The importance of ‘Paper’


A profound irony suffuses this book review.  “Paper, An Elegy” by Ian Sansom (William Morrow/HarperCollins, $24.99) is a celebration of the civilizing function of pulped vegetable matter, but you are reading about the book in the paperless environment of the Internet.  And so passes the glory of the world.

Appropriately enough, “Paper” is a superb example of print-on-paper publishing. The book’s paper stock is a pleasure to the touch, its typography is elegant to behold, its illustrations are exquisitely reproduced and displayed, and the words that Sansom has chosen to express are deeply rooted in what the digital natives among us insist on calling the “dead-tree” tradition of world literature.

Yet the book is slightly mis-titled. To be sure, Sansom has written a sentimental history of paper, but he always reminds us of the ways in which we will continue to rely on this ancient and humble material for things both great and small in our world: “Without paper, we are nothing,” he writes, alluding to the fact that our lives begin with birth certificates and continue to accumulate documents of identity until we are awarded a death certificate. “We are born human, but are forever becoming paper, as paper becomes us, our artificial skin.  Everything we are is paper: it is the ground of activity, the partner to all our enterprises, the key to our understanding of the past.”

So Sansom is not yet willing to concede that paper is obsolete. “Without paper our lives would be unimaginable,” he insists, although he is referring to objects other than books — after all, where would we be without tea bags and coffee filters, toilet paper and Post-it notes, napkins and emery boards.  “Will there be a continuing role for paper? Short answer: Yes.”

Sansom begins at the beginning with the invention of paper-making, the wedding of paper and printing (“[T]hey’re a couple; it’s a perfect marriage”) and the revolution that the printed book worked in history. “Books produced by this sort of method have been accorded responsibility  by historians for everything from the scientific revolution to the Protestant Reformation, to the collapse of the ancien régime in France, to the rise of capitalism and the fall of communism, and just about everything in between.”

But the author does not neglect the more mundane uses of paper; in fact, his argument for the importance of paper is all the stronger when it comes to functions that digitization will never replace, and toilet paper is only the most obvious. Artists, architects, and activists may resort to computer-assisted media, but he uses the famous image of Barack Obama by Shepard Fairey as an example of the unique and enduring power of paper.

“The Obama poster, initially printed by hand in a small batch by Fairey, and eventually reproduced everywhere on signs, flyers, stickers and badges, has an immediate, low-tech, anachronistic appeal: it suggests the workmanlike pull of ink through a screen with a squeegee, and thus the human scale of the Obama project,” he writes. “Paper, somehow, despite all the odds, remains radical.”

One nagging question is anticipated and answered in detail by the author in a passage that I found utterly (and characteristically) charming.

“In total, this book is made from twenty reams of plain white 80 gsm copier paper, fifteen A4 lined, narrow-feint pads, four Moleskine pocket notebooks, six packs of A5 lined index cards, fifty manila folders (green), and three wrist-thick blocks of Post-it notes (assorted colors),” he discloses. “The finished product is printed on Glatfelter’s Offset 70 lb. B18 Antique form a mill in Spring Grove, Pennsylvania — virgin paper with no added optical brighteners, made by a chlorine-free process and using pulp from woodlands that comply with guidelines set by the Sustainable Forest Initiative.” 

To which he adds a coda. “Too much?” he muses. “Too much. Not enough.”  I take his point — every book, but especially a book as full of delight as “Paper, An Elegy,” is itself a winning argument for the survival of paper.


Jonathan Kirsch, author and publishing attorney, is the book editor of The Jewish Journal. His latest book is “The Short, Strange Life of Herschel Grynszpan: A Boy Avenger, a Nazi Diplomat, and a Murder in Paris” (W.W. Norton/Liveright), published in 2013 to coincide with the 75th anniversary of Kristallnacht. Kirsch can be reached at books@jewishjournal.com.

The Newish Journal


Is it possible to take a holiday like Rosh Hashanah, which focuses so strongly on human affairs, and apply it to a nonhuman thing, like, say, a community paper? On the surface, this doesn’t make sense: Everything about Rosh Hashanah is about what we do as humans — taking stock of our behavior, repenting for our sins and renewing ourselves for the coming year.

I’ve never heard of a rabbi who gave a Rosh Hashanah sermon on the importance of renewing the décor in our homes or the design or content of our magazines.

And yet this year, as we approached that time of year when we work on renewing ourselves, I noticed I had the same itch to renew a “thing” I work on: the Jewish Journal.

This was not a “religious” process — it was more of an instinctive process whereby my partner Rob Eshman and I looked at a good Jewish community paper and asked the eternal Jewish question: How can we make it better? 

The result is what you’re now holding in your hands, what we’re calling, in honor of Rosh Hashanah, a renewal of the Jewish Journal. 

To kick off this renewal, we asked ourselves: How can we freshen up the overall design of the paper and make different sections stand out? In essence, how can we make the whole experience of going through the Journal a more engaging one?

And, if we had to summarize our mission in three words that would go on our masthead, what would they be?

The three words we came up with were: “Connect. Inform. Inspire.”

Our New Year’s resolution for 5773 will be to deliver on these three words as well as or better than we ever have.

“Connect” signifies that our first mission is one of connection: To connect Jews of all stripes to their community, their tradition and one another, while also connecting the larger community to ours.

“Inform” is the heart of what we do, and it’s how we create these connections. We seek interesting stories, important news, insightful commentary and practical information, and deliver it all in a clear and engaging way. We are storytellers, in the ancient tradition of our people.

Finally, if we do our job right, we aim to inspire you. 

“Inspire” is a big canvas. It can mean inspiring you to get involved with a local charity; to learn more about Zionism and visit Israel; to find new meaning in a Jewish holiday or a Torah portion of the week; to explore the rich and fascinating tapestry of Jewish culture; or even to reach beyond the Jewish community to heal your city, your country and your world.

In this spirit of inspiration, you’ll notice we have added what Rob Eshman (true foodie that he is) has coined “spiceboxes.”

These spiceboxes are little squares scattered throughout the paper that showcase items like the Yiddish or Hebrew word of the week, poetry, moments in Jewish history, life tips, Jewish humor, spiritual “soul bites,” great photos and anything else we feel will surprise and delight you. What’s a good meal without good spices?

And speaking of variety, our new “big word” graphic look will better highlight our coverage of our community’s diversity, which we plan to make even more extensive with the addition of some new sections.

On the advertising front, we have pioneered a new “brandraising” model whereby philanthropists donate branding campaigns to the causes of their choice. So far, through our new creative division, JJ Branding, we have initiated campaigns for nonprofit brands such as Hiddush, Coachart, Spark and American Diabetes Association, as well as for Occidental College and the Nissan Leaf. (If you’d like to donate your own branding campaign to your favorite cause, don’t be shy — contact me.)

Our Web site and mobile platforms are growing and are continually being “renewed.” We now host exclusively more than 80 bloggers, including the renowned Rosner’s Domain. This month, we’re launching Shmuel Rosner’s new book on the 2012 election, “The Jewish Vote” (JewishJournal Books), as well as an innovative new site, HollywoodJournal.com, which will cover “The Soul of the Biz.” 

One thing that will never change at the Journal is our expectation of … criticism. Yes, criticism. We not only expect it, we embrace it. It helps us serve you better.

In fact, this is what helped us get to this “newish” Journal in the first place — listening to your feedback, ideas and critiques.

Maybe that’s why it was so natural for us to apply the Rosh Hashanah mitzvah of self-correction to our paper: Because you, our beloved readers, never let us forget where and when we go wrong!

On that note, please keep the feedback coming, and may we all be blessed for a year of spiritual growth, joyful times and continuous renewal of everything we cherish.


David Suissa is president of TRIBE Media Corp./Jewish Journal and can be reached at davids@jewishjournal.com.

Save the date, save the world


Wedding invitations have traditionally gone beyond telling friends and family about the whens and wheres of a couple’s big day. Through use of color, typefaces and embellishments, they made a statement about a couple’s personality and tastes.

As the environment and economy play roles in changing tradition, today’s couples are compelled to think beyond the surface of their invitations, as well as R.S.V.P. cards, thank-you notes and programs.

Stationery purveyors, many thriving online, are not only up on “surface detail” trends, but also environmentally sound alternatives to traditional wedding stationery. Savvy couples are realizing — in increasing numbers — that when they send out invites, they are also sending out a message about their own sustainability practices. Some are turning away from paper and ink altogether and looking to cyberspace for their wedding communication needs, from the invites to thank-you notes, as well as albums and scrapbooks.

Stacy Broff, a Los Angeles event publicist/planner and bride-to-be, is well versed on current trends professionally and personally. Her wedding is planned as “a simple but classy event,” and she stresses the importance of striking a balance between creating the “fairy tale,” staying within budget and doing her part for the environment.

Broff researched a company selling eco-friendly invitations. While she acknowledges the ultimate way to invite green is to use e-mail, she and the client felt paper invites were necessary for the audience they wanted to reach. Westside green Realtor/broker Pence Hathorn Silver served as her invite inspiration.

“Some brides seek out luxury because, after all, this is their big day,” Broff said. “However, Pence Hathorn Silver gave me thank-you notes that can be planted in the garden instead of tossed in the trash — what a perfect way to say thank you and do something good for the Earth. Meanwhile, I combed through dozens of wedding sites and wedding magazines, and found many companies offering eco-friendly goods and services. I advise brides to take the time to pick and choose what solutions are most important to them. You can’t do everything — but you can do a lot.”

” target=”_blank”>www.botanicalpaperworks.com, which offers invitations made with wildflower seeds. He also notices that Web site addresses are showing up more often on invites, which offers couples a paper-free way to create elaborate wedding sites that incorporate details of the wedding and all events (bachelor/bachelorette parties, rehearsal dinner, bridal shower), along with ceremony site, restaurants and accommodations.

Jonathan Abrams, who founded social networking Web site Friendster, has capitalized on the paperless movement with ” target=”_blank”>Minted.com, which launched in April and exclusively offers green stationery from Oblation and Wiley.

She recommended that brides visit ” target=”_blank”>GoGreen.com offers insight into how eco-friendly invites help the planet:

  • Use post-consumer waste or recycled paper products, or “paper” made from grasses, cotton, flax, hemp, straw, silk and silk blends.
  • When you use these products, know that you are reducing chlorine pollution!
  • Do something unique like using pretty postcards as your invitation.
  • If postcards are not your thing, try to reduce the amount of paper used overall. Reconsider the use of paper and tissue inserts.
  • Think about your ink! If you print your invites at home, refill your ink cartridges. When you get rid of cartridges, donate them to a cause or drop in a recycling box. Also, seek online companies that print with earth friendly inks, and others sell similar inks for home use.

The Lichtenstein Formula for a Jewish Paper


“The role of a Jewish newspaper is to connect the Jewish community, not to unify it,” said Gene Lichtenstein, founding editor of The Journal.

During his nearly 15-year tenure, which ended in 2000, Lichtenstein’s formula was to hire good, independent writers and columnists who could produce articles that raised the interest, and frequently the hackles, of both professional and peripheral Jews.

“I wanted stories that people would discuss and argue about the following day,” Lichtenstein said during a lengthy interview at his home near the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

This concept doesn’t seem so revolutionary now, but it went counter to the tradition of most American Jewish weeklies in decades past.

The purpose of those publications was precisely to unify their communities in material and moral support of their federations, which usually financed the papers, and other Jewish and Israeli causes. A basic rule was to avoid criticism and controversy.

In that sense, Lichtenstein was an odd, even risky, choice as editor, and his selection split the then Jewish Federation Council, he recalls.

When Lichtenstein visited Los Angeles in 1985 to court his future wife, Jocelyn, the city’s Jews had the unusual choice of three competing weeklies.

They were the venerable B’nai B’rith Messenger, the maverick Heritage, both independently owned, and the Jewish Community Bulletin, the official Federation organ.

Much of The Federation’s leadership was dissatisfied with the coverage of all three papers and decided to explore a new format with a new editor to replace its own Bulletin.

At this point, Lichtenstein remembers, he was contacted by Ethel Narvid, a key player in Democratic and city politics, on behalf of a Federation committee appointed to find a new editor to shape a new paper.

Lichtenstein, the grandson of Russian immigrants, had a resume combining experience as psychologist, journalist and academic.

He had worked for The New York Times, Fortune, London Economist and as literary editor at Esquire, where his contributors included the likes of Saul Bellow and Philip Roth.

On the academic side, he had served as chairman of the journalism department at the University of Rhode Island and taught courses in mass communications at USC and UC Berkeley.

Perhaps equally important for the position at hand, he had started a newspaper in the Boston area, the Jewish Journal of the Northshore.

As he recalls it, in his first interview with The Federation committee, chaired by attorney Richard Volpert, Lichtenstein outlined his concept for the new paper.

“I wanted an American newspaper, Jewish but connected to the larger world,” he said. “It wouldn’t just reflect the viewpoint of The Federation or be mainly about fundraising. It wouldn’t print only favorable stories about the Jewish community and Israel.”

In addition, he would insist on good writing, and the contributions of columnists would be central to the paper.

After that presentation, Lichtenstein thought that his chances of getting the job were pretty slim, and he and Jocelyn went on a vacation trip to London.

To his surprise, “I got a midnight call from Volpert and he offered me the editorship,” Lichtenstein said.

Shortly afterward, Narvid gave a lunch at her home for some old friends, including Los Angeles Times labor editor Harry Bernstein and this reporter, to introduce Lichtenstein.

“Harry told me that I was kidding myself if I thought The Federation would let me put out an independent paper, and you backed him up,” Lichtenstein reminded me.

Despite the prediction, The Federation committee and larger Federation board of directors agreed, in the face of considerable internal opposition, to establish an independent Journal, to advance a $660,000 loan for its operation, and to pay a subsidy to mail the paper to each of its 52,000 donors.

There had been two other finalists for the editor’s job, Yehuda Lev, an outspoken, liberal journalist, and Marlene Adler Marks, a talented writer active in politics and feminist issues.

Lev and Marks were the first editor/reporters hired, soon joined by such early staffers as Tom Waldman, Sheldon Teitelbaum, Joe Domanick and Naomi Pfefferman.

The first slim issue of The Jewish Journal appeared on Feb. 28, 1986, with Volpert, whom the often-critical Lichtenstein praised for “a real standout job,” as the first publisher.

Early issues won kudos for lively writing, outraged criticism by some Federation leaders and Jewish organizations, and a weak response from advertisers.

Within one year, the paper was hemorrhaging money, and some influential Federation leaders demanded that in the future they approve all major stories and editorials. Lichtenstein refused and, in a committee vote, carried the day by a narrow margin.

However, there was enough dissatisfaction with the editorial and business performance of The Journal that The Federation invited Charles Buerger, publisher of six successful East Coast Jewish papers, to buy out The Journal.

Buerger made a “low- ball” offer, then raised the stakes, but “to my astonishment,” The Federation decided not to sell, Lichtenstein said.

Nevertheless, by June 1987, the paper had run through the $660,000 lent by The Federation and faced an early demise.

At his point, major Federation leaders, with Edward Brennglass, Stanley Hirsh and Osiah Goren in the lead, rode to the rescue, putting up their own money to repay the loan. The Journal lived to fight another day.

Brennglass took over as publisher for the next 11 years, the paper established a solid reputation and actually started to make a profit. After Brennglass’ death, Hirsh, an influential businessman and Democratic heavyweight, became publisher in 1997.

However, by the year 2000, strong editorial and personality differences between publisher and editor-in-chief led to a parting point. Lichtenstein resigned and was succeeded by the managing editor, Rob Eshman.

Looking back on his 15-year tenure, Lichtenstein said he had “a wonderful time,” which included reporting trips to Israel, Germany, Hungary and Croatia.

“I think we put out a pretty good paper, though not as good as it could have been,” he reminisced. Part of the problem was a running conflict between himself and Federation leaders, which, he acknowledged, were partly his fault.

“I was really always an outsider, with one foot in the community, and one foot outside,” he said. In addition, “I believe that a Jewish weekly belongs to the editor and staff, and it is the editor’s job to make the staff realize that the paper belongs to them.

“That is hard for some organizational leaders to accept,” Lichtenstein added in an understatement.

His major contributions, Lichtenstein said, were to publish as many diverse viewpoints as possible, recruit talented writers and columnists and insist, at all times, on good writing.

True to his initial inspiration, “I tried to put out a paper that was part of America and the world,” he said.

“I’ve met some Jews, very wealthy and powerful Jews, who embrace Jewish victimhood, who told me that you can never trust a gentile,” Lichtenstein said. “I don’t champion that. I believe that the walls we build around ourselves are only in our minds.”

The “victim” mindset is encouraged by many Jewish organizations, Lichtenstein said, “which wave the flag of anti-Semitism to keep their members loyal and to raise funds.”

For Lichtenstein, there is a busy life after journalism. While he still writes, he has returned to his first profession as psychologist and is the director of mental health and social services for 26 clinics of the Aegis Institute, which specializes in the treatment of opiate addicts.

In addition, he has established a private practice, which includes family and marriage counseling.

He draws a distinction between core committed Jews, who go to synagogue and contribute to Jewish causes, and the “integrated” Jew on the periphery of the organized community.

“It is not the job of the American Jewish press to ‘convert’ the integrated Jew,” he said. “Our job is to open a dialogue with him.”

 

Campers Display the Write Stuff


Almost every summer day, the Malibu Post Office receives a large amount of mail from the several hundred Jewish campers at Camp Hess Kramer and Camp JCA Shalom, a lot of them letters home written by girls.

When the 13-year-old girls at Hess Kramer’s Cabin Rachel were asked if girls enjoy writing letters more than boys, the entire cabin shouted, “Yes!”

Letters from Jewish summer camps have not changed much since 1963, when Allan Sherman recorded the classic song, “Hello Muddah! Hello Faddah!” Kids still write about what they had for lunch, what their cabin is like and their bunkmates. Though a national Web site allows one-way e-mails from parents to kids, Jewish summer camps still expect campers to write their folks the old-fashioned way — with pen, paper, stamps and envelopes.

“This is my seventh year going to camp; last year, I had to write like one every week, and the year before, I tried to write one every couple of days,” said Hess Kramer veteran, Aaron, at 14 a part of the hipster crew at Cabin Jerry (actually Cabin Jeremiah). “Each year, I’ve written like less and less. We’ve matured, and we can handle being away from our family better.”

The girls of Cabin Rachel know that quality paper is a must for a nice letter home.

“I have Winnie the Pooh stationery,” Megan, 13, said.

“Polka-dots,” a friend said.

“Hello Kitty,” another volunteered.

One girl had two sets of stationery, and another had six.

“Boys don’t even know what a letter is,” Leah, 13, said.

“I really like to write long letters, because I can’t talk to them over the phone,” Carly, 13, said. “I love to tell my parents like everything that … I’ve done in the day.”

Care packages from home included shirts and candy.

“Girls love stuff,” said Blake, 13, whose parents sent her Cosmo Girl, now part of the Cabin Rachel library of Teen People, Teen Vogue, Seventeen, etc.

“The more I write, the more stuff I get,” one girl said .

In a world of junk mail overflowing in real and electronic mailboxes, Sara, 16, a Hess Kramer counselor in training, said, “There’s something about getting a letter that’s addressed to you.”

“E-mail gets annoying,” Carly said, “but letters, like they don’t get old.”

With so much Jewish summer camp mail flowing into the Malibu Post Office, “sometimes letters go out and take a week to get places,” said Howard Kaplan, Hess Kramer executive director.

One solution for concerned parents is the www.bunkone.com Web site, through which parents can send their kids e-mails, but their kids can only reply by regular mail.

While the Wilshire Boulevard Temple-run Hess Kramer hugs the Ventura County line near Malibu’s northern beaches, Camp JCA Shalom is close but requires a nerve-testing drive through empty, mountainous stretches of Mulholland Highway.

Once past its large Hebrew script gate greeting, Camp JCA Shalom has an almost hippie-like casualness. Jewish kids from throughout the Western United States converge at the camp, many wearing or making Grateful Dead-inspired tie-dyed shirts.

Bill Kaplan, executive director of the Shalom Institute, which runs Camp JCA Shalom, said a rule of thumb with camp letter writing is that if kids are not writing to their parents every day, that may be a sign that they are busy and happy.

Here, too, middle school-age girls rule Camp JCA Shalom’s letter-writing culture. The nondenominational camp also finds some campers writing in Cyrillic script. Of the 11 girls in this summer’s Cabin G-5 Survivors, six were from Ukrainian or Russian Jewish families.

“I wrote about five letters in Russian,” said Diana, 12, who had just received a one-page letter written alternately by her mother and father.

Among the 10- and 11-year-old boys in Cabin B-4 Shizzles, postcards were preferred over letters, partly to avoid wasting time during summer camp’s short but memorable window of fun.

“We’re brothers for three weeks,” Austin 10, said. “Everyone in our cabin is like our family, our second family.”

“We’re never homesick!” shouted another B-4 Shizzles camper.

In Cabin G-5 Survivors, Mylan, 12, wrote 10 letters in three weeks. “I’ve written some to my parents so they don’t worry about me,” she explained.

Alissa, also 12, said she writes her own letters, but said that for her younger brother who’s also at the camp, “my mom has to pre-write all the letters and put stamps on them — he writes the letters but [not] the envelopes.”

That afternoon’s mail call included a letter from Alissa’s parents — about one-and-a-half ink-jet-printed pages. Spilling out of the envelope as she opened it were small silver and blue Star of David stickers, which she shared with her camp friends.

Kids Page


Aaron and the Almond

Moses’ brother Aaron, our first high priest, had a staff. One day, it grew almond flowers and fruit. It was God’s way of showing the Israelites that Aaron was personally chosen by God to be their spiritual leader. He became like a father to the Israelites. Almond in Hebrew is shaked, which also means diligent and fast. Aaron was very fast at one particular thing — stopping arguments and bringing love back to people who were angry.
Find the Aaron who lives inside you. Use him this summer when you are at camp, or meeting new people on vacation. Greet friends with a smile and with affection — and it will come back to you really fast.

Present Time

What You Need:
1. Plain white paper
2. Pair of white boxer shorts that will fit Dad
or Grandpa
3. Fabric crayons (these are special crayons labeled
for fabric)
4. Iron
5. Hard flat surface (such
as a countertop)
6. Scissors

How To Make It:
1. Draw a picture or design on the white paper.
2. Cut around the picture once it is complete. If you need to, darken in some of the lighter areas of the drawing so that it will transfer well.
3. Have Mom (or another grown-up) iron the design onto the shorts according to the instructions on the back of the package of crayons.
4. Wrap it up and give to someone special.

Father’s Day, Hooray!

Fill in the blanks to learn the history of Father’s Day:
birthday, June, Spokane, 1910, honor, five, Mother’s.

Sonora Louise Smart Dodd lived in _________, Wash.
After her mother died, her father raised her and her _______ siblings.
One day, in 1909, while listening to a sermon about _________ Day, she decided that she must create a day to _______ fathers.
She chose ________ 19, because it was her father’s _________. She gained national support and Father’s day was first celebrated in ______.

Turn the Tide


One of the best things about being the editor of a Jewish paper is I get to meet a lot of Jews.

Looking back over the past year, I see it’s a fascinating perk of the job.

Just in the past two weeks, for instance, I danced (poorly) at the Chabad Telethon when the tote board hit $3.4 million, met with two powerful state legislators, hobnobbed with celebrities and entertainment industry machers, lunched with Israeli diplomats and Jewish professionals and educators, cocktailed with Israeli diplomats and Persian businessmen — you get the idea.

Old, young, secular, black hat, poor, rich, gay, straight, engaged, apathetic, famous and, in one case, infamous: When I say I meet a lot of Jews, I mean a lot of different kinds of Jews. It is a pleasure too few of us enjoy. As Jewish life in Los Angeles has grown and diversified, it has also become increasingly particularized.

Part of this phenomenon is reflected in the recently released National Jewish Population Survey, which shows that a majority of Jewish institutions serve a minority of Jews: synagogues, Jewish Community Centers and federations draw about 40 percent of the Jewish population, and the number of truly active participants is probably far less. That means there is a minority of Jews engaged in what we call, with increasing optimism and inaccuracy, "the Jewish community." Yet most Jews remain outside.

Even among Jews who do, as the jargon goes, "affiliate," the distance among them is great. Of this there is no measurement in the NJPS, but I can tell you anecdotally it is a common phenomenon, and a sad one.

There are 600,000 Jews in Los Angeles, and most of us get to know only one kind among them. Because we are not just Jews, but human, our knee-jerk reaction to these other Jews is to regard them as the Other. The natural result of joining one group is to look askance at all the ones you opted out of. When I told some people I spent last Sunday evening with Chabad, they regarded me as either a dupe or a traitor. I’ve told others about the preschool at Kol Ami, a gay and lesbian synagogue, where children (many adopted from the four corners of the world) discover Judaism as a faith of warmth and inclusiveness — and you’d think I was speaking of the Amalekites. The Jewish communities of greater Los Angeles rarely touch, and even more rarely interact. Many of us don’t approve of the Other, as if we are viciously competitive teams in a regional league, and our common sport is Jewish.

So there are two problems here. On the one hand, we have divided ourselves into Jews on the inside of Jewish life and Jews on the outside, the affiliated and the unaffiliated. On the other hand, within the affiliated groups, we have divided ourselves from one another.

"Do not separate yourself from the community," said the sage Hillel, "and do not be sure of yourself until you are dead." Every day I see any number of examples of us doing just the opposite.

What we don’t seem to understand is that while Judaism may offer immutable rituals and beliefs (itself a notion open to challenge), humans by nature approach faith and ritual as part of their journey through life. The extent to which we become partners in shaping and encouraging someone’s journey to be a Jewish one depends on how open we are to understanding and participating in the Other’s journey. If you want to pull your friend out of the mud, said a great rabbi, first you have to step into the mud yourself.

The nature of religious experience in our postmodern world is personal, mutable and somewhat mysterious. As our choices and freedoms expand, our varieties of Jewish experience will become even more varied. We will have to fight against our instinct to disparage the new and different. Few among us adhere to a form of Judaism that some other Jews, at some point in history, didn’t regard as treif.

Without stretching beyond our immediate Jewish community — whether that community is a mega-shul, a mini-shtiebel, a social action group or a choir — we are unwittingly participating in the diminishment of Jewish life. "If you stop dialogue and debate, you start talking to yourself," said Rabbi Harold Schulweis, "and that is the first sign of insanity." It is also a ticket to self-righteousness and extremism, something we’ve seen enough of in 5763.

Meeting Jews is easy — this town is full of them. Meeting and getting to know and appreciate different kinds of Jews is a challenge, but a crucial one.

Try it once this year.

Shanah Tovah.

News That’s Fit to Paw Print


In 1999, Lori Golden left a 25-year career in freelance television production when she found industry changes and “ageism” working against her. Struggling to make ends meet, Golden taught herself desktop publishing and, soon after, The Pet Press was born.

The paper’s primary goals are the promotion of animal adoption and rescue from overcrowded shelters, spaying/neutering and responsible pet care. Each issue spotlights a personality involved in some form of animal welfare work.

“Just because a person loves her dog or cat doesn’t mean she rates a cover story,” Golden said. Celebrity activists that have been featured include Betty White, Bea Arthur, Richard Pryor, Buddy Hackett, Ed Asner, James Cromwell, Shannon Elizabeth and Mary Tyler Moore with her dog, Shana Meydela.

Golden attributes her inspiration for The Pet Press to her own dog, Maxx, whom she rescued from an L.A. shelter. “She was dedicated, loving and loyal, and always by my side in good times and bad. I thought about all of the other wonderful dogs just like Maxx who were lying in animal shelters in Southern California,” she said.

I quickly discovered the phenomenal benefits of the barter system,” Golden said.

“It was a struggle, but because of a lot of chutzpah, and my father’s fantastic support and belief in me, the paper is now doing just fine.”

The free monthly paper, headquartered in Northridge, reaches more than 95,000 readers throughout greater Los Angeles and has grown from 20 pages to 40.

“The Pet Press is distributed to pet-related venues and many other places, including libraries, car washes and my favorite locations — Jewish delicatessens from Calabasas to Long Beach … and all points in between,” Golden said.

Although Golden admits she only attends services once a year for the High Holidays, in keeping true to her profession she makes The Pet Press available for the animal lovers who attend.

“Although I miss the excitement of entertainment,” she said, “I take great pride and satisfaction in knowing that my efforts are appreciated, and that I’m helping to save the lives of countless numbers of cats and dogs.”

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It all began when Times columnist Al Martinez wrote a column about the events at the Pacific Palisades high school. For those of you unfamiliar with the brouhaha, a number of students took it upon themselves to publish an underground paper for no other purpose than to attack some teachers they disliked. In the course of five issues, they accused their targets of being prostitutes and pedophiles. When they promised to print the addresses and phone numbers of the teachers in an upcoming edition, the administration finally stepped in. They suspended 10 students, as I understand it, and transferred the two ringleaders.In his piece, Martinez accused the grown-ups of over-reacting. He felt that a case could be made for both sides, and wrote that, as usual, the truth was to be found someplace between the two opposing factions.Having known Martinez for a few years, I felt justified in writing him a “Dear Al” letter, addressed to his home. In it, I suggested that the students (and their parents) had gotten off lightly. The combination of blatant lies and obvious malice would make them all quite vulnerable to lawsuits, the laws of libel being what they are.

As for the statement that the truth, as usual, was to be found lurking somewhere between the two sides, I found it wholly ingenuous. I gave Martinez the benefit of the doubt, stating in my note that I didn’t believe he believed that the truth was invariably subject to compromise. After all, carried to its logical extreme, it would mean that the truth was to be found somewhere between those who claimed that 6 million Jews were murdered by Hitler and those who insist the Holocaust never occurred.

Well, imagine my surprise the following week when I opened the Sunday times and read in Martinez’s column the following rebuttal: “One writer, in a stretch beyond belief, challenged my assumption that the truth of the situation lay somewhere between the antagonistic factions. He wrote, ‘You might as well suggest that the truth lies somewhere between those who believe the Holocaust occurred and those who claim that no Jews were gassed in the ovens.’

“I didn’t even bother to respond.”

It’s true, he didn’t respond. What’s false is that during the course of the week, he saw fit to alter what he had originally written. The truth “as usual” was transformed into the truth “of the situation.”

Had Martinez written that line in the first place, I would have still disagreed with him, as I don’t believe that being transferred to a new school is too harsh a penalty for falsely accusing someone of being a child molester. But I would never have brought up the Holocaust to make my point.

It’s true that Martinez refrained from identifying me in print. He simply set me up as a straw man whom he could easily and self-righteously knock down. But I have to suspect that, in conversation, he identified me to any number of people.

In case you’re wondering, I wrote a letter to the editor and one to Al Martinez, but they both chose to ignore my response.

None of us can take comfort in knowing that revisionism is alive and flourishing at Second and Spring.

Burt Prelutsky has written for The New York Times and numerous magazines. A noted writer for television, he has written scripts for TV series including “Diagnosis: Murder” and “MASH.”

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