Israel to downscale operation searching for kidnapped teens


Israel’s Cabinet agreed to reduce the presence of the country’s military in the West Bank and limit its incursions into Palestinian areas 12 days after the kidnapping of three Israeli teens.

The operation to locate and return the teens, called Operation Brother’s Keeper, now will focus more on intelligence gathering, Haaretz reported.

“A large part of the operation against Hamas has been exhausted,” Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon said.

The operation also was scaled back in advance of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which begins later this week.

“We are making progress all the time,” Yaalon said. “We are not working in the dark. It is only a matter of time till we get to the hostages and the kidnappers, but we need patience.”

More than 300 Palestinians have been arrested during the 12 days of military operations. Five Palestinians have been killed in the operations.

The Times of Israel quoted Israel Defense Force Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz as saying that the military is working under the assumption that the teens are still alive, “but with the passing of time, fears grow.”

On June 24, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas for condemning the kidnapping.

“I appreciate what President Abbas said a few days ago in Saudi Arabia, rejecting the kidnapping,” Netanyahu said at a meeting with Romanian Prime Minister Victor Pont. “I think these were important words. Now, if he really means what he said about the kidnapping, and if he is truly committed to peace and to fighting terrorism, then logic and common sense mandate that he break his pact with Hamas. This is the only way that we can move forward. There can be no alliance with the kidnappers of children,” he said.

Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal, in an interview with Al-Jazeera late on June 23, praised the kidnapping of the teens but would neither confirm nor deny that Hamas was responsible.

Israeli who murdered his parents used tips he found online


An Israeli who stabbed his mother and father to death was convicted of murder on Monday partly because he searched online for tips including “how to kill your parents and get away with it.”

Daniel Maoz, 29, wanted money from his inheritance in order to pay heavy gambling debts, the Jerusalem District Court found. He was sentenced to life imprisonment for the 2011 murders.

The case presented an unusual challenge to the prosecution: DNA evidence linking Maoz to the killings was found at the murder scene, his parents' apartment, and he tried to explain that away by accusing his identical twin brother of the crime.

In its decision, the court cited other physical evidence and an examination of the defendant's computer to refute that.

The incriminating Internet searches also included “can soap clean DNA from a knife?” and “murder for inheritance”, a transcript of the ruling showed.

Maoz said he made the searches out of “academic curiosity.”

Reporting by Jeffrey Heller; Editing by Louise Ireland

Chabad center taking in Oklahomans displaced by deadly tornado


A Chabad center in Oklahoma City opened its building as a shelter for those displaced by a deadly tornado.

The Chabad Community Center of Southern Oklahoma also is collecting supplies for those left homeless by the tornado that tore through an Oklahoma City suburb on Monday afternoon, leaving at least 24 people dead, including several children, and injuring hundreds.

“While we feel the pain of others, we’re very thankful that we’re able to respond – to use all our energy and all our resources to let the community know we’re here to help,” Rabbi Ovadia Goldman, the Southern Oklahoma Chabad’s co-director, told Chabad.org.

Goldman said he has received calls from individuals and organizations in New York, Ohio, Iowa, Illinois, California and abroad with offers to help with relief efforts.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sent a letter of condolence to President Obama on Tuesday morning in the wake of the tornado.

“On behalf of the Government and people of Israel, I offer our heartfelt condolences to you and to the people of the United States on the massive tornado that struck in Oklahoma and exacted such a horrific toll in human life,” Netanyahu wrote. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims of this tragedy and their families at this difficult time.”

Rescuers search through rubble after a tornado struck Moore, Okla., on May 20. Photo by Gene Blevins/Reuters

Marathon bomb suspect eludes police, hunt shuts Boston down


Black Hawk helicopters and heavily armed police descended on a Boston suburb Friday in a massive search for an ethnic Chechen suspected in the Boston Marathon bombings, hours after his brother was killed by police in a late-night shootout.

The normally traffic-clogged streets of Boston were empty as the city went into virtual lockdown after a bloody night of shooting and explosions. Public transport was suspended, air space restricted and famous universities, including Harvard and MIT, closed after police ordered residents to remain at home.

Officials identified the hunted man as Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19, and the dead suspect as his brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, who was killed Thursday night in the working class suburb of Watertown.

Details emerged on Friday about the brothers, including their origins in the predominantly Muslim regions of Russia's Caucasus, which have experienced two decades of violence since the fall of the Soviet Union.

The fugitive described himself on a social network as a minority from a region that includes Chechnya, Dagestan and Ingushetia.

A man who said he was their uncle said the brothers came to the United States in the early 2000s and settled in the Cambridge, Massachusetts, area.

“I say what I think what's behind it – being losers,” Ruslan Tsarni told reporters in suburban Washington. “Not being able to settle themselves and thereby hating everyone who did.”

Tsarni said he had not spoken to the brothers since 2009.

He said Monday's bombings on the finish line of the world-famous Boston Marathon that killed three people and injured 176 “put a shame on our family. It put a shame on the entire Chechen ethnicity.”

The bombing, described by President Barack Obama as “an act of terrorism,” was the worst such attack on U.S. soil since the plane hijackings of Sept. 11, 2001.

The FBI said the twin blasts were caused by bombs in pressure cookers and carried in backpacks that were left near the marathon finish line as thousands of spectators gathered.

Authorities cordoned off a section of the suburb of Watertown and told residents not to leave their homes or answer the door as officers in combat gear scoured a 20-block area for the missing man, who was described as armed and dangerous.

The manhunt has covered 60 percent to 70 percent of the search area, Massachusetts State Police Colonel Timothy Alben said Friday afternoon. “We are progressing through this neighborhood, going door-to-door, street-to-street,” he said.

Two Black Hawk helicopters circled the area. Amtrak said it was suspending train service between Boston and New York indefinitely and the Boston Red Sox postponed Friday night's baseball game at historic Fenway Park.

The events elicited a response from Moscow condemning terrorism and from the Russian-installed leader of Chechnya, who criticized police in Boston for killing an ethnic Chechen and blamed the violence on his upbringing in the United States.

“They grew up and studied in the United States and their attitudes and beliefs were formed there,” Ramzan Kadyrov said in comments posted online. “Any attempt to make a connection between Chechnya and the Tsarnaevs is in vain.”

INTERNET POSTINGS

The brothers had been in the United States for several years and were believed to be legal immigrants, according to U.S. government sources. Neither had been known as a potential security threat, a law enforcement official said on Friday.

A Russian language social networking site bearing Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's name paid tribute to Islamic websites and to those calling for Chechen independence. The author identified himself as a 2011 graduate of Cambridge Rindge and Latin School, a public school in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

He said he went to primary school in Makhachkala, capital of Dagestan, a province in Russia that borders on Chechnya, and listed his languages as English, Russian and Chechen.

His “World view” was listed as “Islam” and his “Personal priority” as “career and money.”

He posted links to videos of fighters in Syria's civil war and to Islamic web pages with titles such as “Salamworld, my religion is Islam” and “There is no God but Allah, let that ring out in our hearts.”

He also had links to pages calling for independence for Chechnya, a region of Russia that lost its bid for independence after two wars in the 1990s.

Video posted on NJ.com showed a woman, Alina Tsarnaeva, who described herself as a sister of the suspects.

“I'm not OK, just like anyone else is not OK,” she told reporters from behind the closed door of an apartment in West New York, New Jersey.

She said the older brother “was a great person. He was a kind and loving man. To piss life away, just like he pissed others' life away … “

She said of the younger brother, “He's a child.”

HOUSE-TO-HOUSE SEARCH

In Watertown, the lockdown cleared the streets for police, who raced from one site to the next. The events stunned the former mill town, which has a large Russian-speaking community.

During the night, a university police officer was killed, a transit police officer was wounded, and the suspects carjacked a vehicle before leading police on a chase that led to Tamerlan Tsarnaev being shot dead.

“During the exchange of the gunfire, we believe that one of the suspects was struck and ultimately taken into custody,” Alben said.

The suspect died of multiple injuries including gunshot wounds and trauma, said Dr. Richard Wolfe, chief of emergency medicine at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.

The older brother was seen wearing a dark cap and sunglasses in surveillance images released by the FBI on Thursday. The younger Tsarnaev was shown wearing a white cap in the pictures, taken shortly before Monday's explosions.

“We believe this to be a terrorist,” said Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis. “We believe this to be a man who has come here to kill people. We need to get him in custody.”

Additional reporting by Mark Hosenball, Alex Dobuzinskis, David Bailey, Peter Graff, Stephanie Simon, Svea Herbst-Bayliss, Aaron Pressman, Daniel Lovering and Ben Berkowitz; Writing by Daniel Trotta and Grant McCool; Editing by Doina Chiacu

Police come up empty in new search for Etan Patz


The latest round in the more than 30-year police search for Etan Patz ended without finding any “obvious human remains.”

On Monday, police ended the search for Etan, who was 6 years old when he disappeared near his parents’ New York apartment in 1979, without finding any substantial new evidence, according to reports.

The search had begun again three weeks ago when police believed a basement on Prince Street in lower Manhattan, which was on Etan’s route to his school bus when he disappeared, may have contained new evidence that would identify his abductor. Etan was walking to the bus on his own for the first time.

At the time of the Jewish boy’s disappearance, the basement housed the workshop of Othniel Miller, a handyman. Miller had given Etan a dollar the day before his disappearance for running an errand. Soon after Etan’s disappearance, a new concrete floor was poured in the basement.

After finding no human remains, however, police have not charged Miller. Police have been unable to identify Etan’s abductor.

To Tell the Truth


Harry Potter’s Mirror of Erised, tucked into a secret room in the dark corridors of Hogwarts, allows the person who looks into it to see what they most desire to be. There seems to be a similar notion in the world of online dating.

A computer becomes a tool to create a “new and improved” version of yourself.

Short people become “not overly tall,” shy people become “pensive and thoughtful,” unemployed becomes “self-employed,” and living with the folks becomes “family oriented and saving for the future.” Delusional becomes creative. And dating reaches some desperate lows.

A little embellishment here and there isn’t so bad — creativity and a sense of humor are always great things. But there are just certain things that you should never lie about.

1. Physical attributes.
How many times have you opened the door to find a person 4 inches lower to the earth than what they had told you? One person I agreed to meet told me he was 5-foot-6 — exactly my height — so I was a bit annoyed when, even wearing lip-flops, I turned out to be a good 2 inches taller than him.

“My eyes are only blue with certain outfits” is actually a buyable lie. But height is pretty much set in stone once you exit the teens.

Then, of course, there is the touchy subject of weight. Most people probably post their wishful driver’s license weight, thinking at least they have “proof” in writing.

One guy admitted to me that although his profile said he was 170 he was more like 190, and honesty is a good thing, right? So how was he to explain the additional 45 pounds that followed him to my door on our first date? Did he think that I just wasn’t going to notice, or believe that he went on a crazy pre-date jitters eating binge that made 45 pounds show up overnight?

2. Pictures
There are those online who are honest and upfront enough to post recent and un-Photoshopped, untouched up, non-photo shoot, actually-looks-like-me pictures. And then there are those who are not.

I’ve had too many dates start with a smile and confusion as I have an inner dialogue: That’s who I’ve been talking to? Did I remember to ask him if his photos were recent? How fast can I eat this ice cream and leave without getting brain freeze?

3. Age
Like it or not we were all born on a certain day of a certain year, and that (along with your height) is set in stone. The people who have lied to me about their age all have their own reasons. Usually it’s the younger guys who make themselves a few years older so that they will show up in my search preferences. Then three or four dates down the road they give me the, “Oh, by the way….”

One guy who was already four years older then me lied and made himself even older! When I asked him why, he said that he looked older anyway so he changed his age to match what people usually said. Excuse me? I mean I’ve been told oodles of times that I have a baby face, but you don’t see me telling people that I’m 300 months old to somehow get that infantile sense.

4. Personal Habits
I had one man tell me that he was a nonsmoker, though four conversations later he divulged that he did smoke, just not cigarettes. Then another told me he was a nonsmoker, to later go into detail that he was actually just “working on trying to start convincing himself that he should really begin to seriously think about” quitting. Or some other equally far-fetched story that left me rolling my eyes and politely declining plans to meet.

5. Odds and Ends Details
One of my personal favorite stories was a man who told me that he had never been in a serious relationship before, so one could understand my confusion when during our first date he mentioned his exes. When I finally asked him what he meant, he said that since he wasn’t with them anymore it just didn’t count. Oh, if only the world worked that way.

The bottom line is just don’t do it. Do you really think people aren’t going to notice those few inches, those extra pounds that cloud of smoke around your head? What do you expect will happen when you start a relationship by completely misrepresenting yourself?

Most of the men I’ve confronted about it just got mad, hoping that I would “give this a chance.” Give what a chance? The delusional version of yourself that you created in your own Mirror of Erised? I don’t think so. The next upgrade that online dating needs is a giant red stamp saying liar that a person can vote to place over your profile, warning the next innocent online dater of what is really going on.

Caroline Cobrin is a writer living in Van Nuys and can be reached at carolinecolumns@hotmail.com.

 

Sondheim Knows How to Book ‘Em


Some people begin collecting because they’ve coveted certain objects for as long as they can remember. Others collect as an investment. And, of course, there are poseurs who hire prestige dealers to buy them trendy art because they want to be viewed as taste mavens.

Harry Sondheim, a retired criminal prosecutor for the L.A. County D.A.’s office, started to collect Judaica for none of those reasons. He was traveling in Holland when he simply noticed an artifact that appealed to him: “They had a museum, Der Weg, which means the Weighing House. They had an artist named Bicart. I bought some postcards with depictions of Jewish ceremonies on them. You can’t buy those postcards any longer.”

Reflecting his legal training, Sondheim answers questions methodically. Even his decision to focus on rare books, as opposed to art, shows a judicious attitude.

“It’s pretty hard to falsify a book,” he said, adding, “they’re not as likely to be stolen. If you have a thief in the house, they’re more likely to steal a silver menorah.”

Maybe it matters, too, that Sondheim attended the University of Chicago in the era when that institution still featured the Great Books courses.

Sondheim will be speaking at the 39th California International Antiquarian Book Fair’s “Collecting Your Roots” panel on Sunday, Feb. 19.

He especially likes rare manuscripts that include illustrations or, as he says, “depictions” of Jewish ceremonies and customs.

Sondheim has never taken a vacation specifically to collect books, but has purchased manuscripts at synagogues, museums and bookstores around the world, including Germany, where he can trace his genealogy back to around 1760. His family fled Germany in 1938, several months before Kristallnacht. The tomes he favors are typically printed in German, their existence all the more remarkable because of the Nazis’ program of burning Jewish books.

The best deal he ever got was a work by Arthur Szyk, a Polish Jewish artist from the first half of the 20th century who specialized in political caricatures and miniature painting. Given Sondheim’s background in the law, it is not surprising that he bought the “Statut of Kalisz.” The book is Szyk’s interpretation of a 13th-century manuscript that has been called the “Jewish Magna Carta,” a decree by which a Polish king gave Jews civil rights. Szyk illustrated the manuscript while also relating the statute to some other events in Jewish history.

“One page shows different occupations a Jew might have had, weaving, baking, a cobbler,” Sondheim said. “I acquired that at a reasonable price, around $17,000. Someone else’s copy was recently auctioned off for $64,000.”

Sondheim does not use eBay though he’ll search through an auction house’s Web site, which he calls “the equivalent of having their catalog.”

Collecting, he says, is “a sort of continuum. There are pictures of chuppahs from hundreds of years ago, and you have chuppahs today. You live the present through the past.”

The 39th California International Antiquarian Book Fair will be held at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza Hotel, 2025 Avenue of the Stars, from Friday, Feb. 17 through Sunday, Feb. 19. Harry Sondheim will speak at the “Collecting Your Roots” panel, a free seminar, on Sunday at 2 p.m. For information, call (800) 454-6401.

 

Wolpe Leading Pick for Seminary Spot


The Forward newspaper has reported that Rabbi David Wolpe of Los Angeles has emerged as a top candidate to head the Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS) in New York.

The Nov. 18 article, “L.A. Rabbi Eyed as Conservative Seminary Head,” asserted that “support is mounting for a prominent pulpit rabbi from Los Angeles to become the next chancellor of the Jewish Theological Seminary, after he delivered an enthusiastically received speech last week on the future of Conservative Judaism.”

The position of JTS chancellor is widely viewed as the head of the entire Conservative movement, as well as the leader of its flagship institution.

Wolpe of Sinai Temple in Westwood told The Journal that he is flattered by the attention, but that he’s also happy with his current job. And that speech, he added, was hardly intended as part of a campaign strategy.

He said he planned his remarks six months ago, before Chancellor Ismar Schorsch announced that he would be retiring next June.

Wolpe’s Nov. 10 speech at the seminary, “What Does Conservative Judaism Have to Say to the 21st Century?” argued for changing the name of Conservative Judaism to “Covenantal Judaism,” to better encompass the view that rabbinic law is both binding and evolving.

Wolpe’s relative youth (he’s 47) and charisma have garnered him supporters. The search committee will make no comments, but other candidates are believed to include Rabbi Gordon Tucker, the rabbi of Temple Israel in White Plains, N.Y., known for his liberal positions, and Jack Wertheimer, the seminary’s provost, who, like the more conservative Schorsch, opposes ordaining gay rabbis.

Wolpe has served at Sinai Temple for eight years, and he’s known for political adroitness. He has, for example, never publicly stated his position on gays in the rabbinate, an issue of ongoing dispute. On the other hand, Wolpe stirred some controversy of his own in 2001 when he questioned whether the Exodus actually happened in a Passover sermon in front of his congregation.

 

Kids Page


The Summer Fast

In the middle of summer, when it is the hottest, we are told that we cannot eat or drink for one whole day. It was on the ninth of Av that the Romans burned Jerusalem and destroyed our Temple. Tisha B’Av (the ninth of Av) falls this year on Sunday, Aug. 14. The fast begins the night before at sunset.

The rabbis say that the Temple fell because of “senseless hatred” among fellow Jews. Solve the word search and discover the hidden message. It will tell you what senseless hatred is. Put the words you need to find together in the right order so that you will know what not to do.

__ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __

SPREADING

EXCLUDING

GOSSIP

MAKING

MOUTHING

RUMORS

bad

FUN

Cool Collages

What you need:

1. Photo of someone or something dear to you: a family member, a pet, a friend, a teacher, a place, a favorite activity.

2. Magazines

3. Scissors

4. Construction paper

“Love Me Later” is a storybook about a Jewish boy named Abe. He spends an afternoon discovering life — exploring his backyard. The author, Julie Baer, has illustrated her book by creating intricate collages. You, too, should spend an afternoon exploring this book and then doing the collage activity that Julie has created just for you.

Reunion Doc Strikes Political Chord


When Danae Elon, daughter of famed Israeli journalist and author Amos Elon, was 6 months old, a Palestinian Muslim knocked on the door of her home in East Jerusalem and asked for a job.

He was hired on the spot and for the next 20 years, Musa Obeidallah was Danae’s nanny, caretaker, confidant and second father.

Eventually, the girl went into the army and then became a documentary filmmaker in New York. Musa went back to his village on the West Bank and the two lost track of each other.

Three years ago, as the intifada raged on, Danae began to look for Musa, and she has documented the search and reunion in “Another Road Home.”

The film is difficult to categorize. Many viewers in Israel, America and elsewhere have been touched by its intimate, often painful, exploration of relationships within and between the Israeli and Palestinian families.

The same or other viewers have felt uncomfortable or outraged by the implicit ideological message that in the Mideast conflict — the Israelis are the oppressors and the Palestinians are the victims.

Elon makes no secret that her sympathies lie with the “victims,” but she denies that she has made a propaganda movie.

“This is a very personal film,” she said. “I set out to make a people film, not a political film for leftists.”

Though Musa’s home in the village of Battir is only a short drive from Jerusalem, Elon found it easier to track him down and meet him in Paterson, N.J., where six of his sons (out of 11 children) have settled down and established families of their own.

Most of the film’s encounters take place in Paterson, now home to some 30,000 Palestinians, who have recreated much of the sounds, smells, shops and street life of their homeland.

Paterson gained some notoriety after Sept. 11, when the Palestinian community was accused of harboring terrorist Muhamad Atta before he led the attack on the World Trade Center.

In the film, after Danae wins the confidence of the six brothers and their families, the grand reunion is arranged. Musa arrives in Paterson from his West Bank village, while the Elon parents, Amos and Beth, fly in from Europe.

The affection between Danae and Musa is palpable and the film is at its warmest when the Arab, like a Jewish mother, worries aloud that the 34-year-old Israeli woman is still unmarried.

But the conflict back home cannot be ignored and Musa describes some of his problems matter-of-factly.

Since he was not allowed to fly from Ben-Gurion Airport, he had to sneak around two road blocks and into Jordan to fly to America. He worries that the security wall will cut him off from his fields and prevent him from visiting the hospital in nearby Bethlehem.

The most searing indictments and most profound pessimism comes from the writer Amos Elon, who has given up hope for a peaceful resolution of the conflict and has moved with his New York-born wife to a small Italian town.

“Until 1967, Zionism represented Jewish nationalism; after the ’67 war it became a messianic religion,” he said. “Now there has been too much blood, too much anger. It is a tribal war, and they are the worst.”

For Danae, who acknowledged the difficulties of growing up in the shadow of a famous father, the second reunion is that with her parents.

Amos Elon, who advised his daughter against making the documentary, “is a very private person … that he consented to go before the camera is the greatest love he could show his daughter,” Danae said.

The film has been aired on Israeli television and found its warmest response among Palestinians and right-wing Israelis.

The former understandably like the sympathetic portrayal of one of their own. The right-wingers, said the filmmaker, “saw the movie as an expose of the hypocrisy of Israeli left-wingers, who hold protest rallies for peace but send their sons and daughters to serve in elite army units.”

“Another Road Home” opens May 6 at Laemmle’s Music Hall in Beverly Hills and Town Center in Encino. For additional information on the film, visit www.anotherroadhomethemovie.com.

Donor Pool Swim


Few days have haunted me like April 15, 2002. It was the day Time magazine screamed out from its cover that women cannot have it all.

Like a slap to the face, the writer reported that the biological odds are against getting pregnant after 35 and that stories of women conceiving into their 40s are anomalies, and nothing more.

I was approaching 33 and panicked. My biggest fear was becoming one of those women who troll the Bay Area’s Jewish singles scene, frantically searching for a husband. So I visited my doctor.

Dr. Silvia Yuen strode into her Sutter Street examination room.

"How are you today?" she asked.

"OK," I began, "but I read that Time magazine article."

"Uh-oh."

"Yeah, so what I’d like to do is freeze some of my eggs."

I wanted insurance that my biological clock wouldn’t blur my dating judgment. Putting eggs on layaway would take off the pressure, I told her.

She offered me a fertility clinic brochure, but cautioned that while the freezing and thawing out of sperm had been perfected, the science wasn’t yet there for women and their eggs. Frozen embryos were the best bet, she said, but they’d require committing to a sperm — a step I wasn’t ready to take.

But the discussion got me thinking. How is a woman supposed to choose the right man when he’s reduced to a Petri dish?

My good friend, I’ll call her Beth, had to find out. After trying to get pregnant for more than a year, she and her husband learned that he’s shooting blanks. They mulled over their options and turned to California Cryobank (CCB), the mothership of sperm banks. Around for more than 25 years, CCB is spreading its seeds in all 50 states and at least 30 countries worldwide.

Agreeing on a donor was trying, Beth admitted: "We thought we’d found the perfect one, but when we pulled up his baby photo, he looked like a frog!"

Then there were those her husband rejected.

"I found one who was great, but he said he was too tall," she said. "I’m thinking about the best donor to help us have a child, and he views the sperm as competition."

Beth waved me over to her computer, selected a file named "Little Swimmers," and introduced me to their chosen sperm: Donor 5378.

I asked how she honed in on 5378, and she navigated to the donor catalog. Up top it read, "Click here to view our list of donors with at least one Jewish ancestor."

There were only 13 choices, and 5378 was off the menu, sold out.

Later, I called CCB. I wanted to know about the demand for Jewish sperm, why there’d been such a run on 5378.

"People choose on all different criteria," said Marla Eby, vice president of marketing. "It’s almost the same as what they encounter when looking for a mate."

High demand for Jewish donors, she said, prompted CCB to create the special search field Beth had used.

But how Jewish can a sperm be? I appreciate wanting a compatible gene pool, but it’s not like the little swimmer comes equipped with Torah knowledge or understanding of Jewish mothers and good deli. If halacha says a baby born to a Jewish woman is Jewish, does the donor’s background matter?

For Beth and her husband, it did.

"The spirituality and values of the Jewish culture is so much of who I am and who [he] is," she said. "Knowing that the sperm was Jewish … made us feel like we were connected."

This approach is common for Reform Jews like Beth, said Rabbi Elliot Dorff, chair of bioethics at the University of Judaism. But in the Orthodox community, he said, the opposite is true.

Based on a 1950s decision by Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, non-Jewish donors are recommended to prevent incest and to protect against Jewish genetic diseases.

Beth felt safe knowing sperm at CCB is genetically screened.

I caught up with Dr. Cappy Rothmann, the co-founder and medical director of CCB, to see what he made of my sperm-shopping query.

"I don’t understand. I just try to help the best I can."

He asked about my interest in this topic, and I admitted my age. Before saying goodbye, he offered, "Next time you’re in L.A., come see me."

I hung up the phone, hoping I’d never have to.

Jessica Ravitz is working on her master’s degree in journalism at UC
Berkeley. Her e-mail address is jessica_ravitz@yahoo.com.

Getting Genealogy Help Off the Net


Joanna Rubiner, a 33-year-old actress from Los Feliz, sits in front of a microfilm reader that is likely older than she is. With a turn of the hand crank, she slowly scrolls through page after page of a ship’s manifest hoping to find the name of an elusive ancestor who immigrated to America.

Rubiner, who started collecting family stories at her grandfather’s funeral in 1986, has been coming to the Mormon-run Family History Center for more than a decade to pore over records. The information she’s seeking is not available online, and if it were she’d still want to track down the original document to confirm its accuracy.

“Sometimes I think a seance would be easier,” Rubiner said, referring to the decidedly low-tech medium of microfilmed records.

With software packages like Family Tree Maker and the growing availability of genealogy databases online, family-tree research is being marketed to consumers as an easy, accessible hobby. According to a 2000 Maritz Research poll, nearly 60 percent of people surveyed expressed an interest in genealogy, a 15 percent increase from 1995. This growing interest has spawned the PBS series, “Ancestors,” and the Museum of Tolerance’s new exhibit “Finding Our Families, Finding Ourselves.”

But the rose-colored picture sold to consumers of tracking down great-great-grandparents via the Internet in 30 minutes or less typically falls short. While the availability of records on the Internet is growing, public expectations still outstrip the reality of what’s out there. Most databases have been rushed and are rife with errors, especially when it comes to records with Jewish names. The end result has been a boon for Jewish genealogical societies and online resources, which are increasingly called on to help novice genealogists navigate resources on and off the Internet.

Recently, the Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation
(www.ellisisland.org) joined with the
Mormon Church to make available the passenger records of 22 million people who
entered America through the Port of New York and Ellis Island from 1892-1924.
According to JewishGen.org  editor Warren Blatt, the database has a 40-percent error rate.

“If you’re a Mormon in Salt Lake City, you’re not going to know how to translate the name Yitzhak,” said Blatt, who will be speaking to the Jewish Genealogical Society of Los Angeles (JGSLA) about Jewish given names and JewishGen’s databases on Monday, April 21 at the Skirball Cultural Center.

Blatt, 40, said that JewishGen has set up its own Ellis Island database — one of 50 the nonprofit makes available to the public — which takes into account spelling variations of Jewish names to help narrow a search.

“The Internet is a way to jump-start your research, but for serious research you need to consult the original documents,” Blatt cautioned.

Cyndi Howells of CyndisList.com, an index to online genealogical resources, echoed Blatt’s view. She said that the information entered into most Internet databases is about as accurate as a game of telephone.

“You should always be trying to get back to that original document. There’s too much room for error in transcription,” she said.

Tarzana residents Annette and Joe Corn recently joined JGSLA to get help researching their family tree. The 70-something couple received a copy of Family Tree Maker as a gift from a relative but has been unable to make headway with online research.

“I tried filling out as much as I could,” said Joe Corn, who was at the Family History Center learning how to find relatives on the U.S. Census. “I’ve been frustrated with the results on the Internet.”

The need to do research offline has led to a membership increase for groups like JGSLA, which has seen a 20 percent growth in the last few years.

“The person-to-person contact is invaluable to people,” JGSLA President Sonia Hoffman said.

The society itself works directly with the Los Angeles Family History Center and helps augment the center’s holdings by purchasing books and microfilmed records of interest to the Jewish community. But the group’s alliance with the Mormon Church does make some members uncomfortable.

The Mormon Church, which requires its followers to research their own family trees and submit the names of non-Mormon ancestors for baptism by proxy, recently came under fire for posthumously baptizing Jews, especially Holocaust victims. Church leaders pledged to end the practice last December.

“Some people’s attitudes are, ‘What do we care?’ Other people get offended,” Hoffman said.

Hoffman added that JGSLA’s relationship with the Mormon Church has been very good. When a Jewish name periodically appears in the church’s online International Genealogical Index, she said that the society is able to get it removed.

For Rubiner, a five-year JGLSA member, the records offered by the society and the Family History Center are an invaluable resource. She said the details on the shipping manifest can tell her a lot about the relative she’s researching, like how much money they were carrying at the time, who traveled with them, where they departed from and where they were going.

Researching one relative can take anywhere from hours to weeks, but the allure of discovering details about a person’s life through vital records makes her regular trips to the center worth the effort.

“You get obsessive,” Rubiner said. “It’s never-ending.”

Warren Blatt, editor-in-chief of JewishGen, will speak
at the Skirball Cultural Center on Monday, April 21, at 6:30 p.m. For more
information, visit www.jgsla.org .

Kids Page


Before Pesach, we get rid of all the chametz in our homes. Chametz is anything that rises, like bread. So the night before Pesach, after the whole house has been cleaned, we hide 10 small pieces of bread around the house and search for them by candlelight. You know, at the seder, we search for something too. This time, it is not bread we look for, but matzah! We search for the afikomen. Whoever finds it wins a prize!
Find the afikomen!


The Yiddle Riddle

Q: What happened to Pharaoh’s blue sandal when he dipped it in the Red Sea?
A: It got wet!

Sent in by
Adam Slomiak, 12,
Thousand Oaks

Friday, May 5


Tips for Searching

At its simplest, a query can be just a word or a phrase. Here are some tips to make your search more effective.

Look for words with the same prefix. For example, in your query form type key* to find key, keying, keyhole, keyboard, and so on.

Search for all forms of a word. For example, in the form type sink** to find sink, sinking, sank, and sunk.

Search with the keyword NEAR, rather than AND, for words close to each other. For example, both of these queries, Jewish AND single and Jewish NEAR single, look for the words Jewish and single on the same page. But with NEAR, the returned pages are ranked in order of proximity: The closer together the words are, the higher the rank of that page.

Refine your queries with the AND NOT keywords to exclude certain text from your search. For example, if you want to find all instances of surfing but not surfing the Net, write the following query: surfing AND NOT the Net

Add the OR keyword to find all instances of either one word or another, for example: Shabbat OR Shalom. This query finds all pages that mention Shabbat or Shalom or both.

Put quotation marks around keywords if you want Index Server to take them literally. For instance, if you type the following query: “Jewish and single” The search will literally look for the complete phrase Jewish and single.

The past year’s worth of webpages are now available. Photos for some stories may not be available. Not every story that appeared in the newspaper is available on the website.

To search the archives, click here.

How to Search The Jewish Journal’s Archives


Tips for Searching

At its simplest, a query can be just a word or a phrase. Here are some tips to make your search more effective.

  • Look for words with the same prefix. For example, in your query form type key* to find key, keying, keyhole, keyboard, and so on. Search for all forms of a word. For example, in the form type sink** to find sink, sinking, sank, and sunk.

  • Search with the keyword NEAR, rather than AND, for words close to each other. For example, both of these queries, Jewish AND single and Jewish NEAR single, look for the words Jewish and single on the same page. But with NEAR, the returned pages are ranked in order of proximity: The closer together the words are, the higher the rank of that page.

  • Refine your queries with the AND NOT keywords to exclude certain text from your search. For example, if you want to find all instances of surfing but not surfing the Net, write the following query: surfing AND NOT the Net.

  • Add the OR keyword to find all instances of either one word or another, for example: Shabbat OR Shalom. This query finds all pages that mention Shabbat or Shalom or both.

  • Put quotation marks around keywords if you want Index Server to take them literally. For instance, if you type the following query: “Jewish and single” The search will literally look for the complete phrase Jewish and single.

The past year’s worth of webpages are now available. Photos for some stories may not be available. Not every story that appeared in the newspaper is available on the website.

To search the archives, click here.

+