Israeli TV reporter tests stab-proof material, gets stabbed


If an Israeli company hoped that participating in a TV news report on its new anti-stabbing vests would bolster sales, the idea might have backfired — when the reporter, in fact, got stabbed.

In response to a wave of stabbings in Israel, FMS Enterprises — which normally manufactures bulletproof material — developed what it calls a stab-proof vest.

Read more at CNN.

Risks, Rewards of the Jewish Angle


Jewish journalism has its risks, as veteran newsman Daniel Schorr has pointed out.

Addressing a Jewish audience in Los Angeles some years ago, Schorr recounted that his first professional job, in the mid-1930s, was as a correspondent with the Jewish Telegraphic Agency in his native New York.

He eventually quit and moved on to CBS and fame because, he said, “I became aware that I was looking at everything through a Jewish lens.”

There are other dangers in covering the Jewish world. They include indigestion and glazed eyeballs from too many testimonial dinners, the wrath of machers who do not suffer criticism lightly and the unforgiving grudges of VIPs whose names were left out of the story.

“Community leaders” might have overlooked such sins in a goyishe urban daily — what do they know about the suffering and incredible accomplishments of our people? — but to be slighted by a Jewish paper was intolerable.

When I started moonlighting for a Jewish weekly in the late 1950s, I often encountered sneers that implied that if I were any good, why wasn’t I working for a “real” newspaper?

Since I had just come off a number of years at the San Francisco Chronicle, Los Angeles Times and the Associated Press in Spain, I naturally resented such slurs.

But looking at the American Jewish press in those days, I had to admit that its viewpoints and professional standards might well frustrate a reporter of Schorr’s abilities.

In the typical Jewish weekly, an inordinate amount of space was given to birth, wedding and death announcements — known in the trade as hatched, matched and dispatched — and, of course, the ever effusive bar mitzvah stories (although in those leaner years, few parents led safaris and rented baseball stadiums to mark their progeny’s passage to manhood).

Most of the remaining space was taken up by large photos of earnestly smiling men and women passing checks to each other for this or that worthy cause, while editorial and rabbinic columns fearlessly exhorted readers to study Torah and support our struggling brethren at home and abroad.

Questioning the competence of communal leaders amounted to heresy and the slightest criticism of Israeli policy meant excommunication.

I toiled on weekends for an upstart weekly, Los Angeles’ now defunct Heritage, which was an erratic exception to the general blandness.

Its founder, publisher, editor-in-chief, reporter, columnist and advertising manager was Herb Brin, who would have felt right at home in the frontier journalism of the mid-19th century, when rival editors settled differences of opinion with horsewhips and six-shooters.

Brin had been raised in the “Front Page” tradition of Chicago’s brawling journalism and was never happier than when scourging communal wimps who did not share his enthusiasm for decapitating real or imagined enemies of the Jewish people and Israel.

But in the last 20 years, Jewish journalism in the United States, particularly in New York and Los Angeles, has undergone a really remarkable transformation.

Its best editors and writers aim for the same professional standards (and frequently come from) leading general dailies, and they regularly hold up our leadership to scrutiny and try to reflect the changing modes and diversity of the Jewish world.

Still, Schorr’s reservation about looking at every problem from the Jewish perspective is still valid, and inevitably so.

As much as we consider ourselves part of the American mainstream, we reflexively look at every happening and ask, “What’s the Jewish angle?”

That “angle,” though, is less parochial and circumscribed than it used to be, reflecting the broadening interests of the American and worldwide Jewish community of which we are a part.

Though we still tend to obsess about every anti-Semitic scrawl and every neo-Nazi rant, we have gained enough self-assurance to look at our people and community with a degree of openness and honesty unthinkable in the past.

 

That’s What I Do


If you’re a single 24-year-old gal looking to meet a preferably Jewish single guy in Los Angeles, you’d think a good pick-up line might include the words “I work for The Jewish Journal.” After all, what better way to convey to the guy-of-interest that you’re a fellow MOT? But you’d be wrong. That line’s great for when you meet his parents, and probably exactly why it’s not great for meeting him. The immediate thought bubble above his head reads something like, “Hmmm nice Jewish girl,” basically the Catholic equivalent of dating a nun.

So, when I started at The Journal four years ago, back when I was still single, in addition to the skills associated with my new job duties, there were conversational hurdles I had to learn to jump when meeting eligible guys. I had to be especially agile, since the most likely opening conversation with a new person usually centers on one’s career. To the question of “What do you do?” I came up with the following response strategy:

1. Be intentionally vague
“I’m a writer.” (If he presses for details, ask him about himself. See No. 2.)

2. Deflect
“What do you do?” (Appear fascinated, turn the conversation in another direction, move on to No. 3.)

3. Hook
(Insert clever comment to draw him in. He’ll remember now that you’re a writer. But now you’ve got him. The perfect time for No. 4.)

4. Make the bold statement
“I’m a writer for The Jewish Journal.” (Let it sink in for a second, two, three. “Wow,” he’ll say. “You must be really Jewish.” Quickly move in for step No. 5, or all is lost.)

5. Shame
(Insert clever retort to shame him and make him love you all at the same time. This will take skill to master, but you’re Keren Engelberg, Jewish Girl Reporter. The guilt force is strong within you. You are up to the task.)

 

Quartet of Movies to Tell Pearl’s Story


Filmmakers are currently wrestling with four different projects to document or dramatize the story of Daniel Pearl, the Wall Street Journal reporter beheaded by Islamic extremists in Pakistan in early 2002, leaving behind a pregnant wife.

Pearl’s life and tragic death would seem a natural for the Hollywood treatment, but the delays and uncertainties of most of the projects are now raising two concerns.

When will the films be completed? And will they reflect the complex nature, Jewish heritage and true legacy of the slain journalist?

At this point, only one project is finished, a 90-minute documentary titled, “The Journalist and the Jihadi: The Murder of Daniel Pearl,” narrated by CNN correspondent Christine Amanpour and to be broadcast by HBO.

The film was directed by AlluTamal, a Pakistani, and Ramesh Sharma, an Indian, and was briefly screened — but not reviewed — at the Tribeca Film Festival in April.

An HBO spokeswoman said that the 90-minute documentary is to air sometime in October, but Judea and Ruth Pearl, Daniel’s parents, said they have been given a specific date of Oct. 10, when their son would have marked his 43rd birthday.

A fair amount of publicity has surrounded the feature film, “A Mighty Heart,” in part because it is based on a book by Daniel Pearl’s widow, and because the project has been inadvertently caught up in the Brad Pitt-Jennifer Aniston-Angelina Jolie saga.

When Mariane Pearl completed her book, “A Mighty Heart: The Brave Life and Death of My Husband Daniel Pearl” in late 2003, Warner Bros. reportedly paid more than $500,000 for the film rights.

The production company, Plan B, was designated to actually make the film under the direction of Plan B owners — the then-married couple — Pitt and Aniston — and film executive Brad Gray, now head of Paramount Pictures.

At that time, media reports had it that Aniston would play the part of Mariane Pearl. But, soon after, the actress and Pitt severed their marital and professional relationships.

Pitt then entered into a well-publicized relationship with Jolie, and that actress is now reportedly in line to essay the role of Pearl’s wife.

Dede Gardner, president of the reclusive Plan B, would disclose only, through a spokeswoman, that the film “is in development and we are currently working on the script.”

None of the others involved in “A Mighty Heart” have publicly commented, but screenwriter John Orloff’s script is expected to follow the book’s focus on the young couple’s romance and marriage, followed by the wife’s agonizing vigil after Daniel Pearl was kidnapped.

Looking at the same topic with a different perspective and approach is “Who Killed Daniel Pearl?” which is “inspired” by the book of the same title by Bernard-Henri Lévy, in which the French philosopher-novelist describes his yearlong investigation into the reporter’s death.

Producer Charlie Lyons has teamed up with up with executive producers Edward Zwick and Marshall Herskovitz, director Tod “Kip” Williams and screenwriter Peter Landesman, a New York Times Magazine foreign correspondent, to make the film for Beacon Pictures.

They are a bit farther along than the “Mighty Heart” project. Lyons, who is in New Zealand shooting another movie, e-mailed that he hopes to start filming the Pearl story in the fall.

According to the studio, the script will differ from the book to avoid infringement on the “Mighty Heart” movie, or, as Lyons wrote, “Some elements of the story will allow for literary inspiration.”

For one, the movie will be mainly a political thriller in which author Lévy will be transformed into an American celebrity television reporter, portrayed by actor Josh Lucas.

Daniel Pearl himself will be fictionalized to some extent, “but the symbol and inspiration of Daniel is core” to the film, Lyons wrote.

Finally, there are one or two references on Google to a film project billed as “Infinite Justice.” The title is not to be confused with a German effort, “Operation Infinite Justice,” which was the code name for the American buildup preceding the current war in Iraq, later renamed “Operation Enduring Freedom.”

According to skimpy reports, that film is to deal with “an American reporter (named Arnold Silverman), who is held hostage by Muslim fundamentalists in Karachi against the release of prisoners in Guantanamo Bay.”

The Pearl parents say that they have been unable to learn anything more about the project.

Judea Pearl, Daniel’s father, is a UCLA professor and widely known authority on artificial intelligence. Ruth Pearl is an electrical engineer; they both expressed mixed sentiments about the rash of film projects.

“I don’t think they will be able to capture my feelings,” said the father, while his wife added, “They [the filmmakers] are probably doing their best, but how can they express the emotions of a mother for her son?”

Hoping for that degree of empathy may be asking for the impossible. But the Pearls, who have been consumed in finding a meaning for their son’s death, also fear that his legacy might be ignored in favor of the more dramatic details of the last weeks of his life.

For the past four years, the Pearls have poured their thoughts and energies into the Daniel Pearl Foundation, “to further the ideals that inspired Daniel’s life and work.”

The broad aim of the foundation (www.danielpearl.org) is to address the root causes of his murder by promoting “cross-cultural understanding,” particularly between the Muslim and Western worlds, through journalism, music and innovative communication.

“We would like the films, and other media coverage, to express the deeper significance of Daniel’s life and death and to concentrate on the legacy and inspiration he left behind,” Judea Pearl said.

 

Agoura Gal Meets Oscar Glitz


Somewhere between a young Joan Rivers and “Desperate Housewives” actress Eva Longoria, you’ll find Adrianna Costa.

On March 5, the Agoura-raised entertainment correspondent will be covering the Academy Awards live for the first time. However, she won’t be in a gown hobnobbing with celebrities on the red carpet.

Costa, 24, has worked her way up from a Palm Springs CBS affiliate to CNN Headline News’ “Robin & Company” in Atlanta, and this weekend she will be back in the Southland covering Oscar night from the network’s Hollywood bureau. She’ll get to visit the red carpet, but only in advance to film teasers — a bit of a tease for Costa herself.

As long as she can remember, Costa has been obsessed with celebrity culture. “It was so fascinating to me. I watched every show you could possibly watch and I read every teen magazine you could possibly read,” she said.

Costa knew from a young age that she wanted to be well-known, but her mother’s efforts to get her into acting never took. “Acting for me was just never my niche. I’m really good at talking, really good at schmoozing,” she said.

In high school she dreamed of becoming an entertainment reporter. After studying broadcast journalism at the University of Colorado at Boulder, Costa worked as an entertainment correspondent for CBS News in Palm Springs, “Access Hollywood,” E! and MSNBC.

While she says she doesn’t get star-struck during interviews, Costa confessed she’ll occasionally be “talent-struck.”

“One of the coolest interviews for me was Rob Zombie,” she said. “Meeting a Lindsey Lohan or Paris Hilton is not that exciting.”

And when it comes Jewish celebs, she’ll often use her MOT status to snag a red-carpet interview. “I’ll throw out comments about my Jewish mother sometimes,” said Costa, who was bat mitzvahed at Etz Chaim in Thousand Oaks.

Even though Costa won’t be in the middle of the Oscar action, her hope riffs on the conclusion of the Passover seder: Next year on the red carpet.

“I’m sure I’ll be doing it,” she said.

 

A Frantic Hour


The dumbest question asked by any reporter anywhere in response to Hurricane Katrina came last Monday in Houston.

Former Presidents Bill Clinton and George H. Bush had just finished announcing a special relief effort — the Hurricane Katrina Fund — when someone in the press pool blurted out, “What do you think of reports that the levees were intentionally broken?”

The two men were already walking away at that point, but you could see the question register on Clinton’s perennially exhausted face. Uncertainty — did she really say that? — then anger — how dare she say that? — then sadness — what a sick, sick world where someone could even think that.

Then again, maybe I was just projecting my reaction. It was a hastily called press conference at a frantic hour, and they couldn’t keep everyone out. For a moment I was even embarrassed for the two ex-presidents, who, after offering themselves forth, get hit with such a crackpot response.

That night, I found that I was still thinking about that question.

It was, on the one hand, in keeping with a well-established American tradition of asinine conspiracy theories. Other examples: AIDS was a virus released by the CIA in the ghettos; the Mossad flew those planes into the Twin Towers; American nuclear testing caused the tsunami in Indonesia. Extremists of all stripes can’t stand to see complicated reality destroy their airtight ideologies. Fantasy fills in where facts seem to fall short.

But what made that question stick in my mind was something else: the idea of intentionality.

As much as we want the floodwaters to wash our hands of culpability in the unfolding tragedy, our hands are not clean.

No one intentionally broke the levees, but many people intentionally decided to limit funds for repairing and improving them. No one intentionally brought the waters down on the Gulf and New Orleans, but many people helped alter the natural environment to the area’s detriment. No one intentionally flooded those impoverished parishes, but many people decided to overlook their needs. No one intentionally let so many people suffer in the wake of this disaster, but many people — like me, like you — turned their backs on these poorest of the poor long before the floodwaters tragically worsened their lot.

Judaism, in its wisdom, makes such distinctions, as well. God is in control of the trembling Earth and its raging waters. But it is left to us humans to control how we treat the natural world and ourselves, how we prepare for and deal with both natural and man-made conditions. What our tradition is trying to beat into our heads is that there have to be two responses to the tragedy.

Most immediately, we must accept its inevitability and meet its demands with quickness and courage, with mercy and generosity. By all accounts, the Jews of Los Angeles, as individuals and as a community, have been doing this. The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles has received and distributed more than $500,000 in relief funds. Chabad has announced it will raise money during its upcoming telethon for relief efforts. Synagogues and other organizations have also raised significant funds. Even the Great American Hot Dog Company, a kosher establishment at The Grove, kicked in, shipping its entire weekend proceeds to hurricane relief. To do more, you can link directly to donor sites at www.jewishjournal.com.

But the second response has to go beyond that, to learn the deeper lessons. Clinton was getting at this more profound response when he said at the same Monday news conference that, “There are a lot of similarities between the people most affected by the tsunami and by the hurricane.”

The hurricane afflicted the most vulnerable in our society. They were invisible before the floods and given our track record, there is a good chance they will return to their role as disaster-victims-in-waiting once the cameras are turned off. It was not intentional, but yet we nonetheless left them to suffer the worst effects of the storm’s violence — just as they suffer the worst effects of social violence.

Now we need to ask whether we’ve done enough to help them outside of emergencies. It is a comforting cliché of Jewish life, to be repeated often from pulpits this weekend I’m sure, that God is not in the hurricane, but in our response to it. That is only partially true.

True, our first response should be, “How can I help?” For in helping we make manifest the goodness of our Creator. But our second response must go deeper. It must be: “How can I make sure it doesn’t happen again?”

Is it enough to airlift people out of harm’s way, but do nothing to lift them out of poverty?

How do we make investment in education, healthcare and housing as much of a national emergency as a natural disaster?

“The worse thing of all is when a Jew makes peace with the way things are,” the Slonimer rebbe wrote in Netivot Shalom. At every moment, he continued, our souls are summoned to do God’s work. “In every condition that a Jew is in there is an aspect of, ‘And God called out to him….'”

At this moment, it would be a mistake to assume all the suffering we’ve witnessed was the result of an inevitable, albeit historic, flood. No. As expert after expert has made clear, the greatest human costs came about because of ill planning and poverty — and those are not conditions we need accept.

That’s what makes the images and news of Katrina so tragic: not that the death and destruction were intentional, but that they were — to a large degree — avoidable.

 

Do the Jews Need Geraldo


Geraldo Rivera has rediscovered his Jewish roots, and he declares the Jews "need" him back.

Rivera, 59, the flamboyant TV reporter, recently announced to the Philadelphia Inquirer and The Washington Post that he is planning to marry TV producer Erica Levy, 29, in a Reform ceremony in New York this summer.

Rivera, whose mother is Jewish and father is Puerto Rican, told The Washington Post that "the Jews need me right now," apparently, according to the Inquirer, to help sort out the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Rivera could not be reached for comment, but he told The Washington Post that he is going to "take this whole Judaism thing seriously" from now on.

While this is his fifth wedding, Rivera said it’s his first in a synagogue or church. He celebrated a dual bar mitzvah in Israel with his oldest child, Gabriel, now 23.

Rivera has come under fire for some of his TV work in Israel and the Palestinian territories for Fox News. The media watchdog groups StandWithUs.com and the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA), blasted Rivera in 2002 for his reporting on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

"Although uninformed coverage of the Israel-Palestinian crisis is common, Rivera’s combination of inanity and incessant self-reference to his own feelings, reactions and experiences has prompted particular audience disgust and derisive criticism from other journalists," CAMERA said.

That April 2002 criticism came after Rivera said that although he had been a lifelong Zionist and "would die for Israel," Palestinian suffering was turning him also into a "Palestinian-ist."

Rivera and Levy are due to wed this August at the 128-year-old Central Synagogue in Manhattan. The guest list at the ceremony and reception, to be held at the tony Four Seasons, is said to include the likes of former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.).

Upon learning of Rivera’s Jewish wedding, Andrea Levin, executive director of CAMERA, said, "He’s not going to be a Palestinian-ist anymore?"

While a Jewish marriage "doesn’t always necessarily guarantee level-headed reporting," she added, "I certainly hope he has a long and happy marriage and that it helps inform his reporting."

The ‘Bogey’ Man


Even though he promises to be a kinder, gentler version of himself, his raspy growl is — and will be — unmistakably unchanged.

After a 19-month hiatus, in-your-face consumer advocate Mike "Bogey" Boguslawski is returning to the tube to do a softer version of his KCBS News segment, "Bogey’s Corner," which ran from 1999 to 2001. "Bogey & Company," which will start airing weekly next month on UPN 13, will still take on bunco scams and help the "little guy" in retrieving Social Security benefits and untangling other bureaucratic mishaps, but, Bogey said, he will not be as acerbic.

His new show will open with his signature shout — "This is Mike Boguslawski, you know what bothers me more than anything? You’re entitled to…." — because after 40 years in the business, he just doesn’t need to come on so strong.

"The people of Los Angeles and Southern California know who Bogey is," the self-appointed freedom fighter said, talking about himself in the third person. "They know his reputation, his honesty and integrity, so I decided I don’t need to scream anymore."

He may not have been screaming — but he wasn’t exactly whispering either — as he talked about a segment on his upcoming show involving a woman whose house burned down.

"This lady was not being given what she was entitled to. She was living out of her car. It’s crazy, it’s stupid," he said emphatically. "So I got on the phone and got her $181,000. That’s what her house was worth, and they were draggin’ this on. But I got the case settled. Yup!"

The new show will also feature an eight-minute segment titled "Bogey’s Buddies," which focuses on helping people in need — for example, arranging an operation or finding a job; his version of charity.

"I never turn my back on people — black, white, Hispanic, Jewish, Polish," he said. "I went and fought like there was no tomorrow."

Boguslawski is of the people, the youngest child of four born to an Italian mother and a Jewish father 62 years ago in Bristol, Conn.

"We lived in the projects," Boguslawski recalled. "We were very poor, but we were happy."

Raised by his mother, Margaret Maro, Boguslawski never knew his father, Joseph B. Boguslawski, a Polish Jewish airplane mechanic and military veteran who died before he was born. At 23, Boguslawski lost his 33-year-old brother, who was killed by a drunk driver. Boguslawski persevered and became a consumer reporter.

"We had a situation in Connecticut where they were burning the synagogues," Boguslawski said. "And I came out to protest. I’m not afraid to tell it the way it is."

Boguslawski told it like it was in New Haven for 19 years, at Pittsburgh’s NBC affiliate for five years and a year at NBC Orlando. He also worked at Channel 30 in Hartford, Conn.

Boguslawski is a man devoted to tikkun olam (healing the world). Dr. Dan Silver, director of the "Buddies" segment, recalled how Boguslawski introduced it to help people in dire financial straits get free, necessary surgery.

"There are people who have done that consumer beat for decades in L.A. who didn’t connect the way he did," said John Severino, a former ABC president. From the first time he caught him on a Connecticut station during a business trip, Severino loved Boguslawski. "I told him right there," Severino said, "that within six months, he would have a bigger visibility [than] anyone in L.A., and he did."

Severino is proud of Boguslawski’s antics — like the time the colorful reporter crashed then-California Assembly Speaker John Burton’s news conference.

And then there was Boguslawski’s run-in with the governor. With a $30 billion California deficit, Boguslawski hounded Gov. Gray Davis to knock down the gasoline sales tax and help California’s needy.

While he was between gigs for 19 months, the absence of cameras didn’t slow Boguslawski down.

"Ever since I was let go," said Boguslawski, who resides in Palm Springs with wife, Pat, and miniature poodle, Elizabeth, "I’ve been handling complaints out of my own pocket. We handle around 50 a week."

"There was a point when I was going to retire," said Boguslawski, who recently turned 62, "but I don’t want to go out that way. I have so much more to give."

"Bogey & Co." will air on UPN 13 on Sundays at 2:30 p.m. beginning June 1. Send your consumer complaints (no phone calls, please) to: UPN 13, Bogey & Co., 75140 St. Charles Place, Suite A, Palm Desert, CA 92214.

Collection of Pearl’s Articles a Real Gem


"At Home in the World: Collected Writings from The Wall Street Journal" by Daniel Pearl, edited by Helen Cooper (Simon & Schuster, $24).

From this collection’s first article — "In Indian Quake, Death Haunts the Living" (2001) — Daniel Pearl’s journalistic qualities shine through.

Every reporter worth his salt — or his word processor — keeps his eyes open. But not all of us are able to distinguish life’s small ironies, those gleaming nuggets that make an article really worth reading.

Pearl, the Jewish American Wall Street Journal reporter who was brutally murdered in Pakistan in February, notes that the billboards advertising the area’s hotels ("Entertain your corporate clients in style") survived an earthquake, while those same hotels didn’t.

Nor would a lesser breed of reporter be able to discern that there are people willing to exploit the victims — and then have the courage to unmask them.

"Maybe everyone really just wants to help," Pearl notes. "But why does [a local religious leader] … already have the photo album ready a day after his visit to the razed village of Jodia? Photos of the guru distributing water barrels and talking with survivors are quickly posted on the Web site, along with an appeal for funds."

Pearl also had a keen eye for the absurd. In that vein is a 1996 article on an Iranian film on hostages ("This Film Has a Bus, Explosions and Veils: Call It Iranian Speed") that dealt not with the Americans held for 444 days in 1979-1980, but with 44 Iranian passengers held for three hours after their bus stumbled onto American helicopters getting ready for the failed 1980 rescue attempt.

Or his 1997 report on the battle between Ethiopia and Yemen, each claiming the Queen of Sheba as its own ("If Only King Solomon Were Here to Settle This Nasty Dispute").

In only a few paragraphs, Pearl could give his readers a true feeling of what life was like behind the headlines. His futile 1999 search for reconciliation between Serbs and Kosovars ("Search for Mercy Ends in Tears on Quiet Kosovo Street") is a case in point. So are his 1996 descriptions of young Iranians who, despite their government, want to visit America ("Tehran Wanderlust: Hot Item in Iran Now Is Visa to Visit U.S., Once the Great Satan") and the 1992 article on the mixed feelings of black policemen ("To Be a Black Cop Can Mean Walking a Very Fine Line").

And Pearl could plain write. The lead for his 1993 report ("Beauty Shows Turn Beastly as Sponsors Bare Lacquered Nails") — "At the age of 9, Ashley Kinard has discovered just how ugly the business of beauty can be" — is a classic. So is "This is a small town in search of a really big floor," from his 1997 piece on the making of a huge carpet in Iran ("Looming Large").

Whether Pearl "cherished truth more than anything," as his widow, Mariane, wrote in the book’s introduction, I can’t say.

Whether "he had not one shred of malice in his bones," as his father, Judea Pearl, said of him in his eulogy, I don’t know.

But after reading these excerpts from his career, it is apparent that Pearl was a good writer and an excellent reporter.

For a journalist, it doesn’t get any better than that.

Eulogies:Peter Grant


Peter Grant, veteran Los Angeles reporter, editor, public relations executive and Jewish community activist who was the first journalist to enter Japan after its surrender in 1945, died June 4 in San Diego at age 86.

Shortly after his arrival in Tokyo as a founding member of Pacific Stars & Stripes, the U.S. military daily newspaper, Grant was among the first to interview Gen. Douglas MacArthur and he scored a scoop by interviewing the Empress Nagako at the palace. Prior to joining Stars & Stripes, he served as the lead reporter of the South Pacific Daily News in New Caledonia and the Philippines.

A graduate of George Washington University, Grant covered the U.S. Congress for United Press and Transradio Press prior to entering the U.S. Army in 1943. Following World War II, he joined the Los Angeles Times.

During the mid 1950s, he was the only reporter/photographer covering the entire San Fernando Valley for the Times, an area that will become the sixth-largest city in the United States if present efforts for secession are successful. From his small office at the Van Nuys civic center, Grant welcomed colleagues and visitors who would discuss such matters as the problems, progress and endless charges of wrongdoing connected with the construction of the Valley segments of the Ventura and San Diego freeways.

Grant’s five-decade association with the organized Jewish community included service with West Coast Shaare Zedek Hospital, Jerusalem, as executive director; Israel Magazine, editor; Fund for Higher Education, Israel; Valley Storefront, Jewish Federation Council; Southern California Council for Soviet Jews, and a member of Adat Ari El for 43 years.

Grant, a cousin of Gen. Moshe Dayan, in recent years provided major leadership and worked constantly on behalf of Project Chicken Soup, which prepares and delivers kosher meals to homebound people with HIV. Contributions are welcome and may be forwarded to Project Chicken Soup, P.O. Box 480241, Los Angeles 90048.

He is survived by his wife of 61 years, Evonne; daughters, Laura (Ed) Feldman and Dr. Rachel Grant; grandchildren, Shoshana and Aaron Feldman; and brother, Joe Grodsky (Lillian). — Sid Skolnik

Tales Told Out of School


(This column is prompted by the controversy at the Los Angeles Times over the Staples Magazine special issue, and the mea culpa independent report the paper published last Monday.)

Some of the differences between The Jewish Journal and the Los Angeles Times are obvious. They have more than 300 editors and reporters; we would need to draft a couple of additional reporters just to form a minyan.

I suspect our readers and advertisers differ as well in their assumptions and expectations. It is commonplace for a Jewish organization to telephone and request a story about a special event, or a dinner, in which a major figure or benefactor is being honored. These are not just our advertisers asking for coverage, but our readers as well. We try to give some mention( a picture and a caption) precisely because they are readers.

Don’t misunderstand: This is not a case of pleasing advertisers indirectly. A few years ago a national Jewish agency drew attention to itself because of improprieties in its budget and accounting procedures. Our ad representative came into the editorial offices and pleaded with me not to run the story. We might lose the account, she said.

But we would look like a sell-out to our readers, I replied. They would certainly discover which story we had failed to run and why. We need to publish an accurate account out of self interest, I explained. It isn’t principle at all.

Every newspaper presents a different image to different readers. A close friend of mine complains that we do not provide adequate religious coverage. He’s a rabbi and a scholar based in one of the Jewish colleges in town. The Orthodox community believes, by and large, that we are anti-Orthodox… even though Julie Fax, our religion editor, is herself Orthodox. But many of our columnists and correspondents are not, and it is their biases to which the Orthodox respond.

We try to listen, to balance, to adjust. We are, after all, a community newspaper. But we are not a blackboard, present simply to reflect back all the beliefs and views of our readers. A newspaper — particularly a community newspaper — needs to make judgment calls, needs to inform about facts and truths which may at times seem unpalatable; needs to help create a passionate and informed citizenry; needs to write in what its editors perceive are the interests of the community.

One problem is that we — journalists and editors — are fallible. We make mistakes; errors of judgment. And they are there in print and large type for everyone to read. When we published a cover story on Monica Lewinsky, many readers of The Jewish Journal were outraged.

Recently we appear to have antagonized our readers once again, when we published a lead story on the 130 most influential Jews in Los Angeles. The complaints still have not ceased.

Of course we also “kill” stories. Sometimes the facts seems thin to me; sometimes the story just isn’t there. These are decisions all editors make, all the time; at The Jewish Journal no less than at the Los Angeles Times.

Occasionally the editorial call is made at our newspaper because of the community itself. In the first few years of this newspaper I killed a story that Naomi Pfefferman wrote about a leading Jewish institution in our city. She had worked long and hard on the story; had interviewed the many parties involved in what was an in-house conflict. Facts were checked and double checked. It was first rate reporting.

And then I set it aside. I am still not certain I made the right call. But in that story everyone emerged tarnished. It may not have been my finest hour, but it definitely was not theirs. These were respected, much loved leaders in the community. But they were behaving badly. And the person challenging them did not remain unscathed either. It was, if you will, all negative.

Should our readers have been informed about a battle that tarred everyone? I may have underestimated them/you. But we were relatively new; had not yet earned the right to speak in behalf of the community. And so I apologized to Naomi and did not run the story. There was no advertising pressure applied.

I am not sure I would follow the same course today.

Readers and advertisers. All newspapers must serve each constituency. But the conflict at the Los Angeles Times today seems to me fueled by a separate agenda: It reads to me like a struggle between the reporters and editors on one side and management, that is, money men, on the other. It is the journalists who feel embarrassed and betrayed, more so than the readers, particularly after their peers in New York and at The Wall Street Journal have called into question their newspaper’s integrity.

In short, the present pitched battle at the Los Angeles Times looks to be more about the self respect of the working press than a deep, abiding concern for either readers or advertisers. –Gene Lichtenstein

Keep Your Opinions to Yourself


Recently, The Jewish Journal announced that it was hiringreporters and stringers to cover the San Fernando Valley andsurrounding areas. In response, we received numerous resumésand clips of people looking to write…columns. Is that, we wondered,a particularly Jewish phenomenon? Why report what others say and dowhen you would rather report to others what you think?

Whatever the case, we are full up on columnists, though we alwayslook forward to your letters and submissions to the “Other Voices”guest column. What we need are sharp, eager, insightful reporters toadd to our growing paper. The Journal has been a breeding ground forfine journalists — Joe Domanick, Steve Weinstein and Duke Helfand toname a few all got their starts here before moving on to the LosAngeles Times and books.

If you are interested, please send us your resumé andwriting samples. Columnists need not apply. –Robert Eshman,

Managing Editor

SHOCKING!OUTRAGEOUS!WRONG!

“Israel, for example, is a major center of the prostitution slavetrade,” Robert Scheer wrote in his Los Angeles Times column two weeksago.

A major center? Well, according to Scheer, that awful factcame straight from an article by Michael Spector in the Jan. 11 NewYork Times. According to Spector, indigent women from countries inthe former Soviet Union are brought by underworld traffickers throughHaifa under false pretenses. There, pimps destroy or withhold thewomen’s visas and force them into a life of prostitution. Thesituation is horrendous. But, as Spector reported — and Scheerfailed to note — Israel is not exceptional. As many as500,000 women — a far greater number than that in Israel — aretrafficked into Western Europe alone, reported Spector, not tomention Turkey and Asia.

There’s no doubt that Israel needs to take its share ofresponsibility for this human tragedy. But how can Scheer, whom wegenerally admire, be helping by singling out Israel? The Internet nowsings with the white slave trade libels that so enlivened19th-century anti-Semitism.

We called Scheer to find out if he knows something that Spectordoesn’t. So far, no response. — R.E.

Live from Algeria

The Torah scroll you see in this photo was hand-scribed on animalskin, not the traditional parchment, 400 years ago in Algeria. Theonce-thriving Jewish community there has dwindled to 300 souls. Whencommunal leaders learned that the current government was going toconfiscate important religious artifacts, they put the Torah on acamel and sent it across the Sahara. Eventually, it was procured bythe parents, students and staff of the Abraham Joshua Heschel DaySchool in Northridge, who raised money for its purchase throughperformances of “Fiddler on the Roof.” For more information, call(818) 368-5781. — R.E.

Everyone’s Got a Story

Are you now or have you ever been part of the establishment of theState of Israel?

If you have, or if someone you know has, the Jewish Federation ofGreater Los Angeles and the Simon Wiesenthal Center want to hear fromyou. The two organizations are preparing a commemorative album for aCBS Television special that will celebrate Israel’s 50th birthday,and they’d like to publish your account. If you are a current or pastCalifornia resident with a story about your experience to share, call(818) 597-9523 and ask for Sheli. — R.E.

Be a Star, Help a School

Ohr Eliyahu Academy is a Westside Orthodox day school with areputation for fine Judaic and general studies, a superb specialeducation program, and, lately, financial difficulties. A benefactorhas come to the school’s aid with a most interesting offer: buy aguaranteed walk-on in a new film by Tony Scott, the maker of “TopGun,” “Crimson Tide” and “Beverly Hills Cop,” and the money will bedonated to Ohr Eliyahu. The walk-on will be sold by voice-mailauction, so call (213) 969-4960 to place your bid. See you at themovies. –R.E.
Denzel Washington and apreviously unknown actor in “Crimson Tide”