Israel, Brazilian Jews slam recall of Brazilian ambassador from Tel Aviv

Representatives of Brazil’s Jewish community said their government’s recall of its ambassador from Israel amounted to a defense of Hamas.

The statement by CONIB, an umbrella body, came Thursday, a day after Brasilia announced that it was recalling for consultation its ambassador to Israel, Henrique Sardinha, to protest Israel’s attacks on Hamas in Gaza.

CONIB expressed its “indignation with the announcement sent Wednesday, which evidences a one-sided attitude to the conflict in Gaza in which the Brazilian Ministry of Foreign Affairs criticizes Israel and ignores the actions of the terrorist group Hamas,” CONIB wrote in a statement titled “Reaction to Itamaraty’s declaration  which criticizes Israel and spares Hamas any criticism.”

Itamaraty is the name of the palace that houses the ministry.

In its statement Wednesday, the ministry wrote: “The Brazilian government considers as unacceptable the escalation of violence between Israel and Palestine. We vigorously condemn the use of disproportionate force by Israel in the Gaza Strip, which resulted in an elevated number of civilians victims, including women and children.”

The statement mentioned neither Hamas nor any other offensive actions by Palestinians.

Israel also condemned the Brazilian statement.

“This is an unfortunate demonstration of why Brazil, an economic and cultural giant, remains a diplomatic dwarf,” Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor told The Jerusalem Post. “The moral relativism behind this move makes Brazil an irrelevant diplomatic partner, one who creates problems rather than contributes to solutions.”

Voluntary recall issued for some kosher shredded cheeses

The World Cheese Co., producer of Haolam and Miller’s kosher cheese products, issued a voluntary recall of some shredded cheese packaged in a Wisconsin plant.

It is the first time in 110 years that the company has issued a recall, according to a statement on the company’s Web site.

The recall comes after a packaging facility in Wisconsin that handles the shredding and packaging, and not production, of some Miller’s shredded products also packaged a different company’s cheese that was found to contain the deadly bacteria Listeria monocytogenes.

Miller’s products packaged in the same plant all tested negative for the bacteria.

The state of Wisconsin requested the voluntary recall of all the products shredded in the plant following the discovery of the bacteria, according to World Cheese.

“By next week, stores will be stocked with freshly packed shredded products that meet the highest standards of kashrus and quality that you’ve been accustomed to receiving from us in the past,” a company statement said. “The products will be produced in a new shredding and packaging facility where we have exclusive control over the cheese that is brought into the facility.”

The recalled cheeses are all 8-ounce and 16-ounce bags of Miller’s shredded cheese (pizza, mozzarella, cheddar, fancy, muenster), with an expiration of June 5, 2012, through Sept. 4, 2012; all 32-ounce bags of Miller’s shredded mozzarella with an expiration date of Feb. 6, 2012, through May 7, 2012; and all 5-pound bags of Miller’s shredded mozzarella, cheddar, muenster and Monterey Jack with a package date of Sept. 8, 2011, through Dec. 7, 2011.

Briefs: Spielberg to press Hu Jintao on Darfur; U of California vs. Shabbat; Weiss recall effort kic

Spielberg Ready to Meet With Chinese President

Steven Spielberg has notified Chinese President Hu Jintao that he is ready to meet with him in Beijing within the next 30 days to urge that China use its influence with the Sudanese government to halt the genocide in Darfur.

The request by the Hollywood filmmaker and founder of the Shoah Foundation follows up on his April 2 letter to Hu, in which he wrote in part:

“For four years I have followed the reports of the chaos and human suffering of the civilians in the Darfur region of Sudan. There is no question in my mind that the government of Sudan is engaged in a policy, which is best described as genocide.

“I have only recently come to understand fully the extent of China’s involvement in the region and its strategic and supportive relationship with the Sudanese government. I share the concern of many around the world who believe that China should be a clear advocate for United Nations action to bring the genocide in Darfur to an end.”

Spielberg has not received a direct response from Hu, but the filmmaker’s personal spokesman, Marvin Levy, said that the letter had been delivered and read by the highest circles in the Chinese government.

Beijing has staked a great deal on its role as host of the 2008 Olympics and thus seems more sensitive to world opinion than at most other times.

Spielberg is serving as an artistic adviser for the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2008 Olympics, and his voice may have some resonance in Beijing, although he stated that he was writing as a private citizen.

According to United Nations statistics, the Darfur genocide has claimed 200,000 deaths and displaced at least 2 million refugees since 2003.

China is the top investor and arms supplier to Sudan and is the African nation’s largest oil buyer.

In a March op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, actress Mia Farrow called for a boycott of the 2008 Olympics and castigated Spielberg for his failure to speak out regarding China’s inaction on Darfur.

She asked, “Is Mr. Spielberg, who in 1994 founded the Shoah Foundation to record the testimony of survivors of the Holocaust, aware that China is bankrolling Darfur’s genocide?”

She added, “Does Mr. Spielberg really want to go down in history as the Leni Riefenstahl [Hitler’s propagandist for the 1936 Berlin Olympics] of the Beijing Games?”

Levy said Spielberg had received similar admonitions from a couple of other Hollywood figures, and while the director of “Schindler’s List” was well aware of the situation in Darfur, he had not been fully cognizant of China’s influence in the area.

China’s slogan for the Olympics is “One World, One Dream,” but Farrow, in her op-ed, labeled the 2008 event as the “Genocide Olympics.”

The description was picked up by more than 100 lawmakers, who called on China earlier this month to take immediate action to stop the bloodshed in Darfur.

Spielberg concluded his initial letter to Hu with, “I add my voice to those who ask that China change its policy toward Sudan and pressure the Sudanese government to accept the entrance of United Nations peacekeepers to protect the victims of genocide in Darfur.”

— Tom Tugend, Contributing Editor

UC Move-in Day Leaves Jewish Students in the Cold

Move-in Day at campus dormitories is one of the important rites of passage for freshmen leaving home to enter the University of California, but to the dismay of state Assemblyman Lloyd E. Levine in four of the next five years the dates fall on Rosh Hashanah or Yom Kippur.

Assemblyman Lloyd LevineLevine (D-Van Nuys — photo) is spearheading a campaign by major Jewish organizations in Southern California to persuade UC’s leadership to change the dates.

He has even sent a Jewish calendar to the top administrators of the statewide UC system, but so far without response.

“The UC administration is forcing Jewish students to make a choice between two important lifecycle events,” Levine and some 60 Jewish organizational and community leaders recently wrote to UC President Richard Dynes and the UC Board of Regents.

“Should the students observe a profoundly important religious holy day removed from family, or miss the chance to meet their new schoolmates, neighbors and classmates in their first experience at college?” the letter continued.

“Clearly, this is a horribly unfair choice to present to 17- and 18-year-olds, and is one that must be addressed.”

Levine, 37 and a graduate of UC Riverside, voiced his concern to UC representatives last March during legislative hearings on the UC budget, but, he wrote, “I am tremendously disappointed that, to date, there has still been no resolution.”

UC spokesperson Brad Hayward told The Journal that “we take this issue very seriously, and we are now working on an approach to resolve this concern. We hope to come to a conclusion in a very short time.”

The matter is complicated because the 10 UC campuses run on different schedules, depending mainly on whether they operate on a quarterly or semester academic calendar, Hayward said.

He added that most campuses try to offer alternatives to Jewish students on an individual basis, but “we are working on a more systematic approach to avoid future conflicts.”

According to the Hillel Foundation, about 20,160 Jewish undergraduate and graduate students are enrolled on UC campuses, of whom some 10,700 are at the southern campuses of San Diego, Irvine, Los Angeles, Riverside and Santa Barbara.

UCLA, with 4,500 Jewish students, has the largest such enrollment on any UC campus, followed by 3,300 at Berkeley.

Los Angeles organizations supporting Levine’s petition are The Jewish Federation’s Jewish Community Relations Committee, Hillel Council, American Jewish Committee and B’nai B’rith Youth Organization.

Your Letters

Arnold Schwarzenegger

The Talmud says, “Give everyone the benefit of the doubt.” Arnold Schwarzenegger has a long record of support for the Jewish community and for Jewish causes. If anyone has earned the right to be given the benefit of the doubt that our tradition requires, he has (“Jews Split Over Arnold Victory,” Oct. 10).

Those rabbis and other Jewish “spokespeople” who rushed to condemn Schwarzenegger on the basis of an unverified statement from a book proposal stand revealed as more devoted to the Democratic Party than they are to Jewish ethical principles. I hope they remembered to include gross ingratitude and an evil tongue among their “Al Chet.”

Paul Morgan Fredrix, West Hollywood

Split on the Recall

Funny how flexible morality can be especially when coated by religion. Bill Boyarsky visits Pico-Robertson to gauge Jewish opinion on the recall (“Westside Jews Divided on Recall,” Oct. 3). He interviews eight students at an Orthodox high school and two others.

The former heartily support the recall while the latter two do not.

Boyarsky then concludes that Jews are “divided” on the recall.

Interesting — I didn’t realize such a powerful scientific sampling of Jewish opinion could lead a seasoned reporter to such a definite conclusion. As for the morality: It’s interesting how Gray Davis’ alleged cooking of the budget books could be so “immoral” to the Orthodox boys but somehow President Bush escapes such scrutiny.

Brian Wallace, Los Angeles

Teresa Strasser

Teresa Strasser’s article (“Got Closure?” Oct 3) might be appropriate for a Larry Flint publication, but for The Jewish Journal to feature it as the cover story for it’s Yom Kipper edition is obscene. Shame on the Journal for publishing an article that mocks, ridicules and desecrates the most important day in the Jewish calendar.

Phyllis Herskovitz , Beverly Hills

Miss Strasser, you make me wish I was Jewish. You make Judaism that appealing.

Santiago Belandres, Via e-mail

Market Yourself Into Marriage

I read with much delight, Amy Klein’s inspection of the field guide for single women (“Market Yourself Into Marriage,” Oct. 10). With all the energy in self marketing that a woman has to put out to marry anyone, it seems to me that it would be easier to utilize this marketing expertise to build a career and invest in her own life. The return on investment is better and with less risk. I have often said that it’s easier to become a CEO of a large corporation than to marry a decent man.

Carole Medway , Tarzana

Jewish Charities

In course of reviewing findings of the philanthropic watchdog, Charity Navigator, Joe Berkofsky presents information about the Jerusalem Fund of Aish HaTorah (“Jewish Charities Get Favorable Rating,” Oct. 10). While the organization’s name and goal are correctly identified, most of the rest is counterfactual.

Irwin Katsof does not live and is not based in Los Angeles. He is not the president of Aish HaTorah. Our fundraising costs are not $.23 on the dollar.

Fundraising costs are not separately broken out in our budget, but the sum total of our fundraising and administrative costs, including the cost of adjunct programs, missions, and retreats comes to $.20 on the dollar.

Rabbi Nachum Braverman, Executive Director for the The Jerusalem Fund of Aish HaTorah, Western Region


In the Sept. 30 Circuit “The IDF Meets Los Angeles,” the caption should have read: (From left) Brad Cohen, Maj. Gen. Moshe Evry Sukenik, Lenny Sands and Robert Zarnegin. The name of a speaker at the reception was Sgt. Maj. Tzahi Turman. We apologize for the errors.

In “Prisons Pay for Surge in Chaplain” (Oct. 3), the $10,000 allocation for Bibles and 12-step literature comes from The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles.

I read Si Frumkin’s “Why I Voted for Arnold” (Oct. 10) twice, looking in vain for a reason why he voted for Arnold. I learned that Frumkin was impressed by Schwarzenegger’s steroids-to-riches story and felt (improbably, in my view) that the governor-to-be has suffered at the hands of the media. But I saw no endorsement of his policies (or even a clue as to what they might be), nothing about his likely gubernatorial conduct and nothing about why California would be a better place with Schwarzenegger as governor rather than one of the other 134 candidates he could have voted for.

Howard Posner, Los Angeles

The critics of what Avrham Burg said in the Sept. 26 issue (“Leaders Stay Silent as Israel Collapses”), and the article several weeks before, have, I believe, missed the point.

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

Bruce F. Whizin, Sherman Oaks

A Few Jews Focus on Props, Too

With a few notable exceptions, Jewish politicians, activists and community leaders are getting into the controversies over Propositions 53 and 54 late and lackadaisically, having focused most of their attention and fundraising efforts on the recall election.

Proposition 54, The Racial Privacy Initiative (RPI), backed by University of California regent Ward Connerly, bans the state from classifying people according to race, ethnicity, color, or national origin.

Supporters maintain it would move society closer to a color-blind society, while opponents maintain it would impede the collection of data needed to redress discrimination.

Though opponents claim it would also block collection of data that could be helpful in addressing genetically transmitted diseases such as Tay Sachs, which affects Ashkenzic Jews, supporters say the measure would not affect health-related issues. The state’s independent legislative analyst said the matter is unclear.

Among Jewish groups, the Anti-Defamation League and the Progressive Jewish Alliance oppose Proposition 54.

Jewish politicians including U.S. Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, Con. Howard Berman (D-26th) and Los Angeles City Councilman Jack Weiss oppose it as well.

The statewide Jewish Public Affairs Committee, a coalition of mostly Federation-based groups, has not taken a stand on RPI, though the San Jose/Silicon Valley Jewish Community Relations Committee (JCRC) unanimously passed a resolution opposing it.

"There’s been a trend among JCRCs of not wanting to get involved in controversial measures," JPAC Director Coby King said. "Federations don’t see how taking a position benefits them."

For many groups, RPI brings dangerous echoes of the highly controversial Proposition 209, a 1996 initiative designed to dismantle state affirmative action programs based on sex or race. That ballot measure caused considerable division between liberal and more conservative Jews. "A lot of people feel [Proposition 54] is not worth the risk," King said.

Democrats for Israel’s Howard Welinsky said his organization follows the Democratic party position on such measures, and the party opposes it. Welinsky, who sits on the California Post-Secondary Education Commission, said Proposition 54, "will make it impossible to determine if there are civil rights violations or equal opportunity violations."

The Southern California chapter of the Republican Jewish Coalition has not taken a position on RPI, said the chapter Chair Bruce Bialosky, because members have been so focused on the recall. But Bialosky, speaking for himself, said he would support it. "As long as we continue to classify people by race," he said, "we are going to continue to think of them by race."

If Proposition 54 is getting relatively attention, Proposition 53 is going positively unnoticed. If it passes in Tuesday’s recall election, Proposition 53 will set aside up to 3 percent of the annual state budget for repairs of California’s infrastructure of highways, hospitals and libraries.

"One of the tenets of the Jewish religion is to improve our community, to leave our community a better place than we found it," said State Assemblyman Keith Richman (R-Northridge). Richman, who is Jewish, helped create the legislation that later led to Proposition 53. "If California is going to be successful in the future, then we need to ensure that the proper infrastructure is in place," he said.

The measure’s supporters include the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, the California Chamber of Commerce and Caprice Young, former Los Angeles Unified School District president. Opponents include the California Tax Reform Association and the Congress of California Seniors.

State Assemblyman Paul Koretz (D-West Hollywood) said he finds himself, "smack dab in the middle," about supporting Proposition 53, formerly known as the "Funds Dedicated for State and Local Infrastructure" state constitutional amendment.

"The basic concept is that we have not done enough and are not doing enough … to pay for the infrastructure needs of the state," Koretz said. "When you have a surplus, this would trigger some of that surplus money to go to infrastructure. It’s one of many initiatives that can strain a state budget left with fewer and fewer options. I see its pluses and its minuses."

On the left, Progressive Jewish Alliance (PJA) director Daniel Sokatch called Proposition 53, "another conservative, far-right fake fix-all. It’s not going to solve any problems, just shift the problems around."

Despite no formal endorsement, RJC of Southern California Executive Director Michael Wissot spoke supportively of Proposition 53.

Richman said Proposition 53 protects against pulling funds out of the state education budget and transferring that money to rebuild roads, hospitals, libraries and state buildings.

The assemblyman added that from the 1960s through the 1970s, California politicians regularly poured 15 percent to 20 percent of annual state budgets into building the state’s extensive freeway system — plus hospitals and libraries and other public entities to be covered by Proposition 53.

But since 1990, Richman said, "our state has spent two-tenths of 1 percent of the General Fund annually on infrastructure. There’s no question why our roads are congested why they’re crumbling. This money is specifically going to infrastructure projects and capital outlay, not for operations."

Koretz also noted that, "There are Jewish values, I would say, on both sides of this issue. It’s really a compelling case of what do you do right? We can never do everything right. It’s a question of are you more concerned about social services or are you more concern about the long-term effects of the state crumbling?"

"I’m actually leaning in favor of it," the assemblyman said. "I think the pluses and minuses are about equal. People need to think this through themselves."

Recall Golus

As recall fever is sweeping the state, a number of cars in the Pico-Robertson and Fairfax neighborhoods are sporting bumper stickers that say “Recall Golus.” Who is Golus exactly, you ask? Is it Gray Davis’ middle name? The name of the 136th candidate on the ballot?

The stickers, which Rabbi Shimon Raichik of Chabad of Hancock Park produced, are actually a call for the Messiah to come. Golus is the Ashkenazi pronunciation of the Hebrew word galut, meaning exile, as in the state of being for the Jewish people before the Messiah comes and redeems us all to Israel.

If Golus is recalled, then the entire state of California will be transported to the Holy Land, and we won’t have to worry about a budget crisis, Davis’s lack of personality or unsavory Arnold Schwarzenegger interviews — which definitely makes recalling Golus something worth thinking about.