Fatah fighters’ escape to Israel and what it means

Even for the complex Middle East it was a moment of exceptional irony. Some 180 Fatah loyalists fleeing a series of shootouts and summary executions by Hamas

on the streets of Gaza ran for the border — banking on the mercies of the enemy they usually target.

Remarkably, Israeli soldiers braved Hamas fire to save the Palestinians. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, however, opted to return the fighters to Gaza. The first group of 35 returnees was promptly arrested by Hamas.

Seeing the danger to their erstwhile foes, the Israel Defense Forces balked at transferring the rest of the Fatah men, while the Association for Civil Rights in Israel appealed to Israel’s Supreme Court to block the forced repatriation. Finally, Israel prevailed upon Abbas to give safety to his own followers, and they were sent to Jericho.

The reaction in the Arab world to this incredible turn of events is instructive. Writing in Beirut’s Daily Star, columnist Rami Khouri offered an assessment of the larger issue:

“This is the latest and most troubling example of how a once-grand and noble Palestinian national liberation movement has allowed itself to degenerate into ineptitude…. As Fatah and Hamas battle it out like a bunch of armed neighborhood gangs, it will not be surprising to see some friends of Palestine quietly walk away, mumbling that if the Palestinians wish to kill each other and destroy their own society, they are free to do so.”

Writing in Al-Hayat, Mohammad Salah goes even further:

“The flight by Ahmad Hilles and other Palestinians to Israel in search of safety away from the bullying and aggression of Hamas affirms that the Palestinian issue is on its way to disappearing, evaporating and being forgotten. It also proves that Israel, for many Palestinians, is a refuge or objective one seeks and heads toward when Palestinians oppress each other.”

The border episode should have been cheered by nongovernment organizations and church groups who insist that peace will come to the Middle East not through governmental fiat, but when people on both sides recognize the humanity of the other.

Other developments, however, indicate that we are a long way off from moving beyond widely held stereotypes in the Arab World that depict Christians as bloodthirsty crusaders and Jews as the offspring of pigs and monkeys. The reaction to a University of Haifa course shows just how much toxicity prevails in the Arab street.

Professor Ofer Grosbard, assisted in a project by 15 Muslim students, quoted verses from the Quran that would help Muslim psychologists reinforce in their religious patients concepts like respect, responsibility, honesty, dignity and kindness. Their selections were vetted by three Islamic clerics.

Nonetheless, the project drew furious responses. Speaking to Gulf News, Dr. Abdullah Al Mutlaq, of the Senior Ulema Board in Saudi Arabia, insisted that the project should not be trusted by Muslims, because it is run by Jews who openly show their hatred to Islam and Muslims, and that Grosbard’s interpretation of the Quran’s lessons in human dignity and kindness would give Muslims the wrong impression of their religion. Not surprisingly, officials of the Palestinian Authority concurred.

Don’t expect the caretakers of the global civil society to challenge the Arab world anytime soon. Some self-appointed activists, operating in the rarified moral high ground of nongovernmental organizations, refuse to be impacted by the facts. For even as Israelis fought to obtain the safety of Arab fighters on Aug. 5, two boats in Cyprus were preparing a mission to burst through Israel’s sea blockade into an embrace with Hamas. The success of the mission was to be measured by Google hits on BBC and Iranian media coverage, not by any humanitarian cargo for the beleaguered residents of Gaza.

Israel has consistently allowed such supplies in and arranged passage for many critically ill patients to Israeli hospitals. This despite the fact that at least one ill woman from Gaza used the privilege of shuttling back and forth to an Israeli hospital to try to smuggle a bomb that would blow up the very facility and doctors who treated her.

Most nongovernmental organizations (NGO) that see themselves as protectors of Palestinian interests remain blind and silent, both about the Israeli largesse and the rupture of Palestinian society. Have they ever wondered what issues Israelis grapple with, what their needs are in the Gordian knot we call the Holy Land?

Did anyone consider the reaction of the parents of Gilad Shalit to the Fatah rescue? Shalit is the Israeli soldier kidnapped near that very crossing where the Fatah members were saved by other Israeli soldiers.

And what of the bereaved families of Vadim Nurhitz and Yossi Avrahami, two Israeli reservists who took a wrong turn into Ramallah? Taken to a PA police station, they were brutalized and dismembered by a mob. Rather than protect the two soldiers, a PA policeman at the station participated in the lynching.

For too many, repeating empty mantras about the “occupation” is much easier than rethinking the nature of a future Palestinian state and how it would treat its own citizens or its Jewish neighbors. Indeed, too few in the international community care enough to demand a modicum of accountability from the Palestinians.

These events present a microcosm of a clash not between two governments but of two fundamentally different cultures. Nothing will ever change until the world comes to understand the truths that led the Fatah fighters to choose the Israeli enemy over their Palestinian brothers?

Rabbi Abraham Cooper is associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center. Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein is director of interfaith relations for the Wiesenthal Center.

Millions of Shoah records will finally be revealed

When Jews too weak to work were routinely marched from their concentration camp barracks into oblivion, when shrieking families with arms and fingers outstretched were torn apart during deportations, when the winds of politics and opportunity scattered refugees and survivors throughout the world, many rightfully thought that the story of their persecution and fate would be as indistinguishable as a single ash rising from a chimney.

Even though millions did not survive, much of their story did. The details are embedded within the miles of records housed by the International Tracing Service (ITS) located at Bad Arolsen, Germany.

But for 60 years those records have been secret, available only to survivors and their nuclear families tracing loved ones, and even then only after years of heartbreaking persistence.

After a decades-long international effort, the sensitive ITS archives will soon be pried open. The unlocking follows a hard-negotiated accord among the 11 nations that comprise the commission that owns the archive. Those countries are the United States, France, England, Belgium, Greece, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Poland and Israel, plus the two former Axis powers, Italy and Germany.

The International Red Cross was given custody and control of the archive, but only pursuant to the agreement.

Only an estimated 25 percent of the prodigious ITS collection relates to Jews. The remainder covers the fate of Gypsies, Poles, Dutch and numerous other groups targeted for oppression and destruction.

The implications for Holocaust and Nazi-era research are staggering.

Among the many by-products of the ITS revelations is vast additional proof of IBM’s minute-to-minute involvement in the 12-year Holocaust, new insights into the corporate beneficiaries of Germany’s slave and forced labor programs, an explosion of evidence that insurance companies participated in and benefited from the decimation of the Jews and the dark details of persecution suffered by millions of individuals who would have otherwise disappeared into the bleak vastness of Hitler’s war against humanity.

Some of the most important archival details of the nearly impenetrable archives have finally been revealed, exclusively to this writer.

At the forefront of the campaign to open the ITS files has been a passionate group of senior officials of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM). These include director Sara J. Bloomfield; senior adviser Arthur Berger; Paul Shapiro, director of the museum’s Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies; and the State Department’s Edward O’Donnell, an ex-officio member of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council.

Berger, in an interview, recalled his part in the frustrating struggle to open the archive: “We tried for years to work quietly behind the scenes — since 1991.” He added, “Paul Shapiro went with a group, and they refused to even let him tour the archive.”

A USHMM senior official, speaking on background, specified with irritation that the 11-member nature of the governing commission “would meet once per year for one day, each year in a different city. They received a dog-and-pony show from the ITS director, had a good lunch and went home. It was run like many a company board of directors.”

Finally, Berger went public on March 7, 2006, issuing a press release openly criticizing the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), charging, “the ITS and the ICRC have consistently refused to cooperate with the International Commission board and have kept the archive closed.”

Momentum and pressure resulted in a multinational agreement initiated May 16, 2006, to finally “open the archives,” allowing a full copy to reside in each nation’s designated archive. USHMM officials took center stage, vowing that America’s copy would be in their possession within months. Despite the inflated publicity, the digital transfer of the records has not happened and is not scheduled any time soon.

Bad Arolsen sources, in mid-January 2007, said the prodigious task of digitizing their mega-million record collection is progressing only slowly and is years from being complete. Sources on both sides of the Atlantic say the inter-governmental paperwork is not nearly complete.

The ICRC, for its part, has scoffed at the museum’s tactics, including Berger’s March 2006 press release. Asked if the press release attacking the Red Cross was accurate, one senior ICRC official in Geneva quipped, “I wouldn’t believe everything you read.”

Indeed, this reporter determined that USHMM guesswork had been the source of much of the inaccurate and unverified reporting in the media about ITS holdings. For example, Shapiro stated that the ITS held “30 [million]-50 million pages of records” divided into three collections: prisoner records; forced and slave labor; and displaced persons, but no one knew the details because the ITS has refused to reveal any information. Shapiro stated he based his remarks on “various statements by various people.”

In point of fact, this reporter has exclusively determined that ITS records number approximately 33.6 million pages divided into four record groups:

Section 1, dubbed “Incarceration Records,” concern concentration camps and other forms of imprisonment, totaling more than 4.42 million pages, dated 1933 to 1945, constituting 12.5 percent of the holdings.

Within Section 1, record subgroup 6 is a trove of prisoner cards organized by numbers and not names. These numbers were by and large assigned according to the Hollerith punch card system designed by IBM engineers. Forty-nine camps and ghettos are listed in this section, most assigned an alphabetically sequential number by the ITS. The Amersfoort police torture camp in Holland leads the list, numbered 1.1.1; the trio of Auschwitz camps in occupied Poland is 1.1.2, but those records hail mainly from the transport camp, with very little from the Birkenau death camp, and almost nothing from the Monowitz labor camp. The Warsaw Ghetto is listed as 1.1.4. Buchenwald is listed as 1.1.5.

Section 1’s subgroup 1.2.1 includes prisoner transport lists that were organized by IBM Hollerith and generally referred to in Nazi documents as “Hollerith transfer lists.” Subgroup 1.2.3 contains Gestapo registrations.

Section 2, dubbed “Forced Laborers,” with documents dating from 1939 to 1947, includes corporate involvement and insurance matters, and totals more than 4.45 million pages, or 13.5 percent. These files include the names of companies that benefited from slave labor. They are divided mainly by the Allied zone of occupation that captured the files. The American Zone is subgroup 2.1.1; the British Zone is 2.1.2. Nazi employment bureau records, such as the Employment Exchange in Warsaw numbered 2.3.3, are also contained in this collection. An IBM customer site in almost every concentration camp organized slave labor through the Abteilung Hollerith or Hollerith Department in each camp’s Labor Assignment Office. IBM personnel serviced the machines on site in the camps. These documents often carry IBM’s stamp of authenticity, “Hollerith erfasst,” that is, “registered by Hollerith.”

Chabad Expands in Vegas

Across the parking lot of the neighborhood pub/casino in the Summerlin suburb of Las Vegas, Jewish residents, community leaders, local officials and passersby stood in the 110-degree heat recently to watch the ribbon-cutting ceremony of a new Chabad shul.

The imposing $4.5 million structure, built from Jerusalem stone, stands at the corner of an outdoor shopping mall, not far from a day spa, French bistro, lakefront clubhouse and residential communities that boast one of the fastest-growing Jewish populations in the United States.

The new shul is a testament to the Jewish community’s growth in the area, which already houses another equally large Chabad campus close to the Las Vegas Strip.

Chabad of Summerlin, located about 12 miles northwest of the Strip, first made its appearance in the community about 10 years ago, when it held Shabbat and holiday services in a storefront. The number of congregants grew over the years, until some people had no choice but to pray standing in the aisles.Rabbi Yisroel Schanowitz, the shul’s rabbi, hopes that the new Chabad of Summerlin will “continue the growth of the Las Vegas Jewish community and also build strong youth activities.”

Chabad recently hired a couple from New York to assist with youth programming to make the shul experience in Las Vegas more holistic and diverse. They now have the facilities to do so: classrooms, offices, social hall, kitchen and a mikvah.The woman’s balcony of the new shul overlooks the spacious sanctuary and the delicate woodwork of the ark of the Torah.

At the opening, Rep. Shelley Berkley (D-Nevada) addressed the crowd, sharing her positive experiences with Chabad and praising it for its contributions to Las Vegas.

While Jewish tourists are more likely to use the Chabad campus near the Strip for services, Schanowitz believes that Chabad of Summerlin is more likely to draw visitors seeking to make their home in Vegas.

“There has been interest from people in Los Angeles to relocate here,” he said. “When they find out there is an active Chabad center, it helps their decision to move.”

For more information, visit www.chabadofsummerlin.com.

Orit Arfa, Contributing Writer

Oy! What A Ringtone!

A company is bringing Yiddish humor to the masses with new ringtones. MyNuMo, a California-based company that enables users to publish mobile content and sell it, announced this month that it will provide “yentatones,” Yiddish and Jewish humor ringtones voiced by San Diego actress Martha Kahn.

— Jewish Telegraphic Agency

Zoning Snafus Keep New JCC Empty

Flashback to last fall, the opening ceremony of YESOD, a first-of-its-kind Jewish community center in the heart of St. Petersburg. This three-story modern stone-and-glass building — built by the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) with funds raised primarily from North American federations and private donors — was pitched by the JDC as the new heart of the St. Petersburg community.

Now, four months after the impressive opening ceremony that brought together JDC leadership from New York and Israel, North American donors and local community leaders, the center is fully built — but stands empty.

The center is also the focus of criticism from some of its would-be occupants, who say that they haven’t been kept in the loop about planning the center from the beginning, that its opening has been delayed and that they are unsure about when they will be able to move in.

For its part, the JDC says that the delays are a result of bureaucratic snafus in obtaining zoning approval, and that it plans to move local Jewish organizations into the building later this month. JDC also wants to make the building economically self-sufficient; sources suggest that the project has stalled because JDC is also looking for commercial tenants to help achieve this goal.

YESOD, a bright and open space, is similar to state-of-the-art JCCs in cities across North America. It has space to house half a dozen Jewish organizations, a gym, a concert hall and a kosher cafe.

Although hailed as a landmark space uniting under one roof many Jewish organizations that have been scattered around the city, the center was received with mixed feelings by community leaders.

At the time, some criticized the JDC for organizing the center from afar and of not bringing the local bodies into the organizational process.

When the center held its ceremony, with Jewish federation guests from North America in attendance, its administration hoped that it would be ready for operation by the end of the year at the latest.

But the center is still not open.

“Everything has stalled and it is not certain when and how we are going to move,” said Leonid Kolton, director of St. Petersburg’s Hesed Avraham welfare center, which provides food and other services to Jewish elderly.

The JDC-run Hesed Avraham gave up some of its space in anticipation of the September move — space that it will need in its more active winter months. Hillel’s predicament is more serious: the student group’s lease is ending at the end of the month.

In an e-mail message, Jonathan Porath, JDC’s country director for Russia, said Hillel will move into the JCC before the end of the month.

But according to Leonid Smirnov, director of JDC in St. Petersburg, the finished building is still going through the lengthy process of receiving final approval from the zoning commission.

Local Jewish organizations should be able to move in at the end of January and “general activity” in the building should begin in the late winter or early spring, Porath said. Meanwhile, the amount that local groups will be expected to pay in rent is still unclear.

There are indications that the nonprofit tenants, St. Petersburg Jewish organizations, will need to pay rent for space in YESOD to cover its costly maintenance. Local Jewish leaders worry that the groups will be expected to pay commercial rates that some organizations cannot afford.

Smirnov says such criticisms and fears are unwarranted because most of the organizations relocating to YESOD are funded by the JDC and thus the JDC would just be paying itself.

“We are not interested in transferring money from one of our pockets to another,” he said.

Financial details are still being worked, out, JDC’s Porath said. According to Leonid Kolton, the overall situation puts a stain on JDC’s image and could even damage the structure of the Jewish community.

The JDC’s Smirnov says any large-scale operation spanning almost four years and involving the transfer of many organizations to a newly constructed building will inevitably run into difficulties and complications.

Added Joshua Berkman, a JDC spokesman: “JDC and its partners built YESOD to serve as a first-class facility where Jewish life in St. Petersburg can continue to flourish. Rest assured, we will do everything we can to make sure the organizations that are driving this historic Jewish rebirth can make YESOD their home.”

Stages of Faith: Light, Dark, Absurd


The intelligent design vs. Darwinism debate presumes that one or the other theory provides the answer to life and all its mysteries. Playwright Seth Greenland explores the falsity of this dichotomy in “Jerusalem,” his play opening Friday at the NoHo Arts Center. Greenland’s five principal characters — a Jewish psychiatrist, his Protestant wife and his in-laws — have varying degrees of religious faith, as well as varying degrees of conviction about psychoanalysis. In the end, Greenland seems to say, the wise man understands the merits of both religion and science. Even the wise man, though, knows the limits of his knowledge.

“It’s ultimately unknowable,” Greenland says in an interview, seated in a swivel chair in his high-ceilinged Santa Monica loft. “The problems I have are with people who think they have answers. The trick is to continue in the not knowing.”

Greenland, 50, makes his living as a screenwriter and says he writes plays as a “hobby.” He has also penned a novel, “Bones,” which is being adapted into a film. He points out that neuroscientists have determined that there is a special part of the cortex that is “wired to believe in that stuff,” which he believes is a grand irony considering that such a belief is, he says, “ineffable.”

Yet for much of “Jerusalem” — a dark comedy that begins with the suicide in New York of a Jewish psychiatric patient who believes that Martha Stewart is the Messiah, transitions to Wisconsin for Christmas, and then concludes in the Holy Land — each character is convinced of the correctness of his or her beliefs until a series of unexpected traumatic events occur in Israel. Will, the psychiatrist, has a vision of the patient who took his life; brother-in-law Bing, visiting the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, donates his clothing to a Muslim then impales himself in the desert; sisters Meg and Glory grapple on the Via Dolorosa over how to dispose of their brother’s ashes, and Mary, the matriarch, witnesses a suicide bombing.

The seeming seriousness of these acts is leavened by a great deal of humor in the play. Greenland, who got his start writing gags for Joan Rivers and other comics before becoming a successful screenwriter, “knows his way around a joke,” he says. He has his characters speak on different planes much of the time, a hallmark of good dialogue. Where one talks about the offensiveness of blaming Jews for the death of Jesus, another asks if anyone wants a pastry.

He also shows the repressed violence that can occur in marriages when Bing, who decides to become one of God’s servants in the desert, jokes that he often thinks about killing his wife with an ax, chopping her into melon slices. Greenland quips that “for many, like our president, religion is a 12-step program to keep you from behaving like a lunatic.”

Greenland says that “Jerusalem,” which has had productions in Chicago and Boston over the past five years, is “meant to resonate like a Bible story.” He mentions Woody Allen and Philip Roth as two artists he admires; their best work commingles comedy and drama, “capturing the frothiness and the heartache.”

“Comedy,” says Greenland, “is the Trojan Horse of the tragedian.”

“Jerusalem” opens Friday, Dec. 2, at the NoHo Arts Center, 11136 Magnolia Blvd.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Jan. 8. $15-$25. For tickets, call (818) 508-7101, ext 5.

“Better Angels” and “Liberation Day”

If Greenland primarily uses humor to spotlight conundrums in the Jewish experience, Carol Barbee and Ron Kohn, the two playwrights whose work City Stage is featuring at the Hayworth Theater Complex, use a darker approach.

“Better Angels,” Barbee’s 20-minute scene between a rabbi who has lost his faith and a young psychiatrist who has married outside of his delves into the kind of intergenerational conflicts so present in Arthur Miller’s work. But where Miller only hints at Jewishness, Barbee brings it to the fore. The most compelling part of this scene is the shifting power dynamic between the two men, played by Kip Gilman and Andrew Kottler. Like Greenland, Barbee invokes the debate of evolution vs. intelligent design, as the two actors in “Better Angels” change seating arrangements and roles until both leave more illuminated about God, science and their angst.

City Stage’s second one-act is “Liberation Day,” a one-man show by Ron Kohn, a former TV actor, who plays both his late father, a concentration camp survivor, and himself, during his first years in Los Angeles when he was trying to make it as a movie star. Kohn, who with his salt and pepper goatee and receding hairline looks a bit like Dennis Hopper, has a soft, melodious voice when playing himself and a convincing Czech Jewish accent when playing his father. He puts on a pair of glasses and hunches over as the lighting changes whenever he switches into the latter role.

While some may question the tastefulness of Kohn’s pitting his own Hollywood struggles against those of his father in Nazi Europe, Kohn shows humility throughout the one-hour performance. His battles with alcoholism reflect a deeper fear that he is killing his parents by failing in Hollywood. He demonstrates that even the children of survivors have their own survivor’s guilt.

“Better Angels” and “Liberation Day” play at the Hayworth Theater Complex, 643 Carondelet St.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Dec. 4. $20. For tickets, call (213) 389-9860.

“States of Mind”

In order to survive over the millennia of living in foreign lands, Jews have had to deal with a timeless ontological dilemma cutting to their core — whether they can truly be Jewish outside of Israel. Jews have been accused of split allegiance, going back to the days of Joseph in Egypt. Yale Udoff taps into a more recent variant, as epitomized by the Jonathan Pollard affair, in “Nebraska,” a hilarious send-up of government intrigue, produced by the Laurelgrove Theater Company.

The first of two one-acts staged at the Hollywood Court Theater under the title “States of Mind,” “Nebraska” fashions a conceit, a U.S. policy to move Israel from the Middle East into a Red State sanctuary in the geographic center of America, that sounds ridiculous but is not so far-fetched when one remembers that FDR contemplated a homeland for Jews in Alaska.

Udoff, a former U.S. infantry officer and student at Georgetown, clearly understands the military and Beltway politics. His play can be viewed as a parable on the present political scene as he features representatives not only of the military-industrial complex but also the religious right, all of whom influence the president. With the exception of Marcus Taylor, a Jewish assistant to the commander-in-chief, all of the characters are caricatures — a hypocritical reverend named Oral, a general who resembles George C. Scott’s “nuke ’em” officer in “Dr. Strangelove,” and a clownish anti-Semitic operative named Pat, who might be the playwright’s sly slap at commentator and former Nixon speechwriter Pat Buchanan.

The question for this gallery of buffoons is whether or not Marcus Taylor (Abbott Alexander) is really Taylor Marcus, a Jew and thus in their minds not a real American. Pat and the reverend, the latter a semanticist, are particularly interested in Marcus’ real name and ethnicity, but Marcus negotiates the tricky terrain of being a Jew and an American without disclosing his identity.

When a Native American chief enters, he speaks of the long-awaited reunion between Jews and the lost tribes of Israel, another notion that may seem farcical but in fact hints at a greater truth — that the Indians and the Jews share a history of oppression and homelessness.

Udoff’s second one-act, “The Little Gentleman,” is less successful. While the stock characters in “Nebraska” pointed to the absurdity of political, military and religious figures, the stock characters in “The Little Gentleman” are all Jewish women, each one unflattering and overbearing. There is some comedy in seeing them vie for the attention of a fully grown, year-and-a-half-old Jewish baby, who speaks with a British accent. But this child (played with great mirth by Tom O’Keefe) does not want to be big, like Tom Hanks in the movie of that name, rather he wants to know his mother’s real or, as he says, “Christian” name.

Again, Udoff’s theme, whether or not Jews should preserve their own heritage or assimilate and strive for aristocratic breeding, resonates, but before the hour is through the theatergoer, surrounded by irritable Jewish women onstage, may wish to replicate the baby’s self-destructive actions.

“States of Mind” plays at the Hollywood Court Theater, inside the Hollywood United Methodist Church, 6717 Franklin Ave; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Dec. 18. For tickets, call (323) 692-8200.


The Americans Who Fought for Israel

This coming attraction will soon be playing in Los Angeles, but for the moment, you’ll have to go to the University of Florida in Gainesville to see a new exhibit honoring those from the United States and Canada who fought for Israel’s independence in the 1940s.

The central display of the Aliyah Bet and Machal Museum, which opens formally this week, commemorates the deeds of the two groups of volunteers for whom the museum is named. The Aliyah Bet portion honors the 240 North Americans who manned rickety ships and ran the British blockade to bring Holocaust survivors and refugees to Palestine between 1946 and 1948, in a clandestine operation. Among the 12 ships was the famed “Exodus 1947.”

Machal is the Hebrew acronym for volunteers from abroad, or the “Anglo-Saxim,” as they were informally called. About 1,000 North American men and women made their way to the nascent state to serve in the air force, navy and army. Most of the volunteers were World War II veterans and the combat-seasoned fighter pilots who, in particular, formed the backbone of the fledgling Israeli air force.

Early next year, a West Coast replica of the Florida exhibit will be installed at the University of Judaism in Bel Air.

The contributions of the North American volunteers were acknowledged by Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in words engraved in the Machal Memorial at the gateway to Jerusalem.

“They came to us when we needed them most, during those hard and uncertain days of the War of Independence.”

Alongside is another inscription from the Book of Joshua: “All those of valor shall pass armed among your brethren, and shall help them.”

In addition to the North Americans, some 2,500 volunteers from 40 countries served in Machal.

The museum is housed in the university’s new Hillel building. It consists of cabinets framing seven large and seven small panels. In documents, graphics and text, the exhibit documents the history of Zionism and American support, arms acquisition and the recruitment of volunteers: Aliyah Bet and navy service; and Machal volunteers in the Israel Defense Forces.

The final panel commemorates the 40 North Americans who were killed in action, among them Col. David “Mickey” Marcus and seven Christian volunteers.

The Los Angeles exhibit, organized by Dr. Jason Fenton, will add an eighth panel on the contributions of some 450 volunteers from the West Coast, and those who “illegally” provided Israel with desperately needed arms and aircraft.

“We are honored to accept the Aliyah Bet/Machal display and we are delighted to provide a permanent home for these historic panels,” said Dr. Robert Wexler, president of the University of Judaism.

Some 100 surviving Aliyah Bet and Machal veterans and their families are expected at the dedication ceremonies, scheduled for Nov. 19 and 20 at the Hillel building.

Main speakers will be Yitschak Ben Gad, the Israeli consul general in Miami, and Ira Feinberg, president of the American Veterans of Israel, the organization that sponsored the $100,000 project. They will be joined by Dr. Ralph L. Lowenstein, dean emeritus of the College of Journalism and Communication on the Gainesville campus, and director of the new museum.

Lowenstein has been the chief catalyst in the creation of the museum and also established the Aliyah Bet and Machal Archives at the University of Florida. An award-winning reporter and author, he fought with an armored unit in Israel as an 18-year-old volunteer, and later served in the U.S. Army during the Korean War.

“The North American Jewish communities made important contributions to the establishment of the Jewish state,” Lowenstein said. “This story is not well known in America or Israel. Now, with the establishment of the museums on both coasts, this story is being told.”

A letter in the exhibit summarizes the spirit of the volunteers..

“If anything should ever happen to me, I shall not be sorry that I have come to Eretz Israel,” wrote Ralph Moster, a 24-year-old from Vancouver, Canada, who wrote his mother in June 1948. “I am grateful to you for having brought me into the world at a time that I have a chance to fight for a free land for the Jews.”

Six months later, Moster was killed in action.

For more information on the museum, visit www.israelvets.com.


‘Aida’ Not So Tragic for Israeli Maestro


Dan Ettinger looks nothing like the popular image of a classical conductor.

The Israeli is making his American debut with the Los Angeles Opera in Verdi’s “Aida.” Appearing considerably younger than his 33 years and standing a sturdy 6-foot-1, Ettinger wears his hair short-cropped, his approach is casual, and he speaks of his work with the care of a skilled craftsman.

Dealing with an unfamiliar orchestra of more than 80 instrumentalists in “Aida,” advertised as “the grandest of grand operas,” is a major challenge, especially for a self-described “control freak” and “young pisher” (genteelly translated as a “young squirt”).

We talked to Ettinger in the Maestro Room of the downtown Music Center the morning after opening night. He seemed fairly satisfied, although he said that it takes three or four performances before a new opera production hits its peak.

Ettinger is descended from Romanian immigrants to Israel — his father and grandmother are Holocaust survivors — and he grew up in the Tel Aviv suburb of Holon.

Early on, he was exposed to his parents’ large classical and jazz collection and the boy showed an early interest in music.

“I wasn’t a child prodigy and I had a normal childhood, but I always knew that I wanted to be a musician,” he said.

Ettinger attended a special high school for the musically talented, training as pianist and singer, and then enrolled in the Rubin Academy of Music at Tel Aviv University. He quit after one year, because “the school system didn’t work for me, I wanted to do things my own way,” he recalled.

From then on, he developed his diverse musical talents by doing, rather than studying, although he credits the help of private mentors.

Ettinger started his professional career as a baritone at age 19 and cites as his favorite role Papageno in Mozart’s “The Magic Flute.”

Nowadays, Ettinger no longer sings on stage, although when rehearsing “Aida,” he sings along all the parts.

“I find my singing background a real advantage as an opera conductor, because I can identify with the singers, I can phrase with them and breathe with them.”

In a third career, Ettinger continues as a concert pianist, accompanist and coach, and he describes his “ultimate musical experience” as doubling as pianist and conductor in a Mozart piano concerto,

Since 2003, Ettinger has been the resident director of the prestigious Berlin Staatsoper Unter den Linden, handpicked for the job by fellow Israeli Daniel Barenboim.

Many of the current leading musical figures in Berlin are Israelis, Ettinger said, perhaps an ironic footnote to recent world history.

In the coming fall, Ettinger will also become the music director and principal conductor of the Israel Symphony Orchestra in Rishon L’Zion, ranked second in his native country only to the more established Israel Philharmonic.

Yet, he is not entirely happy with the state of opera around the world. For one, budget problems everywhere have forced cuts in rehearsal time, including in his present “Aida” stint.

Of more concern is a shift in the staging of operas.

“It used to be that an opera was the conductor’s world, but now the emphasis is more and more on spectacular visual productions,” he said, though he hopes for a gradual return to more traditional presentations.

After he finishes his current assignment, Ettinger is off to Tokyo to conduct Mozart’s “Cosi fan Tutte,” but he will return to Los Angeles next year, leading the orchestra in Puccini’s “Madame Butterfly.”

Performances of “Aida” will continue on select dates through Feb. 19 at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. For tickets and information, call (213) 972-8001 or visit www.LosAngelesOpera.com.


Irvine Campus Set for Grand Opening

The Bermans and Michaels expect their daily routines and social lives will alter substantially mid-August because of membership in the county’s greatly expanded Jewish Community Center (JCC), relocated in Irvine.

"I’m looking forward to that sense of community, of running into people and they are not in their cars," said Jackie Michaels, of Irvine, whose family of six were JCC devotees elsewhere.

"It’s exciting for us to have everything so central to us," added Mark Berman, 37, of Newport Coast, whose first JCC experience was at the Costa Mesa facility’s preschool where his wife, Sharon, volunteered. Their third son is among 230 preschoolers who will be the first to swarm over the center’s pristine playgrounds and classrooms.

Four years after its genesis, the community building for the JCC and six other Jewish agencies officially opens Aug. 15. It is the centerpiece of the nearly $70 million Samueli Jewish campus, a symbol both of the community’s maturation and a hoped for renaissance of Jewish cultural life.

Met initially with skepticism by many of the community’s leaders, the project’s principal champion gradually won support for an envisioned Jewish neighborhood.

"That was my motivating factor," said Ralph Stern, of Tustin, who shouldered the task of raising the center’s $20 million tab, defining how it would run and reshaping its staff.

Since 2000, Stern, who runs a dental financing business, seized every business trip as a chance to scrutinize other JCCs. Such an undertaking didn’t faze the center’s president, either. Mary Ann Malkoff develops buildings for religious clients. (A tribute lunch for Malkoff is scheduled Sept. 12 as new JCC board members take office.)

The center’s catalyst was the constraints on growth at nearby Tarbut V’Torah Community Day School. Its founder, Irving Gelman, coveted six adjacent acres for expansion. As the landowner refused to subdivide the parcel, industrialist Henry Samueli bought the adjoining 20 acres and an anonymous donor agreed to underwrite the upper-school expansion, a combined gift of $40 million.

"It’s the kind of opportunity you can’t let go by," Stern said.

Since he likens philanthropy to investing, Samueli said the community building is already a success. "It’s rallied so much support; the community has really stepped up. To contribute time and money, you know they all believe in it," he said.

A month of special events will follow to showcase the sort of services possible. A full fall programming catalog is to be distributed in August and most programs would start next month. Sampler programs include pilates, chamber music, a mitzvah camp, swim teams and a triathlon.

Also new is the hiring of Rabbi Rebecca Schorr as the center’s director of Jewish education, a move that initially raised territorial hackles by some pulpit rabbis. Allaying competitive concerns, Schorr said she’s focused on one-day adult education topics, preschool Judaica and serving as the staff’s pastoral counselor.

Despite higher annual fees that upset some members of the former Costa Mesa facility, more than 760 "units," comprised of singles or families, were committed as of mid-July. The tally includes 100 seniors, 40 of whom took advantage of scholarships, said Dan Bernstein, the center’s executive director.

Bernstein hoped for 500 members as of Aug. 1. His first year target is a 1,000-unit average, which he predicts will be reached by August 2005 as the roster ascends to 1,300 units.

"Nobody doesn’t come here and go ‘wow,’" said Bernstein, hired in December for his know-how opening a similar sized facility around an aging JCC in Sarasota, Fla.

With characteristic reserve, Stern is not yet popping celebratory corks.

"The feeling of exhilaration, I haven’t felt it yet," he said. Several loose ends remain, such as delivery of a $15,000 Holocaust monument. "When you have 25 of those details, there is still a lot of work to be done," he said.

Some gifts toward a $3 million endowment for the center’s overhead are still to be finalized, Stern said, though one significant piece recently fell into place. The former Jewish campus, a gift from Sandy and Allan Fainbarg and Ruth and Arnold Feurstein, was sold for $5 million to a developer. Proceeds will fund the center and the agencies’ transition costs, Stern said.

Even before the doors open, Michaels can anticipate a sense of entitlement: "It’s a place where you know you belong."

Central Coast Home to Holocaust Exhibit

In a watershed event for the California central coast’s small Jewish community, the Santa Barbara Jewish Federation marked the 65th anniversary of Kristallnacht by opening the city’s first permanent Holocaust exhibit.

The opening shows just how far this small Jewish community has come.

"This is a first for Santa Barbara; the [Jewish] community has grown slowly," said local attorney Steve Amerikaner, whose parents survived Dachau and saw their son born in a Displaced Persons Camp.

With an estimated 5,000-8000 Jews, sun-kissed Santa Barbara has four synagogues and a Hillel at UCSB.

"We don’t naturally want to think or speak about this stuff," said filmmaker and Montecito resident Ivan Reitman, who was born into a Slovakian Jewish family in 1946.

"We bask in the freedom and fortune of this country, especially here in beautiful Santa Barbara. [But] we have certain enemies that say that the Holocaust was greatly exaggerated or that it wasn’t so bad. So speak we must."

Several hundred Santa Barbara Jews crowded into the Bronfman Family Jewish Community Center for the Nov. 9th opening of the Santa Barbara Jewish Federation’s new "Portraits of Survival: Life Journeys During the Holocaust and Beyond" exhibit. It tells concise stories of 38 local adult and child survivors, including Reitman’s parents Leslie and Clara, an Auschwitz survivor.

Located in a small building near the city’s popular State Street, the exhibit is classic Santa Barbara, as its walls are a calming white. Rather than being huge and overpowering like some national exhibits, "Portraits" is small and neighborly, its almost cozy display space comprised of 38, three-panel sets showing faded photos, letters, transit documents and other mementos.

The two front panels tell the survivors’ story in their own words, some in their own handwriting. But each panel’s right side also opens up to show, on its other side, a full portrait of the survivor today. Child survivor Lili Schiff was photographed sitting near a pond. Stella Better posed with her poodle. Anti-Nazi journalist Kurt Singer later wrote books about espionage; now 92 and with both legs amputated, he posed in his wheelchair, holding one of his spy books and a magnifying glass. Klara Zimmer died three years ago, so her exhibit photo found her portrait centered in sunlight, flanked by her toddler twin grandchildren, Max and Sophia.

Schiff’s story clearly moved the crowd. One of two daughters of assimilated Belgian Jews, Schiff was hidden for two years by an illiterate Belgian coal miner and his wife.

A Gestapo raid saw Schiff and her sister, Frida, driven to a rural convent by the Rev. Bruno Reynders, the Catholic priest whose hiding of 316 Belgian Jews including 200 children saw him called, "Righteous Among the Nations" at Jerusalem’s Yad Vashem memorial.

At the convent, the two girls lived with the nuns for the war’s last two years.

"They even taught me to play the piano," Schiff said.

That Catholic convent remains the mother house of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur. At the "Portraits" event, the Federation thanked and honored the religious order’s Santa Barbara-based nuns on behalf of their Belgian sisters.

"Portraits" is sponsored by UCSB and Santa Barbara Bank & Trust and was conceived by Mara Kohn, the wife of UCSB physicist and Nobel Prize winner Walter Kohn, an Austrian Jewish refugee.

Local Federation honorees also included Annie Schipper, who, with her late husband, hid a Jewish family in their home in occupied Holland, and American veterans Morton Barrish and Norman Blau, whose military units liberated Dachau.

Though Reitman has created comedy mega-hits including "Ghostbusters" and "Stripes," he held back tears while describing how his late parents escaped Nazis and Communists and found freedom in Canada.

"Before my bar mitzvah I asked my father, ‘Do you believe in God?’" said Reitman. "And he said, ‘Absolutely.’ At least six times during these years, things happened where he had no business staying alive."

With "Portraits" opening exactly 65 years after Nazi Germany’s Nov. 9, 1938, "Night of the Broken Glass," survivor Ericka Kahn spoke about being 13 years old, hiding with other scared children in her Berlin school.

"I can’t believe that I’m here, looking at all of you," said Kahn, who then asked all the children to come forward and light six candles in memory of the Holocaust’s 6 million murdered Jews.

Schiff’s son, Eric, attended the opening with his young son and daughter, driving down from Lompoc in remote, northern Santa Barbara County. There are so few Jews up there, Eric Schiff said, that among his neighbors and co-workers, "when they find out that I’m Jewish, they say, ‘I thought you were American.’ So we’re trying to open their eyes."

The "Portraits" stories have re-educated Eric Schiff, whose mother did not discuss the war with her children.

"Even today," he said, "just reading about my mom in the exhibit, I learn more."

The exhibit is at the Santa Barbara Jewish Federation, 524 Chapala St., Santa Barbara. For more information, call (805) 957-1115.

A ‘New Germany’

Jewish leaders in the United States and in Israel are encouraging an openness to what they describe as a “new Germany,” a place they say is truly atoning for its past. At the very least, they argue, it deserves the support of the American Jewish community because of its strong support of Israel and its embrace of Jewish immigrants who are streaming in at the rate of 10,000 per year.

This year marks the opening of a major Holocaust memorial in Berlin and a surge of travel to Germany by a half-dozen American Jewish groups venturing over a threshold that had seemed forbidden for decades.

The groups going to Germany include some of the most powerful in the United States. The North American Boards of Rabbis held its annual conference there this year, as did the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations, both for the first time.

Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice president for the Conference of Presidents, said he was pleasantly surprised at the Germany he encountered, a place where there are visible shows of contrition for the past, whether on TV, in school or in public memorials.

United Jewish Communities (UJC) is preparing a second mission to the country in October, anticipating that some 150 major donors will jump at the opportunity to meet German officials, connect with the world’s fastest-growing Jewish community and learn about the German-Israel alliance.

Mission co-chair Steve Selig, past president of Atlanta’s Jewish Federation and chairman of the human services and social policy section of UJC, said he goes with definite emotional baggage.

“When I see an elderly person driving a taxi cab, I’m going to wonder what they did in their earlier life,” Selig said. “But I’m going to try and go with an open mind and an open heart.”

Advising Caution

Other Jewish groups are also going. San Francisco’s Jewish Federation sponsored a mission to Germany this month, and next month a group of 15 graduate students from Brandeis University will experience living in Germany for 10 days, courtesy of the German government.

“The trip isn’t designed to open minds, but certain myths do fall away once you’re exposed to a living reality,” said Brandeis professor Eugene Sheppard, one of two faculty members who’ll accompany the students.

A colleague, Jonathan Sarna, chairman of the university’s Near Eastern and Judaic studies department, added that the trip also isn’t designed to whitewash the past “but to help people understand that 50 years later there’s a very different Germany than the one they read about in the ’30s and ’40s.”

Germany’s Jewish population now numbers about 100,000, two-thirds of them Russians who are taking advantage of economic incentives offered by the German government. Immigration to Germany is restricted to ethnic Germans and Jews, who are entitled to subsidies, language training and other social benefits.

Rebuilding internally and through tourism is fine, as long as Jews remain vigilant, said Rabbi Marvin Hier, dean and founder of the Los Angeles-based Simon Wiesenthal Center, an organization dedicated to teaching the Holocaust and fighting on behalf of victims of racism, terrorism, genocide and anti-Semitism.

Israel is dependent on Germany as a trading partner and is its only champion in the European Union. American Jews, Hier said, need to be the voice that reminds Germany of its responsibility to world Jewry and to Israel “so that Germany doesn’t become one of the other European countries that can turn on a dime. The greatest thing Americans can do is make sure that Israel remains a free, strong Jewish state.”

But Hier worries about frequent right-wing and neo-Nazi incidents in Germany. And he is cynical about Germany’s attempts to memorialize the Holocaust. The United States built a major museum in Washington and cities throughout the country have opened their own permanent exhibits, whereas Germany’s new Holocaust memorial will be a static monument that can be apprehended only through the eyes, he said.

“I don’t doubt it’ll be very impressive,” Hier said, “but that’s not the way you educate a younger generation, by taking them to a place of silence and telling them to look at stones. What can one learn from the Washington Monument or Lincoln Memorial? I don’t think we get the essence of their lives through the memorials.”

Inside View

Having lived and worked in Stuttgart for nearly a year, Cyril Benitah isn’t quite sure what to think. The 30-year-old engineer moved from metro Detroit to Germany to continue working for DaimlerChrysler.

“On the outside, it seems to be open and friendly, but I’ve got some anxiety about letting anyone know about my background,” he said.

While they were sitting in a cafe one afternoon, an American friend who has lived in Germany for nearly 20 years as an army officer blurted out that hatred for Jews is still alive and well in Germany, an unbidden remark that threw Benitah off balance.

Of course, anti-Semitism is alive in Germany, a fact that even Berlin-based Eugene DuBow, senior advisor with the American Jewish Committee, concedes.

“I’m old enough to have lived through the Holocaust and the establishment of the State of Israel,” said DuBow, 68. “I dealt with my prejudices by meeting people, many of whom were horrified by what went on in their country, what their parents and grandparents had done or not done. After a while, you find out that people are just people. Is there anti-Semitism there? Yes, but there are good people, too.”

Deconstructing Harry

When Harry Blitzstein decided to open up his Blitzstein Museum of Art (facetiously subtitled “Formerly Moe’s Meat Market”), the neighboring merchants on Fairfax Avenue had a unanimous reaction.”They thought I was just kidding,” the painter said.

After all, area residents have known Blitzstein all of his life. Harry was the son of the owner of Fair Shoe Stop, a long-standing establishment that folded in 1984, a few months after the death of Blitzstein’s father. However, since opening his studio five years ago in the building that once housed his father’s store, Blitzstein has become as venerable a Fairfax Avenue institution as the famed L.A. delicatessen across the street. In fact, Blitzstein points out that his father, whose business originated in Boyle Heights, used to repair shoes for old man Canter himself.

These days, Blitzstein can often be found at his storefront gallery, sitting in the eye of his artistic hurricane — a dense output of nearly 200 pieces peopled with his “spirits and creatures” that sometimes literally leap out of the picture frame. These cartoonish oil portraits, rendered in quick, freewheeling swaths of paint, defy description or category; they’re something like the Cartoon Network broadcast from inside a German Expressionist’s fever dream. And that’s not even including the frenzied mural of doodles that adorns the floor.

According to Blitzstein, he opened the gallery “the same way I paint, just to see the reaction of the people.” That reaction has run the range from befuddlement among the local denizens to energized among the extended community of artists, models and writers.

They are not alone. Even Blitzstein’s grown children don’t quite know what to make of his work. And Blitzstein’s parents, whose lineage traces back to Russia, never really appreciated or supported what he does either… and that’s despite the fact that his mother, now 89, is an artist herself.

“She didn’t really encourage me,” said Blitzstein, who has been the subject of eight shows in recent years.

“My work is probably a departure from pretty little pictures. Not seeking beauty in that sense.”

Blitzstein — who paints before noon and finds drawing “relaxing, like doing a jigsaw puzzle” — admits that the spurts in which his stuff sells (prices range from $5 to $40,000) can be discouraging.

“Yes, sometimes I’ll just want to fold up for good, and then someone comes in and wants to buy a painting or make a movie about me,” said the 62-year-old artist, whose work has appeared in a handful of offbeat films, such as the beloved cult horror favorite “Puppet Master.”

“Offbeat” is a term that’s been used to describe Blitzstein’s work. Many people off the streets visiting the Museum of Art barely stay long enough to meet Art — Blitzstein’s synergistically named black cocker spaniel who is not the subject of his museum.

Although his work draws inspiration from artists such as Goya and Putin, Blitzstein is more moved by great literature and music — these days, Kafka and Isaac Bashevis Singer linger on his nightstand, while Mahler and Leonard Cohen spin on his turntable. Surprisingly, the world of cartoons had little impact on the young Blitzstein while growing up, save for the genius of Dr. Seuss and a casual interest in Warner Bros. shorts and Disney features. That comes as a shock given the loopy, whimsical nature of his work and the loose gestural sketches that often resemble something torn from an animator’s sketchbook.

Blitzstein keeps a portfolio that just may underscore the driving philosophy behind his work. The three-ring folder is filled with “masterpieces” of contemporary and pop art artists: Rauschenberg, Johns, Lichtenstein. The difference: each picture plane is invaded, intruded and interloped upon by a freaky-faced Blitzstein creation.

Blitzstein frankly feels that many of the darlings of the art world are overpuffed soufflés, and that critics and buyers alike cannot identify a great work of art beyond hype and celebrity.

“People need familiarity,” said Blitzstein. “They feel safe because it’s acclaimed. That’s not art, that’s commerce.”

He has equal patience for the genteel, pompous portraits and landscapes that might fill a museum such as the British National Gallery: “One boring face after another. I want to just blow that apart.”

Indeed, Blitzstein revels in blowing apart the pretentions of the modern. His art is all about escaping from the mind-numbing universe of minutiae and routine that intrudes on our everyday life. Anyone suffering from whiplash is advised to stay out of the Blitzstein Museum of Art, where you’ll spend much time looking up at the hundreds of dolphins, camels, rat-faced dogs and other critters ignoring the constraints of their canvas to reach out to you. They include dogs inspired by the knotholes in the wood Blitzstein paints on and toucans dating back to his L.A. High School days, when Blitzstein drew them on the margins of his schoolwork “so I could not listen to the teacher doing chemistry equations.” And if this zany menagerie seems to vie for your affection, that’s because, as Blitzstein puts it, “they’re little creatures that want to be loved.”

The Blitzstein Museum of Art is located at 428 N. Fairfax Ave. For more information, call (323) 852-4830.

Celebrating the Rebirth of ‘L.A.’s Jewish Headquarters’

The Jewish Federation Goldsmith Center — reborn state-of-the-art headquarters of The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles — enjoyed a splashy grand-opening celebration on Dec. 10. Originally slated as a community-wide event, the Donor Recognition Ceremony served as a formal thank-you to lead contributors, such as Elaine and Bram Goldsmith, the building’s namesakes. With an original $5-million matching gift, the Goldsmith family launched the capital campaign for the 12-story building’s two-year refurbishing process, which corrected damage incurred from the Northridge quake.

Crucial to the campaign’s success were Federation Chief Operating Officer Jack Klein, and Lionel Bell and Ed Sanders, campaign co-chairs and Federation past presidents.

Federation Chairman Todd Morgan opened the program, and Federation President John Fishel paid special thanks to the absent Carmen Warschaw, the former Jewish Community Relations Committee (JCRC) chair, whom Fishel called “our very able advocate to FEMA after the earthquake.”

From the lectern, Gov. Gray Davis, signator of $2 million toward the building’s $20 million-plus budget, praised L.A.’s Jewish community for its continuity of tradition in the face of adversity.

“I don’t know of another community that is so resilient,” he said.

Special artwork commemorating the event awaited attendees inside the Bell Gallery, such as “Letters of Foundation,” conceived by Lynn Small and Dennis Paul. Among those also in attendance: Dodger outfielder and KOREH L.A. spokesperson Shawn Green; Yuval Rotem, Israeli consul general for Los Angeles; and personnel from Federation’s various departments, including JCRC leaders Michael Hirschfeld and Elaine Albert; Lois Weinsaft, director of community development; and Rabbi Mark Diamond, executive vice president of the Board of Rabbis of Southern California. Videotaped kudos from President Clinton, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, Mayor Richard Riordan, former Prime Minister Shimon Peres and others were screened.

The program closed with a proud Bram Goldsmith, with wife Elaine by his side, deeming the new 6505 “an example of how the fruits of our labor and the generosity of so many people have come into fruition.”