U.S. military aircraft, passenger plane have near-miss over Eilat

A U.S. military aircraft and an Israeli passenger plane nearly collided over Eilat.

A C-130 Hercules aircraft flying from Bahrain to Jordan and the Arkia plane came within two miles of each other, according to reports.

The military aircraft tried to land at the Eilat Airport believing it was the King Hussein International Airport in Aqaba. The Israeli control tower helped the U.S. plane make it to Jordan.

It was the second time in two weeks that there has been a near-miss over Eilat.

Man held in Cyprus for planning attack on Israelis

A Swedish citizen of Lebanese origin suspected of planning to attack Israeli targets in Cyprus was ordered held over by a court there.

The Cypriot court on Monday ordered the man, 24, detained after noting the similarities between his actions and those of the Bulgarian suicide bomber who killed five Israelis and a Bulgarian bus driver in an attack on an Israeli tour bus at the Burgas airport.

The man in Cyprus had been arrested earlier this month, accused of tracking the movements of Jewish tourists, Reuters reported. He reportedly is being held on suspicion of espionage and conspiring to commit a crime.

Cypriot Justice Minister Loucas Louca said in a news conference Monday that the investigation will continue through Friday. He said the suspect belongs to an organization not on the European Union list of known terrorist groups, but did not name the group.

He was arrested two days after arriving in Cyprus from London, and was found with a list of tourist spots frequented by Israelis, according to reports.

Calendar Picks and Clicks: Apr. 27-May 3, 2012


Mizrahi pop star Eyal Golan, “The Voice” contestant Monique Benabou and Craig Taubman are the featured performers at today’s 64th Independence Day Festival, which includes a Salute to Israel Walk and Ride and an art installation competition. For additional information, see the story on Page 16. Sun. 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Online presale: $15 (adults), $9 (children), $10.75 (per person, family of four), $9.80 (per person, family of five). Door (does not include family package): $19 (adults), $12 (children). Cheviot Hills Park, Cheviot Hills Recreation Center, 2551 Motor Ave., Los Angeles. celebrateisraelfestival.com.

Don’t miss this afternoon of music and storytelling with the Grammy- and Emmy-winning composer who collaborated with icons Fred Astaire, Roberta Flack, Barry Manilow and Tito Puente. Fox performs his hit songs and signs copies of his 2011 memoir, “Killing Me Softly: My Life in Music.” Sun. 4 p.m. $10. American Jewish University, 15600 Mulholland Drive, Los Angeles. (310) 476-9777. ajula.edu.


The musical duo of Brooklyn hipsters Jesse Cohen and Eric Emm combines dance-pop and rock, tropical percussion, huge choruses and lyrics about Gen Y identity crises perfectly appropriate for an Echo Park crowd. Rewards and Gothic Tropic also perform. Mon. 8:30 p.m. $10 (advance), $12 (doors). The Echo, 1822 W. Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles. (213) 413-8200. attheecho.com.

For West San Fernando Valley residents who are still unsure about who to vote for in the congressional race for the newly drawn 30th District, perhaps tonight’s debate between Democratic candidates Rep. Brad Sherman and Rep. Howard Berman and Republican challengers Mark Reed and Susan Shelley will help. CSUN alumnus and KFI AM 640’s Bill Handel, CSUN business law lecturer Michael Sidley and a CSUN student representative moderate. Mon. 6-7:30 p.m. Free (limit two tickets per person). Valley Performing Arts Center, 18111 Nordhoff St., Los Angeles. (818) 677-8800. valleyperformingartscenter.org.


World musician Yuval Ron shares the hidden connection between Sufi master poet, Rumi, and the Jewish teacher, Yehuda Halevi in a concert-lecture. With singer Maya Haddi and percussionist Jamie Papish. Hosted by Rabbi Ed Feinstein. No fee. All are welcome. Bring timbrels. Tue. 7:30 p.m. Free. Valley Beth Shalom, 15739 Ventura Blvd., Encino. (818) 788-6000. Vbs.org.


Of the more than 25 dramas, documentaries, comedies and shorts at 13 venues from Pasadena to Beverly Hills, highlights at the seventh annual festival include tonight’s star-studded celebration and gala reception with a premiere viewing of documentary “Tony Curtis: Driven to Stardom”; Penelope Ann Miller, co-star of “The Artist,” hosting a viewing of the Michael Curtiz silent classic “The Moon of Israel” (May 6); “Wunderkinder,” the Holocaust drama from the producers of “Europa Europa” (May 5-6); the Los Angeles premiere of “Follow Me: The Yoni Netanyahu Story” (May 9), with Consul General of Israel David Siegel and Israeli government officials attending; and “Dorfman,” the closing-night film by director Bradley Leung and writer Wendy Kout, starring Elliott Gould (May 10). A program of The Jewish Journal. Thu. Through May 10. Various times. $40 (opening gala), $6-$12 (films), $12-$15 (closing night). Various locations. (800) 838-3006. lajfilmfest.org.

The works of nearly 50 pop culture artists, including Domingo Zapata, Burton Morris and John Baldessari, are featured in the Zimmer Children’s Museum’s new show-and-tell art exhibition, opening today. On May 6, children make pop art, snack on doughnut pops and popcorn, and rock out at a poppin’ bubble wrap dance party during “Show-and-Tell Family Day: A Poppin’ Party!” Thu. Through June 8. 6-9 p.m. (opening reception). Free. Zimmer Children’s Museum, 6505 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles. (323) 761-8984. zimmermuseum.org/showandtell.html.


The American Israeli Medical Association brings the biomedical technology industry of Israel to the American business community. Carla Mann Woods, CEO of Mann Healthcare Partners, delivers the keynote address, “Medical Devices in the 21st Century: Innovation, Challenges and Regulations.” Thu. 5-10 p.m. $80 (includes dinner and parking). Skirball Cultural Center, 2701 Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles. (888) 991-1212. aima4u.com.

America’s largest community service festival, which started in 1999 at Temple Israel of Hollywood, attracts nearly 50,000 people from every neighborhood, race, religion, ethnicity and socioeconomic group to 500 projects in communities all over Southern California, San Diego and San Francisco. Volunteer projects include such activities as planting gardens at schools, fixing up homeless shelters and sprucing up dog parks. Big Sunday Weekend also features concerts, book fairs and blood drives. Fri. Through May 6. Various times. Free. Various locations. (323) 549-9944. bigsunday.org.

Groups Back Obama Budget, Concerned About Tax Proposal

WASHINGTON (JTA)—More than 100 Jewish community organizations are backing President Obama’s 2010 budget while expressing “significant concerns,” but not opposing, a proposed decrease in the tax deduction for charitable contributions.

In a letter sent last week to Congress members, the organizations highlighted four specific Jewish communal priorities, including “comprehensive health care reform” that reduces costs while improving quality and access, and the reauthorization of child nutrition programs.

The groups also declared their support for various discretionary spending programs—including the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program and the Community Development Block Grant, the Community Services Block Grant and the Social Services Block Grant—and urged the inclusion of funding for the National Housing Trust Fund to build, rehabilitate and preserve housing for low-income families.

“Now, more than ever,” the letter asserted, “this economic crisis requires a federal budget that balances the need for long-term fiscal discipline with the need to sustain critical services in this time of economic crisis.”

The March 19 letter also raised questions about one Obama administration proposal.

“Many in our community have significant concerns” with the Obama administration’s plans to partially finance healthcare reform by the deduction for charitable contributions, the letter said.

It urged the administration to consider the impact of the measure on nonprofit organizations.

Signatories to the letter, which was organized by the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, included the United Jewish Communities, American Jewish Committee, B’nai B’rith International, National Council of Jewish Women and the Conservative, Reform and Reconstructionist movements, along with dozens of local community relations councils.

One group that did not sign was the Orthodox Union.

Public policy director Nathan Diament said the OU supported the measures endorsed in the letter but declined to sign on because the language objecting to the tax deduction change was not strong enough. Diament said the OU, which represents about 1,000 congregations and operates the largest kosher certification agency in the United States, wanted a “clear statement of opposition” to the reduction in the tax deduction.

JCPA’s Washington director, Hadar Susskind, said the letter took a moderate line because there was ³no community consensus² on the charitable deduction proposal. Some in the community were worried about it, but others believed it was good policy and unlikely to have much of an effect on nonprofit groups.

“There are varying opinions and nobody really knows what it’s going to do,” Susskind said, “but because it could have a negative impact, this was our attempt to express community concerns without implying opposition.”

Susskind said the issues emphasized in the letter were chosen because they are “big community priorities” that every agency involved in domestic policy cares about. They also encompass both short-term priorities—such as the child nutrition programs that are up for reauthorization this year—and longer-term goals such as health-care reform.

Saudis breathe new life into diplomacy

For the first time in years, serious Israeli-Arab peace moves seem to be afoot. The key mover is Saudi Arabia, and the key document is a 2002 peace initiative that it sponsored.

The Saudis have quietly been exchanging ideas with Israeli leaders on changes in the document that would make it more palatable to Israel. They also have been closely coordinating their moves with the United States and the Arab world.

For its part, Israel is working with the U.S. on a common front. The Israelis and Americans believe that the Saudi peace plan, with changes along the lines Israel is suggesting, could become a basis for comprehensive peace talks.

For the Saudis, regional stability is the name of the game. They identify two main sources of potential unrest in the region: the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and Iranian radicalism.

On the Palestinian front, the Saudis have made some striking moves. They’ve revived their 2002 peace plan and put it on the table for prior discussion with Israel; helped Hamas and Fatah reach a national unity agreement in Mecca; and provided the Palestinians with millions of dollars to help their struggling economy.

In other words, the Saudis have helped to create what some see as conditions for a new Israeli-Palestinian dialogue.

But more than trouble with the Palestinians, the Saudis are motivated by fear that Shi’ite Iran might act to destabilize their regime and that of other Western-oriented Sunni Muslim states by launching a terrorist war against them. They also fear that Iran’s threatened attacks on American interests throughout the Middle East could destabilize the region.

The Saudis, therefore, are determined to persuade Iran to moderate its policies. That clearly jells with Israeli and American interests.

The Saudis do not oppose U.S. or, according to some reports, Israeli military action to preempt Iran’s nuclear program and curb Iranian influence, but they prefer the diplomatic route. An early March meeting between Saudi King Abdullah and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was a last-ditch effort to halt the Iranians’ drive toward nuclear weapons.

But it also was an attempt to get Iran on board for the peace initiative with Israel. After the talks, the Saudis announced that Iran was ready to accept the Saudi peace plan, which entails recognition of Israel.

If true, it would have been a strong added incentive for Israel to engage. But Iran denied it had accepted the plan, which indeed would have contradicted Iran’s oft-stated aim to see Israel wiped off the map.

Nevertheless, no one disputes the rising Saudi influence.

“With the active encouragement of the White House, the Saudi king is becoming the No. 1 mediator in the Arab world, taking over the role from Egypt’s President Mubarak,” Arab affairs analyst Smadar Peri wrote in Yediot Achronot.

In her view, the Saudis have become key instruments of U.S. policy in the region. They’ve been using their economic and diplomatic muscle to prevent a sharp rise in the price of oil and to put economic pressure on Syria.

“The fear of the Iranian octopus is driving the Saudis and bringing about their growing closeness to the U.S.,” Peri wrote.

It also is creating an identity of interests between the Saudis and Israel.

The key player on the Saudi side is national security adviser Prince Bandar Bin Sultan. Bandar, who served as Saudi ambassador to Washington for 22 years, has been mediating between the U. S. and Iran. Most important, he has been leading secret contacts with Israel over the Saudi peace initiative.

Still, American input on the Israeli-Palestinian and wider Israeli-Arab tracks will be crucial. With this in mind, some Arab players are trying to convince the U. S. to lean on Israel.

On the eve of a Washington visit, Jordan’s King Abdullah II declared that the time had come for the United States to use its influence on Israel “to prove its transparency to the people of the region and that it is not biased.”

To ensure the United States stays on its side, Israel sent two of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s top aides, Yoram Turbovitch and Shalom Turjeman, to Washington to coordinate policy.

The main sticking point for Israel is the Saudi plan’s prescription for millions of Palestinian refugees and their descendants. The 2002 formulation would give the refugees a right to return to Israel proper, which virtually all Israelis see as shorthand for the destruction of the Jewish state through a demographic onslaught.

In the secret talks with Prince Bandar, Israel has made it clear that the refugee option is totally unacceptable. Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni argues that in the context of a two-state solution, it’s logical that Palestinian refugees would return to a Palestinian state, not Israel.

According to unconfirmed Israeli press reports, Saudi King Abdullah has ordered an appropriate change in the text. The plan, according to these reports, now says refugees will have a choice: either to return to the Palestinian state or stay where they are — in Jordan, Lebanon or Syria — and receive financial compensation.

The Saudis also reportedly hope to persuade Syria to drop its opposition to relinquishing the demand for a “right of return” to Israel in exchange for lifting Damascus’ international isolation.

If the Arab League adopts this position in the summit in Riyadh at the end of March, it would constitute a dramatic change in the Arab position — and, some feel, would force Israel to accept the revised plan as a basis for negotiation.

The plan offers normalization of relations with the entire Arab world, provided that Israel withdraws to its pre-1967 armistice lines and resolves its dispute with the Palestinians.

But the chairman of the Arab League, Amre Moussa, denies that there is Arab agreement on amending the Saudi plan. Moreover, even if the plan is changed, will the Palestinians agree to forego their demand for a right of return?

Hamas most certainly would not. It prefers to put off difficult final-status issues like refugees to a later date.

Requests Swamp Israel Trip Program

Birthright Israel has received many more applications for its upcoming trips than it has spaces available. Approximately 14,000 young Jews applied for 8,000 spots in the program’s spring/summer trips this year in just the first 12 hours of registration Feb. 8.

The organization provides free trips to Israel for Jews ages 18 to 26. In the six years since its founding, Birthright has brought 98,000 people from 45 countries to Israel. The upcoming trip will include the program’s 100,000th participant.

“The level of demand is unprecedented and well exceeds our financial capability to accommodate the majority of those who currently wish to go on Taglit-Birthright Israel trips,” said Susie Gelman, Birthright Israel Foundation chair.

Taglit is the Hebrew name for the program.

“As Taglit-Birthright Israel grows rapidly and develops into a community-supported organization, we hope that our friends will support us in enabling more young Jews to participate in the Taglit-Birthright Israel experience, so that we can send the 100,000th participant and plan for the next 100,000,” Gelman said.

What Is U.S. Jewish Role in Gaza?


A desk cluttered with papers — things to do, meetings to arrange. A demanding computer monitor — so many e-mails relentlessly calling for response. Yet my sense that we are approaching a watershed moment in Jewish history makes me want to push everything else aside.

I ask myself what we might do in the organized American Jewish community, the largest and most influential Diaspora community, to help prevent a looming confrontation — possibly heaven forbid violent in nature — between opposing forces in Israel.

This July, Israel will implement the government’s plan to evacuate Jews living in the Gaza Strip and areas of the West Bank. Opponents of this policy, as we have been hearing and reading, are preparing a series of measures, including massive civil disobedience intended to prevent this from taking place. Other, more radical opponents, we have been informed, may be planning even more extreme actions.

There is the appearance here of two speeding trains on a collision course. Not just any trains, but ones carrying our Jewish brothers and sisters in Israel.

I firmly believe that there is a Jewish community consensus position on this issue. While there are thoughtful people on both sides of the disengagement policy, the organized Jewish community overwhelmingly supports it. And it is not simply because it is a policy of the democratically elected Israeli government in Jerusalem.

I believe the support is fundamentally rooted in the merits of the initiative, which was intended not as a reward to the Palestinians, but as a necessary step to preserve Israel’s Jewish and democratic character. The fact that it will now be coordinated with a new Palestinian leader, who appears to be serious about a peaceful resolution of the conflict, is a bonus.

I believe our Jewish community has great empathy for Jewish residents in the Gaza Strip and West Bank, who must make painful personal sacrifices by leaving their homes of many years. In addition, there is recognition of the national sacrifice associated with departing parts of our beloved Land of Israel.

We also respect the right of those who disagree with the government’s policies to engage in legal protest. But we reject and denounce any call for violence or efforts to delegitimize the country’s democratic processes. With deep emotions rising on both sides, it is incumbent upon all responsible leaders, whatever their position may be on disengagement, to express their views with civility.

It has been a basic principle in our community that as American Jews — who live here and not there, whose children are not asked to serve in the IDF [Israel Defense Forces] — we should avoid becoming enmeshed in Israel’s internal political discussions. Over time, that principle has served us well and has reinforced an understanding of our primary role, which is to advocate for a strong

U.S.-Israel relationship and to help Israel meet the social and economic challenges it faces.

But there are rare times when it is much more than a simple political debate, when what is happening goes to the core of Israel’s identity as the state of the Jewish people, when the very future of the Zionist enterprise is on the line. I believe we are at such a juncture in Jewish history.

Even though 10 years have passed, I remember the moment as though it was yesterday, when my wife came to me with the shocking news that Prime Minister Rabin had been assassinated by a Jewish extremist. Her words went through me like a knife, and I cried off and on all day — my grief accentuated by the fact that we at the JCPA [Jewish Council for Public Affairs] had just met with him in Tel Aviv the week before.

Did we recognize sufficiently the poisonous climate that led up to this tragedy? Could we have taken some action to calm the situation? I continue to ask myself those questions.

Our choice is clear. Either we can be observers of this unfolding drama from the sidelines and pray for the best. Or, in the remaining months before July, we can come together as a community, representing the full spectrum of religious and political perspectives, to consider how to communicate our convictions and feelings to the Israeli people directly, in the hope that we will help shape — and not merely be witnesses to Jewish history.

Martin J. Raffel is acting executive director of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs.


Federation to End Donor Subscriptions

Starting next year, Jewish Journal readers who received their weekly newspaper by donating to The Jewish Federation will still be able to get it, but not as part of their Federation donation.

Readers will be able to subscribe directly to The Journal for home delivery, or pick it up for free at distribution sites around Los Angeles.

Beginning Jan. 1, 2005, The Federation will no longer purchase 20,000 annual Journal subscriptions for its donors.

The change in this 18-year relationship comes as The Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles launches a unique and unprecedented plan to distribute some 110,000 copies of its weekly newspaper in the greater Los Angeles area.

"By 2006, we intend to be the largest circulation Jewish community weekly in North America," Editor-in-Chief Rob Eshman said.

As part of its plan, The Journal will rely largely on free distribution and paid private subscriptions. Until now, The Journal has been able to pay cheap third-class postage rates, allowing it to charge $30 per subscription. Under U.S. Postal Service regulations, a company must pay first-class postage if it distributes a majority of papers for free. First- class postage for weekly delivery is $60 per year.

The Jewish Journal will be running a series of ads to alert readers to its new distribution system.

The distribution plan is unique among North America’s 135 Jewish community papers. But Eshman says it suits a community that is in itself unique. "L.A. Jewry is dispersed, diverse and at the cutting edge of American Jewish life," Eshman said, "and we want our paper to reach and reflect all parts of it."

Journal Chief Operating Officer Kimber Sax said the change could initially cost the Journal, a nonprofit, "hundreds of thousands of dollars" in lost revenue.

On the upside, she said, giving away The Journal is expected to double the paper’s circulation to 110,000 by 2006. Sax and Eshman are confident the increased penetration will make the paper more attractive to advertisers hungry to reach the affluent Jewish community.

"Our vision is that everywhere you go in greater Los Angeles County, whether you’re in Arcadia, Conejo, Encino, San Gabriel or Torrance, you’re going to see The Jewish Journal," Sax said.

Eshman said the new goal challenges the paper to improve the quality to grow readership. Toward that end, The Journal has hired new writers and launched editions in Orange County and Conejo Valley. The paper just hired an in-house Web director to overhaul its Web site, which should be unveiled by October.

"Our goal is to be the largest Jewish newspaper in the country and among the best," Eshman said.

The Journal will become one of only a handful of Jewish papers nationwide neither owned by nor selling thousands of subscriptions to federations, said Neil Rubin, senior editor of the Baltimore Jewish Times and former president of the American Jewish Press Association. He estimated that about 85 percent of Jewish papers have formal financial ties with the philanthropic bodies, including the Cleveland Jewish News and the Philadelphia Jewish Exponent, which are federation-owned. Such arrangements help keep some publications afloat by guaranteeing paid circulation, he said.

However, Rubin said at the very least these relationships create the appearance of conflicts of interest.

With federation papers, "you’re not really doing journalism. You’re self-censoring or you’re being censured, which isn’t healthy for the Jewish community," said Rubin, whose Baltimore Jewish Times is independent.

Relations between the Los Angeles Federation and Journal occasionally became frosty after stories critical of the organization ran in the paper. Both Federation President John Fishel and Journal Editor Eshman deny these occasional conflicts played any role in the impending separation.

Eshman said the philanthropic organization no longer could afford subscriptions at a time of dramatically increasing operating costs and only slightly higher fund raising. He said the split might have been driven by cost-cutting recommendations made by an internal Federation task force.

Fishel said The Journal’s decision to give away most of its papers necessitated the separation. With The Journal’s decision to giveaway most copies, subscriptions will cost more than The Federation wants to spend, Fishel said.

Still, he said he hoped Federation members would continue to pick up The Journal, which has served the community well.

"I think The Journal has improved dramatically over the last decade," he said.

B’nai Mitzvah Planning Guide

At Birth

When the child is born, start saving! It’s not a bad idea to start two savings accounts; one for college and one for the bar or bat mitzvah.

One to three years ahead

  • Set the date.

  • Set a budget.

  • Reserve the synagogue.

  • Reserve the hall for additional receptions.

  • Arrange for caterer, party planner and band or DJ.

  • Buy a loose-leaf binder or start a filing system on index cards.

Ten to 12 months ahead

  • Begin b’nai mitzvah lessons.

  • (Continue to) attend weekly Shabbat services as a family.

  • Arrange for photographer and videographer.

  • Book hotel accommodations and investigate transportation for out-of-town guests.

Six months ahead

  • Plan colors and theme.

  • Arrange for florist and make guest list.

Four to five months ahead

  • Order invitations and thank-you notes, imprinted napkins and personalized party favors.

  • Shop for clothing and shoes.

  • Purchase a tallit and tefillin, if applicable.

  • Choose a calligrapher.

Three months ahead

  • Plan Sunday brunch, if applicable.

  • Order printed yarmulkes.

Two months ahead

  • Meet with photographer and videographer.

  • Meet with florist and/or decorations coordinator.

  • Mail out-of-town invitations.

Six weeks ahead

  • Order tuxedos.

  • Take care of clothing alterations.

  • Order wine for Kiddush.

  • Mail in-town invitations.

Four weeks ahead

  • Prepare speech.

  • Finalize reservations and transportation.

  • Meet with caterer.

  • Make welcome gifts for out-of-town guests.

  • Arrange aliyot.

  • Send honorary gift to synagogue.

  • Meet with rabbi.

  • Make seating charts for reception (and dinner).

Two weeks ahead

  • Give final count to caterer.

  • Check with florist.

  • Meet with rabbi.

  • Order cake, cookies and pastries for Friday night oneg Shabbat.

A few days ahead

  • Have rehearsal and take bimah photographs.

  • Make copies of speeches, room and table layouts, and give them to a friend to hold for you.

Special day

  • Enjoy your simcha!

Vote Yes on 57, 58: They Will Ease Crisis

It certainly is an unusual situation, but we Republicans are encouraging you to vote to increase the debt of the state of California, and we are doing it with a straight face.

As you know, Proposition 57 is asking Californians to commit to a bond issue of $15 billion. This commitment will allow our state budget to be stabilized, so that we can begin the process of moving forward.

If you study the state budgets over the last few years as I have, you would see that we have had a deficit at the end of each year that keeps getting larger each and every year. Even when revenues were perceived to be at a peak, we were outspending those revenues. The state budget began each year in the hole that just got deeper as the months went by.

Now we have a twofold problem. We must deal with the backlog created from prior years and try to balance this year’s budget, where expenses still are outstripping revenues. Proposition 57 will allow us to focus on eliminating the current budget imbalance without the draconian past debt facing us.

As it is, we will face serious cuts in our state budget. The growth in expenditures will have to be eliminated and actual cuts in important programs will have to be made.

As much as some of us would like to effect the cuts now that are necessary to erase this debt, we have come to the conclusion that it would significantly harm our state’s economy. This would stifle the immediate economic growth we need to reach budget equilibrium.

This new debt is not going away. That is understood. We are going to have to pay it back over the next decade. It will be in a fashion that will allow our legislators to craft a budget that will not start wallowed in debt before the opening discussions begin. By our good fortune, this debt will be financed at today’s very low interest rates.

The question then becomes how do we prevent this disastrous situation from re-occurring. We must pass the companion proposition — No. 58. It specifically makes it illegal to create any future bonds to finance a budget deficit again. It requires the Legislature to balance the budget.

Proposition 58, in addition to requiring a balanced budget each year, establishes that there must be a budget reserve in case projected revenues fall short. This is an important part of the measure.

A year in advance, some very smart people sit down and project what the revenues are going to be for the next 12 months for the world’s sixth largest economy. As smart as they are, it is a Herculean task, where it is easy to be off a billion dollars or more. This reserve will recognize that projections are only projections, and we should provide a cushion for dealing with the inevitable changes.

These new budget requirements can only be deviated from when there is a fiscal emergency upon which both the governor and Legislature agree. Some would say that a balanced budget should be locked in stone.

Those feelings are certainly justified after the dismal performance of the last few years. Once we divorce ourselves from those feelings and look at the budgeting process on a long-term basis, it becomes easier to see that this is a necessary clause that allows our elected officials to act responsibly, when a true disaster happens. If, God forbid, another earthquake occurs matching the damage caused by the Northridge quake, we would all want our leaders in Sacramento to do what is necessary to return our lives to normal.

These are the reasons why a broad spectrum of the political and financial universe is supporting both Proposition 57 and 58. It is a reasoned plan of action.

There may be alternative plans that seem good, but this one is worked out and ready to go. Let’s give it a chance and make judgment about its success after we see the full effects.

There are many important votes to cast on March 2, but none is more important for the future stability of our state than to vote yes on Proposition 57 and 58.

Bruce L. Bialosky is the Southern California chairman of the Republican Jewish Coalition.

A Great Party Happened Here

"Entertaining is a lot like gardening," Linda Burghardt said. "You can’t make mistakes."

In other words, no matter what you do, it’s OK.

Just as each combination of flowers produces a different garden, each approach to party planning results in a unique gathering. Through these suggestions, hosts can reinvent Chanukah parties or weave in new ideas with established traditions:

1. Make a guest list of family and friends who light up your life. Celebrating the holiday with friends is fun for people with small families.

2. Using construction paper, show children how to cut out dreidels or candles and create one-of-a-kind invitations by filling in the time and date.

3. If you want to do something fancier, buy plastic dreidels with removable tops and put a note inside each one, explaining the party details.

4. Make a centerpiece by turning a large cardboard box into a dreidel and letting children decorate it. Fill the dreidel with party favors wrapped in blue and white paper, taping mesh bags of Chanukah gelt or real money on top. Attach long ribbons, so it’s easy for children to pull party favors from the centerpiece.

5. If you enjoy grab bags purchase them, make gifts yourself or ask guests to bring something to exchange. Organize two sets of grab bags — one for children and one for adults. Set a price range to ensure fairness.

6. Plan a manageable menu and prepare as many dishes ahead of time as possible.

7. Experiment by making latkes out of sweet potatoes or vegetables such as carrots, zucchini or turnips.

8. For extra-crunchy results, drain latkes on brown paper bags from grocery stores rather than on paper towels.

9. Make Chanukah gelt by melting chocolate and spooning it into rounds on aluminum foil coated with a no-stick spray. When they’ve cooled, wrap individually in silver or gold foil.

10. Create a lovely ceremony by asking guests to bring menorahs from home. Provide candles in a variety of colors, sizes and shapes, including some from Israel.

11. Place menorahs around the dining room table at the appropriate guest’s place. Say the blessing and light the shamashim (the central candle) together, followed by the other candles. Prepare to be dazzled.

12. Explain each step for guests who’ve grown fuzzy about Jewish customs or who are learning about Judaism for the first time.

13. After dinner, read Isaac Beshevis Singer’s delightful "Zlatch the Goat" from his collection of stories by the same name. Young and old alike will be entertained by this charming tale.

14. Sing songs such as "Rock of Ages." Remember to copy song sheets and distribute to guests, so they can join in.

15. Before the party, take a long bath. Allow 45 minutes to relax. Remember your role as host is to extend warmth and welcome people into your home. Forget perfectionism — it has no place at Chanukah.

From “Jewish Holiday Traditions” by Linda Burghardt (Citadel Press, 2001).

Slippery Slope

The all-new, completely updated “Joys of Yiddish” (Crown, 2001) by Leo Rosten will be released soon, and thumbing through an advance copy yesterday I couldn’t stop smiling at the language’s ability to capture an action, an emotion and a worldview — all in one word.

Glitch, Rosten writes, means “A slide; to slide or skid on a slippery surface.” It also means, “a risky undertaking, or enterprise.” The adjective is glitchidik. “To warn your child that the pavement is glitchidik,” Rosten writes, “seems to me delightful.”

Even before taking office, President George W. Bush made his faith-based initiative the cornerstone of his agenda to bring the values of religious life to bear in addressing social ills. As The Journal reported in a March 16 cover story on the initiative, the idea intrigued many Jewish charities as a way of gaining more federal dollars, and upset many others, as a sign that Bush wanted to puncture the church-state wall.

Last week, a scaled-back version of the plan, called the Community Solutions Act, passed in a House vote, 233 to 198. The bill would greatly expand a Clinton-era law allowing houses of worship to receive federal funding for social service programs on a limited basis.

To get CSA through the Senate, the president will have to address some of the concerns the measure’s critics — and its more moderate Republican and Democratic supporters — have raised. Three concerns stand out:

Would some groups be excluded from being employees or recipients of faith-based social services? Earlier this month, the Salvation Army asked the Bush administration to exempt religious charities that receive federal money from local laws that bar discrimination against homosexuals. The request was denied. But the idea that the federal government would end up referring among religious groups is disturbing. “Why is it an imposition to the Methodists to ask them to hire Jews?” Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass) told a reporter. “That seems to me appalling. We would be promoting interreligious hostility, with federal funds.”

This week, Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.) met with Bush to work out a compromise that addressed this concern, among others.

But for local charities, there may be graver issues.

What standards will be put in place to make sure the fresh crop of religious charities created by this act are subject to what a United Jewish Community spokesman called, “same standards of accountability,” as those offered by long-standing non-sectarian providers?

Will new, religiously affiliated nonprofits competing for the same federal dollars hurt the charities most experienced in providing care?

Finally, look at Canada. There the government has been funding faith-based charities for 100 years. But now Canada is slashing the level of funding due to severe budget constraints. The result: charities that have lost the ability to raise their own monies, a population that is resistant to donating out of pocket, and tens of thousands of needy people without social services.

Perhaps the supporters of faith-based initiatives can work out the new problems that new approaches invariably create. But they must have known that mixing church and state is a slippery endeavor. In a word, glitchidik.

Glitch, Rosten writes, means “A slide; to slide or skid on a slippery surface.” It also means, “a risky undertaking, or enterprise.” The adjective is glitchidik…. Mixing church and state is a slippery endeavor. In a word, glitchidik.

That Run-Down Feeling

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) plans to construct a grotesquely invasive “Bus Rapid Transit” corridor (the term is MTA’s) along Chandler Boulevard in the East San Fernando Valley, and MTA’s 300-page-plus environmental impact report (EIR) deceives the public in its effort to whitewash the plan. As one salient example of deceit, the EIR disingenuously tries to hide the rapid- transit’s impact on community safety, conceding the possibility of increased “pedestrian/bus conflicts.”

Where I come from in Brooklyn, we called that “getting run over by the bus.” Newspapers call it “bus injuries and bus accidents.” But the MTA covers up the true impending dangers to life and limb by warning of “pedestrian/bus conflicts.”

And so the deception continues. Although the MTA spends $10 million a year to repair graffiti damage that its properties attract, the EIR does not discuss the graffiti impact of constructing several miles of 4-foot-tall white picket fences along Chandler Boulevard.

MTA property attracts spray paint, and spray cans near temples paint swastikas. Graffiti 101.

The EIR concedes that MTA could build a reduced segment of its intended bus line in the Van Nuys commercial area, beginning west of the affected communities, but it absurdly limits consideration of such an alternative line, arbitrarily truncating that option only a few blocks west across the 405 Freeway at Balboa Boulevard. Thus, the EIR utterly fails to discuss and analyze the impact of extending such an alternative all the way west to the desired terminus at the Woodland Hills transportation hub.

Such a reasonable alternative, augmented by a Transportation Systems Management (TSM) program to maximize efficiencies in present surface-transit operations between NoHo and Van Nuys, would achieve the vast majority of MTA’s mass-transit goals at much lower cost than entailed by running 460-480 rapid buses daily, smack through the heart of a residential community.

The EIR reflects the MTA’s cursory study of the people who live and walk in the neighborhood along Chandler. It ignores strong local opposition from Latinos, Asian Americans and African Americans who have saved their take-home pay for years to live in the integrated Chandler community in Valley Village.

It does acknowledge the presence of an Orthodox Jewish community. On Shabbos, thousands of people in the Chandler neighborhood — thousands — do our best to minimize our interaction with the world of hustle-bustle and transportation. Sure, there are cars driving by; that’s cool, and we knew that when we created an expansive community along Chandler over these past 10 years. But it is unconscionably invasive and repugnant to the neighborhood’s character to construct a Bus Rapid Transit line that the EIR promises will run, in one direction or the other, every minute or two along Chandler.

MTA apologists lie when they say that the rapid bus will run “only” once every 7-10 minutes; in truth, the EIR explicitly admits the plan to run buses every 2.5 minutes each way. And there is a good reason that MTA misleads; it knows that rapid 60-foot buses every minute or two truly are invasive.

In its greatest deception, the EIR falsely conveys that MTA seeks to “restore” public transportation as part of the neighborhood’s cultural “history.” But this is not about refurbishing James Madison’s Montpelier estate in Virginia or the Statue of Liberty. For the past 10 years, Chandler has been utterly devoid of mass transit. During those 10 years, the community has charted a dramatic new history.

The Shaarey Zedek congregation expanded dramatically on Chandler. The Toras Hashem Synagogue constructed a huge new building on Chandler. The Valley Torah High School moved from elsewhere to extraordinarily expansive quarters on Chandler. Emek Hebrew Academy practically doubled in size at its nursery and preschool on Chandler. The Chabad Shul underwent a complete renovation on Chandler. A new Sephardic Orthodox Synagogue is under construction on Chandler.

These past 10 years are real history. Regardless of whether a train ran on Chandler 100 years ago, it no longer runs, and it has not run there for 10 years. Horses once promenaded on Wilshire Boulevard, but no one will set aside a lane today for horses to walk past the Jewish Journal on Wilshire. And, even when a train did run in the old days, it ran only once a day. But MTA explicitly admits that it seeks to run as many as 480 buses daily in a comparatively narrow corridor that aligns a walking path and bike path, leaving inadequate swerve room for emergency safety maneuvers.

Finally, the absence of MTA Board members from the public hearings makes a mockery of the entire legal process enacted by the State Legislature and interpreted by the courts. Hundreds of community members have appeared at the public hearings to share their passions and concerns with their elected officials and the agency board, but they have been met with two MTA officers and a transcriber. The 13 MTA Board members cannot possibly understand from a transcript — assuming that they read the hundreds of pages of transcription — the passion of the words spoken at the hearings. Maybe that is the reason that the law calls for “hearings” — not “public transcribings.” One cannot discern from a transcript the tones, the quotation marks, the emphasis, or the passion of the spoken words.

Lives and dreams are at stake. And the sham is such a shame. The MTA has failed to comply with our State Supreme Court’s substantive standard for presenting a Draft EIR, and it has failed to comply with legal standards of procedural due process. A new and honest Draft EIR must be prepared to inform the public sufficiently so it can participate meaningfully in the decision-making process. And a new series of true hearings must be scheduled so that the public actually is heard by the 13 voting members of the MTA Board.

Lighten Up

With the demise of the former Soviet Union and the fall of communism in the early ’90s, the story of Soviet Jewry’s battle for survival appears to be ancient history. Yet one of the truly remarkable books of our time is the autobiography of one of the famous refuseniks, Yosef Mendelevitch, who struggled valiantly for his right to be Jewish in Communist Russia. Mendelevitch titled his autobiography "Mevzah Hatunah," which translates from Hebrew as "Operation Wedding."

Mendelevitch, together with a group of refusenik friends, tried to escape from the USSR in the early ’70s on a plane they had hoped to fly to Israel. But the KGB uncovered their plan, and they were arrested. At the trial they said that they were planning to go to a wedding. That story served as the basis for the book’s title.

Mendelevitch records how, during his prison sentence, he was often sent to solitary confinement in a 3-foot by 5-foot room with no heat or blanket, with a light that never turned off and a slop pail that was only emptied every 10 days. One stint in solitary lasted 90 days, but he sneaked in a Bible. He was caught reading his Bible a few days later, and the interrogator offered him the following deal: "If you give up the Bible, I will reduce your solitary confinement by 30 days. But if you keep it, I will add 30 days." He answered, "With my Bible there is no solitary confinement; without it, solitary confinement is unbearable."

This very thought is found in this week’s Torah portion. At the very start of the reading, the Torah records the commandment about which oil should be used for the lighting of the menorah in the tabernacle. After telling us that pure olive oil was needed, the Torah states that it was used "to lift the perpetual light." This expression is most unusual, for we would have expected the word to be "to kindle." The rabbis in the Talmud (Yoma 45b) suggest that "to lift" teaches us that the fire for the menorah came from an already existing fire that was continually burning. The Talmud remarks, "A fire about which continually has been stated: It is the one with which they light the lamps of the menorah … from the fire which is on the altar." It was, if you will, lifted from that source and transferred to the menorah, in order to ignite the flames of the candelabrum.

In this piece of ritual information lies a great insight that has profound moral value. Light, in all literature, is a metaphor for gladness, which uplifts the heart of man. Indeed, in all universal languages, every form of fulfillment is compared to light. What the Torah teaches us via this law of the menorah’s lighting is that the source of our happiness is crucial. If there is to be light-happiness in our lives, then it must come from a source of holiness. When this occurs and one’s light-happiness is grounded in the correct source, that person then is "uplifted," and the fire burns eternally.

Mendelevitch found his source of light-happiness in the Bible, and it illuminated the darkness of his prison cell. Our challenge is to find our holy source of light and illuminate our lives accordingly.

Just in Time

Jeff, the guy from the party rental place, left this phone message two weeks ago:

“Passover is March 31,” he said, “and, say Marlene, you always call us the last minute. Do you think you might plan a bit ahead this time?”

Jeff isn’t even Jewish, but his calendar was right. I always leave everything to the last minute, from making the gefilte fish to writing the annual haggadah. When my guests arrive, they typically find me grating horseradish, my eyes bleary with tears. Then they have to help set the table, collate the copies from Kinkos and arrange the flowers. Until this year, I thought last-minute hospitality was the pursuit of freshness, or otherwise part of my charm. After all, the children of Israel only had a few hours to plan for their liberation. Having more than a day to plan a seder seems like overkill.

Then, a week ago, I spoke to my friend Carrie.

“I don’t want to rush your calendar, but what are you doing for Passover?” I asked. But Carrie had her plans set in concrete.

Then I called my cousin Rita, who knew for certain that she was spending the first night with her sister-in-law, Mary, who already had her chicken soup in the freezer. The broth was only awaiting the matzo balls. Rita was making the potato kugel she was planning to bring with her even as we spoke.

It only got worse. I have been making Passover seders for 20 years, and I have a huge core crowd of extended family who wouldn’t go anywhere else but my home. But I always like to add new people since I too was once a stranger in a strange land. But all my favorite “strangers” this year were already accounted for. My friend Andy, an award-winning caterer, not only had his plans but he’d made his tzimmes and brisket last weekend. It seems that only I was still thinking that Passover was a big surprise party. The surprise was on me, who had not yet ordered my whitefish, pike and carp.

Maybe it is because I am a Baby Boomer and grew up in what was once called the Age of Anxiety, the post-Bomb era, that I have never been good at planning ahead. My husband, who was older than me by a generation, was even worse in this regard. Our first Passover together was memorable because Burton called his cousins at 4:30 to ask if we could attend their seder, which was starting at 6.

Even when it became a certainty that Passover was my holiday, just as Thanksgiving is my friend Marika’s, I still never got in the groove. I think it has something to do with the smells. I love the smells of the holidays, the rich aroma of beef and chicken and fish that come together just around 4 p.m. when the guests arrive. So that’s one reason I do almost everything at last minute.

Another reason is that, in contrast to Greta Garbo, I don’t really want to be alone. I only begin planning my Passover right after my parents declare they’ve bought their airline tickets. Cooking for Passover, to me, means cooking with Mom.

It wasn’t always like that. When I was young and newly married, my friends and I put together a gourmet Passover. The more esoteric the foods, the better. Some years we’d have lamb, others we’d be vegetarian. We were brave and creative –and nuts.

As I got older, I wanted my daughter to know a real seder. I needed real Jewish foods exactly as I had had them. At that point, my parents felt confident that it was safe to eat at my table, so long as my mother helped to cook. Rather than have her shlep three slabs of brisket from Florida to L.A., I left all the cooking until my mother arrived. I waited each year so she could show me for the thousandth time how she mixed together Hungarian paprika, garlic salt and oil into a luscious paste for baked chicken. Doing the work together made the day fly.

From time to time, my mother and father would stay in New York and Florida, so over time, my friend Willie began to share the cooking load. Willie, too, is a last-minute chef; she’d come to the house in the late afternoon, and make her renowned light-as-air matzo balls even as the seder began, spooning them into the rolling vat of soup.

But this year, my parents are staying in Florida. Willie and her husband are in Japan. I’m still having a table of 20, so what will I do?

The older we get, the earlier we begin. I used to think it is the labor alone that makes people start their holiday planning. But now I think we begin cooking and planning for Passover early because we need our memories to come alive, a testimony of faith in the present. We’ll be thinking about who isn’t coming this year, and who won’t be there next year. And soon enough, long before you need to, the big rush begins: You first buy the ingredients, then, what the heck, you might as well start making it. And before you know it, the soup is in Tupperware in the freezer, and the brisket is ready for slicing. So this year, Jeff got his order early. Who knows, if I do my preparing early enough, I’ll be ready for Passover, memories and all, just in time.

Marlene Adler Marks, senior columnist of The Jewish Journal, will appear at Barnes & Noble in Calabasas on Sunday March 21.

Her website is www.marleneadlermarks.com.

Her e-mail address is wmnsvoice@aol.comHer book, “A Woman’s Voice” is available through Amazon.com.