Time has come to stress Islam’s positive side

The following is an excerpt from a speech Rabbi Eric Yoffie delivered Aug. 3 to the Islamic Society of North America’s 44th annual convention in Chicago. Yoffie is president of the Union for Reform Judaism, the largest Jewish religious movement in North America, consisting of more than 900 congregations and 1.5 million Jews.

There exists in this country among all Americans — whether Jews, Christians or nonbelievers — a huge and profound ignorance about Islam. It is not that stories about Islam are missing from our media. There is no shortage of voices prepared to tell us that fanaticism and intolerance are fundamental to Islamic religion and that violence and even suicide bombing have deep Quranic roots.

There is no lack of so-called experts who are eager to seize on any troubling statement by any Muslim thinker and pin it on Islam as a whole. Thus, it has been far too easy to spread the image of Islam as enemy, as terrorist, as the frightening unknown.

How did this happen?

How did it happen that Christian fundamentalists, such as Pat Robertson and Franklin Graham, make vicious and public attacks against your religious tradition?

How did it happen that when a Muslim congressman takes his oath of office while holding the Quran, Dennis Prager suggests that the congressman is more dangerous to America than the terrorists of Sept. 11?

How did it happen that a member of Congress, Tom Tancredo, now running for president, calls for the bombing of Mecca and Medina?

Even more important, how did it happen that law-abiding Muslims in this country can find themselves condemned for dual loyalty and blamed for the crimes of terrorists they abhor?

And how did it happen that in the name of security, Muslim detainees and inmates are exposed to abusive and discriminatory treatment that violates the most fundamental principles of our Constitution?

One reason that all of this happens is the profound ignorance to which I referred. We know nothing of Islam — nothing. That is why we must educate our members, and we need your help. And we hope in doing so we will set an example for all Americans.

Because the time has come to put aside what the media says is wrong with Islam and to hear from Muslims themselves what is right with Islam.

The time has come to listen to our Muslim neighbors speak from their heart and in their own words about the spiritual power of Islam and their love for their religion.

The time has come for Americans to learn how far removed Islam is from the perverse distortions of the terrorists who too often dominate the media, subverting Islam’s image by professing to speak in its name.

The time has come to stand up to the opportunists in our midst — the media figures, religious leaders and politicians who demonize Muslims and bash Islam, exploiting the fears of their fellow citizens for their own purposes.

And finally this: The time has come to end racial profiling and legal discrimination of any kind against Muslim Americans. Yes, we must assure the security of our country; this is absolutely our government’s first obligation. But let’s not breach the Constitution in ways we will later regret. After all, civil liberties are America’s strength, not our weakness….

….The dialogue will not be one way, of course. You will teach us about Islam, and we will teach you about Judaism. We will help you to overcome stereotyping of Muslims, and you will help us to overcome stereotyping of Jews.

We are especially worried now about anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial. Anti-Semitism is not native to Islamic tradition, but a virulent form of it is found today in a number of Islamic societies, and we urgently require your assistance in mobilizing Muslims here and abroad to delegitimize and combat it.

A measure of our success will be our ability, each of us, to discuss and confront extremism in our midst. As a Jew, I know that our sacred texts, including the Hebrew Bible, are filled with contradictory propositions, and these include passages that appear to promote violence, and thus offend our ethical sensibilities. Such texts are to be found in all religions, including Christianity and Islam.

The overwhelming majority of Jews reject violence by interpreting these texts in a constructive way, but a tiny, extremist minority chooses destructive interpretations instead, finding in the sacred words a vengeful, hateful God. Especially disturbing is the fact that the moderate majority, at least some of the time, decides to cower in the face of the fanatic minority — perhaps because they seem more authentic or appear to have greater faith and greater commitment.

When this happens, my task as a rabbi is to rally that reasonable, often-silent majority and encourage them to assert the moderate principles that define their beliefs and Judaism’s highest ideals. My Christian and Muslim friends tell me that precisely the same dynamic operates in their traditions, and from what I can see, that is manifestly so.

Surely, as we know from the headlines, you have what I know must be for you, as well as for us, an alarming number of extremists of your own — those who kill in the name of God and hijack Islam in the process. It is therefore our collective task to strengthen and inspire one another as we fight the fanatics and work to promote the values of justice and love that are common to both our faiths.

I am optimistic that we can do this. After all, there is much that we share. As small minorities here, we worry how we will fare and if we will survive in the great American melting pot. As committed God-seekers in an age of moral relativism, we are distressed by the trends that pollute our children’s lives: incredibly trashy television, high divorce rates and media images that demean and objectify women.

At the same time and without contradiction, we are both beneficiaries of the blessings bestowed by this great and wonderful country. For all of its problems, America provides us with a secure sanctuary that safeguards our right to be different. And despite the prejudice that we still confront, America offers a measure of diversity and tolerance unmatched in any place or time in history.

Class Notes – National Nachas for Shalhevet

Shalhevet School is on a winning streak, bringing the Los Angeles yeshiva high school to national prominence in the areas of ethics, politics and sports.

Shalhevet is the only Jewish school and the only school in Los Angeles included in a national report on how to produce students who are not only intelligent, but have a sense of moral maturity.

The 14-year-old high school is one of 24 schools from across the country included in “Smart and Good High Schools: Integrating Excellence and Ethics for Success in School, Work and Beyond,” a 225-page report recently published by State University of New York College at Cortland.

Researchers spent time at Shalhevet to observe how it builds character in its students — for example, through its weekly town hall meetings and moral discussions that permeate the classroom and extracurricular activities.

“In a ‘Smart and Good High School,’ all things in the life of the school — routines, rituals, discipline, curriculum, co-curricular activities and unplanned ‘teachable moments’ — are intentionally utilized as opportunities to foster excellence and ethics,” the report reads.

Two seniors from last year, Leor Hackel and Sara Hoenig, served on the National Student Leaders Panel for the study.

Shalhevet also chalked up a win in Yeshiva University’s Model United Nations, where about 40 Jewish high schools faced off in debates on issues such as the crisis in Darfur, how to define terrorism and providing nutritional support to alleviate the HIV crisis in sub-Saharan Africa.

Shalhevet’s win continued a long Model U.N. crosstown rivalry with YULA High School, which came in second. In the last five years Shalhevet has placed first twice and YULA three times.

Phu Tranchi, adviser to the 14-member Shalhevet team, notes that aside from spending many hours preparing, students hone their persuasive abilities at town hall meetings.

And, Tranchi added, “I don’t think it’s a coincidence that we have great overlap between the Model U.N. and the drama club — they can really get up and put on a show.”

The same can be said for Shalhevet’s Lady Firehawks, who won first place in the Hillel Community School invitational basketball tournament in Florida last month, where teams from Jewish high schools across the country competed. This was the second consecutive year that the Lady Firehawks won the tournament. Tamar Rohatiner, a Shalhevet senior, won tournament MVP.

Sun Strong for Camp Ramah

Camp Ramah in Ojai will be getting some new d├ęcor atop the Gindi Dining Hall this summer — about 250 photovoltaic panels to generate enough solar energy to cut the camp’s energy bill by about $30,000 a year.

This is phase one of a three-part project that will eventually save the camp up to $75,000 a year and will reduce toxic emissions by approximately 15 million pounds of carbon dioxide, 37,800 pounds of nitrous oxide and 121,000 pounds of sulfur dioxide over the 50-year life of the installation.

The camp received a $500,000 gift from alumnus David Braun to begin construction on the $1.3 million project. Camp Ramah expects reliance on solar power to insulate tuition against future energy cost spikes.

“By both using and educating about solar energy during future encampments, we believe we will create generations of Jewish leaders who are environmentally conscious and who will seek to move more and more Jewish and non-Jewish institutions to environmentally friendly energy options,” said Ramah’s Executive Director Rabbi Daniel Greyber.

Greyber has been working with Rep. Howard Berman (D-Van Nuys) to obtain IRS approval of a strategy to offer nonprofits the same tax incentives currently given to for-profit companies to build solar installations.

For more information about Camp Ramah or the solar energy project, call (310) 476-8571.

YULA Girls Face History

Facing History and Ourselves, a Boston-based organization dedicated to teaching morality and tolerance through the study of the Holocaust, will hold a seminar for teachers this summer at the YULA girls’ school. The five-day workshop will be geared toward, but not limited to, teachers at Orthodox schools.

“What I hope people come out with is a better way of teaching about this history and also a way to help students think about their own participation in the society in which they live,” said Jan Darsa, director of Jewish education at Facing History.

The conference runs June 25-30 and costs $500 for the first teacher and $400 per teacher after that. Applications are due April 15. For more information, contact Jan Darsa at (617) 735-1613, or visit www.facinghistory.org.

Jewish Peace Corps

Looking for a great summer experience of hard physical labor and few amenities? American Jewish World Service, an organization dedicated to sustainable development, will bring 16- to 25-year-olds to Africa, Central America and Asia to engage in tikkun olam, repairing the world, in the most literal sense.

The seven-week program couples intense physical work — building schools, water systems, homes and agricultural projects — with Jewish study and community experience.

The program is open to high school juniors and seniors, and adults 18-25. The application deadline is March 31. For more information, contact Sonia Gordon-Walinsky at (800) 889-7146, ext. 651, sgw@ajws.org or visit www.ajws.org.

Prejudice Awareness Summit

More than 300 middle school students from area public and parochial school participated in a Prejudice Awareness Summit at the University of Judaism (UJ) last month. UJ undergraduates led the younger students in exercises that encouraged honest and open dialogue and allowed them to explore their own feelings about prejudice. Workshops focused on reducing harmful actions and developing techniques to resolve conflicts. For more information on the summit, call (310) 476-9777.


Don’t Ignore the Quiet Majority of Muslims

Most Muslims — and especially American Muslims — cannot fairly be accused of hypersensitivity when it comes to the Danish cartoons depicting the prophet Muhammad. That’s because most Muslims have not overreacted, despite the stereotypic images served up by the media. In fact, most Muslims have hardly reacted at all — even those who are profoundly offended by the images.

To put this in perspective, consider for a moment the frieze of Muhammad installed inside the picturesque building that houses the U.S. Supreme Court. Muhammad is pictured there to pay homage to his role as a significant lawmaker in world history. His statue stands next to that of Moses.

In a 1997 court case, some Muslims raised concerns about the religious insensitivities demonstrated, but Chief Justice William Rehnquist upheld a lower-court decision to preserve this artistic rendition of Muhammad as a major contributor to jurisprudence.

Muslim Americans did not go out on the streets to protest. In the cost-benefit analysis, American Muslims felt that the acknowledgment of Islam’s contributions to Western Civilization outweighed the concern over insensitivity.

Maybe it’s because of such experiences that American Muslims are not getting as riled up as some in other parts of the world. It’s also true that U.S. media outlets have acted with responsibility and restraint, while the American Muslim community has had the opportunity to voice its position through mainstream media channels and a few peaceful demonstrations.

But this civilized Muslim response also should not be misinterpreted. Many peaceful Muslims reject the idea that this controversy is about defending freedom of expression. The same editors who decided to run caricatures of Muhammad demonizing him as a sex-driven and a bloodthirsty terrorist rejected caricatures of Jesus.

While they dared cartoonists to draw the most vile images of Muslims and Islam, they were not ready to deal with a Christian outcry over their own beloved symbols. And while there is anti-Jewish and anti-Christian sentiment in the Muslim world, it has never reached the point of defiling the images of Jesus and Moses.

Instead, Islam accepts Jesus as the word of God and Moses as one of the most honorable messengers of God, equal to Muhammad. In fact, hundreds of millions of Muslims will fast the next few days in honor of Moses and the exodus of the Children of Israel from the oppression of the pharaoh.

The Quran documents the verbal assaults against Muhammad, as well as those against Jesus and Moses, and embraces their decision to turn away from the insults, the same action that the vast majority of Muslims have done today. The Quran further demands that its adherents follow the free exercise of religion clause in Islam: “Let there be no compulsion in matters of faith” (2:256).

Free thinking is a cornerstone of Islamic law, and securing freedom of faith and expression are paramount goals in classical Islamic law. What some Muslims do, however, can and does contradict Islamic principles.

A handful of reckless Muslims who riot over the caricatures have ruined the case for Danish Muslims and European Muslims in general by distorting what is rightfully an issue of injustice and double standards. But this handful, which represents a fraction of the Muslim world, are countered by the overwhelming majority of Muslim institutions worldwide that have called for calm and restraint.

The world’s leading Islamic body, the 57-nation Organization of Islamic Conference, also condemned the violence, saying, “Over-reactions surpassing the limits of peaceful democratic acts … are dangerous and detrimental to the efforts to defend the legitimate case of the Muslim world.”

In reality, it is Europe that has not accepted Islam and Muslims as an integral part of pluralism. Instead, European governments apply double standards not only in journalism, but in the workplace and everyday life, where the Muslims of Europe live in de facto ghettos and are part of the downtrodden and disenfranchised.

I attended a conference in Brussels with the U.S. ambassador to Belgium in November, and in that setting, the overwhelming response from Belgian and European Muslims was that they want to be integrated into their society, what they call home. Indeed, the issue is one of integrating Muslims into Western culture by moving beyond tolerance and dialogue to co-existence and partnership. We view the lampooning of Muhammad as a dehumanization of Muslims in Europe similar to the dehumanization of Jews in Europe that acted as a precursor to their persecution.

We, Muslim Americans in particular and Muslims of the West in general are in the midst of two struggles, one for the soul of Islam and one for the soul of the West.

For the soul of Islam, we battle Muslim extremists on our cultural front lines — the mosque and Muslim community gatherings, through books and other publications. For the soul of the West, we battle racism and bigotry, whether it’s blatant or disguised as freedom of expression or even democracy. We work for mutual acceptance and building mutual trust as a means of countering mutual fear and prejudice.

Salam Al-Marayati is executive director of the Muslim Public Affairs Council (salam@mpac.org.


Enrichment Briefs

Art and Yoga for Youngsters

The University of Judaism is hosting ArtYoga for youngsters this summer, a two-week program in July that combines art and physical discipline in way that helps kids learn self-awareness, self-control, empathy and empathy skills. Camp will culminate in an exhibit and demonstration.

July 11-22 at the University of Judaism, 15600 Mulholland Drive. For information call Jane Forelle, (310) 471-7105.

Summer: A Great Time to Get Healthy

With summer around the corner and barbecues and ice cream a daily occurrence, Kaiser Permanente is launching a “Get More Energy” campaign. Colorful, kid-directed posters — available to pediatricians, schools and camps — advise kids to get off the couch and play, eat lots of fruits and vegetables and to cut back on video games and TV time. Like Kaiser’s earlier “Broccoli” campaign, “Get More Energy” directs kids and educators to a Web site with articles and tip sheets on healthy living and eating.

For information go to www.kp.org/broccoli.

Special-Needs Camps for Adults, Kids

The Orthodox Union (OU) has openings in a range of summer programs for children and adults with physical and developmental disabilities through Yachad, the flagship program of OU’s National Jewish Council for Disabilities.

Adults 18 and older can join high school tours to Israel or Florida, and campers 9-21 can get the extra aid they need to spend the summer in mainstream Jewish camps on the East Coast.

A two-week summer vacation at a camp in Maryland still has some openings, but there’s no more space in the Summer Camp Vocational Program, where those with disabilities work in camp kitchens, canteens, offices or sports programs.

For information go to www.njcd.org, or call (212) 613-8229.

ADL Offers Free Trip to D.C. for High School Juniors

Applications are due June 3 for high school juniors (current sophomores) who want to participate in the Anti-Defamation League’s (ADL) Grosfeld Family National Youth Leadership Mission to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. Nov. 13-16.

The program — with all-expenses paid — brings together high school students of all races, religions and socio-economic levels to the nation’s capital to learn about the Holocaust and ways to fight prejudice in schools and communities. Students will be required to participate in ADL’s Dream Dialogue program for the 2005-2006 school year, which includes a retreat, quarterly meetings and community service projects.

For information call Jenny Betz at the ADL, (310) 446-8000, ext. 233, or e-mail coache813@aol.com.

Teens Get Their Shot at Israel Basketball Camp

When Aulcie Perry showed up in Israel in 1976, his goal was to work on his game in a summer league and get into the NBA, which had rejected him in the draft. Like so many who travel to Israel, the 6-foot-11 African American New Jersey native never looked back.

He led this year’s European champions, Maccabi Tel Aviv, to victory in the 1981 European Cup, the 1980 Intercontinental Cup, nine league championships and eight National Cups. Now, he runs sports institutes for kids in Tel Aviv, and this year he is adding a new one — Sal Stars, based in Givat Washington, a religious sports university near Ashdod. Perry will be joined by Jewish sports heroes Tal Brody and Tamir Goodman in the basketball, soccer and tennis clinic geared for observant teens ( but open to everyone) July 7-28.

For more information go to www.salstars.com and www.sal-stars.co.il.

New Camp and Retreat Center Opening

Southern California’s newest camp and retreat center is opening its doors for an open house later this summer, as the San Diego Jewish Community Camp and Retreat Center dedicates Camp Mountain Chai in Angelus Oaks. The Center purchased the camp in December, and will be open throughout the year for retreats and conferences. A residential camp will be open by summer 2006.

The Sunday, Aug. 28 open house will feature full use of the heated pool, ropes course, sand volleyball court and other sports facilities and hiking trails, as well as a keynote by Foundation for Jewish Camping President Jerry Silverman.

For information go to www.campmountainchai.com or call (858) 535-1995.

Briefs compiled by Julie Gruenbaum Fax, Education Editor

Q & A With Al Pacino


“The Godfather’s” Michael Corleone has taken a crack at Shylock. Oscar-winner Al Pacino — always a daring actor — steps into the shoes of Shakespeare’s notorious moneylender in the latest big-screen version of the Bard’s classic, “The Merchant of Venice.”

Directed by Michael Radford and co-starring Jeremy Irons as Antonio, Sony Classics is handling “Merchant’s” distribution with extreme care. Aware that the film could be used to stir hatred in today’s global climate of mounting anti-Semitism, Sony is sensitive to interpretations of the most famous anti-Semitic stereotype in literature, especially given last year’s release of Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ.”

Having Pacino in the lead guarantees attention will be paid to the film. At 64, the actor is one of the few movie names that commands instant respect. He is part of an elite band known simply by their last name: Brando, Garbo, DeNiro, Streep.

The first signal that this actor was potentially for the ages came in l972 with his Michael Corleone, the straight-arrow who takes his family’s concept of loyalty to the extreme to become the ruthless capo di tutti capi (boss of the bosses) in “The Godfather” and its two sequels.

Pacino could have played it safe, but he never did. He revels in risk. Despite or maybe because of that fact, he has delivered unforgettable and mesmerizing performances on stage and in countless movies including “Serpico,” “Dog Day Afternoon,” “Scarface,” “Sea of Love,” “Glengarry Glen Ross,” “Carlito’s Way,” “Heat,” “Donnie Brasco” and “Any Given Sunday.” He won a best actor Oscar in l992 for “Scent of a Woman.”

He first tackled Shakespeare on film in 1996 as Richard III in “Looking for Richard.” Last year he played another controversial Jew, despicable lawyer Roy Cohn in the award-winning mini-series “Angels in America.”

Jewish Journal: How do you view Shylock?

Al Pacino: I see him as more sinned against than sinning. When I chart the history of this character, when I go into his life and his conditions, that’s what I come away with.

JJ: Because of the history of this play and the rise of anti-Semitism around the world today, can ‘Merchant’ not be seen as some kind of a provocation?

AP: I never had a desire to do ‘Merchant of Venice’ for a lot of reasons, but certainly I just couldn’t quite see the character. I saw some great performances done, but I myself had no relationship to it. But then I read Michael Radford’s text and I thought I understood somehow where Shylock was coming from. I thought that he made a case for Shylock and in doing that I was able to see the other elements of the character, those human elements. I started to understand his motivation and that was the point for me. I thought, ‘I can play this.’ Before that I didn’t know how I would approach it, but I saw a character that I could understand and identify with.

JJ: Is his tragedy that he lived during his time?

AP: I would say that, and his tragedy is also how he dealt with these conditions. As Michael Radford says, it’s a kind of road rage really because of what he’s come to in his life. It’s sort of being violated by the conditions of his life. I remember going into it very much with Michael and Jeremy Irons and talking about that scene with the pound of flesh … and knowing that what Shylock is really doing there is taking a risk. He doesn’t know Antonio’s ships are going to sink. It’s a way of standing up to the oppressors, his way of posturing to them.

JJ: Talk about approaching the ‘hath not a Jew eyes’ monologue. Is it about racism and is it indicating that Shakespeare wasn’t anti-Semitic?

AP: This is a real case against prejudice. It’s one of the great speeches against it. What I liked about it, what I felt about the way Michael set it up, and what I finally related to, was the fact that it was something that was happening on the street. It wasn’t a speech anymore. It was an incident that was taking place. Of course it’s wonderful. You get a speech like that and you really want to give it the old gun.

JJ: Yet it seemed you low-keyed it if anything.

AP: You know, you want to be Mr. Righteous, Mr. Right, and Michael kept moving me away from that and saying, ‘This is something that’s got to do with something that’s happening inside of him.’ It’s an episode that happens on a street. You’ve got the whores looking at him and you’ve got those two guys that he’s talking to and it just happened. It might not have happened. He might’ve just kept walking, but he turned around and just said it. You know, I’m sure that it’s happened to everyone: where we’ve had an opportunity sometimes that we just want to say, ‘You know, f— off.’ He’s earned the right in a way to speak out like that and he does it in that instant and it’s over. I only wish that I could talk about things that bother me like that.

JJ: What keeps Shakespeare so fresh in our minds?

AP: Lots of things. First of all though, let’s start with this: one has to have an appetite for it. I mean, it’s not a criteria for, ‘Oh, you’re going to be a big-time actor if you do Shakespeare.’ No. I mean, Charles Laughton, one of the greatest movie actors of all time, stage actors, too, never did Shakespeare. He couldn’t get around it. Paul Muni never did Shakespeare. It’s just something that either appeals to you or it doesn’t. There are a lot of great actors out there who aren’t doing Shakespeare. They have no desire to. It’s whatever rings your bell.

JJ: What are your priorities in life and movies?

AP: I’ve been lucky because I always let what I did dictate the work that I do. That’s what interests me. I remember doing roles for reasons that were really strange only because I wanted to explore something in the movie. And there were times when I did a movie to get away from what was happening in my personal life. My career is part of my personal as well as my artistic life.

JJ: After a lifetime in the business, what have you learned about acting?

AP: I learned early in my life that you try different parts in order to see if any of them will work. And that’s the benefit of repertory. You’ll read a role and say, ‘Never. I could never do that. I don’t understand it.’ But once you say, ‘Oh gee, I’d love to sink my teeth into that,’ you do. And it happens.

Ivor Davis writes for The New York Times and Los Angeles Times syndicates.


Countering the Family Values Monopoly

In his State of the Union address, President Bush signaled his intent to make "family values" a centerpiece of the 2004 presidential campaign.

His belief that "the sanctity of the family" needs to be defended from the "threat" that gay and lesbian couples ostensibly pose to heterosexual family units is hardly surprising. After all, when asked about same-sex unions after a court decision that affirmed the constitutionality of same-sex marriage, the president commented, "We are all sinners."

The very language the president employed then indicates that his religious views play a significant role in the public-policy position he has adopted on this matter, and the role that religious fundamentalism has played in setting the terms for this debate in the public square is unquestionably considerable. In taking the stance he did, President Bush displayed the impact that the Traditional Values Coalition and allied conservative religious groups — including Jewish ones — that have long been at the forefront of the fight against the advancement of rights and options for gays and lesbians in our society has had upon him. I regret that this is so and I feel obliged to speak out lest religious literalists claim a monopoly in speaking on behalf of religion on issues concerning gay and lesbian rights in our country.

These religious literalists justify their refusal to accord full rights to gays and lesbians by pointing to Leviticus 18:22, which condemns male homosexual intercourse as an "abomination," and there is little doubt that the influence of this biblical verse has been decisive in shaping the attitudes of many in our society toward this question of gay and lesbian rights — including the president. Yet, such a reading of this text represents the most literal interpretation possible of this passage. This reading also completely removes this scripture from an ancient social context that could not envision the possibility or appreciate the reality of loving same-sex relationships.

I see no reason why such negative judgments regarding gays and lesbians should go unchallenged from a religious perspective. As the Catholic feminist scholar Elizabeth Schussler Fiorenza has maintained in her powerful "In Memory of Her," the divinity of any passage in Scripture that diminishes the humanity of another — as this one does — can surely be questioned. The thrust of one such passage should not override an overarching biblical ethos that teaches us that God loves and affirms the full humanity of each human being.

As a Jew, I feel this even more strongly. After all, Judaism does not base its religious teachings on the Protestant doctrine of Sola Scriptura (Scripture alone). Instead, Judaism assert that moral truths emerge out of an interpretive process that requires Jews to recognize that God has called on the Jewish people to serve as covenantal partners in the unfolding expression of divine truths, and this obligation can only be fulfilled through an ongoing exegesis of the written text. This notion allowed the rabbis of the Talmud to declare in one instance that the "stubborn and rebellious son" identified in Deuteronomy 21:18-21 "never was and never will be" (Sanhedrin 71a) and in another instance this process caused the talmudic sage Johanan ben Zakkai to assert (Sotah 9:9) that as a result of contemporaneous conditions, a woman accused of adultery would no longer be subject to the "ordeal of bitter waters" (Numbers 5: 11-31). In these ways, great rabbis — depending upon their own wisdom and in light of their own judgments regarding social and ethical contexts — either muted or obviated the application of teachings found in the Written Law.

All Jews should recognize that this interpretive approach characterizes our tradition, and we should assert that this is so within the Jewish community as well as in the public square. This approach has allowed Reform and Reconstructionist Judaism to ordain gays and lesbians as rabbis, and has led to a vigorous discussion of this issue in Conservative Judaism. Such Jewish understandings have also permitted a number of rabbis to perform same-sex unions. From these perspectives, legislation against same-sex unions can be viewed as not only discriminating against gays and lesbians. It also discriminates against those of us whose religious beliefs mandate us to perform same-sex weddings.

In Dickens’ "Oliver Twist," when young Oliver approaches the wardens of the orphanage where he was housed and, after a scant meal, asks for "more," the wardens are scandalized. Yet, as one commentator upon this passage has pointed out, Oliver said "more" when what he "really meant was this: ‘Will you just give me that normal portion which is necessary for a boy my age to live.’"

As a religious Jew, I assert that the gay community today seeks nothing more than Oliver Twist — the "normal portion" required to live a life of dignity and equality. Our society should be ashamed that gays and lesbians are subjected daily to indignity and prejudice in legal as well as social arenas, and religious persons must declare that position loud and clear in order to influence public opinion on this matter.

When I was a teenager, I was moved, as were millions of other people, by the vision Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. expressed when he dreamed of a just world where people would be judged by the content of their character. This vision was inspired by the Bible and extends to express a simple truth — all persons, regardless of sexual orientation, are equally beloved by God and are equally entitled to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

The desire that full rights be extended to lesbians and gays reflects the Jewish belief that gays and lesbians are human beings created in the image of God. The time has come for that truth to guide our culture, and religious Jews should not be hesitant in saying so.

Until the day arrives that our gay and lesbian friends enjoy full rights, we who are religious should not rest. When that day of liberty and freedom arrives, justice will at long last roll down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.

Rabbi David Ellenson is president of Hebrew Union-College-Jewish Institute of Religion.

Q & A With Larry King

Larry King is as known for sitting hunched over a microphone, schmoozing with everyone who is anyone, as he is for wearing big black glasses and suspenders over shirt sleeves. But as the TV icon approaches the big 7-0 (his birthday is Nov. 19), he’s increasingly wearing something else on his sleeve: his Judaism.

Viewers are as likely to spy him at a benefit for the State of Israel Bonds or the Jewish Braille Institute as they are to see him interviewing the Duchess of York or Barbara Bush on CNN’s "Larry King Live." Last month, he appeared in a half-hour special, "Yom Kippur: Prayers of Atonement," for Los Angeles’ Temple Shalom for the Arts. And during a Sept. 29 interview with Neil Diamond, he made sure to say the show featured "two little Jewish boys from Brooklyn." King spoke this week at the Bnai Zion Foundation’s Women of Accomplishment Awards Dinner.

In a recent chat with The Journal, King spoke effusively about growing up Jewish in Brooklyn. He also discussed the highs and lows of his career — which includes the publication of his first novel, a 2003 comic mystery titled "Moon Over Manhattan" (New Millennium, $24.95) — and true love with spouse number seven, Shawn Southwick King.

The Jewish Journal: In your book, "Larry King Live," you describe the Brooklyn you grew up in the ’30s and ’40s in as a place of two religions — Jewish and Italian. How Jewish was your life in Brooklyn?

Larry King: We kept the Shabbos, we kept a kosher home, we went to the synagogue, my mother lit the candles for Shabbos, we never had milk and meat together — we observed all the laws. I did my bar mitzvah completely in Hebrew, and all my friends did the same way. I went to cheder. It was a very cultural Jewish life.

JJ: What else did you get from growing up in Brooklyn?

LK: A high degree of loyalty, the desire to succeed. Friendships count to me. [Brooklyn taught me n]ever to screw a friend. I like ethnic groups because of growing up in Brooklyn — and I developed a very liberal social consciousness. All my life I have resisted the inhumanity of prejudice.

JJ: What about street smarts?

LK: Definitely street smarts! I always say that if you were a D student in Brooklyn, you could be mayor of Des Moines. Brooklyn is still a magical place for me.

JJ: At some point in your life you became an agnostic. Why?

LK: I lost my religious aspects somewhere along the line after my father died [when King was 10]. I remember always questioning the [Bible]. I thought the God of the [Bible] was vindictive and petty — that "smite my enemies" and "pray only to me" stuff. I couldn’t accept faith blindly, which you were required to do as an Orthodox Jew. The older I got, the less religious I got.

JJ: Do you think that would have been different had your father not died?

LK: I don’t know how to measure that. I said "Kaddish" morning and night for a year when my father died. I did that out of respect. I still go to synagogue on Yom Kippur, and I spoke at the temple two years in a row. I just don’t believe anymore. I am not an atheist, I’m an agnostic.

JJ: In 1998 you wrote a book called "Powerful Prayers," in which you discussed the power of prayer and your own reluctance to pray, yet you end the book with a prayer to God of your own. Do you ever pray today?

LK: I still will occasionally pray, but that is conditioning. Since I am agnostic I don’t know that I’m not being heard. My wife is a devout Mormon, and so I will ask her to pray for someone.

JJ: I saw you speak at an event for the Los Angeles Sephardic Home for the Aging, where you made a joke that people look at you, and then look at your wife, and look back at you and then you say what they’re thinking — "If she dies, she dies…."

LK: Yes, people do look at her, and they tell me I have a beautiful daughter and beautiful grandchildren. But I have a great marriage.

JJ: How is turning 70 going to change your life? Can you imagine yourself slowing down any time soon?

LK: Well, I watch what I eat, I keep my weight down and I take a lot of vitamins. I think that having young kids keep me young, and having a young wife keeps me young. But I am by nature a workaholic. I love it [work] as much now as I did when I was making $80 a week.

JJ: What was the low point of your career as a broadcaster?

LK: In the early ’70s I was out of work. I didn’t handle a dollar very well. I wasn’t good with money — it was unimportant to me. Now I have people who take care of all my bills — I have never seen a CNN paycheck. It goes straight to them. I don’t know what it looks like.

JJ: What about the high points?

LK: There were a few — winning two Peabody awards, one for radio and one for television, winning an Emmy when cable became eligible for Emmys…. Also, I have the Larry King Cardiac Foundation [which pays for heart surgery for those who can’t afford it] and every time I get to call someone and tell them they can get their heart surgery, it’s a high.

JJ: What does Larry Zeiger [King’s name before he changed it] think of all this success?

LK: Larry Zeiger is still in there — he is Larry King on the outside. But every day I feel amazed.

Your Letters

Peace Rally

Readers of David Finnigan’s article, “Just a Peace Rally? Read the Fine Print,” (Sept. 26), may have been left with the erroneous impression that the Progressive Jewish Alliance (PJA) did not support the recent “End the Occupation” rally in Hollywood primarily “out of respect for” Rosh Hashanah. This is incorrect. While PJA indeed has a policy of not sponsoring or endorsing events that fall on Shabbat or Jewish holidays, this was not our primary concern in this instance.

There were far more compelling reasons for us to stay away from this rally. Foremost among them was the fact that PJA is a Zionist organization. As such, we would never participate in an anti-Israel rally convened by virulently anti-Zionist organizations like International ANSWER. In fact, as a Jewish voice in the progressive community, PJA is an outspoken and leading critic of the unfortunate presence of some of these organizations in the wider anti-war movement.

Daniel Sokatch, Executive Director Progressive Jewish Alliance

Turn the Tide

Thank you for your plea for more inclusiveness and acceptance of diversity within our Jewish community (“Turn the Tide,” Sept. 26). As a Jew who was brought up without any knowledge of my identity and having lived as a Catholic for many years before finally reclaiming my lost heritage, I find that the thing I love most about being a Jew is the fact that I can argue with God, with my rabbi and with other Jews — and still remain a Jew. There is a place for all of us somewhere within our Jewish community. As a Catholic, any deviation from strict dogma would have gotten me excommunicated.

But there is a price to pay for this freedom. As a member of two Jewish speakers bureaus, I meet members of many Jewish groups not only here in Los Angeles but across the United States and often come face to face with the kind of prejudice, exclusion and personal rejection within Jewish communities you described in your editorial.

We need more of the kind of interaction and dialogue championed by Rabbi Harold Schulweis, bringing together not only members of diverse Jewish groups but of other religions, for respectful meaningful dialogues. How sad it would be to remain so isolated from one another, because there are so few of us!

You have brought this problem to our attention and that will, hopefully, help to turn the tide.

Trudi Alexy, Los Angeles

Avraham Burg

The article by Avraham Burg, the former speaker of the Knesset, in your Rosh Hashanah edition contained this remarkable sentence: “Israel, having ceased to care about the children of the Palestinians, should not be surprised when they come washed in hatred and blow themselves up in the centers of Israeli escapism” (“Leaders Stay Silent as Israel Collapses,” Sept. 26). How can this sentence alone and in the context of the entire article be interpreted as anything other than an apologetic and justification for suicide bombings?

Herbert Roth, via e-mail

The critics of what Avraham Burg said in the Sept. 26 issue, and the article several weeks before, have, I believe, missed the point. The point here is that we can no longer point the finger outside at the Palestinians as the root of all our troubles, particularly at this time of the year. Our tradition demands of us that we reflect on us, not on “others,” not even God. We may wrestle with God, but in the end it’s our own self that we must do battle with, every day. That I believe is what Burg, by his writings, is asking of us.

Bruce F. Whizin, Sherman Oaks

Ed note: See Arthur Cohn’s response to Burg, page 10.

Cantor Turns Rabbi

We applaud the impact that Cantor Mark Goodman has had on Valley Beth Israel and we’re proud that he has chosen the Academy for Jewish Religion to pursue his rabbinic studies. However, a point in “Cantor Turns Rabbi to Save Synagogue” (Sept. 26) requires clarification. Rather than simply a “rabbinic college,” the academy is both a rabbinical and cantorial seminary. Indeed, our cantorial school is the only such program west of the Hudson River. It was established precisely because we recognize the integral role that cantors play in the life of a congregation.

Rabbi Mel Gottlieb, Dean of the Rabbinical School

Cantor Nate Lam, Dean of the Cantorial SchoolAcademy for Jewish Religion Los Angeles


Rabbi Shneur Zalman Schmukler asks why, when chickens are being slaughtered all the time in Los Angeles, do people criticize the chicken-swinging ritual of kaparos (“Human Atonement or Animal Cruelty?” Oct. 3). One reason is that the ritual and the complacent rhetoric of the practitioners toward the chickens are inimical to making life a blessing for ourselves, for those around us and for God’s other creatures. The “kind attributes” ascribed to God by Schmukler are withheld from the victims of kaparos. That this cruel ritual is a medieval custom, not a Jewish law, makes it even more reprehensible.

Karen Davis , President United Poultry Concerns Machipongo, Va.


In “Survivor Descendant Convention to be Held in Los Angeles” (Sept. 12), Dr. Florabel Kinsler and Dr. Sarah Moskovitz are not survivors of the Shoah.

Education Briefs

Catholic Teachers Learn AboutHolocaust

Fourth-grade teacher Humberto De La Rosa had never heard of the term “anti-Semitic.” Like most of his students at St. Malachy, a Catholic school in South Los Angeles, which is 75 percent black and 25 percent Latino, the educator had little contact with Jews. De La Rosa was able to expand his limited knowledge of Judaism at the Bearing Witness Institute, a conference for Catholic educators that addressed anti-Semitism, the Holocaust and current issues of prejudice.

Sixty local Catholic school teachers gathered inside the Claretian Renewal Center in Los Angeles, June 23-25, where they heard from rabbis, Holocaust survivors, Jewish historians, experts from the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and Catholic clergy. The program was presented by the ADL in conjunction with the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, Department of Catholic Schools. In addition, the teachers participated in interactive workshops on teaching the Holocaust to their students and being mindful of prejudice. For many, the highlights were visiting Wilshire Boulevard Temple and the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust.

Sister Genevieve Vigil, a middle school teacher at St. Peter & Paul in Wilmington, said the conference challenged her understanding of the Jewish foundations of Christianity.

“We read ‘The Diary of Anne Frank’ in our eighth-grade classes,” Vigil said. “Now I have a much more solid understanding of the Holocaust and the skills to present it at an age-appropriate level.”

Another goal of the program is to improve communication between the two religious groups.

“The hope is for an improved Catholic-Jewish relationship,” said Marjan Keypour Greenblatt, associate director of the ADL’s Pacific Southwest Region and director of the Bearing Witness Program.

For more information about the Bearing Witness Institute,visit www.adl.org/bearing_witness . — Sharon Schatz Rosenthal, Education Writer

Special-Needs Camp Breaks Record

Camp Avraham Moshe, a Southern California day camp for Jewish youth with special needs, reached its highest enrollment with a total of 27 campers this summer. The Etta Israel-run camp accommodated seven more campers than last year’s program, which is significant growth for the area of special needs.

During the month-long program’s sixth summer, Avraham Moshe operated out of the Yeshiva University of Los Angeles girls’ school campus on Pico Boulevard. The coed program allowed youngsters age 10-22 to participate in a number of camp activities, including field trips to Disneyland, the Aquarium of the Pacific and the Los Angeles Zoo.

“The mission of Etta Israel is inclusion — that everyone in the Jewish community is important,” said Dr. Michael Held, executive director of Etta Israel. “Summer camp should not be any different. Jewish youth with special needs deserve a camp where they can have a great time, go on field trips, make new friends and grow as individuals.”

Etta Israel will continue to develop options so that families with special-needs children can have access to a range of programs.

For more information about Camp Avraham Moshe, visit www.etta.org . — SSR

Murky Borders

For the great majority of Jews living in Los Angeles, anti-Semitism is a lot like clean air: We know it exists elsewhere, we just haven’t encountered much of it ourselves.

That inexperience is one reason why so many of us have a problem defining the border between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism. When does honest criticism of Israel bleed into ethnic prejudice? When is an Israel basher a Jew hater? And, more to the point for us all, will anti-Semitism that masks itself as anti-Zionism grow and spread beyond the Arab world, beyond Old Europe and eventually reach our shores?

A case in point arose earlier this month after an Oxford professor turned down an Israeli student’s request for a fellowship by e-mail.

Amit Duvshani, who is completing his master’s degree in molecular biology at the University of Tel Aviv, e-mailed Andrew Wilkie, a geneticist at Oxford University, asking to work in Wilkie’s lab to continue his research into HIV.

Wilkie’s e-mailed response has since seen the world via the Internet. He rejected Duvshani’s request on the grounds that the young man served in the "oppressive" Israeli army, as is compulsory for all Jewish Israeli men.

"I am sure that you are perfectly nice at a personal level," Wilkie wrote, "but no way would I take on somebody who had served in the Israeli army."

L’affaire Duvshani would not be so distressing were it unique. Last December, Paris VI University adopted a motion calling for the suspension of scientific cooperation agreements with Israeli academics. In April, more than 100 academics in England signed a letter proposing a boycott of Israeli scholars to protest Israeli policy toward the Palestinians.

Shortly thereafter, the editor of an academic journal on translation fired two Israeli members of the editorial board.

The good news is that these academic blacklists are being met with muscular opposition from Jews and non-Jews. Oxford University put Wilkie under investigation for possible violations of the university’s anti-discrimination rules, and made him issue a public apology.

Even before that, a group of leading Oxford University scientists condemned academic boycotts based on nationality, as did the British Medical Journal and the Royal Institution, Britain’s oldest independent research body.

The bad news is that such nonsense has easily leapt the pond. Rutgers University will reluctantly provide a venue to an Oct. 13 conference hosted by New Jersey Solidarity, a virulently anti-Israel group. According to a report in The Jewish Standard, this will be the third annual National Student Conference held by the Palestine Solidarity Movement; the other two were at UC Berkeley and the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. The conferences called for an end to "apartheid" in Israel and for divestment from Israeli companies.

Dennis Prager and Joseph Telushkin list many of the defenses anti-Zionists offer to the question of whether they are, in fact, anti-Semitic in "Why the Jews: The Reason for Anti-Semitism," a clear and mostly cogent text, first published in 1983 and soon to be reissued in a revised and updated version. The authors assert that anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism are of a piece.

The fact that a major publisher felt it was time to reissue "Why the Jews?" is depressing enough commentary on our times. The new version includes an introduction titled, "Is It 1938 Again for the Jews?" that provides ample evidence of "an astonishing eruption of international anti-Semitism."

At its best, the book provides clear refutations of the classic anti-Semitic and anti-Israel canards and deserves to be packed into every Jewish freshman’s steamer trunk this fall.

Yet the book suffers from overstatement and oversimplification — perhaps a function of aiming for a concise, mass-market paperback. The authors underplay the support Jewish communities around the world have received from non-Jews in response to anti-Semitism. The glass may not even be half-full, but it is certainly not empty. And sentences like, "In America, the greatest threat to Jewish security now emanates from the secular left," is a claim that few professionals in the world of Jewish defense organizations would agree with. The last two violent attacks on Jews in Los Angeles were committed by a right-wing militia member and a Muslim fundamentalist, not by breakaway cells of Sen. Barbara Boxer supporters.

But when Prager and Telushkin write that, "Zionism, whose major aim was to end Jew-hatred through the establishment of a Jewish State, has produced the most hated state in the world," they are not far off the mark.

It may take a more delicate scalpel to tease apart anti-Israel comments from base anti-Semitism — a lot of anti-Israel criticism comes from knee-jerk liberalism, ignorance and biased media reports, not Jew-hatred.

In a recent essay, author Rabbi Shmuely Boteach says British academics like Wilkie are not anti-Semites, just stupid and ill-informed.

"We debase the seriousness of the allegation [of anti-Semitism] through misuse," he writes, adding that many of these academics can be countered with clear and consistent rebuttal.

The same, I believe, goes for academics and students here. Harvard Law School professor Alan Dershowitz announced this week he will go to Rutgers and engage organizers of the anti-Israel conference in argument.

"The good news is that if the students just know the facts they can devastate the arguments on the other side," he said.

In the end, the border between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism may be — like the air in Los Angeles — murky and gray. But let’s give unclear minds the benefit of the doubt, and present our side with accuracy and forthrightness.

"The best answer to falsehood is truth," Dershowitz said, "and the pro-Israel community should never be afraid."

The More Things Change

Steve Glickman, Jewish Student Association (JSA) president at Georgetown University, is battling “muffled intolerance on campus.” He gives a small but chilling example.

“Yesterday, when we were passing out blue ribbons… against intolerance and for diversity, two students approached and said specifically they don’t support Jews here,” he said, his voice thick with fatigue. “The sentiment exists among a larger number of students than it’s currently being given credit for… This shouldn’t be glossed over by students or the administration.”

The hatred hasn’t stopped at talk.

In twin acts of vandalism apparently driven by bigotry, a seven-foot silver Chanukah menorah set up by the JSA was first damaged and then broken.

The incidents drew a striking display of student solidarity. In a break with the past, they also evoked strong, public condemnation from the administration.

At about 3:15 a.m. on Saturday, Dec. 11, a dozen students were keeping vigil by the seven-foot silver menorah set up by the JSA in Red Square on the main campus. A young man approached, shoved the menorah to the ground and yelled an anti-Semitic slur.

When the vandal took off running, the vigil-keepers followed in pursuit. Two students tackled him and held him down until campus and district police arrived shortly afterward.

Media reports have identified the suspect as business school sophomore Michael Byrne of Garden City, N.Y. He was taken into custody first by the campus police, then the Metropolitan Police Department. Charged with destruction of property and released, Byrne was taken back to campus, put on a plane home and, in the words of Georgetown spokesperson Dan Wackerman, “suspended until further notice.”

Prejudice had reared its venomous head on Dec. 4 when vandals toppled the menorah in Red Square. The structure’s central pole was twisted, the nine light bulbs broken. A similar attack had occurred last year.

Then, early on Dec. 7, another chanukiah at the university’s law center near Union Station was also knocked to the ground. A police and FBI investigation has concluded this incident was due to high winds.

The two attacks on the Red Square menorah are still under investigation.

“Part of the environment that allowed it to happen… [was because] the university was careful not to give last year’s vandalism of the menorah too much exposure,” said Glickman. “Only a handful of individuals on campus know what happened.”

Not so this year. An 8 p.m. to 8 a.m. vigil at the Red Square menorah began the night of Tuesday, Dec. 7. The vigil, which ran through Saturday night, showed the strength of the bonds forged between Jews and other religious and ethnic groups on campus.

Scores of other students joined JSA members throughout the week. The Knights of Columbus, a Catholic student organization, stood vigil the first night. Students from the Protestant Leadership Team took their place the following evening. Black Student Alliance (BSA) members kept vigil all through the last day of Chanukah. Other organizations furnishing volunteers included the Muslim Student Association, College Republicans, College Democrats and the Catholic Daughters of America.

“Here at Georgetown, we’re a diverse community,” said BSA President Erica Cannon. “If something happens to one group or person, we all need to be there in support.”

Glickman singled out African-American students on campus for special praise.

“The black students on campus have been extremely supportive and want to see some things change,” he said.

The menorah desecrations are not the only hate-inspired incidents troubling these student leaders. During the past few years, resident assistants have testified in campus meetings on diversity about swastikas in the stairwells of freshman dormitories, Glickman reports.

Early Sunday morning, in Kopley Hall, a Red Square dormitory, two swastikas were placed on flyers announcing a Friday vigil and Shabbat service at the menorah.

This time, the administration’s response was swift. A mandatory meeting for students in the dorm was held 9:30 p.m. that Sunday.

More dramatically, Georgetown President Father Leo J. O’Donovan attended a Saturday evening Havdalah service hosted by the JSA. He underscored his condemnation of the vandalism.

The college president listened to Jewish student concerns and helped dispel earlier skepticism about the administration’s seriousness in tackling anti-Semitism.

“After meeting with Father O’Donovan, I and other Jewish students have faith that [the administration] is committed to working with us to make whatever changes are necessary to create a more tolerant and accepting community,” said Glickman afterwards. “This incident affected him almost as much as it affected the Jews.”

Up Front

Rabbi MichaelBeals (above) was disturbed by press reports after arson fires at twolocal Orthodox synagogues. Left, a book damaged in the blaze.Photo at left by Peter Halmagyi

Rabbi Michael Beals of B’nai Tikvah Congregation,a Conservative synagogue in Westchester, was disturbed when he read aLos Angeles Times article in late December that described arson firesat two Orthodox synagogues in the Beverly-Fairfax. The storydescribed the damaged shuls, Congregation Kehillas Yaakov andCongregation Shaarei Tefila, as being in a neighborhood that “hasoccasionally been the scene of contentious rivalries between variouscongregations — including conflicts between Reform, Conservative andOrthodox Jews.”

In a letter written last month to Rabbi GershomBess of Congregation Kehillas Yaakov, Beals decried the description,noting that “we are not aware of any conflicts between our movementsin your neighborhood.” Reporting such conflicts was “irresponsiblejournalism, suggesting hatred and intolerance that just does notexist within the Jewish community of Los Angeles,” wrote Beals, whobecame rabbi at B’nai Tikvah last fall. The rabbi sent contributionsfrom B’nai Tikvah’s discretionary fund to both synagogues indenominations of $18, which, in Hebrew, is symbolized by the letters,chet and yud, for chai — life.

Responding to Beals’ letter, Rabbi Alan Kalinsky,the director of the Orthodox Union’s West Coast region, wrote Bealsto say B’nai Tikvah was the first synagogue in the city to offer aidto the two damaged houses of worship. He called the gesture a true”Kiddush Ha-Shem” (sanctification of G-d’s name).

Kalinsky expressed the hope that Beals’ letter,which he also sent to the Los Angeles Times and The Jewish Journal,”will help dispel the notion that Jews of various levels ofobservance can not get along. [Beals’] gesture has helped Los AngelesJewry live up to the motto kol Yisrael arevim zeh la-zeh — namely,that each Jew is responsible for the other.”

As for Beals, he was so gratified by the exchangeof letters that he contacted The Journal to see if we couldn’t put alittle good news in our paper to show the “inter-movement cooperationamong L.A. Jewry, despite the bad news coming out of Israel.” — RuthStroud, Staff Writer

Marc Debden Moss

British Swindler

Up Front was recently at the Roybal Federal CourtHouse to witness the sentencing of Marc Debden Moss to eight years inprison for defrauding clients of millions of dollars as a commoditiesbroker.

During a year in Los Angeles as an illegal Britishimmigrant, Moss, now 73, cut a fine figure, with his expensiveItalian suits, luxury cars, well-appointed offices in a SunsetBoulevard high-rise, and rented Beverly Hills mansion.

Prospective clients were even more impressed byhis British upper-class accent and his casual references to hisaristocratic background, his service as a highly decorated officer inthe British army, and his friendship with the Queen.

He used such aliases as Gen. Marc Debenham andCol. Jonathan Hancock, but when we interviewed Moss a year ago at theMetropolitan Detention Center, at the request of a London newspaper,we discovered a third name.

That would be Marcus Moscovitz, his actual birthname as the son of a Jewish immigrant couple in London. Why did hechange his name, we asked.

“There is a lot of anti-Semitism in England,always has been…you don’t push [your Jewishness]. There is lots ofhidden prejudice, even today.” — TomTugend, Contributing Editor

Move Over,


In the comingweeks, it’s a safe bet that the unfolding saga of the president’sintern will remain front and center on most television news programs.Like the Gulf War, this story already has its own logos and thememusic — proof of our intense interest. Yet even the most addictednews junkies can’t live on “Monicagate” alone. Jewish viewers lookingfor a brief respite from the national soap opera now have aninteresting alternative, thanks to the Feb. 17 debut ofJ-Span.

J-Span airs exclusively through the JewishTelevision Network. According to JTN’s development director, JonathanSchreiber, J-Span is designed to “get past the sound bites” by airingmore extensive coverage of news events that are of particularinterest to the Jewish community. Along with coverage of the ongoingconflict with Iraq, upcoming episodes will include a speech byJordan’s ambassador to the United States, candid talk about the peaceprocess from Israeli Maj. Gen. Oren Shackor, and discussion about theimplications of Chinese arms sales to Iran.

Like C-Span, its much larger predecessor, J-Spanis aiming at an audience that wants more extensive news coverage thanis possible in mainstream formats. Forums, lectures and other eventswill be broadcast in their entirety.

The program is funded, in large part, by LosAngeles’ Jewish Community Foundation, and it ties JTN together withfour partnering organizations: the Anti-Defamation League, theAmerican Jewish Committee, the American Jewish Congress and theFederation’s Jewish Community Relations Committee. Each partner hasagreed to make its programming available for J-Span.

If it’s a success, a program such as J-Span couldbecome an important news source for Jewish viewers, given the scopeof JTN’s potential audience. According to Schreiber, JTN reaches 30million people in 13 million homes. That includes 55 percent of thecountry’s Jewish households.

Locally, J-Span’s airing schedule will be asfollows: Century Cable, Channel 76, on Tuesdays at 7 p.m.;MediaOneCable, Channel 39, on Tuesdays at 6 p.m.; TCI Cable, Channel15, on Tuesdays at 7 p.m.; and Time-Warner Cable, Channel 39, onTuesdays at 7 p.m. — Diane ArieffZaga, ArtsEditor