John Kerry: Strengthening Israel’s security and bolstering the US-Israel special relationship

During Sen. John Kerry's unsuccessful run for President in 2004, his campaign released the following statement of his record on Israel:

John Kerry has been at the forefront of the fight for Israel’s security during his nineteen years in the US Senate. His pro-Israel voting record is second to none.

John Kerry did not wait until he was running for president of the United States to visit Israel – he has been there on numerous occasions throughout his public life. Through his meetings with Israeli political and military leaders – and especially his interaction with ordinary Israelis – he has experienced the everyday security threat that Israelis face and this has deepened his understanding of Israel’s security needs. In short, John Kerry will never do anything to compromise that security.

John Kerry believes that particularly in uncertain times like these we must reaffirm and indeed strengthen our special relationship with Israel, our most steadfast friend and ally in the region. His commitment to a safe, secure, democratic Jewish state of Israel is unwavering. It comes from a personal belief that Israel’s cause must be America’s cause.

John Kerry understands that anti-Semitism masked in anti-Israel rhetoric is a dangerous trend threatening both Israel and Jewish communities around the world. John Kerry has always fought against anti-Semitism and as president, he will take governments around the world to task for failing to address this escalating threat.

Israel’s Right to Respond to Terrorism: Kerry supports Israel’s right of self defense to eliminate threats to its citizens, including actions taken by Israel against Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other terrorist groups in Gaza. In spring 2002, when Israel launched Operation Defensive Shield to root out Palestinian terrorists and dismantle the Palestinian infrastructure, Kerry co-sponsored a resolution expressing solidarity with Israel and called for continued assistance in strengthening Israel's homeland defenses.

Supporting Israel’s Plan to Withdraw from Gaza: John Kerry expressed support for Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s unprecedented plan to withdraw from the Gaza Strip. He recognizes that in any final settlement for Israel to remain a Jewish State, Palestinians must settle in a future Palestinian State rather than in Israel, and that in light of demographic realities, a number of settlement blocks will likely become a part of Israel.

Fighting Against Saudi Government Anti-Semitism: John Kerry has forcefully spoken out against anti-Semitic statements by Saudi government officials, saying it calls into question their commitment to combating terrorism and pledging that as president, he will never permit these kinds of attacks to go unanswered.

Israel’s Security Fence Is A Legitimate Right of Self Defense: John Kerry supports the construction of Israel’s security fence to stop terrorists from entering Israel. The security fence is a legitimate act of self defense erected in response to the wave of terror attacks against Israeli citizens. He believes the security fence is not a matter for the International Court of Justice.

New Palestinian Leadership: John Kerry believes that Yasser Arafat is a failed leader and unfit partner for peace and therefore has supported his total isolation. He has demanded a new, responsible Palestinian leadership, committed to ending the violence and fighting terror – in word and in deed – and will work tirelessly to ensure that this new leadership emerges.

Foreign Aid to Israel: John Kerry has always voted to maintain critical foreign aid to our ally Israel, resisting any attempts to cut it over his years in the Senate. In the early 1990s, he fought President Bush when his administration restricted aid to Israel through the loan guarantees program.

The UN and other International Organizations: John Kerry has always believed the US must stand solidly behind Israel at the UN and other international organizations. He recognizes the UN must establish more credibility on Arab-Israeli matters and would never hesitate to wield a US veto on the Security Council in the face of anti-Israel/Anti-Zionist resolutions.

Fighting to Move the American Embassy to Jerusalem: John Kerry has long advocated moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem, Israel’s indisputable capital. In 1999, he signed a letter taking President Clinton to task for not moving the embassy.

Maintaining Israel’s Military Superiority: John Kerry understands that America must guarantee Israel’s military superiority and supports carefully restricting arms sales to Arab countries in the region. He opposed the sale of Maverick missiles and F-15 fighter planes to Saudi Arabia.

Financing Terror: Kerry will demand accountability and action from Arab and European countries to eliminate sources of funds that flow freely to terrorist organizations. Kerry strongly believes the US must “end the sweetheart relationship with a bunch of Arab countries that still allow money to move to Hamas and Hezbollah and Al Aqsa Brigade.”

Isolating and Punishing Regimes of Terror: Kerry co-sponsored the Syria Accountability Act, which includes a ban on the export of military and dual use items to Syria. He believes that “we must ensure that Syria does not acquire and distribute additional weapons thereby exasperating tensions in the Middle East, raising potential threats to Israel, and undermining arms control.”

Preventing a Nuclear Armed Iran: John Kerry understands that a nuclear armed Iran is unacceptable. He believes the failure of the Bush Administration to thwart Iran’s efforts to amass nuclear weapons poses a real threat to the safety and security of Israel, the US and the rest of the free world.

Guiding Principles for John Kerry on Israel and the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict:

  • As President, John Kerry will never force Israel to make concessions that compromise its security.
  • As President, John Kerry would not expect Israel to negotiate without a credible Palestinian partner for peace – something that unfortunately does not exist today.
  • As President, John Kerry would work to ensure and embrace strong bi-partisan support for matters concerning the security of the State of Israel.
  • As President, John Kerry will provide the political and military support for Israel to fight terrorism. He understands that just as Israel has stood with the US in our fight against terrorism and Al-Qaeda, the US must stand firmly with Israel as it fights against terrorism and terrorist groups like Islamic Jihad, Hamas and Hezbollah. We must continue to stand shoulder to shoulder against terrorism and state sponsors of terrorism.
  • As President, John Kerry will work to strengthen the economy of Israel, an economy that has suffered dramatically over the last few years during the latest violence in the region. In particular, he will act to jump start the high tech sector working to adapt many of the innovative “technologies” Israel has invented to combat terrorism. He will work to strengthen the US homeland while simultaneously strengthening the Israeli economy.
  • As President, John Kerry will strengthen the working relationship and cooperation between the US Department of Homeland Security and the Israeli security establishment to share technology and lessons learned. In addition, he will establish a commission to see what the US can learn to strengthen the security of our homeland from Israel’s experience and success on matters such as airline and port security, nuclear plants and chemical storage facilities.
  • As President, John Kerry will implement measures and programs to improve the social, economic, and political conditions throughout the Middle East as part of a comprehensive multilateral effort to move the region forward towards democracy and freedom and away from Islamic fundamentalism, including a wide-ranging Middle East trade agenda.


Source: John Kerry for President

Election 2012: What no president can do

As I write this, I still don’t know who’s won the presidency. But by the time you read this, barring an Electoral College tie, you certainly will know.

Which means that while I’m still in suspense, you’re probably reading articles like “What Four More Years of Obama Means” or “What America Will Look Like Under Romney.”

So, here’s my dilemma: How can I discuss what’s on everyone’s lips if I don’t know the winner?

After all, it’d be foolish to underplay the results. As right-wing commentator Charles Krauthammer wrote in The Washington Post, the stakes this year are enormous:

“An Obama second term means that the movement toward European-style social democracy continues, in part by legislation, in part by executive decree. The American experiment — the more individualistic, energetic, innovative, risk-taking model of democratic governance — continues to recede, yielding to the supervised life of the entitlement state.”

A Mitt Romney victory, on the other hand, “could guide the country to the restoration of a more austere and modest government with more restrained entitlements and a more equitable and efficient tax code. Those achievements alone would mark a new trajectory — a return to what Reagan started three decades ago.”

While we often hear that any given election is the “most important in our lifetime,” Krauthammer believes that this time it might actually be true, because at stake is “the relation between citizen and state, the very nature of the American social contract.”

Let’s allow, then, that regardless of which camp you’re in, the ideological stakes are indeed enormous. But what about the personal stakes? Can we overplay those?

Here’s what someone wrote on this subject four years ago, right after Barack Obama won:

“It struck me that no matter who runs the White House  — even after a historic victory that my grandchildren will talk about — they still won’t be able to help me with the most important things in my life: how I raise and educate my kids, how I deal with my friends and community, how ethically I lead my life, how I give back to the world, how I grow spiritually, how I stand up for Israel and the Jewish people, how I live an eco-friendly life — in short, how I help my country by taking personal responsibility for my own little world.”

That someone was yours truly, in a Journal column titled “Yes, I Can.”

The point I was making is that no matter who ends up in the White House, “99 percent of our happiness is in our own hands.”

I wrote that “while we await universal health care, we should take better care of our bodies and our health and save the country billions.

“While we await a better education system, we should read to our kids every night and teach them the values that will make them productive citizens. 

“While we await government action to fight global warming, we should go green in our own lives.

“While we await a fix to the economic meltdown, we should learn to budget and spend within our means, and, for those of us who can afford to help, have the kindness to help those who have fallen through the cracks of our debt-ridden safety net.”

In fact, since I wrote those words, I can say that President Obama (just like President Bush before him) has had very little to do with my happiness, the mitzvahs I have done or the progress of my kids.

Said another way, for all the enormous importance on who wins the White House, the winner will never come to your house to help you raise your kids.

He won’t set your Shabbat table and ask your kids what they learned this week.

He won’t help you become a better husband, a better citizen or a better Jew.

He won’t make you call your grandmother, visit the sick, get on the treadmill or feed the poor.

He won’t help you fall in love and meet your soul mate.

This isn’t to say that presidential policies — like universal health care and tax increases — don’t impact our lives. They do. But the reality is that most of the important things in our lives have little to do with the government, and these are the things that usually make us the happiest and most fulfilled. 

Yes, the country will go in a different direction, depending on who wins, but we are always in control of our own direction.

It’s worth remembering all this as you jump for joy because your man won, or as you drown in your sorrows because he lost.

The winner in the White House has a lot of power, but he doesn’t have the power to make you a winner in your own house.

Auction of Elizabeth Taylor’s jewelry sets record

Elizabeth Taylor’s jewelry set a record for a single collection sold at auction.

The jewelry was sold Tuesday night at Christie’s auction house for nearly $116 million. Most of the 80 lots sold for at least 10 times the catalog estimates, according to The New York Times.

The sale more than doubled the previous record for a private jewelry collection sold at auction, the newspaper reported.

A 50-carat pearl given to Taylor by husband Richard Burton sold for nearly $12 million. And a 33-carat diamond ring from Burton, rated potentially flawless, sold for nearly $9 million.

Clothing, memorabilia and more jewelry owned by Taylor will be on sale through Friday. Part of the proceeds will go to the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation, as well as Taylor’s private trust.

The Academy Award-winning actress converted to Judaism in the late 1950s and was a supporter of Israel.

Yeshiva U. group tops dreidel-spinning mark

Yeshiva University students and others broke the Guinness world record for most dreidels spun simultaneously.

Some 618 students, alumni, faculty, staff, neighbors and friends of the university topped the record Tuesday night during “Dreidel-Palooza,” an event organized by Students Helping Students, a student-run organization that raises money for undergraduate scholarships.

The previous record of 541 was set in 2005 at an event at Temple Emanuel in Cherry Hill, N.J.

VideoJew Jay Firestone reports on a 2008 Santa Monica attempt.

VIDEO: Heeb Olympics 2008 — Gefilte Fish Wrestling

Four modern-day gladiators do battle for the gold (a lifetime supply of Gold’s mustard) in the Heeb Olympics. For more information, check out

Mark Spitz: Michael Phelps is the greatest Olympic athlete ever

His hair is gray, the 70s mustache is history, he’s taking medication to control his cholesterol, and depending when you ask, iconic Jewish Olympian Mark Spitz is really pleased with the way the U.S. Olympics swimming team has fared this Summer.

Spitz on Phelps according to Wikipedia:

Spitz told AFP he felt snubbed about not being asked to attend the 2008 Olympics to watch Michael Phelps attempt to break his record of seven gold medals.

“I never got invited. You don’t go to the Olympics just to say, I am going to go. Especially because of who I am….I am going to sit there and watch Michael Phelps break my record anonymously? That’s almost demeaning to me. It is not almost—it is.”

Spitz also says he could have won eight gold medals if given the chance. “I won seven events. If they had the 50m freestyle back then, which they do now, I probably would have won that too,” he said. And Spitz thinks Phelps will succeed, “he’s almost identical to me. He’s a world-record holder in all these events, so he is dominating the events just like I did,” Spitz said. “He reminds me of myself.”

Other than to pose for an odd picture with Phelps, Spitz does not have much interaction with the superstar. “He’s not sitting down with me asking for advice,” he said.

“They voted me one of the top five Olympians in all time. Some of them are dead. But they invited the other ones to go to the Olympics, but not me,” he said. “Yes, I am a bit upset about it.”

On August 14, Spitz appeared on NBC’s Today Show where he clarified his statement and his pride in Michael Phelps:

It’s about time that somebody else takes the throne. And I’m very happy for him. I really, truly am…I was working with a corporate sponsor who elected not to bring their US contingent over to China, and they piled on more work for me here in the United States, which was great. So I wasn’t able to get to the Olympics and watch Michael in the first couple of days. And they thought, some of these reporters, that I was supposed to be invited by some entity, and I told them that that wasn’t really the case, that doesn’t happen that way. And so, I’m sort of disappointed that I wasn’t there, but, you know, that interview somehow took a different turn, and I’ve done hundreds and hundreds of them and I’ve been true to form about the way I feel about Michael, and he’s doing a great job for the United States and inspiring a lot of great performances by the other team members.

Also on August 14, 2008, in an interview aired on Los Angeles KNBC-4’s morning news show, Today in L.A., Spitz was quoted saying he does believe that, “Michael Phelps is the greatest Olympic athlete ever.”

On August 15, 2008, as part of an interview on NBC, Spitz said that he felt Phelps’ performance in the 100 fly in Beijing was “epic”. Spitz paid this compliment to Phelps just two hours after his record-tying seventh gold medal during a live joint interview with Bob Costas:

You know, Bob and Michael, I wondered what I was going to say at this monumental time, when it would happen and who I would say it to, and of course I thought I was going to say it to you for some time now. But, it’s the word that comes to mind, “epic”. What you did tonight was epic, and it was epic for the whole world to see how great you really are. I never thought for one moment that you were out of that race and contention, because I watched you at Athens win the race by similarALTTEXT margins, and 18 months ago at the World’s by similar margins. And, you know, that is a tribute to your greatness. And now the whole world knows. We are so proud of you Michael here in America, and we are so proud of you and the way that you handle yourself, and you represent such an inspiration to all the youngsters around the world. You know, you weren’t born when I did what I did, and I’m sure that I was a part of your inspiration, and I take that as a full compliment. And they say that you judge one’s character by the company you keep, and I’m happy to keep company with you. And you have a tremendous responsibility for all those people that you are going to inspire over the next number of years, and I know that you will wear the crown well. Congratulations, Mike.

Spitz’s remarks came after another record-breaking anchor sprint by Jewish gold medal winnner Jason Lezak (photo, right) helped Phelps win his record-breaking eight gold. Lezak had earlier earned a bronze in his first individual medal win.

The NY Daily News wrote:

You just wonder how the Olympics will go on now without Michael Phelps. He leaped into the water one last time Sunday morning – the third, butterfly leg of the 4×100 relay. He started in third place and clambered out in first, after 100meters of flapping and kicking and swimming the lights out. Phelps grabbed the lead and then his old wing man, Jason Lezak, did the rest again.

Another American Jewish swimming star, Los Angeles-born Dara Torres, a 41-year old mom, was edged by .01 second and garnered a silver—the same margin that kept Michael Phelps on course to break Mark Spitz’s record, wrote the Los Angeles Times:

The five-time Olympian and the oldest American swimmer ever, settled for a silver when Germany’s Britta Steffen nipped her at the wall in the 50-meter freestyle to complete a sweep of the women’s sprint events in Beijing.


USA’s Dara Torres wins silver in the Women’s 50m freestyle. Image courtesy


Report from Beijing: Swapping old Jewish swim records for new ones

BEIJING (JTA)—Jewish-American swimmers Garret Weber-Gale and Jason Lezak, along with Cullen Jones and the unstoppable Olympic champion Michael Phelps, made history in the pool on Monday, August 11.

The US relay team won the Men’s 4 x 100m Freestyle Relay and smashed the world record by nearly four seconds on their way to the gold.

In a strange Jewish sports irony, the gold for this half-Jewish team may come at a price to the legacy of an iconic Jewish sports figure.

Phelps needed this gold medal to help him on his quest to break legendary Jewish swimmer Mark Spitz’s 36- year-old ” alt=”ALTTEXT” width=”432″ height=”441″ />

Mark Spitz, sports icon

Avoid an Oops in Shooting Your Video

Little Rachel takes her first steps — but your camcorder battery dies before you get the shot.

Your family reunion includes Grandma Shirley, whom you haven’t seen in 15 years and, frankly, may never see again. You interview her on video, but when you sit down later to watch it, the sound is so bad you can’t understand a single word.

At my brother’s bar mitzvah, a family member showed up late with the video equipment, set up the camera and forgot to push record.

Whether you’re trying to capture a wedding, b’nai mitzvah or 50th anniversary celebration, the day will come and go whether you’re ready for it or not. Unless you’re prepared, the opportunity to capture family history can easily slip through your fingers.

Losing such precious moments can be depressing. But with a little advance planning, attention to detail and some practice, you can shoot home videos your family will kvell about for years to come. Here are some tips:

1. Don’t forget to push record. Once you push “record,” confirm that you are recording. Every video camera features a recording indicator, typically located in the viewfinder or the view screen. As you get ready to focus on your subject, the first thing you should do is look in the viewfinder or on the screen and note whether the recording indicator is on.

2. Charge your batteries. This is one of the most common mistakes. The battery that came with your video camera will not last longer than one hour. In addition, after a few years, rechargeable batteries don’t hold their charge well. Even buy an extra battery pack or two, charge them and have them on hand in case your primary battery loses its charge.

3. Focus on sound. Bad sound is often the biggest killer of home videos. Are you only using the standard built-in microphone? Be conscious of its limited range. If you’re recording someone nearby, try to get as close to the person as possible. If you’re at a gala event and someone is using a microphone, try to get close to the electronic amplification speaker.

4. Stabilize your shot. All modern video camcorders have a stabilization option. Turning this option on will improve your shots tremendously. I require my professional videographers, who shoot everything from wedding videos to commercials, to turn this option on.

5. Use both hands. Shaky camera work can give friends and family headaches. Do not hold the camera in one hand, stretching your arm out in front of you. Instead, hold the camcorder with both hands, and hold the camera against your body. For even greater stabilization, lean your back against a wall.

6. Forget the zoom. Don’t use the zoom. Instead of constantly zooming in for closeups and then zooming out for wider shots, try holding the camera against your body, framing your shot like a still photograph. To get closer to the image, simply walk closer, using your body as a large stabilization weight. To get a wider shot, simply walk backward — but be careful.

7. Look in two places at once. This is a more advanced move. Learn to keep one eye watching your camcorder’s viewfinder or screen and the other eye looking outside the field of the screen to see what person or object may soon be coming into your frame. This allows you to anticipate and prepare your camera move.

8. Learn from your mistakes. Take some time out a few days before an event and shoot some practice footage. Spend a few minutes reviewing a short piece of it, and note how you could improve.

Also, don’t save the camera for special events. Keep practicing your video skills by recording everyday family moments. After all, you don’t want to be scrambling for footage 10 years from now, when you want to create a video montage of your child to show during a bar or bat mitzvah.

David Notowitz is owner of Notowitz Productions, a video production company that specializes in corporate videos, weddings and bar/bat mitzvahs. His Web site is

A Key to the Soul

The Book of Psalms

The history of any people consists of more than the study of the events that have influenced the course of its development. Even more important is the record of the people’s inner life, its values and aspirations, its views of the good life, its speculation about man and his place in the scheme of things. This is especially true of the Jewish people, whose long and turbulent career has spanned three and a half millennia, as well as six continents.

The life of the Jewish people was shaped primarily by the play of inner spiritual forces, and its survival to this day is inexplicable without taking it into account. An understanding of the Jewish character depends on a sensitive appreciation of its literature, which not only reflected the life of the people, but also helped fashion it. Jewish literature is, of course, long and varied. It exists in a number of languages, reflects many climes, and gives expression to a variety of moods and interests.

Yet, there is one book that stands out above all others in the expression of the Jewish soul, one that is second to the Torah alone in its influence on the Jewish mind and spirit — the Book of Psalms. More than 50 psalms are included in the Jewish prayer book and a number of pious Jews recite the entire book weekly.

Aesthetically, Psalms is one of the most pleasing books in the Bible, consisting of a wide variety of lyrical poetry, the most beautiful spiritual poetry ever assembled. It has won a permanent place in the religious literature of the world, speaking to the men and women who read and reread it because it reflects the yearning of their own hearts.

It is neither a unitary book nor the product of any one pen or age. Tradition ascribes it to David, the “sweet singer of Israel,” and the great king may indeed have contributed to it. But it is not the voice of a king alone that resounds in its pages. A number of its 150 chapters may have been composed by Levites who are referred to in their headings, others like the 20th psalm by priests or like the first or 49th by teachers of “wisdom.” Many reflect the cries of simple souls reaching out from the depths for the God of their salvation, as well as the joyful tones of thanksgiving expressing gratitude for experiencing God’s saving power.

What impresses the reader most is the amazing reality of the psalmist’s sense of his closeness to God. What emerges from virtually each chapter is the communion of the individual soul with God, not alone in solitary moments, but most often in fellowship with others. Indeed, it is only as a member of the worshipping community that the pious person experiences communion with God in full measure, a view that has remained constant in the synagogue to this day.

For the psalmist, as for the Torah, genuine religiosity is expressed both in one’s conduct and in one’s life orientation. The zeal for righteousness is the sine qua non of the religious life: “Who shall ascend the mountain of the Lord? And who shall stand in His holy place? One who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not long after what is false, and does not swear deceitfully” (24:3f.).

Psalms, like the other books of the Bible, is not a philosophical tract but its pervasive theme leaps out at any one who immerses him or herself in its pages. It reflects a deep and abiding trust in God that brings with it a feeling of serene confidence and joy.

On occasion, the joy is muted by a sense of resignation and even despair, but crying to God “out of the depths,” the psalmist discovers the saving presence of God. Humbled, he is ready to accept all that God chooses to send him. He is consumed by one desire alone, to be worthy of the divine love, to prove worthy of experiencing the divine presence: “Who have I in heaven but Thee? And besides Thee I have no desire on earth. My flesh and heart waste away, but God is my portion forever” (73:25f.).

There are many types of psalms such as petitions, laments, songs of thanksgiving and a variety of liturgies, including a number of pilgrims’ songs. But hymns, calling on the congregation to praise God, are dominant. That is why the book is called Sefer Tehillim, the “Book of Hymns.”

The hymn is very simple in its essential form, though occasionally complex in content. It generally consists of two basic elements: the call to praise God and the objective reason for doing so.

It is not surprising, then, that the shortest chapter in the book, and indeed in the entire Bible, is a hymn consisting of only two verses: “Praise the Lord, all ye nations; laud him, all ye peoples. For His loving-kindness is great toward us; and the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever.” Note the combination here of the two elements that are held in tension throughout biblical religion: the assertion that God is concerned about all peoples and, at the same time, that he has a special relationship to a particular people, a theme which recurs through many of the psalms.

Some hymns trace God’s revelation in nature, such as the majestic 104th psalm; others in the history of the world, and especially in the history of Israel, as in the oft-recited 114th. Most of all, God is seen as revealed in the Torah, Israel’s most precious gift. Not surprisingly, then, the lengthiest psalm and the longest chapter in the Bible, the 119th, is an alphabetical acrostic in praise of Torah and of its divine author.

If Tolstoy is correct in judging a work of art by the universality of its appeal, then the book of Psalms is second to none in its greatness. It won the hearts of all through the ages and became their constant companion. It helped sustain countless men and women in their darkest hours and was a source of comfort and faith to those who regularly turned to its pages. It remains one of ancient Israel’s greatest contributions to humanity, an inexhaustible source of solace and inspiration to the world.

David Lieber is president emeritus of the University of Judaism.


The King of Israeli Hip-Hop

With angry lyrics that court controversy, two multiplatinum albums and a third on the way, his own clothing line, record label, legions of fans and glittering religious jewelry, Subliminal could easily be mistaken for a Jewish P.Diddy.

The lyrics are mostly in Hebrew (although he’s now branched into English, French and Arabic), the record label has spawned a plethora of new artists, the clothing line has a Star of David on every item and his fame (or notoriety) is bringing him to U.S. shores next week.

At 25, Subliminal (né Kobi Shimoni) is the king of Israeli hip-hop. And right now, it appears he can do no wrong. On March 2, Subliminal, along with his sidekick The Shadow (Yoav Eliasi), and 12 members off his record label TACT (Tel Aviv CityTeam) under the banner of Architects of Israeli Hip Hop, will kick off their seven-state American and Canadian tour at The Canyon Club in Agoura Hills.

And with the recent launch of his third album — TACT All-Stars — Subliminal is recording with the industry’s cream of the crop, including Killah Priest and Remedy of Wu-Tang Clan, Ashanti, Wyclef Jean and Israel’s own hip-hop violinist Miri Ben Ari, who just won a Grammy for her work with Kanye West.

So it’s hard to believe that less than eight months ago Subliminal was officially uninvited to the Prospect Park bash in Brooklyn, N.Y., by JDub Records, a nonprofit Jewish record label. Deemed too right-wing for the event, Subliminal apparently didn’t fall under the concert’s banner of “openness and peace.”

Certainly, Subliminal’s lyrics did much to raise eyebrows even within Israel, where there has always been room for political dissension. He managed to capture the frustrations and fears of Israeli youth at the height of the Intifada. His lyrics included such gems as:

To think that an olive branch symbolizes peace, sorry it doesn’t live here anymore; it’s been kidnapped or murdered….”

And perhaps his most controversial lyric is the one that states, “The country’s still dangling like a cigarette in Arafat’s mouth.”

It’s this kind of in-your-face, pull-no-punches attitude that sets Subliminal apart from other emerging hip-hop artists, including Mookee and Hadag Nachash, all of whom are enjoying success in the field. But neither has aroused the controversy that Subliminal has.

Now he’s mulling over the strange twists and turns that have come with his fame and, yes, fortune. On the brink of his U.S. tour, he cannot help but reflect on the fact that it’s due to the backing provided by Israel’s Foreign Ministry, and the prime minister himself.

“It’s great,” he said. “For the first time, the Israeli government is pushing us and supporting us. We’re being sent as ambassadors for Israel. And even though that’s what we’re trying to be on a daily basis, to get official support from the government, that’s a huge recognition and we’re really grateful for that.”

In the wake of Arafat’s death (no more dangling cigarettes), the upcoming Gaza pullout and the steps Mahmoud Abbas is making, Subliminal said, “I’m very, very happy that there’s this first chance finally for peace, for the Palestinians, they’re making a real effort and they have a chance to become a democracy.”

He also spoke about his first two albums “The Light From Zion” and “Light and Shadow” — released at the height of the Intifada — which include songs that state, “United we stand, divided we fall.”

“It’s militant,” he conceded. “We’re saying we have to have peace but first we have to live, we have to survive, to remain in one piece.”

Now, he said, his third album is much more hopeful, with softer lyrics and a stronger message of hope with one of the songs titled “Peace in the Middle East,” which is sung in both Hebrew and English.

“It’s more of a prayer,” he said. “We want people all over the world to understand that even the strongest soldiers have peace as the prayer in their heart all the time.”

Yet while Subliminal has raised both eyebrows and consciences, it has much to do with the fact that he’s coming from a deeply personal place.

“My father is from Tunisia, my mother from Iran. They both escaped persecution,” he said. “I was brought up in a world where I have my own country. But I understand Arabic, my parents speak fluent Arabic; we would hear Arafat’s speeches about driving the Jews into the sea.”

And it’s this that makes Subliminal’s messages so strident. A recent trip to France opened his eyes to the amount of hate outsiders have toward Israel.

“The strongest hip-hop artists in France are immigrants from Tunisia, Morocco and Algeria, and most of them preach hate toward the Jewish people and Israel,” he said.

In his own controversial style, Subliminal actually challenged Sniper, the biggest French anti-Semitic and anti-Israel rapper, to an onstage “battle” where the artists respond to each other’s raps.

“He chickened out,” Subliminal said, “and we even invited him to Tel Aviv just so that he could see what it is he hates so much about Israel.”And that, he said, is the biggest challenge of this tour: “To deliver the important message to those who are radical and fanatic and extreme. To open their eyes and let them know that there is still hope for peace, that there can be no better solution than peace and that we’re willing to open up a debate. Through hip hop we can do that.”

Subliminal performs March 2, 8 p.m., at The Canyon Club, 28912 Roadside Drive, Agoura Hills. For more info, call (310) 273-2824 or visit

Fed Campaign Ends on High Note

Propelled by a tide of last-minute contributions in the final weeks of its annual campaign, the Jewish Federation of Orange County raised a record $2.3 million, a 9 percent gain over last year, outpacing national results by the United Jewish Communities.

“We attribute the increase in the campaign to deliberate relationship building,” said Bunnie Mauldin, Federation executive director.

Each of the Federation’s various support groups increased its giving, though the 39 percent increase by the young professionals’ network was the largest. Gifts ranged from $5,000 to $100,000 or more.

Nearly 90 percent of the Federation’s contributors gave $500 or less, or 16 percent of the total.

“That is pretty much in step with what most philanthropy’s experience: 90 percent of the money comes from 10 percent of the donors,” Mauldin said.

In June, the Journal incorrectly reported the 2003 results as slightly down based on incomplete figures that did not reflect the final campaign push.

The Federation fell short of an ambitious $3.2 million target, but should be considered a success since other communities experienced meaningful declines, Federation President Lou Weiss, noted in the group’s annual report.

This year’s campaign exceeded last year’s level by $235,000, Mauldin said.

Dog Days of Summer

This year, Father’s Day is time for hyper-fast food, as Nathan’s Famous hot dogs hosts the second annual Los Angeles Hot Dog Eating Contest on June 16. The winner goes on to the big dance: the world championship Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating contest, July 4 at Coney Island.

Last year’s Los Angeles winner scarfed down 22 dogs in 12 minutes, so start noshing if you want to be in competitive eating shape in time. The record in this event belongs to worldwide champion eater Takeru Kobayashi, who shattered the old record of 25 hot dogs at last year’s contest, when he put away 50.

Nathan’s Pico Boulevard location is one of only three Glatt Kosher Nathan’s (the others are in Israel and Brooklyn, N.Y.). Owner Barry Syntner promises that if the L.A. winner needs kosher dogs for the Coney Island championship, kosher dogs he shall have.

A word of warning, though. When you sign up, you must promise not to sue Nathan’s, the International Federation of Competitive Eating or "their respective owners, directors, officers, agents, attorneys, employees, fiduciaries, parents, subsidiaries, divisions, partners, joint ventures, affiliated business entities, predecessors, successors, heirs and assigns, jointly and severally."

In other words, if your belly aches after 20-plus dogs in 12 minutes, you have no one — no one — to blame but yourself.

Pick up an application at Nathan’s, 9216 W. Pico Blvd., or apply online at


Marshall Sosson, Violinist and Studio Concertmaster, Dies at 91

Marshall Sosson, concertmaster at many Hollywood studios, died on April 29, 2002, at the age of 91.

Music was his fountain of youth. A passionate and tender nature sang through his violin. Active professionally for 60 years, first in Chicago and later in Los Angeles, he was a virtuoso of classical repertoire and improvisational jazz, and excelled as concertmaster of orchestras for Hollywood’s major motion picture studios and record companies. Wherever he worked, musicians respected his artistry and were drawn to his warm and generous spirit. He energized, inspired, amused and enriched the lives of his devoted friends and family.

He studied with Max Fischel at the Chicago Musical College, and with Efram Zimbalist at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia. During the ’30s and ’40s, his jazz quartet, Marshall Sosson and the Chicagoans, made regular coast-to-coast live radio broadcasts. He played with the swing bands of Paul Whiteman, Benny Goodman and Artie Shaw. An army enlistee, he shared co-concertmaster duties with Felix Slatkin of the Army-Air Force orchestra in Santa Ana. After the war, he formed the Los Angeles String Trio and Piano Quartet, giving chamber music recitals with pianist Leonard Stein and cellist and violinist Kurt and Sven Rehr, varying his diet of serious music with rollicking jam sessions with pianist Johnny Guerneri at the Sacramento Jazz Jubilee.

He recorded with the giants of popular music — Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole and Ella Fitzgerald. In such films as "All The Kings Men," "From Here To Eternity," "On The Waterfront" and "Picnic," his set tone and sure phrasing perfectly underscored a film’s meaning. He was especially proud of being chosen as concertmaster for Disney’s 1981 rerecording of "Fantasia" and responsible for selecting the 60-piece string selection. His was a long life of bravos.

He is survived by his sister-in-law, Sylvia; nephews, Steven and Michael; niece, Deena; grandnieces, Julie Braly and Vivien Braly Arquilevich; great-grandnephews, Jonah and Max; in-laws, Harriet and Norman Beck; and many other friends and family. — Deena Sosson

Judy Kurz Gold, Midwife and Artist, Dies at 59

Judy Kurz Gold, midwife and artist, died on April 28, 2002, at the age of 59.

She died after a two-year struggle with lung cancer at Kibbutz Hatzerim in Israel. She is the wife of Dr. Jonathan Gold; mother of Ilan, Tali, Noam and Aviv Kurz; grandmother of Ori Kurz; and daughter of Ruth Faine and the late UCLA professor Hy Faine.

We mourn her death. Condolences can be sent to — Rachel and Tom Tugend

33 Parties File for Israeli Elections

Thirty-three Israeli political parties signed up by Tuesday night’s registration deadline to run in the May 17 Knesset elections, breaking the previous record of 27 parties. In addition to the large political parties, several special-interest parties and newcomers to the political scene registered, including the Casino Party, which seeks to legalize gambling, and the Green Weed Party, whose platform calls for the legalization of marijuana and other recreational drugs.

Six candidates met Tuesday’s deadline to run in Israel’s May elections for prime minister: Likud incumbent Binyamin Netanyahu, Ehud Barak of Labor, centrist candidate Yitzhak Mordechai, right-wing bloc leader Ze’ev “Benny” Begin, Israeli Arab legislator Azmi Beshara and former right-wing Knesset member Yosef Ba-Gad. Begin’s candidacy was almost invalidated when the election committee found that some 11,000 of the 58,000 signatures required to support his candidacy were forged. But Begin was allowed to run, after he secured the backing of 10 Knesset members, an alternative to the petitions. — JTA

The Arts

“Robert F. Kennedy: A Memoir” is a balanced, warts-and-allportrait of the slain politician. Above, right, Kennedy and his sevensiblings with parents Joe and Rose. Above, Robert and brother John in1959. Below, Kennedy on the campaign trail, shortly before his 1968death.

When thecolumnist and author Jack Newfield started work on his documentaryabout Robert F. Kennedy, his mind was rooted as much in the presentas it was in the past. Yes, a large part of the purpose of thethree-hour special, “Robert F. Kennedy: A Memoir” (Discovery Channel,Sunday, June 7, 8 p.m.), was to commemorate and honor the latesenator on the 30th anniversary of his assassination.

But, says Newfield: “I also wanted to showeveryone born after 1968 what it was like and what politicians couldbe like. This is the standard we should hold our politicians to. Notall politicians have to be the way they are now. You can be apolitician who cares about people.”

While the documentary is largely a tribute, it isa balanced, warts-and-all portrait of a man who overcame a privilegedbut conservative background to become a spokesperson for the poor andunderrepresented. His remarkable metamorphosis is presented throughthe use of archival footage and interviews with Kennedy staffers,colleagues and members of his family.

Newfield, who produced and wrote the documentary,is not entirely an unbiased observer. He covered Kennedy’s New YorkState senatorial campaign in 1964, watched him in action in 1965 andrequested an audience with him early the next year to discuss apossible biography. A book editor had suggested that Newfield write abiography of then-New York City Mayor John Lindsay, at the time apresumptive national powerhouse.

“But Lindsay didn’t interest me,” Newfield says.He saw in Bobby Kennedy a far more interesting and challenging story,”a politician in deep flux. I think he was someone who could bechanged by experience.”

As a young man, Kennedy served as counsel for Sen.Joe McCarthy’s Senate Subcommittee on Investigations that, in theearly 1950s, held hearings during which unsubstantiated charges ofwidespread communist infiltration of the government were hurled aboutwilly-nilly. Even years later, as attorney general, when thegovern-ment first became involved in the civil rights movement, thesinger-activist Harry Belafonte told cameras, “I had the sense thathe felt that he did not belong.”

Newfield agrees. “When he first became attorneygeneral, he was pretty limited and almost intolerant of people whowere different,” Newfield says. “Born into incredible wealth, hesuddenly has to work with Martin Luther King Jr. and deal with theassassination of Medgar Evers and the fire hoses and police dogs inBirmingham. I don’t think he understood that in some rural counties,blacks who tried to register to vote would be beaten and killed. Hedidn’t understand that the FBI was often on the side of the racistsand not the government. But slowly he began to developempathy.”

Newfield believes that the murder of his brother,the president, “was the defining event in Robert’s life. He hurt somuch from that that he came to identify with anyone else who was hurtor wounded or grieving in any way. It began to open him up, not justto the plight of blacks but to the handicapped and anyone who wasvictimized.”

While Kennedy was still late in criticizing theVietnam War and didn’t enter the 1968 presidential campaign untilEugene McCarthy showed how vulnerable Lyndon Johnson’s candidacy was,there was a sense that once he entered the race and if he won, allwould be right with the world again.

Newfield was with Kennedy for his briefpresidential foray and planned to publish his book following theelection. He was there when Bobby Kennedy was assassinated. “It wasthe worst night of my life,” Newfield says.

In this film, civil rights worker, now CongressmanJohn Lewis, says: “A great deal of hope died with the death of RobertKennedy.”

Historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr. thinks that “itwould have been a different country” if Kennedy lived.

Not surprisingly, Newfield agrees. “People likeBobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. come around once in acentury. And here they are, both murdered eight weeks apart. Nocountry, no philosophy can recover from that. After him, Democratsdidn’t have his love of country, his feeling for the working class,his capacity to create coalition.”

In the film, Robert Jr., remembers the end toowell:

“We put him on the train to Washington, and Irecall, around Baltimore, just seeing these vast crowds of people,blacks on one side of the tracks and whites on the other, priests andnuns and rabbis. All different kinds of people. Many of them wereholding American flags. You could see that many of them were crying.And then some of them had signs that said, ‘Goodbye Bobby.'”

Curt Schleier is a New Jersey-based artswriter.

Arts Briefs

A Fine Artist

The worlds of art, activism and philanthropyrarely intersect in the body of one person. Ruth Weisberg is theexception. An artist whose works have been acquired by such museumsas the Art Institute of Chicago and the Met, a longtime supporter ofHillel and feminist activist, and the dean of fine arts at USC,Weisberg has helped shape Jewish art and activism in Los Angeles.Last month, the USC Hillel Jewish Center honored her with aleadership award. Event co-chair Scott Stone praised Weisberg as an”inspired spiritual leader.”

To mark the event, the artists created an originaletching, “Rachel,” of which 36 impressions were made and sold toraise funds for the Ruth Weisberg Fund for Arts and Culture.

The event, held at the home of Stanley and ElyseGrinstein, boasted yet another Weisberg accomplishment: Music wasprovided by the band India Ink, of which her son Alfred WeisbergRoberts is a member. — Staff Report

Ruth Weisberg,artist and dean of USC’s school of fine arts was honored by theschool’s Hillel chapter. Left to right, MFA candidate Nicole Cohen,Weisberg and student Marcie Kaufman. Above, Weisberg’s”Rachel.”

‘Bearing Witness’ with Humor

By Tom Tugend, Contributing Editor

“BearingWitness” opens with a wisecracking Yiddish mama from the Old Country,who wears a Dodgers baseball cap under her head scarf while making kiddush , tryingto convince her 38-year-old daughter, a professor yet, that it’s timeto start producing babies.

Fortunately, this clichéd beginning quicklyevolves into a provocative and, at times, moving play.

Playwright Nalsey Tinberg has the willingness andtalent to seriously confront such issues as the legacy of theHolocaust on survivors and their children, generational conflicts, aprofessional woman’s race against her biological clock, infertility,marital tensions, and even a dash of 1960s politics.

If this sounds a bit heavy, it is occasionally,but Tinberg lifts the weight with frequent humorous asides (husbandto wife: “I want to start a family, so we can create our own neurosesin the privacy of our own home”).

The fine four-person cast, under the direction ofKate Randolph, consists of Darlene Kardon as the mother; Judy Kain asher daughter, Sarah; Stephen Burleigh as Sarah’s ex-lover; and BrianCousins, in an impressive performance, as Sarah’s husband.

“Bearing Witness,” which should be of specialinterest to those with Holocaust survivors in the family, playsThursdays through Saturdays, with Sunday matinees, until June 28 atthe Stella Adler Theater in Hollywood. For information, call (310)557-9323.

Music Notes

By Carvin Knowles, Contributing Writer

Klezmer as High Art

“Feidman and the Israel Camerata”

Conducted by Avner Biron, Pläne Records

While the restof the world knows Giora Feidman for his haunting clarinet on the”Schindler’s List” soundtrack, we know him for his searing klezmersolos. His new disc, on Pläne Records, simply titled “Feidmanand the Israel Camerata,” is quite a surprise. Starting out with alight classical work by Ora Bat Chaim, Three Pieces for Clarinet andStrings, the album appears to be pleasant but somewhat pedestrian.Appearances can be deceiving.

The fourth track is Noam Sheriff’s moody andmodernistic “Gomel Le’ish Hassid.” Sounding alternately likeStravinsky and Bernstein, Feidman delivers the goods with dignifiedpoignancy, grace and raw emotion. Next, the dark and energetic “LeGrand Tango” by the acclaimed master of Tango, Astor Piazzola, isperformed with strength, subtlety and a bit of humor. Saving the bestfor last, the disc ends with Betty Olivero’s five-movement”Mizràch.” Edgy and exciting, Feidman’s clarinet sizzlesthrough the dissonant orchestrations with enough angst to curl yourhair. Masterfully conducted by Avner Biron, “Feidman and the IsraelCamerata” elevates klezmer to high art without a trace ofpretension.

Misha Alexandrovich

“The Wunderkind”, Pläne Records

Russia’s winters are long, dark and cold. You willremember this while listening to tenor Misha Alexandrovich’s newrelease, “The Wunderkind.” Touted as “Russia’s best-kept secret,”Alexandrovich has a rich, strong voice and sings with such greatskill and control that he could have been a world-class tenor. Buthis delivery is just plain morose. He plods through Bach airs,Yiddish folk songs and operatic arias with the kind of somberheaviness that will have you calling the suicide prevention hot linebefore the disc is finished. Die-hard fans of Alexandrovich will love”Wunderkind” as a kind of all-time-most-depressing hits. The rest ofus should just skip it.