a place I’d come to love.

Perhaps it might partly explain how eerily calm I was being about making such a huge change in my life as I made the extensive preparations to move. No 2 a.m. cigarettes, jagged fingernails or circling psychotherapists names in the Yellow Pages. It was an unfamiliar feeling, and newfound maturity seemed an unlikely explanation. It got to the point where I started to get anxious about not being anxious.

But soon enough I realized what brought on inner peace: For the first time in who knows how long, due to my complete preoccupation with moving, I was not engaged whatsoever in the customary histrionics associated with meeting/dating/loving/arguing/breaking up with any woman. I hadn’t made a conscious decision to avoid the opposite sex; I simply didn’t have the time.

I’m no historian on Buddhism, but I’d hazard a guess the Dalai Lama was not dating anybody when he first achieved that whole nirvana thing. With all the energies I usually devote to wrecking relationships channeled entirely into the equally messy business of relocation, friends and family marveled at my Zen-like demeanor. I presumed all the pent-up emotion would cause me to breakdown at my goodbye party like a beauty pageant winner, but I sailed through it as if I were going to see everyone again the next day.

Now that I am in Los Angeles, I know I can only repress my romantic life for so long. As consumed as I have been by the challenges associated with obtaining an apartment and a car, celibacy won’t fly once I’ve settled in and have no distractions.

I’ve been here only a month now, and the more time I spend here, the more sobering my new reality becomes. Topping wildfires, earthquakes and other Egypt-esque plagues common to Los Angeles are more mundane concerns like traffic, car insurance payments and, yes, finding Jewish women.

Adjusting to my new surroundings can be stressful sometimes. But it all seemed worth it one fine evening not long after I got here, when I strolled out to the beach in Venice during sunset. In New York, you actually forget there is a sky over your head because so many buildings block your view.

But standing in front of the ocean’s vast expanse, my head swimming with all of the possibilities that lay before me in Los Angeles, I was able to forget about my ash-sullied car and Pharaoh Schwarzenegger.

But if the Pacific Ocean turns red, I am so outta here.


Andrew Wallenstein writes for
the Hollywood Reporter. His work was included in the recently published “Best
Jewish Writing 2003” (Jossey-Bass). He can be reached at awally@aol.com.

Good Timing Lands Luck in Director’s Lap


I’m sure that when Greg Pritikin made his first feature film, "Dummy," now in theaters, he had no inkling that he had inadvertently grabbed an indie-film brass ring. But when he cast Adrien Brody as a maladroit but sweet schlemiel who is obsessed with ventriloquism as the way to win a woman’s heart, Pritikin really lucked out. Up to that point in his career, Brody was a well-regarded young actor who had displayed a wide range in American independent films. Then came "The Pianist," the Oscar, the Kiss and, suddenly, Brody is a movie star. Which means that "Dummy," a film that would have otherwise slipped through the cracks, is making its way into theaters, and that is not at all a bad thing.

Pritikin’s film takes place in a sort of every-suburb America of tract houses with manicured lawns and two-car garages, and is utterly devoid of anything to place it in historical time. Even the cars and the music — whether punk, show tunes or klez-punk — could be 20 years old, and the film’s story of a hapless schmo trying to find a way to express himself despite his suffocating Jewish family is a Philip Roth retread from the 1970s.

And yet, on a certain unadventurous level, it works. Steven (Brody) is fired from his job when he tries to give notice after deciding to surrender to a lifelong ambition to take up ventriloquism. He lives at home with his overbearing mother (Jessica Walter), omni-absent father (Ron Liebman) and chronically depressed sister, a failed singer-turned-wedding planner (Illeana Douglas). When he meets his unemployment counselor, Lorraina (Vera Farmiga), he immediately falls madly in love. With his deranged punk-rocker friend Fanny (Milla Jovovich) in a splendid against-the-grain performanc as his wildly inept guide, he tries to woo her, with disastrous results. Only when he begins to express himself through his dummy does the real, warm, sweet Steven emerge.

Although Pritikin seems to be laboring to tie up plot ends almost from the film’s opening shot, the film has a cheerfully dopey quality that can be quite winning. You know that Steven and his dummy are fated to bring happiness to Lorraina, his sister, Fanny and her cataleptic band and everyone else in the state of New Jersey (although Pritikin manages one hilarious and unexpected surprise during the final credits).

But for all its obviousness and the mechanical working-out of plot, "Dummy" has a certain tenderness towards its characters that is satisfying for its sheer unexpectedness. Pritikin starts out unpromisingly with a shrill, cartoonish tone, but once he gets the worst of the exposition out of the way, there is a warmth here that is quite pleasant. Moreover, "Dummy" has at least one really lovely moment of pure silence, a two-shot, held for nearly a minute, of a painfully awkward silence between the perpetually uncertain Steven and an expectant Lorraina; the discomfort in the air is palpable and moving.

It’s pretty hard to tell where a new director will go from the evidence of only one film, but Pritikin bears watching. After all, who could have guessed where Brody would land?

"Dummy" is in theaters now.

Letting Go


We leave well before dawn and as we speed through darkness I keep asking myself how it is that I’m now the parent of a college student — I can still remember vividly the details of my own freshman year almost 30 years ago.

Arriving at the college, we locate the information booth, obtain assignments, keys and instructions and begin the ritual of moving in. Cardiac-challenged fathers carry heavy boxes of computer equipment up three flights of crowded stairs ("You know, I finished a masters thesis on a manual typewriter, do you really need all this?"), while nervous mothers carefully lay socks and underwear into dresser drawers ("Remember to keep colors and whites separate when you wash these!"). Kids roll their eyes and protest, but we persist. All the while, the roommate — whose appearance suggests either Charles or Marilyn Manson — lolls unkempt on his messy bed, stroking a battered guitar and looking on scornfully.

When everything that can be done for the kid has been done — the bed made, stereo hooked up, textbooks laid out on shelves — he’s anxious to run off to his orientation meeting and to his life as a collegian, but we hold on tightly for one more moment. Moms’ eyes fill with tears. Dads compulsively reach into a wallet for a few dollars to give the kid. Some words are called for, but what do you say? What final bit of wisdom before sending the kid into the world as an independent adult? What hopes, threats, advice, sermons, culled from 18 years of living in my house should I bequeath to him as we stand together in the dormitory doorway?

This is the pathos of Deuteronomy. Moses raised this generation of young, free Israelites. He nurtured them, taught them, guided them through the wilderness. Now he must let go and he is afraid of losing them, as he lost their parents — losing them to their fears and instincts, losing them to the pernicious influences that will surround them, losing them to the accidents of history.

Moses’ parental anxiety is felt in every line of the book. This is a book of urgency. He speaks to them, this one last time, pleading at every moral level. He appeals to their powers of moral reasoning, and to their shared ideals and values. He reminds them of their past, the ordeals and dreams of ancestors, the covenant freely upheld by forefathers. He invokes the power of public reputation and exalts them as "God’s children" (Deuteronomy 14:1). And then, exhausting all other means of persuasion, he evokes primitive rewards and punishments: "See! This day I set before you blessing and curse: blessing if you obey the commandments of the Lord your God that I enjoy upon you this day; and curse if you do not obey" (Deuteronomy 11:26-8).

I know this Moses. Every parent who has ever dropped a kid off at school knows this Moses. Bar and bat mitzvah may be the traditional moment our children are recognized as adults, but the moment it becomes real is this one, when our children move out of our families, our homes, our communities and into the universe via the university. There, they will be confronted with every manner of lifestyle, political opinion, personal values and spirituality.

The core experience of the university is the ultimate freedom of choice. The university course catalog is the size of large city phone book. All of human knowledge and opinion is now accessible to them. Campus bulletin boards are heavy with fliers, notices and posters cajoling their participation, affiliation and support. Campus walkways are crowded with booths inviting their membership in every sort of society and cause. Chabad, Greenpeace, the Vegan Union and the Young Republicans are curiously juxtaposed on one corner. Who they were when we bring them to the campus has absolutely no relationship to who they will become. By year’s end, their ideas and ideals, their friendships, their diet and appearance will be radically different.

I know Moses’ anxiety. "You are about to cross the Jordan to enter and possess the land — take care to observe all the laws and rules I have set before you this day" (Deuteronomy 11:31-2).

What shall we say to them at this moment? There are new, creative rituals penned for this occasion. But what the moment demands is deeply personal — sharing my own wisdom, my own feelings, my Deuteronomy. Then let the child go. I remember that I am commanded not to let my fears inhibit his freedom to explore and experience the universe and to trust in the character and soul I’ve had these 18 years to nurture.

Have a good year at school and remember we love you.


Ed Feinstein is rabbi of Valley Beth Shalom in Encino.

Calling It Like It Is


Not long ago, we were invited to friends for Shabbat lunch. They’d recently moved into a new apartment, in more or less the same neighborhood, and over the course of conversation, someone asked them how they liked the new location. Our hostess, a refined and relatively private person, said that she liked the new location much better. She mentioned a number of reasons, following which she added that from the new apartment, they didn’t hear as much of the shooting at Gilo during the night. "And in the old place," she added as a kind of afterthought, "I just couldn’t stand making love to the sound of gunfire."

A complete showstopper. All the adults at the table (the kids, thankfully, seemed not to have heard her) were silent, and you could see all the spouses looking at each other. Everyone knew exactly what she was talking about. No one ever mentions it, but now, this incredibly strange side of life in southern Jerusalem had just been made explicit. There’s no dimension of life that hasn’t been affected by this now-admitted war, but there’s also no sense that anyone has a way out of it.

Sharon’s speech to the nation tonight, Feb. 21, was pathetic. In the absence of anything concrete to suggest, he reminded Israel’s citizens how we’ve made the desert bloom, have built a medical system second to none, a top rate-educational system, a first-rate military, yada yada yada. "The country is not collapsing." Direct quote. How inspiring. The only thing that people wanted to hear was a sense that he had a solution or a plan. That, of course, was not forthcoming.

Interestingly, the only thing that most people in this country agree about is that he’s got to go. The left thinks that the way out of this is to talk to our erstwhile peace partners, and since Sharon would rather bomb them than talk to them, he’s got to go. The middle, which does not believe that there is anyone out there worth talking to and therefore more or less prefers some sort of unilateral separation, knows that Sharon doesn’t have the stomach or the political stability to allow him to withdraw from the settlements that such an approach would require, so they think he’s got to go. And the right, which says, "if we’re going to have a war, let’s at least win it," believes that Sharon is a prisoner of American interests on the eve of the war against Iraq (scheduled, according to the Israeli press, for May), and thus, he’s paralyzed, and has to go. Sharon, of course, plans to stay.

So in the absence of any good news on the horizon, we decided to leave the kids in Jerusalem for two days and go to Tel Aviv overnight. Some museums, some shopping, sleep late — a mini-vacation. But it turns out that it’s not as simple to get away from it all as one would expect.

The night before we left, there was a suicide bombing on the road from Jerusalem to Jericho. A policeman who had pulled over a suspicious car and ordered the driver out of the car was killed when the driver detonated the explosives by remote control. The news mentioned that it happened on Highway 1. Later that evening, when we’d long forgotten about the report, our son, Avi, asked how we were going to get to Tel Aviv.

We told him the regular highway. "Isn’t that Highway 1?" he asked. He turned white as a sheet, but we had no idea why. When we finally figured it out, it made no difference that we explained that it’s a completely different part of the road, and that nothing has ever happened on the main Jerusalem-Tel Aviv highway. Avi was petrified about our leaving, this time not because he’d be home alone, but because he figured we’d get killed just trying to go on vacation. We promised to call when we got there, and did.

We didn’t get shot on the way to Tel Aviv, but traffic was slow at times because of a large number of tanks being trucked from Jerusalem somewhere north. Unusual, even here. We got to Tel Aviv in the middle of the day, checked in at the hotel, and walked to the outdoor market at Nachalat Binyamin, which has a wonderful outdoor crafts fair every Tuesday. Signs of the effects of the hostilities and of the collapsing economy are everywhere, quite obviously. A lot of bumper stickers for sale, many reading "ein shalom, ein parnassah" — "with no peace, there’s no income."

We spent the rest of the afternoon walking around, and then eventually walked to dinner at the Azrielli Towers.

As we were getting ready to go into the Towers, some teenagers approached us and offered us a bumper sticker. It read: "Transfer — A Step in the Right Direction." Disgusted, I handed it back to one of the kids, probably about 18 years old or so. "Why don’t you want it," she asked me.

"Because you’re revolting," I told her.

My wife, Elisheva, was appalled. "Why were you so rude to her?"

"Because she’s old enough to have a brain. Here’s what I want to know. When she hands out bumper stickers about transfer, what does she think? That they’re all going to go willingly? And if they don’t, how do we get them to move? How many is she willing to kill? And what about the fact that they, too, live here? And to where will she send them, since no one else wants them? And what does she think transferring millions of Palestinians by force will do to the image of Jews in the world? Actually, I think I was nice to her, relative to what she deserved."

A bit of a downer before dinner, so we walked through the mall for a while. And I told Elisheva about a conversation I’d had the night before with a friend when we went out for a late-night beer. An academic sort with great liberal credentials (very involved in foreign workers’ rights groups, interfaith dialogue, etc.), he said that there’s never been a worse period in the 25 or so years he’s been here. And he sees no way out. And he just can’t take it anymore. "You know what we should do," he said. "The next time they do a suicide bombing, we should pick a midsize village, and just wipe it out. Every man, woman and child. No one survives. And we tell them that the next time they do it, we’ll take out two villages. And then three. We’ve got to put a stop to this."

I was completely stupefied. This, from the person who more than anyone else is responsible for our decision to move here. "That’s a great idea," I told him. "First of all, what good will it do? Just make them hate us more? And why do you think the world will let us do that? But more than that, is that the kind of country you want us to be? I thought you moved here because you want to create a different kind of society. You want to sink to their level? What will you tell your kids about why you moved here?" He hesitated for a second, and then muttered, "I already have nothing to say to my kids when they ask why I moved here." So we ordered some more beer and left it at that.

The next morning, we’d missed the morning news when we woke up, and got stuck with one of those horrific Israeli talk shows, in which everyone (left and right) agreed that Sharon had to go and that yesterday had been a terrible day. But what, I asked myself, was so bad? We had heard that one couple had been "moderately wounded" in a drive-by shooting in the West Bank. But something else must have happened. We decided to buy a paper before heading to breakfast in the hotel dining room. And then we saw the headlines: six soldiers shot dead at the checkpoint. One wounded. One survived.

As we listened to the hum of conversations in the hotel dining room, in which every single person was reading the paper, it was clear why this was such a big deal. It wasn’t only the tragic loss of life, or the fact that Marwan Barghouti, seen by many as a possible successor to Arafat, had sent "blessings" to the gunmen. It was that this wasn’t terrorism, but guerrilla warfare. And we’re not winning. They blew up a tank a few days ago, ending the myth that the kids we send out there in armor are safe. They attacked a checkpoint, and using impeccable military tactics, wiped out more kids. "Fourteen soldiers killed in seven days," said the paper. War, was the clear message. But not one that we seem to know how to win. Which was why everyone was so hopeful — even though we basically knew better — that Sharon would have something to say tonight. But he didn’t. "The country is not collapsing." That’s it? For a moment, I wasn’t even sure I was hearing right.

Making our way back to the hotel later that day after a visit at the Tel Aviv Museum, we saw a handwritten sign taped to a nearby store window. At first, we both thought it was something about the store. But it wasn’t. It said, "yihyeh tov — ein vada’ut legabei ta’arikh ve-sha’ah." Rough translation: "Things will be OK. But no information is available as to the date or time."

It was, it suddenly struck me, possibly a bit too optimistic.

Moving Mom


When I last wrote this column for The Jewish Journal several months ago, I had no idea that my mother would soon be living a short bike ride away. Or that her relocation to Los Angeles would take over my life. But transitions, while challenging and stressful, thankfully don’t usually last forever, and I’m glad to say that Mom is finally settled in, and I’m returning to my status as a fully functioning human being.

I want to share some lessons learned from the past four months, during which time my unfortunate mother has been moved (without much enthusiasm) five times. This isn’t because my sister and I are abusive, merciless people; we simply kept thinking we’d found "the perfect place." Finding an even almost perfect place takes much longer — and more effort — than I ever anticipated.

The first place Mom lived (after two years at my sister’s home) was an assisted-living facility near my sister in North Carolina. Mom was there for a month, until one morning she shrieked at a sweet elderly woman whose seat Mom had mistakenly sat in at breakfast. The woman wanted her regular seat back. My mother not only yelled, but she cursed, which was apparently too much for these proper Southerners to cope with.

My sister was called and politely asked to remove my mother that afternoon.

Rule no. 1: If your parent is agitated, disoriented or stressed, make sure that the place you move them has great tolerance for occasional outbursts.

According to Dr. David Trader, a geriatric psychiatrist in Century City, this kind of behavior is quite common for elderly people.

My mother was then moved into a psychiatric unit in Asheville, N.C., to be evaluated for a few days. Though fairly traumatic for her, this experience was also the source of some good laughs. Once, I called Mom and she informed me that "another inmate named Joe" was in her room. "I don’t know what to do with him," she whispered loudly to me. I suggested she take him to the nursing station. I heard her say, "Come on, Joe." I heard Mom asking everyone, "Are you a nurse? Are you a nurse?" Finally, I guess someone answered affirmatively, because Mom said, "There’s this man in my room and he doesn’t belong to me."

Rule no. 2: Just because the PR materials and the administrators tell you that they offer superb, personal, constant care, don’t assume it’s true. Get references of other people with parents living there and ask them about the facility’s strengths and weaknesses.

I started looking at places in L.A. for Mom to live, but then my sister called because she found "the perfect place," perfect because, they told her, "We are very patient here, and give the residents lots of attention, stimulation, and tender loving care."

I flew to North Carolina to help my mother move in.

The new facility had a gorgeous, large room for Mom where we hung some of her artwork and tried to make it as homey as we could. Everything seemed dandy until that night. At 8 p.m., Mom started calling us every 15 minutes, asking where she was, accusing us of "getting rid of her," and pleading with us to come get her. It was tempting. This was torture — like leaving my son at preschool when he didn’t want to stay there. At midnight, when the calls hadn’t stopped, my sister phoned the nursing station. They had no idea that Mom was so upset. So much for lots of care and attention. We moved her out the next day.

Rule no. 3: Find the place your parent will live before moving him or her from another city, if possible. It might be very disorienting to be in your home a few nights, then someplace else.

We all agreed that small might be better for Mom, and I had a list of places in Los Angeles. While she has always sworn she’d never live in L.A., she thought it would be nice to be near her only grandchild.

Two days later, Mom and I flew west. I wondered how I’d find her a place sooner rather than later. Guests in my house have to love sleeping on a couch with two dogs.

For three days, I looked at homes recommended by Jewish Family Service and Elderlink (a fabulous way to find such homes for older people). Every night, as Mom got into my queen-size bed, she said, "Ellie, why don’t I sleep on the couch? Or why don’t you sleep here with me?" I remembered how much she snores and kicks, so I declined the invitation. Each night, I awoke to hear Mom wandering around the house trying to find the bathroom. She never quite adjusted before I moved her again.

Rule no. 4: Even though what seems like the best place is 20 miles away, consider L.A. traffic and your nerves. It doesn’t help your parent if you are frazzled when you visit.

I found Mom a residential care home in Van Nuys, called Shalev Family Home. It was a wonderful place, one of eight that the owners have in the Valley. But driving 45 minutes each way to visit my mother from West L.A. got old rather quickly. After a month, I started looking again.

I’m relieved to say that my mother is now three minutes from my house, at Ayres Residential Care. It’s a fantastic place with warm, caring, fun-loving people to watch over her.

And after more than 30 years of living across the country from each other, Mom and I live close enough to do things I assumed we’d never get to do: walk arm-in-arm through the mall, go to Starbucks for an impulsive afternoon treat. Best of all, I get to watch my 9-year-old son and Mom, squished into the same armchair as he reads to her, both of them cracking up over a "Calvin and Hobbes" cartoon book.

Rule no. 5: Always bring something for your children to do when visiting an elderly relative. They’ll enjoy themselves more and resent the visit less.

For my son, the wonderful thing about a forgetful grandmother is that he can read the same cartoon book over and over to her, because she doesn’t remember.

My mother is finally home.

East Ventura Bound


If you’re looking to move into a new home in Los Angeles, good luck. Last month, the median sale price for an L.A. home jumped 10 percent to $213,000, setting an all-time record for L.A. County.

But if you’re looking to move into a new home in Oak Park, say your prayers. Finding a home in this Conejo Valley suburb will take all the luck and all the money you can get. The median price in September for a Ventura County home, which includes the unincorporated community of Oak Park, was $268,000, but the increase of sales was only 0.8 percent, due to a tight inventory of homes available.

Oak Park, which has just recently received its own postal code, is situated in eastern Ventura County, at the base of Simi Peak. Bordered on the west by the North Ranch neighborhood of Thousand Oaks, on the south by Westlake Village and Agoura Hills, and on the north and east by the Santa Monica Mountains, Oak Park is a compact community of only 2,600 acres.

What makes Oak Park so special is a combination of factors, least of which is the quality of the air and greatest of which is its excellent school district, which has received the reputation of being one of the finest school systems, private or public, anywhere in California. Two of the elementary schools, Brookside and Red Oak, have been designated California distinguished schools; a third, Oak Hills, is a blue-ribbon school. The middle schools, Medea Creek and Oak Park High School have been named blue-ribbon schools as well. The alternative high school, Oak View, is a California model school.

Realtor Bev Ovdat has been working the area of Agoura Hills, Oak Park, Calabasas and Westlake for 20 years. Along with her husband, Saul, the Ovdats are considered one of the strongest real estate teams in the area. If anyone understands the draw of Oak Park, it’s Bev Ovdat.

“In 1978, Oak Park broke away from the Simi Valley School District and created its own school district.” Ovdat said. “In 1990 [during the height of the recession], Oak Park implemented a parcel tax to improve schools, built two new elementary schools, giving it three elementary schools, a middle school and a high school. With this money, it was able to reduce class size. People had the perception, real or perceived, that because there was a better teacher-to-student ratio, the schools were superior. And what Jewish family doesn’t want a good education for their child?

“People began to move from the San Fernando Valley and L.A., where kids were being bused; the impetus was that children could attend local schools and stay close to home. Safetywise, it was a throwback to the ’50s and ’60s, when children could walk to school and play on the street. That didn’t exist anymore in the Valley,” Ovdat continued. “In Oak Park, you could find safe, old-fashioned, traditional neighborhoods with lots of stay-at-home moms. There was a wonderful feeling of safety and good values – that’s why people fell in love with Oak Park and the area.”

That feeling of safety, coupled with excellent local schools, is the reason Oak Park is now one of the fastest growing Jewish communities in Southern California, reports Mark Moskowitz, Realtor for Century 21 in Westlake Village.

“We have a certain client that only wants Oak Park because of the school system,” says Moskowitz. “Most good homes on the market are sold within a week to 10 days, if the seller isn’t asking too much.”The high demand, plus the shortage of homes on the market, makes Oak Park one of the hottest areas around.

“It’s all supply and demand,” says Moskowitz. “In the last two years, what was the [least] expensive home is now very expensive.”

A typical 1,600- to 2,000-square-foot Oak Park home ranges in price from $280,000 to $375,000, while a 2,000- to 2,400-square-foot home ranges from $375,000 to $475,000. Newer homes, such as those in upscale Morrison Ranch and Sutton Valley, range from $475,000 to $800,000 and beyond. Interestingly, there are no gated communities.

But given the lack of available homes and the high interest rates, a lot of people are being pushed out of the market, says Moskowitz.

“Some decide to rent or settle in a different area, like Agoura Hills. But some decide not to move out at all.”

Carey and Yehuda Fried, two of Moskowitz’s clients, decided to rent. Newlyweds in 1998, they were living in L.A. and hating it. Both Frieds were working in Agoura Hills and spending every available minute commuting.

“The commute was tough and we had no life,” says Carey, Director of Education at CalSource in Agoura Hills. “We knew we wanted to be part of a community where we would have an impact and where we could grow and help others grow, too. That wasn’t happening in L.A.”

Friends encouraged them to “live where they worked, work where they lived.”

With that in mind, they visited friends last year during Sukkot and attended the Chabad House in Agoura Hills. They liked the area, and the people were friendly, but they were still unsure of making the move.Then Moskowitz found them a townhouse in Oak Park, which they loved. They moved in March and have never looked back.

“You pay for the quality of life here, for safe neighborhoods, the beauty of nature. On Shabbat, we walk to the Oak Park Chabad on a nature trail right across from our house. About half the people we pass say, ‘Shabbat shalom.’ Everyone is amazingly friendly.”

“We’ve reduced our whole life to a 10-mile radius,” Carey says. “There are kosher shops out here, the Kosher Connection, and the local Albertsons and Ralphs carry kosher foods. And [the Oak Park Chabad] is building a day school, to open in 2001.”

Carey has grown to love the open feeling, the quiet and the beauty, the children playing in the streets; so much so, that she and her husband are on a mission to get their friends to move out, too.

“We tell everyone to move out here,” Carey laughs. “Every weekend we’re home we have quests from L.A. They all love it. We want to put Oak Park on the map.”

Their only reservation is that one day they have dreams of moving to Israel. But who knows, maybe the allure of Oak Park is that it’s the next best thing.

“We’re in a very good place here, and we’re part of the growth of the community. I love the people, I love the community. And when we walk through the park, my husband and I say, ‘It smells like Israel, it looks like Israel, and it feels like Israel.'”

Moving On Up, Reluctantly


For the last two years, I’ve dreamed of a simple thing: I’ve just wanted to be able to say, “I’m in the other room.”

After a lengthy stay in a grim studio apartment, I can finally say that. I’ve moved to a one-bedroom place in a far better neighborhood, complete with a garden courtyard, a garage, a roomy living room and the sense that, like the Jeffersons, I’m “moving on up.” Which is why it’s confusing that I feel so down.

Gone are the roaches, the fax machine at the foot of my bed, the tangle of electrical cords going into one pathetic, fire hazard-creating outlet. Gone are my fellow tenants, the Asian transsexual, the toothless building manager, the out-of-work actor who daily stuffed the outgoing mail box with manila envelopes containing his outdated picture and resume. Gone is the ice cream truck that seemed to pierce every moment of silence with “La Cucaracha.” Gone is the ghetto I had come to think of as home.

You would think this change would thrill me. My new place isn’t a palace, poised on the edge of Koreatown in an area I optimistically refer to as Hancock Park adjacent, but it’s the nicest place I’ve ever lived. Still, each day I wake up in my new digs feeling lost and out of place. It’s like eating an ice cream sundae but not tasting the hot fudge.

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