Letters to the Editor


 

Alterman Hurt

It is quite painful for a proud, practicing pro-Zionist Jew, who was bar mitzvahed, educated in Israel, lights candles on Shabbat, attends shul regularly, contributes to The Forward and educates his own child into the religious tradition, to be accused publicly of anti-Semitism (“When Jews Wax Anti-Semitic,” Feb. 18).

It has happened to me on occasion in extremely obscure, right-wing Web sites but only twice in the mainstream media. Both times it has been done by Cathy Young on the editorial page of The Boston Globe. The last time, I was denied the courtesy of a response. I hope that will not be the case today.

As most people are aware, the accusation of anti-Semitism, like that of anti-Americanism, can be employed by people to stifle debate and stigmatize points of view with which they disagree. In this case, Cathy Young seeks to silence anyone who recognizes the reality of Jewish responsibility for Palestinian suffering.

This is unfortunate, for many reasons – one cannot hope for peace in the Middle East without a mutual recognition of the pain the conflict has caused – but more to the point, phony accusations of anti-Semitism have the effect of weakening societal strictures against the real thing. By employing this slander against me now twice, Cathy Young is actually aiding and abetting the anti-Semites by robbing the term of any coherent meaning.

Here, for the record, is the entire text of the blog text that has led Young to call me these horrid names:

“I’m a Jew, but I don’t expect Arabs to pay tribute to my people’s suffering, while Jews, in the form of Israel an its supporters – and in this I include myself – are causing much of theirs.

Would Andrew [Sullivan] want to go to a service in honor of the suffering of gay-bashing bigots? (Wait, don’t answer that. Would a gay person who didn’t regularly offer his political support to gay-bashing bigots want to go?)

Anyway, I’m sure what I’m saying will be twisted beyond recognition, and so I suppose that makes it stupid to do, but I’m sorry. The Palestinians have also suffered because of the Holocaust.

They lost their homeland as the world – in the form of the United Nations – reacted to European crimes by awarding half of Palestine to the Zionists. They call this the “Nakba” or the “Catastrophe.”

To ask Arabs to participate in a ceremony that does not recognize their own suffering but implicitly endorses the view that caused their catastrophe is morally idiotic – which is why, I guess, I’m not surprised Andrew’s doing it.

Also via Little Roy, here’s another conservative Jew joining David Horowitz in endorsing Mel Gibson’s anti-Semitism, jonrowe.blogspot.com/2005/01/strange-article-by-rabbi-daniel-lapin.html, and even William Donohue’s disgusting anal-sex-obsessed anti-Jewish attack, which was broadcast on MSNBC and implicitly endorsed by Pat Buchanan.”

You can see from the above, while the item does recognize the political folly of demanding that Arabs, who have suffered their own catastrophe at the hands of Jews, be demanded to pay fealty to Jews without any recognition of their own suffering, the item also contains an attack on the genuine anti-Semitism of both “The Passion of the Christ” and the Catholic League’s Donahue blaming America’s moral ills on “Hollywood’s secular Jews,” whom he informed MSNBC’s Buchanan “like anal sex.”

Nowhere do I, as Young accuses, hold “Jews responsible for ‘much’ of the suffering of Muslims everywhere,” as I was clearly talking about Palestine, and nor, for the same reasons, can I be accused of arguing that “every Muslim is justified in viewing every Jew as the enemy.”

As for her accusation that I actually blame “long-dead Holocaust victims,” well, it boggles the mind that your editors would allow this hateful poison into your newspaper, whatever Young’s motives may be for spreading it.

That a newspaper with the reputation of The Boston Globe would allow itself to be used for Young’s vicious vendetta against me – now twice – is both shameful and shocking. I would appreciate a retraction and apology.

Eric Alterman
New York, N.Y.

Not Joining GOP

I’m not quite ready to join any political organization that so desperately needs new members. By attacking the DNC in the mean, misleading manner (“Join the RJC” ad, Feb. 18), they expose the cheap-shot propaganda methods of their leaders.

The horrible photo of suicide bombers with a small child was not what Howard Dean was responding to in September of 2003. Not taking sides in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, at the time, was diplomatic commentary.

Prior to the Bush election of 2000, we might recall his statements regarding that conflict: “no nation building.” During Bush’s first four years, he gave warnings to both sides.

And, oh yes, ask John McCain about Republican rhetoric in the South coming out of Bush’s primary campaign during debates within the party.

No, I’m not ready to become a bedfellow to the likes of Jerry Fallwell (“There is an anti-Christ among us, and he is probably a Jew”) and quite a few evangelicals who believe that if I don’t believe as they, I’m going to hell.

Jack Abrams
Valley Village

Bus No. 19

Louis Lainer objected to our partnering with the Christian group that owns Jerusalem Bus 19, because he disagrees with some of their views (“Bus No. 19 Making Controversial Stop,” Jan. 21).

As a peace activist, Lainer, of all people, should understand that when groups have important common ground, they come together to produce results and try to overlook their differences. This does not mean that their political views have suddenly merged.

We were pure of heart when we brought the bus to various cities. We wanted people to feel closer to the pain and suffering caused by suicide bombing all over the world.

We wanted to spark commitment, so people would join together to pressure world leaders to declare suicide bombing a crime against humanity. This is not a political position. All people should stand shoulder to shoulder to express abhorrence of this crime and disgust with countries that fund and incite terrorist training and operations.

Suicide bombing cannot possibly be a legitimate form of negotiation. That is what we all hoped to emphasize.

It is disheartening that a peace activist would worry more about the Christian sponsor’s position on disengagement than about the deeper and more crucial issue of why international organizations like the U.N. are taking so long to define terrorism and to condemn it.

Roz Rothstein,
Executive Director
StandWithUs

ADHD Disorder

I am writing to raise your consciousness about how offensive it is that Mark Miller chooses to make jokes at the expense of people with attention deficit disorder (ADHD).

ADHD is a recognized medical condition that, untreated, can lead to serious difficulties and much suffering (“Why the Web Wins,” Feb. 18). I assume that Miller would not make fun of people with diabetes or cancer – this is no different. Moreover, Miller’s implication that people with ADHD are automatically not desirable social companions is both insulting and incorrect.

I would ask that Miller make an apology in his next column to the numerous people among your newspaper’s readers who are affected by ADHD (estimated to be somewhere between 2 percent and 4 percent of the adult population in the United States).

For more information, please review the fact sheet found at the following link: www.chadd.org/fs/fs1.htm.

Name withheld by request
Encino

Ban Practice

The archaic practice of metzizah b’peh should be banned universally by the highest rabbinic authorities (“Death Spotlights Old Circumcision Rite,” Feb. 18).

When the custom of metzizah was established, it was thought that drawing blood in this manner would protect against infection. It is now known that the opposite is true. The human oral cavity has more virulent bacteria than that of a dog.

Aside from the possibility of the mohel passing infection to the infant, this could also occur in reverse. It is beyond comprehension that anyone could condone such a practice or even debate the mystical benefits of this practice.

Dr. Steven Shoham
Pediatrician/Mohel

Shalhevet

As a former and potential future Shalhevet parent, I thought Julie Gruenbaum Fax’s article (“What’s Next for Shalhevet?” Feb. 4) was fair and accurate. Shalhevet has consistently turned out amazing graduates, but it also has great problems that have turned off many families of alumni.

Shalhevet’s problems are not those that its opponents in the right-wing Orthodox community, most of whom have never set foot on its campus, wrongly and loudly accuse it of.

Those baseless accusations are not why Shalhevet’s attendance and quality has declined the past two years. Those slanders have been around for a decade, yet until two years ago, most entering classes had some 60 of the best kids around.

Why have the last two years seen perhaps two dozen families of Shalhevet alumni sending their next child somewhere else? Simple. They felt Shalhevet’s leadership had become inept, disorganized, out of touch and often mean-spirited.

Indeed, the worst impact of the lies told about the school was that the administration circled its wagons in response, and mislabeled as opponents those who loved the school but were nonetheless critical of it and demanded change.

Los Angeles desperately needs Shalhevet. But Shalhevet must reorganize.

Jerry Friedman had the vision to start the school, but, like a child, when an institution matures, it needs to spread its wings and strike out on its own. Shalhevet can no longer function as a one-man show. It needs an independent board and administration.

Fortunately, it seems to be taking some steps in the right direction. I hope so. There are many of us who would love to again be Shalhevet families.

Name Withheld by Request
Los Angeles

I was horribly offended by the direction of the “What’s Next for Shalhevet?” article authored by Julie Gruenbaum Fax.

Since when do we Jews repay so much dedication and determination by an acknowledged community leader and visionary like Shalhevet’s founder, Jerry Friedman, to be so disrespected and undermined.

To be sure, Shalhevet and YULA are competing schools, and we have profound philosophical differences. But menschlechkeit is menschlechkeit!

His herculean effort to inspire a generation of young people, much at the expense of his personal time and treasure, can only be recognized as a monumental achievement by a man with incredible devotion to young people and Jewish education.

How dare he be rewarded with disdain by others who have never begun to sacrifice quality years as he has!

Rabbi Meyer H. May
Executive Director
Yeshiva University High Schools of Los Angeles

I am an involved member of the Temple Beth Am Library Minyan, graduate of Pressman Academy, senior at Shalhevet High and chair of the Israel Action Committee at my school.

The article that Julie Gruenbaum Fax wrote and published about Shalhevet personally offended me. Shalhevet is a wonderful institution that teaches Jewish youth religiosity, Zionism, morality and good citizenship.

Our close-knit community allows for bonding and growth. Our strong academics yield bright students with outstanding college acceptance records. Most importantly, our devotion to the small Jewish community we see at Shalhevet on a daily basis and the larger Jewish community we feel worldwide inspire us to do great things.

One of those great things currently being taken upon by students is the organization and execution of a communitywide Israeli street fair aimed to raise money for Israeli terror victims and soldiers.

Our 3-year-old Israel Action Committee, which is led by myself and senior Eliya Shachar, has had success in the past with a large community fair and hopes to be just as successful this year. We are securing vendors (such as Muzikal store and Brenco Judaica), restaurants (such as Nathan’s and Jeffs Gourmet), musicians and organizations (such as StandWithUs) to be a part in our event.

The idea is to create an Israeli-like atmosphere in which Jews from all over the community can come to eat, listen to live Israeli music and buy products. All of our proceeds will then go to Israeli charities (i.e. OneFamily Foundation, A Package From Home and the North American Conference of Ethiopian Jewry).

This is the beauty of Shalhevet that the article failed to portray.

As a concerned Israel Action Committee chair, Shalhevet student and ultimately community member, I would like to ask you to please cover this event in The Jewish Journal so that people can understand what the amazing Jewish institution called Shalhevet is really about, and so that as many people as possible can come to and support this enormous, unprecedented teenage effort to raise both funds and awareness for Israel.

Whether this letter itself is published, an interview with me is conducted and then printed or simply a small story explaining this “fair-y” tale event appears in an issue, please help us help Israel and heal the wounds that were created with the printing of Mrs. Gruenbaum Fax’s article.

Zach Cutler
Via E-Mail

Refreshing View

I have been reading The Journal for a very long time and enjoy it very much. However, I have never taken the time to write to you and thank you for the great service you contribute to the Jewish community.

I am a senior citizen, and I enjoy reading articles about seniors. I was pleased to read the article written by Ed Shevick in the Feb. 4 issue titled, “The Good, the Bad and the Confusing.”

Most articles written about seniors are written by younger people and reflect their views on what they think are older people’s outlook on life. It was refreshing to get the view from one of our own (I am 84).

Please let us have more articles by Shevick and his views on life as a senior citizen.

Philip Shubb
Tarzana

Power of Blessing

I write this e-mail with gratitude to Naomi Levy for her beautiful blessings that she willingly shared. (“Power of Blessing,” Dec. 24, 2004). We plan to use her loving words, which articulate our feelings so well.

Naomi, thank you for opening a door to Jewish spirituality that we have never walked through before.

Elizabeth Sax
via E-Mail

Shalhvet

How could so many things be wrong when everything is so right?

As Orthodox Jews, we naturally sent our son to a Jewish day school. Considering our way of life and the fact that my son has always attended a Chabad school, you would think that, given a choice between YULA and Shalhevet, we would obviously pick YULA.

As fate would have it, I filled out the application for Shalhevet and hand-delivered it. As I walked into the building, I was immediately taken in by the atmosphere. The kids seemed happy and very comfortable with their environment.

I certainly did not concern myself with the “disorganization and flakiness.” We never even applied to YULA or anywhere else.

My son is now a sophomore at Shalhevet, and I have the same view of the school as I did the first time I walked into the building.

This is a school where teachers, for the most part, are devoted to their students and try to help them work to their potential. This is where students develop a strong Judaic and secular background.

This is where teachers are willing to meet with parents at 7 a.m., 7 p.m. or any other time that is convenient to the parents. This is where my son had the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to go to Israel for the first time and have an incredible experience.

These are the things that as a parent and an educator are important to me. If this is the school that Dr. Jerry Friedman created, my hat goes off to him.

This is not to say that I have never experienced a lack of organization or “flakiness.” Nevertheless, without attempting to rationalize, those things are present in any school.

I also would tend to agree that sometimes change is necessary. However, I am somewhat concerned that empowering 22 people (with 40 opinions) to run the school could easily produce a result that is not nearly as good as we have right now.

To sum up, I strongly disagree with the parent’s opinion that “the problems overwhelm the mission.” Quite the contrary. It is our responsibility as parents to look beyond the internal housekeeping problems and appreciate all of the positive things that Shalhevet has to offer our children.

Marilyn Kalson
Los Angeles

Every now and again, I read something in The Journal that jolts me – an article, an editorial or sometimes a reader’s letter. In the Feb. 18 Journal, a letter by “Name Withheld” about Shalhevet School contained the following statement. “Had there been such schools in Europe 80 years ago, there may have been many more survivors.”

Are there really Jews, readers of The Journal, who believe that?

It’s what we read and hear from anti-Semitic hate groups. It’s Nazi propaganda that the millions of men, women and children Hitler tortured and murdered in a planned, methodical, barbaric and premeditated manner were somehow an inferior race of uneducated humans.

Obviously, your readership includes many stupid or ignorant readers, but how could you print such a comment? What an insult to the memory of all the doctors, professors, musicians, artists and millions of others just like “Name Withheld” who were exterminated just because they were Jewish.

Mendel Levin
Los Angeles

AIPAC Not ‘Silent’

Ron Kampeas and Matthew Berger of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency got it wrong in their characterization of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) role in the Senate and House resolutions congratulating the Palestinian people on their recent elections (“Bush Mideast Plan Gets Tepid Response,” Feb. 11).

These resolutions, which called upon the Palestinians to live up to their obligations to fight terror, were passed overwhelmingly with bipartisan support in both Houses. AIPAC was instrumental in the passage of these resolutions and was consulted in the early stages of the drafting of these resolutions.

For the authors of this article to imply that AIPAC was “silent” is preposterous. I would expect that the JTA would correct this mischaracterization.

This type of broad support does not happen by itself. Because AIPAC reflects the broad mainstream of the Jewish community, it is trusted by both Democrats and Republicans.

In the meantime, AIPAC looks forward to working with Congress on new legislation that will help the Palestinians take steps to dismantle the terrorist infrastructure and provide Israel with a sincere and credible partner capable of making progress toward peace.

Howard Welnsky
Toluca Lake

CAIR Reality Check

Whoa! Time for a reality check. The Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) is not sweet and cuddly as presented by Stephen Krashen (“Letters,” Feb. 18).

CAIR is an outgrowth of the Hamas group, the Islamic Association of Palestine, and is described by the FBI as engaging in propaganda for militants. Steve Pomerantz, former FBI chief of counterterrorism, concludes: “CAIR, its leaders and its activities give aid to international terrorist groups.”

Sen. Charles Schumer [D-N.Y.] of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Terrorism stated in 2003, “We know CAIR has ties to terrorism.”

CAIR has recently (Dec. 30) been named in a trillion dollar suit filed in New York by the family of John P. O’Neill, former head of the counterterrorism division of the FBI and the world’s foremost expert on Islamic terrorism.

It is encumbent upon the community to get informed and to do due diligence before unwarranted praise is attributed to such an organization. See www.anti-cair-net.org and www.danielpipes.org/article/394.

Ophira Levant
Los Angeles

Super Sunday

I read the Los Angeles [Times] Feb. 14 news item regarding The Federation “estimate of $4.6 million raised” with special interest, as I have served as a Federation staff and board member for many years.

Now retired and housed in a care facility because of health reasons and age (89), I do, however, retain a deep interest in both the Jewish and general community.

Believing in response to The Times story is an internal matter, this letter is to The Jewish Journal.

Back in the 1947-1948 spring campaigns under Leo Gallen, one of best fundraisers I’ve known, $10 million were raised from 50,000 givers under the Jewish Community Council in the name of the Jewish Community Council, United Jewish Appeal.

The subsequent merger with The Federation led to the present structure (The Jewish [Community] Centers were an important part of life at that time).

Super Sunday in those days would have been for clean-up.

I believe in a change to yesterday could prove to be what we need today and tomorrow.

Hyman Haves
Pacific Palisades

I read with interest The Journal’s Feb. 11 issue regarding the fundraising goal of The Jewish Federation Council of Greater Los Angeles (“Super Sunday Seeks to Top $4.5 Million”).

It is tragic that needy services will be cut back or eliminated due to loss of government funds. Perhaps the JFC should look in house for solutions.

As a charity organization supported by donations and government funds, perhaps its directors could lower their salaries to make up the shortfalls? According to their latest tax information (available on line at www.guidestar.com for 2002) JFC’s president earns $350,000 annually, and at least five directors earn from $137,000 to $183,000.

If they were to be magnanimous and take a 10 percent reduction in pay, that would more or less make up the $125,000 shortfall for the homeless shelter that houses 57 people.

What is the priority here – the homeless shelter or inflated salaries?

David Amitai
Los Angeles

Eric Alterman

I have been involved with pro-Israel activism since 1967, so I think I know what anti-Semitism is and isn’t. Cathy Young does not (“When Jews Wax Anti-Semitic,” Feb. 18).

She calls author and professor Eric Alterman an anti-Semitic Jew, essentially because he has repeatedly expressed sympathy for the Palestinian people and has supported President Bush’s formulation for Middle East peace, “two states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side.”

Young has it precisely backward. I read Alterman regularly, and it is obvious that his support for a Palestinian state derives from his strong Jewish identity. He simply understands that for Israel to survive, it must have peace – and that means peace with the Palestinians.

For Alterman, Israel’s survival as a Jewish state is a moral imperative, one that drives his Mideast views. It is not Alterman who should have to defend himself against the charge of indifference to Jewish suffering. It is people like Young who have repeatedly supported perpetuation of the deadly status quo over peace through territorial compromise.

Young may consider herself pro-Israel and Eric Alterman hostile. For me the difference is this: Young is always ready to fight to the last Israeli. Alterman is not.

The [Boston] Globe should be ashamed of itself for allowing her baseless name-calling to appear on its editorial page.

M.J. Rosenberg
Washington, D.C.

With friends like Cathy Young, the Jews don’t need enemies. It is truly unnecessary for her to resort to name-calling and her own version of political correctness in monitoring how progressive Jews respond to the reality of the current situation between Israelis and Palestinians. Yet, in her gratuitous attack on Eric Alterman, she does just that.

What Alterman states – and what is stated by centrists in Israel today – is that there is a different reality for Israelis and Palestinians. Israel, created out of necessity from the ashes of the Holocaust – did create a situation of displacement for Palestinians. That is a historic fact.

Israelis, who today seem closer to peace than in the last several years, are not asking of the Palestinian leadership that they become Zionists, simply that they become partners in peace to build a constructive future for all the peoples of the region. That is the point that Alterman was making in his recent MSNBC blog, after which Young chose to attack him.

There is no question that until the Israeli-Palestinian conflict reaches a just resolution for both peoples, relations between Jews and Muslims will suffer, another point of Alterman’s. Whether these relations will improve after there are two states – Israel and Palestine side by side – only time will tell.

Hopefully, with the Sharm el-Sheik summit – and pragmatists on both sides in the ascendancy – that time may now be forthcoming.

Jo-Ann Mort
via E-Mail

Having known Eric Alterman for more than 25 years, I was distressed to read Cathy Young’s piece.

I have been involved in the organized Jewish community for decades and have always appreciated the desire and willingness of many to engage in free, open and honest debate on issues of concern to our community and beyond. For me, a pro-Israel activist, that debate is essential.

Indeed, having just returned from yet another visit to Israel, I can assure you that the debate about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict continues unabated there. It is unfortunate that some would attempt to stifle that debate here.

To suggest that Alterman is anti-Semitic is preposterous. Rather, what Young appears to be doing (in addition to misrepresenting his views) is equating recognition of support for a Palestinian state and some understanding for the Palestinian point of view with anti-Semitism. This is a disservice to all.

I can assure you that Alterman is neither anti-Semitic nor anti-Israel. Indeed, he, like many others, believes in and advocates for a two-state solution and for peace and reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians.

The fact that he does so in a way that recognizes the views of both sides does not make him anti-Semitic. It simply represents a point of view of how to resolve the conflict, a point of view which is shared by many here in the United States and in Israel itself.

Anyone who knows Alterman knows that he has been supportive of a Jewish democratic state living within secure borders and at peace with a neighboring Palestinian state. That, to me, is the essence of being pro-Israel. It is unfortunate that Young does not have room for a diversity of views on the subject.

I am truly sorry that The Boston Globe saw fit to print Young’s unfortunate article. I hope that an appropriate apology to Alterman will be forthcoming.

Geoffrey H. Lewis
Boston

As a long-standing supporter of Israel, let me congratulate you on publishing Cathy Young’s column taking Alterman so rightly to task for the kind of tripe he’s made a living out of spouting for so long. It’s time someone stood up to these phonies and recognized that a strong Israel is in the interests of both the United States and the world.

The hue and cry he has raised in response only underscores the degree of distance that currently exists between those who recognize the need to stand up and be counted during Israel’s toughest struggle (the intifada) and those who would rather coddle the left-wing intelligentsia they depend on for validation.

Alterman has had this coming for a long time. That he squeals like a stuck pig and tries to rally everyone he can think of to his cause, only serves to underscore what a fraud he is as both a professor of journalism and friend of Israel.

Coming as it does at a time when brave journalism students at Columbia are standing up to real anti-Semitic intimidation, is it any wonder that so few in the mainstream Jewish community have had anything to say on Alterman’s behalf.

Anyone who wants to understand more, need only read his columns over the past few years, or better yet, sit down in a comfortable chair and re-read Philip Roth’s classic short story, “Defender of the Faith.”

Ted Goode
via E-Mail

Cathy Young was too easy on Eric Alterman. She could have pointed out that no Arabs lost their homeland – that is Arabia, which no one ever invaded.

All their states outside of Arabia are occupied territory of other nations, particularly the country which they themselves called “the land of the Jews” when they first invaded it.

Another Alterman reversal of truth: It was not half of Palestine that was awarded to the Zionists, but half of Israel that was awarded to the Hashemites by the British, and half the remainder that was awarded to the Arab settlers in Judea, Samaria, Gaza and the Galilee by the U.N., leaving us one-eighth of our own land.

When one uncritically repeats the enemy’s propaganda, taking the stand that they can do no wrong; one’s own people can do no right. The label “self-hating” is patently justified.

Louis Richter
via E-Mail

“Tolerant Generation”

As a teenage journalist, for the third consecutive year I was afforded the opportunity to interview Holocaust survivors at the Shoah Foundation’s annual event Each year, the number of Holocaust survivors dwindles, so it is fortunate that the Shoah Foundation has preserved the testimony of over 50,000 survivors.

In light of the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz (“Auschwitz Memorial Marks ’45 Liberation,” Feb. 4) and the 10th anniversary of the genocide in Rwanda, I believe I have a duty and obligation to do what I can to educate my generation and others as to the need for greater tolerance in the world.

This year, the Shoah Foundation honored former President Bill Clinton with the Ambassadors for Humanity award. When I interviewed the former president in the past, I asked him if he thought my generation was more apathetic to the political fervor that existed when he was growing up.

His response was, “Definitely not.” I would like my generation to be known as the “tolerant generation” – the generation that put an end to genocide and war.

Fred Medill
Beverly Hills

Unilateral Withdrawal

The Feb 18 issue of The Jewish Journal carried a most remarkable analysis of Israel’s unilateral withdrawal from Palestinian Land (“Unilateral Withdrawal”). As quoted on the front page of the issue: “Disengagement is the real peace process … and what makes it a masterstroke is … it doesn’t depend on the Palestinian body politic, only on Israel’s.”

The logical next step would be to apply “withdrawal” to any area of conflict. Thus, if hoodlums and mass murderers were to move into your neighborhood, it follows that resolution of the social problem, the locals might feel, would simply require that they run away and move out of the area.

Of course, that is exactly the goal of the Palestinian Authority). The P.A. teaches all its citizens that all of Israel is occupied Arab land. P.A. spokeswoman Hanan Ashrawi has openly stated: Israelis, go back to Moscow and Brooklyn, where you came from.

Thus, unilateral withdrawal is a position the P.A. does indeed endorse, except that Larry Derfner forgot to say: unilateral withdrawal from all of Israel.

Truly, we can be our own worst enemy!

Fred Korr
Los Angeles

One can only wonder how The Journal can headline “disengagement is the real peace process” and consistently refuse to expose readers to essential news sources like Arutz Sheva (www.arutzsheva.com), the Israel National News network that the leftist government outlawed. Arutz Sheva provides daily news, commentary, Torah and insight from a, dare I say it, religious Zionist perspective.

So I ask The Journal, which perspective has kept the Jewish people alive and filled with vision for the past 4,000 years? The perspective of disengagement or the perspective of Torah and ahavat Yisrael (love of Israel, the Jewish people)?

Joshua Spiegelman
Sylmar

Ad a Sham

The Republican Party ad in The Journal Feb. 18 is a sham. President Bush has done the same re: “taking sides,” as diplomatically, we have an interest in retaining Arab relationships, oil and finding peace.

Hyman Haves
Pacific Palisades

Inappropriate Behavior

I attended the UJ lecture series featuring Alan Dershowitz and Bill O’Reilly and was horrified and embarrassed by the reactions of some members of the audience.

Whether or not one agrees or disagrees with anything said by either speaker, the boos, hisses and other outbursts were embarrassing. Jews, of all people, should not react in such an inappropriate manner.

If one cannot act appropriately, then one should not attend this type of debate. Those who acted in this manner brought shame to our community.

Paul Jeser
Via E-Mail

Conservative Bandwagon

The articles in the Opinion Section of the Feb. 18-24 issue by Cathy Young (“When Jews Wax Anti-Semitic”) and David Klinghoffer (“It’s Time to Return to Our Mission”), plus the full page ad by the Republican Jewish Coalition, seem to indicate that a minority of American Jews have chosen to hop on the Christian conservative bandwagon for the wrong reasons.

Most financially comfortable Jews always tended to vote Republican, but to believe that conservative Christians are in love with Jews, is naive. Ecumenical Christians and moderate Jews are equally upset with the Bush evangelicals’ attempt to make this nation a Christian theocracy.

Klinghoffer must know that the evangelical belief in the Second Coming will mean the end of Judaism. Also, Mel Gibson chose to film a Passion play that defied the Vatican criteria, which absolves the Jews from responsibility for Jesus’ death, by choosing the version of a 19th-century anti-Semitic nun.

Abe Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League hoped that changes would be made, but he misjudged the intensity of the anti-Semitic feelings of Mel and papa Gibson.

Martin J. Weisman
Westlake Village

 

Criticism Remains


Shortly after the bomb went off at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, killing seven and wounding more than 80, David Ward, president of the American Council on Education, sent off a strongly worded statement of sympathy.

"The leaders of American higher education join me in condemning — in the strongest possible terms — yesterday’s terrorist bombing and the terrible loss of life at the Mount Scopus campus of Hebrew University of Jerusalem. The heart-wrenching deaths of seven people — five of them Americans — is only made more appalling by the fact that this terrorist incident targeted an institution of higher learning, long considered places of peaceful dialogue."

The heart of the statement, unequivocal condemnation coming from an academic institution, surprised me. I wondered if the attack had prompted faculty and students, particularly those on the left who have been most critical of Israel, to alter their stance. Had violence coming so close to home dislodged some of their support for the Palestinians? I decided in a random way to call professors at different universities.

The first call went to a friend at a Texas university. He is Jewish, in his 40s and self-described as an active member of the academic left. He doesn’t keep kosher, but his children attend Jewish day schools. He has been a staunch critic of Israel, often likening its policies to that of South Africa under the Afrikaners.

"For me, that act was the last straw," he said. "Maybe mine is a visceral reaction or maybe just a class response, but universities seem to me the last bastion, the brightest hope for future leaders and for a present-day dialogue."

But he also was most concerned that he not be identified, either because he might change his mind between now and the beginning of the new term later this month, or simply to protect himself from repudiation by his liberal colleagues for shifting his support toward Israel.

His voice, however, was the only one among many that reflected a new consideration. At Harvard, I talked to Patrick Thaddeus, an eminent professor of astrophysics. Thaddeus, who is also a friend, and not ideologue of the left or the right, had just returned from a conference and a stay in Britain and so felt more comfortable describing the reaction there — though he did not seem to believe the responses at Harvard of people on the left would be much different. Speaking generally, he explained, there is still widespread sympathy for the Palestinians among British and European intellectuals on the left.

These men and women are not anti-Semites, he emphasized. They are critical of America, of globalism and of Israel and see the three as linked. But they are especially suspicious of Ariel Sharon and believe he is out to get the Palestinians. In their view, Palestinians are the victims; Israelis the colonial power. Even the peace proposal that Ehud Barak offered, they believe, for all its generosity, would have created a colonial situation for the Palestinians, with blocked roads and Israeli settlements in their midst.

The bombing at Hebrew University had changed nothing, altered few if any beliefs.

When I asked why the killing last month of Hamas military leader Salah Shehada and the accidental death of nine Palestinian children was called by the left an Israeli war crime, while the Palestinian attack on Hebrew University with its seven deaths was described as folly and a misjudgment, Patrick explained to me that for those on the left, one action was carried out by a state (and so was a war crime) while the other was the act of an ill-defined group.

Not everyone on the left shared this view. Victor Navasky, the publisher of The Nation magazine and a professor at Columbia University’s School of Journalism, thought both were war crimes. His primary commitments, I believe, are to civil rights, the First Amendment and the struggle for social justice here and abroad. It is in this context he feels the Israelis are at fault.

Many of Navasky’s friends (and readers of The Nation, as well) are Jewish, as is he, and a typical sentiment expressed at Nation magazine parties is that he and The Nation are wonderful on everything except Israel.

The difficulty in the Mideast, he believes, is that each side moves in the wrong direction following a murderous act. After each terrorist incident — Hebrew University is as important as any — Israel and the Palestinians should redouble their efforts to achieve some kind of peace. Instead, each side seeks retribution.

As for the effect of the bombing on Columbia’s left, it would be difficult to predict, he said. After all, he pointed out (as did others), this is summer and the campus is relatively quiet.

This was also the first reaction of Rabbi Susan Laemmle, dean of religious life at USC. The campus was quiet; most people were away tending to families, research, private lives. And while horrified by what occurred on the Hebrew University campus, she wonders if it wasn’t "naïve to think that anyplace, even a university, could serve as a sanctuary."

In the end, she says quietly, "Human life is human life," wherever the attacks and the deaths occur. "The most important thing is to still be talking — to still keep working for peace."

Terror on Campus


July 31 was the last day of Ulpan, the six-week Hebrew class at Jerusalem’s Hebrew University’s Rothberg School for Overseas Students. Most of the students studying, lunching and lounging on the Mount Scopus campus that day were not Israelis. They were Americans, Canadians, South Koreans, Japanese taking Hebrew summer classes to prepare for the fall semester. The minority of Israelis on campus were retaking final exams. Ulpan’s finals were to be held on Thursday.

At 1:40 p.m., Sofia Aron was studying for her final the next day, when a bomb exploded in the Frank Sinatra cafeteria, killing at least seven and wounding some 85 people. The cafeteria is adjacent to the new Rothberg building, expanded some three years ago.

Aron, a 19-year-old UC Davis student, immediately began compiling a list of all her friends who might be there. "Everyone hangs out in that cafeteria," she said. She started calling friends on their cellphones, trying to locate her new roommate, Chloe Massey, a Christian from Somerset, England, who had arrived just two days prior.

Aron later found Massey, but still, "We know a lot of people who were there," she said, still in shock. "There’s no reason to target the campus here. There are so many Arabs studying here," the L.A. native said. "I’m shocked that it happened here. I told my parents that I’d be safe here."

The July 31 bombing — not a suicide attack, police believed, but a remotely detonated bomb for which Hamas claimed responsibility — hit one of the last perceived areas of safety in Israel.

The unprecedented attack on an Israeli university campus comes as a big blow to Hebrew University, which prides itself on its secular and pluralistic identity, with a diverse student body hailing from more than 70 countries that includes Israeli Jews and Arabs, new immigrants from the former Soviet Union, and American and European exchange students.

"This university has never been attacked," said Peter Weil, president of the American Friends of the Hebrew University, Greater Los Angeles region. The closest such incident occurred on April 13, 1947. Arab fighters ambushed a civilian medical convoy from the university, massacring some 80 doctors and nurses.

Officials at Hebrew University and its American affiliates — including the L.A. chapter — expressed their outrage at the incident. They also worried about the repercussions this tragedy might have on an already-ailing Israeli university system, as well as what it might bode regarding the future shape of terrorism.

The bombing follows a steady decrease in enrollment of American students at the university since the intifada began in September 2000. Approximately 1,000 American students enroll in the university’s Summer Ulpan, freshman year and masters programs, and popular junior-year and semester-abroad programs on a typical year. Enrollment this year was already down 40 percent from the previous year, which was far below 1,000.

Following the news of the tragedy, an executive meeting at the Los Angeles offices of American Friends of the Hebrew University was held on the morning of July 31. Weil, Western Region Chairman Richard Ziman and eight other members of American Friends’ West Coast branch joined a conference call initiated by Hebrew University to update American affiliates on the situation and how it was being handled. Two university psychologists have been dispatched to the dorms, and more will be sent in coming days to help students cope with the tragedy.

"For the Palestinians or Hamas to do what they did," Ziman said, "is really striking at the heart of anything that affords the hope for peace in the future."

"I think it’s just another outrage that will push Israelis to dig deeper in their resolve to fight terrorism," Weil said. "This is not only a problem for the administration but from other universities who see the dangerous precedent this could set."

The surrounding buildings, including the Frank Sinatra Student Union, are all named after American supporters. The cafeteria is just across from Nancy Reagan Plaza, which is adjacent to the Rothberg School for Overseas Students.

"There are two towers both named after Angelenos — Richard Ziman and Harvey Silbert," Weil said, noting the prominence and dedication of American support to Hebrew University.

Safety on the campus, located atop Mt. Scopus, has never been an issue. Despite the numerous terrorist attacks that have taken place all around the campus, which is surrounded by some hostile Arab neighborhoods, Hebrew U. itself has never been targeted since it was founded in 1923 by a group of intellectuals and dignitaries that included Albert Einstein, Sigmund Freud and Martin Buber.

"The university feels that it had done an extraordinary job beefing up security around the university several months ago," Ziman said. "But it’s a very difficult environment. You have traffic of 10 to 15,000 people a day to keep the university functioning."

Campus newspapers lately had mentioned the possibility of an attack.

"It’s in the East Jerusalem and surrounded by some Arab neighborhoods that are unfriendly," Weil said. "But it’s on a hilltop so there’s only one way in. They have security and tall fences and you need identification to get in but it’s still an open university."

"Until today, the university was regarded as a very safe place," said Amy Sugin, director of the Office of Academic Affairs.

"Hebrew University has been the last island of sanity in Jerusalem with respect to Arab and Jewish coexistence," said Peter Willner, executive vice president of the American Friends of Hebrew University.

"We have to show our solidarity," said Ziman, whose daughter is presently studying at a Jerusalem yeshiva. "There are several people leaving from New York to Hebrew University. I’ve been there this year in March and in June."

The support, Ziman added, is particularly needed in the wake of the second intifada.

"The universities in Israel are going through unique financial hardships," Ziman said. "The government allocations are down because of other involvement. Enrollment from overseas has gone down significantly and as a result, tuition is down. More local students have been called up to serve in the armed forces."

So what will this mean for Hebrew University? Ziman said that the attack at Hebrew U. could be systematic of a larger trend.

"I think this is a wake-up call, perhaps for universities all over the world," Ziman said. "Universities are some of the hotbed of political ideas. Look what’s happening in Tehran where university crackdowns are happening."

American Friends’ Los Angeles chapter hopes that this will not further erode enrollment at the university.

"Up until this time, nothing like this has happened on an Israeli university," Ziman said. "You felt like it was the unwritten law. We had the riots here and USC was untouched. Will it affect students from abroad going to learn there? I hope not."

For her part, UC Davis student Aron says she intends on taking another six-week Ulpan class and to do her semester abroad at Hebrew U. Right after the bombing, she hurriedly typed up an e-mail to her parents in Los Angeles: "I’m OK, don’t worry."

Jewish Telegraphic Agency contributed to this story.

Behind the Name


A number of years ago, a philanthropist who visited the late Rabbi Moshe Feinstein’s rabbinical seminary on the Lower East Side of New York prepared to give a large gift to the yeshiva.

He insisted, however, that the venerable rabbi give him a grand tour of the classes being taught at the yeshiva. Feinstein was more than happy to oblige, and they went from class to class, sitting in on several of them as they walked through the school.

After the tour, Feinstein took the man back to his study, hoping to hear the amount of his gift. To his surprise, the man informed him that he would not give any gift to the yeshiva. Stunned, Feinstein inquired why he had a change of heart. He responded that he felt the yeshiva wasn’t teaching the students what they needed to learn. He said that it was a mistake to spend so much time on Talmud and Jewish law because the boys weren’t being taught the essentials. Feinstein asked him, "And what are the essentials?" He answered, "Dikduk," Hebrew grammar. "They simply don’t know Dikduk," the man asserted. Feinstein turned to him and said, "No, you are wrong. It’s Dikduk."

We often think we put the emphasis on the correct issue when in reality we miss the main point. A good example of this can be found in this week’s Torah portion. The question is: How was it possible that Isaac and Rebecca could have two sons, twins, no less, educated in the same environment, sent to the same schools and yet, who turn out so drastically different?

The 19th century Chasidic genius, the Shem MiShmuel, offers a brilliant insight that answers this question. He suggests that the secret lies in the names of the two boys. He notes that in the Bible, the name of a person always describes the person’s essence. Esau has the same letters in Hebrew as asu (made, completed). This indicates that Esau was a man who felt no need for self-improvement. He was perfect, complete in every way. Indeed, the numerical value for asu equals 376, which is the same as the word shalom. Shalom not only means "peace" but also "wholeness." Esau was entirely at peace with himself. He did not, and could not, feel the need to improve because he saw himself as perfect.

Jacob, however, was just the opposite. Jacob in Hebrew means heel. Jacob imagined himself as a heel, a lowly person, someone who needed to achieve much more for himself. He was a climber, always prepared to engage in self-improvement and self-criticism.

With this in mind, the Shem MiShmuel quotes a remarkable Talmudic comment. The Talmud, in Berakhot 13a, states: "Anyone who refers to Avraham as Avram [his original name] has transgressed a positive command, but anyone who refers to Israel as Jacob has not transgressed, as Torah itself calls him by this name later on."

In this comment, the Talmud implies that both names contain the same concept. On the one hand, the name Jacob means heel, and on the other, the name Israel derives its meaning from "striving with God and man and prevailing."

This observation contains a great message for all of us. We must take to heart the difference between Jacob and Esau. Esau’s inherent downfall came from his inability to emphasize the correct issue. Repeatedly, Esau missed the main point. Over and over again, Esau refused to appreciate the need to change his ways, to improve. Jacob, on the other hand, became our role model because he could grasp what was essential. Jacob realized that the ability to scrutinize one’s actions, and change accordingly, is the key to a valuable Jewish life.

Circuit


Off to a Super Start

I spent the day after Super Bowl Sunday at The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, which has wasted no time kicking off the new millennium with a helping hand. The Special Projects unit of Federation’s Real Estate and Construction Division recently presented the key to a new donated van to Gateways Beit T’Shuvah.

At the United Jewish Fund’s (UJF) cabinet meeting, 2001 campaign chair Michael Koss and campaign director Lee Rosenblum laid out a busy fundraising calendar for 2001, which will include a donors mission in May to Poland and Israel.

Larry Tishkoff, executive director of the Israel Aliyah Center, spoke about the kibbutz volunteer programs available through his Federation-based organization. And Super Sunday chair Glenn Gottlieb opened his remarks this way: “Yesterday was just a football game. Feb. 25 is Super Sunday.”

Super Sunday — the Federation’s annual community drive that includes phone-a-thon pledge solicitations — netted more than $5 million last year. That’s 10 percent of last year’s entire fundraising campaign. Twenty percent of that total, it was reported, came from the Women’s Division’s efforts.

The highlight of the cabinet meeting was the firsthand accounts from people who have benefited directly from Federation aid. An emotional Ronna Sundy and her adopted daughter, Christina Wright, thanked Federation for helping them after Wright lost her family to AIDS (see Naomi Pfefferman’s Oct. 6 article “Family Matters” at our online archive at www.jewishjournal.com). The Federation’s burial program assisted with funeral arrangements, the Jewish Free Loan Association provided low-interest financial assistance, and an orthodontist in the community even donated free braces for Wright. A Federation program also made it possible for Wright to visit Israel.

“Israel gave me a sense of history and spirituality that I was missing,” said Wright, who is Jewish but was not raised with any sense of her Jewish identity.

Charming the room with her winning Russian accent was 20-year-old Victoria Gendel, whom Federation also helped connect with her Jewish heritage. Raised in Russia, Gendel had no idea that she was even Jewish until her family received a phone call from a JAFI Youth Camp. Gendel asked her parents why a Jewish camp would be interested in her. That’s when her parents — who had concealed their background out of fear of discrimination — informed her, matter-of-factly, “‘Because you’re Jewish.'”

“That’s good to know,” said Gendel, recalling her deadpan response, which drew big laughs. Gendel, who now lives and studies in Israel, has since helped her parents make aliyah.

Elias Inbram — an Ethiopian Jew studying business at Ben Gurion-University on a Jewish Agency Student Scholarship — proved equally engaging. The 28-year-old Inbram opened, “Shalom, It’s good to see you after 2,000 years.”

Inbram recounted his tortured journey, at age 8, among the caravan of Jewish Ethiopians who, under the cover of night, walked from Ethiopia to neighboring Sudan and escaped, via Operation Moses, to Israel.

Terri Smooke — Gov. Gray Davis’s liaison who will chair an upcoming Women’s Division dinner — spoke for many when she commended the guests for their strength in the face of adversity and thanked them for sharing their incredible stories.

Also presented at the UJF meeting were the latest advances of The Federation’s technological capabilities, which will include comprehensive e-learning and e-training. Thanks to Federation Web master Sara Kocher and system architect Jacob Shavit, the Federation’s Web site now includes nine videos, boasting some very fluid streaming.

Earlier that morning, Federation exercised its exciting new technology with a live link-up to Israel. The broadcast, the third such videoconference, brought Ha’aretz reporter Zev Schiff into 6505’s conference room for a three-way conversation with the Federation’s Valley offices. The exchange allowed Federation brass and staff to ask Schiff questions on current Middle East affairs, discussing peace negotiations, Jonathan Pollard and this week’s elections. Chief information officer Robert Haberman, along with Shavit, helmed the videoconference.

Craig Prizant, Federation’s newly installed senior vice president of marketing and communications, told the Circuit that the videoconferences may go monthly. Another conference, featuring Tel Aviv University Prof. Tamar Herman, is slated for Feb. 7 and will focus on post-election analysis.

Through Super Sunday and generous grants, such as the $95,000 Anheuser Busch contributed, Federation intends to continue helping people locally, in Israel and in 58 other countries with its humanitarian and social service programs.

Youth Movement

Usually, adults are depended on to be role models (Johnny Knoxville notwithstanding). However, here are some examples of our community’s youth leading the way… About 350 members of Young Judaea, the Zionist youth movement sponsored by Hadassah, converged on the Capitol in Austin, Texas, to rally solidarity behind Israel…. Meanwhile, LAUSD seventh-graders convened at the University of Judaism for the Fifth Annual Prejudice Awareness Summit on Feb. 5…. And the children of Kadima Hebrew Academy in Woodland Hills will commemorate the 100th day of school by doing 100 acts of kindness, raising money for Make A Wish Foundation and Camp Simcha. The theme: children helping children.

Keepin’ It Legal…And Regal!

Here are some pix from the law community fundraisers we recently reported on: “The Liberal & Conservative Perspectives” panel on the Supreme Court decision that made George W. Bush the victor in the 2000 presidential election, sponsored by Federation’s Legal Services Division, and Bet Tzedek’s annual dinner.

The King of All Media Circuses

Last Tuesday, the Circuit managed to sneak in a couple of questions to the self-proclaimed King of All Media about his Jewish identity. Howard Stern — who was in town from New York for a weeklong West Coast broadcast at E! Entertainment’s studios — held a “press conference” on his show, where the Circuit was positioned between KTLA Morning News reporters Sam Rubin and Sharon Tay and a flamboyant Odyssey magazine columnist in glam metal drag. The Circuit asked the controversial shock jock to clarify whether he was half-Jewish, as he’s often claimed on the air, or full-Jewish, as reported in Israeli interviews. We facetiously inquired: If he were the latter, on behalf of Jewish people everywhere, would he consider converting to another religion? Stern responded by chanting his Bar Mitzvah Haftorah.

Evidently, security was so tight that even longtime Stern devotee Melrose Larry Green was shut out from the proceedings. Standing outside the building with a large sign, Green said he wasn’t complaining like Jessica Hahn, who had telephoned Rubin to complain about feeling slighted for not being invited to Stern’s Playboy Mansion broadcast.

“Howard’s a great guy,” said Green, who believed that Stern and his wife Alison will reunite. Then Green, who is on the official ballot of this year’s mayoral race, leaned in, somewhat confidentially, to answer one of the questions he had heard the Circuit pose on the air.

“I’ve got news for you,” said Green, somewhat confidentially. “Howard’s all Jewish.”

Until Stuttering John becomes a panelist on the McLaughlin Group, I am…Michael Aushenker

The televised version of Howard Stern’s show that featured this press conference will air during the week of Feb. 19 on E! Check your local listings for air times.

Our Jamal


I stared with the rest of the horrified world at the photo of the anonymous Palestinian father holding his anonymous Palestinian son – father wounded, son dead. Only after reading the description in the newspaper did I realize he was not anonymous to me. The boy’s father was Jamal. Our Jamal who had helped build my Israeli house at the height of the Intifada and worked in my home; afterwards, he helped maintain it. I knew Jamal by his first name. Last week, reading his story, I learned his whole identity: Jamal al-Durrah.

I had just had my baby when I met Jamal; his wife was pregnant with their first child. I tried to give him my old maternity clothes, but Jamal turned his back, too proud to accept them. The terrified boy the whole world saw last week, screaming in the crook of his father’s arm and dead a moment later, was the child Jamal’s wife had been carrying.

In 1988, Jamal was an angry young man. Tall, thin and glowering, he spoke in monosyllables and refused the coffee I took out to the workers. He would go silently to the periphery of the unfinished patio and brew his own over a tiny portable gas heater.

One day, Jamal carved his name in English into the wet cement of the wall he was building in my garden: “Jamal ’88,” in a loping schoolboy’s hand. I complained to the contractor, his Israeli boss. If anyone had a right to graffiti, I said, it was me. The next morning there were fresh swirls in the cement. Jamal’s signature was gone.

Ten years later, I hired the same contractor to repaint my house. The Jamal who walked up the garden stairs was a changed man. He was 35 but looked 50. He limped, and his hair was flecked with gray. For a decade, Jamal had been rising from his bed at 3:30 a.m. to take the 4 a.m. bus to the border crossing, then board a second bus an hour later out of Gaza to begin work at 6 a.m. This back-breaking cycle of physical labor was a journey he prayed to make; without it there would be no work at all.

Jamal smiled, and I did too. There was something of friends in our greeting, but even as I say that word, I know it is not true. Beyond the economic inequality, we could never look at each other without nationalities in mind. His Arabness hung in the air, as did my Jewishness. I wondered what could I, transplanted to this soil from another place, represent for Jamal.

Now Jamal drank my coffee, and he laughed, “I hope this is real coffee – not Jewish Nescafé.”
After the paint job was finished, Jamal had time before the bus took him to occupied Gaza. He helped rehang my diplomas on the fresh white wall. With difficulty, Jamal made out the Gothic letters and read out loud, “New York University.” With a hundred tiny nails he repaired the old wood frame of the reproduction of Renoir’s “A Girl With a Watering Can” hanging in my daughter’s room.

Jamal told me he now had six children. This time he accepted the bags of used clothing and discarded toys I left for him to take.

Jamal’s children wore my children’s sweaters and played with their Legos.

My daughter is 12, like Jamal’s boy was. Jamal’s boy loved to swim in the sea; my daughter is on a swim team. My daughter walks to school beside cypress trees, amidst bougainvillea. Her pet dog waits impatiently for her to come home. Jamal’s son had pet birds. But had his son lived to be a grandfather, they would have never met.

Jamal lies with multiple gunshot wounds in a Jordanian hospital, his son killed by an errant Israeli bullet. Yet everybody in Israel heard him live on Israeli radio: “I am a man of peace. We two peoples must live together. There is no other possibility, no other possibility…” Jamal spoke to me by telephone from his hospital bed. I asked him what he wishes for his remaining children. “My children? To grow as all the children in the world.” His voice broke. “That they will be surrounded by all good things and nothing bad.”
The Renoir he fixed is still hanging in the next room. I sit in my garden looking at Jamal’s wall, recalling the defiant young man’s graffiti. It is an old wall now. We are all caught in the crossfire. Jamal’s life has become a tragedy. And I try to understand: What is the meaning of his tragedy to my life?

Helen Schary Motro is a freelance writer living in Jerusalem.

Choosing to Live in Israel


Why is another group of Americans leaving the most powerful and prosperous nation on the planet to move to a small, distant state and become Israelis by choice? Some are going in order to live in the land given by God to Jews, some will pursue new careers, some will rejoin family members, and all seek to fulfill the Zionist dream of “living life on a higher plane” in Israel.

Forty native-born Americans were honored at a farewell reception Sunday, May 21, at Shalhevet High School in Los Angeles by the Aliyah Development Project Committee of The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, along with the new and outgoing Israeli consul generals for southwestern United States.

Speaking behind a podium draped with the Israeli flag, Dr. Auri Spigelman explained his motives and desires. “Our imminent aliyah fulfills our dream in many ways,” said Spigelman, a spokesperson for the group of émigrés.

Living in Israel, Spigelman noted, brings together a triad: religion, peoplehood, and living in the historical and promised land of Israel. “We will meet difficulties, and we will meet them with patience, flexibility, and a willingness to learn.” An audience of 150 people sat at tables with American and Israeli flags surrounded by large promotional posters of Israel.

Spigelman will begin “an active retirement” in Jerusalem. Deena Spigelman, married to Auri for 36 years, will also enjoy a new home with a wonderful view and shopping with her daughter, who also made aliyah. The Spigelmans have already made 18 trips to Israel and taken many Hebrew courses at the University of Judaism to prepare for their new lives. Deena Spigelman’s mother will also relocate to Jerusalem.

“Aliyah culminates a 20-year dream to live in my grandparents’ city and the reclaiming of my heritage,” the doctor continued. “In my mind, the best gift we offer to Israel’s evolving democracy is not merely tolerating diversity, but promoting diversity within the context of national security.”

“Aliyah seems like an inevitable thing,” added Dr. Claire Ho, speaking as the group’s second spokesperson. “People ask, ‘Isn’t that odd? Strange?’ Not at all.” Ho attended Jewish day schools, studied Judaism and Jewish history at college, interned in Israel, and studied advanced Hebrew in the ulpan program. The final touch was “meeting a nice Israeli-American gentleman.” Ho will marry a fellow American Israeli in July in Israel, where she will start a new family and continue her career.

“Lving in the land of Israel is worth all the other religious precepts,” said outgoing Israeli Consul member Aharon Bar-Natan, quoting the Torah.Giving a brief overview of modern Israel’s 52-year history, Bar-Natan observed that “despite the fact that the news from Israel is not easy,” a “new reality” of “peace and prosperity” has been created on the ground. American Israelis continue to play a disproportionate role in building that “new reality,” partly grounded in Israel’s expanding high-tech economy.

The ceremony included presentations of aliyah certificates to emigrating families and individuals. A total of 40 individuals will be making aliyah within the next three months. The Aliyah Development Project Committee has helped more than 500 individuals move to Israel during the past two years.

“I believe that North American Jews have a special contribution to make within Israeli society, a unique contribution that will not come from Ethiopia, the former Soviet Union, Europe, or Argentina,” said Larry Tishkoff, the Israeli emissary for aliyah.”Far greater than their numbers would suggest, North American olim are spearheading the high-tech revolution in Israel, serving in various capacities throughout Israel’s broadbased industries: in finance, government, commerce, education, science, tourism, you name it, olim have made their mark,” Tishkoff said. “But it is with regard to the rich democratic and pluralistic heritage North American olim bring with them to Israeli society that can be perhaps their greatest contribution.” Tishkoff was born and raised in Los Angeles and became an “Israeli by choice” in 1977.

Other speakers included Rabbi Harvey J. Fields, chair of the Jewish Agency’s subcommittee on Aliyah from the West; Fredi Rembaum, Federation’s director for Israel and overseas relationships; Eddie Friedman, chairman of the Aliyah Development Project Committee, and Suzanne Eigenstein, Tishkoff’s associate.

While hopes for peaceful life in Israel are strong, the new olim think perspective is needed to get beyond the headlines. “We don’t go to Harlem or Watts here, and we won’t go to East Jerusalem there,” Auri Spigelman said. “In many ways, it’s just as dangerous here with the shootings, carjackings, and gangs,” Deena Spigelman added. “We just don’t call it terrorism, but the result is just the same.”

Political Gamesmanship


As sure as death and taxes, Israelis can count on a coalition crisis every year in the last week of December. It happened three times to the Likud’s Binyamin Netanyahu, and no one was surprised that this month it happened to his Labor successor, Ehud Barak.

By law, the state budget must pass the Knesset by midnight on December 31. In Israel’s system of multi-party coalitions, December is horse-trading time. This is the season for every party to extract as succulent a slice of the cake as possible for its institutions and interest groups.

If they don’t get it now, they suspect they won’t get it at all. Budgets have to be balanced.

The Sephardi ultra-Orthodox Shas, now the third largest party in the Knesset, is a master in this annual market place. Its agenda is narrow and sectarian, its deputies disciplined and obedient; what its spiritual leader, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, decrees is law. If he says quit, they quit. Yosef makes no secret that he ordered his 17 Knesset members to join Barak’s government for one reason only: to save Shas’s education network from bankruptcy.

Shas is a hybrid. It is a religious party and an ethnic party. It leaders are rabbis, with the kind of beards, black hats and dark suits that would look equally at home in a Lithuanian yeshiva. Most of its voters are blue-collar workers from the inner-city slums and neglected development towns, “traditional” Jews who go to synagogue on Saturday morning and soccer games on Saturday afternoon.

On the life-or-death issues that divide the nation, Rabbi Yosef is a dove who believes that lives matter more than territory, however holy. Most of his voters are hawks, who don’t trust the Arabs and idolized Menachem Begin before they discovered “the Rav.”

This year, Shas needed the taxpayers’ millions more urgently than ever. Its school network was in debt to the tune of 89 million shekels ($22 million), with not enough coming in, creditors losing patience and teachers’ salaries to be paid (or not paid) month after month after month.

Barak promised to bail them out, but conditionally. Shas had to open its schools and its ledgers to scrutiny. It had to close uneconomic and unregistered classes, fire corrupt administrators. And Education Minister Yossi Sarid, leader of the liberal Meretz, was determined to keep them to the bargain.

Although funding started to flow, Shas complained that it was too little, too slow. It accused Sarid of discrimination, against religion and against Sephardim. The budget season was the time to force Barak to call the Education Minister to heel. “If we don’t get the money, and a lot more besides,” they said, “we’re out.”

Barak and Finance Minister Avraham Shohat thought they had neutralized Shas by doing a deal with the other religious parties, the National Religious Party (NRP) and the Ashkenazi ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism. With their votes, the budget would squeak through, regardless of Shas’s 17. So, Shas would play ball.

The equation turned out to be less simple than Barak, the great problem-solver, calculated. Protesting that the Ashkenazim were getting money for their schools, while the underprivileged Sephardim were being left out again, Rabbi Yosef ordered his three cabinet ministers to submit their resignations. And, unexpectedly, United Torah announced that if Shas went, it would go too. It would not allow Tommy Lapid’s stridently anti-clerical Shinui, with six MKs, to score points by saving Barak from defeat.

In the end, Israeli governments have never fallen because of budgets. Principles are compromised, dissidents are paid off.

But Barak had an extra, more pressing reason, for keeping Shas on his team: the prospect of a peace agreement with Syria. Without Rabbi Yosef’s 17 good and true men, a treaty would probably not win the necessary absolute majority of 61 votes for Knesset ratification; without a goodly share of the 430,000 Shas voters, Barak would be hard-pressed to win the promised referendum.

Rabbi Yosef has been playing hard to get, consulting ex-generals of all political hues, and warning Barak not to take his dovish tendencies for granted. The Shas rank and file would relish instructions to vote against returning the Golan Heights to Syria. The Prime Minister faces a revolt from other, smaller coalition parties. Both the NRP and Natan Sharansky’s Russian immigrant Yisrael B’aliyah are already campaigning against the evacuation.

The Shas vote is a potent weapon in Rabbi Yosef’s locker. If Barak wants it, he will have to pay. And pay. And pay. Apparently he does. As The Jewish Journal went to press, Shas agreed to remain in the government.

Bagel Factory Wages


These days, the CEOs of Noah’s New York Bagels andWestern Bagels may be getting less sleep at night, thanks to theBagel Factory.

The kosher-certified chain, billing itself as”Simply The Best,” threw down the gauntlet in the battle for bagelshop supremacy last month, opening it’s newest outlet on the busycorner of Sunset Boulevard and La Brea Avenue. The high noon grandopening unfolded with a ribbon-cutting ceremony inaugurated by theHollywood Chamber of Commerce and much musical fanfare, courtesy ofthe Hollywood High School Sheiks Marching Band.

“I just had the greatest peanut butter bagel I’veever had,” decreed honorary Hollywood mayor Johnny Grant as hesnipped the official ribbon.

Owners Mark Powers and Sonny Brody had their handsfull, serving pizza bagels and gladhanding guests. But they foundtime to present charity contributions benefitting Hollywood HighSchool and L.A. Bridges Theatre Company of the Deaf. Crowed a proudBrody, “This is the home of the original bagel recipe, brought overto this country and never changed.”

Also on hand for the ceremony was Rabbi Dr.Yehudah Bukspan, who provided the kosher supervision. Fans of”mini-mallism” should stop by the strip-mall shop for some of theirfine culinary arts (which include cocoa rolls, lentil soup and omeletsandwiches), or drop by other Bagel Factory locations in West LosAngeles, Torrance and Manhattan Beach. — Michael Aushenker, CommunityEditor

Like Magic

Up Front has seen the future of Jewish unity, andeaten it. Last Thursday night at the Magic Carpet restaurant, as UpFront was discussing right-wing Orthodox rabbis, one of those verysame rabbis walked in and ordered dinner. No sooner had ourconversation shifted to left-wing Orthodoxy than one of Israel’sleading Orthodox peaceniks walked in with his guests and took anothertable. We think they both ordered the tumeric-laced Yeminite chickensoup, or maybe it was the grilled homemade lamb and beef sausage orthe ethereal humous with fava beans. Whatever, the coincidencesparked an idea: All these commissions and committees and conferencesseeking to forge Jewish unity should meet at places like the MagicCarpet, where at the very least the opponents could agree on thefood, then move on to less important matters. (The Magic Carpet, 8566W. Pico Blvd. 310-652-8507)– RobEshman, ManagingEditor

 

Peace Talk


Beit Shalom is a newly minted coalition of 16American Jewish groups “dedicated to the advancement of peace andreligious pluralism in Israel.” Based in New York, Beit Shalom (Houseof Peace) brings together Americans for Peace Now, Meretz, JewishLabor Committee and similar groups for dialogue, education and morecoalition building.

Beit Shalom is bringing together a panel ofdistinguished rabbis and Jewish educators, along with the leaders ofIsrael’s three kibbutz movements, for a public discussion at TempleEmanuel in Beverly Hills, on March 26, at 7:30 p.m. “ReligiousPluralism and Peace: Is There a Connection?” will feature RabbisHarvey Fields, Laura Geller, Joel Rembaum and Professor Gerald Bubisof Los Angeles. The kibbutz leaders will be Dov Hellman of the UnitedKibbutz Movement, Avshalom Vilan of Kibbutz Artzi, and Rabbi DavidBigman of the Religious Kibbutz Movement. For more information on theevent, call (213) 936-2265. — RobEshman, ManagingEditor

Nosh ‘n Tell

The Los Angeles/Southern California ZagatRestaurant Survey, widely considered the last word on where’s best toeat, depends on free-lance diners to rate their meals out. To be apart of the survey, mail a stamped, self-addressed business-sizedenvelope to: Zagat Survey, 12618 Homewood Way, Los Angeles, CA90049-1908. Respond before May 1 and receive a free guide this fall.– RE

Boy Wonder

We thought the last episode of “Ally McBeal” wenta bit over the top when it featured a story line about a 9-year-oldlawyer. Then comes news — for real — of Vladimir Kalnizky, astudent at the ORT high school in Migdal Ha Emek, Israel, who nextyear will matriculate at the Technion as the youngest student in thatesteemed university’s history. Kalnizky, a native of Kiev, excels inmathematics, computers and chemistry. ORT, which supports vocationaland technical training for Jews around the world, has some 262,000students enrolled at 800 ORT schools worldwide. We’ll go out on alimb and say that Kalnizky is among the brightest of them.

For more information on ORT and Woman’sAmerican ORT — the largest ORT affiliate — call 800-51-WAORT. —RE


Not For Sale


They came to chastise, but stayed to cheer.

An estimated 400 people packed the auditorium atthe Westside Jewish Community Center Tuesday night, prepared to chidethe leaders of the Jewish Community Centers of Los Angeles forseriously considering an Orthodox Jewish high school’s offer to buythe center. They arrived with jaws clenched, speeches in hand; theysigned speaker cards and jammed into the folding chairs andstanding-room only areas. But, unbeknown to them, their battle hadalready been won.

When JCC/LA President David Aaronson announcedfrom the stage that the center had informed the would-be buyer,Shalhevet High School, that “we are no longer interested inconsidering the offer to purchase Westside JCC” and that the center”was never for sale and is not for sale at this time,” there was agasp of surprise, followed by a standing ovation and cries of “bravo!bravo!”

JCC/LA board members decided to no longerconsider the sale after vocal community protest, including a picketline in front of the center during last Sunday’s Purimcarnival.

The phone calls and letters that have delugedAaronson, JCC/LA Executive Vice President Jeffrey Rouss and JewishFederation Executive Vice President John Fishel in recent weeks”clearly creates a mandate to take another look at the Westside JCCand its future in this community,” Aaronson said. He had spoken tomembers of the JCC/LA’s executive committee, which last week voted,6-5, with one abstention, to continue considering Shalhevet’s offer,and they all agreed to withdraw their votes, the board presidentsaid.

Then, late Tuesday afternoon, a letter arrivedfrom Shalhevet’s founder and president, Dr. Jerry Friedman, whostated that, “in the spirit of shalom bayit [peace within the home],we are withdrawing our offer.”

Sadly, Friedman wrote, “we had a perfect fit,”creating “a synergistic relationship with members of the WestsideJewish Community Center, with the seniors, with the nursery schooland with My Jewish Discovery Place [a children’s museum].”

The Modern Orthodox school, which, throughout itssix years of existence, has leased space at the center, has grown to140 students and has been aiming to enroll 180 students next fall.”Our dream was to expand the school so that all who desired a Jewisheducation in a warm, caring community could do so,” Friedmansaid.

In an interview prior to withdrawing his offer,the educator, who is also a real estate developer, said that if thesale didn’t go through, he had no plan to purchase another building.”It would mean big tsoris. It’s not like you can just go across thestreet.”

Temple Beth Am Rabbi Joel Rembaum, who has a sonattending Shalhevet, said in a statement read at the meeting: “Ourcommunity should not be faced with an either-or proposition,” sinceboth the WJCC and Shalhevet were needed in the community. A plan tobuild classrooms and facilities atop the existing Westside JCC a fewyears ago was the sort of compromise that would have provided “awonderful model of a Jewish center and a religiously oriented Jewisheducational institution working together for the sake of thecommunity,” Rembaum said.

WJCC supporters have emphasized from the beginningthat their beef has never been with Shalhevet, and that they hope thehigh school will remain and find another way to expand at the site.It reportedly has raised $8 million, including the $4 million-plus ithad planned to spend to purchase the center.

Basking in the afterglow of unexpected success,speaker after speaker rose Tuesday to describe the importance of thecenter and to thank Aaronson and the JCC/LA executive committee forsaving the 44-year-old Fairfax-area facility.

In the weeks preceding the meeting, the drumbeatfor the opposition — led by an active contingent of Westside JCCboard members — reached a fever pitch, with preschool parents,seniors, ardent devotees of the center’s athletic facilities andother members joining in the grass-roots effort to stop the sale. Onepreschool parent turned her fax machine into a “Save Our Center” hotline.

Above, David Aaronson, president of JCC/LA andMaggie Scott, a WJCC board member, preschool mom and opponent of thesale to Shalhevet demonstrate unity after decision not tosell.

The fight turned bitter when a public meeting twoweeks ago brought no representative of JCC/LA to respond to communityconcerns. A petition against the proposed sale garnered 1,000signatures, and a picket line in front of the center during lastSunday’s Purim carnival attracted cameras from three local TVstations.

Amid the fanfare Tuesday night, there weresobering reminders that the future of the Westside JCC is still farfrom assured. The building on Olympic Boulevard near Fairfax Avenueis in disrepair and badly needs an infusion of cash. Immediaterepairs may require less than $1 million, far below the $4 millionfrequently mentioned as the amount necessary to completely overhaulthe building. Its membership, at about 5,000, is up from previousyears, but still below the 7,000 the WJCC enjoyed in its heyday 20years ago. And there is a need for new programming — particularlyfor the Orthodox, who reside in the area in significant numbers, andfor teens.

Los Angeles City Councilmember Mike Feuer, whoseson attended the WJCC preschool and whose daughter goes there now,warned the audience about leaving the meeting without a game plan forpreserving the center. “This is an exceptional institution in a veryunique and remarkable part of the city,” he said. But deciding not tosell it isn’t enough; expanding membership and raising money is whatis needed. Challenging the audience to “seize the moment,” Feuersaid: “Let’s have another meeting in two months on how to make thiscenter a landmark, not only here but in the whole country.”

The work has already begun, Aaronson said. ThePlanning and Allocations Department of the Jewish Federation isgetting involved, and the Urban Land Institute will do a pro bononeeds assessment for the Westside center, the largest of the six LosAngeles-area JCCs.

Scores of audience members answered Aaronson’scall to join a task force that will raise funds to revitalize andrepair the WJCC. More than $100,000 was pledged on the spot. Thefirst benefactor to step up to the plate was Helene Seifer, pastpresident and current member of the WJCC board, who pledged$10,000.

“Now the work really begins,” she said. “This isjust a reprieve. We have to keep fund-raising and develop the center,or the same thing will happen again.”

Photos by Peter Halmagyi. Photo of Aaronson andScott by Ruth Stroud.

 

State of Confusion

Many applicants wonder ‘where to turn andwho is in charge’ of the Swiss Fund for Needy Victims

By Tom Tugend, Contributing Editor

Hans Durig, the deputy consul general ofSwitzerland in Los Angeles, is a frustrated man.

Sitting on his desk is a stack of some 220letters, mostly handwritten, from Holocaust survivors. Thepetitioners, most of whom are poor and sickly, are seeking financialhelp from the Swiss Fund for Needy Victims of the Holocaust/Shoa, a$190 million fund set up in February 1997 by donations from leadingSwiss banks and corporations.

“These letters are really heartbreaking,” saysDurig. “They are from old people in desperate need of help, manyalone and in ill health. They have heard of the Swiss fund, but theyare confused where to turn and who is in charge.”

The confusion is understandable. For one, the funddoes not apply to persons with claims against Swiss banks for dormantWorld War II accounts. The fund, says Durig, is a humanitariangesture, and its beneficiaries do not forego any restitution claimsthey may have against Switzerland.

Secondly, it is not the Swiss government that paysout the money and determines the amount going to each applicant. Theaddress for that is the World Jewish Restitution Organization (WJRO),headquartered in Jerusalem.

For applicants in the United States, sixorganizations have been named to process the petitions, all locatedin New York or Washington. They are Agudath Israel WorldOrganization, American Gathering/Federation of Jewish HolocaustSurvivors, American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, B’nai B’rithInternational, Conference on Jewish Material Claims against Germany,and the World Jewish Congress.

Durig says that he hears constant complaints fromapplicants in California who claim that, after lengthy and expensivetoll calls to the East Coast, they usually can’t get straight answersor find anyone familiar with the subject.

The main reason, says Elan Steinberg, executivedirector of the WJC, is that no system for distributing the Swissmoney has been set up in the United States so far.

“We hope to have a working plan in two to threeweeks,” says Steinberg. WJRO’s first priority has been to get themoney to some 20,000 Jews in Eastern Europe, the double victims ofNazism and communism, to whom $59 million has been allocated.

When distribution commences in the United States,$32 million will be allocated. Steinberg says that there will bewidespread publicity of the fund’s availability, and the onlycriterion will be the applicant’s need. “If you’re needy, you’reeligible,” he says.

Of the remaining money, $24 million is earmarkedfor non-Jewish victims, and the rest will go to Jewish applicants inWestern Europe, Latin America and other parts of the world.

Durig hopes that when the American distributionsystem starts functioning, a processing office will be established inLos Angeles to assist West Coast petitioners.


An Unorthodox

Rabbi

Founder of the Shalom Hartman Instituteand a guest instructor at UCLA, David Hartman teaches ‘freedom withintradition’

By Allan M. Jalon

Rabbi David Hartman, renowned reveler in Jewishcontradictions, is full of them himself. For an Orthodox rabbi, he’sextremely unorthodox; ebullient one minute, he’s melancholy the next.Commandingly articulate about an Israel tortured by divisions, headmits that they can make him feel helpless.

“Jews have traditionally been part of a culture ofdisagreement,” he said during a recent interview in Los Angeles, justafter right-wing religious leaders denied Reform and Conservativerabbis the right to perform conversions. “But you must learn tolisten to someone who disagrees with you with respect.”

At 67, he’s pioneered avenues to such respectbetween secular and religious Jews. “Unique” is how The New YorkTimes’ Thomas Friedman describes Hartman, a leader whose voicedefines what the columnist calls Judaism’s “spiritual peace front.”The founder of Jerusalem’s esteemed Shalom Hartman Institute, aretired Hebrew University philosophy professor and an author ofseveral important books, he’s in Los Angeles to teach Jewish thoughtat UCLA for a semester. He recently challenged 400 people at a UCLAtalk to keep the faith that Israel can stay open to all kinds ofJewish visions.

“American Jewry has to know it’s a new fight,” hesaid. “I don’t want an authoritarian rabbinate or an authoritarianstate, and we should be grateful that they are forcing us to shapeour argument against them.”

There is something Shakespearean about thisround-faced sage with the spray of white hair. In fact, you couldcast him as the expansive friar in “Romeo and Juliet,” that drama ofconflicts turned tragic.

Raised amid the “wonderful Jewish diversity” of aBrooklyn neighborhood, trained at Yeshiva University, he made aliyahin 1971. He is an American-Israeli hybrid who seeks “freedom withintradition,” rejecting the “insulated mind that does not want to opento an alternative point of view.”

He warns gravely about the explosive outcome ifIsrael fails to unify itself. “I won’t say civil war,” he told TheJewish Journal, peering over the storm-framed ocean from the house heand his wife, Bobby, are renting in Manhattan Beach. “But I thinkthere can be fanatical violence between the left and the right.” Hetakes on a worried softness: “There are many people in Israel who areafraid of that.”

His surges toward hope bore traces of despair. Hesaid, almost as an aside: “And, sometimes, Cain kills Abel.Sometimes, there is violence. I have no formula for how to stop it. Ican only say the family is in crisis now.”

The conversion legislation, he said, is”disgusting.” But how does one heal a polarized Israel? First, hesaid, “one must not panic. This is a family, and when the family isin crisis, you are not supposed to panic.”

The best way to protect oneself against absolutistreligious attitudes is “to make sure they don’t have sufficientpolitical power; to make sure that a whole set of basic laws comes toexist that creates a separation between religion and the state,” hesaid.

“I don’t believe you can argue with theright-wing, extreme Orthodoxy. They are not open to human rights.What they want is to impose their will on the community.”

Hartman’s best-known books describe a universewhere Jews can balance, as one admirer put it, “the laws of God andthe will of Man.” He teaches that balance at the Shalom HartmanInstitute.

Students (often teachers as students) are drawnfrom Reform, Conservative and Orthodox backgrounds. Torah trainingmerges with courses on political science, educational theory andother topics. “I am a trained Orthodox rabbi who is trying to rebuilda culture of open interpretation,” said Hartman, who resides inJerusalem with his wife and five children. “Secular Israel is eagerlyanxious for someone to give them access to Jewish history and showhow to apply it to the modern world.”

Recently, the institute trained 30 secular highschool teachers and principals to teach classical Jewish subjects –Talmud, Bible, Philosophy — in their nonreligious institutions. Theinstitute’s modern, four-building campus hosts two Los Angeles rabbisfor two weeks of intensive rabbinical training each year. “They’resuffused with learning they pour back into the community,” said UCLAHillel Director Chaim
Seidler-Feller.

The Times’ Friedman recently devoted a piece toHartman’s views about Israel’s turmoil on the verge of its 50thanniversary. The columnist and the rabbi are close, having met whenFriedman arrived in Israel for The Times in 1984. Hartman decipheredIsrael for him, and he brought Hartman views of the Arab world fromhis travels. Friedman told The Journal that Hartman’s mood aboutIsrael has “come to despair about the political system being able toadapt and develop. But when he talks about the people to be educated,about the school, that is when he becomes optimistic.”

The optimism is making the deepest impressionhere, said Seidler-Feller. “His message that polar divisions do notdefine the religious playing field is very strong,” Seidler-Fellersaid. “The evidence is that we had between 20 and 30 other UCLAfaculty members attending his speech. That is unusual, and it showsthey are forming a connection with the work of healing andunderstanding that he addresses.”

Rabbi David Hartman draws students from allbackgrounds to his courses.

Allan M. Jalon is a free-lance writer who livesin Los Angeles.

 

Community Briefs

Venerable Volunteers

Consul General Yoram Ben Ze’ev will honorlocal volunteers who helped gain Israel’s independence.Photo above from “Jerusalem in 3000Years,” 1995.

Men and women from Southern California who servedas volunteers in the Israeli Defense Forces during the 1948-49 War ofIndependence will be honored by the Israeli government on Sunday,March 15, at the Skirball Cultural Center.

In inviting some 120 Southland members of Machal(overseas volunteers), Israel Consul General Yoram Ben Ze’ev said:”The role you played to assist Israel during a crucial hour was atgreat risk to yourself. The State of Israel is grateful to you andwishes to recognize your courageous dedication.”

The event, starting at 7 p.m., will include aproclamation by the State of Israel, the awarding of medals andcertificates, a musical program, and a reception, said Ido Aharoni,consul for public affairs. Leaders of the Jewish and generalcommunities have been invited.

In all, some 1,400 American volunteers, most ofthem World War II veterans, served as soldiers, airmen, sailors andnurses in the fledgling IDF during the War of Independence.— Tom Tugend,Contributing Editor

SWC Goes on Alert

The Wiesenthal Center is stepping up securityin light of a recent threat. Photoillustration by Carvin Knowles

The Simon Wiesenthal Center has increased alreadytight security measures in response to reports that the center isamong targets on the hit list of The New Order, a white supremacistgroup.

At a bail hearing for three arrested members ofthe organi-zation in East St. Louis, Ill., the FBI revealed thatother targets included the Anti-Defamation League’s New Yorkheadquarters; Morris Dees, head of the Southern Poverty Law Center;and an unidentified federal judge.

“We are used to threatening calls and hate mail,which we get on a monthly basis, but we take this latest threat muchmore seriously,” said Rabbi Marvin Hier, dean and founder of theWiesenthal Center.

“The New Order has shown that it is willing toimplement its threats and had actually gone after Mr. Dees,” saidHier.

The Wiesenthal Center routinely screens all itsincoming mail, but in light of the latest threat, “we are stepping upsecurity measures, both electronically and through an increasedphysical presence,” said Hier.

According to the FBI, heavily armed New Ordermembers also planned to rob banks and armored trucks to finance theirplots, as well as contaminate “a large water supply” with cyanide asa diversion while they carried out the bombing of Dees’ office inMontgomery, Ala. — T.T.

Zalis’ Role Expands

Gov. Pete Wilson has announced the appointment ofhis senior policy adviser, Rosalie Zalis, to the post of chief ofprotocol.

In the new position, Zalis will serve as thegovernor’s personal representative to foreign government officials,will plan visits by high foreign dignitaries, and will accompanyWilson on overseas trade missions.

“I will serve as liaison to 170 foreign consulatesin California, including the 70 headquartered in Los Angeles,” Zalistold The Jewish Journal.

The tireless Zalis, one of the best-knownpersonalities in the Jewish community, will continue in her multipleother roles as Wilson’s liaison to the entertainment industry andadviser on women’s issues and Middle East affairs.

She was instrumental in establishing theCalifornia-Israel Exchange to promote mutual trade relations, and sheplayed a prominent role in setting up the agency’s Jerusalemoffice.

“Rosalie’s diplomatic talents and boundless energywill serve the state well as we continue our drive to attract foreigninvestments and maintain our position as the gateway to the PacificRim,” Wilson said. — T.T.

Discussing Jewish Schools

Can Jewish education be affordable? That questiontook center stage last Thursday as part of the Newsmaker Forum Seriesat Sinai Temple. About 40 people, mostly parents and grandparents ofday-school students, turned out to hear prominent Jewish educatorsand bureaucrats: Dr. Bruce Powell, president of Milken Community HighSchool; Dr. Jerry Friedman, president of Shalhevet High School; Dr.Gil Graf, executive director of the Bureau of Jewish Education; andJohn Fishel, executive vice president of the Jewish Federation ofGreater Los Angeles. Robert Eshman, managing editor of The JewishJournal, moderated the event, which ended up less a debate than amutual acknowledgment that there’s simply not enough money to goaround.

There are 37 Jewish day schools in the Los Angelesarea, serving 9,375 students. Annual tuition ranges from $7,500 to$13,500, although some schools grant financial aid to as many as 70percent of their students. The Federation, which, this January, uppedits BJE allotment by $1 million, now spends approximately $138 perday-school student annually. This contrasts with an average of $490per pupil in Jewish communities elsewhere.

Shalhevet’s Friedman prodded the Federation to domore. Kindergarten-through-12th-grade day-school education, he said,is the only clear route to Jewish continuity. With the children ofbaby boomers entering the school system in large numbers, theFederation must appoint a vice president charged with keeping theissue of Jewish education always at the forefront, said Friedman. Heasked that United Jewish Fund pledge cards be modified so that donorscan specify their support for Jewish schools. Despite his personalcommitment to Israel, Friedman suggested that $5 million normallyearmarked for the Jewish state remain in Los Angeles to invest in theeducation of local Jewish children.

Fishel stressed the Federation’s fundamentalsupport of education: Now that the
economy has improved, he predictsthat more money will be routed toward schools. Still, he remindedthose present that demands on the Federation come from alldirections. The elderly and newly arrived immigrants have legitimateneeds of their own. Jewish children should also be served throughfunding for Jewish camps and Israel experiences. The big question,for Fishel, is whether the community as a whole supports day-schooleducation as a top priority. The sparse turnout for this panel wasperhaps one hint that interest in the issue is limited to those itaffects directly.

Powell agreed with Fishel that it was up to thecommunity, not the Federation, to provide long-term solutions. Healso emphasized that looking to the government for tuition voucherswas not the answer. Not only might this imperil the whole concept ofpublic education, but it could also bring unwanted governmentmeddling in the operation of Jewish schools.

So where could the money come from? In the future,Powell trusts that day-school graduates will contribute generouslytoward the institutions that helped shape them into Jewish leaders.For now, the best hope is that wealthy angels will step forward. SaysPowell, “I have absolutely no problem asking rich people formoney.”

Philanthropists have made the difference in othercommunities. In Seattle, a major gift from the Samas Foundation hascut day-school tuition by nearly 50 percent. An anonymous donor hashelped underwrite a day-school campus in Orange County.— Beverly Gray,Education Editor

Lecture Canceled

The March 15 lecture on “Jewish Prague” byProfessor Hillel Kieval of the University of Washington has beencanceled due to an emergency. The UCLA Center for Jewish Studies willreschedule the event for a future date.


 

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