Rules of etiquette suggest that one must whisper in a library. But for the Jewish Community Library of Greater Los Angeles, that rule is just the beginning.

The library recently held its culminating ceremony for a group of youngsters enrolled in its Children’s Etiquette and Social Grace class. This is the first time that the institution has sponsored such a class.

The idea developed after the library director Abigail Yasgur and children’s director Sylvia Lowe, children’s librarian, enrolled their respective youngsters in an etiquette class.

"Libraries are not just about the books," Lowe said. "They’re becoming meeting places for people in the community."

"Eating is such a big thing in the Jewish tradition," said Yasgur, who noted that such pointers in protocol will come in handy at Shabbat meals and seder tables.

At Pat’s Restaurant, a kosher Pico-Robertson-area establishment, 15 boys and eight girls — students age 6-10 at schools such as Temple Emanuel, Maimonides Academy and Canfield Elementary — gathered for their fourth and final weekly class. They showed off their newly cultivated high-society habits, such as how to hold a long-stemmed glass, how to butter a roll, fold a napkin and other multicourse meal manners.

Contrary to expectations, Maggie O’Farrill, who for seven years has been teaching children etiquette, said that these restless years make the best time to teach kids.

"At this age, they’re very easy," O’Farrill said. "When they get older, it’s harder for them to break bad habits."

At the Pat’s soiree, parents were over the moon over the effects these classes have had on their youngsters.

Mary Jo Schnitzer’s daughter, Ariel, 9, is in her second year of etiquette class, having completed one at Hawthorne School last year.

"She learned to set the table and to speak properly on the phone," Schnitzer said.

"Children at this age want to be polite," O’Farrill said. "You can see that they’re trying."

Based on the parental enthusiasm and the success of this first program, Yasgur wants to continue holding such sessions. She hopes to start another class in January for children ages 10 and up, as well as offer refresher courses.

Ariel’s favorite lesson was "when she taught us how to walk."

Daniel Schwartz, 7, was less enthusiastic about the class."It’s OK, but I just want to put food in my mouth."

February 11: A Rally for Israel

Talmudic sages wondered how King Achav of Israel could have reigned for decades, considering his practice and encouragement of idolatry and every type of sin. They arrived at the answer that at least during his reign there was, if nothing else, unity among the Jewish people. Today we find deep divisions among our people, perhaps nowhere more so than in our attitudes toward Israel and the peace process. It almost makes you wish for the good old days of King Achav.

These days, there are radical hard-liners on both the right and left who are ready to push their single-minded agendas even at the cost of death and destruction. There are racist, bigoted Jews and self-hating anti-Semitic Jews, and both must be discredited at all costs.

As for the rest of us, it sometimes seems as though if we are united in anything, it is in the belief that the other side is dead wrong and largely responsible for the terrible predicament that confronts our people. At least we agree on something.

The losers in this struggle are Israel and the Jewish people. This is not a new circumstance for our people. The sages of the Talmud tell us that baseless hatred was the proximate cause of the destruction of the Second Temple. While this has traditionally been seen as a philosophical point, with the “great sin” tipping the scales of some heavenly balance, it has a more pragmatic interpretation as well. The Jews of Jerusalem were busy with internal conflict even as the Roman siege tightened around them. Large storehouses of food were put to the torch by Jews who didn’t agree with government policies, and the people and the city were then doomed. The unthinkable has already happened. We must not let it happen again.

We have no choice but to see ourselves again as one people. Our adversaries certainly don’t differentiate us by religious or political variant. More importantly, our own Torah sees us as one people, warts and all.

Promises by G-d of a special role in the world, of a land of our own and of our continuity as a people, were made to the nation of Israel, not to its left or right wings. It is only together that we can fulfill our destiny as Jews.

The road to achdut (unity) is long and arduous. We can begin by finding the common ground, our support for the people and the State of Israel. We feel their pains and hurts as if they were our own. It is in this spirit that we of the Orthodox Union call upon the Jewish community to unite in a rally in support of our brothers and sisters in Israel and their quest for a true peace, Sunday, Feb. 11, 10:15 a.m., at the corner of Olympic and Doheny. (Rain location is next door at Beth Jacob Congregation, 9030 W. Olympic Blvd., Beverly Hills.) The program is to include prayer, addresses by Israeli Consul General Yuval Rotem and Rep. Henry Waxman, an address by Rabbi Marvin Hier and songs of hope, unity and peace. It’s a start — please join in.

Dr. Larry Eisenberg is president of the Orthodox Union’s West Coast region.