Arab to deliver Hebrew TV news, new ancient neighborhood discovered in Jerusalem, Hamas still wants


Arab to deliver Hebrew TV news

Lucy Aharish, an Israeli Arab graduate of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem who also underwent broadcast training in Germany, was hired recently by Channel 10 television as a news anchor. Aharish, 25, told Ma’ariv in an interview Monday that although she has experienced racism in Israel, she believes Arabs can overcome such challenges and succeed. Having barely survived an attack on her family car when she visited Gaza as a child, she also voiced disinterest in the Palestinians.

Aharish is the fourth generation of a Muslim family from Nazareth, but spent most of her life in the southern town of Dimona, where she celebrated Jewish festivals and served in Gadna, Israel’s paramilitary youth training program. “There is no doubt that the different experiences that I underwent caused an identity crisis, which developed for years,” she said. “But the truth is that I don’t regret for a moment that my parents raised me in a Jewish environment. They gave me the privilege to stand in the middle of the road and look at the whole picture. I am grateful for this.”

Livni: Hamas smells E.U. accommodation

Israel’s foreign minister accused Hamas of seeking to weaken the European stand on the Palestinian Authority’s policies. Tzipi Livni said during a visit to Canada late Monday that the governing P.A. faction, which has rejected Western demands that it moderate its views on Israel, hopes the European Union will accommodate its intransigence.

“Hamas is looking at Europe, and they want to see this kind of hesitation,” Livni told reporters. “When they sense this smell of hesitation, why should they change in the future?”

The European Union last week called on the new coalition government being formed by Hamas and the moderate faction Fatah to set a diplomatic platform that “reflects” the international community’s preconditions that the Palestinian Authority recognize Israel, renounce terrorism and accept past rapprochement efforts. Livni said this did not signify a change in the European attitude toward Hamas.

“If somebody thinks that Hamas, while not recognizing Israel, while using terror — not to create a Palestinian state but to demolish the Jewish one — can be partners to something, they are wrong,” Livni said.

Hamas reaffirms goal to ‘liberate Palestine’

“We will not betray promises we made to God to continue the path of Jihad and resistance until the liberation of Palestine, all of Palestine,” the governing Palestinian Authority faction said in a statement Monday.

The move, which could complicate Palestinian efforts to lift a Western aid embargo on the West Bank and Gaza Strip, came in reaction to a rare criticism of Hamas by al-Qaida’s deputy commander Ayman Zawahri. In a statement Sunday, Zawahri denounced Hamas for agreeing to share power with the more moderate Palestinian faction Fatah, calling this capitulation to Israel and the West.”Zawahri’s recent statements were wrong,” the Hamas statement said. “Resistance is our strategy. How and when? This depends on the reality at the time and our corresponding view of things.”

Ancient Jewish neighborhood discovered in Jerusalem

A network of Second Temple-era streets, homes and ritual mikvah baths were found recently in Jerusalem’s Arab district of Shuafat when municipal workers laid tracks for a light railway, Ma’ariv reported Tuesday. The Antiquities Authority estimated that the finds, which currently spread over an area of some 100 acres, date to a period after the Second Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans in 70 C.E. Evidence suggests the neighborhood was affluent and religiously observant.

“In the digs, many stone tools and caches of coins were discovered, including a rare gold coin with the image of the Emperor Trajan,” Antiquities Authority official Rahel Bar-Natan said.

Barnea to get Israel Prize

The Israel Prize Committee announced Tuesday that it would honor Yediot Achronot’s top political pundit, Nahum Barnea, for his career in journalism at this year’s Independence Day ceremonies.

“Barnea always makes sure to be close to the action, in places of social turmoil, in times of war or terror attacks, and even when his presence there puts his life at risk,” the Israel Prize judges wrote. Barnea, 63, is widely considered one of Israel’s most influential journalists.

Palestinians ready kosher produce

Palestinian farmers are reportedly preparing for a windfall from sales of produce to Israelis who observe the Jewish law that requires Jewish-owned land to lie fallow. The next Jewish year, 5768, is shmitta, meaning that it falls at the end of a seven-year cycle ordained by the Torah and in which religiously observant Israelis are formally barred from raising or harvesting fruits and vegetables. Some ultra-Orthodox groups in Israel have been in talks with Palestinian officials about obtaining produce from the Gaza Strip as an alternative, the Israeli newspaper Hatzofeh reported Monday. The meetings reportedly were facilitated by the Israeli military, which pledged to expedite the merchandise’s transport out of Gaza..”

Leo at the Wall spurs a fracas

Police tried to limit access to the Western Wall Plaza late Monday when actor Leonardo DiCaprio, on an Israel tour, paid his respects along with his Israeli girlfriend, model Bar Refaeli. Paparazzi surged forward and were rebuffed violently by DiCaprio’s bodyguards. Two of the guards were arrested for assault, police said. Earlier Monday, DiCaprio and Refaeli made an after-hours visit to Yad Vashem. The actor’s arrival in Israel has prompted a media frenzy that has been stoked by the glitzy couple’s camera shyness.

Israel fires ambassador who was found drunk and bound

Jerusalem sources said Monday that Tsuriel Raphaeli, its ambassador to El Salvador, has been recalled after El Savaldoran police a couple of weeks ago found him drunk, bound and wearing only bondage paraphernalia. Raphaeli had been expected back in Israel due to family issues, the political sources said. The Foreign Ministry had no immediate word on who would replace him.

Report: Rabin assassin expects child

Ma’ariv reported Tuesday that Yitzhak Rabin’s jailed assassin Yigal Amir, who is serving a life sentence, impregnated his wife, Larissa Trimbobler, during a recent conjugal visit. Amir was jailed for murdering the Israeli prime minister in 1995, but only last year did the Prisons Service fully recognize his marriage to Trimbobler, which was performed in a proxy ceremony. Amir’s family had no immediate comment on the Ma’ariv report.

Briefs courtesy Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

Jacob’s Ladders


Every neighborhood has its gathering places.

In my neighborhood, you'll find one if you head west on Pico Boulevard from Robertson Boulevard, past the ethnic aromas of the “center” hood and into the kosher Ice Blended Mochas of the “west” hood, where, right next to an Office Depot, The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf rules.

That's where you're likely to meet a young man named Jacob Katz. Jacob is a happy-go-lucky, kippah-wearing, 23-year-old Jew who mixes ice-blended coffee drinks and takes care of customers at the Coffee Bean. Talk about a neighborhood hangout. When Hillary Clinton wrote the book “It Takes a Village,” she could have started here.

Pop in to the sunny patio on any afternoon and you're likely to see Rabbi Yosef Kanefsky at a corner table giving a private Torah class; a Conservadox aspiring pop star who used to study in a Jerusalem seminary promoting her upcoming live show; a few perfectly coiffed frum supermoms taking a break from the carpooling; a couple of born-again Chasids from the Happy Minyan talking about a Jethro Tull concert; and a retired couple from Palm Springs making their weekly visit to their old neighborhood (“We bought a house on that street for $37,000. You know what it's worth now? I don't know why we got rid of it. Is that your daughter? How old is she? Hey, we have a granddaughter the same age.”).

Late afternoon, the patio gets invaded by YULA high-school students coming to unwind after a long day of Talmud, algebra and Shakespeare. The more eager students lay out their homework next to their lattes. The funny thing is, everyone seems to know Jacob.

You see, Jacob has a unique style and a unique voice. He has Down syndrome, so you have to listen carefully to get everything he says. In fact, to understand Jacob really well, you have to listen as well as he does.

Because Jacob Katz is a human sponge.

Ever since he was a child, he's had a talent for listening, and for absorbing everything around him. But as he got older, this talent morphed into something more universal: “I want this” and “I want that.” As his mother Frieda recalls, Jacob developed this unlimited capacity to want things.

It didn't matter what, Jacob wanted it: I want a computer, I want to learn how to drive, I want to listen to the Beatles, I want to go to college, I want to go to the movies. You name it — if it was cool, Jacob wanted it.

So one day, he looks up at one of the coolest places in Los Angeles, just a few blocks from his house, and he says, “I want to work at Coffee Bean.” And guess what? He gets the job.

Don't think it was a cake walk. He had to fill out a lengthy application, and after meeting with the store manager, he impressed him enough to get an interview with the district manager, a religious Christian woman named Jan. Obviously something clicked. She hired Jacob, and he started training that same week.

That was six months ago. Today, Jacob laughs all the way to the bank every two weeks to deposit his paycheck.

He laughs in other places, too. He laughs when he takes the bus twice a week to Santa Monica College, where he's learning all kinds of things, including how to type 30 words a minute without looking. From what I hear, Jacob's pretty well known around campus.

This week, Jacob is doing research on the Internet for a little dvar Torah he'll be giving at the Etta Israel Shabbaton at Beth Jacob Congregation. Etta Israel is the popular local organization that caters to kids with Down syndrome and other special needs, and it's where Jacob studied Judaism every Sunday for seven years.

Many years ago, Jacob's mother stood up at an Etta Israel dinner and said something that people still talk about. What she said was remarkably simple.

She said that all the things that Jacob did over the years — special classes, speech therapies, life skills training, etc. — were really important, but that one thing in his life was even more important: friendships.

Since he was very young, Jacob has been blessed with friends. Friends of his sister and three brothers are his friends, too. He has friends at Etta Israel, friends where he prays every morning (Young Israel of Century City), friends at the gym where he works out, friends all over the hood.

One reason he has so many friends is that he keeps in touch, and he doesn't ask for much. I love getting his calls: “Heyyy David, it's Jacob” is how he always starts, in his deep baritone voice. A little schmoozing, a few laughs, a few “I love yous,” and we're done. I think he gets a kick that the person at the other end of the line knows who he is.

At the neighborhood Coffee Bean, where he works four hours a day, four days a week, they definitely know who he is. Yet despite being so loved and having so many friends, guess what? Jacob wants more.

The other day, while sipping a pomegranate ice tea, and after singing his favorite Beatles tune (“Ticket to Ride”), he confided that there is one friend he still doesn't have — his lifetime soulmate. Like millions of single Jews, Jacob wants a great Jewish shidduch.

When you look at his track record with the things that he wants, and how single women in this town go crazy for Ice Blended Mochas, I wouldn't count him out.

David Suissa, an advertising executive, is founder of OLAM magazine and Meals4Israel.com. He can be reached at dsuissa@olam.org.

Live in the ‘hood: lingering Shabbat


I thought I understood the unique power of Shabbat, until I moved to the Pico-Robertson neighborhood a few months ago.

It’s not like I’m a novice on thesubject. For several years, in the late ’80s and early ’90s in Venice Beach, I was part of an eclectic band of yuppie frummies who made Shabbat a major happening (Shlomo Carlebach slept in my house!). And for more than a decade after that, in Pacific Palisades and in Beverly Hills, I participated in more than my fair share of Shabbatons, farbrengen tables, shiurims, melave malkas, you name it; we didn’t just do Shabbat, we invited everyone to celebrate along with us.

So how is it possible that moving to a heavily Jewish neighborhood could change my perception of this one day that I thought I knew so well?

It hit me indirectly on the day after Sukkot, when I was invited to the neighbors for the first post-sukkah holiday meal. Someone made the comment that it was sad to see the sukkah now, because the magic was gone, and someone else added that that was precisely the point — the sukkah was there to remind us of how transient life can be. Next year, the sukkah and its magic will come again, and it will go away again.

That, I realized, is pretty much how I’ve always seen Shabbat — as a magical celebration that comes and goes every week.

I can tell you that in this neighborhood, Shabbat does not just come and go every week. In fact, it never really goes away. It’s more like a state of mind, a way of life, an energy source.

You can probably imagine what the actual day of Shabbat looks like in this neighborhood. Time stops. A thousand strollers are out. On Pico Boulevard, shul goers walk with a sense of purpose to their respective shuls. Most of the stores are closed, and the car traffic is reduced, but you can still see that it’s a major thoroughfare.

I feel the Shabbat energy more in the residential part of the hood. From certain Shabbat tables (I was in one of them), you can see and greet neighbors walking by (more and more, I hear Ashkenazim say “Shabbat Shalom” and Sephardim say “Good Shabbos” — long live integration). Well-dressed families stroll along the quiet streets, adding a sense of dignity to the atmosphere. Kids play on the street, and on my block at least, most of the front doors stay open. Needless to say, the Shabbat feeling is everywhere.

But what I find especially revealing in this neighborhood is what happens after Shabbat — the way the Shabbat energy overflows into the regular week. I spend a lot of time here during the week, and much of what I see and feel is similar to what I see and feel on Shabbat. The special restrictions — like no driving — are gone, of course, but the peaceful nature of Shabbat is still very much present.

You can feel this quiet energy that encourages you to keep certain Shabbat rituals going. Who needs video games and TV during the week?Why not have a few more get-togethers? Why not spend more time with the kids, or do more reading and, learning like we love to do on Shabbat?

It’s a classic neighborhood dynamic. The people you eat, pray, learn and play with on Shabbat are often the same people you see everyday — in one of the local shops, at a Torah class or just on the street. So the Shabbat memories are always fresh; they “live” with you throughout the week.

This phenomenon — the lingering Shabbat — is very alive in my new neighborhood.

And it can have as much, if not more power, than the day of Shabbat itself. Many of the Shabbats I had in the Diaspora (Pacific Palisades) were actually more intense than the ones I have in the hood. But when Sundays rolled around, boy would you feel the exile. Here, when Sunday arrives, Shabbat still “carries” you; all the familiar “Shabbat faces” are still walking around the neighborhood, as they do throughout the week. The friendly glow of Shabbat does not easily fade.

Some people might find this lingering Shabbat suffocating, others comforting. I actually find it helpful, because I like to be reminded of the Shabbat way: peaceful, joyous, unplugged. During the week, these “Shabbat moments” keep me centered, and help me navigate the uncertainties of life.

Because the source of power for the lingering Shabbat is the day of Shabbat itself, the weekly rhythm is critical. You’re never more than a few days away from the big day. This anchors you. You celebrate some big ones — Passover, Sukkot, Rosh Hashanah, etc. — once a year, but thanks to Shabbat, your weekly source of power is always right around the corner. When you leave a holiday celebration, and you say “see you next year” instead of “see you next week,” that does not anchor you. It’s more likely to just blow you away (literally), like a Super Bowl or an Academy Awards show might, until you get blown away again next year.

Shabbat, the way I experience it in this neighborhood, doesn’t blow me away. It blows me in. I live it one day, then I feel it lingering around me all week long, and I better understand its elusive power.

To tell you the truth, I love the lingering Shabbat as much as I love Shabbat itself. I want more of it. I need more of it. I need the peacefulness that I taste on Shabbat to kick in on Wednesday morning, just before I’m tempted to yell at the kids because they’re late for school; or on Thursday afternoon, just before I’m tempted to say something that might hurt my mother’s feelings; or on Monday night, just before I plug in to the computer instead of plugging in to my kids.

The Kotzker Rebbe once explained that the commandment to keep the Shabbat also means that we should keep it with us at all times.Until I moved to the hood, I never totally understood what he meant.

David Suissa, an advertising executive, is the founder of OLAM magazine and Meals4Israel.com. He can be reached at davids@jewishjournal.com.

Jews Stick to Their Turf


Philosopher Martin Buber once wrote that Jews had a "vocation of uniqueness."

However much Jews may differ around the world, for most of their history, and in most places, they have always been somewhat apart from others in their attitudes, how they live and cope with changing conditions.

The most recent census data and a largely unreleased 1997 survey of roughly 2,000 L.A. Jewish households show that this is still the case, perhaps most particularly here in Los Angeles. By its nature, Los Angeles is a cauldron of ethnic change — a city increasingly Latin and Asian, with a high degree of racial intermixing. It is a city of protean geography that sprawls like a European nation state across a vast territory.

Conventional wisdom holds that the well-heeled population is spearheading this out-migration and that this sprawling out is continuing, particularly among the better-heeled population. By rights, Jews should be joining them; they are considerably wealthier, better educated and more likely to be homeowners than most Angelenos.

Yet, unlike most white Angelenos, or middle-class minorities, for that matter, Jews are sticking to their turf, not only in Los Angeles but in other key urban centers. Today’s Jewish population in L.A. County, unlike the white population, which dropped by over a million, actually grew slightly from 503,000 to around 520,000.

"Jews are more likely to move or stay in urban areas in places like Los Angeles, Chicago and Houston, "suggests demographer Bruce Phillips, who conducted the surveys. "Jews don’t seem to be following the dispersion pattern of whites. They seem to have urban values and stay in the core community."

Phillips, in fact, suggests that Jews in Los Angeles are even more urban-centric than their counterparts elsewhere. The reasons for this may vary. For one thing, Los Angeles has many areas — such as the San Fernando Valley and West Los Angeles — that are urban places but still offer what in the East may be considered a "suburban" quality of life. Brentwood or even Encino, let’s face it, offer more comforts than say Brooklyn or even Chicago’s Near Northside.

Perhaps most surprising, according to Phillips, there has not been a massive shift, as many have expected, of Jews to places like Orange County and the Conejo Valley. Sure, the populations have expanded there, but for the most part, the largest concentrations of Jews today are where they were a decade or two ago: in the Pico-Robertson area, the Westside and, largest of all, the San Fernando Valley, even though the populations of outlying areas in growing the percentage of the urban population has remained constant.

"Los Angeles is becoming the Jewish neighborhood of Southern California," Phillips said. "Jews in Los Angeles," he added, are usually "more Jewish," than those who move to the Inland Empire, Orange County or Ventura County. They tend to be less intermarried and more of their friends are Jewish.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that L.A. Jewry is going back to the old days of the Boyle Heights shtetl. The dispersion and integration that took place in the ’50s to the Westside and the Valley, Phillips suggested, is not being reversed. But the post-1970 geographical patterns seem to be solidifying. Today, more than 40 percent of Jewish households in Los Angeles are in the Valley while one-third are on the Westside. The Valley continues to register the biggest gains, while the population in the central city continues to shrink.

Culturally, think of it as three levels of Yiddishkayt. In the most heavily Jewish areas — Encino, Beverly Hills, Fairfax, Pico-Robertson — its heavy-duty ethnic identity. The percentage of households with mostly Jewish friends rises more than 60 percent while intermarriage stays at roughly 20 percent. The levels of temple affiliation are also the highest in these precincts.

In more mixed, but still Jewish areas like Valley Village, where I live, around 50 percent say most of their closest friends are Jewish, while half are intermarried. It’s not a guilded ghetto, but ethnicity has not been twinkie-ized.

In the High Desert, the Inland Empire, the Bay Cities and San Pedro, that’s where you have true melting pot Jews. As few as one in five has mostly Jewish friends and lower levels of affiliation are the norm. The intermarriage rate often reaches over 65 to 70 percent. Jews, on the whole, are simply less Jewish on the periphery, Phillips suggested.

But it is not just the geographic imperative that’s in play here. Other forces are at work. For one thing, the community, after becoming more native-born for generations, is once again becoming more dominated by people from elsewhere. According to Phillips, for example, roughly one in five L.A. Jews was born abroad, with the largest groupings from the former Soviet Union, Iran and Israel. When their children are added, some 45 percent of L.A. Jews have at least one foreign-born parent.

The immigrant influence is likely one force clearly changing L.A. Jewish culture. Many children of Israeli and Iranian Jews, for example, learn Hebrew, Farsi and Sephardic traditions that were relatively rare here a decade ago but are becoming part of Jewish life.

"They are really changing Los Angeles," suggested Steve Gold, a professor of sociology at the Michigan State University who has studied Israeli and Russian immigrants in Los Angeles extensively. "People of our generation [third generation, native born] don’t open up delis, run day-care systems, teach at day schools. They [the immigrants] are setting the cultural pattern."

But it’s not just language and tradition that’s changing, Gold said. Russians, Israelis and Iranians also have a vastly different political orientation than native-born Jews. "They are anti-communist and conservative," Gold said. "They don’t have the liberal traditions we have."

If this is true, they may well be contributing to another, much discussed possible movement of Jews toward more conservative politics. The survey conducted by Phillips, for example, found that Jews over 60 were dyed-in-the-wool Democrats — some 75 percent. But less than half of those under 40 shared that generally liberal party. Republicans, as rare among older Jews as elephants on Fairfax — roughly 6 percent — registered a respectable 25 percent among the under-40 crowd.

What do all these fascinating findings suggest about the future of L.A. Jews? Perhaps several things — an increasing influence of immigrants and their children and a generally more conservative political tone. But one thing is certain: Jews in Los Angeles will remain a unique population, and, most important of all, they are also likely to remain.


Joel Kotkin is a senior fellow with the Davenport Institute for Public Policy at Pepperdine University and the Milken Institute. He is currently writing a book on the history of cities for The Modern Library.

Couple Fights Harassment


"Be Careful," Jill Jacobson said.

An odd warning given to a reporter heading to the relatively safe neighborhood of West L.A., to investigate what might be a matter of bad neighbors, or a more noxious case of anti-Semitism. Jacobson’s accusations come at a time when anti-Semitism is flaring up around the world, and here at home — two teenage boys were attacked only last month in Beverlywood.

The trouble for Jacobson began last June, when her husband, Paul Dorman, moved in. Until then, Jacobson, an actress who has appeared regularly in such TV series as "Falcon Crest" and "Star Trek: Deep Space 9," had lived on the quiet cul-de-sac near Pico and Sepulveda boulevards for over seven years, mostly at peace with her neighbors.

Jacobson says she casually mentioned to next-door neighbor Ruben Haro that her new husband was a cantor at Sinai Temple. The harassment reportedly began soon after. Haro forbade the couple from parking their car on the part of the curb that adjoined his property, Jacobson says. Soon after, the taunting, the yelling and the videotaping began, according to the couple.

Across the street, Barbara Robbs lived with her grown children, one of whom had a criminal record and a violent past. Her son, Leonard Robbs, is now in jail for threatening the lives of Jacobson and Dorman. On Robbs’ front lawn, a sign reads "God bless my son Leonard aka Juice. He went to jail for the lie to the police of my Jewish neighbor."

Jacobson and Dorman have installed a security system and now keep a video camera by the door, which they take whenever they leave the house. They are afraid of their neighbors, and the tapes they have made show good reason to be.

What they have captured on the tapes reveals clearly that Haro and Robbs have a problem with their Jewish neighbors. Dorman’s camera has captured some disturbing incidents and documented the angry signs and pictures that clutter Robbs’ front lawn. Haro can be heard taunting Dorman with "Jew boy, Jew boy," followed by an unclear statement that Dorman claims is "Monster with the horns."

Barbara Robbs, standing in the street, complains loudly in a video that, "when I forget my god, dealing with you and your god, I have a problem." From her own front lawn, she appears on the video waving a copy of The Jewish Journal at the camera and yelling, "Satan in your church, in your synagogue."

On Sept. 1, 2001, while arguing about the patch of grass on city property between their homes, Haro sprayed Jacobson in the face with a garden hose. The incident was reported to police and classified as battery.

In January, the couple sought and won a restraining order against Leonard Robbs (who later went to jail in part for violating that order). In March, restraining orders were obtained covering Haro, other members of the Robbs family and a third neighbor.

Tensions continued to build until, in March, police returned to the cul-de-sac when a friend of Barbara Robbs reportedly swung a tire iron at the couple as they walked their dogs past Robbs’ home. The incident allegedly took place prior to the latest restraining orders.

Police have been called to the cul-de-sac many times, when Jacobson or Dorman feared their neighbors’ harassment would escalate to violence. Jacobson and Dorman themselves have also had a complaint filed against them. The same day as the reported tire iron incident, the Department of Animal Regulation served a notice to Jacobson and Dorman for their two dogs’ excessive barking. Barbara Robbs would later be cited by police for violating her restraining order by barking at Jacobson.

Though Jacobson and Dorman believe the harassment stems from anti-Semitism, it is not clear, either from the tapes or the police reports, that anti-Semitism is a motivating factor in the harassment, as much as a tool of harassment.

Police reports refer to "an ongoing neighbor dispute over property." Neither Haro nor the Robbs were available for comment.

After the reported incident with the tire iron, Jacobson and Dorman could no longer wait for the police to enforce the restraining orders. They called the FBI, and agents spent five hours at their home reviewing Dorman’s tapes and police reports.

"The FBI is making a determination" about a hate crimes prosecution, Dorman says. "[The neighbors] are clearly anti-Semitic and clearly harassing, but it’s a chicken or the egg question."

With the restraining orders reportedly not stopping the harassment, and fearing that the ambiguity of this neighborhood dispute as a hate crime will keep the police from effectively protecting them, Dorman and Jacobson are trying another tactic: They have filed a civil suit against their neighbors.

Their lawyer, Robert Canny, is seeking approximately $4.5 million in damages for emotional distress and punitive claims.

Though Dorman and Jacobson "just want this to go away," says Canny, they will stop the harassment through any channels they can.

"[The neighbors] own their houses. We want a levy on the houses," Canny says. "We’re gonna take their houses away if that’s what it takes."

After nearly a year feeling trapped in her home due to anti-Semitic taunting and threats, Jacobson still has trouble believing this is happening.

"You think it can never happen to you," she says, "then you find out it’s just sitting under the surface. Next door."

Home Is Where the Shul Is


When Sari and Jason Ciment decided it was time to move their two children out of their Pico-Robertson duplex and into a single-family house, they had one major requirement: to stay in the modern Orthodox Jewish neighborhood that boasts three synagogues within walking distance, and was home to their family and friends.

"We never considered moving out of the neighborhood," Jason Ciment said. For him, being able to walk to shul on Shabbat, and having a neighborhood filled with bakeries and other service shops made the neighborhood worth a premium price. But in an area where the cost for a single-family home is often well into the $400,000 range, the Ciments realized that finding their dream house wouldn’t be easy. Their solution? Tear down a dilapidated old structure and built a new house from scratch — a time-intensive but less costly way to stay in their coveted location.

"Buying, we would get half the space for the same money," Ciment said.

As Los Angeles housing prices continue their upward climb, members of Orthodox and Conservative communities, like the Ciments, are having a tougher time finding affordable houses to buy within walking distance of their synagogues — a must for observant Jews who don’t drive on Shabbat. But devout congregations may actually cause homes close to synagogues to have higher price tags because they offer the sought-after benefits of easy access to the community — making it harder for young families to buy in.

Those precious few miles around popular shuls in neighborhoods such as Hancock Park, North Hollywood, Carthay Circle and Carthay Square are not only hip for yuppies looking for a taste of Los Angeles’ urban lifestyle, but also offer religious Jewish families an established community filled with the benefits of kosher stores, schools and social services — helping to keep the flames of a hot housing market burning and leading some to tough choices between religion and real estate.

"A good house in [in Pico-Robertson and the Fairfax areas] can be sold in a week," said Rabbi Perry Netter of Temple Beth Am on La Cienega. "People want to live within walking distance, which of course increases the price of housing."

That’s a point that Larry Harris, a professor of finance at USC and a member of Beth Am, fully understands.

Harris recently moved his six-member family a mile closer to their temple in the Carthay Circle neighborhood, taking them from the "periphery of the Shabbat-walking community" to the heart of it. With four children between the ages of 2 and 9, it’s a relocation that he says has led to "significantly less bellyaching" from the kids on Saturday morning walks. The convenient location of their new house has also led to more invitations to Shabbat dinners and enabled the family to host more popular events themselves, Harris said. Those are all benefits that make the expensive neighborhood worthwhile.

"To participate fully in [an observant] community, you have to be geographically desirable. If you live too far away it doesn’t work," Harris said. But in Orthodox neighborhoods, "there’s limited amount of property available and a lot of people who want it," he adds.

High housing costs in Jewish neighborhoods can be attributed to far more than just religious affiliations, but Los Angeles’ Conservative and Orthodox hot spots boast price tags well above many less-religious areas. The median price for a Los Angeles county home in May 2001 was $232,710, according to the California Association of Realtors. Realtor.com puts the average house price in the Pico-Robertson area at $474,000. In Hancock Park, the average house price is "$700,000 and up," according to Coldwell Banker real estate agent Cecille Cohen — and that price will only earn a house on a busy street like Highland Avenue.

Cohen adds that while the "discovery" of areas such as Hancock Park by actors and other entertainment industry professionals has helped boost prices overall, the homes around synagogues "definitely" command a premium price from Jewish families.

"The people who don’t care about the Orthodox community, when they leave, they tend not be replaced by other people who don’t care," points out Harris. "So these neighborhoods become more and more Orthodox," and therefore more and more desirable for young devout families.

The impact of religious congregations on neighborhood housing prices isn’t unique to Los Angeles. "Whenever there is [an] Orthodox synagogue, the synagogue tends to attract permanent Jewish residents, and as they come in, the prices tend to go up," explains UC Berkeley anthropology professor Michel Laguerre, who recently completed "The Global Diasporic City," a book on religious communities in urban centers. He adds that any community with strict regulations — from Muslims to some sects of Christianity — can have the same effect.

Despite concerns over those high housing costs, Netter said Beth Am has added 250 families during his nine years at the shul and seen an explosion in the number of students at the synagogue’s school. Rabbi Daniel Korobkin, whose Hancock Park Yeshiva and Kehillat Yavneh are striving to attract young Modern Orthodox families to the area, agrees that synagogue membership isn’t suffering — their school has also seen strong growth, and he adds that typical services attract 75 to 100 people.

"It’s really difficult to say if [housing costs] are limiting growth," Netter said. He points out that young families are finding ways to stay close by pushing the community in new, less expensive directions of the mid-Wilshire area: "The neighborhood east of La Cienega has become full of young families that belong to Beth Am," he said. "Nine years ago [when he moved into the neighborhood], there were only two or three families." Now he estimates that number to be between 10 and 15.

Cohen agrees, pointing out that Hancock Park adjacent — an area east of La Brea and south of Third Street — offers houses in the $400,000 range and is growing in popularity as an alternative to Hancock Park proper.

Still, high housing costs have pushed some congregations to radical steps to ensure shul members aren’t forced out of the neighborhood. At Korobkin’s Yeshiva, a new loan program is in the works that would give modern Orthodox families trying to purchase their first home an interest-free down payment loan of up to $35,000 for 10 years, or until the house is sold.

While the loan asks that the recipients attend Yavneh’s services and send their children to their school, nothing is "written in blood," said Cohen, who helps facilitate the program.

But some families are choosing to move out of Los Angeles altogether, forging into areas of the San Fernando Valley such as Calabasas, Woodland Hills or Northridge. Cohen agrees that prices can be much less outside the city — a single-family home can often be found in the $300,000 range. However, he argues that "you get what you pay for," pointing out that areas such as Hancock Park offer more services, and often have the added benefits of shorter commute times and more cultural pursuits.

But for families like George and Julie Schaffer and their 6-month-old daughter Lily, the benefits of a Valley home far outweigh the merits of the city.

"It’s a great little pocket," said George Schaffer of their Woodland Hills neighborhood. "We’re close to temples, we have Jewish neighbors scattered around — if you want to go to music and plays and concerts we know where those are and we go to them. You wouldn’t get something like this in the city for what we paid."

What they paid was $365,000 for a 2,000-square-foot house with a pool, said Schaffer — a home that would easily have cost upwards of $700,000 in an area such as Beverlywood. Those kind of numbers create a powerful dilemma for cash-conscious buyers.

"We did consider the city," Schaffer admits, but adds that comparison shopping between the two areas quickly convinced them that the Valley offered a better quality of life.

While Orthodox and Conservative communities bear the brunt of high housing costs, other Jewish communities are also feeling the crunch. Rabbi Harold Shulweis of Valley Beth Shalom in Encino points out that high prices can make it hard to attract clergy in Southern California.

"If we get a rabbi who comes in, and we want him to live close to the shul, and the prices are exorbitant, you have to adjust their salary and perks. And therefore you have to find the money to pay for it," he points out.

Although housing prices have leveled off in the past few months, finding the money for a first home promises to remain a challenge in hot neighborhoods. But many locals take the cost of Los Angeles life in stride: "I’d be a fool not to worry," Netter said. "But the market is the market."

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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