U.N. Asks Israel to Stop Making Nukes
A U.N. commission recommended that Israel refrain from manufacturing any more nuclear weapons as a step to a nuclear-free Middle East. The United Nation’s Weapons of Mass Destruction Commission, chaired by weapons inspector Hans Blix, released its 60 recommendations on Monday. Regarding the Middle East, Blix recommended that most nations commit to not possessing any nuclear weapons. However, with Israel he recommended only that it commit to not manufacturing any more weapons. Israel is highly unlikely to agree to dismantle the 200 warheads it is believed to possess as the region’s sole nuclear power. Israel’s agreement would be a start, Blix said.
State Dept. Blasts Israel for Human Trafficking
Israel is on a U.S. State Department watch list of nations that fail to effectively prevent human trafficking. Israel was classified as being on the Tier Two watch list in the report released Monday. Tier Three is the worst classification, reserved for countries that fail to comply with minimum U.S. standards. Israeli law enforcement has made strides in cracking down on sex trafficking, the report said, but the same was not true of labor trafficking and “the estimated thousands of victims of forced labor were not provided with protection.” It described fees demanded of laborers ranging from $1,000 to $10,000, “a practice that often leads to debt bondage and makes these workers highly vulnerable to forced labor once in Israel,” it said.
FDA Approves Israeli Parkinson’s Drug
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently approved an Israeli drug that treats Parkinson’s, a chronic disease characterized by uncontrolled shaking and muscle stiffness. Marketed under the name Azilect, this is the first once-daily oral treatment for Parkinson’s to be distributed in the United States; it was developed by Technion professors Moussa Youdim and John Finberg and is being manufactured by Tel Aviv-based generic pharmaceutical giant Teva. The drug is expected to become available by prescription in the United States by July or August.
While not a cure, the drug slows the progression of the disease. Azilect works by blocking the breakdown of dopamine, which tells the body how and when to move.
Parkinson’s currently affects 1 million people in the United States.
“This is a welcome development for the more than 50,000 Americans who are each year diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, ” said Dr. Steven Galson, director of the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. “Parkinson’s is a relentless disease with limited treatment options, and each new therapy is an important addition to the physicians’ treatment options.”
However, the FDA is warning that the drug could carry an increased risk of hypertensive crisis — a precursor to a stroke — if taken with tyramine-rich foods (cheese, chocolate, red wine), dietary supplements or cough/cold medicines. — Adam Wills, Associate Editor
Nazi Papers Declassified
The U.S. government declassified more than 8 million pages of files related to Nazi war crimes. The material including documents relating to the CIA’s employment of suspected Nazi war criminals after World War II. The members of the government’s Interagency Working Group said at a news conference Tuesday that the revelations pointed to the dangers of working with war criminals, as the United States did after World War II. Among other revelations, the papers show that former Nazis employed by the United States were more susceptible to recruitment as double agents by the Soviet Union. Additionally, the papers show that the United States had a strong lead on the whereabouts of Adolf Eichmann in 1958, but did not pursue it because of fears that his capture would expose the Nazi past of high-ranking officials in the West German government, which was allied with the United States.
Trump Fires Jewish Contestant
An observant Jew failed in his bid to become Donald Trump’s next apprentice. Lee Bienstock was fired Monday on the season finale of “The Apprentice.” Bienstock and another Jewish contestant, New Jersey’s Dan Brody, observed Rosh Hashanah together early in the season missing the third episode’s task but only Bienstock, who grew up in the New York area, stayed in the show long enough to observe Yom Kippur, missing another task.
Briefs courtesy Jewish Telegraphic Agency.
Ambulances Services Seal Deal
Israeli and Palestinian ambulance services signed an agreement they hope will ease Israel’s accession to the Red Cross and Red Crescent movement. Under Monday’s pact signed between Magen David Adom and the Palestinian Red Crescent in Geneva, Palestinian ambulances are guaranteed speedier passage through West Bank checkpoints. The move is seen as key to mollifying Arab signatories to the 1949 Geneva Conventions who might otherwise have voted against a resolution, to be discussed next week, that would introduce a nondenominational red diamond emblem to the Red Cross and Red Crescent movement, as Muslim states refuse to recognize the red Star of David. Swiss officials voiced confidence that the resolution would pass votes Dec. 5 and 6.
Kadima for Palestinian State
Ariel Sharon’s new political party accepts that a Palestinian state will arise alongside Israel. The Kadima party platform, published Monday, calls for “maximum security and assuring that Israel be a Jewish national home and that another state that shall arise be demilitarized, with terrorists disarmed.” The Israeli prime minister long opposed the idea of a Palestinian state before accepting it in recent years. Addressing members of his new faction in the Knesset, Sharon said he would not rule out a future coalition with his former party, Likud, even if it is led by his right-wing rival Benjamin Netanyahu.
“I favor achieving the broadest possible unity,” Sharon said.
Israel, Germany in Holocaust Grave Probe
Israel is helping German police identify the recently discovered remains of 34 Holocaust victims. The skeletons were uncovered last September in a suburb of Stuttgart that was formerly the site of the Echterdingen concentration camp. German authorities, who have a manifest of the camp’s inmates, turned to Israel for help in identifying the bodies. Yad Vashem said Sunday it would search its Holocaust archive for information that could be of use.
“This is a very rare case a mass grave with a relatively small number of bodies, accompanied by an orderly list of Jewish prisoners who were kept there at the time,” said Nadia Cohen of Yad Vashem’s information department. “All of this allows us to turn to our database in hope of identifying some of those buried there.”
Mubarak Calls Sharon Peacemaker
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak said only Ariel Sharon can bring peace between Israel and the Palestinians.
“Sharon, of all the Israeli politicians, is the only one capable of achieving peace with the Palestinians,” Mubarak said last weekend in an interview with Spain’s ABC newspaper. “He has the ability to take difficult decisions, commit to what he says and carry it out.”
Mubarak praised Sharon’s decision last week to quit the Likud party.
“I think Sharon is serious in his efforts to achieve peace. The recent progress in Israel confirms this. He has left his own party to build another more centrist one, driven by his discontent with the rigid attitudes of his party on the peace process,” he said.
Asked about Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ failure to crack down on terrorist groups as required by the U.S.-led “road map” for peace, Mubarak counseled a wait-and-see attitude.
“You can’t demand now that the Palestinians disarm Hamas; it would complicate the situation,” he said. “The president is working seriously to stop the anarchy but he must be given time.”
Russian Bill Causes Alarm
Some Russian Jewish activists voiced concern that a new Russian bill on nonprofit organizations would harm Jewish groups. The bill that passed the Russian Duma on Nov. 23 would place nonprofits under greater state scrutiny. The measure could also prevent foreign nonprofits from operating branches in the country and force Russian nonprofits to reject money from abroad.
“The bill will make our life so much harder. We don’t know yet how we would operate,” said a top manager — who spoke anonymously — for a private Moscow nonprofit organization that spends most of its foreign donation money on Jewish projects.
The bill now requires two more readings in the parliament, expected to take place by the end of the year, before President Vladimir Putin can sign it into law. The lion’s share of the funding currently spent on Jewish causes in Russia comes from overseas charity sources.
Briefs courtesy Jewish Telegraphic Agency.
Rabbis Against Reserves
Fifty Israeli rabbis opposed to the planned Gaza Strip pullout called on army reservists not to turn up for duty.
“The criminal expulsion mission, which the Israeli government has imposed on the army, makes any service in aid of this crime a serious sin,” the rabbis, most of whom are West Bank and Gaza Strip settlers, said in an edict published during the weekend before Shavuot. Israel plans to enlist thousands of reservists to replace conscripts to conduct the evacuation of Gaza’s 21 settlements and another four from the West Bank beginning in August. Sounding a contrary opinion, former Sephardi Chief Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu last week called for Israeli troops to obey the evacuation orders.
Settlers Sue Soldiers
Anti-pullout activists sued two Israeli army commanders over the evacuation of an illegal West Bank settler outpost. In an unprecedented move, the activists traveled to the homes of deputy IDF Chief of Staff Maj.-Gen. Moshe Kaplinski and Samaria’s commander, Col. Yuval Bazak, last week to serve them with a civil suit demanding $70,000 in damages. Israeli media reports on Sunday said that the suit rejected by the officers accused them of wantonly destroying the Givat Shalhevet outpost outside Nablus in January. The incident highlighted fears that opponents of the Gaza withdrawal could personally attack Israeli officials. Also, two settlers were detained after a struggle on Friday at the Tapuah checkpoint in which the pair fought with soldiers who had ordered them to stop putting up anti-pullout banners on security barriers, the Jerusalem Post reported.
Disarmament Demand Flouted
A Palestinian Authority minister said terrorists in the West Bank and Gaza will not be disarmed before Israel withdraws.
“The disarming of armed factions is not on the table because weapons are legal as long as the occupation exists,” Nasser al-Kidwa said in a Palestinian television interview, according to a transcript released Saturday. “Possession of weapons is a strategic issue as long as there is occupation.”
Israel condemned the declaration as flouting a demand in the U.S.-led peace “road map” for terrorist groups to be disarmed and dismantled as a prerequisite for talks on Palestinian statehood.
“We should make clear that there will be no talks on a Palestinian state unless the terrorists are disarmed,” Deputy Defense Minister Ze’ev Boim told Israel Radio on Sunday.
Ukraine, Jews Discuss Restitution
Ukrainian President Viktor Yuschenko met with Jewish groups to explore setting up a process for the restitution of Jewish communal properties confiscated during the Soviet era. A formal process, either via a commission or law, will speed the return of properties more than case-by-case discussions, said Mark Levin, executive director of NCSJ: Advocates on Behalf of Jews in Russia, Ukraine, the Baltic States & Eurasia. During the meeting last Friday, which included the U.S. ambassador to the Ukraine and Josef Zissels, head of the Va’ad of Ukraine, an umbrella group, Yuschenko reiterated his call for support in getting the 1974 Jackson-Vanik Agreement by the U.S. Congress lifted. The Jewish groups voiced a willingness to help Ukraine “graduate” from the agreement, which links trade restrictions to Ukraine’s treatment of Jews, once progress is made on restitution.
Fridman Gets Medal Back
An Israeli Olympic champion retrieved his stolen gold medal. Gal Fridman, a windsurfer who triumphed at the 2004 Athens Games, had his medal stolen from his parents’ home last week. He was told by police Saturday that the medal had been found in a forest in central Israel. He told Israeli media that the culprit probably decided to abandon the medal after realizing they could not sell it, given the public outcry over its theft. There was no sign of the rest of the booty from the burglary, including jewelry belonging to Fridman’s mother and a handgun belonging to his father.
‘Sir Jonathan’ Leads UK Jewry
Queen Elizabeth, marking her 79th birthday, bestowed the vaunted “Sir” title on Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, Britain’s chief rabbi, on Saturday in recognition of his services to the Jewish community and interfaith relations.
“This is an honor not just for me but for the Jewish community and its contributions to British life, as well as for the continuing inspiration of Jewish teachings,” Sacks, who has served as chief rabbi since 1991, said in a statement. “I hope it encourages further progress in good relations between the faiths.”
Also knighted was Iqbal Sacranie, head of the Muslim Council of Britain.
Orthodox Site Becomes Orange
A Chabad-Lubavitch news site has adopted an orange color scheme to protest the Israeli government’s Gaza withdrawal plan.
“I’m sitting here in Brooklyn, N.Y.,” Shmais.com’s CEO and founder, Levi Hodakov, told JTA, “and I’m really feeling for the Jews in Gaza here.”
Hodakov said the initiative aims to send a message to his readers to oppose the withdrawal and to inspire them to pray and learn on the Gaza Jews’ behalf.
“Every little bit counts,” he said.
Beatification of Priest Delayed
The beatification of a French priest has been postponed due to concerns over his anti-Semitic writings. The beatification of Leon Dehon was signed off on by the late Pope John Paul II, but his successor, Benedict XVI, is having Dehon’s file re-examined. Dehon, who died in 1925, was the founder of the order of priests of Sacre C’ur. Among Dehon’s anti-Semitic statements: Jews should wear a “special garment” identifying them as Jews and be “consigned to the ghettos.” According to Dehon, “anti-Semitism is a sign of hope.” French historian Jean-Dominique Durand alerted the French episcopate to the writings in February. The interruption of a beatification is extremely rare; halting the process for Dehon at this stage might be unique in Catholic history, because once a candidate’s “miracles” have been recognized, only the death of a pope can stop the process.
Tree Grows After 2,000 Years
Using a seed found in the Masada fortress, Israeli scientists have sprouted an ancient date palm tree. The date palm, which is praised in Jewish and Islamic writing, once grew throughout Israel but disappeared over the centuries. The date palms in modern Israeli agriculture are descendants of a different line of trees from other parts of the Mideast. Dr. Elaine Solowey, of the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies, grew the plant, which a New York Times article says dates back approximately 1,990 years, according to DNA testing.
D.C. Envoy Apparently to Stay
Israel’s ambassador to Washington apparently has received assurances from Ariel Sharon that he can continue in his post. Daniel Ayalon has been engaged in a public feud with Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom, and some media reported over the weekend that Ayalon had been fired, but sources tell JTA that the Israeli prime minister told Ayalon he was satisfied with his work and wanted him to continue until the end of his term. Ayalon reportedly was unable to secure a White House meeting for Shalom when he came to Washington earlier this year, and his assistant could not coordinate a meeting for Shalom’s wife with Madonna when the singer was in Israel last year. Israel’s U.S. ambassador reports directly to the prime minister, not the foreign minister, which has strained relations between Ayalon and Shalom. The Israeli Embassy in Washington declined to comment on the issue.
Court: Rabbi Can Sue
A San Francisco rabbi can sue a former president of the city’s Jewish Community Federation for defamation, a court ruled. Overturning the ruling of a trial judge, members of the First District Court of Appeal said Rabbi Pinchas Lipner can sue Richard Goldman for allegedly defamatory comments made in a documentary on Jewish philanthropy in the Bay Area, the Daily Journal reported. In the oral history, Goldman reportedly criticizes Lipner’s treatment of students and says the school he runs, the Hebrew Academy of San Francisco, is a financial drain on the Jewish community. In another portion of the interview, the Journal reports, Goldman compares Lipner to Hitler. Lipner’s lawyer said the comparison was especially painful because Lipner lost family in the Holocaust. The lower court had ruled that Lipner could not sue because of a statute of imitations. However, the appellate court said that because the interview was stored in a library for eight years before Lipner found out about it, it falls under the category of delayed discovery, allowing him to sue.
A new law prevents insurers in Washington state from life insurance discrimination due to travel. The issue is of concern to the Jewish community because some insurers were denying insurance based on past travel to countries on the State Department’s travel warning list, including Israel. Washington joins New York and Illinois in enacting such legislation.
The leader of the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts came out against proposals to divest from Israel. Bishop M. Thomas Shaw, head of the 80,000-member diocese, which includes 194 churches in eastern Massachusetts, made the comments in a statement for two members of the diocese who, together with the American Jewish Committee (AJ Committee), are planning an Israel trip for church members in January 2006. James Kaufman, president of the AJCommittee’s Greater Boston chapter, praised Shaw’s “bold decision,” which he said followed 18 months of “often intense dialogue with the leaders of the Boston Episcopal community.”
The statement comes as several U.S. Protestant denominations, troubled by what they perceive as Israeli mistreatment of the Palestinians, consider calls to sell holdings in companies that do business with the Jewish state. Kaufman said he hoped “other religious communal leaders who have considered the legitimacy of divestment will follow” Shaw’s lead.
Testifying in Tampa
Scores of Israelis are expected to testify at the Florida trial of alleged Islamic Jihad bank-rollers. Ha’aretz said Wednesday that the U.S. Department of Justice, in a precedent-setting step, would fly out as many as 100 Israeli terror victims and experts to next month’s trial in Tampa of University of South Florida computer engineering professor Sami al-Arian and three alleged accomplices. The defendants are accused of using U.S.-based Islamic and pro-Palestinian charities to raise funds that helped terrorists from the West Bank and Gaza Strip carry out attacks that killed dozens of people, including Americans.
Israel Seeks TV ‘Bachelor’
An Israeli cable TV station is seeking the perfect bachelor for a reality show. The station has begun a worldwide search for a foreign Jewish bachelor who wants an Israeli bride, the Israeli daily Yediot Achronot reported. The bachelor must be between 24 and 38, handsome, educated and financially secure. Auditions will take place in coming weeks in New York, Los Angeles and a European city. Candidates can be nominated at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Briefs courtesy Jewish Telegraphic Agency
Yellow Star’s Powerful Makeover
The dreaded yellow Star of David, which the Nazis forced Jews to wear as a badge of humiliation, is getting a makeover.
In an interesting twist, two Jewish activists hope to denude the yellow star of its anti-Jewish connotations and make it a symbol of pride. Dr. Joel Geiderman, a board member of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, and University of Judaism professor Michael Berenbaum, former project director for the museum, have manufactured 5,000 yellow-and-white Star of David pins with the Hebrew word Shoah emblazoned across them. The Southern California residents want Jews and non-Jews to don the pins on Yom HaShoah, the day of remembrance for Holocaust victims — which started at sundown on May 5 — to make a statement of solidarity with those who perished and suffered. “We’re claiming the symbol and infusing it with pride and not shame or stigmatization,” Berenbaum said.
The pair eventually hope to create a nonprofit foundation to promote and raise money for large-scale manufacturing and distribution of the pins, which they hope will generate discussion about the victims of the Holocaust. Contributions of about $6,000 in seed money underwrote the first batch of pins, they said.
For Geiderman, a professor at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, the pins serve as sort of a tribute to his late mother, who passed away less than two years ago. A Czech Jew, she survived three concentration camps, including Auschwitz. Geiderman said his maternal grandparents and two uncles weren’t as lucky.
“My mother is a Holocaust survivor, and I think this is something I can do to help make sure people never forget what happened and to memorialize the victims,” he said.
For more information, e-mail Geiderman at email@example.com. — Marc Ballon, Senior Writer
LAPD, ADL Investigate Hate Mail
The Los Angeles Police Department, FBI and U.S. Postal Inspection Service are investigating a series of hate mail sent to Southland Jews. A number of large manila envelopes that appear to have been mailed out randomly to Jewish institutions, such as Studio City’s Congregation Beth Meir and Temple Shalom in Ontario, and home addresses of people with traditionally Jewish last names. On the front and back of the stamped envelopes were racist and anti-Semitic statements such as, “Jew Murderers,” and “Die Jews, Die.”
A retired local government employee in Sherman Oaks said the envelope he received earlier this month had the words, “Jewish child molester” and “The only good Jew is a dead Jew” written on the envelope. The man, who asked to remain anonymous, told The Journal that he did not open the envelope but instead gave it to the LAPD.
Similarly, a retired Westside teacher received a manila envelope more than a month ago with the words, “Jew Killers” written in large letters on the outside.
“I sent it to ADL,” said the woman, who also asked to remain anonymous. “I never opened it.”
The mailings seemed to have died down since the ADL’s press release last month.
“We’ve only had a handful more complaints,” said Amanda Susskind, ADL’s Pacific Southwest regional director. “It’s possible that this particular kind of thing had run its course.”
Those who received the envelopes said the writings did contain a specific threat to them. Police confirmed they are investigating the mailings but that the investigation is in its middle stage and that no arrests have been made. There are also questions as to whether mailing out anti-Semitic mail is a crime.
“You have a right to hate as long as you don’t harm anyone,” said former federal prosecutor Laurie Levenson, a Loyola Law School professor. “You have to make an actual threat…. This may be a hate incident, but not a h ate crime.” — David Finnigan, Contributing Writer
Milken Crowns Its ‘Idol’
And the new idol is … David Ashkenazi! Well, at least at Milken Community High School, and at least in the “Milken Idol” public-speaking competition. The contest for ninth- through 12-graders was designed to help students develop the critical skill of public speaking and feel more comfortable in front of large audiences, according to Richard Greene, Milken speech coach.
The students wrote and delivered
90-second speeches, ranging from Ashkenazi’s interpretation of “Never Again” and applying that lesson to the situation in Sudan, to how teachers and parents should value youngsters’ individuality and soul, not just the grades on their math tests.
The other winners were: Chanel Halimi (second place), Lena August (third place) and Jeremy Ullman and Adam Handwerker (tied for fourth place).
For more information on Milken go to www.milken.
Temple Museum Marks 350 Years of Jews in America
A Rancho Palos Verdes congregation has built a museum inside its temple to celebrate 350 years of Jewish life in America. The exhibit at Congregation Ner Tamid covers various topics related to Jewish life, ranging from early immigration, intolerance and work in trades to information about famous Jews in politics, the military, entertainment and sports.
This tapestry of experience is conveyed with timelines, maps, posters, artifacts, personal histories, art and the original signatures of luminaries. The Celebrate 350 Museum highlights the significant impact that Jews had on the formation and development of the United States.
Since opening its doors in January, the museum has hosted students, church groups, librarians and community volunteers from throughout the Los Angeles area. Docent-led tours are available by appointment. The exhibit is open for self-guided tours Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Visitors should call ahead.
Rabbi Jerry Danzig and temple leaders also have organized numerous educational events to commemorate “Celebrate 350.” On Friday, April 15, at 8 p.m., Dr. Max Novak, UCLA professor emeritus, will lead a discussion on the “Impact of Jewish American Writers on American Literature.”
The free event is open to the public, and no reservation is required.
All events take place at Congregation Ner Tamid, 5721 Crestridge Road., Rancho Palos Verdes, (310) 377-6986. — Julie M. Brown, Contributing Writer
Palestinian Funding Raises Capitol Hill Concern
Israel and the United States need “serious transparency” from the new Palestinian leadership to achieve long-term peace, Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.) told the Republican Jewish Coalition of Southern California on March 20 at the Museum of Tolerance.
Cantor added that congressional leaders are concerned about Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s promotion of increased funding for infrastructure in Palestinian-controlled territory. There’s concern on Capitol Hill, he said, that such funds would indirectly be funneled to Palestinian terrorist groups.
“That money to the Palestinians is very, very troubling to me,” Cantor said. “God forbid they use it to fund terrorism again.”
This possibility also has raised concerns about Israel’s plan to withdraw from occupied territory in the Gaza strip.
“That does tend to color how members of Congress look at disengagement,” he said.
Cantor, the chief deputy majority whip, also spoke earlier that day to about 100 Republican Jewish Coalition members at Newport Beach’s Sutton Place Hotel. The Jewish congressman was slated to speak in person at both events, but instead stayed in Washington because of emergency legislation related to removal of life support for Terry Schiavo, the brain-damaged Florida woman.
Cantor spoke via an Internet video hookup for the Museum of Tolerance event and by audio hookup for the Newport Beach gathering. — David Finnigan, Contributing Writer
Waxman Sees Iran Danger
Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Los Angeles) called Iran a ticking time bomb at a recent event at the Nessah synagogue in Beverly Hills.
“We do have a ticking time bomb,” Waxman said of Iran during his 45-minute speech before an audience of Iranian Jews. “Those terrorists want to create a theocracy.”
Waxman has been a persistent critic of President Bush, but he praised the president’s European trip as a positive gesture toward key European allies and his statements in support of reformers in Iran.
“Those overtures are important to reach out directly to the Iranian people,” he said.
Separately, Waxman spoke optimistically about changes in Palestinian leadership, but also said that a broad, deep psychological shift must occur among Palestinians if peace is to be achieved.
“The real dilemma is that Palestinians have never made clear they’re willing to live with a Jewish country,” Waxman said. “In this world, there has to be one Jewish country, and they have to accept that fact.”
“There’s no easy solution,” he added. “We don’t have the world with us at this point. There’s going to have to be a period of time of confidence building.” — DF
Passover, Festival of Books Converge
This year, the People of the Book will miss out on the largest book festival in town, the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books. Passover starts at sundown on Saturday, April 23. The festival, which takes place annually on the last weekend of April, falls on the April 23-24. While Sabbath-observant Jews have always been limited to attending the second day of the festival, this year Sunday coincides with the first day of Passover. The holiday would preclude participating in such an activity. Other people who might consider attending may be busy preparing for seders both nights.
Mike Lange, communications director for the Los Angeles Times, said that when organizers became aware of the conflict and looked into changing the date, UCLA was already booked with other events.
Asked if he had any thoughts about how the holiday might affect attendance, Lange replied, “No. We think there’s plenty of activities and we’ll just see.”
He said he was not aware whether exhibitor or author participation was affected and noted that measures were taken to insure that future festivals will have no such conflict.
Last year’s Jewish exhibitors included The Jewish Federation’s Koreh L.A. program, The Jewish Journal (which is not participating this year) and the Skirball Cultural Center. – Nancy Sokoler Steiner, Contributing Writer
Dovish Beilin ‘Not So Lonely’
Dr. Yossi Beilin, who at the height of the intifada was often labeled by the Israeli media as a “lone dove,” doesn’t feel so lonely anymore.
Over the last decade or so, the debate pitting “hawkish” Greater Israel advocates against two-state-solution “doves” has changed to broad acceptance of a Palestinian state, with the current discussion centering on the precise terms for a compromise, Beilin told the Los Angeles World Affairs Council March 2.
While Israel’s “57-year struggle for normalization” is not yet over, Beilin, the chief architect of the Oslo and Geneva accords with the Palestinians, expressed considerable confidence in Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, formerly his chief partner in the Oslo talks.
During his address at the Beverly Hills Hotel and in fielding questions from an audience of close to 300, Beilin said that Abbas, in seeking to control Palestinian extremists, “is pushing the envelope, testing the waters, and expanding his maneuvering room.”
Beilin, a cabinet minister in previous Labor governments, credited Abbas with putting an end to Palestinian media incitement against Israel, firing his top security officers for failing to prevent attacks against Israel, and for being the first Palestinian leader to describe suicide bombers as “terrorists.”
A long-time ideological opponent of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, Beilin was relatively muted in his criticism. However, “by saying that there can be no peace process while there are terrorist acts, Sharon has given a gift [of stopping the peace process at will] to terrorists,” Beilin said.
Responding to questions, Beilin said he did not think there would be a civil war among Palestinian factions, to the benefit of Israel, because “there is always a spillover from a civil war.”
As to the refugee problem, Beilin said that while Jordan had taken steps to integrate its Palestinian population, the main difficulty was represented by Lebanon’s 200,000 unassimilated Palestinian refugees.
The immediate task of the Bush administration is to push its “road map” for peace, by setting deadlines for each step along the way, while in the long run the United States must act as the “referee” between Israel and the Palestinians, Beilin said.
Beilin, who was born three weeks after the State of Israel was established,
was asked whether he could have been more effective by staying in the Labor Party.
“I couldn’t accept Labor joining the Sharon government,” he replied. “I can accept supporting Sharon on specific points, but not in sharing the responsibility for governing,” he said.
Beilin currently holds no government post, but is chairman of the Yachad Party, which has six votes in the Knesset. – Tom Tugend, Contributing Editor
Jews up Sudan Effort
Jewish groups will launch an educational program for at-risk Sudanese children. The program will take place in Chad, home to more than 200,000 people made refugees by Janjaweed terrorists backed by the Sudanese government. The $100,000 program is funded through a grant to the Jewish Coalition for Sudan Relief by the American Jewish World Service, the State of Israel, the UJA-Federation of New York, Union of Reform Judaism and United Jewish Communities of Metrowest, N.J.
Israeli Coalition Close
Ariel Sharon hopes to unveil Israel’s new government next week. Political sources said Monday that talks between the Israeli prime minister’s Likud Party and the influential Orthodox party Shas were close to fruition and that a new, broad coalition would be in place within a week. The main opposition Labor Party already is on board, though it remains unclear how many Cabinet portfolios it will get. Media reports said Sharon had wooed Shas by vowing to undo anti-religious legislation pursued by his former coalition partner, the secularist Shinui Party. Another religious party, United Torah Judaism, may also join the government in a bid by Sharon to offset Labor’s bargaining power.
Prisoner Release Seen
Israel plans to release dozens of Palestinian security prisoners. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s Cabinet decided Sunday to create a ministerial committee that would decide which prisoners will go free and when, on condition none is serving time for terrorist attacks that killed Israelis. Jerusalem officials said the move was part of an agreement with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak under which Azzam Azzam, an Israeli accused of espionage, was granted early release from a Cairo prison last week.
Doctors Strike for Safety
Israeli doctors went on a one-day strike to protest a wave of attacks on hospital staff. Sunday’s action was declared after relatives of an elderly patient at a Tel Aviv hospital set upon and moderately injured her doctor last week. Authorities also have reported 47 attacks on Magen David Adom ambulance crews over the past year. Under the strike, only emergency care was provided at the nation’s hospitals. Health Minister Danny Naveh vowed to undertake legislation toughening laws against violence in medical institutions.
Study: Immigrants an Asset
A new study found that recent North American immigrants to Israel are a major economic asset to the Jewish state. Each adult North American immigrant represents about $200,000 in value to the Israeli economy upon his or her arrival, according to a study commissioned by Nefesh & Nefesh, a grassroots organization that encourages North American aliyah. The findings of the report and the announcement that almost 3,000 North American Jews immigrated to Israel in 2004 a 20 percent increase from last year – were presented at a news conference Tuesday sponsored by Nefesh & Nefesh and the Jewish Agency for Israel, which works with the private group.
Jewish Music Gets Grammy Nods
A Jewish music organization received two Grammy nominations. The Milken Archive of American Jewish Music received nods in the best small-ensemble performance category for its “Wyner: The Mirror; Passover Offering, Tants un Maysele;” and for David Frost for classical producer of the year, for five Milken CDs: “Adolphe: Ladino Songs;” “Brubeck: Gates of Justice;” “Genesis Suite;” “Jewish Operas Vol. 1;” and “Wyner: The Mirror; Passover Offering, Tants un Maysele.” The Milken Archive began releasing music in 2003.
French Ban Hezbollah Station
A French court ordered a satellite company to cease broadcasts from Hezbollah’s TV station. In its decision Monday, the Council of State, France’s highest administrative court, gave the Eutelstat satellite provider 48 hours to end the broadcasts. Failure to do so would result in a fine of around $6,500 for every day the channel continues to broadcast. Eutelstat hosts the channel, which broadcasts throughout the 25-member European Union. Among various claims in recent Al-Manar programs was the accusation that Jews spread AIDS in Arab countries. In the ruling, the court said that Al-Manar programs “fall within a militant perspective which includes anti-Semitic connotations.”
The American Jewish Committee recently wrote to U.S. Treasury Secretary John Snow asking that Al-Manar be banned in the United States under existing counterterrorism legislation or by executive order.
Jews Take Sides on Commandments Case
Several Jewish groups are taking sides on a pending case at the U.S. Supreme Court on the public display of the Ten Commandments. A coalition of Jewish groups filed an amicus brief Monday on the case, Van Orden v. Perry, which involves a granite monument on the Texas State Capitol grounds. The brief suggests the monument violates the separation of church and state and shows an “unacceptable preference for Judeo-Christian faiths.” The brief is authored by the American Jewish Congress and signed by the American Jewish Committee, Central Conference of American Rabbis, Union of Reform Judaism, Americans for Religious Liberty and the Jewish Council for Public Affairs. A separate brief submitted Monday by the Anti-Defamation League also asks the court to rule the commandments are unconstitutional; Hadassah also weighed in. The National Jewish Commission on Law and Public Affairs, which represents the Orthodox Union and Agudath Israel of America, is expected to file a brief in the near future supporting the display as constitutional and endorsing its religious pronouncements.
Briefs courtesy Jewish Telegraphic Agency.
Weller Pleads Not Guilty
George Russell Weller, the 88-year-old driver whose Buick killed 10 shoppers at the Santa Monica Farmers’ Market, pleaded not guilty Dec. 8 to 10 counts of felony vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence.
The criminal case against Weller continues with a Jan. 26 pretrial hearing at the Los Angeles County Superior Court’s airport branch courthouse.
Weller’s 1992 Buick plowed through the market on July 16, 2003, killing 10 people including Jewish shoppers Movsha Hoffman, 70, Molok Ghoulian Nabatian, 63, and Nabatian’s toddler grandson, Brandon David Esfahani.
Weller’s attorneys believe an undiagnosed heart condition may have contributed to the accident, and Weller also mistakenly thought his car’s gas pedal was the brake.
The federal National Transportation Safety Board also has criticized Santa Monica city officials for not erecting concrete barriers to prevent cars from entering the twice-weekly market area near the Third Street Promenade. – David Finnigan, Contributing Writer
OU West Coast Convenes in L.A.
In what has become a December tradition for Los Angeles’ Orthodox community, the West Coast Region of the Orthodox Union will hold its annual convention Thursday, Dec. 23, through Sunday, Dec. 26, based at the Crown Plaza Hotel on Beverly Drive with venues at various locations around the city.
This year’s topic, “God’s Role in Our World: Our Role in God’s World,” brings together scholars from around the country to discuss issues of theology, social action, Israel and personal faith.
Highlighting the conference at the keynote dinner Thursday night is a talk by Pittsburgh’s Judge Daniel Butler titled, “Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People?” in memory of his son, Mikey, who died last year of cystic fibrosis.
A kosher food expo featuring local and national vendors is open to conference participants on Sunday at the Crown Plaza, 1150 S. Beverly Drive.
Distinguished speakers this year include newly elected OU President Stephen J. Savitsky; OU Executive Vice President Rabbi Tzvi Hersh Weinreb; Rabbi Hershel Schachter, rosh kollel and professor of Talmud at Yeshiva University (YU), and Rabbi Moshe Tendler, rosh yeshiva and professor of biology at YU.
Tendler will lead a health-care/legal subconference, meeting on Friday and Sunday, that is open to the public and lawyers are eligible for continuing education credit.
For those who can’t make it to the Crown Plaza for the weekend, scholars will be fanning out to shuls around the city over Shabbat (see the Web site for a full listing.)
To register or for more information go to www.ou.org/west or call (310) 229-9000 ext. 3. – Julie Gruenbaum Fax, Education Editor
Medical Tour of Israel Slated
Doctors who hanker to learn more about the age-old connection between Jews and medicine may be interested in a special tour of Israel now scheduled for May 15-22, 2005.
Sponsored by the American Physicians Fellowship for Medicine in Israel, in conjunction with Tel Aviv’s Center for Jewish Medical Heritage, the unique trip features visits to Israeli tourist sites that have a medical connection. Participants will view Maimonides’ grave in Tiberias, tour the museum home of pioneer ophthalmologist Albert Ticho in Jerusalem and pay tribute to Holocaust martyr Janusz Korczak – a Polish pediatrician who refused to abandon his patients-at Yad Vashem.
In-depth tours of Israeli hospitals and clinics will also be on the agenda. Along the way, travelers will take part in discussions of bioethical issues. Language will be kept nontechnical, so that spouses and others without medical degrees can easily participate.
The tour is being coordinated by Keshet: The Center for Educational Tourism in Israel. A total package fare of $2,475 per person includes a round-trip El Al flight from Newark, all accommodations and two meals each day.
To learn more, contact the tour’s co-leader, Dr. Michael Nevins at firstname.lastname@example.org. – Beverly Gray, Contributing Writer
Peace — Up to the Highest Height
“Go Fly a Kite — for Peace” is not the official slogan of Suzanne Marks’ big project, but it wouldn’t make a bad bumper sticker slogan for the imaginative undertaking that seeks to express the longing of both Israelis and Palestinians for an end to terror and conflict.
One day next spring, the West Los Angeles grandmother says 10,000 kites painted with peace images and words will fly on both sides of the fence between Israel and the West Bank, as a symbol of reconciliation between Arabs and Jews.
Since even the most visionary concept must have a fundraising dinner, the 10,000 Kites project will host one on Dec. 2 at the Skirball Cultural Center, to introduce itself to the public.
One speaker will be Israeli artist Adi Yekutieli, the catalyst for the project, who has staked his career on the power of art to start bridging the chasm between longtime enemies.
After studying and working in California for 14 years, the seventh-generation Israeli returned to his native country in 1995, when the hope for peace was in the air.
The same year he invited two unlikely groups — the wives of Hamas terrorists and of Jewish settlers — to a joint workshop on their childbirth experiences and feelings.
He followed up by conducting art classes at the large Balata refugee camp and returned each week for 18 months, until the intifada broke out.
“My experience tells me that you can make peace when daily contacts become routine,” said Yekutieli, 46, in a phone call from Israel. “It’s what is at a distance that you fear.”
The idea of a mass kite flying event was born about six months ago, and Yekutieli enlisted the help of his colleagues at the Association for Art in the Community and Cross-Cultural Dialog, founded in 1998 by Israeli and Arab artists.
Next, he contacted some of his California friends, including David Pine, West Coast regional director of Americans for Peace Now, who introduced the artist to Marks and her husband, Wally.
The Markses invited friends to their home to raise seed money for the project, but as the scope grew, the budget rose to $250,000.
So far, said Yekutieli, some 80 organizations in Israel and the Palestinian territories have pledged their cooperation, and he has lined up some 200 professional artists, who will work with adults and children to produce and paint the kites.
Plans call for the kite flyers to gather in some 50 communities on both sides of the wall on the big day. Marks hopes to recruit synagogues for solidarity kite flying events in Los Angeles and other cities on the same day.
As a follow up to the Israeli event, Yekutieli will make a documentary film and, in the future, plans to spread the message through murals, billboards, concerts and an interactive Web site.
“Some people may say that our ideas are too simple, even na?ve, but somehow we have to begin creating opportunities for dialogue and cooperation,” Yekutieli said.
Also speaking at the Dec. 2 dinner will be Palestinian artist George Nustas; Rabbi David Ellenson, president of Hebrew Union College-Jewish institute of Religion; Rabbi Leonard Beerman of Leo Baeck Temple; the Rev. Dr. George Regas; and Dr. Nazir Khaja, chair of the Islamic Information Center.
For information, contact Suzanne Marks at (310) 476-0362 or visit www.10000kites.org. — Tom Tugend, Contributing Editor
Sharansky Comes to the Southland
Natan Sharansky will visit the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles Nov. 29-30 to address a newly formed Likud support organization and to meet with high school students.
Sharansky, who won fame as a prisoner of conscience in the Soviet Union and now serves as Israel’s minister for Jerusalem and Diaspora Affairs, will speak at 7:30 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 29, about “The Case for Democracy: The Power of Freedom to Overcome Tyranny and Terror,” which is also the title of his new book.
Sponsoring Sharansky’s appearance is the newly revitalized Western States regional chapter of the American Friends of Likud, which plans to bring leading Israeli political figures to California every one or two months. Knesset member Uzi Landau is scheduled for December.
Real estate developer Robert Rechnitz, the new regional president, said it was vital for both leading Israelis and ordinary American Jews to meet face-to-face, “without the filter” of the media or organizational presidents.
Asked whether he anticipated much popular support among generally liberal Los Angeles and West Coast Jews, Rechnitz said that, “There is widespread support in the Orthodox and Israeli communities here, and growing backing in the general community since [Prime Minister Ariel] Sharon announced his withdrawal plan from Gaza.”
Nurit Ze’evi, a longtime community activist, has been named coordinator of the Western States chapter by Ari Harow, the New York-based national executive director of American Friends of Likud.
Harow said that his organization now has chapters in New York, Chicago and New Orleans, and is launching a chapter in Southern Florida next month. He stressed the need to educate young people to become advocates for Israel, but that by the time they reached college it might already be too late.
Harow and other groups have therefore organized the Israel Advocacy High School Coalition and the Caravan for Democracy, which are sponsoring a Nov. 30 event for students at The Museum of Tolerance.
Admission to Sharansky’s Nov. 29 talk is $36 (pre-registration) or $40 (at the door), which includes a copy of the speaker’s book. Contributors of $500 per couple will be invited to a private reception with Sharansky, preceding his talk.
For information and reservations, visit www.thelikud.org or call Ze’evi at (310) 449-6929. — TT
Casino Wins License
The California Gambling Control Commission voted 3-0 to grant Dr. Irving Moskowitz a permanent license for his Hawaiian Gardens Casino card club, ending a long battle by peace activists opposed to Moskowitz’s funding of West Bank settlers.
The retired Long Beach doctor’s casino-style card club in small, poor Hawaiian Gardens in southeast Los Angeles County had been operating with a temporary license for a number of years. The commission’s Aug. 19 vote in Sacramento had one commissioner abstaining over still-unresolved concerns about casino management. The commission’s approval included the condition that Moskowitz create an independent audit committee and other internal casino reforms.
“It was long overdue,” said former Moskowitz attorney Beryl Weiner, who has handled the license application for the past nine years and was the main public face of Moskowitz, who uses part of his gambling proceeds to purchase land for Jewish settlers.
The commission’s vote dealt a serious blow to Rabbi Haim Dov Beliak and his Coalition for Justice in Hawaiian Gardens and Jerusalem, which enlisted actor Ed Asner to speak out against the license.
“I think that Jews should worry when government regulatory bodies don’t work,” Beliak told The Journal.
It is unusual for a state commission’s decision to be reviewed by the courts, especially if much of the opposition stems from activities outside a state court’s jurisdiction, in this case Israel.
“We’re thinking,” Beliak said, when asked what his group’s next move would be. “We’re talking to our lawyers.”
Unlike the commission’s Los Angeles hearings in December and January, the Moskowitz issue did not dominate its late February meeting, and the Aug. 19 hearing in Sacramento did not attract as much interest.
Three weeks before the hearing, Moskowitz cut ties with Weiner. It is not clear who now represents the reclusive casino owner, who has retired to Florida and does not attend hearings or speak to the media.
“I’m no longer representing Dr. Moskowitz,” Weiner said of his former client of 31 years. “It was an amicable split. I have no regrets. Everything that was done [for the casino license], all the foundation and all the spade work, was done during the period of time that I represented him.” — David Finnigan, Contributing Writer
Professor Convicted in Hate-CrimeHoax
A psychology professor accused of perpetrating a hate-crime hoax by vandalizing her own car with racist and anti-Semitic graffiti was convicted by a jury on Aug. 19 of filing a false police report and attempted insurance fraud.
Kerri Dunn, who was tried in a Los Angeles County Superior Court in Pomona, could receive up to three and a half years in prison for the crimes. Her sentencing is set for Sept. 17. When the apparent hate crime at Claremont McKenna College was initially reported on March 9, the campus and Jewish communities reacted with outrage, staging daylong sit-ins, teach-ins, forums and rallies.
Dunn, then an assistant visiting professor at Claremont McKenna, reported that her 1990 Honda Civic had been vandalized after she had given a lecture on racism. The car’s tires had been slashed, windows broken and “kike whore,” “nigger lover,” “bitch,” “shut up” and a half-finished swastika spray painted on the vehicle.
Dunn also told police that $1,700 worth of personal property had been taken from the car.
In initial news stories, Dunn, a 39-year-old Caucasian woman, was said to be converting from Catholicism to Judaism. As time went on, this aspect became increasingly vague, changing from “undergoing conversion” to “considering conversion” to “a possibility of conversion.”
“No one seems to have any firsthand knowledge of this matter,” said education professor Jack Schuster, a faculty leader on the campus Hillel Council.
The day following the incident, classes were canceled for anti-racism and pro-diversity demonstrations on campus and at the other six private colleges and universities that make up the Claremont Colleges consortium.
The regional chapter of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) contacted college officials and the Jewish campus community to offer counseling and assistance.
Rabbi Leslie Bergson, Hillel Council director, reported that many hitherto indifferent Jewish students showed up at Hillel, and that the near-dormant Jewish Student Union was planning new activities.
One week later, during a campus vacation break, another bombshell occurred. Claremont police announced that two witnesses had “positively identified the victim as vandalizing her own vehicle. Additionally, interviews with the alleged victim revealed inconsistencies in her statements regarding the incident.”
The FBI and district attorney’s office entered the case. Dunn consistently denied the police charges.
During the trial, the jury was not asked to decided whether Dunn had vandalized her own car, but rather if she had filed false reports with the police and her insurance company.
After the guilty verdict, Gary Lincenberg, Dunn’s attorney, said that he intended to appeal the verdict, because the judge had barred crucial evidence.
As student president of the Hillel Council, D’ror Chankin-Gould, 20, had been one of the organizers of the early anti-racism protests. Dunn’s conviction, he said, “doesn’t change the fact that we did the right thing. We responded vigorously to an anti-Semitic slur, and we can be proud of that.”
Amanda Susskind, regional ADL director, noted that “fake hate crimes undercut what we do; they represent a kind of secondary victimization. We did get some letters saying, ‘You Jews made it all up.'”
“But did we over-react? No, we had to react,” Susskind continued. “And we are pleased that law enforcement took this very seriously, first after the incident, itself, and then in prosecuting Dunn.” — Tom Tugend, Contributing Editor
L.A.’s New Consul General
Ehud Danoch, chief of staff to Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom, has been appointed as the new Israeli consul general in Los Angeles, The Journal has learned.
Danoch will replace popular Ambassador Yuval Rotem, when the latter returns to Israel on Aug. 16.
Shalom used one of the political appointments available to him to name his longtime aide to the Los Angeles post, considered one of the most important assignments in the Israeli diplomatic service.
The appointment will go to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s cabinet for final approval, which is considered a formality.
Danoch is a lawyer with a master’s degree in business administration and previously served as senior adviser to Shalom when the latter was finance minister. Danoch is said to speak English and Spanish fluently. Shalom also named Uri Palti, who previously served as deputy consul general in Los Angeles, to become the new consul general in Philadelphia.
David Akov, who previously worked as congressional liaison at the Israeli embassy in Washington, has been named to head the consulate general in San Francisco.
There has been some speculation in the Israeli media that if Sharon reshuffles his coalition government to include the Labor Party, elder statesman Shimon Peres might replace Shalom as foreign minister.
Such a possible reshuffle would be an incentive for Shalom to get his own appointments into place quickly. However, a knowledgeable Jerusalem source said that vacant foreign ministry posts are generally filled during the summer months and that Shalom was within his prerogatives to make a political appointment outside the career diplomatic service.
No immediate comment on Danoch’s appointment was available from local Jewish community leaders.
In next week’s Jewish Journal, Rotem will give his views on the Los Angeles Jewish community and assess his five-year service here. — Tom Tugend, Contributing Editor
Community Trips to Israel Announced
“We’ll show the world that the Jewish community in Los Angeles cares,” said Noam Matas, Israel Ministry of Tourism’s Western U.S. director, who is coordinating a “Mega-Mission” uniting Orthodox, Conservative and Reform synagogues for a post-Chanukah trip later this year.
The trip is scheduled for Dec. 19-29 and will cost $2,300 per person. It has support from 18 rabbis who are expected to attract between 300 and 500 people, Matas said.
The Jewish Federation is also planning a high-end visit in October.
These missions come after four years of the second intifada and its terror, which has decimated the Israeli tourism industry and its economy. But with fewer terrorist attacks in the last year, anecdotal evidence suggests that tourism is up, although it is far from pre-intifada levels.
Orthodox shuls supporting the Mega-Mission include Young Israel of Century City, B’nai David-Judea Congregation, Venice’s Pacific Jewish Center/Shul on the Beach, Chabad of Yorba Linda and Congregation Shaarei Tefila. Conservative synagogues sending congregants include Encino’s Valley Beth Shalom, West Los Angeles shuls Adat Shalom and Temple Beth Am, Burbank’s Temple Emanu El, Congregation Eilat in Mission Viejo and Santa Monica’s Kehillat Ma’arav and Temple Beth El of South Orange County. Reform synagogues participating are Temple Emanuel in Beverly Hills and Northridge’s Temple Ahavat Shalom. The Mega-Mission has support from the Jewish federations in Orange County, San Gabriel, Long Beach and greater Los Angeles. It has no large marketing budget and is relying on rabbis to spread the word.
Separately, The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles is planning an Oct. 17-28 leadership mission to Prague, Budapest and Israel. The trip will be for travelers from The Federation’s elite fundraising circle — people willing to donate $5,000 to its United Jewish Fund (UJF) — and younger, next-generation donors ready to make a 2005 commitment of $3,600 in UJF donations. About 35 people are expected to participate. By spending three days in Prague and another three days in Budapest, including Shabbat, The Federation’s itinerary leaves about four days for policy briefings and political and/or religious visits in Israel.
At the Reform Temple Israel of Hollywood, Rabbi John Rosove is leading an Oct. 9-19, study mission, which will include meetings with Israeli politicians and intellectuals. Temple Israel tour members also will visit and help their sister shul near Jerusalem. The visit will cost $2,900 a person.
Some hope that the increase of low-cost trips and missions is a sign of Israel slowly pulling out of a long tourism downturn.
“They’re desperate,” said Young Israel of Century City’s Rabbi Elazar Muskin, adding that a friend who visited recently noticed, “the sense of emptiness in terms of tourism.” — David Finnigan, Contributing Writer
Anonymous Donor Buys VCJCC
The embattled supporters of the Valley Cities Jewish Community Center (VCJCC) finally have a reason to celebrate. An anonymous donor reportedly struck a deal to buy the building from JCC of Greater Los Angeles (JCCGLA) and lease it back to the community. JCCGLA accepted the donor’s offer of $2.2 million on Thursday, May 27.
Tensions had been running high for some time since JCCGLA announced that it would close and sell the VCJCC building to pay off debts to The Jewish Federation earlier this year. A series of events contributed to the confusion, including JCCGLA’s spending of approximately $100,000 on the VCJCC building in late 2003, only a few months before putting it on the chopping block.
Talk from individuals involved in the negotiations had hinted that JCCGLA may have been searching for a higher bidder elsewhere, but those issues appear to have been resolved.
“We’re very optimistic,” said Michael Brezner, president of VCJCC’s advisory committee. “We’re going to go ahead and start enrolling children [at the center] for fall because we feel very confident about our buyer and his desire to not allow any roadblocks.”
Brezner downplayed the significance of Valley Cities’ past differences with JCCGLA. “GLA has been up to this point extremely responsive. There hasn’t been one delay, not one. They want this to happen. It’s good for them [and] it’s good for us.” — Idan Ivri, Contributing Writer
Neo-Nazi Ad Could Change Nation’s Policy
A Southern California Holocaust denial group’s advertisement in The Nation has prompted the prominent progressive magazine to rethink its wide-open advertising policy and also not take future ads from the neo-Nazi allied group.
“It was found by some [at The Nation] to be so offensive that we just went with that decision,” said Nation publisher and editorial director Victor Navasky. “We have a very strong presumption on behalf of taking ads that are at political odds with the magazine.”
The one-eighth of a page advertisement on page 58 of the May 3 Nation was placed by the Institute for Historical Review, a Newport Beach-based Holocaust denial organization, which on April 24 held a small “revisionist” conference in Sacramento with what the institute’s Web site described as “generous support” by “members and activists of the U.S. neo-Nazi group National Alliance.” The Nation ad promoted French writer Roger Garaudy’s book, “The Founding Myths of Modern Israel,” which the ad said dissects, “the most sacred of Jewish-Zionist icons, the Holocaust story.”
Mark Weber, the institute’s director, said his group’s ad was, “readily accepted for publication. I’m not trying to trick anybody about this ad.”
The ad was the first in a standard, $1,600 purchase for four ads with two extra free ads thrown into the deal by a Nation advertising salesman. Nation associate publisher Peter Rothberg also confirmed Weber’s account that the magazine solicited Weber to buy the ads, with both a phone call and another sales pitch by mail.
Free copies of the May 3 Nation were handed out at the April 24-25 Los Angeles Times Book Festival at UCLA. Because the ad offended one of the magazine’s editors, money paid for upcoming ads was returned to Weber.
In an e-mail, Rothberg told The Journal that after the magazine’s management met, “there haven’t been any changes to the policy. All that was decided was that each advertisement needed to be addressed on a case-by-case basis.”
On April 30 in New York, the magazine’s editorial board, including Nobel Prize-winning author Toni Morrison and civil rights leader Roger Wilkins, was scheduled to meet for its twice-annual meetings. The magazine’s advertising policy will be discussed, Navasky said.
The ad caught the attention of Holocaust researchers at Philadelphia’s David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies, the Anti-Defamation League and the Simon Wiesenthal Center, whose associate dean, Rabbi Abraham Cooper, said The Nation, “did the right thing” by cutting ties with Weber’s group.
“It’s not about free speech; they paid for the ad,” said Cooper, adding that while Holocaust deniers have been dismissed by American mainstream culture, many Holocaust denial writers, “are heroes in Tehran, in Gaza, in Cairo. Their message has been wholeheartedly embraced by the mainstream of the Arab and Muslim world.” — David Finnigan, Contributing Writer
Academics: Israel a Poor Investment
Despite its renown in military and security matters, Israel is a poor investment prospect with a rickety economy and longtime infrastructure problems, according to Israeli academics at the April 26-28 Milken Institute Global Conference in Beverly Hills.
Conference founder Michael Milken opened a Beverly Hilton Hotel panel on the Jewish state’s economy, saying Israel’s Middle East locale places it in, “one of the least successful economic areas in the world.”
Economic historians have called the 1970s, “the lost decade,” in which Israel invested little in its young but fragile national infrastructure of non-military government buildings, hospitals, waterworks and roads.
“The government is not doing its job in infrastructure investment,” said business professor Rafi Melnick of the Milken Institute-allied Interdisciplinary Center, a private university in Herzliya.
Counterterrorism expert Boaz Ganor fused ongoing Palestinian terrorism with Israel’s need for a long-term economic revitalization.
“One cannot buy peace from terrorists anymore,” he said. — DF
Reform Day School Leaders Unite
Some 40 people from around the country gathered to discusseducation issues at the annual Progressive Association of Reform Jewish DaySchools (PARDeS) Conference at Wilshire Boulevard Temple from Feb. 22-25. Thisyear’s theme was values and ethics.
Since Reform day schools do not have a centralizedcurriculum like Conservative and Orthodox institutions, professional and layleaders discussed establishing a set course load, and also discussed issuessuch as enrollment, curriculum, fundraising and accreditation.
The Keynote speaker at the conference was Rabbi DavidEllenson, president of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion(HUC-JIR). Other speakers included Rabbi Steven Leder of Wilshire BoulevardTemple; Nadine Breuer, vice president of PARDeS and Brawerman ElementarySchool’s Head of School; and Michael Zeldin, a professor at HUC-JIR.
“Jewish day schools are a tool toward Jewish continuity,”said Robin Broidy, a member of the Brawerman School’s Task Force Committee.”The Reform movement can’t be without an arm that encourages these schools.”
Shalhevet High School Wins Model U.N.
Shalhevet High School took first place in the 13th AnnualYeshiva University National Model United Nations conference, which was heldFeb. 9 -11. Fourteen Shalhevet students joined more than 500 high schoolstudents from 36 schools around North America at Kutcher’s Country Club inMonticello, N.Y. Competitors debated topics like disarmament and world healthduring a simulated meeting of the United Nations.
Shalhevet students were divided into two teams, representingChina and Libya. Each competitor spoke on behalf of his or her assignedcommittee, which included groups like the World Food Program, Disarmament andInternational Security and the Middle East Summit.
The Shalhevet’s team representing China won the competition,with seniors Hannah Levavi, Ilana Kellerman and Sarah Mayman each receivingawards for Best Delegate. Senior Edo Royker and junior Laura Birnbaum, bothmembers of the Libya team, received Honorable Mention.
“Shalhevet had never won before and we’ve gone to theconference for years. People were convinced of jinxes and conspiracies,” jokedfaculty adviser Melanie Berkey, who also teaches English and film classes. “Itwas a very pleasant surprise.”
Yeshiva University High School in Los Angeles came in secondplace.
ADL Educates Students About Hate
What advice would you give to a child when his peers try toconvince him that “Jews and other minorities” are trying to take over at schooland that he should “stick with his own kind?”
High school students around California will ponder thisvery question when they view a new interactive CD-ROM recently published by theAnti-Defamation League (ADL). “Hate Comes Home” is intended to help high schoolstudents combat anti-Semitism, racism, classism and homophobia.
The software, which is offered free of charge to all public highschools in the state, includes an interactive movie featuring four fictionalhigh school students confronted with various issues of prejudice, peerpressure and hate. Learning tactics for avoiding hate-motivated incidents, studentscan make choices and change what happens in the lives of these characters.A teacher discussion guide is also included.
The CD-ROM is part of the Stop the Hate project, athree-year initiative funded by the California State Legislature. Stop the Hateintends to institutionalize ADL’s A World of Difference Institute anti-biastraining programs in selected school settings.
“You get to see how anti-Semitism really works at a highschool level, especially in hate groups,” said Tessa Hicks, project director ofthe A World of Difference Institute. “If you go to any high school, you’ll hearslurs. They might be used in jest, but they are taking a toll.”
For more information on “Hate Comes Home,” call Tessa Hicksat (310) 446-8000, ext. 232.
Religious School Teachers Share Ideas
How do you school children according to their own needs?More than 600 religious school leaders at 53 schools around Greater Los Angelesconsidered this theme at the Religious School Educators conference on Sunday,Jan. 19 at Sinai Temple.
Educational experts and religious school principalspresented workshops such as “Creative Programs to Promote Respect in theClassroom,” “Hooking Young Adults on Jewish History with New HistoricalFiction” and “Hebrew for the New Millennium.
Keynote speaker Rabbi Ed Feinstein of Valley Beth Shalom inEncino delivered a humorous — but rousing — speech on the difficulties manyreligious school teachers face in keeping students motivated, and theimportance of answering students’ questions.
Teachers were specifically encouraged to meet their teachingcounterparts from synagogues in other parts of the city in special “MentorSharing Workshops.” During this program, teachers exchanged lesson plans,projects and curriculum ideas.
“The sharing was unique to the conference this year,” saidArlene Agress, Bureau of Jewish Education’s director of continuing professionaleducation. “In addition to gaining knowledge to apply to the classroom, there’sa value [when teachers] come together as a community.”
Later in the afternoon, the Lainer Distinguished EducatorAwards were presented to Janice Tytell, the principal of University Synagoguein Los Angeles; Robin Solomon of Shomrei Torah Synagogue in West Hills; andRachel Asseras from Temple Judea in Tarzana. Smotrich Family FoundationEducator Awards were presented to Morgan Land at Congregation Ner Tamid ofSouth Bay, Susan Silverman, assistant director at Temple Adat Elohim’sReligious School in Thousand Oaks.
Briefs compiled by Sharon Schatz Rosenthal, EducationWriter.