Debbie Friedman Tribute Services in SoCal


FRIDAY NIGHT, JANUARY 14 (Shabbat Shirah)

Los Angeles area

6:15 p.m.

Temple Isaiah
10345 W. Pico Boulevard
LA CA 90064
 
The service features Cantor Evan Kent, Cantor Lorna Lembeck, and our resident Jazz Band “Steve Fox and Friends”

Cantor Evan Kent
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6:30 p.m.

Temple Israel of Hollywood
7300 Hollywood Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90046
323-876-8330

Debbie’s music will be included, and Congressman Henry Waxman will speak at a dinner following the service.


6:45 p.m.

Temple Aliyah
6025 Valley Circle Blvd.
Woodland Hills, CA 91367
818-346-3540
www.templealiyah.org

Some of Debbie’s melodies will be included in the Shabbat Fusion service. Hazzan Mimi Haselkorn.


7 p.m.

Temple Ner Maarav
17730 Magnolia blvd (at White Oak)
Encino, CA 91316

We are weaving in Debbie Friedman favorites into our tu bishvat Shabbat celebration, and using her mishebeyrakh to pray for the healing of those wounded in the Tucson shooting.

Rabbi Jason van Leeuwen
818-633-3720


7:00 p.m.

Congregation Tikvat Jacob
1829 N. Sepulveda Blvd.
Manhattan Beach, CA 90266
310-546-3667

Cantor David Berger
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7:15 p.m. 

Temple Judea West campus
6601 Valley Circle

West Hills, CA

Rabbi Cantor Alison Wissot
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7:30 p.m.

Temple Emanuel of Beverly Hills
8844 Burton Way
Beverly Hills, CA 90211

We will be celebrating Debbie through her music.

Cantor Yonah Kliger
310-288-3742 ext 506


8 p.m.

Beth Chayim Chadashim
6000 W.  Pico Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA  90035

Phone: 323-931-7023 ext. 253  
Fax: 323-931-1490
www.bcc-la.org

The world’s original LGBT synagogue. Welcoming the whole mishpucha (family) since 1972.

Join BCC’s Cantor Juval Porat, Cantorial Soloist Emerita Fran Chalin, Tamara Kline, and Rabbi Lisa Edwards for a Shabbat Shirah [Shabbat of Song] tribute to Debbie Friedman.

Cantor Juval Porat
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8 p.m.

Congregation Kol Ami.
1200 N. La Brea Ave.
West Hollywood

Rabbi Denise Eger,
Cantor Mark Saltzman


Redlands

Congregation Emanu El
1473 Ford Street
Redlands, CA
909-307-0400

Exit 81 off of 1-10 coming from L.A.

Cantor Jennifer Bern-Vogel
{encode=”cantorjenbv@gmail.com” title=”cantorjenbv@gmail.com”}

Rabbi Emeritus Hillel Cohn, Cantor Jennifer Bern-Vogel. Organist, Jerry Ripley, former CEE Cantor Greg Yaroslow.

We have revised our services to honor Debbie’s memory and sing mostly her liturgical compositions, many of which were first piloted at CEE back in the 70’s. Our Sermon-in-Song will be a Celebration of Jewish Music Through the Ages.


San Diego area

6:15 p.m.

Congregation Beth Israel
9001 Towne Centre Drive
San Diego, CA 92122
www.cbisd.org

Cantor Arlene Bernstein
858-535-1111 x3116
abernstein@cbisd.org


7 p.m.

Temple Adat Shalom
15905 Pomerado Rd.
Poway, CA 92064

Phone: 858-451-1200
Fax: 858-451-2409

Cantor Lori W. Frank, ACC (American Conf of Cantors)
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7 p.m.

Congregation Beth Am (Conservative)
Congregation Beth Am
505 Del Mar Heights Road
Del Mar, CA 92130

Phone: 858 481-2893

Cantor Kathy Robbins with Rabbi Michael Kornberg  and Yochanan Sebastian Winston’s band. Kabbalat Shabbat Service honoring Debbie with a full service of her liturgical settings. There will be dancing following the service: from mourning into dancing!

Cantor Kathy Robbins
{encode=”kjr@pacbell.net” title=”kjr@pacbell.net”}


Santa Barbara

6:00 p.m.

Congregation B’nai B’rith, 
1000 San Antonio Creek Rd, 
Santa Barbara, CA  93111

Cantor Mark Childs
{encode=”cantorchilds@me.com” title=”cantorchilds@me.com”}


SATURDAY MORNING, JANUARY 15

9:15 a.m.

Temple Aliyah
6025 Valley Circle Blvd.
Woodland Hills, CA 91367

818-346-3540
www.templealiyah.org

At the Shabbat morning service in the Main Sanctuary. Some of Debbie’s melodies will be included. Hazzan Mike Stein and Hazzan Mimi Haselkorn


9:30 a.m.

Temple Emanuel of Beverly Hills
8844 Burton Way
Beverly Hills, CA 90211

We will be celebrating Debbie through her music.

Cantor Yonah Kliger
310-288-3742 ext. 506


1 p.m.

Temple Aliyah,
6025 Valley Circle Blvd.
Woodland Hills, CA 91367

818-346-3540
www.templealiyah.org

At the “Rebbe’s Tish”, following the Kiddush luncheon
Share memories of Debbie Friedman and sing her songs
Hazzan Mike Stein and Hazzan Mimi Haselkorn


OTHER SERVICES

February 4

8 p.m.

Temple Ahavat Shalom
18200 Rinaldi Place
Northridge, CA 91326

(818) 360-2258

Lots of music – Our band will be playing.

Cantor Jen Roher, ACC*
{encode=”cantor@tasnorthridge.org” title=”cantor@tasnorthridge.org”}


February 5

Lev Eisha service with Cindy Paley and other musicians


February 8

Temple Isaiah

A sh’loshim event planned for February 8th in the evening: text study (healing texts) and song with NFTY song leaders- inviting the entire congregation and Religious School- Beit Midrash style in the Social Hall.


May 5

Jewish Festival. 
Congregation B’nai B’rith,
1000 San Antonio Creek Rd.
Santa Barbara, CA  93111

Mom’s final resting places — a cremation story


If you are offended either by the idea of cremation or humor about the dead, you may want to stop reading. It's OK.

Maybe you weren't raised (as I was) by a woman who had no short-term memory for several years before she died, but retained a sharp and sick sense of humor — including about her death.

Mom passed away June 13, 2006.

Over the years, Mom made sure my sister Sue and I knew that she didn't want to be kept alive by artificial means or buried in a casket.

“Make sure I'm cremated,” she'd say.

And then the three of us would brainstorm about where to scatter her ashes. We'd get silly and think of ridiculous places and we'd laugh together, not completely accepting the reality of Mom someday being gone.

Mom was, indeed, cremated, and the company that did so divided her ashes into two urns, so that Sue could have Mom there, in North Carolina, and I could have Mom here.

I was going to visit Sue in a few months, so I just took her share of the ashes with me. Although the plane was delayed and the suitcase with Mom's urn almost didn't make it, I finally handed my sister her share of our mother's remains. I think the container is still in Sue's closet, along with the ashes of five beloved dogs.

Back home, I thought about scattering Mom's ashes along a trail where I hike regularly, thinking that she would have loved the trees. My hiking friends and I laughed about attaching bags of the ashes inside our pants' legs and slowly letting the dust pour out while we hiked, hoping not to be caught performing this illegal act.

Although I always thought it was odd when people selected a cemetery plot, saying, “Oh, Grandma will love the view from here,” once my mother died, I understood the idea of finding a place she would enjoy. None of my ideas for Mom's ashes seemed quite right, and they remained in the plastic urn for a year.

The following June, I was swimming laps in our pool and I thought about Mom, who was a great swimmer. I missed her. And I suddenly had an urge to talk with her.

How to start?

I just dove in, so to speak: “Mom, are you there?”

There was a pause and then I heard that familiar voice. “Ellie-bell, I've been waiting to hear from you! How are you, darling?”

Although I was definitely astonished, it also seemed completely natural to talk with my invisible mother — almost like the many years of long-distance phone calls between Ohio and California.

I kept swimming, and my mother asked her usual questions — “How's Ben?” “How are the dogs?” and “How's that lovely man of yours?”

Mom offered her consistently sound, albeit unsolicited, advice: “Don't you think Ben should….?” “Why don't you try….?” “You're not working too hard, are you?”

We laughed about her worrying.

We were silent for a few moments, and then I heard myself asking, “Where exactly are you, Mom?”

She answered immediately: “Oh, I'm every place I've ever loved!”

It's hard to describe how I felt hearing this: Relieved. Elated. Hopeful.

She apparently had something else to do, because she said we'd talk again and was gone. I felt a mixture of sadness and contentment.

That afternoon, I finally opened the urn, took out some of Mom's ashes and scattered them in my garden. Mom, who was quite the gardener, would have loved it among the pansies and geraniums, her favorite flowers.

A few months later, I was going to Ohio to visit my father with my 16-year-old son, Ben, and my boyfriend, Vince. I poured half of Mom's remaining ashes into several Ziplock bags to take with me, since Cleveland was Mom's birthplace.

My father was delighted to accompany us on our expedition to visit all of Mom's homes and leave some of her ashes at each. Dad served as tour guide, reminiscing about his family and growing up in Cleveland.

Mom's favorite home was the house where Sue and I had spent many happy hours and nights, visiting my grandparents. The home sat on a tiny lake where my mother skated in the winter and canoed in the summer. I recalled Mom's favorite story about canoeing there with a boyfriend when she was 16: the canoe suddenly tipped over, the young man swam for his life to the shore, and Mom stood up in knee-deep water and pulled the canoe in. Mom couldn't get through the story, even in later years, without laughing hysterically.

Dad showed us where, in 1943, he and my mother had their first home — a tiny shack in the woods. Dad barely had time to build a shower, before leaving to serve in the army.

Our last stop was the house where I'd lived until I was 9, when my parents divorced. In that driveway, Mom had used a shovel to remove snow piled on top of her Chevy convertible. We couldn't use the car for the rest of the winter because of the rip she made in the soft-top roof.

The day was wonderful — showing Ben where I grew up, recalling my own childhood and listening to Dad's stories. It was also another chance to remember and celebrate my mother as I left her ashes in gardens and curbside lawns.

My mother's favorite place in the world was Italy. After her first visit there in 1964, she surrounded herself with all things Italian — playing the operas over and over, taking Italian lessons and arranging for an Italian exchange student.

As it happened, last October, Vince and I went to Italy. And Mom went with us.

We stayed in Rome for five days, and at the Forum, the Trevi Fountain and the Spanish Steps, I had a little conversation with Mom about the sights and deposited some of her ashes.

We rented a car and drove to Assisi, one of Mom's favorite Italian cities. She always had a statue of Saint Francis in her garden, to protect the birds and squirrels — and now Saint Francis has Mom's ashes in the garden outside his church.

Our last stop was Venice, which Mom adored. Near the apartment we rented, I sat on a tiny dock overlooking the Grand Canal. I thought about my mother, about her singing — loudly and off-key– “La Donna e Mobile” from “Rigoletto.” I watched the gondolas go by, and thought also about our very complex relationship — the love, the challenges, the laughter, and the years when our roles were reversed, as she became more dependent and less aware of the world around her. She still remembered me, thank goodness, and still loved Italian operas.

Then I took out the last bag of my mother's remains, turned it upside down between the wooden planks, and let the ashes fall to the water below. I sat for a moment, just breathing, listening to the birds, and looking out over the water, thinking about Mom.

Suddenly, from under the dock, came a large gray film of ash, floating on top of the water, out into the canal, alarmingly visible against the dark water.

I held my breath, waiting for someone to notice how I'd polluted the Grand Canal with the last of my dear mother.

Then a gondola approached the gray film, and the singing gondolier, eyes focused on his passengers and vice versa, scattered my mother's ashes to the fish below.

And my mother was, indeed, in all of the places she most loved.

Ellie Kahn is an oral historian, founder of Living Legacies, at www.livinglegaciesfamilyhistories.com, and president of the nonprofit Living Legacies Historical Foundation. She can be reached at ekzmail@gmail.com.

Death in the Hood


Laura Gitlin-Petlak was 48 when she died on Feb. 12 at her home in the Pico-Robertson neighborhood.

The next day, a few blocks from her house, a couple hundredpeople jammed the premises of Aish L.A., an Orthodox synagogue and outreach center, for her memorial service.

A neighbor suggested that I attend the service. I had never met Laura or any member of her family, but they were well-known in the community. The first time I heard her name was on Simchat Torah, when someone mentioned that a group of women from the community brought a sefer Torah to her bedside at her home, where she was recuperating from cancer surgery. In her presence, they sang songs and danced.

When Laura was in the hospital, she had insisted on long, personal visits. Her husband, Shmuel, made sure to schedule the visits so that there would be plenty of time for the kind of engaging talk his wife loved. Laura once noticed that a visitor was sniffling, and she asked if her friend had a cold. When she saw that they were sniffles of sadness, Laura blurted out: “Oh no, I’ll have none of that. Now tell me what’s going on in your life.”

Being a divorce attorney, Laura knew a lot about other people’s lives. In a profession where nasty confrontation is the norm, she fought for collaboration. Sometimes she even fought for peace.

At her memorial service, her husband told the story of a man who had “had it up to here” and wanted a divorce. After listening to his story, Laura calmly explained to the man that he should try to save his marriage by getting household help. It took some coaxing and convincing, but in the end, Laura helped save her client’s marriage.She nurtured her own marriage by working from home, which allowed her to be very involved with raising her two daughters, Alisa, 17, and Miriam, 9.

This is how Alisa describes her mother’s parenting style: “She never told us what to do, but she never allowed us to do the wrong thing.”It has been several days now since Laura’s memorial service, and I’m sharing my thoughts with you because, frankly, I can’t stop thinking about it.

The service was heartfelt, but it was also unsettling. There was a kind of emotional chaos in the air — almost a reluctance to accept that a beautiful life could be taken away from someone so God-fearing and life-giving.

Ever since I moved to this neighborhood, I’ve gotten used to seeing order and structure in the Orthodox community — a sense that life, with all its challenges and with God’s help, is unfolding as it should.

At Laura’s memorial service, you got a strange sense that life had stopped unfolding as it should.

To his credit, the head rabbi of Aish L.A., Rabbi Moshe Cohen, did not try to anaesthetize the pain. He spoke in a quivering, tear-choked voice. He talked about the only three instances in the code of Jewish law where the laws are considered “mitzvot gedolim” (great mitzvahs): To help someone who is destitute, to free a captive and to praise the departed.

He explained that what tied the three mitzvahs together was that they all covered people who couldn’t help themselves.

But it was clear that the rabbi couldn’t help himself either. Even though he ended on a brave note that touched on Laura’s legacy to the community, his body language was saying something else: “How could this be?”

Tragedy has a way of dulling the senses. Lost in a fog of grief, how can anyone see or understand anything? I wasn’t exactly lost, but all I could see was how wrong it was that Laura had died. That made me feel a little helpless, too.

Ironically, on a day when people felt somewhat helpless, they were honoring someone who was all about reaching out to those who needed help, or sometimes just a meal and company. As an example, Rabbi Cohen admitted how “most of us would prefer to choose our guests for Shabbat.” Then he recounted how, over the years, Laura and her family had welcomed hundreds of guests and strangers who didn’t have a place to eat on Shabbat.

Who would feel these strangers’ pain now and welcome them? How could a unique soul like Laura ever be replaced? How could a family’s pain ever heal?

As the rabbi spoke about Laura, I was thinking about how even a strong religious community has moments when it needs to be vulnerable and embrace its limitations. In our zeal to accept all challenges, perhaps the ultimate challenge is to accept that there are holes we can never fill and pains we can never heal.

We are grateful for our religious and communal rituals — the prayers, the sermons, the honoring of the departed, the community support — but deep down, the unspoken truth is that we’re still helpless. The pain of human loss is too deep (as I learned after losing my father).

Rituals can add comfort and legacies can be continued, but they won’t fill the hole or eliminate the pain.

This pain of loss belongs to no religion and no neighborhood.

It is a private, universal pain that speaks to the highest part of our Judaism, the one that cares about every soul in every hood.

Laura Gitlin-Petlak spent a lifetime caring about other people’s pain, and in her own way, she showed us that people can never be replaced, and that there is value in that.

David Suissa, an advertising executive, is founder of OLAM magazine and Meals4Israel.com. He can be reached at dsuissa@olam.org.

New faces and new places for Consuls General of Israel


A new Israeli consul general, Yaakov (Jacob) Dayan, will arrive in Los Angeles in November to succeed Ehud Danoch as his country’s top diplomat in Southern California, five southwestern states and Hawaii.

At the same time, it was announced in Jerusalem that two Los Angeles alumni of the Israeli foreign service will assume high-ranking posts this summer.

Former Consul General Yuval Rotem has been named ambassador to Australia, and his former deputy, Zvi Vapni, ambassador to the Republic of the Philippines.

Dayan, 40, has served as chief of staff to both former Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom and present Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, and most recently headed a study on possible diplomatic approaches to Syria.

He accompanied Shalom on two trips to Los Angeles in recent years and said he was looking forward to a longer stay in the city, together with his wife, Galit, and their three children.

“Los Angeles and this region are very important to Israel, so I take this as a huge challenge, but I know I will be working with a wonderful team at the consulate,” Dayan said in a phone call from Jerusalem.

For Rotem, a popular figure during his five-year tenure in Los Angeles, the new appointment comes after a difficult two years in Israel, during which he was largely sidelined from active involvement in the Foreign Ministry.

Part of the reason was that Rotem, whose foreign service career had risen unusually fast, had to compete with other senior officials for the most desirable appointments and had a hard time finding the right slot, knowledgeable sources explained. During last year’s conflict in Lebanon, he served as head of a liaison unit with United Nations and Lebanese officials, which, among other tasks, provided relief for the local population.

Rotem’s new duties will take him to all parts of Australia and New Zealand, as well as Papua New Guinea and the Fiji Islands, Rotem said in a phone call from Jerusalem. Accompanying him will be his wife, Miri, and the two youngest of their children. His oldest son will be performing his military service.

Vapni’s territory in the Philippines will cover 7,000 islands, and include a Jewish community of about 250 people, “quite a change from 500,000 in Los Angeles,” he noted.

Currently on special assignment in Ireland, Vapni was in charge of U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s visit to Israel, among other assignments. Joining him in Manila will be his wife, Limor, and their two young children.

The new diplomatic appointments partially represent routine reassignments, but also reflect a professional boost for career diplomats, following protracted labor negotiations within the Foreign Ministry and the appointment of Livni a year ago.

Up to last year, the government was able to make 11 “political” foreign service appointments, generally to the most prestigious jobs abroad. Now that number has been reduced to two, most likely for ambassadors to the United Nations and Washington, D.C.

Both the outgoing ambassador to the Philippines and the current consul general in Los Angeles were political appointments and are being replaced by career diplomats.

The Los Angeles post is considered one of the top assignments in the Israeli foreign service. Although the consul general here doesn’t deal with relations between Israel and other nations, he (there has never been a female consul general in Los Angeles) plays a crucial role from the Israeli perspective.

“We see Los Angeles as one of the five most important assignments in the world,” said Ido Aharoni, Livni’s media adviser.

“The city’s importance lies in its economic strength, the size and influence of the Jewish community, political clout, ethnic and religious diversity — and, of course, Hollywood,” Aharoni said in a phone interview.

“We have sent some of our best people to L.A.,” he added. “Ehud Danoch has been doing an excellent job and Yaakov Dayan is a terrific diplomat.”

Aharoni served in Los Angeles as consul for public affairs from 1994 to 1998. His wife, Julie, the mother of their three children, is the granddaughter of Lou Boyar, who was a legendary mover and shaker in the Los Angeles business and Jewish communities.

He endowed the Mae Boyar High School in Jerusalem in honor of his wife, and, to round the circle, Julie Aharoni is now a teacher at the school.

As Israel’s top representative in this region, the consul general has always exerted a strong symbolic influence in the Los Angeles Jewish community, and his actual impact has varied according to his own priorities and changing circumstances.

Some of the earlier diplomats focused on the top Jewish leadership, encouraging philanthropic, business and tourism ties with Israel.

Rotem had a special interest in the city’s diversity, establishing close ties with the Latino, African American and Christian communities.

Danoch, who will conclude his three-year term toward the end of 2007, has been particularly successful in enlisting Hollywood talent to visit Israel and supporting its cause in the media.

What’s your Jewish I.Q.?


1. When was Judaism founded?
(a) 1000 C.E.
(b) 5000 B.C.E.
(c) 2000 B.C.E.
(d) 1000 B.C.E.

2. Who was the mother of Moses?

3. Who was born a Moabite, became a Jew and was the great-grandmother of King David?
(a) Rebekkah
(b) Deborah
(c) Lillith
(d) Ruth

4. Complete this line from Exodus 23:9: "You shall not oppress the _______ for you were _________ in the land of Egypt."

5. The Jews received the Torah at _____________ __________. God said there: "You shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a ________ __________." (Exodus 19:6)

6. The phrase "Chosen People" refers to:
(a) God chose the Jews to be persecuted.
(b) God entered into a covenant with the Jews.
(c) Only Jews are made in the image of God.

7. The First Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed in 586 B.C.E. by which power?
(a) Macedonia
(b) Rome
(c) Assyria
(d) Babylonia

8. The tragic last stand of the Jews in their revolt against Rome took place at:
(a) Qumran
(b) Jerusalem
(c) Masada
(d) Hebron

9. The Spanish Jews who chose conversion between 1391-1492 and continued to practice Judaism in secret were called:
(a) Kabbalists
(b) Marranos
(c) Pietists
(d) Sephardim

10. The first Jewish community in North America was established in this settlement by 23 Dutch Jews fleeing the Inquisition in Brazil:
(a) New Amsterdam
(b) Newport
(c) Charleston
(d) Savannah

11. In 1807, __________ freed the Jews from their ghettos, granting them citizenship.

12. The main wave of 2 million Jewish immigrants entered the United States in which period?
(a) 1914-1933
(b) 1860-1870
(c) 1880-1914
(d) 1933-1945

13. What Jewish person won nine Olympic gold medals in swimming and is considered the greatest swimmer in the history of the sport?

14. TRUE OR FALSE? Historians cite three factors that distinguish the Holocaust from other genocides: its cruelty, its scale and its efficiency.

15. During the Holocaust, what three countries resisted the deportation of their Jewish population?

16. "Hear O Israel the Lord is Our God, the Lord is One" is the first line of?:
(a) The Israeli National Anthem
(b) The Shemoneh Esrei
(c) The "Shema"

17. A mitzvah is:
(a) A prayer
(b) A commandment
(c) A sin

18. Where is it written:
(a)"We support the non-Jewish poor together with the Jewish poor, and we visit the non-Jewish sick alongside the Jewish sick, and we bury non-Jewish dead alongside Jewish dead, all for the sake of the ways of peace."
(b)"You shall not stand idly by the blood of your neighbor. I am the Lord."

19. Fill in: "On three things does the world stand: Torah, service to God, and acts of ____________" (Pirke Avot).

20. TRUE OR FALSE? The Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel offers "Arab inhabitants of the State of Israel" the "full and equal citizenship and due representation in all its provisional and permanent institutions."

Click here for the answers.

Test contributors include the American Jewish Committee, Jewish Outreach Institute, www.expertrating.com and The Journal editors.

First Person – Like Any Other Child


By his size and handsome impression, our son, Max, appears to be like any other boy his age, however when you meet him in his wheelchair, you quickly learn that he is severely disabled, both cognitively and physically. He’s unable to talk, use a device to communicate, propel himself or use his hands. You realize that he’s dependent on others in every aspect of his life. Yet, that didn’t stop our family and friends from all over California, our community and Max himself from celebrating his becoming a bar mitzvah. In January, 160 people gathered for a Havdalah service at Congregation Ner Tamid in Rancho Palos Verdes to recognize our son’s turning 13 and to share in the joy and inspiration he has stimulated within each of us.

As my wife, our 9-year-old daughter and I proudly joined Max to sit on the bimah, Rabbi Isaac Jeret and Cantor Sam Radwine conducted a beautiful service filled with tradition. Music, an aliyah, prayers and sensitive words recognized the significance of the evening. With the intent of highlighting the joy of the occasion rather than focusing on the uniqueness of the situation and Max’s disabilities, the service was purposely kept simple and accented with lots of singing. On the bimah, we sat in a semicircle just one step above the congregation. With Max seated between my wife and me, and, with our daughter, the rabbi and the cantor all sitting alongside us; we were so close to family and friends that I felt as if we were at home, in our living room, for a family event. It was a warm, supportive and loving environment that everyone was able to share in, up close and personal. My wife and I, the cantor and the synagogue president each were called for an aliyah. Then, as Max is fortunate to have a 92-year-old great-grandmother, four grandparents, six aunts and uncles and seven first cousins, each was called upon to participate in the Havdalah ceremony. Max’s grandparents held the candle, his cousins held the Kiddush cup and his sister and great-grandmother held the spice box. The support of our families was overwhelming.

Appreciating the sensory stimulation, Max laughed and smiled throughout the 45-minute service. Building on the moment, I shared an interpretation of the relevant Torah portion to speak of how our family has matured from having Max in our lives and experiencing his disabilities. Max has taught us, both figuratively and literally, the value of being kind, doing mitzvot, not taking things for granted, liking people for who they are and recognizing that there is purpose and meaning for everyone in what we do and in everything that happens. I acknowledged that through Max’s disability, he has demonstrated a kind of strength we all need to make the best of situations, to welcome and invite diversity and to appreciate how people, even when they cannot communicate in the ways to which we are accustomed, can enjoy life in different ways.

For me, Max’s bar mitzvah was a very emotional event. It was not just the occasion of his becoming a bar mitzvah that was momentous. It was the feeling and recognition that our son, who doesn’t understand and is not easily included in regular activities and holidays, was being recognized and confirmed. For several years, I had found myself becoming very emotional during bar and bat mitzvahs as the 13-year-old would read from the Torah and recite his or her speech. I couldn’t imagine how we could enable Max to have the opportunity to experience such a crucial life-cycle event. However, about nine months ago (prior to Max’s bar mitzvah), my wife and I had a conversation with Cantor Radwine. We talked about a simple, creative and musical service to recognize Max turning 13. Then, following a discussion with Rabbi Jeret, we decided to have a bar mitzvah; the date was set for a Saturday night when we could all share in the experience of Havdalah. So, there we were, with Max, my wife and daughter on the bimah and I could not have been happier.

As with any bar mitzvah, the service and reception is tailored to child’s abilities and interests. The reception, in the motif of a carnival atmosphere, was dinner with live background music. The theme for the evening, inspired by a Yiddish proverb, was “Each child carries his own blessing into the world.”

“Inclusion” for the disabled has many different meanings. In the broadest sense and as demonstrated in our son’s bar mitzvah, it means to open doors and provide experiences and opportunities for people of all abilities. The value of inclusion is in the pleasure we know the recipient receives. Equally as important, however, is the value that the community experiences from the event — particularly the support we offer one another.

Max’s bar mitzvah celebrated our rich Jewish traditions; recognized Max within the community; reflected on the significance of life, family and friends; and illustrated how, thinking outside the box, we can celebrate life-cycle events with people of all abilities.

Anton Dahlerbruch is deputy city manager of the city of Beverly Hills.

 

Advice From an Insider


Flashing lights blind me. I am deafened by the pounding music. I feel lost among the moving bodies. Where am I? At the scene of yet another sensory-overloaded bar mitzvah party.

I am disturbed by the dancing girls dressed in tube tops and thigh-length skirts and people drinking at the “mocktail” bar. What is this supposed to teach a young person about becoming a member of the Jewish community? Why have we adopted this perverse and flashy sense of culture into our religious celebration?

I thought Judaism wasn’t supposed to succumb to the worst in popular culture.

For myself, I decided to opt out of the American b’nai mitzvah scene in favor of a small service in Israel. And while I am not against having a party, if the theme has no correlation with entering the world as a Jewish adult, bar mitzvahs end up making a mockery of our values.

To help ensure that b’nai mitzvah culture reflects Jewish culture, I’m offering the following suggestions:

• Rabbis should ensure that the entertainment and decorations will be appropriate. They should be on-hand at the party to keep track of what is happening.

• Set the bar mitzvah budget, then cut it back by 10 percent and give that amount to charity.

• Consider the message the party is sending. How will people view you afterward? Did you do something to enhance respect for Judaism, or did you create a larger divide between modesty and extravagance? And as the parent of a bar or bat mitzvah, how did you influence them and open their eyes to what’s important?

• Take the emphasis off of the party. Focusing too much attention on the celebration renders the service meaningless. Instead, parents and kids should take the time they would invest in the planning of a lavish party and do something meaningful for the community.

Kayla Greenberg is an eighth-grader at Colina Middle School in Thousand Oaks.

 

Hitler’s Favorite Book Ignites Feud


A mounting Internet feud has led to the expulsion of a public leader of the Holocaust revisionist movement from Amazon.com and triggered a slew of threatening e-mails against a Jewish communal official.

The trouble started soon after Allyson Rowen Taylor, associate director of the Los Angeles office of the American Jewish Congress (AJCongress), ordered one of Hitler’s favorite books, “The Riddle of the Jew’s Success,” Sept. 10 from a seller on Amazon.com’s marketplace. Only afterward did she find out that she had purchased the book from Holocaust revisionist Michael Santomauro, who runs an e-mail list called, ReportersNotebook, that is dedicated to Holocaust denial, as well as to anti-Jewish and anti-Israel material.

When Amazon banned Santomauro from its marketplace a few weeks later — due to e-mails he had sent to Taylor — he distributed her home address and e-mail account to his thousands of subscribers. Taylor was immediately hit with a barrage of threatening e-mails — one of which led her to contact the Los Angeles police: “Since you support Zionists,” the anonymous e-mailer wrote, “I’m sure you won’t mind having your family members shot and your house bulldozed.”

The Internet has been a boon for Holocaust revisionists, who have found few other mainstream outlets for their ideas and products. Earlier this year, Santomauro began selling “The Riddle of the Jew’s Success” on the Amazon marketplace, which serves as a middle man between Internet buyers and sellers.

The book, which was written by Theodor Fritsch, was first published in 1887 and became one of Hitler’s favorites. In an e-mail to supporters, Santomauro wrote that the book explained how “Judaism is a conspiracy against non-Jews. Its aim is to fulfill the covenant and gain dominion over mankind by controlling wealth.”

He reprinted 1,000 copies of a translation of Fritsch’s book, and by September, he had sold more than 100 of them. Taylor came across the book as part of her work with the AJCongress, where she said she is “in charge of monitoring anti-Semitism and anti-Americanism on high school and college campuses.”

Taylor has posted a number of online reviews of books relating to Israel and Judaism on Amazon.com. In a review of a book edited by prominent left-wing Israeli historian Tom Segev on Israeli political dissent, she wrote, “If you like lies, revisionist history, falsehood and numbers without statistics to back them up, then this is the book for you.”

The same day that Taylor bought “Riddle” from Santomauro, she posted a review of the book. In it, she wrote, “Shame on Amazon and shame on you if you purchase this trash.” Santomauro wrote to Taylor using the e-mail address he had received through the order, and asked her why she had written a bad review before reading the book. (Taylor said that she had read excerpts before purchasing it.)

Amazon prohibits sellers from having any contact with customers that is unrelated to the transaction. Taylor said that soon after, she received two more e-mails from Santomauro’s personal e-mail account, one of which, she said, “talked about Jews masturbating over body parts.” When Amazon asked for a customer review of her experience, she sent along the e-mails from Santomauro.

In an interview with The Forward, Santomauro said he sent the e-mails only after Taylor asked to join his ReportersNotebook e-mail list. Taylor countered that she did request to join his list — for monitoring purposes — but only two days after receiving the first batch of e-mails. Neither claim could be confirmed, because both Santomauro and Taylor told The Forward that they had deleted their e-mails from the relevant time period.

Amazon.com has already taken steps to avoid any possibility of a repeat occurrence, at least one involving Santomauro. Amazon spokesman Craig Berman confirmed that Amazon.com will no longer allow the Holocaust revisionist to sell books through its Internet Marketplace.

The Marketplace allows third parties to sell “new, used, refurbished and collectible items” through Amazon facilities, in exchange for a fee equal to 15 percent of the proceeds.

Santomauro violated his participation agreement with Amazon, which prohibits information about a book buyer from being misused “for sending unsolicited e-mail, harassment, invasion of privacy, or other objectionable conduct,” said Berman.

However, as a basic principle, Berman added, “Amazon believes in providing access to all reading material, however controversial or distasteful. Anything else, we believe, is censorship.”

Santomauro and various pro-Nazi groups have urged their followers to protest Amazon’s alleged censorship in cutting off sales of “The Riddle of the Jew’s Success.” Berman said he had no information on how many protest e-mails Amazon had received.

This is not the first time that his various e-mail lists have gotten crossed. He also runs a roommate-matching service on the Internet and in 2003, was swamped with complaints after his Holocaust revisionist e-mails accidentally were sent out to his real estate clients.

Amazon wrote to him Oct. 11, telling him that he was “no longer able to sell on our site,” because of “inappropriate e-mail contact that originated from your e-mail address.”

Santomauro told a different story in e-mails that he sent out to his supporters after he was banned by Amazon. He immediately wrote to his ReportersNotebook list, proclaiming that he was the target of a “professional campaign to smear booksellers that deal with the ‘Jewish Question.'” He told his readers to protest to Amazon.

Then he sent out a separate e-mail with Taylor’s home and e-mail addresses. Santomauro told The Forward that he sent out Taylor’s personal information to help journalists who wanted to write about the story.

Since then, Taylor said, she has received about 50 threatening e-mails. A friend helped Taylor track down the person who sent the most threatening e-mail, and she reported it to the domestic terrorism unit of the FBI.

While two additional neo-Nazi groups — Mein Kampf and Der Leibstandarte — have joined the campaign against Taylor, she has received no further hate e-mail following the initial flurry, Taylor reported this week.

“Apparently, they have been scared off by learning that the FBI is on the case,” Taylor said.

An FBI spokeswoman declined to comment, citing agency policy, but The Journal has learned that the FBI is actively investigating the threats against Taylor as a domestic terrorism case.

Santomauro said he saw nothing wrong with his decision to publicize her address: “For somebody who is trying to destroy my livelihood, and saying things in derogatory ways — I didn’t see what was wrong to announce her address.”

About the threatening e-mails, Santomauro said, “How do I know it’s not a campaign being fabricated in cahoots with the [Anti-Defamation League]?”

Neo-Nazi Internet magazine National Vanguard picked up Santomauro’s story and reprinted his telling of it, without including a response from Taylor. The magazine identified her as an “alleged operative of the ADL,” because of an e-mail she wrote to one of Santomauro’s supporters, saying she intended to pass along the book to the ADL. An ADL official said that the organization has had no contact with Taylor about the incident.

Taylor has written to Amazon, asking the site’s operators to display prominently the fact that sellers on the site will receive buyers’ contact information.

“Had I known I was giving all my information to Santomauro,” Taylor said, “I would have done things differently.”

Reprinted courtesy of The Forward (

Spectator


 

Temple Shalom for the Arts has a little part of its soul in Los Angeles gospel, when the independent congregation will host the pre-Passover Shared Heritage of Freedom service at the Wilshire Theatre on April 15.

“There was a real need to get the Jewish and African American communities together,” said temple founder Rabbi David Baron, who will welcome Bishop Charles Blake of West Angeles Church of God in Christ and his church’s 70-voice choir for a joint Jewish/African American-themed Shabbat service, with both gospel and Hebrew tunes.

Baron’s art-focused congregation has hosted interfaith gospel choirs around the High Holidays for the past 13 years, where the emphasis is a common one.

“The shared heritage of freedom … being denied liberty. The early founders of the NAACP were Jews,” said Baron, referring to Rabbi Stephen S. Wise being a founder in 1909 of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. “There’s a lot more that unites than divides us, to experience one another’s tradition.”

Baron previously had annual black/Jewish Shabbat services with a choir from the Los Angeles Urban League, but several years ago began a friendship with Blake. “The best thing you can do to fight anti-Semitism is to invite a gentile to your Passover seder,” said Baron, a 53-year-old Conservative-trained rabbi who ran synagogues in New Jersey and Miami before joining the Verdugo Hills Jewish Center in Sunland-Tujunga.

That was Baron’s last denomination-based shul setting prior to creating the independent, 2,000-member Temple Shalom for the Arts, which has no building and holds services at Wilshire Theater. The congregation is known for innovations such as a televised Yom Kippur service on PAX TV and for a prayer book created around the paintings by Russian Jewish artist Marc Chagall. Nonetheless, one member of Baron’s artsy congregants, jazz musician Herb Alpert, expressed some concern about the gospel/Hebrew mix being so emotionally elastic, as gospel music is known to be.

Baron said he told Alpert, “To me that’s what the Chasidic movement did; it approached God through music, dance, prayer. We’ve tried to do that.”

The service will take place April 15 at 8 p.m. at the Wilshire Theatre, 8440 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills.

For more information, call (310) 444-7500 or visit

Pesach Trip Options Beyond the Ordinary


 

Passover travel once meant shlepping to Miami Beach, where great operatic tenors like Robert Merrill and Jan Peerce would conduct the seder at a fancy-schmancy hotel, or to the Catskills, which was more haimish but just as fattening.

But Passover travel options today have expanded to include experiences ranging from Disney World to the Caribbean to a dude ranch in Wyoming. And you can get some decent deals on Miami Beach, too.

In fact, the entire kosher travel business — especially around the United States — has grown dramatically in recent years, according to industry executives.

“It’s exploded,” said David Lawrence, an executive with Kosher Expeditions, which has offices in Atlanta, New York and Los Angeles and offers kosher-catered trips to places ranging from Alaska to Zimbabwe.

Lawrence attributes much of the increase in kosher travel to the situation in Israel, where the intifada has discouraged many would-be tourists from vacationing in the Holy Land.

“We’re getting a lot of day schools that used to go to Israel but are now looking for other options,” he said.

Kosher Expeditions and other travel companies are also becoming more adept at reaching specific Jewish market segments, according to Margo Dix Gold of the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta.

“Trips are no longer marketed only for seniors and empty-nesters,” said Gold, noting that more and more vacations are being designed for singles or for people desiring adventure travel.

For example, Kosher Expeditions’ Lawrence said, his company can provide food for observant Jews who want to take a leisurely cruise or climb Africa’s Mount Kilimanjaro.

“Kosher-trained chefs and mashgiachs [kosher inspectors] travel with our groups,” he said, “and we’ll fly in food if necessary.”

The Jewish travel business is especially good around Passover, Atlanta’s Gold said.

“Passover is the most celebrated holiday amongst Jews, even for those who are not very observant,” she said. “Almost all Jews will celebrate Passover in some way.”

And that has led a variety of companies to offer Passover vacation packages.

For example, MatzaFun Tours offers Passover at Disney’s Contemporary Resort in Orlando. In addition to all the Mickey Mouse you can stand, the package features three gourmet glatt kosher meals daily and traditional family seders, daily synagogue services, guest lecturers and nightly entertainment. Included are children’s Park Hopper passes for full-stay guests and transportation to all Disney theme parks. For more information, visit www.matzafun.com.

If you prefer to spend Passover at sea, the Ontario Travel Service is booking passengers aboard the Deep South Caribbean kosher cruise, departing from Ft. Lauderdale on April 22. The cruise package includes seders on the first two nights of Passover conducted in a separate area of the dining room under Conservative supervision.

Greg Bernhardt took the cruise with his mother and daughter, enabling him to spend Passover with his mother for the first time in years since he became observant.

“People who do not keep strictly kosher feel comfortable on the cruise, and the kashrut was good enough for me,” he said. “But the best part was re-uniting the family and spending the holidays together.”

At one point during the cruise, Bernhardt recalled, Jewish passengers who were not part of the kosher contingent asked if they could participate in the Yizkor service, while another passenger — an adult — celebrated his bar mitzvah with the group. That kind of cohesiveness appealed to Bernhardt and his teenage daughter, who made friends from Scotland and Ireland while on the ship.

The Deep South itinerary includes stops at Martinique, Barbados, Antigua, St. Maarten and the Bahamas. For more information, call (800) 893-5617.

For something really different, Kosher Expeditions offers a dude ranch adventure in the not-so-wild West. Participants can ride horseback, go white-water rafting, relax in a hot spring and explore nearby Yellowstone National Park.

Joel Weinberger took his two daughters on the dude ranch trip a couple of years ago. “My kids got the experience of being out there in rural America,” he said.

All meals were glatt kosher, served family-style in the ranch’s dining room with several barbecues during the week. There’s no roughing it, either. The Kosher Expedition’s package includes modern cabins with private baths and maid service. For more information about the dude ranch adventure, call (800) 923-2645.

For something a little more laid back, Club Kosher offers their yearly package dubbed, Passover in Paradise, with two destinations: Cancun and Tuscan, Ariz.

The Cancun trip offers guests typical resort amenities and expansive child-care programs at the Hilton, as well as atypical Mexican fiestas for those looking for a good party.

In Arizona, spa delights abound and the resort features an expansive golf course. There will also be ample opportunity to explore spiritual realms with scholar-in-residence, Rabbi Manis Friedman. For details, visit www.ClubKosher.com or phone (866) 561-4312.

If San Juan or San Diego appeals to you, Afikomantours offers two resort packages featuring glatt kosher meals, seders and children’s camp. For more information, call (888) 234-5669.

And there’s always Miami Beach, where several hotels offer complete packages. For more information, visit

Front-Line Valor


As a journalist in the Yom Kippur War, I came upon a Patton tank company refueling behind the Israeli lines in Sinai during the last

week of fighting. Nearby, an artillery battery was firing in support of forces beginning to cross the Suez Canal through the hole in the Egyptian lines punched by Gen. Ariel Sharon’s division.

The tank unit was made up of young draftees. They had been in combat since the opening hours of the war 12 days before and stubbly beards covered their faces. The company commander, a kibbutznik named Amikam from the Jezreel Valley, said the company was to have been rotated but the men refused to come off the line. "As long as they want to stay, we’ll let them." Platoon commanders listened intently to an information officer just arrived from Tel Aviv as he described on a map developments on the Syrian front.

Iraqi and Jordanian forces had joined the battle there, he said, saving the Syrian army from a rout.

The soldiers projected a quiet confidence and maturity that was striking. They had held on during the first three hellish days of the war when some in the Israeli high command feared collapse on both fronts. Israeli armor had been stopped cold by a new weapon deployed in massive quantities — the Soviet-made Sagger anti-tank missile. For the first time since the tank was introduced in World War I, infantry had acquired the advantage over tanks. Like their comrades elsewhere on the front, Amikam’s company had by now figured out how to cope with it.

The soldiers praised the Egyptian infantry — "They fought like men, especially the first two days" — but said the Egyptian tank crews were no match. When they learned that I was from an English-language newspaper, The Jerusalem Post, the men I was talking with suggested I speak with an "Anglo-Saxon" officer attached to them, the term used in Israel for someone from an English-speaking country. A second lieutenant was summoned, a tall, pleasant looking young man. One of his arms was covered from wrist to elbow with a bandage or a cast — I can no longer recall which, only the incongruous whiteness of it amidst the desert dust.

His name was Alan. Since we could not identify officers by family name I did not even ask it. He was from Los Angeles, his father a doctor in Beverly Hills. Alan had come to Israel four years before on his own straight out of high school for ideological reasons and took up residence on a kibbutz for a few months before entering the army. His service was due to end in half a year and he intended to visit his family as soon as it did, he said.

He was attached to the tank company as an artillery spotter, a task that kept him at the forward edge of the battlefield, and he had been under heavy fire since the beginning of the fighting. "This is why I came here," he said. "Not that I want war but I’ve done what I had to."

A few days after the war ended, I received a call from someone at Alan’s kibbutz. Nothing had been heard from Alan since the fighting ended. His sister, who was in the country, had seen my mention of him in the newspaper. Could I identify the tank unit he was with so that they might try to track him down? His indigenous artillery unit had lost contact with him.

The man from the kibbutz called back a few days later. Alan was dead, he said. He had been killed when the tank unit was ordered to cross the canal, the day after our meeting.

The Egyptians were heavily shelling the crossing point where a solitary pontoon bridge connected the two banks. Alan’s halftrack had been hit but he escaped intact and managed to climb aboard another. This was hit, too, and Alan was killed.

In the subsequent years, I thought of him from time to time when I thought about the war. There had been something special about him, a sense of decency — for want of a better word — that he radiated. I was curious to know more about him but I did not even know his family name.

A few months ago, shortly after publication of my book, "The Yom Kippur War," I received a letter from someone who had read it. I had briefly mentioned my meeting with Alan in the book and the reader, an Israeli now living in New York, said they had served together in the same artillery unit during the war. He identified him as Alan Chersky, "a wonderful young man and a great friend." He also enclosed a copy of an obituary published by the Israeli Artillery Corps. It noted that after his arrival at the kibbutz at age 18, Alan had worked in the cowshed, taught the kibbutz children baseball and played clarinet for his own amusement. He was the first immigrant from the United States to have finished an officer’s course so soon after his arrival in the country. Alan, 22, was survived, said the obituary, by his parents, two sisters and a brother.

I managed to contact his parents whose grief over his loss was still palpable after three decades. Scant solace though it be, I was able to transmit his parting words to me: "I feel fulfilled."


Abraham Rabinovich, a graduate of Brooklyn College and a U.S. Army veteran, worked as a reporter for Newsday before joining The Jerusalem Post. The author of several books, including “The Yom Kippur War” (Schoken, 2004), he lives in Jerusalem.

When You Can’t Go Home Again


Ah, the High Holidays. Time to gather, celebrate, eat, fast, repent and eat some more. But before you can get to any of that, there’s another, perhaps less-ancient tradition that takes place a few weeks prior. It’s the High Holiday scramble, and anyone without deeply planted roots knows how the dance goes. Jewish New Year works much like Dec. 31: You don’t want to be alone; there’s pressure to have someplace to go; and for transplants, singles and others, the options are less obvious than a meal with the family and services at the synagogue where you grew up. A little originality is called for, and the industrious don’t miss a beat.

Witness the “orphan party.” The wandering Jew’s answer to family dinner involves the gathering of “orphans,” a.k.a., friends, brothers, sisters, cousins and anyone else who doesn’t have anywhere to go for the holiday.

“As a single person, I rally all my friends together,” longtime New York transplant Amy Levy said. “I want to make sure my friends have someplace to go…. For years I’ve had people to my home. I make fantastic pot roast, everybody brings something. I’ve created a new tradition with my friends. We celebrate the holidays together.”

Since taking on both Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur can be a big commitment, this year, when the repenting is done, “I’ll go to my friend, Joana’s Aunt Sandy’s,” Levy said. “My boyfriend and I are going there for break the fast.”

Services, too, can be a stress-inducing dilemma. At around $300 a head, standard synagogue membership can become a much less appealing consideration for those without families close by, and many synagogues don’t offer discounts for adults older than 25.

Some synagogues and Jewish organizations, like Sinai Temple (www.sinaitemple.org) and Aish (www.aish.com), offer reduced fees for those in their 20s and early 30s, and Jewish Singles Meet! (whose reservation line is (818) 780-4809) welcomes singles in their 30s and 40s to their services. A few other synagogues, like Temple Beth Zion-Sinai in Lakewood (www.tbzs.org), charge for tickets but will not turn people away because of an inability to pay. And then there’s always Chabad (www.chabad.com), the Chai Center (www.chaicenter.org) and the Laugh Factory (323) 656-1336), that offer completely free services and meals for the masses.

“We joined a temple because they had youth fees, so if you were under 34 it was like $100 for the year, and that got you tickets to the High Holidays,” said Karen Gilman, who moved to Los Angeles with her sister nearly five years ago. “But, I wasn’t wowed by their services, and when I turned 34 they were going to up my fees a lot. So I didn’t go to services last year.”

This year, Gilman will spend the holidays with her parents in New York. Financially, however, that’s not always an option. She and her sister have hosted Passover orphan parties for the last few years, with their penchant for hosting so acclaimed, that one friend nicknamed her sister the Pesach Queen.

Levy, on the other hand, will attend services at various synagogues around Los Angeles. She has said she likes to “explore the opportunities available to me on an a la carte basis.”

And while she admitted that the researching of prices, and the prices of services themselves, can seem overwhelming, she was equally quick to emphasize the value of it, at least to her.

“I really enjoy the holidays and as a person not married and without children, I don’t have a temple membership, but I’ve never missed a year of going to temple on the holidays,” Levy said. — Keren Engelberg,, Contributing Writer

Israel Has Rx for U.S. Health Care


Israel and the United States each have successes and failures in their respective health care systems, but the younger of the modern nations, rooted in its tradition of helping the needy, has much to teach its American ally. When it comes to some of the most important issues facing the American health care system today — universal health care, administrative costs and establishing a national health basket of services — America can look to Israel.

Until 1995, health insurance in Israel was voluntary, although 99 percent of the Jewish population and 97 percent of the Arab population were covered by four HMOs, the first of which was established at the end of 1911. This was a system wherein the insured members paid the HMO, and the employer made a compulsory payment to the National Insurance Institute.

Today in Israel, everyone is covered by health insurance. In 1994, the Israeli parliament passed a groundbreaking health insurance bill that made every Israeli resident automatically insured, no matter their age, financial status or religion. In the United States today, more than 43 million people, including 12 million children, are uninsured.

Israel’s universal health care is characterized by its "national health care basket," which defines the range of services to which every resident is equally entitled. Residents can petition a labor court if they believe an HMO has ignored their rights to a medical service.

Universal access to Israel’s national health care basket means that there is no underinsurance in Israel, which happens when there are gaps in coverage. In the United States, more than 100 million citizens are underinsured — including 40 million with Medicare, 50 million with Medicaid and at least 10 million who are employed in large companies that have self-insurance.

The main health care delivery system for all Israelis is through primary and secondary clinics. These clinics, which are present throughout the country, provide easy and efficient access to care.

The clinics that belong to the HMOs enable quick access to primary medical care and also easy referral to specialists without waiting lists. There is continuity of care, while there is now a tremendous effort to computerize all the medical data.

Ninety-five percent of general care hospitals in Israel are public. There is no wait for diagnostic examinations such as MRI and CT or for procedures such as open-heart surgery. Payment for hospitalization is the responsibility of the HMO, and there is no deductible or co-insurance payment required of the patient.

There is a $3 co-payment for each prescription on the approved drug list covering acute and chronic diseases.

High unemployment and the Israeli economic recession make it difficult for about 10 percent of the population to pay even this, even though there is a $50 biannual co-payment cap.

Caring for the elderly is a core social policy and an integral part of health care in Israel. While in the United States geriatric care is handled by Medicare, in Israel it is part of the health basket and is the responsibility of the HMOs.

Only hospitalization in nursing homes is the responsibility of the Ministry of Health for those who cannot afford to pay for private insurance or from their own means. Geriatric care, being an integral part of health care in Israel, is of high quality.

I do hope that one of the Israeli government’s priorities in an improved economic situation will be to reflect the nation’s social values by exempting the poorest 5-10 percent of the population from drug co-payments.

Israel’s health indicators for longevity and infant mortality are better than those of the United States. This aspect is not unique to Israel, but many Western countries are better in the various indicators of health than the United States. Yet while Israel spends 8.8 percent of its Gross National Product on caring for the elderly, the United States spends 15 percent of its GNP.

In international comparisons of health care systems, Israel ranks among the top 20 in the world. But, even with its favorable standing, Israel faces many challenges, such as the financial limitations of introducing new technologies and prescription drugs to the health basket and the high taxes Israelis pay. Also of concern are high out-of-pocket expenses for cost sharing and for health care services that are covered only by complementary insurance.

Israel’s health care system, while based on the core value of access for all, is still evolving. The establishment of a "health parliament," a private initiative endorsed by the government, enabled input from ordinary Israelis to help set priorities for the future, including the challenges of limited resources and the growing gap between rich and poor.

Obviously, Israel and the United States differ vastly in size, making full comparisons limited. But with the exception of four large states, Israel is similar in size to most U.S. states. The American health system can be improved only if states take responsibility for health care, or, in the case of the four largest states, if there is regional responsibility within the state.

In 2003, the United States spent at least 30 percent of its national health expenditures on administration, while Israel spent less than 10 percent. The United States could have saved at least $280 billion of the $400 billion spent in administrative expenditures in 2003 to cover the uninsured and to close the gap of the underinsured, strengthening the democratic principles it holds dear.


Professor Mordechai Shani is the director general of Sheba Medical Center at Tel Hashomer, Israel’s largest hospital. He served twice as director general of the Ministry of Health, including 1994, when the Insurance Bill and the Patients Bill of Rights were passed by the Knesset.

Hatzolah Expands Emergency Service


After midnight one Sunday last December, Motty Stock found his wife, Freda, unconscious on the bedroom floor. He picked up two phones and simultaneously called 911 and Hatzolah, an all-volunteer emergency first-response service.

While Stock was still on the phone giving information to 911, two Hatzolah volunteers bounded up the stairs to his Hancock Park home and began working on the 28-year-old woman, who was having a seizure and choking on vomit.

By the time the ambulance arrived 15 minutes after the initial call, Hatzolah volunteers had Freda Stock stabilized. They transferred her to the care of paramedics, got a babysitter for the three children so Motty Stock could ride along in the ambulance and sent someone to Ralphs to buy formula for the 4-week-old baby.

“They saved her life,” Stock said. “It is impossible for me to describe what they did for us. It’s invaluable.”

Now, thousands more will have access to the life-saving skills of Hatzolah, which last month expanded its 3-year-old pilot program in Hancock Park to Valley Village and the Pico-Robertson area.

“Over the past three years, we have perfected ourselves in the sense that we are better equipped to meet the immediate needs of the emergency,” said Zvika Brenner, president of Hatzolah Los Angeles. “Working together with local paramedics, we now know what they expect of us when they show up; we know what kind of information to obtain in order to make a seamless transfer of patient care when they arrive.”

Aside from its near daily responses to medical emergencies, in the last three years Hatzolah in the Beverly-Fairfax-La Brea area has helped the Los Angeles Police Department capture a serial rapist, responded to a plane crash in the Fairfax neighborhood and has helped find five missing persons. At the request of city and county officials, some volunteers are training to respond to mass casualty incidents, such as earthquakes or terrorist attacks.

City and county fire and law enforcement departments, as well as local politicians, have praised Hatzolah’s ability to become an integral part of Los Angeles’ emergency response system.

Fifty new volunteers have been certified as county emergency medical technicians (EMTs) in the heavily Orthodox Valley Village and Pico-Robertson areas.

Hatzolah, Hebrew for rescue, does not have its own ambulances and does not replace calling 911. Rather, it acts as a bridge in the critical first minutes of an emergency until paramedics arrive.

The average ambulance response time in Los Angeles is six to 10 minutes. Hatzolah’s average response time is 90 seconds, since all volunteers work and live in the areas they serve and constantly wear radios and have easy access to equipment.

“In an emergency, six to 10 minutes is an eternity,” said Azriel Aharon, a coordinator and volunteer EMT for the Pico-Robertson area. “Even if we only beat [the ambulance] by two minutes, that can be the difference between life and death.”

Hatzolah volunteers are equipped with defibrillators, oxygen tanks and trauma kits.

They train for 120 hours to receive EMT status and are able to perform everything from basic first aid to life-saving procedures, such as tracheotomies. They also learn how to secure an accident scene and gather the pertinent information to transfer care to the medical and emergency professionals when they arrive. Volunteers take additional classes in city and county protocol, and do ride-alongs with county ambulances.

The volunteers are all Shabbat-observant married males, as per the original 1972 Hatzolah New York charter, which also provides guidelines for halachic liberties that can be taken to save life or limb.

Hatzolah in Hancock Park, with about 35 volunteers, has received an average of a call a day. Tripling its area of coverage has necessitated improving the two-way radio system and equipping two more garages with supplies for restocking.

Hatzolah is currently training more dispatchers — mostly women — who take around-the-clock shifts of several hours to answer a dedicated Hatzolah line in their homes.

Hatzolah will respond to anyone who calls, but its publicity is done through synagogues and schools in the areas it serves.

Startup costs for Hatzolah in the Pico-Robertson area, which has about 40 volunteers, was about $150,000 and in the Valley was about $30,000 for 18 volunteers. Citywide, it will cost about $120,000 a year to maintain, with all of the money raised through private donations.

Yossi Manila is forever thankful to Hatzolah volunteers who rushed to his house late on a Friday afternoon after his 2-year-old daughter swallowed a dozen chewable Benadryls (Poison Control informed him that up to 20 chewables wasn’t harmful).

“When your daughter is lying unconscious in your arms, and you can’t figure out what to do, you just feel extremely helpless and extremely hopeless,” Manila said. “Hatzolah came, and they were extremely professional and extremely comforting.”

For emergencies, call 911, then (800) 933-6460. For
nonemergencies, call (310) 841-2328 or visit www.hatzolah.org .

Contributing Editor Tom Tugend contributed to this article.

Adding Mitzvah Multiplies Simcha


Sometimes the smallest details are the ones that make the biggest impression. You remember the pretty napkins or the mints with dessert. You remember the bride walking down the aisle with both her parents instead of just her father. You remember the way the bat mitzvah girl wore a hand-made yarmulke.

Chances are you don’t remember the decoration color scheme or what was served as a main course for dinner. But if a mitzvah project is part of the celebration, it will be one of the details noticed and appreciated no matter how small the effort.

When Debra Nielbulski came back from a family gathering in St. Louis, she remembered the unusual centerpieces on the tables at a family brunch. The beautifully decorated baskets of food served a dual purpose: as centerpieces and a mitzvah project.

Nielbulski has brought the idea back to Seattle. She put together a committee and created the fund-raising project that has been supporting the Jewish Family Service Food Bank for many years. The project has grown geographically over the years, with similar efforts in cities around the nation. Some families continue to put together the baskets on their own and donate the food to a food bank of their choice. On a related theme, depending on the time of year, baskets of school supplies or socks and other necessities would be appropriate for b’nai mitzvah decorations. How pretty the mitzvah is remains up to the family, so decorating the social hall with baskets instead of flowers doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice your color scheme. You can even pay a private basket company to put the donation centerpieces together in an attractive way. Be sure to hang a pretty tag from the basket explaining where the food or other items will be donated.

Tables are the place to look for another celebration mitzvah project. One detail to think about while you are planning your simcha is what to do with extra food after the event. A number of organizations are interested in sharing your leftovers with others. For more information, look in the yellow pages for food banks and homeless shelters and ask any one of them if they take donations of party leftovers and if they know which organization does. In many cities, an organization will come to the synagogue or hotel to pick up the extra food that never made it to the table. In other places, you will have to drive the trays over to your local homeless shelter, but think of all the hungry people who will share your simcha with this simple effort. And don’t let anyone try to convince you that donations like this are illegal. You cannot be held liable for the food you donate, as long as it didn’t sit on someone’s plate first.

The national Jewish organization MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger offers another simple way to help the hungry while you are celebrating a joyous family occasion.

MAZON encourages families to donate 3 percent of the cost of their simcha to help feed the hungry. MAZON funds projects that deliver meals to the homebound, provides food to kosher kitchens, offers nutritional counseling for low-income women with children, and advocates for long-term solutions to hunger.

“MAZON is, of course, responsive to hunger among Jews; but in keeping with the best of our traditions, it also responds to all who are in need,” explains a MAZON pamphlet. The organization was founded in 1985 to “build a bridge between Jews who enjoy the blessings of abundance, and the millions of children and adults who are hungry, or who live at the very edge of hunger, each day.”

The MAZON Web site points out that more than 33 million Americans — including 12 million children — are hungry or at the very edge of hunger. The organization can be reached by calling (310) 442-0020, by visiting www.mazon.org or by writing to MAZON at 1990 S. Bundy Dr., Suite 260, Los Angeles, CA 90025-5232.

For brides who have no real plans to wear their beautiful wedding gowns again, a mitzvah project in Israel might appeal to you. The Rabbanit Bracha Kapach gives used wedding dresses to brides who cannot afford their own, in addition to a wide variety of other relief projects she conducts in Jerusalem. Danny Siegel in his book, “Mitzvahs” (Town House, 1990) suggests sending your wedding dress to the rabbanit in the hands of a friend who is visiting Israel. The rabbanit also needs wedding rings. You can contact her at 12 Lod St., Jerusalem, 249-296.

This is only a small sample of the many possible mitzvah projects a family might do to celebrate a wedding or bat mitzvah. For additional ideas, ask your rabbi or read Siegel’s book.


Donna Gordon Blankinship is a freelance writer living in Seattle.

L.A Lobbies to Keep Rotem


Israel’s Consul General Yuval Rotem bade farewell Monday night to the Los Angeles community he has served for nearly five years, but his admirers hope that they can persuade Jerusalem to extend his stay.

In a brief but emotional address at the annual Israel Independence Day reception, Rotem praised the support of the Jewish community and recalled the many friendships he and his family had made.

He also conferred artistically design menorahs as appreciation for their support of Israel on John and Ruth Rauch, founders of the Center for Jewish Culture and Creativity; Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky; and John Fishel, president of The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles.

Meanwhile, however, influential members of the Los Angeles Jewish community are waging a discreet but persistent campaign to extend the term of a diplomat who has enjoyed an unusually high level of respect among diverse constituencies as Israel’s top representative in Southern California, five southwestern states and Hawaii.

Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom was privately lobbied on the matter by a number of local leaders during his visit to Los Angeles in late March.

"The past two years — as the media turned increasingly against Israel — have demanded extraordinary efforts to reach not only the sub-groups that make up the Jewish community, but Latinos, African Americans, Asians and Christians," said Neil Kadisha, who serves on the executive board of The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles.

"Yuval has established warm personal relationships with leaders of all these groups and, as the American elections approach, it is crucial that Israel maintain these relationships," he said. "I understand the foreign ministry’s rotation policy, but it would take a new consul general at least 18 months to gain a real understanding of this complex city and state. We can’t afford that time."

Rotem, a 44-year-old career foreign service officer, was appointed to his present post by then-Foreign Minister Ehud Barak and given the personal rank of ambassador on the recommendation of former Foreign Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.

Fishel described Rotem as "an extraordinary and highly focused diplomat, who has mobilized his staff and with whom we enjoy the closest professional and personal relationship. We need a person like that here, especially at this time."

Fishel said he had talked with Shalom during the latter’s visit, and while the foreign minister publicly acknowledged the vital services of Rotem and the consular staff, he was noncommittal about a possible extension of Rotem’s assignment. Shalom could not be reached in Jerusalem for further comments.

Yehuda Handelsman, immediate past president of the Council of Israeli Communities, said that "Yuval has reconnected Los Angeles and Israel" in general and had greatly strengthened ties between the consulate and the estimated 120,000-160,000 official Israeli expatriates in the city.

Handelsman also noted the connections Rotem had forged with the influential Hollywood community, which hosted Shalom during his visit here.

"I’m really selfish about this, because I am afraid that it would take a new person a long time to become effective," he said. "In difficult times, [foreign ministry] rules should be bent."

Sam Kermanian, secretary general of the Iranian American Jewish Federation, said that Rotem is "extremely effective and very well-versed in the concerns of our community. It would be a great advantage if he were to stay longer."

Rotem himself said that he was humbled by the extent of community support and had requested a one-year extension of his stay, but that the decision was up to the foreign ministry.

According to the recollections of old timers, the longest-serving consul general here was Benjamin Navon, who held the post for seven years.

Herb Keinon, the veteran political editor of the Jerusalem Post, noted that "Los Angeles is considered a plum foreign service assignment and some heavy hitters inside the ministry are keen on that post."

As an added consideration, Israel’s foreign minister is allowed to make 11 political appointments — outside the career civil service — to foreign diplomatic posts. In general, such political appointments have been reserved for key ambassadorships to Washington, London and Paris, but have gone to the New York consulate general, as well.

A political appointment to Los Angeles would likely stir up considerable resentment among career officers in the foreign ministry.

Yom HaShoah Events


Friday, April 16

Laemmle Theaters: Release of the Academy Award-nominated documentary, "Prisoner of Paradise," about German Jewish actor Kurt Gerron, sent to a concentration camp and forced to write and direct Nazi propaganda. Laemmle Music Hall, Beverly Hills. (310) 274-6869. Laemmle Theatres Town Center, Encino. (818) 981-9811.

Congregation B’nai Emet: 8 p.m. Shabbat and Yom HaShoah service. Dachau survivor Bernie Simon speaks. 4645 Industrial St., Simi Valley. (805) 581-3723.

Saturday, April 17

Adat Ari El: 7 p.m. Mincha and discussion on "Understanding the Shoah and Human Atrocity: Moving Beyond God as Punisher, Enigma or Absentee." 12020 Burbank Blvd., Valley Village. (818) 766-9426.

Southern California Warsaw Ghetto Anniversary Committee: 7:30 p.m. "A Song to the Unsung: Heroines and Heroes of Resistance." Warsaw Ghetto uprising annual commemoration and tribute to the Holocaust martyrs. In Yiddish and English. Institute of Jewish Education, 8339 W. Third St., Los Angeles. (310) 552-2007.

Sunday, April 18

Congregation Mishkon Tephilo: Yom HaShoah Service. 206 Main St., Venice.

(310) 392-3029.

Museum of Tolerance: Screening of "The Long Way Home." 9786 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles. R.S.V.P., (310) 553-9036.

Temple Sinai: 10:15 a.m. Yom HaShoah Commemoration. Survivor Robert Geminder speaks. 1212 N. Pacific Ave., Glendale. R.S.V.P., (818) 246-8101.

Hillside Memorial Park and Mortuary:

11 a.m. Service honoring resistance fighter Hannah Szenes on the 60th anniversary of her death. 6001 Centinela Ave., Los Angeles. (800) 576-1994.

Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust/ Jewish Federation/Los Angeles Holocaust Monument/Second Generation: 1:45 p.m. Community Commemoration. See above.

City of West Hollywood: 6:30 p.m. Candle lighting and klezmer music. Writer Suzan Hagstrom speaks. Plummer Park,

7377 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood. (323) 848-6307.

B’nai David Judea: 7 p.m. Yom HaShoah Seder. Memories, ritual and song. Workmen’s Circle, 1525 S. Robertson Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 276-9269.

Colburn School of Performing Arts:

7:30 p.m. "Concert of Remembrance" featuring music by four composers, all survivors or victims of the Holocaust. $15. Herbert Zipper Hall, 200 S. Grand Ave., Los Angeles. (310) 890-0276.

Monday, April 19

Simon Wiesenthal Center: 10:30 a.m. Annual commemoration. Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Natan Sharansky discusses "The Resurgence of Anti-Semitism Worldwide" and Hungarian Minister of Foreign Affairs Laszlo Kovacs speaks in honor of the 60th anniversary of the deportation of Hungarian Jewry to Auschwitz. Posthumous honor will be given to Abdol Hossein Sardari, whose work as an Iranian diplomat in Paris during World War II saved Iranian Jews from deportaion. Museum of Tolerance, 9786 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles. R.S.V.P., (310) 553-9036.

Thursday, April 22

Adat Ari El: 7:30 p.m. "Commemoration of Our Six Million." "Kaddish," candle lighting, readings and songs . $2-$4. 12020 Burbank Blvd., Valley Village. (818) 376-1640.

Friday, April 23

Temple Adat Elohim: 7:30 p.m. Shabbat and Yom HaShoah service. Survivor Marthe Cohn speaks. 2420 E. Hillcrest Drive, Thousand Oaks. (805) 497-7101.

A Divine Call to Action


Once, on a mission to Israel, we needed a minyan for a prayer service during the airplane flight. We were a total of six men in our group, so we began to scan the plane for the remaining four for the requisite 10 men.

As I went up and down the aisles, one fellow turned to me and said, “Rabbi, make sure you get Jews for the minyan.”

I looked at him in astonishment and assured him that I had no other plans. But why was he worried? He replied that many years ago on a flight to Israel they also needed four men to complete a minyan. They went around calling out “We need four for a minyan — four for a minyan.” Before they knew it, four guys got up and joined them. They handed the men kippot and started the service. Suddenly the newcomers stopped the proceedings and asked what was happening. The others explained that they needed four more men to make the minyan. The newcomers, astounded, said, “We thought you were asking for four Armenians, so we joined you. We are not even Jewish.”

These fellows responded to the call but misinterpreted the message. This week’s Torah portion teaches the same lesson about the importance of hearing the call correctly. The portion begins with the words: “And the Eternal called unto Moses,” (Leviticus 1:1). Our sages point out that this wording is unusual. Generally, in Scripture, we encounter the expression that “God said to Moses” or “God spoke to Moses.” As one rabbi noted, you don’t have to be a biblical scholar or even barely familiar with Hebrew grammar to appreciate that the phrase “and He called” suggests that the mind of the person addressed is not attuned to or in communion with the mind of the speaker. One doesn’t call a person with whom one is in intimate conversation or rapport. One calls a man to attract his attention.

The midrash in the Yalkut Shimoni uses this insight to provide a beautiful homily. The midrash points out that the one who flees from positions of honor and authority, achieves honor and authority. The Yalkut provides many examples of great Jewish leaders who illustrate this principle and comments that Moses represented the best example of all.

The Yalkut tells us how Moses tried to reject the appointment to be the savior of the Jewish people and lead them out of Egypt. God, however, was adamant, and Moses performed admirably. At this point the Midrash comments:

“In the end he brought them out of Egypt, parted the Red Sea, brought down manna from heaven, provided water from the well and quail from heaven, caused them to be surrounded with the clouds of glory and erected for them the sanctuary. Having reached this stage, Moses said, ‘What more is there for me to do?’ And he sat in retirement. Thereupon the Holy One, Blessed be He, reproved him saying, ‘By your life! There is still a task for you to perform that is even greater than that which you have done until now — to teach my children my laws and to instruct them how to worship Me.'”

If “Vayikra,” the call to continue his task, applied to the greatest leader we ever had, how much more does it apply today?

Why, for example, is philanthropy for Jewish causes suffering among the most affluent and generous of Jewish generations?

Why is higher education in Jewish studies absent among the most educated and cultured in Jewish history?

Why is commitment to a Jewish homeland missing after only one generation past the Holocaust?

At a similar juncture in Jewish history, the great sage Hillel asked, “If I am not for myself, who will be for me?” That question challenges us today to go back to work, “Vayikra,” to achieve a positive response to God’s call.


Elazar Muskin is rabbi of Young Israel of Century City.

Get Untangled From Web of Bad Dates


Evan Marc Katz has never had a bad Internet date. Well, except for the time his date had an aneurysm — and that was hardly his fault, was it? OK, aside from the time that Katz’s blind date had a seizure, he’s never had a bad Internet date. That’s because he follows his own rules culled from five years of online dating (on seven different sites) as well as working at Internet Web sites.

Now the 31-year-old screenwriter has parlayed his experience into E-Cyrano — an online dating consulting service, which, among other things, writes clients’ essays for their profiles — and “I Can’t Believe I’m Buying This Book: A Commonsense Guide to Successful Internet Dating,” (Ten Speed Press) a cheeky, practical how-to book for newbies and old-timers; in other words, from naïve beginners who don’t know where to start to jaded experts who don’t know how to stop.

Jewish Journal: You used to work at JDate? How did you come up with the idea for this book?

Evan Marc Katz: I was already online dating for a few years when I ended up working on JDate…. After about two weeks on the job, I realized that I could write a book, because there were so many dissatisfied customers, and I felt when I was on the phone — even if it was a billing question — generally how little thought they were putting into their essays. I made my job into what I thought it should be…. It was a day job that just took on a life of its own.

JJ: Is Jewish dating different from regular online dating?

EMK: I think people take it just a little bit more seriously. I think that the quality of people on JDate is generally a little bit a higher quality, something endemic to Judaism is insularity and where they place their values: family, education, tradition. For people who stay within the tribe … it’s the name brand.

JJ: Has the Internet taken the place of the Jewish community?

EMK: It’s created a different sense of community. It’s not a replacement for anything — it’s a supplement…It’s another way for people to meet people. But it’s not a replacement.

JJ: Do you think it’s disingenuous for E-Cyrano to write someone’s profile?

EMK: To me it’s the equivalent of a resume. If you’re making up jobs on a resume, that’s no good; if you’re trying to put together a resume that would distinguish me from the pack, that’s good.

We’re just writing down what people say. I think a lot of people don’t know why they’re interesting. This is a tool to get you in the door, not to get you a job; if a person can’t live up to their own hype, if you go out with someone who wrote a good essay without talking or e-mailing, if you go out with them, you get what you deserve, because you didn’t do screening. I don’t go on bad dates. I refuse to. It’s simply because I take my time. My dates are — at the worst — there’s no chemistry. They’re never bad.

JJ: You never went on a bad date?

EMK: I think that these car wrecks can be avoided, if you’re looking a little bit farther ahead…. Your love life is as serious as your work life and you should take it as seriously. I do think that the more you put in, the more you get out.

There’s more to online dating than slapping up a picture [My book says]: How to get the most out of online dating sites, what kind of photos to post, where to meet someone and when to meet someone. I try to save people a lot of time and money and frustration from my own dating experiences.

JJ: What does it mean to be a successful online dater? You’re not married, and yet you’re writing this book…

EMK: You are a success in online dating if you are consistently meeting good people and enjoying the process. It’s not the Internet’s job to legislate whether people are compatible, or of finding “the one,” but if you’re meeting good people, it’s just a matter of time. You attract what you put out there — if you have a negative outlook in your profile, that’s not all that attractive, is it? I am very positive about this, not because I’m Mr. Sunshine, but because I have lots of success and meet lots of people. I have fallen in love and I’ve had all these experiences, except for a ring on the finger — and that’s the next thing around the corner.

JJ: Do you think that online dating has ruined dating? Do you think it’s made people tired of dating?

EMK: It does become somewhat addicting, and because there is always someone else, it makes it easier to revolve … it has to do with the medium — the ease with which we meet people. People become disposable. That revolving door is only going to stop when you decide to do it.

I’ve heard a woman who says, “I’m not doing this anymore,” and to me that’s like having a bad meal at a restaurant and going on a hunger strike. Place it in perspective — you never have to go on a bad date if you take your time and you’re a good judge of character. If you’re going on five dates a week, that doesn’t show much confidence that you think anything’s going to work out.

Slow down! You take control of this medium instead of letting it take control of you.

Evan Marc Katz will speak at Border’s Books on March 24,
7:30 p.m. 14651 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks. (818) 728-6593. For information
about E-Cyrano, visit www.e-cyrano.com .

C’mon, a Bat Mitzvah Is, Like, So Uncool


Everything was going wrong. First, her best friend moved. Not just to another town, she moved to another state.

Also, she was starting a new school this year. Middle school was scary to think about, though she would never admit it out loud. She was too cool for that.

And now her parents were talking about moving to another town, with a better school district. She, of course, saw nothing wrong with this one. And what was worse, they would probably move after she had become used to the new middle school.

OK, now add to all of this: her bat mitzvah.

"I don’t want a bat mitzvah," she told her parents. "It’s just for you and your relatives. You don’t even need me there. So why don’t you just throw your own party?"

"Don’t be silly," they answered. "This is for you, it’s about you."

So how come no one would listen to her?

Lessons with the cantor were OK, but then the cantor is a cool guy. He never lies, never says you did a good job when you know you stank.

But what goes over well in the cantor’s study isn’t likely to go over well in front of a whole mess of people.

"I’ll be a bat mitzvah automatically at 12 anyway," she said. "Why do we need the fancy ceremony?"

"We’ll keep it simple."

"Why can’t we just go to Israel for my bat mitzvah?" she asked.

"Would you like that? We could have the ceremony on Masada."

"Oh," she responded. "I thought we would just go and, y’know, kinda sightsee."

"That’s not what this is about," they answered.

"Then what is it about?" she replied.

"If you don’t know that, you’ve wasted all your years in Hebrew school."

Well, no duh! She had slept through most of it.

She asked the cantor, "So what is it all about?"

"L’dor v’dor," he said.

From generation to generation?

"Tov me’od," he said. Very good.

From generation to generation. From your parents generation to yours. From your grandparents to your parents. From your great-grandparents to your grandparents. All the way back, and all the way forward.

Throughout history, as long as there are Jews on earth, we will all be connected through things like the bar or bat mitzvah, Shabbat, brit milah, lighting candles, fasting on Yom Kippur, eating matzah and retelling the Passover story.

Sharing the stories of our ancestors with our children, as you will do someday, God willing, with yours. That’s what it’s all about.

That’s why she liked the cantor. He answered her in words she could understand.

So she entered middle school, and did just fine. She studied her parshah and learned the prayers.

She thought about what the cantor had said, and pictured herself listening to her own son practice. She imagined her grandfather, now in his 70s, as he must have looked up on the bimah.

And then it was time.

She sat on the bimah, a demure young lady with ankles crossed and tissues in hand. She read her parshah, sang the blessings, led the service and gave a dvar Torah.

As she stood behind the pulpit, she looked into some of the faces in the sanctuary. And when she led the congregation in the prayer, "L’dor v’dor," she sang it with feeling.

She imagined the family members she had never met, going back generations. She thought about those who could not have a bar or bat mitzvah before they were sent to the concentration camps. She thought about those who would have one after her.

Then she looked at her younger brother sitting in the first row, with her parents.

"I wonder if he’ll feel the same way I did," she thought.

"Well, at least he’ll have me to help him."

Shalom Y’All


"Shalom Y’all" sounds suspiciously like a slogan designed to sell souvenirs to Jewish visitors in the American South, and indeed the phrase adorns T-shirts, mugs and other paraphernalia in the gift shop of Charleston’s Beth Elohim Synagogue.

But the drawled greeting is also common parlance amongst the Jews of South Carolina, who have enjoyed 300 years of virtually uninterrupted prominence and prosperity in this unexpectedly rich corner of the Diaspora.

Unexpected indeed is what the community of refugees preoccupied itself with after flocking to these shores in the 17th century. It was not only non-Jews who profited from rice and cotton plantations, kept slaves, presided over grand antebellum mansions, dueled with pearl-handled swords and engaged in a futile fight to defend the Confederate flag. Ex-Londoner Francis Salvador, elected to the South Carolina Congress in 1774, became not only America’s first Jew elected to high office but the first to die liberating his colony from British rule.

What brought the first, mainly Sephardic, Jews to Charleston was its remarkable religious tolerance, not to mention the economic prospects elevating them to a new aristocracy to which their Ashkenazi kinsmen who followed greedily aspired. Thus the shameful lust for slaves, the choice accessory of the period even for Jews paying annual lip service to their own release from slavery in Egypt. However, it was a high-principled Jewish grocer who redeemed the community by refusing to segregate his black customers in the dark days before civil rights prevailed.

As well as the exhibits celebrating Jewish life at the excellent Gibbes Museum of Art, there is much to delight the visitor to Charleston, whose beautiful and historic homes, churches and public buildings have been preserved in aspic by poverty. For more than a century after the Civil War, there was no money for urban renewal, though now the city is enjoying a boom, new buildings are creeping in and the slow pace of life associated with the South is confined in this city to Battery Park, where magnificent colonnaded mansions line streets lined with cobblestones brought from England. A plethora of horse-drawn carriages and trolleys tour the streets of the historic district, but the only way to get into the side streets and alleys, where so much of Charleston’s elegant residential life is played out, is to take a walking tour.

Ruth Miller covers Jewish history as well as all the general sights in her Charleston strolls, including handsome Beth Elohim, built in Greek-revival style in 1840 to serve a congregation already a century old. Against the trend of European synagogues designed for Ashkenazim but now used by larger, younger Sephardic congregations, this one has evolved in the opposite direction. It comes as a shock to find that while there is no separation of worshippers at Beth Elohim, where America’s Reform movement was founded in 1824, there is a gallery in place down the road at St. Michel’s Church, designed to separate not men and women but whites from blacks "and other strangers" in the bad old days.

You don’t need a tour guide to get into the handsome church or many of the town’s historic homes and gardens, since local groups — from august preservation societies to the flamboyant Hat Ladies of Charleston — are falling over themselves to open their doors to visitors. Away from the "Gone With the Wind" opulence of the townhouses — notably the 1818 Aiken-Rhett House, where antebellum urban life is faithfully showcased, Drayton Hall documents plantation life warts and all, and the Charleston Museum’s Heyward-Washington house offers a glimpse of the neighborhood that inspired the setting for "Porgy and Bess." When it comes to accommodations, there is an embarrassment of choices in Charleston, choc-a-bloc with historic inns. Opting for a modern red-brick hotel seems on the face of it bizarre, but Orient Express endowed its award-winning Charleston Place property with the kind of luxurious and festive atmosphere that must have prevailed in the heady, prosperous years of the Confederacy. Rooms are large and opulent, and the hotel’s grill room, presided over by double-Michelin-starred Bob Waggoner, offers a sumptuous dining experience.

But perhaps the finest food in the state is to be found at the Beaufort Inn, a favorite haunt of Tom Hanks, who filmed "Forrest Gump" in this delightful little seaside town, an hour’s drive south of Charleston. Like Charleston, Beaufort boasts a plethora of historic mansions but is a lot sleepier. One of its greatest charms is access to the marshy sea islands where the world’s finest cotton was once grown. Since the abolition of slavery the area has become a hotbed of African American culture; check out the acres of colorful and highly collectible folk art on view at the Red Piano Too gallery on St. Helena Island before continuing to Hunting Island State Park with its primeval jungle, wild beach and lighthouse. Lazybones might never get beyond the verandah of the beautifully appointed Beaufort Inn or the delightfully indolent urban pursuits — browsing excellent bookshops, fressing sundaes in the old-fashioned ice cream parlor or taking a slow Carolina horse-drawn buggy ride round town.

Golfers and serious shoppers are lavishly catered to nearby on swanky Hilton Head Island, with its pricey top-end resorts, championship courses and designer malls, but there is less specialized and more affordable seaside entertainment on offer a couple of hours’ drive north at Myrtle Beach, which must be America’s largest and most economically democratic resort. The Grand Strand, a fabulous stretch of wild, wide white beach stretches 60 miles from Shag, where the young and funky crowd hang out, all the way down to much posher Pawley’s Island. This may be the pleasantest place to stay, thanks to the Litchfield Plantation Inn, which offers period rooms, contemporary cottage and haute cuisine. Many guests never get beyond their private deck beside a creek lined with live oaks dripping Spanish moss, the state’s most evocative attribute. But it’s worth a 35-minute drive to seek out the high-quality live entertainment for which Myrtle Beach is famous, including top-class variety with a country twist at the Carolina Opry, Dolly Parton’s hokey North-vs.-South Dixie Stampede, tribute bands at Legends, and top rock and R&B acts at the House of Blues, where live music is served up free to outdoor diners and the folk art collection alone demands a trip. Culture vultures will enjoy the sculpture trail at nearby Brookgreen Gardens, where some magnificent 19th and 20th century pieces are displayed in a verdant setting.

Note that travel into the Carolinas is painless now with the opening of Charlotte as a gateway, its airport compact, efficient and a fine introduction to southern friendliness.

Courtesy of featurewell.com.

Freewheeling Around D.C.


When Stephen Marks and his wife, Janna, acquired Bike the Sites in December 2002, they didn’t realize how their two-wheeled tours of Washington, D.C., would translate to a Jewish audience.

“We put together some talking points to generate discussion and thought from a Jewish perspective at the different sites,” says Stephen, who took over the company from its founder, Gary Oelsner, who began offering professionally guided bicycle tours and rentals in 1995.

The Markses, recreational bikers until purchasing the company, also started providing customized programs for Jewish organizations such as B’nai B’rith, Jewish camps, federations and synagogue groups.

Bike the Sites, a smart solution to the challenges of sightseeing in heavily trafficked D.C., allows visitors to enjoy Washington’s history and architecture in an environmentally friendly way. It is among a handful of unique ways to explore the capital and enjoy local Jewish culture, kosher restaurants and community resources.

On a trip to Washington in 2003, a friend and I opted for the Marks’ Sites@Nite tour — a warm-weather option. March 1 through Dec. 30, the Bike the Sites menu features its flagship outing, the Capital Sites Tour, an easy three-hour ride around the National Mall and the Potomac’s Tidal Basin. Guides share the scoop on more than 50 of the nation’s most popular attractions, including the presidential monuments, as well as a few lesser-known sites that may have more meaning to Jewish visitors, such as the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum and the Einstein Memorial.

After adjusting our seat height on our 21-speed comfort mountain bike (a more upright ride and a larger seat) and helmets, we began our tour with a brief orientation on safety tips and hand signals from a CPR-trained guide. We took off from the Bike the Sites headquarters at the Old Post Office Pavilion (near the offices of the Internal Revenue Service) and rode on the sidewalk up busy 12th Street to the Mall.

In a picture-postcard setting, we rode past locals playing ball on the green open spaces in the shadow of landmarks. We cruised toward the Smithsonian Castle on a level, gravel path toward a number of top-billing destinations: the National Gallery and Sculpture Garden, National Archives, Air and Space Museum and the future American Indian Museum, which is slated to debut in September 2004.

From time to time, our energetic guide Mark, who earned a bachelor’s degree in American history at George Washington University in D.C., would roll to a stop and tell us more about our capital.

As we looked on at the Capitol building and munched on kosher Clif Bars (provided gratis for hungry guests), we learned how President Abraham Lincoln ordered tons of iron to be used for the construction of the Capitol dome — a message of strength and determination to the rest of the world that the North would win the Civil War.

Pedaling onward, we noted the increased security around the majestic Washington Monument and the White House. At the Vietnam Memorial, Mark told us an Israeli visitor pointed out that the soldiers on a statue that looks on at the poignant wall of victims’ names are equipped with authentic models of the M-16 rifle.

At the Einstein Memorial, we took a water break and marveled at the beautiful execution of this memorial to the 20th century’s most legendary scientist. A larger-than-life statue combines Einstein’s thoughtful gaze with the body of a child to evoke his childlike wonder of the world and his unique ability to see it anew.

At the foot of the statue, a fascinating star map depicts the skies on the night of what would have been his 100th birthday. As you stand in the apex of converging rays and say a few words to Einstein, you hear yourself speaking to him in the most perfect echo. It’s a whole new theory on relativity.

Bike the Sites is at 1100 Pennsylvania Ave., NW, behind the Old Post Office Pavilion in the historic Penn Quarter. Prices for the Capitol Sites Tour are $40 for adults and $30 for children under 13. The fee includes the use of bikes and helmets, professional tour guides, bottled water and snacks.

Summertime Beat the Heat trips and customized tours for
Jewish groups are also available. All groups of riders receive a 15 percent
discount for a post-bike ride meal at Stacks, a nearby kosher delicatessen.
Bike, tandem, trailer tandem, burley (a buggy that attaches to bikes for young
children) and stroller rentals are also available. For group reservations, call
(202) 842-BIKE; e-mail, Stephen@bikethesites.com; or visit,

Different Yet Identical


In introducing us to the patriarchal family of Isaac, son of Abraham, this week’s Torah portion of Toldot begins: "And these are the offspring of Isaac son of Abraham — Abraham begot Isaac." Since Torah is not given to redundancy, this opening passage raises the question: Once we’re told that Isaac is the "son of Abraham," what is the point of then stating "Abraham begot Isaac?"

The Midrash explains that the statement "Abraham begot Isaac" represents Divine testimony that Isaac was indeed the biological son of Abraham. That in the face of ridiculers and rumormongers who sought to claim that Isaac had been fathered by the Philistine king, Avimelech, God formed the physical features of Isaac in striking resemblance to those of Abraham so that there would be no room for doubt — "Abraham begot Isaac."

Another midrashic comment extrapolates upon this point by saying that this physical resemblance between Abraham and Isaac was a reflection of their spiritual resemblance; that the merits, the lofty pursuits, indeed the spiritual DNA, of father and son were likewise completely identical.

Now this declaration of spiritual similarity — let alone resemblance — is most curious.

We’re taught that Abraham’s primary mode of service was via the attribute of chesed (loving kindness). This was repeatedly and poignantly demonstrated by his incessant acts of hospitality, compassion and benevolence. He opened his home to hungry wayfarers. He reached out and taught others with delicate softness and patient sensitivity.

Isaac’s primary service, on the other hand, was via the attribute of gevura (severity and restraint). He was a much more demanding sort of fellow. This was demonstrated by his defiant and relentless digging of wells. Even as his enemies kept filling and destroying them, Isaac dug away the rocks and the dirt to uncover the waters beneath. With sharpness and strength, he dug away at the shmutz — the evil and the falseness that was seen on the surface — so as to unearth the reservoirs of goodness and truth buried deep within.

Indeed, everything we learn about Abraham and Isaac seems to cry out: Different! That if ever there was a father and son who seemed so unlike one another, it was these two highly individualized personalities. Yet the Midrash states that, in fact, Abraham and Isaac resembled one another — in every way!?

Within this paradox, seen at the inception of the family of Israel, lies the true beauty of our people. Different situations require different solutions. In the days of Abraham — during which unawareness of a Divine presence was rampant — the world needed an Abraham-like personality. In the days of Isaac — especially with hostilities looming on the horizon — the world needed an Isaac-like personality. Yet, these very different individuals — firmly embarked on their very different missions with their very different methods and characteristics — are deemed spiritually (and essentially) identical because their ultimate focus and goals were one in the same. Their core principles, values and underlying devotion to God were completely indistinguishable from one another. They blazed different trails, but both trails led to the same place: toward making their environment a more holy and moral place to live.

The great Chasidic master, Reb Zushe of Hanipoli, once remarked that when he thinks about the interrogation that might await him after his days on earth are done, he is not worried that he might be asked: "Zushe, why could you not attain the heights of an Abraham, a Moses or a King David?"

Such concerns did not trouble him. His one and only source of trepidation was that the question would be posed; "Zushe, why were not as great as Zushe?"

You are expected to rise to the heights of your own very special and unique potential — no more, no less.

Judaism, and its Torah way of life, celebrates individuality. We are each endowed with our own gifts and talents, our own passions and modes of expression. In terms of personality and character, none of us are truly alike. This is the way God created us for it is only through the diverse expression of the multitudes that His true intent in creating this world can be realized.

Each and every Jewish man, woman and child plays his/her own special instrument within the symphony that is Yiddishkayt. Within the context and framework of halacha and tradition are endless means and modes of service to the Almighty. From the intellectual to the emotional, from the ritualistic to the artistic, we are called upon to experience it all, even as we shine in some areas more than others. What inspires, stimulates and intrigues some may not do the same for others. Yet, at the pinnacle of it all, is that special place in which we are, and must remain, identical. Within the essential goals — of living and being true to the principles of our Holy Torah — is where there is beautiful resemblance among all of the children of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

Let each instrument of the orchestra contribute its own special notes with its own special sound and rhythm. Yet, let us make certain that we are playing the same piece of music — as guided by that One and Only conductor — so that rather than a cacophony of disjointed noise, we have a beautiful symphony of harmonious diversity.


Rabbi Moshe Bryski is executive director of Chabad of Agoura Hills and dean of the Conejo Jewish Academy.

Lev Eisha Women Pray Their Own Way


On the first Saturday of each month, while weekly, traditional Shabbat morning services are taking place at Adat Shalom synagogue, another service transpires behind the main sanctuary that is anything but traditional. Women of all ages dance between davening, beat tambourines and sing loudly, and instead of praying silently they share with one another.

They are the women of Adat Shalom’s Lev Eisha (A Woman’s Heart), “a joyous community of Jewish women engaged in prayer, study, spiritual growth and friendship.” Founded by a handful of women in 1999 as an outgrowth of the Wagner Women’s Retreat — an annual retreat at Camp Ramah in Ojai organized through the University of Judaism’s Wagner paraprofessional program — Lev Eisha has grown to average more than 100 women at each service and more than 400 people on its mailing list.

Lev Eisha attracts a diversity of women that ranges from young to old, unaffiliated to observant, and while most are not members of Adat Shalom, they travel from Orange County and the San Fernando Valley to attend the monthly service. While the women of Lev Eisha pride themselves on their diversity, it is a hunger for a spiritual connection that unites them.

“The women that come have a very strong spiritual need and are seeking something in a Jewish context,” said Elaine Craig Segal, Lev Eisha’s president. “You can get meditation and other things, but people looking to find a spiritual connection within their own religion can look to Lev Eisha.”

Lev Eisha offers women an opportunity to express themselves through music.

“In a regular service I don’t find a spiritual connection. The words, to me, don’t go as deep,” said Debbie Juster, a West Los Angeles resident. “Here, the music goes deep inside and I feel a comfort and a spirituality that is connected with music.”

Led by cantor Cindy Paley, the music in the Lev Eisha prayer booklet is a collaborative effort of Paley and Lev Eisha’s Rabbi Toba August, which combines “California style,” a contemporary mode characterized by such musicians as Craig Taubman and Debbie Freidman, and “Jewish Renewal” music, such as musicians Hanna Tiferet and Linda Hirschhorn, which comes out of the Renewal stream of Judaism. Joy Krauthammer, a member of Sarah’s Tent, also volunteers each month to accompany the women with such instruments as bongo drums, xylophones and rainmakers.

“The music cracks open your heart,” said August, who directs Adat Shalom’s religious school in addition to leading Lev Eisha. “It’s the only time I can really pray. The music lets you go in and find God — to find your divine within. It helps you cry and it helps you laugh. It allows people to enter into prayer.”

In addition to the music, the camaraderie and the opportunity to pray with other women keeps women coming back to Lev Eisha.

“When women get together to pray the energy is different. We are not competitive. Our voices can be heard,” said Mollie Wine, a cantorial soloist that helps lead the service. “I often daven with Chabad — with a mechitzah — but once a month I just want to be with the girls.”

The women of Lev Eisha, however, realize that their approach to Judaism does not appeal to everyone.

“There are some women who wouldn’t want to pray this way,” Segal said. “This is not a traditional service, so if you feel you are very traditional in your observance you probably wouldn’t want to do something like this. It doesn’t speak to everyone.”

But for women who it does speak to, it speaks loudly.

Barbara Axelrod, a two-time survivor of breast cancer told The Journal that she discovered Lev Eisha at the time when she needed spirituality the most.

“It really has had a lot to do with my inner healing,” Axelrod said. “When I was laying in bed at the hospital it would give me peace when I would close my eyes and envision being here. It gives me such inner peace and joy.”

Like it has done for Axelrod, August wishes that the Lev Eisha service can offer women hope.

“I want the women to walk out with a faith in God and the understanding that they’re not alone in their lives and that they will be able to cope with whatever their life experience offers them,” August said. “I also hope they gain a deeper appreciation of the joyful moments and a more profound ability to cope with painful illnesses and losses. I pray that they walk out feeling renewed.”

For more information about Lev Eisha, contact leveisha@earthlink.net .

Sisterhood in the Big House


As she enters her 23rd year in prison, Doris Roldan realizes that she has two choices: she can wallow in self-pity or she can continue to have hope.

On Tuesday evening, Sept. 30, while standing in front of her fellow inmates at the California Institution for Women (CIW), Roldan made her choice: "My body is incarcerated but I will not allow my mind, heart or soul to be in prison," Roldan said.

Roldan is one of 26 members of the Shalom Sisterhood, a group of inmates that meets twice a month for Jewish study at the Chino maximum-security prison, who participated in a joint Rosh Hashanah/Yom Kippur service. The event, which was attended by an equal number of supporters and prisoners, was the seventh of its kind sponsored by the Jewish Committee for Personal Service (JCPS), a service of Gateways Hospital, which "assists Jews in jails, prisons and mental hospitals to maintain their connection to Judaism and the Jewish community."

Before the service began, Judith Sable, director of JCPS, welcomed the volunteers and asked for their continued support.

"We’ve got to get out there in the Jewish community that doesn’t believe there are Jewish inmates," Sable said. "We’ve got to do some shanda-busting."

With only 30 minutes to conduct two services, Rabbi Paul Dubin, executive vice president emeritus of the Board of Rabbis of Southern California and volunteer Jewish chaplain at CIW, chose to touch on the central themes of each holiday. He spoke about and blew the shofar and he then asked several inmates to read their personal thoughts on teshuvah from books that they assembled before the service.

Jeri Becker, an inmate who was convicted of first-degree murder when her companion killed a drug dealer, has been widely recognized for her rehabilitation. Becker was denied parole last year and is serving her 23rd year in prison.

She read, "I have come to believe that forgiveness is the highest expression of charity. It would be impossible for me to survive this prison environment and maintain my faith in God, love for humanity and joy in living without daily working on expanding my capacity to forgive."

Emelie Bose, an inmate whose mother and sister were also present at the service said, "Rosh Hashanah is the perfect time for me to start over, for it is a new year. I will take this time to remember what I did to get here and how to prevent myself from ever repeating the same mistakes. The best apology I can make is doing whatever it takes to not have to ask for forgiveness again."

After the service all attendees joined in a buffet-style meal donated by Gateways and Art’s Deli — a semiannual break from the low-quality prison food that the inmates normally endure.

"At least we can let them know that at least for this day, they are redeemed," said Golda Mendelsohn, a supporter who has attended various services with the Shalom Sisterhood.

Communities Find Light in Darkness


It was Thursday afternoon, three days before 1,800 Jewish kids were to arrive for the final week of the JCC Maccabi games, and 40 delegation leaders were ironing out the logistics at a New Jersey hotel.

That’s when the lights and the air conditioning went dead, and the room quickly became hot and sticky.

But the organizers kept planning, hardly skipping a beat.

"I gotta tell you," said Lenny Silberman, North American continental director of the JCC Maccabi Games, "doing this for the games for 20 years and working with those communities, the potential for a big balagan [brouhaha] was definitely there."

But "it was amazing," he said Monday from his cell phone at the site of the games, the Jewish Community Center on the Palisades.

Thanks to the organizers’ calm, the blackout didn’t create even "an ounce" of anxiety — and all the athletes, hosted by local families, arrived in time for Sunday’s opening ceremonies.

"We knew there was no power, but we also knew that we had 1,800 kids that are depending on us on Sunday, so we had to do what we had to do," Silberman said.

A mix of determination and calm was found in Jewish communities across the Northeast that were impacted Aug. 14 by the massive blackout, the largest in the nation’s history.

Jewish communities also mirrored the mood of the population at large, which was relieved to learn that the outage was the result of a system overload, not terrorism.

Yet the incident highlighted Jewish organizations’ lack of preparedness for an emergency situation.

David Gad-Harf, executive director of Detroit’s Jewish Community Council, praised the spirit of communal cooperation — people took to the streets for block parties, cooking steaks that had defrosted in their freezers — but called the power failure a "wake-up call not only for the Jewish community, but for America as a whole."

Without an "old-fashioned" non-electric phone on hand, Gad-Harf said, the agency was unable to contact local federation leaders or other Jewish agencies.

"We realized that we were really not prepared for a crisis of this kind," he said.

Hannah Rosenthal, executive director of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, the umbrella organization for local federation community-relations councils, agreed.

"We learned how completely dependent on electricity we are," she said, noting that even the organization’s national contingency plan is dispatched through computers.

The alternative plan is to use telephones — which, if they were typical office phones, depend on electricity and didn’t work in the blackout — followed by cell phones, whose networks quickly were overloaded.

"None of those three plans worked for us," she said.

A new backup system has been in the works, Rosenthal said, explaining that a computer motherboard located in the Midwest could release information remotely.

But even that wouldn’t have helped last week, as parts of the Midwest went as black as Manhattan. As a result, every Jewish agency had to fend for itself in the blackout — without the national mobilizations or alerts that are customary in emergencies.

"[There was] not the time or the communications capacity to mobilize," said John Ruskay, executive vice president and CEO of the UJA-Federation of New York. "Our first responsibility was to deal with the safety and security of our people.

"Every agency with whom I’ve spoken was better prepared and had a better system in place than we did on Sept. 11, and yet there are times when you still need to call audibles," he said, using a term for football plays that are improvised in response to unexpected circumstances.

While commending the efforts of his federation’s social service agencies, Ruskay noted that Jewish agencies realized they must establish more effective backup modes of communication.

Despite the enormity of the power failure, Jewish communities across the country took it in stride and were only minimally hindered.

The Jewish contingent of an interfaith mission from Akron, Ohio, to Washington was about to fly home when they heard about the blackout.

"I checked the Internet from my cell phone, and as soon as I found out what the situation was, I just knew that we were not going to be able to fly into Cleveland," said Michael Wise, chief executive officer of the Jewish Community Board of Akron, which sponsored the trip.

His instincts proved right: As one of six major airports that bore the brunt of the power outage, Cleveland’s airport was without power for the next 15 hours.

The group — which included state representatives, judges, media professionals, clergy and school and business leaders — arrived in Akron at 1 a.m., only five hours later than planned.

"Everyone from our group was incredibly cooperative and understanding," Wise said. "They all said this was a trip they will definitely never forget."

Others found a type of reprieve in the electric jolt.

"In a way it was magic," said Naomi Rose, executive director of the Miles Nadal JCC in Toronto, which closed early on Thursday.

"We got to see the stars," which usually are obliterated by the city lights, she said.

"People sort of felt reasonably positive about it," viewing it as a "pause in their hurried lives," she said.

The wedding of Eli and Debbie Savage, a young Orthodox couple in Toronto, was due to begin Thursday evening soon after the lights went out. It went ahead as scheduled. Some 350 wedding guests ate a festive meal warmed on gas stoves, and danced to music played on a grand piano that had been wheeled into the banquet hall. A hotel generator supplied a bit of backup lighting and air conditioning, as well as temporary power for a video camera. Some guests arrived as much as two hours late because of gridlocked traffic in the streets. But most stayed late, realizing it made more sense to enjoy the celebration rather than struggle to get home.

"When they were there, they really couldn’t go anywhere," Savage said. "So people were thinking that they might as well just stay and enjoy. I’ve never seen so much spirit and electricity in the room."

After a night of dancing, the newlyweds were obliged to climb 10 flights of stairs to their honeymoon suite with candles in hand.

A candlelit photo of the Savages appeared on the front page of The Globe and Mail’s Saturday edition under the headlines "With Glowing Hearts" and "How the wedding sparks flew against a backdrop of darkness."

Guests commented that it had been one of the best weddings they had ever attended.

JTA correspondent Bill Gladstone in Toronto contributed to this story. Material also came from the Akron Jewish News and the Detroit Jewish News.

Daniel Lembark


Daniel Lembark died at his home in Los Angeles on Feb. 3, 2003 at the age of 78.

Born in New York City on Sept. 20, 1924, he arrived in Los Angeles with his family in 1927.

In grammar school, Daniel was introduced to the flute, whichwas to play an important role in his life. At Beverly Hills High School (BHHS)he played the flute in the orchestra and band, and served as student directorof both groups in his senior year.

After graduating from BHHS in 1942, Daniel enrolled in UCLAas a music major. He interrupted his education to enlist in the U.S. CoastGuard in February 1943.

Following his discharge in 1946, Daniel returned to UCLA asan accounting major. He became an active member of the Zeta Beta Taufraternity, and served as chapter president in his senior year.

He began his professional career as a CPA with the LosAngeles firm of Zeman, Tuller, Boyer and Goldberg. Shortly after, he wasappointed CFO of Frank Sennes’ Moulin Rouge in Hollywood. He returned to Zeman,Tuller, Boyer and Goldberg in 1962 as a partner, and remained in that positionwhen the firm merged with Laventhol and Horwath. In 1978, he became aprofessional corporate director, serving on multiple boards .

Throughout his professional career, Daniel distinguishedhimself by his extraordinary contributions to the Jewish community of LosAngeles. He served as president of the Cedars-Sinai Hospital Fellowship Counciland the Jewish Family Service. He was chairman of the SOVA Food Pantry ProgramAdvisory Committee until January.

Daniel is survived by his wife Conni;, son, Steven; andsister, Marjorie Jackson. He will be remembered by many devoted friends andadmirers around the country.

The Daniel Lembark Fund has been established for the benefitof the SOVA Food Pantry at the Jewish Family Service of Los Angeles, 6505Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles 90048, and those wishing to honor him are invitedto make a contribution.

A tribute to Daniel Lembark’s life will be held at Temple Israelof Hollywood, 7300 Hollywood Blvd., on Feb. 13 at 4 p.m.

Candles Shine From L.A. to Tel Aviv


The miracle of Chanukah took on a double meaning Dec. 4, when Los Angeles Holocaust survivors participated in a menorah-lighting ceremony with their counterparts in Tel Aviv via videoconferencing.

"We celebrate the miracle of Chanukah, and we also celebrate the miracle that we survived," said Eva David, a survivor originally from Romania-Hungary. "Who would have thought when we were weak and hopeless that we would reach old age"?

The event, which was staged by Cafe Europa, a Jewish Family Service program that serves as a social outlet and offers financial assistance and emotional support to Holocaust survivors, allowed those who shared a common experience to also share the joy of Chanukah with one another. Cafe Europa has served the Los Angeles survivor community for 15 years, but the candle-lighting celebration marked the Tel Aviv group’s first anniversary since its establishment.

"It’s inspiring for me to see how much your group has grown there. I’m kveling right now," Eleanor Marks Gordon, coordinator of Los Angeles Cafe Europa, told the nearly 50 participants in Tel Aviv.

Many Los Angeles residents at the event had friends or relatives in the Tel Aviv group. Lydia Bagdor saw her cousin’s daughter, who, when she last saw her, was 4 years old and is now a young adult. "You are my only cousins from my old family," Bagdor said.

Guta Schulman was able to spend Chanukah with her Auschwitz bunkmate, Chaya Rabinowitz, who had settled in Tel Aviv after the Holocaust. Schulman said that she owes her life to her friend, because Rabinowitz convinced her to leave Auschwitz, although her sister-in-law was not allowed to leave. "I have goose bumps," Schulman said after their emotional conversation.

As the Los Angeles group watched, a survivor lit the candles on the menorah in Tel Aviv. Then all the survivors — in Tel Aviv and Los Angeles — joined in singing "Hatikvah."

Take It to the Church


The church is not a place that one typically associates with Chanukah. But that will change on Dec. 6 when members of Los Angeles’ Jewish and African American communities come together at the West Angeles Cathedral. The Crenshaw District institution — with a new $60 million cathedral that makes it one of the largest African American churches in the western United States — will play host to a joint Chanukah service that will be led by the cathedral’s Bishop Charles Blake and Rabbi David Baron of Temple Shalom for the Arts.

For Blake, the match is a natural one.

"It is a statement of our common humanity and our brotherhood," Blake said. "There has been a historic relationship between blacks and Jews because both races have been historically excluded, discriminated against and persecuted. By celebrating their heritage, in a sense we celebrate our own biblical heritage."

For five years, the 40-member West Angeles Gospel Choir has performed at the temple’s annual "Shared Heritage of Freedom" service. However, this is the first time such an evening will be staged in a cathedral. The final day of Chanukah celebration will include performances by the West Angeles Church of God in Christ Gospel Choir and the Beverly Hills High School choral group, led by Joel Pressman. Singer Nell Carter, star of the popular ’80s sitcom, "Gimme a Break!" will sing "Rock of Ages."

The idea of bringing both communities together is not new for Baron, who started organizing such cultural crossovers 20 years ago, when he and then-Cantor Judy Fox joined H.B. Barnum, composer of "Your Arms Too Short to Box With God," for a program at Westwood’s Wadsworth Theatre. Over the years, relations among various Los Angeles communities have hit some highs and lows, with economic strife and municipal politics often occurring along racial lines.

"While those differences exist, I haven’t sensed any negativity or hostility or pulling away," Baron said. "It’s always been very positive."

Blake is looking forward to the Chanukah program.

"I’m quite excited about it," he said. "We get so bogged down in our own community that we sometimes do not take time to get involved with others. But we are just one community. If we fail to recognize other communities, communication will break down and misunderstandings will occur. I know that it’s going to be the most unusual eighth night of Chanukah I’ve ever seen."

The Chanukah service will take place at 8 p.m. on Dec. 6 at the West Angeles Cathedral, 3045 Crenshaw Blvd., Los Angeles. Parking is available on site. For more information, call (310) 444-7500.

A Thanksgiving to Fill the Spiritby


On the evening before Thanksgiving, my synagogue, Congregation Eilat in Mission Viejo, always gets together with a neighboring church, Shepherd of the Hills United Methodist, for an interfaith service. What is remarkable about this joint venture, and other pre-Thanksgiving services like it throughout the United States, is the fact that Jews and Christians can pray together under one roof.

My parents entered a church only for a neighbor’s wedding, funeral or other life-cycle event. On those rare occasions, they were invited guests, not participants.

My grandparents probably never entered a church. When they needed to pass by one, they would usually spit on the ground, and make sure to walk on the opposite side of the street.

My grandparents believed that entering a Christian house of worship contaminated them with bad luck. In addition to their superstition, they feared for their physical well-being. My grandparents knew that they could easily be harmed by church members, who erroneously learned in weekly sermons and in Sunday school lessons that "the Jews killed Christ."

Now, every year, on the evening before the national harvest festival, I take part in an event that my ancestors could never imagine happening: an interfaith service where prayers of friendship and thanksgiving are offered by both Jews and Christians, together as equal participants.

The event joyfully begins when Jewish congregants welcome their Christian neighbors, and sing, in Hebrew, Psalm 133: Hinay mah tov u’mah nayim, shevet achim gam yachad ("How good and pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in harmony"). Church members respond, singing words from their hymn, "We gather together to ask the Lord’s blessing…."

The service then proceeds with worshippers reading in unison a number of passages taken from the Hebrew Bible, the New Testament and the Talmud (the sacred literature of each faith’s tradition).

A clergy member brings the service to a close with a sermon. This year, when the service takes place at the church, the rabbi will deliver a message. Next year, when the service returns to the synagogue, the pastor will speak.

Many synagogue and church members feel this annual experience is esthetically the most beautiful worship service of the year. On no other occasion, including all of the other national holidays, are the values of democracy, freedom and pluralism more clearly expressed and represented. The service brings spiritual meaning to these values and the holiday, in general, that parades, football games, turkey dinners and even family gatherings do not capture.

The transcendence of history, though, particularly after Sept. 11, is the most impressive feature of the evening. What was a utopian or Messianic idea for my ancestors to contemplate has now become a yearly common occurrence. That transcendence, and the consequent hope it instills for the future, is perhaps the true blessing of Thanksgiving that we should appreciate.

Elliot Fein teaches high school students Jewish studies at Tarbut V’Torah Community School in Irvine.