Hillary Clinton: Differences with Israel would be dealt with in private

Hillary Clinton said that as president, she would handle disagreements with Israel “in a respectfully and preferably private way” — a rare dig at how President Barack Obama handled the relationship.

“I think any disputes or disagreements should be handled in a respectfully and preferably private way, so we don’t give any aid and comfort to Israel’s adversaries or drive any wedges between us,” Clinton said in an extensive interview with the editorial board of the New York Daily News posted online Monday ahead of the April 19 primary in New York.

It was a contrast with Obama, who has said he believes it is healthy to air in public some differences with allies. Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have clashed over the Iran nuclear deal and the path toward Israeli-Palestinian peace.

Clinton, the front-runner in the bid for the Democratic presidential nomination, has otherwise hewed closely to the policies of Obama, whom she served in his first term as secretary of state and who remains popular among Democrats.

She said in the interview that like Obama and others before him, she saw settlement expansion as “not helpful” and that she would continue the policy of maintaining Israel’s qualitative military edge in the region.

Her rival for the nomination, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., also spoke at length with the editorial board last week. He also expressed strong support for Israel, but his remarks on what he called Israel’s disproportionate response during the 2014 Gaza war stirred controversy.

Preschool Project Strives to Educate All

King Solomon was known to have coined the expression, “Educate the child accordingly so that when he grows old, he will not leave.” In other words, take advantage of the child’s education as soon as possible.

In modern times, this admonition certainly applies to preschool, and it’s something that my day care school, the Bilowit Learning Center, based in the Lomita-Torrance area, has always taken as a mission.

It’s why we were one of 600 preschools to apply for funding from Los Angeles Universal Preschool (LAUP), a new nonprofit that seeks to establish or to advance affordable high quality prekindergarten education to public and private schools in Los Angeles County. LAUP’s goal is to make preschool universally accessible to every 4-year-old in Los Angeles County. With money from Proposition 10, LAUP funds and expands preschool programs.

Bilowit Learning Center was one of the lucky first 100 schools selected last spring in a countywide lottery as a LAUP school, receiving more than $100,000 in funding.

That good fortune was just the beginning of a process. With the LAUP funding, we hired a new special educator to direct our program, added two new teachers and redesigned the preschool classes with new activity centers.

We then advertised “Preschool for Free — How Can It be?” and left our number to call. Children were admitted on a sliding scale, so that all who were interested could attend. Who would believe that in a few months, the number of preschoolers attending our school would double to more than 40, thanks to the LAUP program?

Through this process, parents of children from all nationalities and ethnic backgrounds had the opportunity to see a Jewish school for the first time, often meeting a rabbi for the first time or learning from peers why some people wear yarmulkes. They saw that, yes, people with different religions, beliefs and backgrounds can get along, working side by side. All this in a safe and sound environment. Prejudices disappear and children learn trust.

In accordance with LAUP guidelines and our desire to provide an opportunity for children of all backgrounds to learn together, we provide secular education to the preschoolers for the half-day program. For the Jewish preschoolers, we offer an additional hour for Jewish studies.

My hope is that the transition from a preschool with such an environment will help children assimilate positively, by helping them live American ideals. We may be different, but we are all the same.

Everything starts with education. If we educate the very young in their most impressionable years, we may succeed in making progress toward the many challenges that lie before us. After all, it is much easier to plant a tree correctly than to reshape it in its maturity.

As the LAUP program increases, the great mosaic is drawn, each child adding beauty and trust. You should visit a LAUP preschool program and see the miracles it performs.

Rabbi Eli Hecht is vice president of the Rabbinical Alliance of America and past-president of the Rabbinical Council of California. He is the director of Chabad of South Bay in Lomita, which houses a synagogue, day school, nursery school and chaplaincy programs.


Professor Donates Dickens Collection

Fagin, who recruits a gang of young thieves in “Oliver Twist,” is arguably the most villainous caricature of a Jew in English literature — not excepting Shakespeare’s Shylock — but his creator, Charles Dickens, was no dyed-in-the-wool anti-Semite.

Indeed, in “Our Mutual Friend,” his last completed novel, Dickens took a 180-degree turn in his portrayal of the Jew Riah, who is as saintly as Fagin is evil. For good measure, Dickens added a Jewish factory owner and his wife, who treated all their employees with kindness and generosity.

The appraisal of Dickens comes from Harry Stone, one of the foremost collectors and authorities on the great 19th-century English novelist.

Stone, who taught English literature at Cal State Northridge for 32 years, recently donated to the university the thousands of items in his private Dickens collection, including first editions of all the novelist’s works, the monthly newspaper installments in which they first appeared, personal letters, corrected proof sheets, translations, photographs, and even dolls and figurines inspired by his characters.

The collection is considered one of the three or four most complete in the world and Stone, though he has never had it appraised, believes it to be worth “well over $1 million to several million dollars.”

In an interview with the 77-year-old scholar, who looks like — well — your favorite kindly English professor, the Westside resident revealed an unpublicized facet about his family background.

His father, London-born Bernard Stone, was one of the early Zionist leaders and organized the first Zionist activities on the West Coast.

“My father was an omnivorous reader, he always carried three or four books on him, and he started reading Dickens to me when I was a child,” Stone reminisced. “By the time I was 16, I had read all of Dickens’ works.”

An ardent Zionist from the beginning of the movement, Bernard Stone frequently told his son how he had served as an usher when Theodor Herzl, the founder of modern Zionism, spoke at a meeting in London in the late 1890s.

The elder Stone also met Chaim Weizmann, later Israel’s first president, and became his friend and follower. He accompanied Weizmann on a trip to then-Palestine, and later on a speaking and fundraising tour of the United States.

At Weizmann’s request, Stone settled in New York as a Zionist envoy and organizer in the 1920s. His job frequently took him to the West Coast.

“My father, who died when he was 59, devoted his life to Zionism,” said the younger Stone.

After Navy service in World War II and becoming a faculty member at Northwestern University, Stone remembered the trips with his father to California and decided to return to the Golden State.

He built up his Dickens collection over decades, with many years spent in England.

“I had the advantage, because I generally knew a great deal more [about] Dickens’ writing and memorabilia that the dealer who was selling them,” Stone said.

He has by no means retired from his life’s work and is busy writing essays, giving lectures and reviewing books.

East Meets West

About six months ago, Gregory Rodriguez, a contributingeditor to the Los Angeles Times opinion section, phoned his friend, Rabbi GaryGreenebaum, West Coast regional director of the American Jewish Committee (AJCommittee). Rodriguez had attended events purported to promote intellectualfellowship among diverse Angelenos, but had found them not-so-diverse. “There’sa lot of lip service paid to crossing barriers in this city, but manygatherings are organized around political or ethnic lines,” Rodriguez said.

To mix things up a bit, the two friends went on to launch aprogram, co-presented by the Los Angeles Public Library. The series, Zócalo,which means “public square” in Spanish, will gather Eastsiders and Westsidersfor private discussions and public lectures on crucial civic issues. It kicksoff at the downtown Central Library’s Mark Taper Auditorium on April 9 at 7p.m., when the Economist’s Washington correspondent Adrian Wooldridge,co-author of “The Company: A Short History of a Revolutionary Idea,” willdescribe his take on the corporation as “an engine that can work for the publicgood as well as ill,” Greenebaum said.

Four more speakers through July will include the preeminentAfrican American essayist Debra Dickerson and Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, theOscar-nominated director of “Amores Perros.”

The series joins a burgeoning trend of L.A. programs devotedto the intellectual life, from Lunchtime Art Talks at the UCLA Hammer Museum tothe literary salon Beyond Baroque.

“But we don’t want to be labeled a salon,” Rodriguez said.”We want to create a nonpartisan, multiethnic place in a city that has fewneutral, welcoming places.”

Like Zócalo, its conveners represent East and West LosAngeles. Rodriguez, 36, is a Mexican American who lives in a Northeastneighborhood, Hermon, near Highland Park. Greenebaum, who is in his 50s,promotes intergroup relations through the regional office of the AJCommittee,located in West L.A. The two men met when Rodriguez interviewed Greenebaum fora piece that touched on Latino-Jewish relations several years ago.

They’re hoping Zócalo — sponsored by groups as varied as TheJewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles and Citibank — will introduce Angelenoswho wouldn’t normally meet. “A group devoted to fostering fellowship and newideas will be a powerful contribution to the new L.A.,” Rodriguez said. 

For information about Zócalo events, which will be broadcastover KPCC 89.3 FM, call (213) 228-7025.