Zev Brenner, host of ‘premier’ Jewish radio show, sentenced for tax evasion


The host of a New York radio show that bills itself as “America’s premier Jewish program” was sentenced to one year of probation and a $2,500 fine for not filing taxes.

Zev Brenner, the founder, president and executive producer of the 30-year-old Talkline Communications Network, as well as host of the program “Talkline with Zev Brenner,” was sentenced Tuesday in Brooklyn federal court, the New York Daily News reported.

Brenner, whose shows has featured interviews with President Bill Clinton and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, pleaded guilty in February to failing to file his 2009 tax return. But prosecutors said he also neglected to file tax returns from 2003 through 2011, according to the Daily News.

 

Brenner has already paid $63,764 to the IRS in restitution.

“I stand here humiliated and cognizant of my failing for which I take full responsibility,” Brenner said in court, according to the News. 

Brenner’s attorney, Gordon Mehler, said the radio personality was “overwhelmed” by handling his tax issues and left it in the hands of an accountant who failed to file the returns.

“You are a responsible adult and you know you’re supposed to file tax returns every year,” Magistrate Judge Marilyn Go told Brenner in court, according to the News.

Brenner’s radio show often airs issues of importance to the Orthodox Jewish community, of which he is a member.

In March, the Journal News reported that Brenner’s show was used by federal investigators in a sting operation that led to the conviction of state Sen. Malcolm Smith and other New York elected officials in a corruption scandal. An FBI informer appeared on the show, which is aired on local stations in the New York area, under aliases in order to gain credibility with the politicians who were the targets of the probe.

According to his biography on the Talkline website, Brenner is a rabbi and lives in Manhattan. For the last three decades, the bio says, he has “devoted his creative energies toward expanding the vistas of the Jewish Community as well as to forging better ties between Jews and other ethnic groups.”

Brenner has been honored by numerous Jewish organizations, including the National Council of Young Israel and the International League for the Repatriation of Russian Jews.

Star sidekick Gina Grad on bringing Jewish flavor to radio and podcast


Radio personality Gina Grad knows how to take a joke or two or three about her own people. 

The co-host for both “” target=”_blank”>The Adam Carolla Show,” one of the nation’s most popular podcasts at over 1 million downloads an episode, has no problem playing the “token Jew.”

Take, for example, when Carolla wondered aloud whether the Nazis’ love of the notoriously anti-Semitic composer Richard Wagner should make Wagner’s music taboo today. 

“You can’t play ‘Here Comes the Bride’ at a Jewish wedding,” chimed in Grad in her trademark upbeat tenor.

“Oh, really?” Carolla responded.

“You don’t hear that at Jewish weddings,” Grad said, adding, “I don’t think I’m wrong about that.”

Serving as an on-air Jewish ambassador is an entirely comfortable role for the Kansas native who was raised Conservative and is a Birthright alum.

“If I’m the one that’s sort of picked by default to educate [listeners] who might not know any Jewish people, then I think I’m a pretty good representative,” Grad, 37, said during a recent interview at the Wilshire Boulevard studios of 100.3 FM The Sound, where “Mark in the Morning” broadcasts from 6-10 a.m. weekdays. “I make jokes at my expense all the time, but I also have a lot of reverence for how I grew up and for the culture I am from.”

Just 16 months ago, Grad was grinding her way through the broadcast and podcast wilderness, juggling screening calls with recording radio promos and commercials and co-hosting her own pretty successful independent show, “The Pretty Good Podcast,” with radio personality Randy Wang. 

She has moved on from that podcast, but while it was going, the duo’s stream-of-consciousness conversations about happenings around Los Angeles, interviews with celebrities and various experts, and, most intriguingly, candid conversations about the pair’s personal lives attracted more than 1 million monthly downloads. And Grad’s and Wang’s discussions were filled with the type of intimate and revealing talk that had spooked Grad about radio for years. 

She’s worked hard, over time, to overcome and harness that fear in order to allow her audience to connect with her vulnerability. In 2011, Grad was a guest on comedian Paul Gilmartin’s podcast, “The Mental Illness Happy Hour,” and very candidly talked about her own history with panic attacks. And regular listeners to Carolla’s show know a decent amount about her quirks, pet peeves and personal life. Grad has talked openly, for example, about how she recently moved from Hollywood to South Bay to move in with her boyfriend.

Yet even after more than a year of enviable radio and podcast success, she still comes across as a humble, non-entitled and even giggly personality who was shaped by years of grinding through the lower levels of the media ladder. 

When Grad sat down for an interview with the Journal, she was proudly wearing a Carolla T-shirt bearing one of his sayings: “Don’t do your best, do my best.” And during a separate visit to Carolla’s Glendale studio for a taping of the podcast, Grad animatedly responded to Carolla’s comment at the top of the show that a Jewish Journal reporter was doing a story on her.

“How does that work?” Carolla asked.

“I don’t know; I have no idea,” Grad said, laughing. “He stopped by the morning show last week, and we chitchatted for a little bit after that, and then he asked if he could come here, and that’s literally all I know. I’m feeling pretty excited, though!”

She went on to joke about an exchange during the interview at “Mark in the Morning.”

“I think Jared [Sichel] felt really sorry for me after we chatted after the morning show,” she said, referring to this reporter. “Because he just assumed, he was like, ‘Well, how many other publications have interviewed you, and you do all this stuff, and what number am I?’ I was like, ‘Oh, no, you’re the first.’ ”

“That’s right,” Carolla said, suggestively.

“He was like, ‘Oh, God, really?’ I was like, ‘Yeah.’ I was really excited!” Grad said.

Grad got her first big break in June 2007, when she was at home nursing a badly strained neck from a car accident. Lying in bed in her “horrible little hole” of an apartment in Echo Park, she got a call from “The Tim Conway Jr. Show” asking if she would be its regular call-screener — a low-paying role for any show, but a promising entry-level position in radio.

At the time, Grad was working full time as a saleswoman at Hugo Boss in Beverly Hills and doing weekend gigs for a radio station in San Diego. She was also performing stand-up comedy at joints around L.A., call-screening for a community affairs show on KLSX radio (now KAMP), and recording “practice shows” on her own time at KLSX to develop her broadcasting and audio-editing skills.

Between her first gig and her big break with Carolla seven years later, Grad became a go-to female voice for radio bits, song parodies and fake commercials for Premiere Networks, the largest U.S. syndication company. She was also an assistant producer for KFI’s “The Bill Carroll Show” and did news bits for “The Young Turks,” a popular liberal online news show based in L.A.

Grad connected with Carolla through a friend from KLSX, Teresa Strasser, who had been Carolla’s first female co-host (and a Jewish Journal contributor). In 2010, when Strasser left Carolla’s show and was replaced by Alison Rosen, Grad became a top substitute co-host on days Rosen wasn’t available, taking over for Rosen after she and Carolla parted ways in late 2014.

At the same time, “Mark in the Morning” was looking for a new co-host, and Grad heard through the grapevine that they wanted a woman, so she applied. Then she came down with the flu on audition day, but went anyway, got the offer, and took the job, marking a spectacular two-part career leap in just two weeks.

On the Carolla show, which has grown so popular in part because of the host’s humor-filled political incorrectness, Jews are among the few people about whom most of the jokes are positive.

For example, on one weekly segment, called “Definitely Not a Jew,” the show highlights a particularly outlandish news story — such as a hot dog salesman in San Jose caught selling at his stand a sawed-off shotgun, a machine gun and methamphetamine to undercover police officers. 

Definitely not a Jew.

“It’s not an insult,” Grad said. “Someone does something totally insane and totally unethical and illogical — so they’re obviously not Jewish. It cracks me up.” 

And when something cracks up Grad, which is often, listeners know — her distinct, somewhat high-pitched laugh reminds listeners she’s there when, often for minutes at a time, she’ll just listen to Carolla and his other sidekick, Bryan Bishop, or a guest, with nary an interruption.

As the show’s official “news girl” for each day’s final segment, Grad muses on a few leading news and culture stories of the day, only to see them deconstructed, torn to shreds and sometimes used as premises for improv riffs. 

So, what does Grad see in store for a future now ripe with possibilities she probably couldn’t have imagined just 16 months ago? Perhaps she’ll be a sidekick to Howard Stern. Or have her own syndicated radio show or an uber-successful podcast of her own.

For now, she said, she’s just soaking in the experience of working two of the top gigs in radio and podcasting.

“I really am just so grateful to be here that I try to not get ahead of myself,” Grad said. “It will move me onto whatever path I go on from there, you know what I mean? I don’t think we’re supposed to stay anywhere forever. But, damn, I’m happy right now.”

Behind every great ‘Serial’ podcast host, a Jewish studies professor


No spoilers here about the “Serial” season finale, but I will say this much: The episode ends with … a special thanks to a certain Jewish studies professor.

That would be Benjamin Schreier, the interim director of the Jewish studies program at Penn State and the husband of “Serial” host Sarah Koenig.

With “Serial,” Koenig has achieved something akin to superstardom. Her “This American Life” spinoff, in which she reexamines a 15-year-old murder case, has topped iTunes charts — with a reported 31 million downloads as of earlier this week.

“Fame hasn’t changed her. She’s been too busy working on the story to pay attention” to all of the buzz surrounding the podcast sensation, said Schreier, an associate professor of English and Jewish studies at the State College, Pa., university.

For “Serial,” Koenig spent some 15 months trying to figure out whether or not Adnan Syed — a former honor student convicted in the 1999 murder of his ex-girlfriend, Hae Min Lee — is guilty of the crime for which he is serving a life sentence. In 12 weekly installments, the veteran radio producer chronicled her findings and her many ruminations along the way. The final episode of the first season (and we’re told there will be a second season, thanks to listener support, but on a different topic) was released on Thursday.

Testaments to the podcast’s cultural impact include the show’s own subreddit, a Slate podcast devoted to analyzing each installment, a feature in The New York Times Magazine, multiple parody podcasts and a spot-on Funny or Die sketch starring the actress Michaela Watkins.

But not much has changed in the Koenig-Schreier household, her husband said.

While Koenig was reporting “Serial,” Schreier stayed focused on his academic career. At Penn State, he teaches courses on topics such as post-Holocaust literature and Jewish American film. His second book on “the concept of identity in Jewish American literature” will be published next year, he said.

In recent months, Schreier has also spent a fair amount of time solo parenting the couple’s two children while Koenig was hard at work on the series. He noted that Koenig, in turn, has stepped up over the years when he’s had to travel for work. “We both support each other,” he said.

He called the finale “fantastic,” and noted that the fascination with “Serial” has even filtered into his professional life. He recalled how at a recent conference on Jewish literature, a graduate student “flipped out” when she heard he was married to Koenig.

Melbourne radio host suspended for shouting ‘Sieg Heil’


A Melbourne radio host who claims Jewish descent was suspended for one month for shouting “Sieg Heil” three times at the mother of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

John Michael Howson, 76, a talk-back host on 3AW Radio, reacted angrily with the Nazi taunts after Assange’s mother, Christine, said she would not conduct an interview on Sunday morning after the way Howson had treated the previous caller.

“I won’t be doing an interview with you because you’re acting like a pig,” Christine Assange said before hanging up.

Howson immediately responded by shouting, “Sieg Heil! Sieg Heil! Sieg Heil!”

The network aired a pre-recorded apology by Howson Tuesday as the station announced his suspension.

Howson rejected accusations he was anti-Semitic, telling the Herald Sun newspaper his great-grandmother was Jewish and that he had participated at fundraisers for Temple Beth Israel, the city’s largest Reform synagogue.

But on Tuesday he said he was “thrilled” that he had become a “cause célèbre.”

“In fact, thanks for the publicity,” he told a Sydney radio station.

“Somebody said that saying ‘Sieg Heil’ meant I was anti-Semitic,” the Australian Associated Press reported him as saying. “I have a Jewish great-grandmother, I have a mezuzah hanging on the wall at my front door, I have a yarmulke in the wardrobe … and if you go into my pantry you will see matzah.”

New York takes unprecedented steps ahead of Irene


New York City on Friday ordered the evacuation of more than 250,000 people and prepared to shut down its entire mass transit system, both unprecedented measures ahead of the expected battering from Hurricane Irene.

The powerful and unusually large storm trudged up the U.S. East Coast on Friday, threatening 55 million people including more than 8 million in New York City, which was expecting heavy winds late on Saturday or early on Sunday.

Some members of the city’s observant Jewish population, normally prohibited by their religion from using electricity on Saturday, began leaving the city on Friday to avoid a religious dilemma should they need emergency services or information.

“Some of the rabbis are giving permission to leave the radio on the Sabbath. The rabbis are getting a lot of calls today,” said Dov Hikind, an orthodox Jewish state assemblyman from the borough of Brooklyn.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg ordered people living in low-lying areas—including the Financial District surrounding Wall Street in Manhattan—out of their homes by 5 p.m. (2100 GMT) on Saturday, saying 91 emergency shelters would be open on Friday.

The transit system that carries 8.5 million people a day would start shutting down around noon (1600 GMT) on Saturday, a process that could take eight hours.

“We’ve never done a mandatory evacuation before and we wouldn’t be doing it now if we didn’t think this storm had the potential to be very serious,” Mayor Michael Bloomberg told a news conference.

New York state Governor Andrew Cuomo activated 900 National Guard troops while airlines moved aircraft from the danger zone and canceled at least 1,000 flights and the city’s four zoos stocked up to keep the animals fed.

Bridges leading to the island of Manhattan could be closed if winds exceed 60 mph (96 kph).

Police had a fleet of rescue boats at the ready in case resident of low-lying areas near the waterfront were trapped by the storm surge, which would be exacerbated by coincidental high tides.

The evacuations zones are mostly along the waterfront of the city—a complex geography of islands and peninsulas surrounded by rivers, harbors and open sea.

In the Rockaways area of Queens that faces the Atlantic Ocean, Destiny Crespo, 19, vowed to defy the evacuation order, saying, “No matter what, we’re going to board up these windows, we’re going to stay right here. … I am going to ride my way out of it like I’m a surfer.”

But her mother, Genevieve Crespo, 42, was more worried. “I am disabled. How am I going to get on the train with my grandkids? We have no idea where to go or what to do,” she said.

Benedict Willis, director of floor operations for investment banking boutique Sunrise Securities, said the NYSE had a responsibility to open Monday after the hurricane because millions of investors would rely on it for prices.

“But if the waters rise this high,” he said gesturing at the buzzing trading floor on Friday, “then it’s a bigger problem than I can handle. My name’s not Noah.”

The evacuations were mandatory, technically punishable by a $500 fine or 90 days in jail, but Bloomberg said, “We’re not trying to punish people. We’re trying to protect them.”

“Nobody’s going to get fined. Nobody’s going to jail. But if you don’t follow this, people might die,” Bloomberg said.

After the city experienced an unusually strong earthquake centered in Virginia on Tuesday, it prepared for a rare hurricane. Only five hurricanes in records dating to 1851 have tracked within 75 miles (120 km) of New York City, the most recent one being in 1985, according to weather.com.

“We are New Yorkers and we are tough. We like to think of ourselves as tough,” Governor Andrew Cuomo said. “But we’re also smart, and it’s smart to prepare. It’s smart to evacuate … and it’s smart to evacuate now.”

Homebound elderly and hospital patients in low-lying areas began to be evacuated earlier on Friday.

At Coney Island Hospital, ambulances were transporting 250 patients to other hospitals ahead of a shutdown set for 8 p.m. (0000 GMT on Saturday), said Evelyn Hernandez, a hospital spokeswoman.

The New York Stock Exchange was preparing a backup power generator and bringing in extra fuel and food to avoid disruptions when trade resumes on Monday. Around the corner, the New York Fed rolled out contingency plans in order to preserve the normal functioning of its open market operations on Monday, a spokesman said.

The Cyclone roller coaster—in the direct path of the storm on some projection models—was still running and scaring people on Friday, but would shut down on Sunday, when the heaviest rains were expected.

“I figured I wanted to come and ride it and I’m happy because it might not be here anymore,” said Jon Muller, 29, a tourist from Erie, Pennsylvania, celebrating his wedding anniversary with his wife.

New Yorkers hungry for information crashed the city’s website (http://www.nyc.gov/html/home_alt.html) looking for news on evacuations or service shutdowns.

At the Costco wholesale store in Brooklyn, the bottled water aisle was lined with shopping carts on Friday, some piled high with packets of plastic bottles.

“You never know if we’re going to need it. Might as well have some extra for the kids,” said Carmen Viera, 63, who had three cases of water in her shopping cart to take home to her house in Brooklyn with three children and two grandchildren.

Sporting events and show business were already falling victim to storm warnings.

The kick-off time for Saturday’s National Football League game between the New York Giants and New York Jets was brought forward several hours to avoid the worst of the foul weather, and the New York Mets baseball team postponed games on Saturday and Sunday.

But some bars and restaurants were preparing for a brisk business from New Yorkers who planned to ride out the storm with plenty of food an alcohol.

The manager at the Merchants River House restaurant, which is just behind the Hudson River boardwalk and has views of the Statue of Liberty, said the restaurant planned to stay open all weekend but would tie down deck furniture.

“We’re fully stocked up for the weekend,” said manager Christian Qualey, “so we can be a safe place for people.”

Additional reporting by Jonathan Spicer, Lynn Adler and Jonathan Allen; Editing by Sandra Maler

Beck to address Knesset committee


Right-wing radio talk show host Glenn Beck will address a Knesset committee during an upcoming visit to Israel.

Beck will discuss how to fight the delegitimization of Israel around the world during a July 11 meeting of the Knesset Immigration, Absorption and Diaspora Affairs Committee, at the invitation of committee chairman Danny Danon of the Likud Party, the Jerusalem Post reported Tuesday.

The meeting reportedly will focus on the September meeting of the United Nations General Assembly, when the Palestinians say they will ask for recognition of a Palestinian state.

Beck’s July visit, including his address to the Knesset committee, will be filmed for Beck’s on-line show, which will be used to promote his announced ‘Restoring Courage’ rally to be held in Jerusalem in late August.

Former Godfathers’ pizza CEO and 2012 presidential candidate Herman Cain and Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) have said they will attend the rally.

The Jerusalem Post reported that Beck will visit Tamar Fogel, whose parents and three of her siblings were killed by Palestinian terrorists as they slept in their home in the West Bank community of Itamar. Beck devoted segments on three days of his Fox show to the incident in the wake of the massacre and spoke admiringly of Tamar.

‘Delancey’ dramatizes Yiddish radio’s reality show


In 2002, director/playwright Karen Sommers heard a story on National Public Radio about the Jewish American Board of Peace and Justice, a Jewish mediation court on the Lower East Side of New York that adjudicated disputes among community members between the late 1930s and 1956. The proceedings took place in a back room of the House of Sages, a synagogue led by Rabbi Shmuel Aaron Rubin, who presided over the cases, which were recorded and carried on such Yiddish radio stations as WLTH and WEVD. According to the Yiddish Radio Project Web site, where many of the programs heard on old-time Yiddish radio are archived, the conflicts covered everything from “the complaints of abandoned parents to altercations over ill-fitting sheets.” 

In an interview, Sommers said that when she listened to some of the actual arbitrations, conducted in Yiddish and English, she was transported back in time.

“I really got caught up in these lives, and, at the same time that they were very funny and almost ridiculous, they were also very touching, and it was real life. 

“This was, in a way, the first reality show, and people were there for their problems. So, I listened to this broadcast and, by chance, about a week later I was telephoned by the Tribeca Performing Arts Center in New York City, and they offered me an artist-in-residency, which included a year of working on a project. This is the project I wanted to do, to develop that story into a full theatrical piece.”

Sommers has been developing the project for 10 years, a process that culminated in the recent world premiere of her play “South of Delancey,” now at the Fremont Centre Theatre in Pasadena. The stories she has re-created affected her so deeply, she recalled, that more than just telling people about them, she had to dramatize them.

“I’m very visual; I’m a stage director by passion, by trade, and, when I hear of a story, immediately I can see it. But this was more than that. I could feel it; I could picture these people; I saw the court; I saw them arguing with each other; I saw the rabbi. I feel it now, just talking about it; it’s such a powerful feeling in my bones.”

Sommers fictionalizes the private lives of the participants, but uses actual recorded transcripts when presenting what transpired during the hearings. “The verdicts were binding. They did sign something that said they were going to follow what the judges decided,” she explained. “According to my research, the people who sought this court, which was free, didn’t have the means to hire a lawyer and go through the American judicial system. Also, a lot of them were immigrants who didn’t speak English and didn’t understand the American judicial system, and they were sort of fearful of going that route.” 

“South of Delancey” depicts three cases. One involves two very different sisters (Jordana Oberman and Kal Bennett), who live together but have come to hate each other.

In another, a man and woman (Barry Alan Levine and Jodi Fleisher) engaged in a passionate affair finally get married, but with radically opposing expectations. 

The third case concerns Marty (Michael Rubenstone) and Faye (Abigail Marks), who didn’t know each other very well when they married just before Marty went into the service during World War II, and, after eight years, have separated. Faye charges that Marty lies to her, stays out late, never “bothers” with her and has been abusive. In response, Marty insists that his wife relies too much on her interfering mother (Casey Kramer).

In this case, the final verdict may well strike today’s audiences as naïve. Alhough the rabbi comes down very hard on Marty for hitting Faye, declaring that the holy Gemara says a man who raises a hand against another person is a wicked man, and though he extracts a declaration of love from Marty for Faye and their baby, he ultimately rules that the couple should “go home and have a happy life.”

“It was very simplistic,” Sommers admitted. “You could say it was a simpler time.  I don’t know; I don’t believe it was. I think that the rabbi had a simple way of looking at things. At first, when I initially heard his verdict for Faye and Marty, I was upset, and I, of course, was siding with her.” 

She added, “This is how it was, and there’s something about that that I think is important for people to know as a piece of history, and to realize how far we’ve come. Is that a good piece of advice, or is that a ridiculous piece of advice? I think when people first hear that, they say, ‘That’s crazy, that he should say to go home and have a happy life.’ But, after the 10 years that I’ve been working on this and listening to that verdict over and over again, I find that it’s simple, but it’s honest, and it’s possible.”

Sommers said she feels there is comfort in seeing that the problems you’re dealing with today are problems that have been going on for years, for decades, even for centuries, and that you’re not alone. 

“People before you have gone through what you are going through now; they survived, and you can survive as well. Or you can see that these people in the play are making the mistakes that you’re making in your life, and that you need to look at these problems or else you’re going to end up like these characters do. The play is really holding up a mirror to audiences and having them see themselves on stage and reflect upon their own lives.”

“South of Delancey,” Fri. and Sat. 8 PM, Sun. 3 PM,  through July 31. Tickets: $25; Students/Seniors $20. Fremont Centre Theatre, 1000 Fremont Avenue, South Pasadena.  Reservations:(866) 811-4111 – For Groups and Info: (626)441-5977.
http://www.fremontcentretheatre.com/
http://www.southofdelancey.com/SouthOfDelancey/Home.html

Australia’s only Jewish radio station closes


Melbourne’s only Jewish radio station has been forced to close.

Lion FM, barely a year old, ceased broadcasting at midnight Monday following a decision by the Australian Communications and Media Authority not to renew its radio license.

“It is devastating news for our community for whom the benefits of the license were enormous. It provided not only a means of communication within our community but also a wonderful window through which information could flow to the wider community,” said John Searle, president of the Jewish Community Council of Victoria.

Lion FM has been beset by problems since it was founded last year. Its inaugural president, Michael Lipshutz, resigned just weeks into the job amid accusations of censorship, and his successor, John Kraus, stepped down in March leaving the position still vacant when the station closed this week.

In addition, two radio hosts were yanked off air mid-session, and there have been accusations of poor governance, lack of transparency and exclusionary practices because, some board members insisted at the station’s inception that Lion FM would be broadcast according to Jewish law.

Jewish radio programs are broadcast on other networks but Lion FM was Australia’s only Jewish radio station.

Radio host threatens to oust Minn. lawmaker over invocation objections


A conservative radio host suggested that he would work to unseat a Minnesota state senator who opposed a pastor’s invocation in the statehouse for being nonsectarian.

An invocation earlier this month by the Rev. Dennis Campbell, a conservative Baptist, mentioned Jesus Christ three times. Campbell’s invocation had prompted state Sen. Terri Bonoff, a Democrat who is Jewish, to ask the body’s leadership to change the standard letter given to clergy to say that it requires prayer to be “interfaith and nonsectarian” rather than the current “request.” Bonoff told The Associated Press that the invocation made her “highly uncomfortable.”

Campbell told Conservative radio host Bradlee Dean over the weekend that Jewish members of the Senate should not be offended by the prayer since Jesus was a Jew. He also said he thought that America’s Founding Fathers would have supported the prayer.

Dean is the founder of You Can Run But You Cannot Hide International, a Christian youth ministry that holds assemblies in public schools. He suggested that Campbell’s ministry work against Bonoff’s re-election in 2012.

“Maybe what we need to do is get her name eradicated,” Dean said, according to the Minnesota Independent. “She’s looking to get rid of who we are as a people. Well, then, why don’t we help her possibly leave?”

Campbell described what happened after the invocation.

“After the prayer we were ushered out to the back room there and I had one or two people that opposed the prayer—and they were both Jewish folks—to one of them I said, ‘I want you to know that as Christians that we really love the Jews,’ ” Campbell told Dean and his radio sidekick, Jake McMillian. “He made a comment that they weren’t interested in our love so much as respect.”

Abbas denounces West Bank murders on Israel Radio


Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas called the killing of five members of a West Bank Jewish family “despicable,” “inhuman and immoral.”

“A human being is not capable of something like that,” Abbas said in Arabic during an interview Monday morning on Israel Radio. His words were translated into Hebrew by the interviewer.

“Had we had advance information, we would have prevented this,” Abbas said of the March 11 attack that left five members of the Fogel family of Itamar dead, including a 3-month-old baby.

Abbas also said that the Palestinian Authority would work to find the killer or killers responsible, and that he has agreed to a request by Israel to launch a joint investigation.

Abbas, who called Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday to offer his condolences—Netanyahu called them “weak and mumbled statements”—took issue during the interview with Netanyahu’s accusation that the Palestinian Authority incites against Israel in its mosques and schools. The PA leader offered to set up an Israeli-Palestinian-American committee to look into the allegations.

More on this story: David Suissa: Behind the Itamar murders

 

Rabbis urge Fox to sanction Beck for Nazi comments


A group of American rabbis is calling on Fox News to sanction personality Glenn Beck for “his completely unacceptable attacks” on Holocaust survivor George Soros.

In an ad that was scheduled to run in Thursday’s Wall Street Journal and in a letter to Fox News owner Rupert Murdoch, the rabbis note Beck’s recent attack on the billionaire Soros and the response by Fox News chief Roger Ailes that the outrage was confined to “left-wing rabbis.”

“We respectfully request that Glenn Beck be sanctioned by Fox News for his completely unacceptable attacks on a survivor of the Holocaust and Roger Ailes apologize for his dismissive remarks about rabbis’ sensitivity to how the Holocaust is used on the air,” the letter said.

Signatories included leading figures of the Reform, Reconstructionist and Conservative movements. They call for Beck to stop talking about the Holocaust and the Nazis.

The ad was paid for by Jewish Funds for Justice, a liberal group that earlier this month delivered a petition to Fox calling for Beck’s ouster. Also, the group organized a response last year after Beck said the term “social justice” was a code for Nazism and communism.

Ad below.

 

Latino Radio Show Stirs Concern Over Views on Jews


On a Los Angeles FM radio talk show, the following aired recently:

A caller identifying himself as Mohammed said, “I believe that so-called Israel should be annihilated totally, wiped off the map … I hope that Iran has the gall to nuke and exterminate them so they go back to Europe.

“And as long as there is one Palestinian man, woman or child, there will be no peace in Palestine … as far as I’m concerned, so-called Israel should be exterminated from the face of the earth. That’s my personal opinion. They have no right to exist….”

Augustin Cebada, the show’s host, did not interrupt or argue. He let Mohammed finish, then said, “OK, maybe those are your opinions, and there’s probably a lot of people out there who agree with you. We have free speech in this country….”

Cebada later took a call from Dan, who objected to what he’d just heard: “When a caller calls with that kind of hatred, that kind of Nazi rhetoric, that Israel should be wiped off the map, that’s what fuels the fire, and you people did not respond by saying, ‘This is the kind of hatred we don’t need.’ And that’s what’s fueling the hatred, isn’t it?”

This time, Cebada cut the caller off, saying: “There’s a lot of hatred in your voice, Dan, in your tone. This program offers a forum so people can express what they’re feeling….”

KPFK, Pacifica Foundation’s longtime, Progressive, listener-supported L.A. radio station, aired that exchange on Jan. 7, 2009, on a Wednesday night bilingual talk-show called, “La Causa” (“The Cause”), which has a mix of English and Spanish.

The show is presented as a forum on issues important to Latinos, one of many community-minded shows the station offers. But this one has a particularly sharp edge: It excoriates what it identifies as police oppression and harassment of Latinos and advocates for “Aztlan” — a separatist Chicano nation to be carved out of territory Chicano militants claim was illegally seized by European colonists. Aztlan would be created in place of what is now a large part of the American West and Southwest.

Cebada, co-host Rafael Tlaloc and their callers draw parallels between Latinos in the United States and Palestinians in the Middle East: Just as American descendants of Europeans “should go back to Europe,” so, too, the descendants of European Jews in Israel should leave the Middle East and go live in Europe.

Though it presents itself as a program by and for Latinos, “La Causa” spends a lot of time on the subject of the Middle East, all of it fiercely critical of Israel. Referring to the recent military actions in Gaza, the show’s hosts characterize Israelis as perpetrators of “genocide,” “massacre,” “slaughter,” “war crimes,” “ethnic cleansing” and “atrocities.”

Cebada and Tlaloc have said Israelis are “acting like Nazis.”

A sampling of recent comments on “La Causa”:

“Rahm Emanuel is a Trojan Horse making sure that Obama does not push for peace in Palestine that would free the people of Gaza.” Emanuel was “forced” on the Obama administration by “certain interest groups.” (Dec. 17, 2008)

“Israel controls the media here; Jewish AIPAC controls the media, so the only real news we can get is from Al-Arabiya….” (Jan. 7)

“The U.S. doesn’t get to see the horrible things taking place [in Gaza], bombing of schools and hospitals. [Israelis] kill a lot of children; they don’t care….” (Jan. 14)

“This whole thing about Israel being a democracy is a farce. Total BS….  A charade….  And our tax dollars pay for the slaughter.” (Jan. 14)

“[Gaza] is total imprisonment, a concentration camp…. The Nazis would have been envious of the Israelis at this time….” (Jan. 14)

Cebada did not respond to repeated requests from The Journal for an interview. He has said on air that he’s 46 and has been a teacher in the Los Angeles Unified School District. (The LAUSD has no record of anyone with the name “Augustin Cebada” ever having worked as a teacher or in any other capacity.)

Photos and audiotape of Cebada from a 1996 appearance at a July 4 pro-Chicano rally in Westwood can be found on the Internet. Dressed in a Brown Berets uniform and presenting himself as “information minister” of the group, Cebada told his listeners, “We [Chicanos] are not going to be pushed around…. We are the majority, and we claim this land as ours….”

In recent months, Cebada has been active in the Echo Park Neighborhood Council. A local newspaper, the Eastsider LA, compared the council’s January meeting to the “Jerry Springer” show. The meeting came to order then almost immediately fell into “total disorder,” according to the report, with “insults and threats” flying back and forth between Cebada and Jose Sigala, who was there representing Councilman Richard Alarcón.

The height of the chaos came when Cebada “banged on a hand-held drum” and called Sigala a “fat, bald-headed Mussolini.”

Cebada uses the same kind of rhetorical flourishes on “La Causa.” California’s governor is called “Arnold Schwarzenazi,” and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa a “groveling, sniveling lapdog.”

When referring to Israel, Cebada usually calls it “that semitheocracy, so-called democracy.” He tells his listeners that Arab citizens of Israel can’t vote. (They can and do: More than 50 percent voted in the recent Israeli election.) He says that only Jews can enter the Israeli Defense Forces. (There are non-Jews in the IDF.)

The show’s hosts would likely argue, as many do these days, that being against Israel is not the same as being against Jews. Others would counter that anti-Zionism, in its current form, is a socially acceptable cover for anti-Semitism. Whatever one’s view, the hosts of “La Causa” blur this distinction.

They use Zionist, Jewish, Israeli and even Ashkenazi interchangeably, as when they say, “The Israeli people, the Jewish people” or mention the relationship between Villaraigosa and “the Zionists,” when the reference is clearly to Jews in Los Angeles.

At times, “La Causa’s” hosts talk about Jews in disparaging ways when discussing situations that have no connection to Israel.

On Feb. 4, Cebada said, “Well, supposedly Jewish interests control the media in this country, there’s even a book written by a Jew that says that Jews control Hollywood … the media’s controlled by Jews, so we only get the news they want us to hear.”

The hosts regularly call Bernard Madoff “that Jewish scam artist.” Villaraigosa is constantly excoriated for supporting Israel and for “dancing around with a yarmulke on his head,” apparently referring to the September 2007 Chabad telethon, when L.A.’s mayor danced the hora while wearing a kippah.

On Feb. 4, a caller named Jeremy asked the hosts why they “keep repeating this line about Villaraigosa dancing around with a yarmulke on his head? Why is that a cause of consternation for you?”

Tlaloc answered that Villaraigosa was elected “on the backs of Mexicans and hasn’t done anything to help them. Instead, he’s gone to Israel and is complicit in the genocide that’s happening in Gaza.” Jeremy again asked why the yarmulke bothered them so much, and Cebada abruptly ended the phone conversation.

KPFK was founded in 1959 as the second radio station of the Pacifica Foundation. According to its Web site, KPFK is “blessed with an enormous transmitter … [It is] the most powerful of the Pacifica stations and indeed is the most powerful public radio station in the Western United States.”

There is no public record of how many listeners “La Causa” attracts. One KPFK host told The Journal that he suspects that not even KPFK knows for sure. What is known is that KPFK’s transmitter on Mount Wilson and another in Santa Barbara give the station a wide FM reach.

KPFK does not get money from advertising. It receives some funding from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which is partially supported with government funds, and from its listeners, as well as foundations. It normally has three fund drives each year.

The station’s official mission statement says that it seeks to promote “a lasting understanding between nations and between the individuals of all nations, races, creeds and colors; [and] … to promote the study of political and economic problems and of the causes of religious, philosophical and racial antagonisms.”

“La Causa” would not be the first KPFK show to test the boundaries of the station’s stated mission.

In early 1992, a 30-hour marathon, “Afrikan Liberation Weekend,” drew a response from the Anti-Defamation League [ADL] after an on-air host accused Jews of being major perpetrators of the slave trade and Jewish doctors of inventing AIDS in order to infect blacks.

In 1994, the ADL, Hillel Foundation and the Center for the Study of Popular Culture charged two other KPFK programs, “Freedom Now” and “Family Tree,” with making “slanderous and anti-Semitic attacks.” The host on “Freedom Now” accused the ADL of, among other things, founding the Ku Klux Klan.

In the Los Angeles Times, David Lehrer, then-ADL regional director, is quoted as saying, “We hope that KPFK and Pacifica will fulfill a positive and constructive role in our community and not be a vehicle for the dissemination of hate.”

KPFK’s general manager at that time, Clifford U. Roberts, cancelled the two programs, saying that they “were using language … counter to our mission.”

So the question remains, do the sentiments expressed on “La Causa” represent a larger disconnect between the Jewish and Latino communities?

Gustavo Arellano, author of the nationally syndicated column, “¡Ask a Mexican!” and a host of a KPFK show called, “4 O’Clock Tuesdays,” acknowledged that there’s “always been an anti-Semitic subconscious streak in the minds of Hispanics, and we can thank the Torquemada-era Catholic Church for hardwiring that into our minds. … But I don’t think the Israeli-Palestinian conflict exacerbates it.

“Most Latinos care much more about politics in their home countries or in the United States than what happens in the Middle East,” Arellano said, adding, “I’d say, through an informal survey, that most Mexicans don’t like Israel’s actions against Palestinians, but they also don’t approve of [Palestinians’] suicide bombings or anti-Semitic bile. Unlike Cebada … most Latinos can distinguish between Judaism and the military actions of Israel.”

Many in the Jewish and Latino communities have worked to create bonds between the two. Among those is Dina Siegel Vann, director of the American Jewish Committee’s [AJC] Latino and Latin American Institute, who works to forge political alliances with the Latino community, especially when dealing with domestic issues like education, health care and education. She believes relationships between Latinos and Jews have “gotten better” as a result of outreach by AJC, as well as other Jewish organizations, including the Israeli government.

Siegel Vann acknowledged, however, that at recent meetings of the Congreso Latino (Latino Congress), which brings together leaders of national Latino organizations, she’s felt a change in attitude. She said that “the atmosphere has been a little more radical … in terms of U.S.-Venezuela relations and the Middle East.”

Arturo Carmona, executive director of COFEM — a Mexican American organization that provides the Latino community with public policy advocacy, as well as educational and cultural programs — said that among Latinos, especially during the last few months, the Middle East has been “talked about at home among families. You see pictures of people dying in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, and we talk about it….”

Carmona, whose organization works cooperatively with ADL, said that what’s needed in the Latino community is a “greater awareness of the issues. Otherwise, I sense that people form negative opinions about [Israel].”

Jaime Regalado, director of the Edmund G. “Pat” Brown Institute of Public Affairs at Cal State Los Angeles, said that many Latinos “think there should be a broader dialogue among the various players in the Middle East…. They want to make sure that the Palestinian side is heard…. In other words, let’s have a fuller and more balanced discourse.”

KPFK is decidedly and proudly progressive, but when other KPFK programs take Israel to task, they seem careful not to criticize the Jewish community or to imply — as callers to “La Causa” repeatedly do — that there are Jews hatching nefarious plots aimed at world domination.

Over the years, KPFK has been a strong advocate of minority rights, women’s rights and other liberal causes. Not surprisingly, the station has had many Jewish subscribers and listeners, like Sara Elena Loaiza.

Loaiza is both Latina and Jewish and has spent much of her life bridging the two communities through Latino Consultants, which she founded in 1995 to represent a wide variety of Latino clients and interests. Asked to listen to back episodes of “La Causa” on KPFK’s Web site, her response was that of someone who felt betrayed by an old friend.

“It’s disheartening because we’re supporters of KPFK,” Loaiza said. “We’re supporters for a lot of reasons — for their environmental coverage — they’ve got a lot of interesting programs we’ve supported in the past.

“But [“La Causa”] crosses a line. It absolutely does,” she said. “While I understand that this program is trying to be as raw as possible, it’s hurtful…. It’s like, ‘I can’t believe what I’m hearing. This is KPFK and I’m hearing this?’”

AUDIO: The Jewish Bob Dylan (June 15, 1972)



Bernard Timberg analyzes the songs of Bob Dylan looking for Jewish themes and imagery. He identifies messianic longings in Quinn the Eskimo, references to Jewish burial practices in Masters of War, and finds significance in the fact that the initials of John Wesley Harding can be interpreted as the name of the Jewish God, YHWH. Issues such as social justice and a sense of out-sideness imbue the songs of Dylan as they do the history of the Jewish people. Timberg also interviews a number of people who knew Dylan when he was still Bob Zimmerman in an effort to investigate the Jewish roots of his music, including a woman that was at his Bar Mitzvah and a counselor at a Jewish summer camp Dylan attended as a child. Also explored are a number of myths about Dylan that touch upon his Jewish identity.

This item is part of the collection: Other Minds Archive

Date: 1972-06-15Keywords: KPFA-FM; Music; Documentary; Folk Music; Bob Dylan

KCRW’s gift — five days of ‘Only in America’ Jewish history


For a certain nostalgic segment of the Jewish community, Chanukah wasn’t official until KCRW-FM general manager Ruth Seymour narrated her lively “Philosophers, Fiddlers and Fools” program at this time of the year.

This noble tradition has now come to an end, but KCRW (89.9) has come up with a worthy replacement in “Only in America,” which will air over five days in one-hour segments, Dec. 3-7 at 2 p.m.

The series on the Jewish experience in this country has as its starting point 1654, when 23 Jews from Brazil — four men and 19 women and children — arrived in New Amsterdam, on the lower part of Manhattan, and asked permission to stay.

Peter Stuyvesant, governor of the colony, would have none of it. In a letter to his superiors in Holland, read by actor John Lithgow, he petitioned the directors of the Dutch West India Company “that this deceitful race … be not allowed to further infest and trouble the new colony.”

Fortunately for all of us, a number of Dutch Jews were major stockholders in the company, and the attempt to strangle Jewish life in America before it even began was rejected.

The producer of the ambitious program is Larry Josephson, a native Angeleno now settled in New York. The concept, he said in an interview, struck him four years ago when he heard about plans to celebrate the 350th anniversary of Jewish life in the United States.

“My great-grandfather came here from the Ukraine in 1900, but I realized that I knew nothing about Jewish history here between 1654 and 1900,” Josephson said.

Even more historically minded listeners will be impressed by the presentation’s color and detail, interspersing the jokes and songs of an era with eyewitness accounts and scholarly analysis.

There is a reading of George Washington’s letter promising religious freedom to “the children of the stock of Abraham” and shocking descriptions of New York’s sweatshops, but also Al Jolson belting out songs from “The Jazz Singer” and Philip Roth observing that “God gave us Irving Berlin, and Berlin gave us ‘White Christmas’ and ‘Easter Parade.'”

In chronological order, the Dec. 3 broadcast on “The First Jews” traces the struggle of the pioneer Jews, from the initial arrival through the American Revolution and the adoption of the Constitution and Bill of Rights.

The ironically titled “The Streets Were Paved With Gold” program, on Dec. 4, introduces the mass arrival of Eastern European Jews and their settlement on the Lower East Side, where they retained the old language and customs while their children assimilated as fast as they could.

They voice their problems and frustrations in the Bintel Briefs in the Yiddish Forvertz, asking, “Will I die if I eat a tomato?” and “Is it okay for a socialist to go to Rosh Hashanah services?”

One woman writes, “I am a Russian woman, and my daughter just married a Hungarian, and now she’s putting on airs. Now that she’s a first-class Hungarian, she laughs at the way I talk, at my manners, even the way I cook…. I therefore want to express my opinion: that Russian Jews and Hungarian Jews should not intermarry.”

“Becoming Americans,” on Dec. 5, opens with the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire of 1911, in which 164 young Jewish women died, and covers the struggle to unionize, the rise of the Yiddish theater and, ultimately, the exodus to fancier neighborhoods.

“White Christmas,” airing on Dec. 6, is the first of two segments on “Tin Pan Alley and Hollywood” and celebrates the careers and songs of Israel Baline, the immigrant cantor’s son who changed his name to Irving Berlin, and of George Gershwin and Harold Arlen.

In the second part on Dec. 7, “Over the Rainbow,” we meet Eastern European immigrants Louis B. Mayer, Adolph Zukor and Samuel Goldwyn, who invented Hollywood and created the screen image of the Wild West and small town America. Jon Stewart and Mel Brooks are among the commentators.

Due to scheduling problems, KCRW is unfortunately not broadcasting one vital segment, “No Dogs or Jews Allowed,” which chronicles the less-uplifting story of the strain of anti-Semitism that ran through much of American society from colonial days to World War II and beyond.

The chapter takes its name from an interview with Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in which she recalls, “I was driving through Pennsylvania, and there was a bed and breakfast with a sign outside that said, ‘No dogs or Jews allowed.’ I’d never seen anything like that.”

This chapter, as well as an additional segment on Ginsburg’s career, and “Never Again,” with Elie Wiesel and ADL national director Abraham Foxman, are available on an eight-disc CD set. It can be ordered by calling (212) 595-2920.

For more information on the KCRW program go to www.KCRW.com and/or www.onlyinamerica.info.

Hooker to the stars is a saucy satirist


Svetlana Maksimovsrskaya is a Russian prostitute whose high-profile clients include George Clooney, Rick Santorum and Al Gore.

Featured on KCRW-FM 89.9 every Monday at 4:44 p.m., she comments on whatever comes to mind — movies, politics, popular culture, her clients.

During the first segment, on June 18, she said, “Paper is killing tree, plastic does not decompose, using a Mexican boy is exploiting labor, I give up, hand me my produce and my Milano cookies and I will carry everything to my car in installments; I will make 14 trips back and forth, just so I don’t feel guilty. It’s Al’s fault for all this nonsense. I told him, Gorki — he likes it when I call him Gorki — what you lack in charisma you are making up with your slide shows and guilt trips.”

She recently recapped her ” target = “_blank”>”Social Studies” is also available online as a live stream, a podcast and a transcript.

Reality radio goes kosher


Reality in Israel can be tough, especially for very religious families. In many ultra-Orthodox (Charedi) communities, Torah study for men is more highly valued than work. As for the women, if they are not working to support their husband’s learning or to add to their husband’s often-low income, they are raising children — and many children at that. To top it all off, they can’t escape their financial woes through the secular world’s favorite diversion: the tube.

“In religious communities, especially the Charedi communities, people don’t have televisions at home. Whereas a secular person comes home after work and turns on the TV to watch news, a religious person comes home and turns on the radio,” said Ido Lebovitz, CEO of Radio Kol Chai, Israeli’s most highly rated religious radio station, broadcasting to some 200,000 religious people.

To maintain its edge, Kol Chai has adapted television’s most popular trends to give religious communities, ranging from religious Zionist to Charedi, some kosher entertainment and education all in one. “A Life of Riches and Honor,” the station’s new reality radio show, seeks to assist religious families in overcoming their difficult reality through reality entertainment.

Over the course of 10 weeks, 13 families, representing a cross-section of the religious spectrum, must prove that they can run their households more economically and efficiently than the rest — and that includes paying bills, providing for their children and getting out of the hole.

Every week, the families are given a task related to home and financial management. The first task of the show: Purchase a week’s worth of groceries within a prescribed budget. The commercial teaser for this episode offered the tip: “Don’t go supermarket shopping hungry.”

At the second taping of the episode at the Kol Chai studios in the ultra-Orthodox neighborhood of Bnei Brak, all contestants shared, on air over the phone, their experience overcoming the first challenge.

“We tried to cut and buy only what we need, not just what was within hand’s reach, but to think before buying,” one contestant concluded. “We tried to buy more with less,” said another.

A studio panel of experts from the field of banking, business and household management judge the contestants’ shopping prudence and analyze their savings methods. To help determine the winner, producers compile detailed figures comparing their new spending habits with the old. Listeners at home and the show’s judges vote for the winners based on their ability to cut costs.

At the end of each show, one family is sent back to its poorly managed home. The first-place winner receives 20,000 NIS (about $4,750) worth of electrical appliances — not a bad way to solve at least some troubles.

However, Lebovitz insisted, “the point is not to find a winner but
to increase awareness. The real winners are the hundreds of thousands of people who learn to save.”

KCRW’s annual Chanukah show lets the light go out


Ruth Seymour, general manager since 1978 of KCRW-FM 89.9, is best known to many listeners for her annual Chanukah program, “Philosophers, Fiddlers & Fools,” which will have its final airing on Dec. 15. But Seymour is not stepping down.

“I’m not retiring,” she says over the phone in her classic New York accent. “I’m retiring the show.”

The Chanukah show has been a staple in Los Angeles, which, before its first airing in 1978, had been missing this classic blend of Yiddishkeit: folk music, readings of Isaac Bashevis Singer’s stories, memorials to Holocaust victims, Second Avenue “hit parade” songs.

Much has been made of the humble beginnings of KCRW, a station created after World War II to train veterans for careers in radio, which as late as 1978 was located in a middle school in Santa Monica and famously had the oldest transmitter in the West. Seymour has transformed the station into an institution by creating erudite programs like “Bookworm,” an essential half-hour for any literary Los Angeleno; issues-oriented shows like “Which Way, L.A.?” and political debates, such as “Left, Right & Center.”

Her emphasis on literature and politics is fitting, since Seymour grew up in a home of left-wing Jewish intellectuals in the Bronx. She relates a story in which her mother, upon seeing her tending to the plants outside, asked, “Why are you gardening? You could be reading ‘War & Peace.'”

By now, “Philosophers” fans know the story of how Seymour’s college professor, Max Weinreich, told her that “Yiddish is magic. It will outlive history.”

What many may not know is that some years ago, she received a letter in her mailbox with those words written on the outside of the envelope as a teaser. She opened it and found it was from YIVO, the Yiddish institute that focuses on the study of Jewish culture and literature. Apparently, one of YIVO’s employees had lived in Los Angeles and heard Seymour tell the Weinreich story on the air.

Seymour has always contended that the show should be “ephemeral,” out of deference to the Holocaust victims.

“There wasn’t any way to bring them back,” she says, which is why she has never recorded any of her Chanukah programs.

She has often cited the words of Andre Schwarz-Bart, French author of “The Last of the Just,” who wrote that the Holocaust victims disappeared “like the smoke from the chimneys of Auschwitz.”

Although Holocaust survivors have always wanted to preserve the apparatus of and artwork related to the Holocaust, so as to document the severity of the genocide, Seymour sees radio as being inherently “transitory.”

“There just comes a moment in your life when it’s over. The sources dry up. Do I want to psychoanalyze it?” she asked, “No.”

She adds, “It had a prolonged life, a life of its own.” She said she is astonished that it “touched so many people.”

One person who touched her was Schwarz-Bart, who recently died at 78. He spent time in the concentration camps during the war and wrote “The Last of the Just,” which won France’s highest literary honor, the Prix Goncourt, in the late 1950s.

He “literally seems to have survived to write it,” she says, pointing out that he began writing right after the war, when he was in his twenties, and spent
years working on it in a Paris library, since his home did not have heat.

Not surprisingly, Seymour, who has always paid homage to Schwarz-Bart on her Chanukah show, will do so again in her final segment.

Another author whom she intends to acknowledge in her last show is the late Singer, the only Nobel Prize laureate who wrote primarily in Yiddish. She met Singer many times when she was living in New York.

Seymour’s then-husband, poet Jack Hirschman, who wooed her with a letter from Ernest Hemingway, introduced her to Singer. They would get together in a vegetarian restaurant and discuss astronomy and the kabbalah with Singer and his latest girlfriend, never his wife. Singer fancied concentration camp survivors for dates; interestingly, Seymour says that these young women had “dreams [that] would always be amazingly similar to his stories.”

Seymour says she was never a devotee of radio when she was young, even though she is a contemporary of Woody Allen and was raised in the “Radio Days” era of the late 1930s and 1940s. “I landed totally by accident.”

The accident occurred in 1961, when Hirschman was teaching at UCLA, and KPFK-FM 90.7 came calling, asking for tapes of his work. Seymour provided the Pacifica radio station with the tapes and shortly thereafter, was offered the job of heading up the station’s drama department.

More than a decade later, she joined KCRW.

Although she will stop broadcasting her marquee program, she says she will continue to host programs like “Politics of Culture,” and we will still hear her over the air during fundraising drives. As for “Philosophers,” she says, “It was never something that was conceived to go on for 28 years.”

“Philosophers, Fiddlers & Fools” will air for the final time on Friday, Dec. 15, from noon to 3 p.m. on KCRW, 89.9 FM.

Radio DJ Jimmy Kay brings folksy charm to folkie L.A


A radio DJ might not be your idea of an innovative storyteller, but who can’t relate to the desire to inflict your own personal interests onto the greater Los Angeles listening public? DJ Jimmy Kay does just this every Sunday night from 9 p.m. to midnight on KKGO 1260AM, where he hosts the program “Sunday Night Folk.”

He can play whatever music suits his fancy, but he doesn’t play the music just for his own fanciful whims. He secretly hopes that the historical significance of the events described in the lyrics will touch the listening audience as much as the haunting melodies that weave through the songs.

On Nov. 12, Kay will host a musical salute to American Veterans in honor of Veterans Day. It will feature music from the Revolutionary and Civil Wars, World Wars I and II, Vietnam and Iraq. It will also include a 10-song segment about the continuing battle against fascism that exists in the world today.

Jimmy Kay was born James Kalmenson on Oct. 5, 1958, in New Rochelle, N.Y., to two Jewish parents, Lilli and Howard Kalmenson. In 1962, the Kalmenson family moved to Tarzana, when his father purchased the Spanish-language radio station KWKW.

“I was bar mitzvahed at 13; my speech discussed pollution and ecology,” Kay remembers. “My upbringing was not overtly religious; we did observe all the major holidays, and during my pre-teen years we performed the rituals for the Sabbath.”

Celebrating the holidays was of great importance to Kay’s mother, whose own family had escaped from Germany in 1938.

Kay’s interest in folk music stemmed from watching the images of Vietnam on television and being exposed to music from the ’60s, Kay recalls. “I loved to sing songs around the campfire every summer when I went to River Way Ranch Camp.”

Probably the most influential element for Kay was seeing the movie, “Bound for Glory,” which exposed him to the life and songs of Woody Guthrie.

Next April, “Sunday Night Folk” will celebrate its fifth anniversary. Over the years it has expanded from one hour to three per week; it’s acquired more financial sponsorships; and, most importantly, it’s gained a wider audience.

Kay offers, “the music is definitely folk; however, we aren’t afraid to cross the boundaries into other genres in order to compliment a thematic moment. We play classic country from the ’30s, ’40s and ’50s. We enjoy political satirists like L.A. songwriter Ross Altman. Sing-a-long campfire songs and children’s tunes can be worked in once in awhile as well as a dramatic set of love songs here and there.

“We also like to tip our hats to veterans and focus on anthems of political protest as well as spinning patriotic feel-good songs. Jewish-themed songs, Latino-themed songs, ditties about taxes, dogs, trains, farm animals … you name it, we’ve played it. If I have one rule, it would be that we never play anything which is getting heavy airplay anywhere else; I love to introduce undiscovered singer-songwriters on a segment called, ‘Sunday Night Folk Discoveries.'”

Kay and producer Jeffrey Schwartz (known on air as Jimmy Smart) also commit the most bizarre sin possible by music business standards — they take musical submissions from anyone and they listen to every single CD that they receive. Hearing all this, you start to wonder what Jimmy Kay’s music library must look like. When does he have time to catalogue everything? Especially when you find out that the station his father bought in 1962 is now considered the No. 1 AM Spanish-language station in the country, so boasts its current president, Jimmy Kay.

It’s really no surprise that Kay would end up being a champion for the “underground” folk circuit, because he believes that folk music has always dealt with the “down-trodden.” Kay adds, “my Jewish education always emphasized caring for the less fortunate. I feel a great joy sharing songs that make people really think about the human condition. I love to play music which reminds people of their childhood memories and to expose them to ideas which they may not have ever even considered before.”

According to Kay’s philosophy, the road to freedom is taken not only one step, but one lyric at a time.

Radical right resents judges and juries


The right-wing effort to defeat independent-minded judges has reached the usually peaceful second floor of the Ronald Reagan State Building in downtown Los Angeles, home of the
2nd District Court of Appeal.

The justices’ office suite is a quiet place, insulated from the noise of Spring Street. When I was at the Times just down the street, the justices used to invite me over occasionally to give them tips on dealing with the press. Not that they needed it. Reporters seldom came calling to inquire about their heavily legalistic and usually non-controversial decisions.

But these days no judge is safe from the assault of the religious right, anti-government crusaders and law and order zealots. And, as a result of the reach and speed of the Internet, the most obscure fringe group can spread its message as if it were a fast moving virus, penetrating even the second floor of the Reagan building.

The Terry Schiavo Case, prayer, gay relationships and abortion decisions have prompted vicious attacks on the courts. On each of these issues, the radical right have gone after the courts and judges, rather than the legal reasoning behind the decisions.

These assaults from the conservative evangelical Christian bloc — the Republicans’ much heralded base — has prompted retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, a Republican appointed by President Reagan, to warn that the independence of judges, and the rights of all Americans, are threatened by such attacks, as is the freedom of us all. It was an unusually forthright speech, given earlier this year and reported by the only journalist present, Nina Totenberg, NPR’s legal affairs correspondent.

I didn’t pay much attention until I received a call from one of the appellate justices. He told me that there was much concern in the legal community because of far-right slates urging a no vote on some of the justices. The governor appoints the justices, and whenever they seek another term, they are on the ballot to be confirmed or rejected by the voters with a yes or no vote. Judges are on Tuesday’s ballot. Judges are non-partisan, and governors, from Arnold Schwarzenegger back to his predecessors, have appointed Republicans and Democrats to the bench.

At first, I wasn’t especially interested. Why pay attention to fringe groups? But the appellate judge kept after me. Then I got a call from a lawyer who said the situation was of special importance to the Jewish community. Her point: We’re people of the law. And in this country, the law, a Constitution that separates religion from the state, has protected our beliefs.

Searching through the web, I came to the site of California Christians.net also known as bw.boyarsky@verizon.net.

Better late than never, Theodor Herzl, children reunited in death; Ex-N.J. Governor McGreevey’s Isra


Theodor Herzl, Children Reunited in Death
 
Two of Theodor Herzl’s children were reinterred in Jerusalem after decades of debate. Hans and Pauline Herzl, who died in 1930 and were buried in France, were laid to final rest alongside the Zionist visionary at the cemetery that carries his name in Israel’s capital. Theodor Herzl, who launched the modern Zionist movement and wrote “The Jewish State” a few years before dying in 1904, had expressed the wish to be buried next to his children. But Israeli authorities, after reinterring Herzl himself in 1949, were reluctant to do the same for Hans and Pauline given the controversy over their deaths. Pauline died of a drug overdose in what might have been a suicide, prompting her brother to shoot himself. Hans’ conversion to Christianity shortly before his death further stoked religious opposition to his burial in Israel. But rabbis recently ruled that Hans had disavowed Christianity before dying, and that Pauline’s demise was a result of mental disturbance.
 
“Having brought in the remains of Pauline and Hans, we are completing the mission and achieving historical closure,” Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said at the burial ceremony.
 
Ex-N.J. Governor McGreevey’s Israeli ‘Lover’ Denounces Book
 
An Israeli who was James McGreevey’s declared love interest attacked the former New Jersey governor’s memoir. McGreevey, who stepped down in 2004 after declaring he was gay, published a memoir this month titled, “The Confession.” In it, he details an affair he said he had with Golan Cipel, an Israeli whose appointment to serve as homeland security adviser in New Jersey raised eyebrows. But Cipel, who says he is straight and suffered sexual harassment by McGreevey, issued a statement attacking the book as a “pack of lies.”
 
Cipel said: “I strongly hope that the gay community rejects this obvious and shameless ploy from a man who has engaged in acts of deception, sexual violence and intimidation.”
 
Latino Jews React to Miami Radio Caricature
 
Hispanic Jews in Miami formed a group to monitor Spanish-language media for anti-Semitism. The establishment of the Hispanic Jewish Initiative comes after Jews said they were offended by Goldstein, a Jewish character on the top-rated 95.7 FM show, known in English as “The Morning Hijinks,” local media reported. A Web page, until recently linked to the show, depicts a black character, Al Jackson, with the mug shot of a man whose lips balloon from his face. In place of a photo for Goldstein is a Nazi eagle and swastika.
 
The group, created under the state chapter of the Anti-Defamation League, will monitor and address other concerns of Florida’s Spanish-speaking Jewish population.
 
Israel Unmoved by Irish Boycott Call
 
Israel’s education minister downplayed an Irish call for Israeli academics to be boycotted. In an open letter published by the Irish Times newspaper earlier this month, 61 local academics urged their country, as well as the European Union, to impose a moratorium on ties with Israeli educational institutions until Israel “ends the occupation of Palestinian territories.”
 
The letter also deplored Israel’s “aggression against the people of Lebanon” during the recent war against Hezbollah. Israel’s education minister, Yuli Tamir, said she would meet the Irish ambassador to discuss the boycott call but played down its importance.
 
“At this time, I don’t see a real danger to Israel’s academic ties, though any boycott is despicable and we have to make sure it is lifted,” she told Army Radio.
 
Four Men Charged In Norway Synagogue Attack
 
Norwegian police charged four men in the shooting attack on an Oslo synagogue. The men were initially charged with vandalism Sept. 21, but the charge was upgraded to organizing an act of terrorism, an offense punishable by up to 12 years in prison. Police said one suspect was Norwegian, and the others had different backgrounds. They declined to provide more information about the suspects. However, Norwegian news outlets have reported that one suspect was a 29-year-old Norwegian of Pakistani origin who had been held briefly in Germany in June on suspicion of planning an act of terrorism against the soccer World Cup. No one was hurt in the Sept. 17 incident.
 
Czechs on Security Alert During High Holidays
 
The Czech Republic went on high alert for a terrorist attack during the High Holidays. The government announced the alert in the early hours Saturday and said it would continue for some time, with no specifics given. Czech officials noted that the Czech alliance with the United States in its war on terror might have made it a target, but there was also media speculation that an attack was planned to coincide with Rosh Hashanah. A government spokesman reportedly hinted that the alert was connected to the arrest of four men charged with shooting at an Oslo synagogue last weekend. Norwegian authorities have said the men were plotting to blow up U.S. and Israeli embassies in other cities. Thousands of additional police are present in the streets of Prague and are particularly noticeable near Jewish sites, such as synagogues and the Jewish community headquarters.
 
Briefs courtesy Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

Letters to the Editor


Chamberlain Ad

I do not know if I can communicate how deeply offended I was by the Republican Jewish Coalition’s (RJC) Neville Chamberlain ad on page 6 of the Sept. 8 Jewish Journal. Besides the complete lack of intellectual honesty, the appalling lack of logical reasoning fails beyond the pale to measure up to the traditions of Judaism specifically and humanity in general:

Rather than deal with the threat that Al Qaeda actually presents to our national security, President Bush has chosen to waste hundreds of billions of dollars on a personal vendetta in Iraq washed in five years of the blood of the Iraqi people and citizenry of our great nation.

Rather than communicating with a government seeking to open communication between the United States, President Bush consciously closed all potential paths of dialogue and continuously vilified and threatened a sovereign nation in a tinhorn cowboy attempt to force Iran into a diplomatic mistake of nuclear proportions.

Rather than assist Israel to defend itself against continuing malicious attacks from Hezbollah or Hamas, Bush specifically chose to do absolutely nothing for five years, and more importantly, two weeks of Israel’s invasion into Lebanon, then sent the single most ineffectual secretary of state within the last century to negotiate a failed cease-fire proposal.

If The Journal is so strapped for cash, it would be a far better use of its ad space to place a plea for donations and financial support from its readership, rather than compromising all dignity and integrity by running further tripe from the RJC.

Richard Adlof
North Hollywood

Shame on the Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC) for running two ads which desperately tried to denigrate the Democratic Party.

First, shame on the RJC for taking an issue of great bipartisan agreement — support for a strong U.S.- Israel relationship — and turning it into a wedge issue for tawdry partisan political advantage. Any objective observer of U.S. politics has to agree that both of our major political parties are remarkably supportive of Israel. This fact is crucial in maintaining the strong relationship between the United States and Israel. For the RJC, however, it appears that twisting the truth for some petty partisan gain is apparently more important than maintaining bipartisan support for the Jewish state.

It is true that in both parties there are a handful of politicians who are not part of this bipartisan consensus. Carter is one of these outsiders who find no support for their positions on the Arab-Israeli conflict within their own parties.

Jewish newspapers, like all newspapers, have an obligation to not print false and misleading ads. We hope in the coming weeks, as RJC slings more mud, this newspaper will fact-check their ad copy to make sure the RJC doesn’t continue to use these pages to violently twist the truth.

Marc Stanley
First Vice Chair
National Jewish Democratic Council

The Republican obsession with Iraq has left Israel open and vulnerable to the possible nuclear overtures of a Holocaust-denying Iran. The Republican obsession with the Cold War almost led to a military defeat for Israel in the 1973 Yom Kippur War (and did lead to a country-permeating malaise). The Republican obsession with a fundamental Christian theology that is based on the apocalyptic demise of not only Israel but Jews everywhere is too eviscerating and too self-evident to even require an elaboration.

Does any Jew still believe that the Republican party has their true interests at heart?

Marc Rogers
Thousand Oaks

We applaud the recent public discussion about the support for Israel by the political parties (“GOP Sees Israel as Way to Woo Democratic Jews,” Sept. 1).All who are pro-Israel should appreciate the positive influence our growing Jewish Republican community is having on the GOP. Our access to senior GOP leaders is warmly encouraged, and, in return, the Jewish community is increasingly impressed by an administration and a Republican Congress that have been deeply pro-Israel.

The example of U.N. Ambassador John Bolton is instructive. The Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC) was virtually alone among national Jewish organizations in supporting the nomination of this hero of the Jewish people, who not only helped to defeat the odious “Zionism is racism” resolution years ago, but who now vigorously defends Israel at the United Nations against unfair demonization and delegitimization. Many Jewish Democrats now see that Bolton is the right man at the United Nations.

Putting aside the issue of Israel, moderate Jews might approach 21st century American politics with an open mind on who is best on both national security and domestic public policy issues. It is time that respectful attention be paid by Jews to positive GOP ideas about economic growth, welfare and entitlement reform, medical liability and tort/legal reform, energy independence and educational choice and competition to best serve children.

To the benefit of Israel and the United States, the days of one-party Jewish voting are, thankfully, over.

Joel Geiderman
Chairman
Larry Greenfield
Director
Republican Jewish Coalition, California

Illegal Jewish Immigrants

Your articles focused on illegal Israeli immigrants who are not terrorists and do not take low-paying jobs away from minorities (“Living and Working [IL]Legally in America,” Sept. 8). Instead they engage in commercial activity that is beneficial to Israel.

Thanks to your article calling attention to them, perhaps immigration officials will divert attention from terrorists to crack down on these Israelis.

Are you The Jewish Journal or the anti-Jewish Journal?

Marshall GillerWinnetka

The Jews Didn’t Do It

Not all conspiracy theories are equal (“The Lie That Won’t Die,” Sept. 1). Richard Greenberg’s article asks us to believe otherwise, holding out only two possibilities to the American public: Either you accept the government version of Sept. 11 or you are a “conspiracist.”

But the world is much more complex than these two positions allow, and the democratic process itself depends on citizens who question official stories. David Griffin, author of “The New Pearl Harbor” and three additional books on Sept. 11, raises important questions about the adequacy of the Kean Commission report.

Israeli Diplomats Reach Out to L.A. Iranian Media


Representatives from Southern California-based Persian-language satellite radio stations and television shows attended a special press conference on Aug. 28, held for them at Los Angeles’ Israeli consulate, the first public interaction between the Israeli government and local Persian-language media in more than 25 years.

The local Iranian media outlets are owned and operated by expatriate Iranian Muslims, and the gathering was a move by the consulate to reach out directly to the people of Iran.

“I received feedback from a lot of channels in the Iranian media for interviews, so I saw the desire by them to understand what we think and we believe, so we setup this event specifically to address their questions,” said Israeli Consul General Ehud Danoch.

Local Persian Jewish activists were instrumental in helping to connect the Iranian media with the consulate for the press conference, as many Persian Jews still share common cultural and linguistic ties with other Iranian groups in Southern California.

“This is indeed something that has never been done before in this city where there is a community of Iranian and a center of Iranian media outside of Iran,” said George Haroonian, a Persian Jewish activist who helped organize the press conference with the consulate.

“We need to be the connector between the people of Israel and people of Iran,” Haroonian said.

During the nearly two-hour press conference, Danoch responded to reporters’ questions about the aftermath of the war with Hezbollah and addressed the Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s repeated calls for Israel’s destruction.

“The most important message for us to get across is that the government of Israel and Israelis have nothing against the Iranian people or Islam,” Danoch said. “But we will not tolerate the extremist expressions of that president of Iran”.

Since the collapse in 1979 of the regime of the late shah of Iran, many Iranian Muslim politicians and Western-educated professionals have been among the large groups of Iranians in the United States and, particularly, Los Angeles. During the past two decades, these communities have established media outlets in Southern California that oppose the current government in Iran, and regularly broadcast news and political commentary to Iran through satellite radio and television, as well as via the internet, much of it in an attempt to help bring down the regime there.

Southern California’s Iranian Muslim media has also frequently voiced criticism of Israel, as well, and the consulate’s outreach at this event was an attempt to counter that. On the part of the Iranian media, this was one more way to take a jab at the regime.

“This is an important event for us because we don’t want our viewers to receive one-sided bias news from the media in Iran and get brainwashed — we must show the other side,” said Afshin Gorgin, a reporter for the Iranian news program on the Voice of America satellite television. “Here they get to see and hear the views of the other side directly from a representative of Israel”.

Members of the Iranian media in attendance said the press conference was later broadcast in its entirety into Iran, which has a population of nearly 70 million, many of whom said they oppose their government’s support of terrorist organizations like Hezbollah, but are afraid to express their views.

“I receive phone calls from listeners in Iran, and they say we do not have a problem with Israel, and we do not have border disputes with Israel,” said Siavash Azari, a news commentator on KRSI, a Beverly Hills-based satellite radio station that broadcasts daily into Iran.

The Iranian Muslim media stepped up interest in issues concerning Israel when, late last year, Iranian President Ahmadinejad called Israel a “disgraceful blot” that should be “wiped off the map.” In response, they condemned Ahmadinejad and organized a pro-Israel rally in Westwood, which drew nearly 2,000 Iranians from various religions.

“We spoke out against him because his words were utterly absurd for anyone to say, and we would have spoken out against such statements if they were made by any other leader,” said Reza Fazeli, a news commentator for the satellite television station Pars TV.

Earlier this month, Israeli Deputy Consul General Yaron Gamburg was also interviewed by Hossien Hejazi, an Iranian news commentator at KIRN-AM. 670, a Persian-language radio station based in Hollywood.

In January, when Ahmadinejad denied the existence of the Holocaust, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, working with Iranian Jewish leaders, invited Iranian journalists to tour the Museum of Tolerance in an effort to educate them about the Holocaust so that they could send information back to Iran on the topic.

The January event, as well as the recent press conference, seem to be having the desired effect of opening up dialogue. At the conference, Danoch offered to make himself available for interviews and said the consulate would help to get their message across to the people of Iran in any way possible.

Radio Host Barry Gordon: It’s All Right to Be Left


“I don’t come in until the sax solo,” Barry Gordon says to the technician in the cramped, second-floor studio in the North Hollywood area.

Gordon takes off his glasses, places them on a pile of books, and, light-green highlighter in hand, he begins marking up another text, this one by Noam Chomsky, Gordon’s first radio interview on this Sunday. Gordon has been host of “Barry Gordon From Left Field,” a political talk show on KCAA 1050 AM, since earlier this year, and as he tilts forward in his swivel chair, he studies the tome 15 minutes before his 1 p.m. show begins. With his gentle rocking motion, salt-and-pepper beard, and Talmudic concentration on the prose, Gordon suggests an Orthodox Jew davening during prayer, a fitting image for a man who may be most famous of late for his portrayal of the rabbi on “Curb Your Enthusiasm.”

But Gordon has played many roles over his long, multifarious career, which started when he was a 3-year-old singer on the “Ted Mack Amateur Hour.” He has morphed from child singer to recording artist (his rendition of “Nuttin’ for Christmas” remains one of the top-selling Christmas records), child actor on Golden Age TV shows like “Leave It To Beaver” and “Dennis the Menace,” Tony-nominated performer for his role in Herb Gardner’s “A Thousand Clowns” and president of the Screen Actors Guild.

He also graduated Summa Cum Laude from Cal State L.A. in his 30s; got a law degree in 1991, when he was in his 40s; ran as the Democratic candidate for Congress in the late 1990s; recently co-wrote the musical, “Dorian Gray”; and now, in his late-50s, has become a radio personality.

In working in radio as a political commentator, Gordon is returning to his roots in many ways. In addition to his own radio and TV performances as a child singer, his father was a DJ in Albany, N.Y., before the family moved to Southern California, when Gordon was about 7. A few years later, the young Gordon became entranced by the Kennedy phenomenon and read “Profiles in Courage.”

On this day, though, he is reading Chomsky as the technician cues Supertramp’s “The Magical Song,” a hit from the late 1970s. We hear the lyrics, “They’d be calling you a radical, a liberal…,” before segueing to Gordon, who says, “We’re here to cut through the white noise of the right wing.”

Dressed casually in gray corduroys and faded-pink floral shirt, Gordon speaks in animated fashion, and unlike many actors, he can do so off the cuff with great elocution and diction.

After telling listeners about his “packed” show, whose interviewees in the later segments include Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.), Gordon introduces in almost hushed tones his opening guest, “one of the most extraordinary minds of the 20th century, Noam Chomsky.”

In an era of talk radio, where political discourse is often reduced to shouting, Gordon conducts his program with much civility. The morning after the show, he will say over the phone, “The biggest mistake liberal talk radio can make is to copy conservative talk radio. I think you can have a passionate program without trashing people. There can be respectful disagreement, but it’s disagreement.”

There is no doubting Gordon’s political perspective, and not just because of the baseball metaphor used in the title of his eponymous program. Gordon ran for Congress in 1998 against James Rogan, the Republican representative from Glendale, best remembered for his role in the impeachment of President Bill Clinton. Gordon lost a close race but paved the way for Adam Schiff, a Democrat, who won two years later.

Yes, Gordon is on the left. On his blog, BarryTalk.com, he has criticized the Israeli reprisals against Hezbollah that resulted in the killing of civilians, even if many were used as shields by terrorists. Now, as he interviews Chomsky, Gordon says, “As you’re a professor of linguistics, let me ask you a question about language. ‘How would you define a terrorist?'”

Chomsky, who has written many books on the Middle East and has voiced his disapproval of U.S. foreign policy and Israeli military activity, responds that a terrorist engages in “the calculated use of violence against civilians.”
Gordon, who is extremely well-informed, holds forth about the Israeli media and Middle East politics. He mentions that he has joined the organization, L.A. Jews for Peace, which he regrets does not have a large membership.

He and Chomsky discuss the failed peace talks at Taba. According to the MIT professor, the Palestinians and even the Iranians had signed on to a two-state solution in Israel and the Palestinian territories, but the Israelis backed out of an agreement.

If Gordon seems to be one of the lone liberal voices on the radio (he jokes that listeners are as likely to hear Gordon Liddy as him on KCAA), he follows in a tradition that goes back to FDR, whose “fireside chats” showed his mastery of the then-new medium, and has included everyone from Orson Welles to Robert Scheer to Al Franken.

“The trend in the medium is not to take a position,” he says. “I’m not interested in playing devil’s advocate. ‘On the one hand, this; on the other hand, that.’ I’m interested in taking a position.”

As the first of his many interviews today ends, Gordon relaxes in his swivel chair. He says he is reaching as many as 3.5 million listeners on KCAA but is hoping to go national. That will take a lot of resourcefulness, but Gordon is great at improvising, and he’s a quick study. He once filled in for the cantor at the Synagogue for the Performing Arts (“I was the temple’s Ruby Keeler”), he learned how to write and read music without any formal training, and he returned to college and law school in middle age.

So, how will he take his radio show national?

“That’s what I’m trying to figure out,” he chuckles.


“Barry Gordon From Left Field” is broadcast live Sundays from 1-4 p.m., on KCAA 1050 AM, webcast live on ” TARGET=”_blank”>www.BarryGordonFromLeftField.com and the blog,

Hebrew School Rocks Thanks to Radio Station


On Friday nights, when 13-year-old Michael Rothbart approaches Leo Baeck Temple for Shabbat services, he urges his parents to tune to 87.9 on their radio dial.
He is hoping that Avram Mandell, Leo Baeck’s educational director and the founding force behind the temple’s very low-power radio station, has popped in some pre-recorded Jewish music.

The Friday night program would be a bonus for Rothbart, one of the station’s first certified disc jockeys. Leo Baeck Radio 87.9, run by the third- though seventh-graders, broadcasts live Sunday mornings during drop-off, recess and pick-up from religious school.


On any given Sunday, the radio studio behind Mandell’s office, complete with its “On the Air” red light, is bustling with activity. Students come in 45 minutes early to begin their shifts; four DJs work the live broadcasts, but often during recess the crowd swells, with students wanting to be close to the radio action.
“I’m always looking to ways to engage the children and community in Jewish education,” Mandell says. “You throw out as many hooks as possible. You never know which one will catch a fish.”

Traditional once-a-week Hebrew school did little to inspire a generation of Jews, especially when students attended for fewer than six years, according to the 2000 National Jewish Population study. The same study showed that the longer and more intense involvement students had with religious schooling, the more likely they were to develop a strong Jewish identity as adults.

Leo Baeck’s school, which also meets on Wednesday afternoons, is one of a growing number of programs offering creative classes to make religious school a stimulating, hands-on experience. The goal is to help kids incorporate Judaism into their daily lives and to forge a lifelong positive connection to Judaism, Mandell said.

The school has about 210 kids. About 65 percent return for post-bar and bat mitzvah studies, all the way through 12th grade.

In addition to traditional classes in Hebrew and Jewish heritage and texts, students participate in family learning days, analyze current events, engage in social action, and enjoy field trips, holiday celebrations and prayer workshops. Sunday morning electives include drama, journalism, Krav Maga (Israeli self-defense), band and the radio station.

Leo Baeck Temple Radio, which has been up and running for about a year and broadcasts through the school and the parking lot, has been a particularly effective hook for many students. Started last year with the help of a grant from the Martin Sosin Stratto-Petit Foundation, which Mandell used to purchase a good stock of CDs, the weekly broadcasts provide an opportunity for the students to learn about all kinds of Jewish music, as well as honing their broadcasting skills. In addition to researching and introducing the music they play, the 25 students in the class write scripts for newscasts, commercials, public service announcements and movie reviews.

Last year, the fledgling station received a $1,000 prize for creative use of technology from the Union for Reform Judaism Press and the National Association of Temple Educators.

Rothbart believes that he’s advanced his Jewish education through the station. “We read news stories. We fill in background and history and we explain the Hebrew titles of songs,” he said.

Matthew Schulman, another 13-year-old DJ, liked learning how to modulate his broadcasting voice and developing “a nice attitude on the air and off.”
For their class project this semester, the class produced a radio broadcast based on the latest Ruach CD, an anthology of Jewish rock music from North America and Israel.

The students researched and recorded intros to each of the artists for a broadcast that has become a staple of the station’s programming.
“Some people might be surprised to learn there’s Jewish rock, much less Jewish hip-hop,” Mandell says.

And the definition of “Jewish music” can also expand to “include any band that has a Jewish member” — Bob Dylan qualifies, as does Maroon Five.
The students’ favorites include Leo Baeck’s Cantor, Wally Schachet-Briskin, known as Cantor Wally; Mah Tovu, the band of Leo Baeck’s senior rabbi, Ken Chasen, and Eric Schwartz, a.k.a. Smooth-E, a Jewish rapper and stand-up comedian, who did a live interview with the kids, performed for the religious school and even did a station identification.

The station IDs are a particularly popular format — with everyone from the temple’s custodian to the cantor recording announcements.

“Even if no-one is tuning in, we have a great time. I’ll blast it through the halls of the school. And the DJs love it,” Mandell says. “We have third-graders working with fifth-graders and seventh-graders. It’s very important for me to have different age groups interacting.”

Schulman, has no intention of ending his involvement, when he moves on to eighth grade this year.

“I like the music,” he says. “I’ll definitely do it next year. When I get older I’d like to continue to work with 87.9 and maybe help other temples get radio stations, too.”

7 Days in the Arts


Saturday
22

Polka gets dotty at the Getty this evening with the last installment of the center’s Summer Sessions series. “21st Century Roots” offers “roots music for the new millennium,” in the form of three groups: Brave Combo, a polka ensemble that mixes music from Mexico, Germany and Japan; Golem, an edgy klezmer rock band; and moira smiley & VOCO, a band that mixes the dance songs of Eastern Europe with Appalachian tunes. International folk dance lessons are also offered.

5:45 p.m. and 7:15 p.m. (dance lessons). 6:30 p.m. (first music set). Free. Getty Center South Courtyard, Courtyard Stage and Garden Terrace, 1200 Getty Center Drive, Los Angeles. (310) 440-7300.

Sunday
23

Can’t get enough of the man in tights? Head to the Museum of Television and Radio to see Superman as he appeared — in his many forms — on the small screen. For one final week the museum presents a selection of TV shows, including the 1950s “Adventures of Superman”; the steamier 1990s Dean Cain and Teri Hatcher affair, “Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman”; today’s Superman for the teen and tween set, “Smallville”; the animated 1970s classic “Superfriends” and the newer “Justice League”; as well as the unaired 1961 pilot of “The Adventures of Superboy.”

Through July 30. Noon-5 p.m. (Wed.-Sun.). $5-$10 donations suggested. 465 N. Beverly Drive, Beverly Hills. (310) 786-1025.

Monday
24

Beat the summer heat with a refreshingly star-free film festival. Dances With Films enters its ninth year with a host of talent-filled films, sans celebs. Why no familiar faces? Festival co-founder Leslee Scallon explains, “The other festivals are busy programming mostly celebrity oriented films. It’s not that we’re dissing celebrities, we’re just giving films a chance to be seen that are getting squeezed out of the circuit.” Offer your support July 21-27.
$10 (per ticket), $125 (festival pass). Laemmle Fairfax Theatre, 7907 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles. (323) 850-2929.

Tuesday
25

Young Artists International alights on Los Angeles for its ninth annual International Laureates Festival. The week of classical music concerts features iPalpiti, their orchestral ensemble of 26 musical masters ages 19-30, representing 26 countries. Tonight, a smaller affair at the Ford Theatre features Bassiona Amorosa, a virtuosi sextet of double-bassists from Munich.
July 23-30. Prices and locations vary. (310) 205-0511.


Wednesday
26

Love a Gershwin tune? Karen Benjamin and Alan Chapman explore George’s music in tonight’s installment of the Parlor Performances @ Steinway Hall Presents… “Songwriters and Their Songs” series. Hear some of his best-loved pieces, as well as the stories behind them.
8 p.m. $25. Steinway Hall, 12121 Pico Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 471-3979.

Thursday 27

Judi Lee Brandwein can’t get no satisfaction, but discusses it this one last night, for your amusement. “Fornicationally Challenged” is the 40-something divorc’e’s one-woman mature-audiences-only comic show. It returns tonight only for a local send-off before its opening at the New York International Fringe Festival.
8 p.m. $20. Santa Monica Playhouse Main Stage, 1211 Fourth St., Santa Monica. R.S.V.P., (310) 394-9779, ext. 1.

Friday
28

Ponder the art of Bonita Helmer in George Billis Gallery’s exhibition of her latest works. The moody, thought-provoking abstract acrylics focus on the interplays of fundamental elements, forcing the viewer to reconsider basic notions such as space and time.
Through Sept. 2. 2716 S. La Cienega Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 838-3685.

7 Days in the Arts


Saturday

Find yourself laughing tonight as Debbie Kasper and Sheila Kay perform their two-woman show, “Venus Attacks!” Their parody of New Age gurus and seminars and self-help Mars/Venus philosophizing had critics raving when they performed the show in 2001. Don’t miss it this time.Runs through Nov. 7. 8 p.m. (Fri. and Sat.), 2p.m. (Sun.) $15-$20. Hudson Avenue Theatre, 6539 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood. (323) 960-5521.

Sunday

Unabashed Bush bashing begins today with the inaugural lecture in the Workmen’s Circle’s series “The Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy: Unmasking, Understanding and Defeating It.” Renown author, lecturer and journalist John Powers discusses “George Bush’s America and the Rest of Us.”2 p.m. $6-$10. 1525 S. Robertson Blvd., Los Angeles. R.S.V.P., (310) 552-2007.

Monday

And the hits just keep on coming in “The Future Dictionary of America,” newly released by McSweeney’s. With suggested new words by nearly 200 writers and artists including Michael Chabon, Art Spiegelman and Jonathan Safran Foer, the book is also accompanied by a CD featuring songs by musicians including REM, Tom Waits and David Byrne. Proceeds benefit organizations that oppose the current presidential administration.$28. store.mcsweeneys.net.

Tuesday

Philosophy and art converge with today’s opening reception of “Too Jewish-Not Jewish Enough” at The Jewish Federation’s Bell Gallery. The exhibit highlights 23 works by Jewish Californian artists whose work is influenced by their faith, and who have taken part in the Jewish Artists Initiative and dialogued for the past nine months on what it means to be a Jewish artist.6-8 p.m. Free. 6505 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles. R.S.V.P., (323) 761-8352.

Wednesday

Sabra pianist Daniel Gortler comes to the Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts stage. Gortler has collaborated with the likes of Zubin Mehta, Valery Gergiev and Pinchas Zukerman, and performs solo works by Beethoven and Mendelssohn tonight only.7:30 p.m. $10-$20. 12700 Center Court Drive, Cerritos. (800) 300-434

Thursday

Tune that radio dial to K-Mozart tonight at 10 p.m. for the first in the 13-part series, “American Jewish Music from the Milken Archive with Leonard Nimoy.” This episode offers a series overview, featuring conversations on the question of whether there is such a thing as a distinctly Jewish kind of music, as well as highlights from the various musical themes to be explored later on – including biblical epics set to music by Kurt Weill and other musicians, Jewish legends in tone poems, film scores, operas and klezmer music.105.1 KMZT FM. www.milkenarchive.com.

Friday

Opening tonight is Michel Deville’s, “Almost Peaceful.” Set in 1946 Paris, the film tells the story of Holocaust survivors working in a ladies’ garment workshop. They struggle to live with survivor’s guilt and the trauma of all they have endured, while at the same time they fervently try to embrace life.Laemmle’s Royal Theatre, 11523 Santa Monica Blvd., West Los Angeles. (310) 477-5581.

Mizrahi Music Travels West


Eitan Salman is at the far end of his store, leaning against a shelf lined with the new CD by Sarit Hadad, one of Israel’s more popular Mizrahi, or Eastern, singers.

Business at Salman’s music store has fallen 80 percent over the last decade, but it’s not altogether a bad thing: Mizrahi music has grown so popular in Israel that it no longer is the exclusive domain of mom-and-pop shops like Salman’s but is sold even at Israel’s Tower Records outlets.

"Mizrahi music is now available across the country, in all the stores," laments Salman, whose shop is located across the street from where Tel Aviv’s old central bus station used to stand.

Indeed, with the superstar status of singers like Hadad, Zahava Ben and Moshik Afia, Mizrahi music now tops the charts in Israel and its popularity crosses ethnic lines.

Salman and neighboring store owners remember the "cassette music" heyday, a time when Mizrahi music was the exclusive domain of Mizrahi-run stores like Salman’s, near bus stations and in souks.

"In the 1980s, Mizrahi music was not sold in record stores," explained Barak Itzkovitz, musical editor of Galgalatz, Israel’s popular army music radio station. "Today, there is a lot of consciousness about this music, and it’s one of the most popular musical genres."

The roots of Mizrahi music in Israel date back to the 1950s and the mass influx of immigrants from North Africa and the Middle East. Every community arrived with its distinct religious music, commonly known as piyutim, as well as its favorite Arabic music.

As Iraqis, Moroccans, Egyptians and Persians mixed, they exchanged musical sounds as well.

"They found out they had commonalities in their music," said Shoshana Gabay, co-creator of "Yam Shel Dmaot," or "Sea of Tears," a 1998 documentary on the development of Mizrahi music in Israel.

Children born in Israel in the 1950s grew up with other influences as well: American rock music, Indian movie music, French and Italian pop music and Russian-inspired Israeli music. The result was fusion music far ahead of its time.

"Years later there was this world music combination in other countries," Gabay said. "But in Israel it started very early, with the Asian Jews."

By the 1960s, Tel Aviv’s Yemenite quarter was home to a brand new sound.

"They had all these parties, and at those parties they took what they had learned in school — Russian-inspired Israeli songs, some Chasidic songs — and made them Oriental sounding," Gabay said. "They blended these songs with popular Arabic songs and traditional Yemenite songs and made a mix out of them. They were making an interpretation, their own interpretation."

Musicians blended not only musical styles but instruments: electric guitar and oud, synthesizer and kanoun — a classical string instrument from the Middle East and North Africa — drum kits and darbuka, a Middle Eastern and North African hand drum.

Despite the ingenuity of this new groove, Israeli fusion music stayed in Mizrahi neighborhoods until the invention of the cassette recorder, when recording suddenly became economically viable to a community with meager financial resources.

The first Mizrahi music became available on cassette in 1974, and the hit bands Lahakat Haoud and Lahakat Tslelei Hakerem couldn’t produce recordings fast enough. Tapes flew off the shelves and into the hands of Mizrahi Israelis hungry for more.

But mainstream Israeli radio stations played few Mizrahi songs.

"The people in radio were mostly from Europe," said Yoni Rohe, author of the newly published "Silsul Yisrael," which documents the development of Mizrahi music in Israel over the past 50 years. "They didn’t like the Mizrahi sound. It was not easy for them to relate to."

"The popularity of Mizrahi music was a process that happened over 15 years," Itzkovitz said. "Like hip-hop in the United States, it came from the hood, from the bottom up. It just couldn’t be stopped."

Following the success of the first recorded Mizrahi music bands, Mizrahi pop stars suddenly began to appear around the country: Avner Gadasi of Tel Aviv’s Hatikvah neighborhood, Shimmy Tavori from Rishon Le-Zion, Nissim Sarousi from Ramle.

Despite the dearth of Mizrahi music on mainstream radio stations, the Mizrahi music industry blossomed.

Zohar Argov, the poster boy for Mizrahi music, came onto the scene in 1978. Argov created Israeli country music, Ron Cahlili, film director of "Yam Shel Dmaot," told the Jerusalem Post in 1998.

"His subjects were the pain of love, betrayal, loss and sorrow," Cahlili said. "Argov was hard core, unafraid to sing about his reality and his life as he saw it."

At times compared to Elvis Presley, Argov lived on the edge: He died at 33 from a drug overdose. His albums continue to be best-sellers, however.

"Nancy Brandes did production for Zohar Argov," Rohe recounted. "Brandes came from Romania, and his connection with Zohar Argov made a new blend of music — a blend of big band and Mizrahi. This was a historical turning point. From there, in the 1980s, Mediterranean Israeli music went professional."

Meanwhile, other Mizrahi musicians developed new fusion sounds.

Ahouva Ozeri, a Yemenite-Ethiopian Israeli singer who became popular in the 1970s, mastered an Indian string instrument called bulbul tarang and gained a reputation as a world beat musician. She also helped pave the way for women in Mizrahi music.

Machismo was not the only obstacle to female Mizrahi musicians: In traditional Mizrahi households, a music career was equated with prostitution, and many families forbade their daughters from performing.

Hadad’s defiance of her parents is legendary in Israel. As a girl, she would climb out of her window at night to perform at local clubs. Her father, who died in 1997, refused to attend even a single concert of his superstar daughter.

Gabay and Rohe say the turning point for Mizrahi music was the development of commercial television and radio in the 1990s, which opened up new avenues for national broadcast of Mizrahi music, as well as other alternative sounds.

Today, Itzkovitz said, Hadad is hands-down the most popular Mizrahi musician in Israel. Afia and Itzik Kala are runners-up, and each puts out at least one platinum album per year.

"Mizrahi music is very, very popular on Israeli radio today," Itzkovitz said. "On major stations like Galgalatz, we pick only the songs that sell the best, the most popular ones that people love. Today, about 40 percent of what we play is straight-up Mizrahi music."

In addition, Itzkovitz noted, Mizrahi music has influenced musicians closely associated with the Ashkenazi kibbutznik movement. Among them is David Broza, who combines his style with the Mizrahi genre, and bands like Ethnix and Tea Packs, which combine rock and Mizrahi music.

Today’s hottest new sound is the fusion of Mizrahi music and hip-hop, Itzkovitz said. Indeed, Mizrahi musicians have blazed the trail for Israeli hip-hop, and children of immigrants from Iran, Iraq, Morocco and Yemen are at the cutting edge of Israeli music today.

Somehow, it seems, the music of the streets has became the music of choice.

"In the last years," Rohe said, "this mix of the new generations, the blend of music that came from Ashkenazi and Mizrahi homes, has brought a new sound to the ear that is as Israeli as you can get."

Article reprinted courtesy Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

Loolwa Khazzoom (

Pullman Stars on the Drive Home


When Jason Pullman worked at a country radio station in St. Louis, he used a different name and kept his Judaism on the down low.

"Not that I wasn’t proud of it, but I just let it go," said the 31-year-old disc jockey. "People in country music are different, a little more anti-Semitic than they are in other formats. From time to time they would say a Jewish joke, and I was just little afraid of a backlash."

Now working as the co-host with Lisa Foxx on the drive time "Afternoon Shift" on top-rated radio station Star 98.7 in Los Angeles, Pullman can — and does — talk about his Jewishness as much as he wants. Whether it is telling listeners that he won’t be celebrating Christmas because he has Chanukah to worry about, or kibitzing with Jewish rockers like Adam Levine of Maroon5 about a shared heritage of overanxious parents, Pullman’s Jewish background has a good chance of being thrown into any on air conversation.

"I am very proud of my Jewish heritage," he said, talking to The Journal from the Clear Channel offices (Star’s parent company). "I used to use stage names, but then as of four or five years ago [I decided] I am myself, and that is only person that I want to be."

Pullman is a relatively new voice on the Los Angeles radio, but he stepped into some big — or at least very trendy — shoes. In December 2003, when Ryan Seacrest left the station for a new position as the morning DJ at KIIS-FM and — in addition to his hosting duties with "On Air with Ryan Seacrest" and "American Idol" — the Star’s producers needed another fresh young voice to take his place behind the microphone. They received about 3,000 audition tapes from DJ hopefuls, but Pullman got the job. He had worked at the station before, doing weekends and occasionally filling in for Seacrest and Foxx, but he had never worked with Foxx. The producers didn’t think that mattered. They were so sure of his talent that they threw him into the booth with Foxx without a test run, and the partnership worked.

Although he is anxious to differentiate himself from Seacrest, it is easy to find similarities between the two. Both are from Atlanta. Both have boyishly cute faces and spiky hairdos, but Pullman doesn’t have highlights in his. Both wear ultramodish T-shirts. Both have slick and easy tongues and similar voices, but Pullman’s on-air personality is nicer — it doesn’t have what some might consider a cheeky, malicious edge sometimes found in Seacrest’s talk. Pullman also steers clear of the more raunchy conversations — he’s a nice Jewish boy.

"I wouldn’t want to ask something that my mom would not be proud of me asking," Pullman said. "Especially now with the FCC and fines — I don’t want to embarrass myself like that. It’s not the kind of radio that I want to do."

"Pullman gets a lot of grief for sounding like Ryan Seacrest, but he is quite a bit different from Ryan," said Lindsay Lawler, a producer for the afternoon shift. "Ryan is more of a metrosexual, and Jason’s more of guy’s guy. He’s also a little more vocal on his views."

"People are comparing me to Ryan, but [sounding like him] is not intentional at all," Pullman said. "I just think that I am down-to-earth guy who listeners can relate to. I’m just a Jewish guy who grew up in the suburbs of Atlanta who loves this business and wants to achieve more."

Pullman grew up in a Reform family in Atlanta that celebrated all the holidays and had a strong Jewish identity. His father was a general sales manager at a radio station. From the time he was 5, Pullman knew that he wanted to be on the air. He would tag along to work with his father and spend his free time emulating on-air personalities. In high school he interned at Power 99, a popular Atlanta station. He told them that when he was older he would come back and be on the air. They didn’t believe him, but after he went to the University of Florida and majored in communications and broadcast journalism, he came back to Atlanta and got the midnight-6 a.m. shift at the station. Since then, he has worked on-air in radio stations all over the country.

"Radio was the only thing I ever wanted to do," Pullman said. "I have a passion for music and very eclectic tastes. But I love what goes on between the songs, and I love the interaction with people on and off the air."

Now Pullman is trying to parlay his voice into other opportunities. He is the host voice of the Sci-Fi Channel’s house of horror reality series, "Mad Mad House," and TLC’s "Faking It." But his on-air Jewishness is brings him opportunities of a different kind. He received a Passover dinner invitation from someone on the sales staff in his office who never knew he was Jewish until he brought it up on air, and other people call the station offering to set him up with Jewish girls they know.

"My mom and dad would love for me to wind up with someone who is Jewish, and I would want that too," he said.

Jason Pullman can be heard on 98.7 FM on weekdays from 3-7 p.m.

My Culture War


Freedom of the press is, strictly speaking, the freedom to own a press. Within wonderfully broad limits, The New York Times can say anything it wants, but you can’t say anything you want in The New York Times.

Radio entertainer Howard Stern, as successful and wealthy as he is, doesn’t own the stations or networks that broadcast his show. So when one of those networks, Clear Channel Communications, dumped him last week from six of its stations on extremely suspicious indecency charges, all he could hope for was that outraged citizens or loyal listeners would speak out.

Howard, here I am.

I discovered Stern’s morning show driving to work 11 years ago, and I’ve been listening since. Day in and out, it has guaranteed me at least one good smile before work begins. To the working commuter that is a gift. When it’s good, which is often, Stern’s show offers a kind of ongoing, un-PC satire of political, pop and celebrity culture that — at least until Jon Stewart’s "The Daily Show" appeared — had all but vanished from TV and radio. I turn it on after I drop the kids off at school. When it bores or offends me, I switch stations for a while.

Now people want to take my show away. After Clear Channel dropped his program, Stern said that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is moving to bring fines for indecency against the show, which will eventually force Infinity Broadcasting to drop it as well.

Make no mistake: the FCC, composed of five presidential appointees, levies fines, grants licenses and approves station expansion. It holds all the best cards here.

I understand that by many peoples’ standards, Stern is indecent, but he has been so for a long, long time. The incident that prompted Clear Channel to dump him, and for which the FCC may levy fines, has been so commonplace on his program that it could have been mistaken for a promo spot.

Ever since Janet Jackson exposed herself during the Super Bowl’s halftime show, the FCC and some members of Congress have been pushing for tougher decency standards and higher fines. Conservative religious-oriented citizens groups, like Focus on the Family, have urged them along with coordinated e-mail campaigns.

The media have picked up on this latest battlefront in the Culture War because the media loves a good Culture War. The issues are easier to understand than arguments over health care or the tax code, and they usually involve sex (Howard Stern, gay marriage) and violence (Mel Gibson, gun control).

Stern is saying that what has put the FCC on his trail this time is not dirty words, but his sudden and outspoken opposition to the re-election of President Bush. Stern supported Bush following Sept. 11 and throughout the second Gulf War, praising him as a tough leader. But he began speaking out against Bush over issues at the heart of the Culture War — stem-cell research, gay rights — and began urging his listeners to vote for Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.).

Former New Jersey Gov. Christie Todd Whitman, a centrist Republican, has credited Stern’s on-air support with making the difference that got her elected. Clear Channel, a corporation with a long history of support for Bush, might not have pulled Stern from such swing-state markets in Florida and Pennsylvania for political reasons, but doing so certainly won’t hurt Bush there.

I’ve never really understood where the Culture War ends in this country and the Political War begins. My sense is that each needs and uses the other, and an election year kicks them both into high gear. Each side wants you to believe that it is on the brink of losing the war, but the evidence is murky.

Sure, Stern may get canceled, but books by leftists like Michael Moore and Al Franken are at the top of national bestseller lists. Yes, many in the media trashed "The Passion of the Christ," but that didn’t stop it from earning close to $200 million so far. There may be vast conspiracies of the left- or right-wing, but Americans themselves vacillate.

It isn’t surprising that Stern is caught up in the kind of cultural and political battle in which Jewish comedians and commentators like Mort Sahl and Lenny Bruce once found themselves.

He is heir to the Jewish tradition of the badchen, or shtetl entertainer. "They were scandalous, filled with gossip," comedian and frequent Stern guest Richard Belzer has said. "Their essence was to expose and make fun of things in their society. The badchen’s society was the shtetl. We expand it to include the whole society."

"Stern’s is an unleashed id unrepressed by socially approved feelings," writes Lawrence Epstein in his seminal study of Jewish comedy, "The Haunted Smile." "He is an attack on society’s right to censor the honest feels of the individual. He is a safety valve, a release." In as free and democratic medium that exists, 18 million Americans vote for Stern each morning.

The badchen is what Thomas Cahill might call a "Gift of the Jews," an outsider who exposes society’s foibles, pokes fun at its hypocrisies, makes people laugh and makes people think. The FCC has no right to look this gift horse in the mouth.

Book Unpacks Shoah Memories


Karen Levine never had plans to write a book.

Then in 2001, the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. radio producer came across an article in the Canadian Jewish News about a young Japanese woman, urged on by Tokyo schoolchildren studying the Holocaust, who traveled halfway round the world to find the owner of a child’s battered suitcase. That child, Hana Brady, had died in Auschwitz at age 13, but the determined young woman tracked down Hana’s brother George, who had survived Auschwitz and found a new life in Toronto.

Levine made a radio documentary chronicling the meeting between Fumiko Ishioka and George Brady, and that led her to write a children’s book, "Hana’s Suitcase," a gripping detective story and an inspirational saga.

Since its publication in March 2003, "Hana’s Suitcase" has attracted readers in 26 countries and won accolades including the Association of Jewish Libraries’ Sydney Taylor Award. Levine, Brady and Ishioka have become ambassadors on behalf of the book, sharing Hana’s story with children around the world. Brady, overjoyed to see good coming out of the tale of his sister’s death, has ceased having the nightmares that once plagued him. And Levine has unexpectedly found herself in the role of best-selling author.

Still, she’s not yet ready to let her own 8-year-old read "Hana’s Suitcase."

"I haven’t been able to burst that bubble yet," she told The Journal. Growing up in multicultural Toronto, Gabriel Zev is still "totally and completely colorblind," and the thought of introducing an awareness of racism into his world is something Levine finds heartbreaking. — BG

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