DIY pinwheel paper fans for Celebrate Israel Festival


If you’re heading to the What you’ll need:

Scrapbook paper (blue and white preferred in this instance)

Scissors or X-Acto knife

Spray adhesive or glue stick

Double-sided tape

1 3/4-inch circular paper punch, or scissors

Stars of David printed on card stock

Hot glue gun

Wood skewer

1. Cut strips of paper

2. Adhere the thinner strips on top

3. Accordion-fold the paper

4. Create a loop

5. Flatten the cylinder

6. Glue a handle to the back

” target=”_blank”>jonathanfongstyle.com.

Up-cycle cereal boxes to make picture frames


I love eco-friendly crafts that allow me to up-cycle objects that would normally go in the trash. A few weeks ago, I transformed a used matzah box into a scrapbook album. That project was so popular that this week, I am turning old cereal boxes into picture frames. In fact, you can use all types of boxes — Girl Scout Cookie boxes, dog biscuit boxes, detergent boxes — and this is a fun project for the kids, too! 

What you’ll need:

  • Empty cereal box
  • Wrapping paper
  • Scissors
  • X-Acto Knife
  • Straight edge
  • Spray adhesive or glue stick
  • Hot glue gun
  • Embellishments

 

Step 1

Cut the box so it lies flat, and then cut the end flaps. If the box is large, turn it horizontally and cut it in half to make two frames.

Step 2

Apply spray adhesive to the plain side of the box and adhere a piece of wrapping paper to it. Spray adhesive spreads an even coating of glue, but it is messy and needs to be applied in a well-ventilated space. A glue stick is a good alternative, especially if you’re doing this project with kids.

Step 3

Using an X-Acto Knife and straight edge, trim the excess paper along with any edges of the cereal box that may have been cut unevenly with the scissors. Be careful when using the knife, and keep it away from children. Then cut a square or rectangular hole on one side, where the photo will be inserted.

Step 4

Apply hot glue to the end flap and fold it over one side to assemble the frame, with the wrapping paper on the outside. The finished product will be a three-sided, easel-style frame. Add embellishments such as ribbon, buttons and charms to the front using the hot glue gun. When you’re done, tape a photo onto the back of the front panel, where the opening is.

” target=”_blank”>jonathanfongstyle.com.

Jerusalem, Tel Aviv on new Google project


Jerusalem’s Old City and parts of historic Tel Aviv are featured in Google’s new “World Wonders Project,” although Jerusalem is not included under the Israel category.

The project allows visitors to take a virtual tour of the 132 historic and heritage sites from 18 countries and is presented in six languages including English and Hebrew.

The Asia category includes Israel, Japan and Jerusalem. “White City of Tel Aviv” is under the Israel category. Jerusalem, in its own category separate from Israel, is made up of views of the Old City, including the Western Wall.

The project was launched May 31 and uses Street View, 3D modeling and other Google technologies. Partners in the project include UNESCO and the World Monuments Fund.

Tuition grants, endowments to benefit day schools


More than half the students in Los Angeles Jewish day schools receive financial aid to pay tuition, which runs between $12,000 and $30,000 per year. And with both tuition and the number of students requiring aid expected to continue climbing, BJE: Builders of Jewish Education is partnering with local donors and national organizations both to alleviate the immediate crisis and work toward long-term solutions for lowering the cost of Jewish education.

Last week, BJE announced that Los Angeles is one of three cities to split a $3.1 million Generations grant from the AVI CHAI Foundation and the Partnership for Excellence in Jewish Education (PEJE) that will provide seven day schools with financial aid dollars and training and resources necessary for developing an endowment capable of spinning off funds in perpetuity. BJE raised $600,000 to match AVI CHAI’s contribution to secure the grant, and is now accepting applications from elementary, middle and high schools.

“If you look at what is happening in the school world, the schools and universities that are successful and able to weather the economy are those that have big endowments. So we set that as a high priority,” said Miriam Prum Hess, director of BJE’s Center for Excellence in Day School Education.

Only a few of Los Angeles’ 38 Jewish day schools have any sort of endowment, and the Generations grant joins other initiatives that in the last few years have focused on endowment.

A Jim Joseph Foundation grant totaling $12.7 million gave five Los Angeles Jewish high schools money to provide scholarships to middle-class families who earn too much to qualify for financial aid but still struggle to pay tuition. The grant came with funds to hire and train development staff, and required schools to raise their own monies for endowment.

Now completing the second year of a six-year cycle, the five high schools have raised a combined $2.3 million for their endowments.

“It’s difficult to think endowment when you need to raise money to keep the lights on,” said Larry Gill, board president of Shalhevet, where tuition for next year is $27,250. “But the reason the Jim Joseph program has been so effective is that it has really forced discipline on us. It’s sort of like a 401(k) — it forced us to put money away for the future.”

The grant also enabled Shalhevet to hire two full-time development professionals. Gill says Shalhevet is well on the way toward securing pledges of $500,000 for the endowment to meet a June 30 grant deadline.

BJE itself has secured pledges of nearly $10 million for a community fund that, starting in 2012, will add 25 cents to every dollar schools raise for endowment. The community fund, also a requirement for the Jim Joseph Foundation grant, was seeded with a $5 million matching challenge from the Simha and Sara Lainer Family Foundation. BJE has set a target of $100 million total for the community fund combined with the schools’ individual endowments, but Prum Hess says that number will have to grow to meet the community’s growing needs. More than half of the 9,500 students in BJE-affiliated schools are projected to receive financial aid next year.

To further help schools build fundraising infrastructure, BJE set up the Leadership and Fundraising Academy (LFA), an 18-month program for administrators and lay leaders, funded by a grant from Peter and Janine Lowy.

Sinai Akiba is one of the few schools in Los Angeles to have an endowment — a $7 million fund it started in the 1980s — and participation in LFA has enabled it to broaden its fundraising activities and focus its mission, according to headmaster Rabbi Larry Scheindlin.

“The thing we have learned most from the LFA process is that it is educational quality that drives the future of the school and carries the school into a virtuous cycle of enrollment and fundraising,” Scheindlin said. “It’s a terrible mistake to think that you can cut back on educational quality in order to lower tuition and thereby sustain enrollment.”

Rather, he said, Sinai Akiba has set tuition where it needs to be — $19,400 for the lower school, $21,600 for the middle school for the 2011-12 academic year — and increased its financial aid program, going from 15 percent of students a few years ago to 27 percent this year. The school has actively recruited and offered aid to families who thought they couldn’t afford a Jewish education.

Prum Hess says the presence of the LFA and the success of the Jim Joseph grant helped Los Angeles win the AVI CHAI grant, which relies on training existing development staff.

BJE raised $600,000 to qualify for the matching grant, then raised additional money to offer each of the seven schools $52,000 over three years, rather than the $25,000 prescribed by AVI CHAI. The hope is that the scholarship money, though a modest amount compared to the need, will alleviate some immediate stress and stabilize enrollment, and allow schools to develop their capacity to raise endowment funds, Prum Hess said.

In addition to the cash infusion, each school will receive five days of coaching with an experienced fundraiser and marketing materials that schools can customize. A BJE staff person, hired with the grant money, will serve as a resource to guide schools through the process of shoring up its fundraising apparatus.

The help, according to Shalhevet’s Gill, can’t come soon enough.

“If things continue in the current crescendo of cost versus money earned, in a very short amount of time the advantage of a Jewish education will be the purview of the extremely wealthy only. And that would be a disaster,” Gill said.

Yom HaAtzmaut special: California on Hebrew [VIDEO]


California on Purim [VIDEO]


N.Y. rabbis pull out of Muslim-Jewish twinning project


Two rabbis in western New York have pulled out of a Muslim-Jewish outreach effort, charging that the national sponsor is involved in Islamic fundamentalism.

The “twinning” project, which has been held each November since 2008, is a project of the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding in cooperation with the Islamic Society of North America, which was named as an unindicted co-conspirator in the 2007 Holy Land Foundation terrorist financing case.

Rabbi Irwin Tanenbaum of Temple Beth Am and Rabbi Alex Lazarus-Klein of Temple Sinai, both of Amherst, declined to participate in the twinning events this month, despite participating last year, citing concerns about the Islamic Society’s links to Islamic fundamentalist groups, the Buffalo News reported Nov. 11.

Rabbi Drorah Setel of Temple Beth El in Niagara Falls, N.Y., is the only area rabbi to go forward with the program, according to the newspaper.

“The conflict in the Middle East ends up affecting passions here,” Lazarus-Klein told the Buffalo News. “The issues are very close to people’s hearts, and it’s difficult to separate the world politics from local politics, and that’s unfortunate.”

A national group based in Boston last year warned Buffalo-area Jews that radical Muslims posing as moderates had infiltrated the area.

“What we found was that the entities behind the Buffalo interfaith effort are anything but moderate,” Ilya Feoktistov, research director of Americans for Peace and Tolerance, wrote in an online publication.

One event held last week in western New York had to be moved from a small synagogue to a private home after objections by members of the congregation, the Buffalo News reported.

Fields of Dreams


I used to think that between the time of the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 A.D., and the birth of Israel in 1948, there was no such thing as anexclusively Jewish city. Sure, there were plenty of Jewish ghettos and neighborhoods scattered throughout the globe, but a city with only Jews in it? I never imagined it.

That is until I met my neighbor, Jeremy Goldscheider.

Goldscheider is an aspiring filmmaker with an obsession. He’s obsessed with the story of a little town called Trochenbrod in Northwestern Ukraine that was started by Jews in the early 1800s.

Most people know the town as the fictitious Trachimbrod, from Jonathan Safran Foer’s book, “Everything is Illuminated.” But while Foer has said in interviews that virtually everything in his story is made up, there are a few people alive today who know better.

Goldscheider is one of them, and he knows how very real Trochenbrod is.

He knows, for instance, that Trochenbrod was the only freestanding Jewish town ever to exist outside the biblical land of Israel, and that, in 1942, the Nazis marched all 5,000 Jewish residents to a nearby forest and had them dig their own graves before murdering and burying them.

Before the massacre, Trochenbrod had been a thriving regional commercial center that had a diversified and largely self-sufficient economy. Everyone in Trochenbrod — shopkeepers, farmers, craftspeople, teachers, livestock traders, factory owners — was Jewish, and they spoke Yiddish and modern Hebrew.

The town was founded in 1835 by Jews who took advantage of an edict that exempted Jewish farmers from being conscripted in the Russian army. That didn’t help them, though, when the Nazis arrived.

Because all the residents were Jewish, the whole town was leveled. Today, all you can see is an empty field of trees and wildflowers with a small memorial plaque erected in 1992.

It’s on that field that Goldscheider walked several months ago, with only his notebook and a video camera. And it’s on that field that he kept thinking of his great-grandfather and great-grandmother, Jacob and Ethel Kessler, who left Trochenbrod and settled in Baltimore around 1910.

Goldscheider remembers his grandmother, Minnie, talking about how her parents’ home in Baltimore had become a kind of way station for Trochenbrod immigrants who came to settle in America. But Goldsheider was never too interested in Baltimore; it was Trochenbrod he wanted to know more about.

And, in particular, the Jews who survived the massacre.

Evidently, a small group of maybe 30 Jews managed to escape and survive in the forest for years. Some of the young ones became partisans who banded together and fought the Nazis, stealing guns and ammunition, blowing up trains and taking care of other Jews with stolen food and makeshift shelters.

Goldscheider has already met and interviewed a few of the survivors in Ukraine and in Israel, and next month he plans to meet another survivor in Brazil.

When I first met him last spring at a neighborhood cafe, he hadn’t yet made the trip to the empty fields of Trochenbrod. He was going there “blind,” he said, with a sort of primitive desire just to walk the fields where his ancestors had once lived, and where so many Jews had perished.

I met him at the same cafe when he returned a couple months later, and it was clear that by then he was immersed in a labor of love that was consuming a lot of his time.

Our conversation then took an unexpected turn.

Since he hadn’t yet secured financing for his film project, I asked him how he paid the bills. Well, it turns out that Goldsheider does promotional films for all kinds of Jewish organizations around town, and that one of his biggest clients is Camp Ramah.

Now, you should know that when I hear the words “Camp Ramah,” my heart goes aflutter. My kids are pretty much addicted to the place. So, naturally, when Goldsheider informed me that he was driving up to Ojai the following day to film the camp, which was in session at the time, it took me one or two nanoseconds to invite myself along.

Officially, I was going to accompany him on the film shoot, and maybe do a story. (Unofficially, I was dying to see my kids.)

It was a hot day, and we covered pretty much the whole camp. Camp Ramah is big and small at the same time. No matter where you venture, you always seem to return to a familiar place. Kids were everywhere, playing in this grand game of organized spontaneity. Some were davening in an outdoor amphitheater, others cheering at a basketball game, still others shooting down waterslides decorated with a map of Israel. The place was teeming with life.

As we walked through the camp’s main field, I couldn’t help thinking about Goldscheider’s recent experience. A week or two earlier, he had been walking through an empty field in Ukraine that once also teemed with Jewish life. A field where Jews also davened, worked and played — but a field where Jews were no more.

From one week to the next, Goldscheider had traveled from a field of death to a field of life. It must have had some effect on him.

In truth, he hadn’t thought of the contrast until I brought it up. But then, he did notice that there was a similar tree formation and land elevation in the fields of Trochenbrod and Camp Ramah.

Two fields with similar landscaping — and with a similar connection to the Jewish ideal of life and community. But one field, in one century, witnessing a nightmare; while the other, in the next century, witnessing an ongoing summer dream.

If Goldscheider has his way, if he can get the real Trochenbrod story out to the world, that same field of nightmares might one day become the realization of his own field of dreams.

David Suissa, an advertising executive, is founder of OLAM magazine and Ads4Israel.com. He can be reached at dsuissa@olam.org.

Golscheider’s email address is jeremy@kihou.com

Skateboarder’s project links charity and sport


Devin Schneider looks like a typical 13-year-old boy: his long hair covers dark brown eyes, a smile reveals a mouthful of braces, and he wears a long hooded sweatshirt, T-shirt and jeans. He’s quiet, sometimes keeping his eyes downcast as he thinks of what to say.

But Devin Schneider isn’t your typical 13-year-old. Not even close.

Many students his age struggle to come up with a mitzvah project that speaks to their interests, but choosing one was easy for this skateboarder from Temple Adat Elohim in Thousand Oaks.

Devin collected materials and money to create more than 30 skateboards for Boarding House Mentors, a nonprofit group that works with at-risk youth and teaches them to skateboard and surf.

“I was getting ideas from Rabbi [Ted] Riter,” Devin said. “He asked me what I liked to do and I said I liked to play guitar and skateboard. So we came up with the idea to get skateboards and parts, new, old, as many as I could.”

Devin never thought he would get to bring his love for skateboarding into his rite of passage: “I thought it would be like my sister, and I’d work at a shelter, but this was a lot more fun.”

His love of skateboarding began when he was 9, when a friend introduced him to the sport. But it was no surprise to Devin’s parents, Scott and Mindy, who both skateboarded when they were younger.

“It surprised me that he hadn’t done it yet at that point,” Mindy Schneider said, noting that while she enjoyed skateboarding as a teen, she wouldn’t get on a skateboard now.

Amazingly, Devin has only injured himself once, and that was while snowboarding with his family in Mammoth. The Schneiders also have gone to the X-Games for the past few years and have built a mini-skate park in their back yard, complete with ramps and rails.

But finding a public place in the Conejo Valley to board isn’t so easy. Devin, who loves performing tricks on stairs, says that skateboarders get an unwarranted bad rap.

“People think of skateboarders as vandals … that we break things,” Devin said. “And that’s not what we do. They kick us out of places. We’ll be at stairs at a school and a teacher threatens to call the cops.”

Some of his friends have even been issued $185 tickets for trespassing.

That her son and his friends are given a hard time doesn’t make Mindy Schneider happy either.

“They just want to have fun … and they are being harassed,” she said. “I get it if there were around cars, but when they are trying to stay out of people’s way, it’s annoying.”

While Mindy Schnedier mentioned that some members of the Thousand Oaks City Council are looking into creating a local skate park in the Conejo Valley, she said she doesn’t expect it to happen any time soon. So on Fridays, Mindy drives her son to Skatelab in Simi Valley, a museum and indoor skating park where he can hang out with his friends, who affectionately refer to him by his online moniker Sk-8r Jew.

It’s a name to which he doesn’t take offense, especially since being Jewish is an important part of his life.

Last July the Schnedier family — including two grandparents — went with Adat Elohim to Israel, where Devin became a bar mitzvah on top of Masada.

“It is very different having a bar mitzvah there on top of Masada, as opposed to here in a synagogue,” Mindy Schneider said.

When Devin isn’t on his surfboard (as he plans to be this summer at camp Hess-Kramer), snowboard or skateboard, he’s rocking on his guitar, most recently at the Canyon Club in Agoura Hills, as a student at the School of Rock. His tune of choice? Guns ‘n’ Roses “Sweet Child of Mine.” He said he might even have a chance to play in the youth band at the temple — if they can accommodate his electric guitar.

Next year, when he starts at Agoura High School, he’s been asked to join the school’s skateboarding club. However, at this point he said he’s focusing on having fun, rather than competing. “I don’t think I’m good enough,” Devin said.

In the spring, Devin and his family will be going to Vans Skate Park in Orange County to give out the boards and teach kids how to skateboard. Mindy and Devin said they owe a lot to friends, neighbors and the Transition skate shop in Moorpark for making Devin’s project a reality. Devin said he plans to continue fixing up boards and instructing others in the tricks of the trade.

But no lesson in the world can match the feeling of being on a board.
“When you are going on your board and about to do a trick, and it is one you’ve tried a bunch of times and you could never do it — and then you finally can — it’s the best feeling ever, because you’ve accomplished something,” Devin said.

Boarding House Mentors ‘ target=’_blank’>http://www.adatelohim.com/

Skatelab
‘ target=’_blank’>skateboarding.com

Feminist Desktop Revolution


Don’t have time to shlep to a museum? Too tired to remember if the free museum day is the first or second Tuesday of the month? Want to conquer a large, overwhelming exhibit in small, 15-minute intervals? Then bring the museum to your desktop and browse at your own pace.

The Jewish Women’s Archive has launched “Jewish Women and the Feminist Revolution,” an inspirational and evocative online exhibit. It’s an innovative way to introduce today’s generation of Jewish women to the pacesetting leaders who paved the way before them.

“‘Jewish Women and the Feminist Revolution’ brings the story of Jewish feminism into the story of American feminism for the first time, connecting their histories in a landmark project,” curator Judith Rosenbaum said.

The brightly colored site is easy to use and fun to surf. Complete with video clips, documents, posters, flyers, photographs, art, radio news reports and first-person statements, the exhibition explores Jewish women’s significant contributions to the American and Jewish feminist movements of the 1960s and 1970s. How did these times change the lives of Jewish women, and how did Jewish women create change during the times?

The site organizes material by themes, timeline, people and medium and covers topics like women’s health, female rabbis, sexuality, arts, education and spirituality.

The exhibition features artifacts from the private collections of 74 notable women, including Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg; Gloria Steinem, pioneering activist and founder of Ms. Magazine; and feminist artist Judy Chicago.

Also featured are three Los Angeles women: Rachel Adler, feminist theologian and professor of modern Jewish thought and Judaism and gender at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion; UCLA history professor Ellen DuBois, feminist author and scholar of 19th century women’s history; and Reform Rabbi Sue Levi Elwell, director of the Pennsylvania Council of the UAJC and founding director of the American Jewish Congress Feminist Center in Los Angeles.

The exhibition can be found at

Stanley Kubrick’s Unrealized Vision


When Stanley Kubrick died in March 1999 during the post-production of his final film, “Eyes Wide Shut,” he left behind several pet projects he had been working on for decades. These included a science-fiction riff on “Pinocchio” (later finished by Steven Spielberg as “A.I.”), a historical biopic of the life of Napoleon and a Holocaust project with the working title “Aryan Papers.”

The recently released “Stanley Kubrick Archives,” an unwieldy coffee-table tome published by Taschen, sheds new light on the famously secretive director’s failed project. An essay by Jan Harlan, Kubrick’s brother-in-law and producer, details Kubrick’s longtime pursuit of the Holocaust as a subject for a film. Harlan writes of traveling to New York in 1976 to try and interest Isaac Bashevis Singer in contributing an original screenplay. What Kubrick sought from Singer was a “dramatic structure that compressed the complex and vast information into the story of an individual who represented the essence of this manmade hell.”

Singer, who—unlike many of his friends—was not a Holocaust survivor, gratefully declined, saying, “I don’t know the first thing” about the Holocaust.”

Kubrick shelved the project until 1991, when he read Louis Begley’s short novel, “Wartime Lies,” about a Jewish boy and his aunt who survive the war by snaking their way through Poland, pretending to be Catholics. Begley’s autobiographical tale so intrigued Kubrick that he was willing to shoot the project abroad—a dramatic decision for the director, who hadn’t left England for more than three decades. Kubrick got the go-ahead from Warner Bros.—which publicly announced the project as “Aryan Papers” (a reference to the documents required to escape deportation) in 1993—and he got fairly far along in the pre-production, hiring set and costume designers and casting several of the main roles. For the role of the boy’s aunt, Tanya, Kubrick considered Julia Roberts and Uma Thurman. However, preparations ceased when it became known that Spielberg had started working on “Schindler’s List.” Fearing competition, Kubrick shelved the project for a second and final time, and devoted his energies to “Eyes Wide Shut.”

Kubrick’s lifelong fascination with the Holocaust coexisted with extreme doubt as to whether any film could do justice to the subject. In 1980, he told the author Michael Herr that what he wanted most was to make a film about the Holocaust, “but good luck in putting all that into a two-hour movie.” Frederic Raphael, who co-authored the screenplay for “Eyes Wide Shut,” recalls Kubrick questioning whether a film truly can represent the Holocaust in its entirety. After Raphael suggested “Schindler’s List,” Kubrick replied, “Think that’s about the Holocaust? That was about success, wasn’t it? The Holocaust is about 6 million people who get killed. ‘Schindler’s List’ is about 600 who don’t. Anything else?”

The scholar Geoffrey Cocks has written extensively about Kubrick’s fascination with the Nazi era. In numerous essays and a book, “The Wolf at the Door: Stanley Kubrick, History and the Holocaust,” he argues that the Holocaust serves as the “veiled benchmark of evil” in many of Kubrick’s films, specifically “The Shining.” According to Cocks, the failure to bring “Aryan Papers” to fruition had to do with a profound awareness of “the problem of how to do ethical and artistic justice to the depiction of the horror of mass extermination,” a problem that has—in one form or another—plagued all postwar artists. Unlike Harlan, who recalls Kubrick’s great enthusiasm for the project, Cocks quotes Kubrick’s widow, Christiane, as telling him that Kubrick was horribly depressed throughout his work on “Aryan Papers.”

The Holocaust was such a sensitive issue that Kubrick’s reaction took the form of approach and avoidance, Cocks argues. Though Kubrick never confronted the subject head-on—and the scant appearance of Nazis in his films take the form of parody (as in “Dr. Strangelove” and “Lolita”)—Cocks writes that “[a]s a Jew in a gentile world, Kubrick would use his position as an outsider with a deep sensitivity to social injustice to expose the dark underside of society.”

A quote from Kubrick on the connection between rape and Beethoven in “A Clockwork Orange” illustrates Cocks’s assertion: “[It] suggests the failure of culture to have any morally refining effect on society. Hitler loved good music and many top Nazis were cultured and sophisticated men, but it didn’t do them, or anyone else, much good.”

Kubrick was a master at exploring the darker side of human nature, whether it was sexual obsession (“Lolita”) or the will to power (“2001: A Space Odyssey”) or human cruelty (“A Clockwork Orange”). It’s fascinating and terrifying to imagine what Kubrick’s Holocaust might have looked like.

Reprinted with permission from The Forward.
A.J. Goldmann is a writer living in New York.
 

Students Link to Shoah With ‘Clips’


 

When George Jacobs heard about the children’s Holocaust project in Whitwell, Tenn., he immediately thought of Malka.

She was the emaciated young woman who had kissed the mezuzah on his lapel when the American airman had visited the infirmary at Mauthausen after World War II. When Jacobs returned several hours later, he learned that she had died; the memory was so painful that he told no one until he read about how in 2000, Whitwell middle-schoolers were collecting 6 million paper clips to commemorate the 6 million Jews who died in the Holocaust.

Jacobs promptly mailed in a clip to represent Malka.

“[It] was so much of a closure for me,” he says in the powerful Miramax documentary, “Paper Clips.” “Malka has found a final resting place, not in Austria, Germany or Poland but in Appalachia, Tenn. I can’t get over that.”

Indeed, Whitwell (population 1,600) — with just two traffic lights, two gas stations, 10 churches and no Jews — seems an unusual place for a Holocaust memorial, especially one that has become an international cause cél?bre. But the low-income former mining community isn’t the first rural Christian town to teach tolerance through the Shoah, and to earn headlines in the process. Last week, students from Uniontown High in Uniontown, Kan., were in Los Angeles performing their internationally acclaimed play, “Life in a Jar,” about Holocaust rescuer Irena Sendler.

Whitwell’s project — like Uniontown’s — began because “our children didn’t have much opportunity to learn about other people,” middle school principal Linda Hooper said. So, in 1998, she sent assistant principal David Smith to a teacher training conference to “find something that would help students learn about other cultures.”

He found it in a Holocaust educational seminar.

“We had never discussed the subject in our high school, and to be honest I don’t think I’d ever met a Jew,” Smith told The Journal. “When the survivor was done speaking, I was in tears and I thought, ‘This is it. This is how we’re going to teach tolerance to our children.”

That October, Smith and a co-teacher began reading aloud to students from books such as Eli Wiesel’s “Night.” When the concept of 6 million proved incomprehensible to the middle-schoolers, the teenagers resolved to launch a collection to better understand the magnitude of the Shoah. They decided on paper clips after learning that Norwegians had worn them to show solidarity with Jews during the war.

After German journalists wrote articles and a book on the project, letters and clips from 19 countries inundated the school, including submissions from Tom Hanks and President Clinton.

“We counted paper clips night and day that summer,” Hooper said.

Meanwhile, students scrapped their initial idea to melt the collection into a sculpture: “These paper clips represented people who had been through the fire, and we did not want that to happen again,” Hooper said. Their new goal: to house the clips and documents in an actual cattle car that had transported Jews to concentration camps.

As international media descended on Whitwell, Hooper felt her community was undergoing trial by fire. Newspapers cited the town’s proximity to the birthplace of the Ku Klux Klan and to the courthouse where John T. Scopes was convicted of teaching evolution in the 1925 “monkey trial.”

“It was the image that people often get of the South: that we’re all stupid, prejudiced rednecks,” Hooper said.

Thus she ignored the Virginia-based filmmakers who called her twice a day for weeks about making “Paper Clips” in 2001. Hooper refused to speak with them, in fact, until she had “phoned everyone for whom they’d ever made a documentary,” she said.

When co-directors Joe Fab and Elliot Berlin finally sat down with her that spring, “she ushered us in, then kept us waiting,” Berlin recalled. When the tall, silver-haired principal finally looked up from her work, “She said, ‘If I let you make this film, and you make my children look like ignorant hillbillies, I will eat your heart for breakfast,” Fab said. “Somehow, we got her to understand that we wanted to make the movie because we already respected her children.”

Over the next 18 months, the directors captured the students as they sorted more than 30 million clips and awaited the cattle car that had been purchased for $6,000 from a German railroad museum. It arrived, via ship and rail, in time for the memorial’s dedication on Nov. 9, 2001, attended by the entire town.

“It was amazing seeing children sing ‘We Shall Never Forget’ who had never previously heard of the Holocaust,” Fab said.

Equally moving was the final interview with Smith: “When the project began, I was very prejudiced in many areas,” the assistant principal says in the film. “[The memorial] has made me a better … father, a better teacher, a better man.”

Jacobs is grateful for the endeavor.

“It’s giving [Malka] a resting place among young people who love her and have compassion for her, and you couldn’t ask for a better resting place than that,” he said.

“Paper Clips,” which recently won the Jewish Image Award for crosscultural understanding, opens Nov. 24 in Los Angeles. The Anti-Defamation League will provide educational materials on the film this spring; information will be available then at www.adl.org.

 

Kosher Condos Take Aim at Orthodox


Driving through Pico-Robertson, real estate developer George Saadin smiles as he points out kosher markets filled with shoppers, Judaica shops, shuls and dozens of kosher restaurants — veritable signs of the Jewish renaissance taking place now in the neighborhood.

The area, he said, had nearly everything that the growing number of observant Jews could want, save for one glaring exception: kosher housing. Saadin hopes to change that.

Saadin, 42, is nearing completion on a 16-unit condominium project on Cashio Street that targets traditional Jews. The kosher condos, believed to be the largest and among the first such developments in the Southland, will each feature two dishwashers, two separate counters and two sinks to allow religious Jews to cook and clean dairy and meat products separately. The units will also have programmable timers to automatically turn lights off and on during Shabbat and a netila station — a sink for ritual handwashing.

"I’m trying to fulfill the needs of our people, who are looking for something like this," said Saadin, a member of the Executive Committee of The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles. The development is open to non-Jews, he said. "I wanted to do something different from what everybody else in the area, because you get [top] dollar for doing something unique."

At starting prices of at least $600,000, the two- to three-bedroom condominiums won’t come cheap. However, Saadin expects them to generate lots of interest because of their inherent appeal to observant Jews and their relatively large size in a neighborhood teeming with older, smaller apartment buildings.

Kosher condos "make living our lifestyle so much easier, so much simpler. There’s definitely a demand," said Rabbi Yitzchok Sommer of Anshe Emes on Robertson Boulevard. "If you’re Orthodox, you want to live within walking distance of a shul, within walking distance of a mikvah [ritual bath], bakeries and a school for your kids that you don’t have to schlep to."

But the Pico-Robertson development may prove a tough sell. That’s because many experts predict the housing market will slow in coming months if interest rates rise as expected. That could force Saadin to roll back prices to fill his building.

To be sure, individual homeowners in Los Angeles and elsewhere have customized their kitchens at a cost of tens of thousands of dollars to make them kosher. However, only a handful of developers across the nation have tailored large projects for a Jewish clientele.

Saadin’s $5-million project, slated for completion by early October, is believed to be the second major kosher housing development in Southern California in the past two decades. In 1987, some members of the Orthodox Pacific Jewish Center in Venice invested upward of $300,000 a piece for a kosher housing development near Lincoln Boulevard. Elsewhere, kosher housing units have appeared in religious neighborhoods in Israel, New York and Florida.

However, religious Jews have occasionally shown little appetite for kosher housing. For instance, two condominium projects near Boca Raton, Fla., which were to include kosher kitchens and onsite temples, were scrapped due to a lack of interest.

Others’ failures don’t frighten Saadin. Before deciding to go kosher, he said he and his listing agent, Yaron Hassid, canvassed area residents and rabbis to gauge interest in such a project.

The positive response so overwhelmed Saadin that not only did he decide to build the condominiums on Cashio, but he also acquired three nearby properties for 32 future kosher units. He said he expected to break ground on all the projects within the next 12 months and to complete a 16-unit building on Shenandoah Street by the end of 2005.

During his 16 years in real estate, Saadin said he has mostly had success. He has built 10 apartment complexes and renovated 18 others. Still, Saadin has firsthand knowledge about the riskiness of speculative real-estate ventures. In the early 1990s, a bank foreclosed on two of his apartments near USC when the market bottomed out, he said.

Going forward, listing agent Hassid, director of new condominium sales at Coldwell Banker, said he expected word of mouth to largely sell the kosher condos. "Just by going to the rabbis, we’ve already started to get the word out," he said.

Jews began settling in Pico-Robertson en masse in the 1950s with the opening of several Orthodox shuls, demographer Pini Herman said. Many spent just a few years in the area before moving on to more upscale neighborhoods like Beverly Hills, he said.

In the 1970s and 1980s, some Pico-Robertson Jews sold their homes during an era of "white flight." Recently, Orthodox Jews have returned to the area, which boasts cheaper housing than the Westside and an increasing number of businesses catering to them. This time, he said, they might stay permanently.

"With relatively plain houses going for a million dollars in Southern California, Pico-Robertson is going to become a final destination for Jews," Herman said.

L.A. Tour Staged With Heart, History


It is a somewhat surrealistic scene taking place in the kitchen of the Greenway Court Theater in the Fairfax District. One man is narrating a story of the Los Angeles eruv (Shabbat boundary), which in his narration is both a religious frontier and a metaphorical border in which to tell his story. Around him are two women and a man acting as malachim (angels or messengers) and, like an updated Greek chorus, they undulate their bodies in acknowledgement of what he is saying, miming his words in dreamy motions.

In the next room, four actors are going through a scene in which a Russian Jewish mother snubs her son’s wife by not eating her “fackacteh” chopped liver because it was not kosher enough. Tracy Young, the director, is blocking them, advising them to move about the stage to keep the action fresh. The woman playing the mother is questioning Tracy about her character’s resentment of her son.

That is how rehearsal time goes for the “Center of the Star, A Jewish Tour of Los Angeles,” a new play by Yehuda Hyman that is the latest project of the Cornerstone Theater Company (CTC) and Greenway Arts Alliance.

The CTC is an 18-year-old, multiethnic ensemble theater company that partners with community groups to produce original plays that explore different ethnic groupings in Los Angeles. This time they are working the Jewish community, partnering with the University of Judaism (UJ), the National Foundation for Jewish Culture, the Center for Jewish Culture and Creativity, Workmen’s Ciricle, Temple Emanuel, Emanuel Arts Center, Adat Ari El, the Bureau of Jewish Education and the Skirball Cultural Center for “Center of the Star,” which will run for five weeks. In deference to the Jews involved in the production, Cornerstone is not rehearsing or performing the play on Friday nights.

“Ultimately, it’s about building bridges between diverse communities,” said Lee Lawlor, Cornerstone’s communications director. “We want to hear people’s stories. We want to hear what is special about being Jewish that makes it different to other communities, what are the traditions and what is the history of the community. Generally we spend close to a year identifying strategic partners within the community, we meet with them and based on those meetings the playwright will craft a play. We try to have either the playwright or the director be from within the community.”

“This is not about imposing a play on a group of people, but trying to have that play grow out of a group of people,” she continued.

To write “Center of The Star,” a sprawling history of the Jewish community in Los Angeles and a personal narrative of one family’s place in it, Hyman conducted 48 private interviews with all sorts of Jews — rabbis, secular Jews, Jews of different ethnicities. He also did 18 group interviews, or in Cornerstone theater parlance, “story circles,” with, among others, Jews at Beit T’Shuva (a Jewish treatment center), Iraqi Jews, Russian Jews, Persian Jews, Israelis in Los Angeles, rabbinic interns at the UJ, members of a Conservative synagogue in the Valley and a Reform temple in Beverly Hills.

“I love hearing people’s stories,” Hyman said. “[In the story circles] I would get into questions of faith, asking tough questions about the concept of the Chosen People, and what does that mean, and when they had experiences when they felt their faith was tested. I got a wide variety of responses — everything from heart-rending stories to people telling me that Judaism is not about faith but about doing a certain set of things we do everything, to people who had mystical experiences with the religion.”

From those interviews, and his own research into the history of the Jewish community in the city, Hyman wrote a multilayered, metaphysical play that uses 32 actors to follow the migratory trends of Jews in Los Angeles.

In the play, Jackie, a successful photographer, goes on a tour of Los Angeles, which sparks memories of her grandmother from Boyle Heights, her Fairfax childhood, her teenage yearnings in Brentwood and the tragedy that led to her exodus from the city.

“The play is very specifically Los Angeles in its geography and its essence and its energy and rhythm,” said Hyman. “The Pacific Ocean plays a huge role in the play — it’s the ocean as geography, and it is also the ocean as mikvah [Jewish ritual bath].”

Hyman said that he is sad that his play could not tell everyone’s stories, but he hopes that those who watch the play will have a sense of pride about the expansiveness of the Los Angeles Jewish community. He said that he received the inspiration for the play from the Star of David.

“If you look at the Star of David, you will see two interesting triangles: one pointing upward to heaven, and the other downward,” he said. “According to the mystic Gershom Sholem, we humans exist in that crossroads where the two stars intersect. ‘Center of the Star’ is a tour of that junction and the Jewish struggle to understand it, live in it and celebrate it.”

“Center of the Star: A Jewish Tour of Los Angeles” will
be playing at the Greenway Court Theater, 544 N. Fairfax Ave., Los Angeles, Jan.
29-Feb. 29. For tickets call (323) 655-7679 ext. 100, or go to www.cornerstonetheater.org .

When It’s Federal Aid, Pork Isn’t Treif


When it comes to politics, even the Jews want pork. American Jewish communities and some national organizations have become well versed in getting their share of millions of dollars available for social service programs, medical research or other community essentials.

A search of the 2004 omnibus spending bill under consideration in Congress this month found 37 earmarks with the word "Jewish" in the name, amounting to $9,973,000 in appropriations. If you include the terms "Hebrew" and "Sephardic," it climbs to 41 appropriation earmarks and $10,723,000. Many other projects of importance to local Jewish communities may not have identifiable names and could be buried in the vast spending document.

Getting funding for a project takes massive time, energy and, often, money. Many Jewish communities send representatives to Washington to make the pitch directly to their lawmakers, as well as members of congressional appropriations committees. Some hire Washington lobbyists to make the necessary introductions for them.

Next week will be an important one for the budget process. In its first session of the year, the Senate will vote on the omnibus spending package for 2004, because it did not pass all 13 spending bills before the end of last year’s session.

The omnibus bill lumps all appropriations that were not approved by Congress into one piece of legislation, and contains $328.1 billion in discretionary spending. It passed the House Dec. 8 by a vote of 242-176.

President Bush’s State of the Union address on Jan. 20 will launch the budget process for 2005. The president will lay out his fiscal priorities in the speech, before officially submitting his budget proposal early next month.

Garnering money for one’s local Jewish community depends in large part on the influence of local congressmen. Five of the Jewish appropriations next year are in Pennsylvania, amounting to $950,000, in part because Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) is chairman of the Labor, Health and Human Services and Education Subcommittee of the Appropriations Committee.

Jewish officials bristle when they hear the projects described as "pork," a term used to describe pet projects in a lawmaker’s congressional district.

"One man’s pork is another’s essential program," said Reva Price, the Washington representative for the Jewish Council for Public Affairs.

For example, the Jewish Association for Residential Care (JARC) in suburban Detroit received $500,000 in 2003 for its facility for people with developmental disabilities. It is likely to receive an additional $150,000 this year.

Joyce Keller, JARC’s executive director, said her program provides an essential service and shouldn’t be lumped in with more frivolous appropriations. She cited one notorious example of Washington pork, a study on the sex lives of fireflies.

"These are the needs of people that are not being met by whatever states have to offer," she said of her patients.

Keller’s organization began pursuing a federal appropriation because Michigan’s state mental health funds were not properly funding its patients, many of whom are mentally disabled. It hired a Washington lobbyist, met with Michigan congressmen and both senators and hoped for the best.

"We had no idea, and we were very ecstatic that we were successful," Keller said. "We knew it was a gamble."

Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) last month touted six Jewish community projects that were funded in the appropriations process. Among them were allocations to the Sephardic Community Center in Brooklyn and two allocations for the Sephardic Bikur Holim Center in Brooklyn.

Brett Heimov, Nadler’s Washington chief of staff, said the office receives 15 to 20 requests from the Jewish community each year and forwards them to the appropriators.

"In 11 years here, I’ve seen maybe a dozen projects that are just stupid," he said. "Most are worthwhile."

Heimov said appropriators, who have the final say on what projects receive money, prefer programs that already are advanced in their development, giving a better sense of how the money will be spent.

A lawmaker touting a project may go it alone or may seek additional support when he sends a letter to members of the appropriations committee. Eight lawmakers signed a letter in October to the chairman of an appropriations subcommittee seeking $543,375 for the Center for Jewish History in New York’s archival preservation project. The center was allocated $328,000.

While some Jewish organizations seek money individually, others group their requests. The United Jewish Communities (UJC) helped win $4,320,000 for 19 Jewish communities for naturally occurring retirement communities, or NORCs, which seek to assist elderly living independently in areas with large aging populations.

Robert Goldberg, UJC’s assistant legislative director, said the organization is able to serve as a conduit between the local communities and lawmakers who know the value of NORCs.

"We are the ones that have done the legwork with the appropriations committees and educated them on NORCs as a community-based service," he said.

Jewish communities in big cities often need less assistance, because they have more resources and are more familiar with the process.

The need for federal appropriations is growing in the Jewish community. Budget crunches in many states, as well as decreases in social service block grants that give federal money to the states to distribute, have led to a decrease in the availability of other public funding sources, Price said.

It is hard to pin down some of the ingredients for a successful bid for funds. Communities with Republican lawmakers may be served better, because the Republican leaders of the divided Congress have been reticent to provide funds for Democratic districts, Jewish officials said.

Some suggest that having a Jewish lawmaker in one’s district helps. Others say that Jewish lawmakers, concerned about a backlash, try not to have too many Jewish projects funded in their districts.

One Democratic aide said he believed Republicans may be working to give more assistance to Jewish communities as part of their efforts to court the Jewish vote in 2004.

Price said Jews do no better or worse than other interests lobbying for pork.

"Not everything asked for is gotten," she observed.

Painting Through the Pain


When the Nazis forced artist Friedl Dicker-Brandeis into
Terezin, she smuggled in art supplies and taught the concentration camp’s
children to express themselves through art.

“Everyone put us in boxes — the Nazis — and she took us out
of them,” her student, Edna Amit, later said of Dicker-Brandeis, who died in
Auschwitz at age 47.

The Museum of Tolerance is remembering Dicker-Brandies, one
of the founders of art therapy, with a display of her art and that of her
students, as well as a modern-day art therapy project inspired by her
techniques.

A downstairs gallery displays art by children of Terezin,
which depict harsh camp conditions and life before the war. 

Upstairs, 10 life-size puppets — each created by one of 10
students from inner-city Orville Wright Middle School — sit at a mosaiced
table, with decorated cigar boxes archiving the lives of each child. The
school’s 13- to 15-year-olds face modern-day challenges such as pressure to use
drugs and join gangs.

This is the first time that Virginia Marroquin, a
13-year-old Latina, learned about the Holocaust, and it made her see her own
challenging life in a different way: “[The Holocaust] opened my eyes a lot … it
helped me look at life in a better way. It made me realize how much I have,”
she told The Journal.

Art therapist Dr. Debra Linesch created the project with
Regina Miller, the museum’s project director. This past summer they led a
five-day workshop, using Dicker-Brandeis to inspire the inner-city children.

“No matter how bad things are, give voice to it and you are
re-humanizing a dehumanizing experience,” said Linesch, director of the
graduate department of marital and family therapy at Loyola Marymount
University. “That’s what I learned from Friedl.”

The dual exhibit runs through Jan. 15, at the Museum
of  Tolerance, Simon Wiesenthal Plaza, 9786 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles. For
information, call (310) 553-8403 or visit

A Healer Returns


Daniel Libeskind is coming back to New York to help heal the
wounds created on Sept. 11. He won’t be working with words or medicine but with
stone, cement, glass and steel.

“My hopes are that out of the tragedy that happened, from
the depths of the ground, something will soar into the life of New York that
reaffirms the values we share: democracy and family and freedom and
independence,” said Libeskind, whose architectural designs were chosen to
replace the World Trade Center, which was destroyed in the Sept. 11 terror
attacks.

The decision, announced Feb. 27 in New York, means both a
homecoming for Libeskind and the weaving together of themes that wind through
much of his work: openness, contrast of dark and light, the interplay of memory
and dreams for the future.

While Libeskind’s Jewish Museum in Berlin is a sprawling
zigzag that hugs the earth, his main tower in Manhattan would soar toward the
heavens. Yet the two designs have something in common: Both contain elements of
sadness and hope.

“I have learned many things” through working in Berlin,
including that “one has to believe the future holds something better than the
past,” the 57-year-old Libeskind explained.

Like his Jewish Museum, which contains a space for
meditation on the destruction of European Jewry, the design for lower Manhattan
includes a memorial at the original foundation of the World Trade Center, where
some 2,800 people were killed. Relatives of some victims already have said they
appreciate the fact that Libeskind did not want to build over the pit.

Libeskind was born in Poland in 1946 to two Holocaust
survivors. He became an American citizen in 1965 and studied music in Israel
and New York.

He was described as a musical genius but ultimately decided
to study architecture. He earned degrees in 1970 from New York City’s Cooper
Union for the Advancement of Science and Art and in 1972 from the School of Comparative
Studies at Essex University in England.

Libeskind and his wife, Nina, moved to Berlin with their
three children in 1989, after Libeskind won the competition to design the
city’s Jewish Museum. It was his first contract, but his first completed
building was the Felix Nussbaum Haus, a museum that opened in Osnabrck, Germany,
in July 1998. His Imperial War Museum in North Manchester, England, opened in
July 2002.

He has a number of other works in progress, including the
Jewish Museum in San Francisco and the Maurice Wohl Auditorium at Bar-Ilan University
near

Tel Aviv.

The Jewish Museum, the work for which he is most famous, was
completed in 1999. Its unique design drew hundreds of thousands of visitors
even while the building was still empty. The museum was to open to the public
on Sept. 11, 2001, but the event was postponed two days because of the tragic
events in the United States.

“When the attacks happened, I felt personally attacked,”
Libeskind said in a telephone interview from his Berlin office. “My
brother-in-law worked for 30 years in that tower. He had just retired” and so
escaped the fate of thousands of others.

Working on the Berlin museum “prepared me to compete for the
project in New York,” Libeskind said. “I believe the memory of what happened”
in New York “is an eternal part of the place and has to be seriously addressed.
And it is so important to also have something that soars.”

Libeskind said it was essential that people feel comfortable
going to work again at the site.

“It should not be just a symbolic entity. It should affirm
that people work every day at a height that is safe,” he said.

Site developer Larry Silverstein reportedly wanted more
office space in the design proposals.

But “it’s not realistic that anyone would want to work at
that height or that any investor would build it,” Libeskind said. So he created
a place that transforms itself with gardens, an observatory and a restaurant as
it rises to 1,776 feet, symbolizing the year of American independence.

The main tower would be the world’s tallest building. Several
smaller structures would surround it, with the original four-and-a-half-acre
World Trade Center foundation as a focal point.

Libeskind has said it would cost approximately $330 million
to build his design. Construction reportedly would be funded partly by
insurance payments for the destroyed buildings. The plan may go through changes
before it is realized, Libeskind said.

“I think every design evolves, if it is good, and this one
will also,” he said.

Libeskind’s museum has changed Berlin. One of Germany’s most
visited institutions, it has exhibits covering nearly 2,000 years of German
Jewish life. The museum is expecting its one millionth visitor, according to
Eva Soederman, spokeswoman for the Jewish Museum.

School classes provide a large number of the visitors, and
students come away with an understanding that Jews are not merely Holocaust
victims but a people with a rich history, tradition and faith.

Berlin also has changed the Libeskind family — in
particular, his daughter Rachel, who became a bat mitzvah one day before the
gala opening of her father’s building. Speaking to the Oranienburgerstrasse
congregation that morning, Rachel said the history around every corner in
Berlin had affected her self-awareness as a Jew.

“I am the most religious member of the family,” she said.

“That still is true,” her father said with a laugh. “And she
will bring that to New York, a city that has a vital and deeply rooted Jewish
community. That is one of the reasons I am happy we are going there.”  

Community Briefs


Prime Minister ToutsMuseum

If there was any doubt that the Polish government is takingseriously plans to build a Museum of Polish Jewish History in Warsaw, they wereput to rest Feb. 5 in Beverly Hills.

That’s when Leszek Miller, prime minister of Poland, metwith about 100 area Jews to reaffirm his commitment to the long-plannedproject. “We want to reach beyond the image of Poland as a place of martyrdomfor the Jews,” said Miller in his brief prepared remarks. “The museum will be agreat educational project, and a symbol of our new approach to the history ofthe Jews.”

Miller’s appearance before the gathering of Jewish religiousand communal leaders, including Holocaust survivors and elected officials, wasorganized by the Consulate General of Poland in cooperation with the AmericanJewish Committee (AJCommittee). It took place during the first visit by aPolish prime minister to the West Coast, according to Consul General KrzysztofW. Kasprzyk.

Miller announced the establishment of the Museum of theHistory of the Polish Jews in Warsaw last January. The multimedia museum, to bedesigned by Frank Gehry, is to be completed in 2006.

Polish officials, who say that as many as 80 percent of Jewsacross the world can trace their roots back to Poland, hope the museum willspur Jewish tourism to their country. They are also hoping that Jewish donorsabroad will help fund some of the museum’s estimated $63 million cost.

Among other exhibits, the museum will recreate the homes andstreets representing 1,000 years of Jewish civilization in Poland. The Naziinvasion and deportation to death camps claimed the lives of the majority of Poland’s3.5 million Jewish population, which had been the largest in Europe.

Miller said the museum is part of an agenda ofreconciliation between Poland and world Jewry that includes the restitution forJewish property, restoration of Jewish cemeteries, commemoration of victims atdeath camps throughout Poland, and increasing ties between young Jews and Poles,and between Polish and Jewish entrepreneurs. The museum itself will demonstrate”how important a place was occupied by Jews in the history of Poland,” saidMiller.

AJCommittee Los Angeles chapter President Peter Weil saidMiller’s appearance, amidst high level visits with high-tech entrepreneurs anda previous state visit with President George W. Bush, was a clear indication ofthe value the Polish government places on its relations with world Jewry.

Along with Miller and the consul general, guests heardremarks from Rabbi Gary Greenebaum, AJCommittee’s West Coast regional director;County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky; Adrien Brody, star of “The Pianist,” andmuseum director Jerzy Halberstadt. 

For more information the Museum ofPolish Jewish History in Warsaw, go to www.jewishmuseum.org.pl . — Staff Report

 

Media “Blitz”New Israel Fund Cuts Back

The New Israel Fund will centralize and scale back its U.S.offices in the hopes of pumping $1 million more toward peace and social justiceefforts in Israel. The Washington-based group, which promotes peace and civilrights programs in Israel, will close regional offices in Los Angeles, Bostonand Chicago, and expand hubs in New York and San Francisco, the group announcedFeb. 6.

For the three-person Los Angeles staff who will soon faceunemployment as a result of consolidation, the recent news brings mixedreactions.

“I still strongly believe in the importance of theorganization and the value of its work in Israel, and I understand that theinternational board that made the decision took a lot of issues intoconsideration in reaching its conclusions,” said Los Angeles New Israel FundDirector David Moses. “At the same time, I’m deeply disappointed in the closingof this office. We’ve had 4 years of continuous growth and increased visibilityin the Los Angeles Jewish community and I’m very proud of what we’veaccomplished here.”

The move was aimed at lowering the group’s overhead andconsolidating operations, and should largely fund the additional $1 million for Israel, officials said. The fund said it has awarded $120 million to 700Israeli groups since 1979. — Rachel Brand, Staff Writer

Tzedakah for Chanukah


The Chanukah wish lists of six needy local Jewish families
will be filled by generous families from Rancho Santa Margarita’s Morasha
Jewish Day School.

“These families have been financially disadvantaged for a
long time,” said Charlene Edwards, social services director for Jewish Family
Service of Orange County. “They asked for things our children take for
granted.”

On Dec. 4, in time for Chanukah, Edwards was scheduled to
collect gift baskets filled with wrapped toys and clothing, along with gift
certificates for groceries, movie tickets and haircuts. The cumulative
contributions from students, parents and faculty likely tallies $1,500, said
Robin S. Hoffman, the school’s Jewish studies coordinator. “We’ve been
inundated in the last week.”

The Chanukah effort is one of the first outcomes of
Morasha’s involvement with a three-year national research project of Hebrew
Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Los Angeles. Its Rhea Hirsch
School of Education selected eight schools to participate in Jewish Day Schools
for the 21st Century, a project to demonstrate how schools can serve as a
Jewish learning catalyst for an entire community, said Eve Fein, Morasha’s
director.

As part of the project, a 25-parent panel, which has met
regularly over the last year, settled on enhancing certain Jewish values.
Morasha’s parents chose tzedakah (charity).

“So often, kids never see the end result,” said Kathleen A.
Canter, of Aliso Viejo, a panel participant who has two children in the school.
“We wanted the whole school community involved. It’s powerful when it’s visible
to all.”

The Battle Over Mesivta


At a shabby, deserted golf course in an isolated area of Calabasas, a half-started construction site sits idle, and some 31 yeshiva bocherim learn Talmud at the makeshift campus of Mesivta of Greater Los Angeles.

Rabbi Shlomo Gottesman had opened the high school with nine students in 1997, hoping to transform it into a first-class yeshiva complete with dormitories, a beit midrash (study hall) and a basketball court. But, now five years later, his plans are stuck in the mud, because of a legal battle with a nearby homeowners association.

The protracted court case, which is now awaiting an environmental impact report (EIR) from the school, shows how badly a school building project can go when met with fiery opposition by the surrounding community.

The opposition first began in July of 1998, when one-third of the residents of Mountain View Estates — a gated community of million-dollar homes located a half-mile west of the yeshiva — signed a petition protesting the project and brought it before the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors. Among their objections were noise, traffic congestion, airborne contamination from digging at the site and "negative impact on the visual quality" of the rustic neighborhood. Representatives of Mountain View’s homeowners association even staged a protest for visiting members of the county’s regional planning commission on at least one occasion.

Despite the residents’ objections the board granted Mesivta a conditional-use permit. But the fight wasn’t over. Following the ruling in 1999, Mountain View sued the County for awarding Mesivta the conditional-use permit without an EIR. Last year, the homeowners won in the appellate court, which ordered Mesivta leaders to cease construction until they could come up with a full EIR. Gottesman said he hopes to have the document completed by the end of the year.

Gottesman said he is "disappointed but not heartbroken" by the legal battle. "Our momentum has slowed down but it hasn’t been lost," he said. He hopes that the homeowners association’s new board of directors — rumored to be voted in soon — will be able to conduct better relations between the two groups.

But could the whole process have been avoided if Gottesman had worked with the homeowners’ group prior to embarking on the project?

Initially, Gottesman had been surprised at the objections. He had intended to be a good neighbor, he said, meeting with Calabasas city officials and representatives of the community of Hidden Hills — but not with those at Mountain View. After the battle began in earnest, Gottesman told The Journal in August 1998 that he could have done things differently.

"I admit it was a mistake on my part, not to get in touch with them earlier," Gottesman had said. "Now the hard-earned funds for teaching Torah are instead being used to pay legal fees."

Several current and former members of the Mountain View Estates homeowners association board were contacted for comment, but all declined to speak to The Journal.

Despite the unfinished campus, the school has managed to attract 31 students this year, split among the ninth, 10th and 11th grades. Mesivta even graduated its first class of seniors last June, although there will be no such class this year because of the county’s restriction on enrollment for the 1999-2000 school year.

Currently, the school employs three teachers fulltime and eleven parttime, plus a trio of kitchen and ground staff. Most of the students live on campus in rudimentary dormitories, although a few commute in from the city with their teachers.

A majority of the infrastructure has been completed, Gottesman said, for what will be an 11-building campus, including grading the property, installing retaining walls and constructing the paved areas for several buildings. They have also put in a sewer system and conduits for water and gas lines.

That work, plus the initial purchase of the 8.5-acre property and legal fees, amounted of $2.5 million, Gottesman said — nearly all of the money raised to date. The rabbi said he has additional commitments that should bring in another $400,000, but will need to raise $6 million on top of that to complete the project.

"There’s a lot of money yet to be raised. We have no mortgage and we have taken no loans, but if we have to we will take out a construction loan," Gottesman said. "The advantage of the project is we don’t need one lump sum, because there are 11 small buildings instead of one big one, so we will be able to go in phases."

"I certainly see a challenge ahead but I am optimistic," Gottesman said. "I think as soon as people see action, action begets action. The action of construction begets the action of donation."

Honey Brings Joy to Needy Israeli Families


Some 2,000 needy families in the Israeli communities of Kiryat Malachi and Hof Ashkelon had a sweeter New Year thanks to the generosity of Orange County’s Jewish community.

Each of these families received a gift of honey sent by O.C. residents in a project organized by 11 local Jewish organizations to tangibly display their support for Israel. A poignant message was added to each jar: "We are with you in sweetness and sorrow."

"Israelis feel alone and isolated today," explained Ira Kerem, a community representative in Israel for United Jewish Communities, which has established sister city ties in Israel for its federation of U.S. communities. "This is a small way to show that they are not alone and that people in at least one location care enough to send them bottles of honey."

Some of the recipient families were startled to receive the sweet nectar in a mass distribution effort by social workers and local teen volunteers. Many asked, "Why would people outside Israel care about us?" The accompanying cards were written in Hebrew, Russian and Ethiopian’s Amharic, the language mix in the area of recently arrived immigrants.

Since the honey is produced at a local apiary, Hof Ashkelon’s Yad Mordechai, it is hoped the project benefited the region economically, too. Some of the funds raised by the honey purchases will go toward other projects in the economically depressed region, said Federation President Lou Weiss, a member of the task force that organized the honey airlift.

Celebrating Length of Days


Fifteen years ago, in the city with the second-largest Jewish population in the world, the idea of a Jewish hospice service lived and died. The truth was that the Los Angeles Jewish community was not ready to support a spiritual service for the dying.

Rabbis Carla Howard and Sheldon Pennes, founders of the recently created Jewish Hospice Project, Los Angeles, think they know why.

The idea of hospice "is not very Jewish," Howard saidwhile sitting in the Skirball cafeteria after a day of teaching at Milken Community High School. "It’s giving up the fight; the commandment is to embrace life, so the misconception is that if you choose hospice, then you’re giving up on life."

"It’s not a sexy topic," said Pennes, rabbi of Montebello’s Temple B’nai Emet, "People don’t like to talk about it. Lots of money [from the Jewish community] goes into medical research … but research will not help those people who are dying, afraid and alone, every day."

In the past, hospice defined a safe house where pilgrims and the homeless were offered lodging, usually by a religious order. Today, we know of hospice as a place where terminally ill patients with less than six months to live go to end their days. Treatment is palliative, focusing on pain management rather than cures, and often includes spiritual counseling in preparation for death. The idea is to treat death with dignity, surrounding the patient with family and friends rather than machines.

Though support for hospice is apparent in the general public these days, the Los Angeles Jewish community must rely on other services, such as Trinity Care Hospice, a wing of Catholic Healthcare West, which serves Jewish Home for the Aging, rather than any Jewish hospice. (The Home recently released plans to open a 16-patient hospice, available to the communty, when their new facilities open at the beginning of May.) Until recently, even Cedars-Sinai had only a per-diem rabbi on call to serve Jewish clientele.

A year ago at a Purim carnival, Howard and Pennes began to talk about the need for a Jewish hospice in Los Angeles. For 11 years, Howard had studied Jewish healing and spirituality, and had served as associate rabbi for one year at Metivta, A Center for Contemplative Judaism. Pennes works as chaplain at Trinity Care Hospice, witnessing daily the need for Jewish spiritual end-of-life care. They both decided to go for it, despite the challenges they knew lay ahead.

"What bothered me the most," Pennes said, "was all the money … after a person dies, but there’s a lack of money for end-of-life care."

He cites the disparity in fees: a pulpit rabbi gets $350 for a funeral; a rabbi who visits the sick at a hospice gets $20 an hour. "There was nothing really there for those who needed this care," he lamented.

"The most important thing that we want to teach people is that to choose hospice is to choose life," Howard said. "When my pain is managed, then I can get down to the work of living. I get to say the things that I never said, make the connections to the relationships that are there, as opposed to getting the cure here, trying medical advances there. It’s how to live with dying."

Not every dying patient is ready to receive spiritual care, Howard acknowledged. She found that people very much die as they live: on their own terms.

"I was called to a woman [in hospice] whose body looked like she should have given up the ghost a long time before, but she was hanging on. She made no mention of death. We just had a nice conversation, weekly, for three months," Howard said. "Then one day a hospice nurse was changing her wound and I asked the patient if there was anything she wanted to say. ‘What will it be like at the end?’ she asked the nurse. I facilitated the conversation, and once the nurse explained what it would be like, the woman got down to the business of tying up relationships … and died a few weeks later."

Howard and Pennes have many similar stories of people, affiliated and nonaffiliated, who want a deeper connection toward the end. "There aren’t many of us around trained to do hospice work," Pennes said. "People think pulpit rabbis can do this kind of work, but they are already so stressed to the limit, they can’t give the time that hospice visits demand. Hospice care requires being with the family for months and intensive time at the end. So, basically, the work is not getting done."

Both Howard and Pennes base their work on bikkur cholim, God’s commandment to visit the sick. No person’s final journey should be alone, they believe. What they propose, and are doing on a limited basis now, is training medical care professionals and rabbinical students in the art of hospice.

"I teach people how to be present with people who are sick, how not to fill the space but make the space," Howard explained. "Jewish tradition teaches us that the divine presence hovers over the bed of a sick person. Our job is to reflect that divine presence [back to the person] and to help the patient, if they can, come to that spiritual experience.

"Each death is as unique as each person’s fingerprint. I walk in with a sense of awe and humility…. If I’m mindful of the situation and present, then God’s presence will do the healing," she said.

So far, Howard and Pennes have been struggling with "initial growing pains" (i.e., the difficulty of raising money in the Jewish community). They’ve had wonderful moral support, they say, and they’re most proud of the fact that they have an advisory board of rabbis from every denomination who unanimously support the need for a Jewish hospice. But funds are still lacking.

"We’ve raised a small amount of money for our nonprofit papers, applied for some grants and hired a grant writer," Pennes said. "We need $350,000 for the initial year, and then an additional $100,000 to $200,000 over the next couple years to pay for hospice chaplains, design curriculum and training, and outreach in the Jewish community."

Howard and Pennes, who also teaches at Milken Community High School,hold various other jobs as well. They would devote themselves full time to the Jewish Hospice Project, if they could. Through outreach and word-of-mouth, they hope to find the person who can help them put Jewish Hospice Project, Los Angeles, on the map. The work, they believe, may be the most important work a person can ever do.

"The dying process strips away every identity you have as a person, everything you know and hold, and what you are left with is your deepest self," Howard said, as she rose to go, late for a visit with a sick patient. "The divine presence will help the patient be in touch with their deepest self if we the visitor, we the rabbi … reflect back to the patient in hospice, and hold the space for them. They will do the work."

An ‘Embrace’ to Remember


Sixty members of Young Israel of Century City gingerly walked on the muddy path and crowded into Dalia Har Sinai’s little farmhouse in the southern Hebron Hills community of Susia. Outside, the sheep and goats were in the barn. The farm and grazing land and organic vegetable patch were freshly green after much-needed rains.

Har Sinai sat in front of her small kerosene stove. Her visitors sat on cushions on the floor and on some plastic chairs that neighbors supplied. Weavings and crafts hung from the walls and ceilings while some of Har Sinai’s nine children passed out juice and fruit. “It’s fruit from Eretz Yisroel. Take some,” she said, a smile radiating inner peace.

However, the synagogue members hadn’t come to sightsee or eat. They came to bring Har Sinai’s family things it badly need — money and, more importantly, friendship and understanding. But they left Har Sinai without the one thing she needs more than anything else and no one can give — her husband, Yair. Arab terrorists gunned him down last summer, 200 yards from the house, on that picturesque, pastoral, peaceful-looking field, as he was herding his sheep and goats.

Project Embrace linked up Young Israel with Har Sinai, and is trying to connect all Jews with Israeli terror victims. It is sponsored by the One Family-Israel Emergency Solidarity Fund (IESF), American and Israeli-based organizations that recently teamed up and were behind the L.A. walk-a-thon in December that raised more than $300,000.

Sharon Evans of Ashkelon, director of Project Embrace, describes how the project started. “I visited a congregation in New York and shared my story of my daughter, who still is recovering from a terrorist attack. I was asked how a family in the States could personally help a victim of terror and their family. It was then that the idea of ‘adopt a family’ was born.”

Project Embrace bills itself as apolitical. It brings money directly to terror victims, circumventing heavy administrative costs that burden many organizations. “More than 2,000 people have been injured and 260 have been killed in the past year and a half,” says Chantal Belzberg, whose 12-year-old daughter Michal helped inspire her parents to start One Family.

Michal’s bat mitzvah was on the same day an Arab terrorist killed 15 people in Sbarro’s restaurant. Her party was to be a week later. Her parents discussed the idea of a celebration amid the reality of terror. She said she did not want a lavish event when people were suffering. The Belzbergs canceled the party and instead, visited the wounded and spoke to them about their needs. Afterward, the Belzbergs formed One Family, linked up with the IESF and then began Project Embrace.

“When you meet someone personally, it becomes reality,” said Rabbi Elazar Muskin of Young Israel of Century City following the visit with Har Sinai.

Har Sinai needs about $15,000 to hire two people to herd the sheep and goats, work that her husband used to do, Muskin said, noting that they used to get by on income from goats’ milk, butter, homemade organic bread and organic vegetables. With nine growing children, her expenses continue to mount.

“Yair and I saw the farm as an important educational tool in the age of high-tech and mechanization,” Har Sinai said. They have no television or computer. “Yair compared ‘computer’ to a witch, which in Hebrew is almost the same word.”

“We always wanted to be close to the land, to get back to basics and live as our forefathers did,” she adds. The couple grew up on non-religious moshavs (cooperatives) in the north, before they became baal teshuvah (returned to Judaism).

“Yair never carried a gun,” Har Sinai said. “One night the sheep and goats came to the barn. It was unlocked, and Yair was not with them. I knew something had happened.” Neighbors searched the fields into the middle of the night when they found him — murdered.

Congregation members from B’nai David Judea in Los Angeles also were in Israel last week. Project Embrace spoke to them in Jerusalem and they immediately changed their schedule and asked to adopt a family, another mother of nine children. They were teamed up with Pnina Gutman, who lives in Emmanuel, a community of about 4,000 in the Samarian Hills, about 45 minutes east of Tel Aviv. Terrorists murdered her husband and nine other Israelis in December.

“We live comfortably in Los Angeles and felt a need to help,” said B’nai David Judea’s Rabbi Yosef Kanefsky. “We want our children to keep in touch with them so they know they have friends in the Diaspora.”

For both congregations, it’s not just a one-shot deal. “We want to keep up communication with Dalia and the children,” Muskin said.

“Everyone has said to us that you don’t know how much your visit means, that Jews in the Diaspora care.”

UJC Launches Campaign


The umbrella of North American federations is set to unveil a multipronged, $4-million solidarity campaign titled "Israel NOW — and Forever."

The United Jewish Communities (UJC) project — which should receive final approval by late July — combines various advocacy, education and fundraising activities and will last until winter, said Gail Hyman, UJC’s vice president for marketing and public affairs.

"We understand there’s a great desire for a national program," Hyman said. "We have a responsibility to listen to our community and to offer the kind of program that will resonate from coast to coast. And unfortunately, that takes a little time. But now we have the support, and we’re ready to act."

The first step will be this weekend’s "Solidarity Shabbat" of UJC leadership in Jerusalem, where the group will meet with Israeli leaders and hammer out final details of the campaign.

Among the other campaign highlights:

  • Heavy promotion of solidarity missions to Israel.

  • Advocacy- and media-training for campus and community activists, in conjunction with local Hillels and Jewish community relations councils, "to train their leadership to become strong advocates on behalf of Israel," Hyman said.

  • A fundraising initiative to assist all Israeli families directly affected during the violence by death, injury, property destruction or psychological damage — and perhaps even economic support for small-business owners. "We understand there are lots of children having great difficulty," Hyman said.

  • A media tour that will take Israeli spokesmen and U.S. Middle East experts — scholars, journalists and other opinion-shapers — into key communities across North America to meet with local media.

  • A major mission to Israel, called "Journey to Solidarity I," to be held Sept. 9 to 14.

  • Production of 1 million leaflets, to be distributed Sept. 17 in all synagogues during Rosh Hashanah, to remind Jews of the need for solidarity. "As we sound the shofar this year, it will also be a call to action for every Jew in North America," Hyman said.

  • A Solidarity Shabbat on Sept. 22 and 23 that will reach out to synagogues, churches and university campuses to show that "support for Israel extends beyond the Jewish community," Hyman said.

  • A major outdoor rally in New York on Sept. 23, with a concurrent rally possible in Los Angeles. New York was chosen not only because of its huge Jewish community but because it is America’s media capital, Hyman said. The UJC also "wants our voices heard by members of the United Nations," which will be convening their General Assembly just days later.

One on One With Steve Soboroff


Real estate broker, Parks and Recreation Commissioner, and Staples Center deal-maker Steve Soboroff likes to speak of his summer job, when he was growing up in the San Fernando Valley, driving actor Kirk Douglas around town and answering his fan mail. Thirty years later, he says, Douglas called him up.

“‘Steve,” Douglas said, handing him his current slogan, “you’re a problem solver, not a politician.'” Soboroff recounts that Douglas, whose park-building activities have extended as far as East Jerusalem, charged him with improving and/or building new parks, a feat he says he accomplished with far more aplomb than anyone imagined possible. “We built hundreds of parks in the time previous administrations were hard put to build eight,” Soboroff tells voters.

I met Soboroff on a weekday afternoon while he held court for various media representatives at a Starbucks in Studio City. Dressed casually in slacks and an oxford shirt, Soboroff seemed as enthused and engaged as during the times I saw him debating rivals at various synagogue forums. “You should have heard my daughter’s idea for a slogan,” he said, laughing. “Vote for Steve or leave!”

This is the second in Sheldon Teitelbaum’s series of interviews with the leading mayoral candidates.


Sheldon Teitelbaum: Jewish upbringing?

Steve Soboroff: Was never strong. We moved so much. I was never bar mitzvahed. I won’t say I found myself in Israel, but I got a lot of validation that I was a good guy.

ST: What’s the secret to getting hundreds of parks finished in the time it once took, as you’ve said, to do a handful?

SS: The people who work in the depth of the department, like me, they feel like they are doing something, that they are important in the organization. They feel motivated. That’s the key. I bought these hats that say “Team Record Parks” and I give them away when I see someone doing a good job. I gave out 4,300 hats.

ST: So next time we want something done in this city we should give out hats?

SS: It isn’t about money…. I had this idea about the Staples Center, that we should try and save this convention center that’s been losing $16 million a year. Let’s try to bring in the Lakers and the Kings. I knew the guy who bought the Kings because I worked on the Alameda Corridor with him, so I called him and said, “Why not down here? There’s only two rules. You have to build the building yourself, and no taxpayer money.”

ST: Apparently there is taxpayer money involved, no?

SS: None … They bought the land for $70 million. The city borrowed the money, and the taxes that came in from that project paid the mortgage. There was never ever public money.

ST:: Do you have a vision for the city?

SS: Yeah, the Staples Center was a vision. The Alameda Corridor is a huge visionary project. I have a very simple vision for this city. I want people in eight years to say I live in L.A. because I want to.

ST: Do you think people live here because they don’t want to?

SS: I think many people live here because they can’t go somewhere else and feel they’re trapped by their job, and they’re not happy with the traffic and public education and public safety. And I want people to say, “No, I love being here. We do have a public education system that works; we’re not in total traffic gridlock,” while these guys are dreaming about double-decking the freeway system. Why don’t we do some common-sense measures now, instead of something that will take 40 years and cost $120 billion? … We should have reversible lanes on major streets like Sepulveda. We should stop construction during rush hour. We should have staggered work hours downtown. We should have uniformed traffic officers at busy intersections. We should have traffic lights that work on demand instead of timers.

ST: You’re fond of saying that if the vending machine is broken, give it a swift kick. Is that all we need in L.A. — a swift kick in the pants?

SS: The recent talk about secession, with the Daily News leading the charge, has been taking the entire city’s operation and putting it in a fishbowl. I think it’s extremely healthy.

ST: So you don’t see in secession an attempt by the middle class to unburden itself of the lower classes?

SS: That’s one way to interpret it. The middle class feels like it’s putting a dollar bill in the machine and only getting two quarters in services back. They’re concerned with walking out of their house and having the trees trimmed, not tripping on the sidewalks, not having potholes in the streets, having traffic that works, sending their kid to a school that works, and above all else pushing 911 and having someone actually show up. I don’t want to see a separation of classes. I want to work our way out of it, and I’ve done it before…. I’ve been as warmly greeted in Latino and African-American communities as I have in synagogues…. I’m going to ask organizations to nominate people to be involved in the city and get a good cross-section that way.

ST: Is there no contradiction between your concern for the environment and your apparent affiliation with developers?

SS: I don’t see any at all. The kind of work I’ve done and I think is possible to do can be sensitive to the environment and can at best case mitigate some of the past wrongs…. As parks commissioner, I created and renovated an awful lot of parks…. As a real estate person, I’m only paid for closing, for finishing things. I’m never paid for whining at press conferences or making up stories.

ST: When you mentioned term limits at one of your debates as a motivator for your rivals, people hissed and booed. Why is that?

SS: I don’t know why. What I’m saying is, I believe that in L.A., now more than ever before, we need a mayor that has more than a career in politics…. We’re going into a recessionary period now. We need someone that has a balance of business and public service and philanthropic life. To listen to these stories from career politicians that [say], “Well, I’m against this.”… Nobody had anything to do with Rampart. Give me a break. There were a number of failures implementing Christopher Commission reforms by the political structure of the City of Los Angeles. Period. But no, let’s just turn it over to the federal government — they can handle it…. I believe 90 percent of the LAPD are wonderful citizens who work hard, and instead of watching their name besmirched, they want to quit. They want out because there is no political support; they can’t make an arrest without risking their careers. They certainly don’t deserve to have to hand people they are arresting a card saying, “If I was rude to you, call my supervisor.” There’s no morale in the department.

ST: What’s your beef with Wachs?

SS: I think Joel’s reputation is based on standing alone and complaining about what other people are doing. I don’t think Hahn has the experience or the depth. His father may have. Look, I think they’re all lovely, OK?

ST: Any Jewish issues get your attention in this election?

SS: You bet. The insensitivity of the MTA is one. You’ve got this booming observant community in L.A., corridors all over the place — Hancock Park, Lankershim, Chandler, Pico, and these light-rail systems bisecting these communities is a major issue. The traffic needs to go through the freeway, where it belongs, not on light rail. A lot of people are crossing the street on Shabbos and don’t push buttons on lights. We have to figure that out. The communities will pay for the little things, like timers, they need. We’re not talking religion but culture, tradition, heritage and religion, and the city can be more respectful of a lot of communities, not just the Jewish community.

Also, education. Many people choose to educate their children in Jewish schools, and they’re paying through the nose for this public school system. I believe by creating neighborhood school districts, for the same amount of money you could have a system that educates children instead of one where 80 percent can’t read or write. Jewish people don’t mind giving if there is something coming in return. And if there’s something coming in return from these big school systems, it’s graffiti on our walls and gang members and kids who can’t read or write, and when you go to a restaurant you don’t get what you ordered because people don’t have basic math skills. All you need to do is provide the kids with a proper education, and at least Jewish people will say, “Well, at least my money is going to something worthwhile and not being wasted.”

Golden-Aged Tell-All


The scene: Avenue of the Stars, Century City.

The characters: A few older men in a Park Hyatt suite.

The action: They kibbitz

Turner Classic Movies (TCM) is here from Atlanta to interview Golden Age Hollywood figures for an oral history, the Turner Classic Movies Archive Project. TCM’s goal is to get all available witnesses to tell their cinematic stories. The project is modeled after the Survivors of the Shoah Visual History Foundation.

"Not to be morbid, but there’s something rejoicing in both projects," explained Tom Karsch, executive vice-president and general manager of TCM. "Here we have an opportunity to talk to people about one of the most exciting times in our country’s history — from the silent period to the way movies are made today."

Project leader Alexa Foreman has talked to everyone from June Allyson to Elmer Bernstein, Haskell Wexler to Shelley Winters. The interviews are employed as clips to tickle and teach viewers during TCM film festivals.

"Child actresses, stunt guys, make-up people, coaches, composers, producers," Foreman said, reeling off her subjects.

"There’s a sense of urgency that this is the right thing to do," added Karsch. "We’ve already lost over 40 of the 221 people," most recently Stanley Kramer and Gwen Verdon. Newest interviewees this spring include screenwriter Irving Brecher, who wrote two Marx Brothers films and "Bye Bye Birdie," and Haskell Wexler, cinematographer for "Coming Home," "Medium Cool," "In The Heat of the Night," "The Muse Concert: No Nukes" and other amazing features and documentaries.

Meanwhile, alive and kibbitzing today are screenwriters Bernard Gordon ("Krakatoa, East of Java"), Philip Yordan ("El Cid") and Sidney Sheldon ("Easter Parade"). A bunch of storytellers sitting around talking. What’s better than that? Forty years ago Gordon and Yordan shared lives in Spain where they wrote as front and blacklisted screenwriter. Gordon shows off a book out called "Hollywood Exile: How I Learned to Love the Blacklist."

"It’s ironic but true," he explains. "Because when I escaped and went to Europe, I finally became a success."

Then Yordan shows off a quote attributed to him on the back cover: "Everything Bernie writes about me is untrue, but I found the book fascinating."

Sidney Sheldon describes the films he first wrote. "I can’t even call them B pictures," he jokes. "They were Z pictures."

"Eventually I wrote a story called ‘Suddenly It’s Spring,’ and David Selznick hired me to write the screenplay. One day he called me in and he said, I’m changing the title. And I said, to what, sir? He said, ‘The Bachelor and The Bobby-Soxer.’ And because I knew so much about show business, I said, Mr. Selznick, sir, nobody is going to pay to see a picture called ‘The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer.’ So it opened at Radio City Music Hall, I got an Oscar and that’s how much I know about show business."

Gordon tells project interviewer Maureen Corley how he came out to L.A. from the Bronx with 16 bucks.

"I worked for the famous Jack Warner," he relates. "Warner called writers ‘schmucks with typewriters.’"

"By the time [the anti-Communist hearings] got to me," he explains, "it was sort of the bottom of the barrel of Hollywood. I was never called. They told me to stand by. Maybe I’m still standing by."

Unable to work, Gordon became what he calls, "the world’s worst plastics salesman" in downtown L.A. His boss was his friend, Ray Marcus. Gordon put "Raymond T. Marcus" on "Hellcats of the Navy" in 1957, and half a dozen other scripts.

Then he moved to Spain, where Yordan had a home, and together they created "The Day of the Triffids" (1962), "55 Days at Peking" (1963), "Circus World" (1964), and "Battle of the Bulge" (1965). Yordan also won an Oscar for writing "Broken Lance," a 1954 western with Spencer Tracy.

The next behind-the-camera contender is producer Armand Deutsch. A dapper 87, Deutsch is wearing a sharp blue suit set off by gold eagle cufflinks. He also carries his book "Me and Bogey."

"I’m thinking I could have a romance with Lana Turner and come back to New York," says Deutsch about why he came out from Wall Street to Hollywood 60 years ago. Deutsch regales interviewer Foreman with stories in a gentlemanly cultured timbre that will play grandly to the classic movie crowd.

"What does a producer do?" Foreman asks.

"I don’t know," Deutsch says. "But we’re all here. A producer gets them all together. I was prepared to do every part of picture making. Compared to today, it was kind of a snap."

Gordon says he’s on his way to the University of Wisconsin. "I am planning to donate my scripts and documents to them," he tells Yordan. "I’d like to get a script from you."

"Whatever you want Bernie," says his pal.

At the end of the day, Yordan will go back to La Jolla in a limo. Gordon lives near the hotel. And TCM packs up another collection of memories and old men whose work will live forever as classics.

"There’s nothing more enlightening than hearing it from somebody who was there," says Karsch. "These people are living history."

The interviews go to the Margaret Herrick Library at the Center for Motion Picture Study on South La Cienega, "in a climate-controlled vault," notes Corley. TCM and the Peabody Library at the University of Georgia also get copies.

Got time for one more? Here’s Sidney Sheldon on Groucho Marx:

"Groucho was probably my closest friend. Godfather to my daughter. I’ll tell you what people didn’t realize about Groucho: he meant what he said. And people took it as a joke. One night we had a dinner date. Both our wives were actresses, and they got a call to be on the set the next day. So I called Groucho and I said, it’s just the two of us, and he said, how do you want me to dress? I said, well, dress nicely, I don’t want to be ashamed of you. When I picked him up, he was wearing his wife’s dress with a little hat, high-heeled shoes and smoking a cigar. He invited me in, but what he forgot was that some people from CBS were coming over to talk to him about a show. So they walk in. I ran into one a couple days later and I said, what did you think? And he said if it had been anyone but Groucho, he would have been very worried. Groucho was unique and wonderful."

For the seventh consecutive year in March, Turner Classic Movies presents 31 Days of Oscar, a festival of 346 films that have won or been nominated for Academy Awards. TCM host and Oscar expert Robert Osborne and turnerclassicmovies. com ( left above) guide viewers through Oscar’s greatest moments.

Good Deeds


When Becca Yuré turned 13, her enthusiasm for pandas became the focus of her Bat Mitzvah celebration. Her Torah portion provided a neat tie-in to her message: the importance of caring for endangered species. At her party, stuffed panda toys graced the tables, and teenaged guests took home panda T-shirts. In honor of the simcha, Yuré and her family wrote a check to the World Wildlife Foundation.

But it’s the rare 13-year-old who spontaneously decides to use a Bar or Bat Mitzvah as an occasion for doing good deeds. That’s why synagogue B’nai Mitzvah programs encourage young teens who are being showered with gifts and attention to try thinking beyond themselves. Many rabbis and B’nai Mitzvah teachers suggest to their students that a portion of the gift money be put toward a worthy cause. And celebrating families are routinely urged to donate 3 percent of the amount they are spending on their parties to MAZON: Jewish Response to Hunger.

Some synagogues have devised more formal ways of promoting charitable impulses among their B’nai Mitzvah candidates. Adat Ari El in North Hollywood, for one, has in place a voluntary “Thirteen Mitzvot” program. Students who choose to participate engage in a set number of ritual and ethical acts of their own choosing. In the category of gemilut chasadim (acts of kindness), they might tutor younger students, assist in synagogue events, or perform the mitzvah of bikur cholim by visiting the sick. Those credited with all 13 mitzvot receive a gold pen during the B’nai Mitzvah ceremony.

Sephardic Temple Tifereth Israel in Westwood incorporates the concept of tikkun olam (healing the world) into its B’nai Mitzvah curriculum by asking seventh-grade students to take charge of several classroom tzedakah projects. This year’s students have chosen to organize a school-wide book drive, toy drive and canned-food drive. They make classroom presentations urging younger students to pitch in; once the drive is over, they vote on the organizations that will receive the items they’ve collected. These same seventh-graders are also staging a read-a-thon to benefit the Jewish Braille Institute.

At Agoura’s Beth Haverim, targeted
charitable giving is first emphasized in the year preceding Bar and Bat Mitzvah. Teacher Heidi Rich has introduced to her sixth-grade classes the notion that they can choose the recipient of their weekly monetary tzedakah contributions. This year, one of her classes has picked MAZON; the other has selected Pet Assisted Therapy, a program that brings dogs to visit hospital patients. Representatives of the chosen organizations visit the classroom, explaining what their work is all about. Filled with a new sense of purpose, Rich’s students tend to give generously. When $100 has been collected, Rich sends a check to the chosen beneficiary and rewards her kids with a pizza party. Then the tzedakah box begins making the rounds again.

By the time Beth Haverim students are seventh-graders, they are ready for more hands-on giving. Rabbi Gershon Johnson encourages all B’nai Mitzvah candidates to participate once a month in an interfaith consortium that feeds the homeless of the Conejo Valley. They also collect Chanukah gifts for needy Jewish families as part of a project co-sponsored by the synagogue and Jewish Family Service. Beyond this, each B’nai Mitzvah student is expected to research a Jewish charitable organization to which he or she will make a monetary gift. Part of the B’nai Mitzvah speech must be devoted to the reasons behind the student’s selection. One unusual entry on the synagogue’s B’nai Mitzvah tzedakah list is the Therapeutic Riding Club of Israel, which provides equestrian experiences for Israelis suffering from physical and emotional injuries. This organization has proved a popular choice, because it plays into many teens’ love of horses, while also giving them a chance to connect with one aspect of modern Israeli society.

Michael Raileanu, now religious school director at Westwood’s Sinai Temple, was until recently director of education at Beth Haverim. He believes it’s essential that students “donate somewhere that has some meaning,” so students are asked to make inquiries about chairtable organizations prior to the Bar or Bat Mitzvah day. By creating phone or pen-pal relationships with these organizations, they establish personal stakes in them, perhaps paving the way for long-term involvement. Raileanu notes that most B’nai Mitzvah celebrations tend to be dominated by the wishes of the parents. He feels that the choosing of an appropriate charity “can be one area where the kids still have a little bit of control.”

At Sinai Temple, students commonly make charitable donations with their gift money. But religious school Judaic studies coordinator Michal Freis also hopes to inspire her B’nai Mitzvah students by taking them on monthly field trips. They have learned first-hand about charitable work by wrapping gifts for the homeless at the Chrysalis Center, planting a garden of native plants at the Malibu Nature Preserve, and signing prayers at a service held by Temple Solomon for the Deaf. One important aspect of Freis’s program is the time that students spend in the classroom, making a connection between Torah and the social problem that each organization is designed to address. Before visiting Temple Solomon, for instance, they studied traditional Jewish views of the disabled. Freis says, “We teach the lessons from the Torah, then take them out of the Torah into the world. The Torah and the world aren’t separate.”

Sinai’s approach is to bring B’nai Mitzvah students into the community, hoping that among these class excursions, each teen will find a cause that stirs his or her passion.

At Kehillat Israel in Pacific Palisades, where congregants have a long-standing commitment to social action, each seventh-grader is required to devise a personal mitzvah project. Nancy Levin, director of religious education at Kehillat Israel, explains that students must devote at least 18 hours to their projects and must incorporate them into their B’nai Mitzvah ceremonies whenever possible.

So when Steven Yates opted to help stock the shelves at SOVA, the kosher food pantry became the leitmotif for his Bar Mitzvah day. Yates’ invitations contained literature about SOVA, and all guests were asked to bring a can of food to the ceremony, where the bima was colorfully decorated with bags of fruit and beans, all of them purchased by the Yates family for donation to SOVA when the day was over. Most important, Yates’ project became a family affair that still continues. Although his Bar Mitzvah was in June 1999, Yates, parents Ken and Leslie, and 10-year-old sister Lauren still make the trek to SOVA almost every Sunday morning.

Kehillat Israel students tend to get creative, choosing projects tailored to their personal interests and concerns. The Auerbach-Lynn family likes athletics, so Brett (now 18) decided to raise funds for SOVA by entering a series of 5K races. By appealing to the local business community for sponsorship, he raised $1,300 over a period of five months. His sister Berit, knowing that her grandmother had died of breast cancer, put her energies into assembling a large team of women to enter the Revlon Run-Walk, dedicated to the cause of breast cancer research.

For Lilah Sugarman, choosing a project was easy. Because her young brother Alon has been a cancer patient at the City of Hope, she knows how much other young patients enjoy receiving toys for their birthdays or before major surgery. So her Bat Mitzvah this past November became the occasion for a toy drive. Now she looks forward to distributing the items personally. Her mitzvah project has brought her much personal satisfaction to go along with her pride in becoming a full-fledged Jewish adult. Sugarman says, “It makes you feel good — helping people.”

Networking with Net Workers


As June began, so did The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles’ new Hi-Tech Division. The Federation officially booted up its Web-surfing coalition by the surf, with a shindig at the Santa Monica Beach-combing Casa del Mar Hotel.

Co-chairs Sheryl Biesman of JOBTRAK.COM and Beth Ifcher of GO.com addressed a cocktail reception of several hundred young professionals involved in some aspect of the online, interactive, new media and technology fields. The Hi-Tech Division ultimately intends to involve the dot-com set in community-building causes sponsored by The Federation. Ifcher announced that the first community project by the Hi-Tech collective will be to equip senior citizens at Menorah Housing with the Internet and teach them online basics.

“We know that this group wants to do a lot of hands-on projects that make a difference,” says director Karen Sternfeld, who was among the driven young professionals on the Hi-Tech Division’s founding committee. “Helping seniors through the Menorah Housing project will be just the first of many to come.”Ifcher told The Journal that the Hi-Tech Division will not only become a prime networking opportunity, but will serve as an effective tool in “educating people about where the money is going to. I never knew, until I got involved, what humanitarian services The Jewish Federation offers.”

Indeed, interest in the division mirrors an increase in the union between the business world and philanthropy. Charitable contributions in the United States increased 9.1 percent (up to $190 billion) following a dry spell throughout the 1990s when contribution levels stagnated, despite dramatic economic growth, according to Newsweek.

As for Sternfeld, she couldn’t be more pleased with the enthusiastic reaction to both the division and the launch event.

“A number of donors have recently become involved in this industry and expressed a desire to network with each other and give back to the community,” says Sternfeld, who has also been an active component of Federation’s Entertainment Division and noticed an overlap of people involved in the entertainment and hi-tech industries.

The Hi-Tech Division’s steering committee includes top industry people, from creators of Internet startups to the online presence of major companies. Charles Chagnon of eToys; Brad Crystal of Disney Interactive; Lucy Goldenhersh of Universal Studios; Seth Greenberg of eHobbies.com; Michelle Kleinert of Shop2Give; David Landau of ZEFER; Steve Price of Mattel Interactive; Debbie Simon of Houlihan, Lokey, Howard & Zukin; and Martin Waschitz of Merrill Lynch, among others.

Reps from companies such as Business.com, Styleclick.com and Activision also mingled among the pasta-and-portobello-mushroom-partaking participants.

Derek Fromson, an editor for latimes.com, is new to Federation happenings, but told The Journal that he was attracted to the division because it looks like “a really good way to meet people” in his business.Maxine Morris, director of strategic development and alliances at Internet Wire, made it down to the reception right after work.

“I think it’s an incredibly positive step for the Jewish community to stay in touch with the latest in the technology community,” says Morris. “It’s more fun to do business with people you have a personal connection with. The Internet business is all about relationships and this can only make us be more successful.”

Mark Treitel, who works legal for www.com, brought a date down to the ocean-front gathering “to meet people and see what they’re offering. Internet has become a hot sector, on the same level as the entertainment field. Its cache has risen.”

According to Ifcher, this is not the first time The Federation has attempted to court the cyber community. A similar branch was introduced a few years back but the timing was not right. This time around though, Ifcher says that “response has been overwhelming,” and judging from the packed inaugural networker, the Hi-Tech Division seems destined to become a vital bridge between The Federation’s outreach agenda and the Jewish community’s young and savvy set.

For more information on the Hi-Tech Division or to get on the mailing list for future events, call (323) 761-8214; or e-mail dfalcon@jewishla.org.

A Hands-On Holiday


Teachers have known for a long time that hands-on projects can bring a message home better than any lecture or study session.

And perhaps there’s no holiday on the Jewish calendar that better lends itself to creative manual labor — for kids and adults alike — than Sukkot, which comes this year on Sunday night, Oct. 4, and extends through Tuesday, Oct. 13.

Jews around the world observe the biblical fall harvest festival, which commemorates Israel’s sojourning in the desert, by spending a week eating in — or even living in — huts with vegetation as a roof. In addition, four species of plant — palm, myrtle and willow branches, and the citron, or etrog — are used in synagogue and home rituals.

The holiday is often a time when families and friends gather to build and then enjoy the sukkah, sharing meals and parties in the highly creative and individualized structures.

Here are the stories of a congregation and a family who took the opportunity to invest themselves physically and spiritually in the fall festival that ends the month-long High Holiday cycle.

It May Be Small, But It’s Kosher

Like many, Esther and Avraham Brander designed and built their own sukkah, decorated it and invited friends over to share in the holiday.

What makes their sukkah unique is that it is 5 feet high, and Esther is 7 years old and Avraham is 8.

The brother and sister, with help from their 4-year-old brother, Yaakov, used 3/4-inch plastic pipes with connectors for the frame, and fabric for the walls.

“They get very excited about things that are their own,” says their mother, Batyah Brander, assistant English principal of Ohr Haemet, a girls high school on Robertson Boulevard, and wife of Asher Brander, rabbi of the Westwood Kehilla.

Batyah helped the children puzzle the pieces together and secure the connectors to make sure the structure was steady. She estimates that the youngsters, who attend Toras Emes day school on La Brea Avenue, did 80 percent of the work on their own.

They also chose a kosher spot in the yard, where no trees hang over the 4 1/2-x-10-foot structure — and where the sukkah is out of sight of the family’s full-size sukkah.

Esther and Avraham are accustomed to these types of projects. They make their own challah and recently started making grape juice, stomping on the fruit (through plastic bags) and bottling it with their own labels.

“I never have to yell at them to come to the table for kiddush, because it’s their own grape juice,” Brander says. And on sukkah-building day, they got their homework done in a flash.

“They learned a lot more than if we just built it ourselves and let them sit in it,” Brander says.

A Day of Mitzvot and Meaning


Young Mitzvah Day volunteers clean-up Taft High School inWoodland Hills.

A Day of Mitzvot and Meaning

The annual Valley event provides social-action projects andopportunity for community involvement

Mitzvot, acts of loving kindness or just plain charity:Whatever you call them, Jews are commanded to do more than simplypray for good things — they have to do good themselves in order tohelp repair what is wrong in the world.

For the third year, this idea of tikkun olam (repairing the world)has become a rallying cry for Mitzvah Day, a community-wide day ofvolunteerism that this year is expected to bring together a smallarmy of more than 3,000 do-gooders from across the five-valley areaserved by the Jewish Federation/Valley Alliance. Members of 37synagogues and other organizations from the San Fernando, Conejo,Simi, Antelope and Santa Clarita valleys will participate in morethan 100 projects during the event, which takes place on Nov. 16 andis coordinated by the Valley Alliance’s Jewish Community RelationsCommittee (JCRC).

JCRC Director Barbara Creme views Mitzvah Day as acommunity-building tool. “It’s an incredible way of bringing thesynagogue and organizational community together,” she said. “It’s awonderful way for people to get together and do something meaningful,lasting and that feels good.” The goal of the day is not simply to dogood for a single day but to kick off ongoing projects.

One of the most ambitious projects this year, a tree-planting atLake Balboa, will take only a few hours, but the fruits (well,foliage anyway) of the effort will last a lifetime and beyond. TempleJudea, Stephen S. Wise Temple, Ahavat Shalom and Heschel Day Schoolwill join together with the TreePeople to plant 100 24-gallon-sizetrees as part of a major beautification project. The resulting smallforest will be aptly named the Mitzvah Grove.

Stephen S. Wise itself has 40 projects, ranging from volunteersmaking sandwiches for homeless-shelter residents, to youngstersdecorating 200 photo albums to give to foster children, who will fillthem with their own pictures (a disposable camera will be included).

Diane Kabat, the temple’s social-action chair, said that thesynagogue is also engaged in ongoing mitzvot, such as donatingvegetables from its community garden to the Valley Shelter in NorthHollywood, and conducting monthly bingo games at the Jewish Home forthe Aging.

She expects about 1,000 people from the congregation to donateabout 3,000 mitzvah hours on Nov. 16.

Other highlights of the day include:

* A swim-a-thon for teens at the West Valley Jewish CommunityCenter to benefit Jewish AIDS Services, the American Cancer Societyand the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation.

* A knit-a-thon at the Valley Cities Jewish Community Center toaid nursing homes and a blood drive.

* Wheels for Humanity has teens repairing wheelchairs, also at theWest Valley JCC.

* A sports day and barbecue for less privileged children at theGuadeloupe Community Center in Canoga Park is sponsored by the B’naiB’rith Reunion Chapter.

Conejo Valley, which has one of the fastest-growing Jewishpopulations, is getting into Mitzvah Day in a big way this year, withthe efforts of four synagogues (Temples Beth Haverim, Adat Elohim,Etz Chaim and Or Ami), the Conejo Valley JCC, B’nai B’rith, HeschelWest Day School and Chabad of the Conejo. Among the projects: a blooddrive, bubbes and zaydes reading to children, a sing-along at aseniors home, a trail cleanup in the Santa Monica Mountains and akosher tour of Bristol Farms.

For the first time, Mitzvah Day has a logo, the result of acontest among religious- and day-school students. Vanessa Le Winter,a Milken Community High School student and Temple Beth Hillel member,created the design, which shows a Band-Aid affixed to a blue andgreen world that is encircled by children linking hands and hearts.

Many of the mitzvah projects benefit non-Jews, and that is not byaccident, said Candice Stein, who is chairing Mitzvah Day for thesecond year. “It’s important for the community to know that Jews careabout it and do give back to it,” she said. This is particularly truein some areas of the Antelope, Santa Clarita and San Fernandovalleys, where there have been recent anti-Semitic incidents, Steinsaid. “We need to do outreach and create some relationships that willcontinue.”

For information about taking part in Mitzvah Day, call the ValleyAlliance JCRC at (818) 587-3219. — Ruth Stroud, Staff Writer

No Accidental Tourists

Nearly 400 Angelenos travel to Israel as part of the Federation’sGolden Anniversary Mission

By Ruth Stroud, Staff Writer

Three hundred ninety-eight Angelenos took off for Israel lastSaturday evening with an itinerary planned by the Jewish FederationCouncil of Greater Los Angeles. Not surprisingly, some departed withgreat hopes and memories, few with fears, and everyone with a senseof excitement.

“I’m really interested to see what it’s like since we were therelast,” said Arthur Mishler, who last visited Israel, with his wife,Susan, 18 years ago. “I know there have been lots of changes, andIsrael has become a very modern society.”

The Mishlers are riding on the Temple Beth Am bus, one of 11 thatare ferrying the large contingent on a tour of the Holy Land. Amongthe other travelers are top Federation officials, including PresidentHerb Gelfand, Executive Vice President John Fishel and newlyappointed 1998 United Jewish Fund General Campaign Chair SanfordGage, as well as representatives from major Federation departments,agencies, the Jewish Federation/Valley Alliance, and the Westside andSouth Bay regions.

Also making the trip are several California legislators,representatives from Mayor Richard Riordan’s office, seven rabbis(Ronald Shulman of Congregation Ner Tamid in Rancho Palos Verdes;Rabbi Joel Rembaum of Temple Beth Am; Rabbi Ed Feinstein of ValleyBeth Shalom and wife, Rabbi Nina Feinstein; Rabbi Donald Goor ofTemple Judea; Rabbi Zvi Dershowitz of Sinai Temple; and Rabbi JudithHaLevy of the Malibu Center and Synagogue) and a cantor (Stephen S.Wise’s Nathan Lamm).

The largest group — close to 50 — was recruited by the IranianAmerican Jewish Federation (IAJF), an umbrella organization for about16 nonprofit Iranian interests. Unlike more than half of thetravelers — who are first-time visitors to Israel — most of theIranian-American Jews have been there before, said IAJF PresidentSolomon Rastegar, who has led previous missions but will be aspectator on this one. Many Iranian-American Jews have relatives inIsrael. “We want to go there to see what was created out of nothingin the short time of 50 years,” Rastegar said.

The Federation’s 10-day Golden Anniversary Mission, in the worksfor more than a year, was scheduled to coincide with celebrationskicking off the 50th anniversary of the State of Israel. It was onNov. 29, 1947, that the United Nations endorsed the partition ofPalestine, which led to the final withdrawal of the British and thecreation of an independent Israeli nation on May 15,1948.

Participants of this mission began their trip by joining in acelebration of Israel’s 50th on the steps of Tel Aviv’s IndependenceHall. Splitting up into separate traveling groups with tailoreditineraries, most of the visitors will trek to the Galilee and GolanHeights. Many will meet Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and membersof the Knesset. There will be visits to Yad Vashem, Yitzhak Rabin’sgrave on Mount Herzl, the Western Wall and possibly Masada. Abouthalf of the contingent is continuing on to Jordan to visit MountNebo, the Roman city of Jerash, Amman and Petra, a city carved out ofa red-stone canyon.

At the last of three pre-mission educational meetings, held atStephen S. Wise Temple two weeks before departure, most people seemedinterested in discovering what the weather was like, how much luggagethey should bring, and how to extend their tr
ip after the mission.Few seemed worried about security despite recent bombings, dissensionover the faltering peace process and the “Who Is a Jew?” issue inIsrael, and new tensions between Israel and Jordan.

“I think it’s critical that people go to Israel, especially now,when there are issues concerning pluralism, the terrorists and thepolitical situation,” said Michael Scott, who is co-captain of theFederation’s Access (young leadership) traveling group. “Many peoplewho disagree with Netanyahu, including myself, want to go and showour support to Israel.”

The trip is not primarily a political trip, said Gelfand, althougha small group of participants will meet with Knesset members todiscuss the pending conversion bill, which would grant the Orthodoxrabbinate the exclusive right to perform conversions within Israel –a status quo situation that has angered many non-Orthodox outside theJewish state.

“The fact is that we take every opportunity we can to let themknow how we feel,” Gelfand said. “But the main purpose of the missionis to begin the celebration of the 50th anniversary.”

Evy Lutin, who is co-chairing the mission along with her husband,Marty, and is also Michael Scott’s mother-in-law, noted that ifIsrael were celebrating its 60th anniversary instead of its 50th,”there would not have been a Holocaust,” because the Jewish homelandwould have welcomed refugees from the Nazis who were spurnedelsewhere. Her father, who emigrated from Russia to the United Statesat the turn of the century, lost all nine brothers and a sisterduring the 1930s. “They couldn’t get out,” she said. “If there hadbeen an Israel then, they would have.”

Ruth Stroud is traveling with the Federation mission to Israeland Jordan and will report about the trip.

Headline News

By Tom Tugend, Contributing Editor

The Jewish Federation Council’s mission to Israel was greeted byThe Jerusalem Post with a Tuesday front-page story under the headline”L.A. Jews here to fight conversion bill.”

The Post quoted Federation President Herb Gelfand as saying:”Although there is more unhappiness with Israel among American Jewsthan I’ve seen in my lifetime, there is still wholehearted supportfor Israel.

“But, today, one thing is certain: We feel Israel is our countrytoo. It belongs to all Jews; therefore, all Jews everywhere have aright to speak up on what happens there.”

During their meetings with government and spiritual leaders,mission members “plan to express their worry and frustration over theconversion bill,” The Post reported.

The English-language daily further quoted Gelfand as saying: “Whatwe’re hoping to do is attempt to make them understand what theconversion [bill] means to us. We know it’s not on top of the agendaof most Israelis, but we have to tell them that in the U.S., where 90percent of Jews are Conservative, Reform or Reconstructionist, manyof us feel that we, our children and grandchildren, have beendelegitimized.”

He added that “a small minority” of American Jews are withholdingtheir contributions to the Federation in protest, “but only becausethey feel that is the only way they can communicate the way theyfeel.”

The delegation also intends to strengthen its “twin cities” tieswith Tel Aviv during the visit.

John Fishel, the Federation’s executive vice president, told ThePost: “We plan to work for a deeper, more intensive relationshipbetween various social programs, schools and individuals in LosAngeles and Tel Aviv. I think both sides understand there has to bemore to Israel-Diaspora relationships than just philanthropy.” 

Do we need a permanent international tribunal, like theNuremberg body in 1946 (below)? Above, Jews, like everyone else, areburied in Sarajevo city parks. Lower photo from the NationalArchives. Sarajevo photo from “Survival in Sarajevo” by EdwardSerotta.

War Crimes and Punishment

“War Crimes: Individual or Collective Responsibility?”

That was the topic explored at a symposium held at Sinai Templelast week. Sponsored by Bet Tzedek Legal Services and moderated byNational Public Radio talk-show host Kitty Felde, the questionresonated with the three panelists as well as the sizable audience inattendance.

The speakers brought impressive credentials. There was theHonorable Richard J. Goldstone, justice of the Constitutional Courtof South Africa and former chief prosecutor for the United NationsBosnian War Crimes Tribunal; Professor William Eckhardt, chiefprosecutor for the Vietnam War-related My Lai cases; and Dr. MichaelBerenbaum, the president and CEO of the Survivors of the Shoah VisualHistory Foundation.

Perhaps the most ardent advocate for a permanent internationaltribunal was Goldstone. Quoting a statistic that claimed that 175million people have been murdered by their own governments in thiscentury, Goldstone stressed the dire need for such a judicial systemto enforce what he called “good policing” on a worldwide level. Headded that as the world enters the 21st century, human rightsviolations may proliferate as technology further refines theefficiency of mass murder. “What happens in every country is thebusiness of the rest of the world,” he said. “The closing of the 20thcentury will see the beginning of international justice.”

Eckhardt provided a U.S. perspective, evoking My Lai, in whichAmerican soldiers were indicted after the fact for a wartime incidentinvolving the looting, raping and pillaging of a Vietnamese village.Since 90 percent of the participating soldiers were already undercivilian status by the time of the trial, they could not be tried,due to a technicality that allowed only uniformed soldiers to beprosecuted. Eckhardt singled out the United States’ failure to pursuejustice and accept accountability in this case as shameful. “If wecannot do that, taking the next step may be impossible,” he said.

Meanwhile, Berenbaum discounted any notions of granting amnesty tothose coerced into committing atrocities. When the topic turned tothe celebrated case of a Bosnian soldier tried in the Hague forreluctantly executing 70 war prisoners after his superiors hadthreatened to kill his family, Berenbaum turned to Jewish law andtenaciously embraced the Talmudic concept of martyrdom. He cited anobligation to God that precedes familial obligations, pointing outthat the Torah is absolutely clear on the three violations warrantingmartyrdom (the shedding of blood, unsanctioned intercourse and theworship of false gods); included within this realm are crimescommitted under duress.

“If there are things in life worth living for, there must bethings in life worth dying for. Taking a life is such a case,”Berenbaum said.

As for the Nuremberg Trials, Berenbaum considered the landmarkrulings more important as legal “theater” than as jurisprudenceprecedent, for they failed to effectively and responsibly administerfull culpability to the Nazis. To illustrate his point, Berenbaumcriticized their failure to try the creators of the gas chambers aswell as the operators.

By the conclusion of the program, the panel addressed thesemantics of terrorism, drawing a clear distinction between theJewish resistance fighters of World War II and present-day Arabextremists. Summarizing the need for a world court, Berenbaum said,”[During the Holocaust], the law itself was the instrumentation ofdestruction. [The Nazis] were technically correct when they said theydid not break the law. That’s why we must go to a higher law.” –Michael Aushenker, Community Editor

VBS’ ‘Crossroads to Equality’

Valley Beth Shalom is known for its groundbreaking “VBS Response,”a 5-year-old support group for Jewish gays, lesbians, bisexuals,their families and friends.

And, on Nov. 16, the Encino temple will host a conference, “At theCrossroads to Equality,” which will explore a variety of gay andlesbian issues.

More than 300 p
articipants are expected to attend seminars ontopics such as gay/lesbian parenting; homophobia in the workplace;making synagogues inclusive; and parents of gays “coming out of thecloset.”

Among the speakers will be Nancy McDonald, the national presidentof Parents and Friends of Gays and Lesbians (PFLAG); entertainmentconsultant Chastity Bono; The Advocate editor-in-chief Judy Wieder;and Steve Sass, senior vice president/business affairs for NBCStudios (and the president of the Jewish Historical Society ofSouthern California).

LAPD officer Lisa Phillips will receive an award for her effortsin promoting tolerance, and the Los Angeles Gay Men’s Chorus willperform.

The goal is ambitious, says VBS Rabbi Jerry Danzig, the Responsehead. “We view this conference as a first step in creating a bridgebetween gays, lesbians, their families and friends, and the communityat large.”

For registration information, call VBS at (818) 788-6000. — NaomiPfefferman, Senior Writer

Community Brief

Honoring

Our

Educators

For Jewish educators, the annual Milken Family Foundation EducatorAwards are a double blessing. The five winners receive $10,000 each.And all Jewish educators benefit from the increased public awarenessand acknowledgment of their contribution to the community.

This year’s recipients are Marianne Siegel of Kadima HebrewAcademy in Woodland Hills; Dr. Joseph Hakimi of Sinai Akiba Academy;Tova Baichman Kass of Pressman Academy; Lynn Karz of Ohr Eliyahu inCulver City; and Chaya Shamie of Bais Yaakov.

Now in their seventh year, the Milken Awards honor educators whoexhibit innovative methods and curricula, “an outstanding ability toinstill students with self-confidence and sound values,” and personalinvolvement in the Jewish and secular communities. “Theresponsibility of keeping alive both the Jewish faith and the Jewishculture in our young people often lies with our educators,” saidfoundation Executive Vice President Julius Lesner. “These awards aresimply to thank the finest of those educators for the wonderful workthey do.” — Staff Report

Top, from left, Dr. Joseph Hakimi of Sinai Akiba Academy; LynnKarz of Ohr Eliyahu in Culver City; and Chaya Shamie of Bais Yaakov;above, Dr. Julius Lesner with Marianne Siegel of Kadima HebrewAcademy in Woodland Hills; and below, Lesner presents an award toTova Baichman Kass.